Super Star Blogs!

Congratulations to Brittany! Premed of the Week!

1.Tell us a little bit about yourself.   My name is Britt. I graduated in 2011 from UC San Diego with a BS in Psychology (Neuroscience and Behavior concentration) and a minor in Bio. After graduation, I worked for a few years in a Psychiatrist’s research Lab (Laboratory of Biological Dynamics and Theoretical Medicine). Since then, I have moved back to my hometown and have worked in some other research/outpatient settings. After moving back, I not only felt very certain that I wanted to pursue a medical degree, either an MD or an MD-PhD, but that I was ready to start actively working towards applying. For me, this includes not just coursework, but also seeking experiences that will push me out of my comfort zone a bit. It also means helping other pre-meds when I can. Being a non-traditional student has provided me with a lot of experiences that I find are helpful to other students I am meeting along the path. More recently, I have started retaking some of the pre-requisite courses because by the time I apply to medical school, the ones I have taken previously will have expired. Aside from talking about medicine and the brain, I love to swim, go to concerts, hike, or just generally be near the ocean.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?  I’ve had a few impactful teachers, but the first and most memorable is my undergrad English professor who helped me overcome some self-limiting beliefs surrounding my own writing. Prior to that, I actually thought I was a terrible writer and that there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I thought I was just better at math, and maybe my brain ‘didn’t work that way.’ That was, until this professor gave me some positive feedback and gave me enough confidence to believe in my ability to write well.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? I think I was a sophomore in college. But looking back the seeds were already there, it just took me a while to realize that this career had all of the pieces of what I was looking for and seemed to fit my personality. I came across a book at Barnes and Noble called The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force by Jeffrey Schwartz, MD and Sharon Begley. This book inspired me to pursue studying the brain in some capacity. Not only to study it, but to find ways to help people with whatever they are struggling with. That may be mental, physical, or spiritual. It’s something I realized I am inclined to do, that is, to seek ways to help lift people up. Whether it is just through words of encouragement or hopefully one day directly helping a patient.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in? Psychiatry/Neuroscience

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? It is hard to choose, but working in a research lab on some really cool projects is at the top. As the lead coordinator, I would take research subjects through various studies form recruitment and phone screening, to consent, neuropscyh testing, assisting at fMRI imaging scans, and closing them out of the study. I love to talk to all different kinds of people and I realized that became a strength when working one on one with participants, especially when discussing really sensitive information as is required in the kinds of studies we worked on. The science was cool, but it was really getting to talk to people and having them trust me enough to open up that was awesome. There was a veteran that shared some things with me that he had only shared with possibly only those he served with and I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.

6. What is your favorite book? It’s really a tie between the Mind and the Brain, because it was this idea of neuroplasticity that drove me to study the brain and Man’s search for meaning. The latter was written by Viktor Frankl, a Psychiatrist who survived the concentration camps in WW2. I think my perspective really shifted after reading this. I’ll leave some quotes, because I like his words better than mine on this subject:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how.’”

“A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life, I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire.{

“The more one forgets himself – by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love – the more human he is.”

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know. I love to sing. I actually played my first open mic last month but didn’t tell many people about it. It’s something I want to pursue in the future as a hobby to whatever extent I can.

8. What do you like most about PreMed StAR?  I love that I have found place to nerd out on all things pre-med. As a non-traditional student it can be difficult to find people that relate to the particular things that go along with pursuing a medical degree. It is a platform to bond with other premeds, learn more about how I can be a better applicant, compile all the components that will go into an application, and share my experience and hope with those that join this journey after me. I am relatively new to this platform, but am thankful that I have been welcomed and supported in this short time.

I Graduated With A Low GPA- What Should I Do

If you’re a non-traditional student who has been out of school for a while, or you are looking to bring up a low undergraduate GPA, then you’ll need to explore all your options for becoming the most competitive applicant possible. There are many options available to prove to schools that you will be able to handle the heavily course load that comes with medical school. The following will be a discussion of some of these options, so that you can best decide what will work best for your situation.

Post-Baccalaureate Coursework

A popular choice among many non-traditional students is to take undergraduate courses as a non-degree seeking student. This is commonly referred to as a post-bacc. Most medical schools will count these courses as part of the overall undergraduate GPA, so this could be a good way to boost your GPA. This method is also particularly useful if you were a non-science major during college, because it can be used to take all the required science pre-requisites in addition to increasing your science GPA. The science GPA is weighed most heavily by medical schools, so if you do decide to go the route of taking post-bacc coursework, make sure that it mostly consists of science coursework. Also, if you a non-traditional student who already has an undergraduate degree in the basic sciences, pursuing a post-bacc will only be beneficial if you take upper-level advanced science courses.

For some students, pursuing a post-bacc might not be as beneficial. If you already have an undergraduate degree with over 130 hours, taking more classes may do very little to increase your overall GPA. Also, as a non-degree seeking student, you will not be eligible for any federal financial aid, so you will have to either pay out-of-pocket or take out private student loans. When the high interest-rates associated with private loans and course fees are taken into account, this can prove to be a very costly path. (Note: There are now some post-bacc programs that offer federal financial aid, so make sure you ask the school you plan on attending about this.)

Special Masters Programs

Another great option for proving that you can handle the heavy course load of medical school is a special masters program (SMP). These programs typically last between 1-2 years, and they generally cover advanced science coursework. A few SMPs are linked to medical schools, and as a student you will be taking the same classes as first-year medical students. Some of these programs also take place at medical schools, and allow you to take the courses right alongside current medical students. This is an excellent way to prove that you can handle medical school, and if you are interested in attending the medical school of the program you attend, then it is also a great way to network and get to know the professors. Furthermore, these programs are also covered by federal financial aid.

The only downside with SMPs (and pretty much any program) is that if you do not do well it can greatly diminish your chances of gaining an acceptance into medical school. SMPs are also a popular choice among many pre-medical students looking to increase their GPAs, so acceptance into some of the programs could be very competitive. Also, while there are many SMPs throughout the United States, there may not be one in your area. This may mean that you will have to relocate to pursue the program, and this may not be feasible for some non-traditional students.

A Second Bachelors Degree

Some students decide to getting a second degree is a better option for them. A second bachelors degree is probably most beneficial to students who previously obtained a non-science degree and previously did not perform as well. In this case, a second bachelors degree would not only give them a science GPA to work with, but it would also work to increase their non-science GPA as well.

Unfortunately, pursuing a second bachelor’s degree can prove to be very costly out of all the options due to the fact that you will essentially be paying for another four years of school. If you’re a non-traditional student who has been out of school for more than a decade, this might not seem like a bad choice, but this commitment does not come with a guaranteed acceptance into medical school and it will take longer to complete than all of the other options listed here. If you have been in the workforce for a while, and you’re looking to get an advance in your career as a plan B option, another bachelors degree just might not be useful as most companies require a masters degree or higher in order to climb up the ladder.

A Masters Degree (or higher)

Obtaining a graduate degree is another viable choice for making yourself a competitive applicant, but unfortunately it is not a common path for pre-medical students. Obtaining a masters degree was the path I chose to take in order to boost my competitiveness as an applicant, and it is what I credit to my acceptance into medical school. Typically it only takes 1-2 years to complete these programs, and a thesis-based program is not required if your only goal is to go onto medical school.

Some non-traditional students are career-changers, so they might already have a graduate degree when they decide to apply to medical school. If the degree is recent, then it may help boost your chances of gaining an acceptance, but in some cases you may still have to have current coursework that will prove your ability to medical schools. Also, if medical school is your main goal, then you will have to seek out programs that do not require the added time of completing a thesis. For non-traditional students who have more advanced graduate degrees, such as a PhD, there are medical schools with pathway programs specifically for non-traditional students of this type, so please do your homework.

So What’s the Best Choice?

Whenever somebody asks me this question, my response is almost always “whatever works best for you.” You have to decide how much money and time you want to invest in pursuing an alternate path, and it will also be important to take into account your current lifestyle. Ultimately, the decision rests on you, but I hope this post will help you make the most informative decision.

 

Written By Danielle Ward

Read more of Danielle’s blogs at  AspiringMinorityDoctor

Congratulations to Malachi! Premed of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself:  Hello everyone! My name is Malachi Miller and I am a junior at The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff majoring in Biology Pre-Medicine with a minor in African-American Studies. I hail from the great Kansas City, MO, home of Chiefs Kingdom and Royals Nation! I l enjoy sports, exercising, hanging with close friends, and reading.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?  My favorite teacher to date would have to be Dr. Joseph Onyilagha, who prefers to be called “Uncle Joe.” Uncle Joe teaches Botany and Microbiology here at the university and has been here around 12 years. He is the kind of professor that will laugh and joke with you all day and still fail you. I believe Uncle Joe is one of the top professors here because he will literally go the extra mile for any of his students. For example, he has an open door policy and gives his personal number out to students if they are ever having a hard time studying material. He also has very extreme and rigorous teaching measures that prepares his students for professional school. Seeing someone put that much time and energy into my education makes it impossible to not realize how important my education should be to me. Uncle Joe really taught me to cherish any educational opportunity that is ever afforded to me.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? My mom is an RN and my oldest sister is currently studying to get her CRNA, so I kind of been around the medical field for as long as I can remember. But, it hit me my sophomore year of high school went my aunt Vivian had weight-loss surgery. I never really knew much about her because she was hardly ever around. One day, I remember asking my mom why I didn’t really know her and she told me that my aunt was the type of person that stayed to herself but my mom never really knew why though. Then, one Thanksgiving break at my grandmas, I remember her marching in with a huge vibrant smile and a very different orientation. I knew something was different about her but I couldn’t really put my finger on it. Later on that night, at family game night, she told the family bout her undergoing surgery and how she felt it changed her. Hearing that story really did something to me. It was like a switch flipped inside of me. I just remember thinking how amazing it would be to have that much impact on a persons life. My aunt and I have grown very close and I speak to her at least once a week. I always make sure to tell her that her story inspired me.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in?  I am very interested in surgery. Honestly, I am in love with the concept of surgery. The idea of being in a persons body WHILE they are alive is truly stunning and breath taking. I am interested in plastic/reconstructive surgery because I feel this type of surgery has a very large impact on human life.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? The coolest experience I have had thus far is this past summer where I interned at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center under the AAMC Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) formerly known as SMDEP. Me and two other students had the opportunity to observe a lumpectomy from beginning to end. We were even able to hold the tumor. I remember the thrill of just being in the OR and watching the physician make his first cut. This solidified my dream/goal to become to a surgeon.

6. What is your favorite book? My favorite book right now would have to be “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” The story of Henrietta Lacks is very depressing and heart felt. But it is also very interesting to see how one woman played a role in changing the face of medicine, a women of color at that.

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know.  One interesting thing a lot of people don’t know about me is that I am a naturally blonde African-American. Most people seem to think I died my hair when they first meet me. Its actually from a gene in my family that, unfortunately, I got. I’m sure its been passed down generation from generation but the only proof I have is a picture of my great grandfather who I oddly resemble. I am the only one out of my brothers and sisters to have this feature.

Be the light when there is none!

I could see a downpour of heavy rain obscuring the already predicted bleak future. I could hear thunderstorms roaring through the space we stood. I saw a dark cloud hovering over his head, informing of an impending end. Yet, he sees the light, the positives, the dreams, the ebullient past, the joyful present, and the glistening future. He is the epitome of hope.

I cannot describe perfectly in words what I saw today at the hospital I shadowed at. Doctors are pretty good at guarding their emotions but this experience blows away all guards. Every fettered emotion cut loose. I walked into the room after the case briefing by the physician and I was welcomed by the grim odiferous air that swam through my nostrils for 10 seconds. The discomfort could have been longer but my gaze fell at this little 5 years old boy laying on the bed, snoring loudly. His face and all his body parts were swollen like there is a stream of water flowing through him begging for an escape. During the briefing, the doctor said that the patient nearly drowned in a swimming pool. He was saved but he lost his life at the same time. He cannot move, eat, or talk. The patient’s father walked back and forth from his bag where he had numerous medical supplies to the bed where his baby lied. He was cleaning up his excretions and suctioning mucous from his baby’s tracheostomy tube. A drip of sweat from the father’s face fell on the patient. He smiled and said to his son, “sorry baby.” As the doctor was updating his profile, the father began to talk about his son to me and the third-year medical student on her clinical rotation. We listened to his story for close to 20 minutes. He recounted how his son was not born this way. 

In brief, he said that his son fell into a swimming pool in their apartment complex. He could not swim, so he sunk to the bottom of the pool. A neighbor noticed a kid under the water and dragged him from the bottom of the pool. CPR was performed on him before he was taken to the emergency room. That was when life took a turn for his family. Since then, he has been battling infections, has had several device replacements, and has suffered from different ailments week after week. But for now, he is thankful that his son is stable. He talked about his son’s favorite games, and how he would jump around the house playing. He caressed the son’s head and said, “that’s my little boy.” He mentioned that they will be ordering another breathing device to support him from California. He is going to take him to watch the band because today is his fifth birthday. He talked about how goofy his son was. As I looked at his son, I came back to reality. He is motionless but breathing. As we exited the room, I had an inexplicable feeling. The doctor asked if I had any question about his case and without any conscious thought, I mouthed, “When will he be back to normal?” The doctor said that if he survives further infections and seizures, he will be like that for the rest of his life. I put on a confusing look and the doctor knew that I was also surprised by the father’s demeanor towards his son’s condition. After a while, I smiled sympathetically when I realized that I had just witnessed the meaning of hope in its entirety.

The father was fully vested in his son. He pictured a life that is son was living before the incident had occurred. He knows every single device, every medication, every surgery and it details that his son had gone through. He talked to him even if won’t reply. He carried him in his hands even while his diaper was soiled. He joyfully announced it was his birthday and all the fun things they were going to do together. If that is not being hopeful through showing compassion, then what is it?, I thought to myself. He is the most positive person I have ever encountered. He is an extraordinary human being. This experience reinforced my decision to become a doctor. Even when medicine says, “there is no cure”, “he would not survive”, or “he has just two months to live”, there is something else that is so subtle and powerful that counters those facts. That thing I believe is hope. Hope is what brings light by breaking through a ceiling that ushers darkness. Hope is when one chooses to be the light in a gloomy and foggy atmosphere. Hope is when the reality is negated and the unexpected or the imaginary manifests. In essence, what we cannot explain becomes a miracle.

If you strongly believe in your journey, remember to keep walking on that path for as long as you can, the road might just take a turn that brings an abundance of unexpected bounties. My thoughts and prayers go out to those with terminal illnesses.

When the sunlight meets the dark cloudy sky, a beautiful rainbow emerges.

The Secret to Get Into Medical School

Over the years I have been asked this question many times.  What’s the secret?  How do I get into medical school?  What’s the secret???  Well, as a member of the good old boys club, I have been selective with who I choose to share this secret with.  So, for the first time ever, on PreMedStAR.com, I will share this secret with everyone.  In order optimize your chance of getting into medical school, you must work hard!!!  That’s it!  It is really that simple!

Something that people do not know about doctors is that not all of us are that smart.  But on the other hand, all of us have some level of work ethic above the average individual.  Using myself as an example, I do not think I am really all that intelligent.  What I do have is common sense.  Throughout college, I had enough common sense to know that if I spent more nights studying than partying, I would score higher on tests that my classmates who didn’t understand that simple principle.  As a freshman, I memorized my notes from class verbatim and went over them numerous times so that on the day of the test, it was a cake walk.  In other words, I worked hard!

So perhaps working hard is easier said than done.  Staying motivated and focused is a challenge.  Here are 5 tips to ensure that you do!

1)      Make friends who have similar goals.  This is crucial to your success.  If both you and your best friend want to go to medical school, you will push one another to remain focused.  During my college years, a lot of my close friends were premeds as well.  We would compete to see who could score the highest on test (seems nerdy in retrospect but paid off).  When feeling too tired to sit down and study, all it took was a glance at a buddy studying to get me up.

2)      Post motivational reminders in your room.  At the start of every year, I would decorate a push pin board and write all sorts of motivational quotes on it.  That board was right next to my bed and each day the quotes screamed success at me.  I had “failure is not an option”, “4.0”, and “don’t let them down” on that board.  These among other things kept me focused.

3)      Find good mentors.  I cannot emphasize the importance of this.  You absolutely MUST have someone guiding you who knows what he or she is talking about.  Don’t trust just any old Jim Bob on the street to tell you how to get into medical school.  Find someone who has either done it, or is on the way there!  Simple as that!

4)      Set Goals!  It’s rather difficult to work to accomplish something if you don’t have goals in place.  Getting into medical school is a process, not just a single step.  Set goals along the way!  EVERY student should start off each semester with a GPA goal!  Why not aim for a 4.0?  If you miss maybe you’ll get a 3.7!  Set the goal and take it seriously!  Keep your eye on the prize!  Set study goals (e.g. I will learn topics x,y, and z tonight), set summer goals (e.g. I will apply for these summer programs).  Just set goals!!!

5)      Believe in something more important than Medicine itself! (personal secret) You all know by now that I am a person of faith.  In other words, I rely on God to keep me going. There will be plenty of times that things don’t go your way.  You will fail a test, not have enough money to pay semester dues, and lose loved ones.  Life happens and you cannot change that fact!  So, those nights when you are stressed, crying, hungry, etc; those nights when you wonder why you are chasing this dream of becoming a medical doctor; those nights when you tell yourself that you’d rather die than not be a doctor; remember that “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you!”   Also remember, one day, after you’ve achieved your goal of becoming a physician, life will continue.  Then what will you look forward to?  Medicine is great, but it isn’t the end all be all!

These are the things that will allow you to persist and work hard to get into medical school!  Stick to them and hopefully we’ll be welcoming you into the field in only a few short years!

Congratulations to Jocelyn! Premed of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself: I have a passion for medicine and I am more than happy to be the first in my family to be pursuing it! I was born and raised in Santa Ana, CA. I am a first generation college student and I’m currently a 4th year undergraduate student. I will be graduating in May 2018! However, I plan on completing a Post-bacc program before applying to medical school.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you? My favorite professors at school would be Dr. Nalbandian (OChem professor) and Dr. Park (MicroBio Professor). They both have had a great impact on my undergrad experience. They have constantly motivated and encouraged me to continue my career goals. Being that I am the first in my family to get a college education, it has been difficult to support my career choice financially. I have worked throughout my entire undergraduate career and have felt discouraged at times (as many have). They, however, have helped me to focus on my vision and to remind me to slow down. I have learned that there is no need to rush and that I should finish strong, not fast!

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why?  Growing up, I always said that I wanted to be a cosmetologist, but that surely changed after being exposed to the medical field. I started volunteering for St Joseph Hospital when I was 15 (required community service hours for AVID). Being exposed to such an environment sparked something in me that I didn’t even know I had. I then decided to take a Medical Assisting ROP Program that was offered in my community for high school students. I graduated from the Medical Assisting program at the same time that I graduated from high school and started working as a Medical Assistant thereafter.

I knew that that was the place for me and I continued to work through my first semester of Freshman year in college. Due to financial difficulties, I had to take a semester off of school. It was during this time that I was able to reassure my passion. I felt as though my dreams had died when I had to leave school. It saddened me that I had a vision and a goal that I may never be able to achieve. Despite the negative comments and the discouraging words that I received from those around me, I decided to work as much as I could so that I could go back to school. It was during this time that I found myself more and more intrigued by medicine. As I worked closely alongside the physician, I could envision myself as a doctor in the future. I then was able to return to school and continued working as well as volunteering in a mobile clinic and several health fairs. This allowed me to discover my calling. I want to be able to provide medical services, as a physician, to those who are medically underserved within the United States. I hope to one day own a mobile clinic where I am able to continue my calling.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in?  Being that I want to part-take and help minimize health disparities, I am interested in General Medicine.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? The coolest experience that I have had so far during my premedical journey would be being involved both nationally and locally with American Medical Women’s Association. I have been able to help mentor other women at my campus by sharing my experiences with them as well as helping provide hands on experience for them. Seeing them be involved in community outreach has definitely impacted me and encouraged me to continue what I am doing; I have also grown by being a part of this community.

6. What is your favorite book? I don’t necessarily have a favorite book, per say, but I do enjoy any good read. If you have any suggestions, let me know!

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know. An interesting thing about me that most people do not know that is that I could spend hours crafting! Majority of my apartment decorations are DIY; It is my number one hobby! Although, I mostly can only do this during the summer because of my busy schedule.

Mentorship 101 Part 2 – What Every Mentee Needs to Know

As promised, here is part 2…

 

6.  LISTEN: This is important both for the mentor and mentee.  There is wisdom in those who allow and respect authority in their lives and are not above reproach.  Stay humble and hear your mentor’s point before dismissing it.  It may not make sense at first or it may never make sense but give it some time.  It is okay to respectfully disagree or get opinions from someone else.  A good mentor should understand this and not be overly domineering.  The both of you are fallible and should acknowledge that.  If they don’t respectfully listen to your point of view as well then there may be a problem.  Listening is essential but does not mean you must obey.  There is more than one way to skin a cat.  What worked for your mentor may not work for you so use your God-given brain to discern and realize what will work best for you.

7.  PULL YOUR WEIGHT: As already mentioned, most mentors are busy with their own lives and also are being mentored by others.  You need to put forth the effort to research and meet mini goals in order to build your mentor’s trust so they can invest in you.  Show them that you are serious and not just wasting their time.  Determine which relationships are formal and which are more casual.  For those that are more formal it may not be a bad idea to come up with a schedule.  For instance, ask them if you can write or call them once a month or every other month.  Pick a time frame that works for the both of you, that doesn’t burden or conflict with each other’s schedules and still allows them to remember who you are.

8.  DO NOT BE A VICTIM: You will run into multiple “haters” (i.e. doubters) during your journey so there is no room for you to become your biggest hater.  We all have obstacles in life but these should be used to build character not destroy it.  Don’t let your race, gender, beliefs or environment hold you back.  Don’t think you have it “worse than everyone else” because you don’t know what the next person had to face in their lives.  I’ve met children of medical doctors who I was tempted to think they had it easy but when I hear some of their stories involving parents who were always working and never around and the high expectations placed on them it changed my opinion.  Remember that there are others who have walked down your path and paved the way so find them and learn from them (even if you have to read their autobiographies).  If you are struggling with some issues and have someone you can trust as a mentor, don’t be afraid to share them.  Your mentor may be able to relate or empathize with you.  The earlier the better so you can deal with the obstacle and get moving.  Life won’t slow down for you and a mentor left in the dark may give up on you.

9.  STAY CONNECTED: You are the driver on the mentor-mentee bus.  A good mentor will likely check on you every so often but don’t expect them to.  Send your mentors updates once in a while to let them know you are serious and progressing.  Forming a network is critical and will help you throughout life in more ways than you can imagine right now.  Don’t burn bridges.  Also, do not feel as though you have to stick with one person.  A good mentor should actually point you to others as well.  You may eventually surpass your mentor’s ability to provide quality advice and may even become on par or superior in knowledge in that area but do not simply break that bond.  There is something to be said about the experience of the mentor.  Again, never be above reproach.  If you are wise, you are better off than a foolish king who won’t listen to advice.  Allow these relationships to shift as you grow.  For example, your parent(s) are often there and willing to provide advice.  However, when they can’t in a particular area, hopefully they will at least humbly respect and offer support.  They play a huge role throughout our lives but this role should not be static and must evolve.  Both sides must allow this to take place, otherwise issues will arise.  The same is so for an academic or career adviser.  Your role is to get to where they are and not always stay under them.  A good mentor realizes this and won’t keep you under their wings forever but trust they have provided you with what you need to know and let you fly.  It is your responsibility to keep them updated.

10.  STEP UP AND GIVE BACK: I have some amazing role models/mentors in my life but it wasn’t always easy finding them.  Innovative platforms are now available (such as www.diversemedicine.org) to allow many serious students to mentor others and be mentored themselves right in the comfort of their homes.  This doesn’t solve all of the disparities out there but provides a means to reach most backgrounds and socioeconomic classes.  There is now less and less room for excuses to be made.  We all serve as mentors already to our children, younger siblings or friends whether we know it or not but our reach can be so much further.  Especially given that there are many misguided teenagers out there, I strongly recommend you actively find others to mentor in your daily life.  Mentoring others also allows you to grow yourself.  It’s a beautiful thing to see someone give back.

I am more than grateful for the mentors in my life.  Again, I remind myself why this is the most important topic in life.  As I hear of the recent tragedy involving the young teen that was shot dead and look at the violence that plagues the Middle East I see so many missed opportunities to change the world for the better.  Even as I look on my desk right now I have a few books by inspiring authors that have opened my eyes in many ways and encouraged new paths in my life.  As I read through the book of Ecclesiastes this morning and made sense of Solomon’s wisdom I appreciate this topic even more.

My Powerful White Coat

The feeling is near overwhelming!  Putting that long white coat on for the first time is like transforming from Clark Kent into Superman.   Here is the change: When you are wearing a short coat, nobody listens to you.  Put the long one on and they suddenly revere you.  Short coat, you’re just getting in the way.  Long coat, people are getting out of your way.  It’s funny how a little bit of extra cloth can change the way people look at you.  What’s even funnier is how it changes the way you look at yourself.

So, I’m going to speak the truth… us physicians can be arrogant people.  I mean, can you blame us??  When we walk down the hallway people literally stare.  They look at us as if we are superhuman and we can sometimes start to believe that.  But as soon as that coat comes off….”he’s just another guy.”  So what does that lead to, a passion for us to keep it on and relish in its power.

Our long coats give us the power to write orders!!! We order nurses around, order physical therapists around, and even order other physicians around.  But, worst of all, is the fact that we try to order our patients around.  Self-reflecting, I see how I get frustrated and mumble angry words to myself when a patient comes in with stage 1 hypertension and isn’t taking the medication I had prescribed.  Or even more annoying is when that 61 year old patient with coronary artery disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease won’t take my advice to put down the cigarette.  I mean, don’t they see that we are the ones wearing the long coat??? Why can’t they understand that we are in charge, not them??

Well, that answer is simple; it’s because we are NOT in charge.  What physicians often forget is that our profession is one of SERVITUDE.  As a young physician, this is something that I continue to struggle with.  My enthusiasm and desire to make my patients better is so strong, that I often forget I am not their Daddy.  The funny thing is that most of my patients are much older than I am, and I’m the one trying to boss them around.   I forget that I am here to serve them!

I have finally come to realize that my powerful white coat isn’t a superhero’s cape; rather it is a simple cheap piece of cloth reminding me to be humble.  It tells me that I am fortunate to have the opportunity to take care of patients in the most intimate of ways, and my job is to help them accomplish their own goals, not my goals for them.   When a patient doesn’t want to quit smoking, I feel as though I am doing them a good service by encouraging them to stop.  But if he or she absolutely refuses, I have no right to look down on them for defying my order because they are in charge of the Patient-Doctor relationship, not me.  I am simply here to serve them.  I’ll end by stating the motto of Meharry Medical College where my wife graduated from: The Worship of God through SERVICE of Mankind.  Ponder That!

Congratulations to Grace! Premed of the Week

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.  Hello everyone! I grew up in Chicago, went to school in Boston, and recently moved down south to North Carolina. I’ve started using the word “y’all” like crazy and have been driving a car more than I’ve walking on my own two feet! I am a sucker for beautiful scenery and fall is my favorite season because of the foliage and cool weather. Since moving, I’ve gained interest in all kinds of activities I never thought I’d enjoy like hiking, running, and yoga.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?  Mr. Scharlau was my AP Chemistry teacher in high school and he played the roles of teacher, mentor, father, and your personal cheerleader. 7+ years later I still remember his dedication to our classroom. He’d stay long past school hours to offer extra hours of assistance on practice problems and meet on weekends with our study groups. He didn’t just make sure we were successful in chemistry, but also made sure that we were successful individuals who lived with passion, lived morally, and strived high.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? The more I became aware of my values and passions, I felt like becoming a physician would be a good fit. To be honest, volunteering, shadowing, and interning at the hospital/ doctor’s office showed me that daily work life in the medical field wasn’t all that glamorous as people make it to be. But I think that’s another aspect that made me want to pursue this field even more. It was always important for me that my career would continue to prune me and shape me to be better person and if there’s anything I’ve learned thus far it’s that there’s always room for me to grow. For example, I have a heart to serve people, but being situated in an environment where sometimes there are difficult patients provides me with the opportunity to practice patience, love, and kindness when it may be the most difficult to show.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in?  I’m not sure yet but I absolutely love learning about the heart so I’ve thought about cardiothoracic surgery. I’ve also done research working with patients with hypothyroidism and I find it so fascinating that such a small region of your neck can create a whole bunch of complex problems in your body so endocrine surgery could also be an option. But who knows until I get there!

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey?  Meeting diverse group of patients and getting to know them has been an awesome experience during this journey.

6. What is your favorite book?  A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know.  I have an irrational fear of birds… if I see a bird on the sidewalk in my path, I will cross the street and walk around it.

Mentorship 101 Part 1 – What Every Mentee Needs to Know

I will dare to make the claim that mentorship is the single most important thing in any human being’s life and hopefully I can shed some light on this assertion.  I must add a disclaimer that these are simply my opinions and observations on the matter but I’d love to hear thoughts from others.

Mentors.  We all have them and we all serve as them but very few of us really examine this in our lives.  Starting from birth, our parent(s) are invaluable mentors who shape our beliefs and environment but soon after we begin to form relationships with others.  Not long after that, the television and social media begin to influence us in ways we don’t even realize.  I always love and can attest to the statement “you show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.”  Or even better, “you show me your friends and I will show you your future.”  This is so true but unfortunately too many people only realize this when it is too late.  I am not sure who coined the quote but I also find much truth in something I recently heard from Montell Jordan’s sermon; “If you want to know what lies down the road ahead, ask somebody who is on the way back.”

These are numbers 1-5 of  my personal suggestions on steps for mentees trying to develop a good mentor-mentee relationship.  I will post numbers 6-10 next week.

1.  SET YOUR GOALS: Understand what you are chasing in life.  This will set your standards and will be what determines whether you have succeeded or not.  Take a holistic approach at setting both short-term and long-term goals.  Some people are so fixated on their academics and career goals that they are still single late in life and regret passing up on Mr. or Miss Right.  Others become “too busy” for worship or their health.  It is important not to neglect certain areas in your life or you will never feel complete.  Realize that you must prioritize well but also multitask in order to be the one smiling at the end of the day.  Areas you may want to consider setting goals for are spiritual beliefs/faith, academics/career, spouse/family, finances, health, long-term friendships/networks.  It is important to understand how these areas intertwine as well.  Remember, you must allow “wise” people to counsel you while setting these goals but do not let anyone make these decisions for you.  Otherwise, you will be living someone else’s dream at your own expense.  You won’t find happiness there, I guarantee.  This is why I say set YOUR own goals, not goals for others.

2.  EXAMINE WHO IS MENTORING YOU NOW: Again, we all have mentors whether we realize it or not.  Furthermore, most of their influence is subliminal.  It is important that you quickly analyze who serves in these roles, remove and replace those areas where there are deficits before further harm is done.  Those who understand this principal will make something out of themselves while those who don’t will put themselves at a serious disadvantage.  Many of your friends should have similar goals.  It’s rare to find that chameleon in the group who can consistently party hardcore with the group and get involved in potentially harmful activities and still turn out successful at the end of the day.  Life doesn’t typically work that way.  Television and social media dominate our lives these days and it is a pet peeve of mine listening to people stating it does not influence today’s generation.  It saddens me to see that the once good (at least in my opinion) role models are being shunned and unapologetically replaced.  All of us 80’s babies remember shows like the Cosby’s, a Different World, Good Times, Family Matters, Full House, etc..  What happened to the two-parent, hardworking but still not perfect family?  It appears they were substituted for reality TV shows.  It used to be cool to want to be a doctor, police officer, lawyer, or hard working blue collared professional supporting your family but now-a-day people like Bill Cosby get stoned for speaking their mind in some arenas.  I was raised and influenced by mainstream hip hop myself but I won’t even get started on this topic.  I would only say that if someone tells you to buy a certain brand of clothing, do a particular dance, want to be like them, or treat others in a certain way (for good or bad) and you follow suit then they are most likely to some degree a mentor in your life.  It will be nice when there is again support for those actively trying to make positive changes in communities and it is okay to critique those who encourage negative actions.  I digress, but recommend you truthfully examine yourself and your surroundings.  Otherwise, you will be doing yourself a huge disservice.

3.  DO YOUR HOMEWORK: Research what it will take to reach your goals and have an idea of the mentor’s background.  Do not approach a mentor with an empty slate.  Come prepared.  Show them you have set goals and how you intend on reaching them but do not be inflexible in your plans.  Allow your mentors to point out how feasible things are and possibly alternative strategies.  If you want to become a medical doctor it’s good to have knowledge of the basics.  This doesn’t mean you should present your mentor with a master’s thesis on the world of medicine but have the understanding that med school is 4 years, residency is another 3+ years and then you may consider fellowship.  Be able to tell them your motive behind this career choice and be ready for their critique even if it is not what you want to hear.  A mentor will typically want to know what you expect from them.  Think this through before approaching them.

4.  SELECT WISELY: Find mentors who you can relate to but they don’t have to be exactly like you.  In fact, it is good to be diversified.  You may have to step out of your comfort zone a bit, but this is good.  Have older mentors who can tell you what will come later down the road and get you connected.  Have slightly older/matured mentors who recently experienced what you have and let you know it will all be okay.  Have peer mentors, who share your same experiences.  Do not neglect utilizing younger or even sometimes less experienced people as mentors since they may allow you to learn from their choices and innocence.  Simply watching a 2-year-old offers something to learn (such as contentment with simple things).  There is no golden mentor because we all have our short comings.  You will be terribly disappointed if you make an idol of a person.  Each mentor will have attributes to add to the person you want to become and limiting yourself to a particular type of person may keep you in a bubble.  Try to avoid pompous mentors as they may always make you feel as though you are beneath them.  I recall one of my mentors early on forcing me to stop calling him sir because he was afraid this would fill his head up and limit my growth.  I definitely see where he was coming from although each relationship should be handled differently.  I have great respect for him still but I am better able to regard him as a colleague and friend.  Use your discernment to see what motives your mentor.  Are they someone who will mentor you due to their passion for helping others or is there a financial or other self-fulfilling aim that is driving them?

5.  RESPECT: Your mentor likely has a full plate just as you do.  Most students and medical professionals are also dedicating a lot of their time to work and family.  Be respectful of their time.  Again this is why it is good to come to the table prepared with specific questions and updates.  Don’t be too intrusive into their personal life.  They will reveal information to you as they wish.  I would avoid asking specifically about their GPA, exam scores, salaries, or personal family matters.  Also, avoid sharing too many details about your conversation with too many others.  It is a small world and word can travel fast in the medical community.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard conversations med students discussed among one another shared with faculty and vice versa.  Another subcategory worth mentioning is being truthful and forthcoming if you want to maximize the benefits.  It may be embarrassing sharing some grades and scores but if you feel like it is worth mentioning to explain your situation then do not withhold or fabricate this important information.  This will will serve neither party any good in the end.

Okay, so I hope you understand my thought process so far and the importance of these aspects to develop a good mentor-mentee relationship.  Check back next week for numbers 6-10.

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