Super Star Blogs!

Never Forget Your Gifts

Never forget your natural calling…

I recall how much emphasis was placed on extracurricular activities during medical school interviews.  They wanted well-rounded, academically achieved students.  However, I really suspected I would walk into a medical school class surrounded by 200 very studious but one-track minded students who beefed up their applications with activities they were forced to do.  Maybe a class full of Mark Zukerbergs, a couple of Screeches from Saved by the Bell, a few Napolean Dynamites, and throw in a couple of Erkels and Myras in the mix.  I really did not know how I would fit in.

On orientation day, I was pleasantly surprised to see a college buddy of mine who had played for his basketball team.  We had been playing ball together for the past 4 years and neither of us had a clue we were both pre-med.  Beyond this I came to find out there were other students in my class with extremely diverse backgrounds and talents such as athletes, local musicians, stand-up comedians, military men and women, and even a major former Broadway show planner.  Everyone in the class had hours and hours of volunteer activities that we all seemed so passionate about.  These people could have easily succeeded in other fields but chose to serve their fellow man through medicine.  I blended right in and made some very good friends over those 4 years.

One thing I did notice was that those 4 years of medical training really narrowed down extracurricular activity participation.  We all enjoyed our free time and occasionally I would get shocked to find out about more hidden talents other students possessed but managed to hide over the years.  As I went through residency these talents became even harder to discover.  Not only that, volunteer participation became scant.  One of my favorite questions to ask a group of medical doctors has now become, “If you were not a doctor, what would you have done for a living?”  This instantly brings a smile to many people’s faces as they open up their talent chest and past childhood dreams.  I’ve heard answers like a chef, a stay at home wife, a fashion designer, a pilot, and a librarian.  A few people have ‘no idea’- medicine was all they ever wanted to do.  The scariest one I’ve heard was- a professional sniper.  Needless to say I kept my distance from him after that.  Personally, I probably would have been an artist living a relatively simple life.

Medicine is an amazing field that has a lot to offer.  Your training takes you through a roller coaster with some of the worst and best days of your life.  During the same period, many transitions are taking place (relationships, marriages, children, first car/house, etc.).  It may even become difficult to offer time for volunteer activities when that time could easily be spent making money by moonlighting.  Medicine can really consume our lives at times.  We sometimes lose sight of prior dreams and talents that helped set us apart from others in the first place.  These God given talents were given to us for a reason and they have the potential to really change lives if we use them.  I think it is very important that every once in a while we set some time aside to volunteer or re-explore a talent or two.

Written By Dr. Daniel

Image Credit: Pixabay

Congratulations to Jordan! Premed of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.  Hi! I’m Jordan Paluch from Lake Geneva, WI. I’m currently a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Biology and Life Sciences Communication as well as obtaining certificates (minoring) in Global Health and Leadership.

Growing up, my parents strongly emphasized overall wellness. We always ate local produce, organic food and made sure to do a little cardio everyday. I also saw doctors, physical therapists, massage therapists, chiropractors- you name it! Because of them, I really fell in love with the tenets of osteopathic medicine, and I am very excited to apply to D.O. schools this spring!

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you? I believed I would go to art or design school until 16/17. Fulfilling my last science requirement in high school, however, I somehow ended up in an honors anatomy and physiology course that I didn’t sign up for. I only remained in the class because I thought my teacher was cute! Over the course of the year, the teacher that I had taught that even though I mainly had a creative mind, there were ways that art and biology mixed and that I could be good at both. I ended up taking AP biology only because that teacher was teaching it the following year and that’s how I fell in love with biology!

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? I don’t think I could pinpoint exactly when I wanted to become a doctor. I believe that an amalgamation of events over the course of my life has led me to where I am today. Some of these events include going on a mission trip to Haiti because of my OBGYN, my mom being diagnosed with skin cancer, volunteering weekly at a local hospital and observing patient-physician interactions, having a rude professor told me that I’d never make it into the medical field, helping a solely volunteer-run women’s clinic in the area, shadowing multiple kinds of doctors, going on a Remote Area Medical trip in rural New York to help give the underserved free healthcare, creating events for my Pre-SOMA chapter and therefore having a group of people get as excited as I am about medicine- honestly the reasons are endless! I think that so many things that have happened in my life and so many opportunities have presented themselves to me and, ultimately, that has pointed me in this direction.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in? It’s hard to know right now what I would be good at or what my niche will be, so I am leaving my mind open to anything. It is a personal goal of mine to open a free clinic, however, so I know for sure I will be working with underserved or rural communities.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? I am going to Omed this weekend in Philadelphia with two of my Pre-SOMA board members (who also happen to be good friends) and I expect that to be incredible! All the experiences I’ve listed before have been cool too, to be honest (yes, even the rude professor- he helped shape me into the resilient person I am today).

One specific experience that resonated with me strongly, however, was when I shadowed in the neurosurgery clinic at UW hospital. There was an older man around 70 or 80 years old who had gotten into an accident, and while his scans came back fine, he claimed he couldn’t remember who he was before the accident. I thought about this so deeply- if I were to get in an accident and not remember who I was, how would others describe me? Would I have enough pictures and video to remember what I was like? After that day, I vowed to record a little bit of each day during my senior year via GoPro so that I can eventually make myself a day in the life video! I’ve already caught so many amazing memories on camera that I otherwise wouldn’t have and it’s only the beginning of October.

6. What is your favorite book? I can’t remember the last time I read for leisure, so I’m just going to say that some of my readings for my anthropology class have been about ancient genetics and immunology in Neanderthals, which has been pretty neat to read about!

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know. I’m actually a wedding photographer/videographer/photo editor on the weekends! I love being able to get paid for a creative break from all of the stresses of school. I’ve worked this job since around 14 or 15 years old and being able to move up in a company because of the hard work I’ve put into it has been an extremely rewarding feeling.

My photography job emphasizes a completely different way of thinking aside from my Biology major, which is why I also added the Life Sciences Communication major. It was a perfect fit for me because I not only get to express my creativity, but I get to do that with science!

8.  What do you like most about PreMed StAR?  What I like the most about PreMed StAR is that I get to see what other pre-meds around the country are involved in and what their reasons for going into medicine are!

Beyond Expectations

Authored by: Monica Nazir, First-Year Student at Eastern Mennonite University’s M.A. in Biomedicine Program

Comment: If you’d like to read more blogs by Eastern Mennonite University’s M.A. in Biomedicine program please visit their website:  http://emu.edu/now/ma-biomedicine/

The process students must go through before gaining admission to a health professionals school is often just as stressful and taxing as attending one. For this reason, the choices made on the path to reach that goal are crucial. When I decided to attend EMU’s MA in Biomedicine program, I had certain expectations. I knew that the program was of a certain high academic caliber, having built up a reputation for preparing students well for medical school. After completing half a semester here, however, all my expectations have been surpassed.

The first and most prominent thing that truly blew my expectations away was the level of attentiveness that each of us in the program receives from faculty and staff. Because the program limits each incoming class size, the faculty and staff are easily accessible. In contrast to feeling like just another set of statistics at a big school, this program allows each student to feel like a significant contributing factor. It makes the process of getting to know professors much easier, and establishing connections with them is no longer a task, but comes naturally. Being on a first name basis with professors and faculty members is standard practice. Although this took me a couple of weeks to get used to, it has shifted how I view the professor-student dynamic. Rather than thinking of professor as the superior teacher and myself as the mere learner, EMU emphasizes a philosophy of learning where both professor and student engage actively and cooperatively in the learning environment.

Being a student in the Master’s in Biomedicine program has already, in just the few weeks I’ve been here, opened up a variety of opportunities to help me on this journey to medical school. At a recent graduate school fair, I spoke to many representatives from health professional schools from around the region and beyond. In many of these instances, the school’s representative knew of EMU’s Biomed program and gained more interest in our conversation at the mere mention of it. One medical school, in particular, was keen on offering further assistance to me as a Biomed student in search of shadowing opportunities, providing me with contact info for their recent grads who had opened private practices in the region. This kind of open door to a networking opportunity is just one example of what being an EMU student can offer, beyond just the classroom. In addition to exposure to a wealth of networking opportunities, I, like every student in the program, receive tailored advising personalized to our goals. This invaluable advising is a luxury that can only be offered in the midst of an intimate student body.

Among perhaps the best part of the program is the friendships that are established that are sure to last a lifetime. Being a part of a smaller program has afforded an environment in which it is feasible to get to know everyone else. Relaxing social activities are easy to plan, from movie nights to a night of good food and conversation. Aside from an encouraging peer group, there is an abundance of knowledge to draw on from the upper-class members who are continually available to assist. With such a rich assortment of resources available to utilize, I’m eager to see the prospects being a biomed student will afford.

Top 10 Learning Tips

1. STUDY WITH FRIENDS
This offers accountability. Choose the right friends but not the type that will distract your studies. I’m not saying you should study in the same room together but just go together for support. Find that kid that sits at the front of the class asking all those questions and meet with them weekly. Make sure you know what they know and there is a good chance you will excel in that class.

2. SIT IN THE FRONT
If you don’t think this is important check out these papers (Giles, 1982) (Rennels & Chaudhari, 1988) showing improved grades the closer you are to the front. This minimizes distraction, offers better vision and hearing, and forces you to stay awake or suffer embarrassment. You’ll make some friends up there with bright futures and maybe someone who can fix your broken computer.

3. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Repetition, repetition, repetition. Some say repeating 7-20 times commits something to memory. If you are a visual learner like I am, draw pictures or charts over and over. Sing a song with the words.

4. STUDY ENVIRONMENT
Quiet or loud as you please. Library, home, coffee shop, or outdoors. Often times, little cues in our environment subconsciously assist our learning.

5. MNEMONICS AND DRAWINGS
Get as crazy as you can with these. The crazier the more likely you will remember but don’t go too far and over mnemonicize yourself so you have to start having to make mnemonics to remember mnemonics.

6. STAY AFTER CLASS
You would be amazed at how much goodies the professor gives away at the end of class to those who stick around. Believe it or not, professors like to have a nice curve in grades. They don’t want to be too easy or too hard so they will reward a group of motivated students. Those who stick out will be noticed by the professor and they are likely to be those who ask questions at the end of class. Even more impressive is if you go to the front after class just to listen to other’s questions.

7. TURN IT OFF
I’m talking cell phones and computers. These are now the biggest distractions in class. I’d recommend you go ole school and print out the notes and grab a pen and write.

8. GET A MENTOR
Become friends with an upperclassman who successfully passed these classes. Ask them for advice or old notes.

9. SUMMARIZE FIRST
Look at the big picture before delving in. This goes for everything on your track to becoming a doctor or a specialist or life in general. When reading, read the chapter summary first. Before reading the book, read the back cover or the preface. Before taking a course read the description. Before going the premed route, speak to or shadow doctor. I find this similar to watching a movie trailer prior to jumping into the movie. There is a better chance you won’t be unpleasantly surprised if you first get a general idea beforehand.

10. QUESTIONS!
Mimicking any situation prepares you like nothing else. If you are asked in advance to take a half-court shot at half-time of a basketball game for $1,000, would you go there without any practice or would you be launching that ball all day and night in preparation? Again practice makes perfect.

And don’t forget to rest.

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.

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