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The Healthy Premed!

It’s no secret that the premed journey is rough. The stress of exams, managing time, and making life decisions can take a huge toll on you. Furthermore, these things all happen during some of the most important years of your life.  It is during this time that you will be away from your parents and begin to establish your own foundations. You will pick up habits (good and bad) that will ultimately make or break you. There is so much information out there pertaining to how premeds should study, how to do well on exams, and how to get into medical school, but we often neglect what is arguably the most important aspects of the premedical student’s life, his or her personal health.  Bad health equals bad future!  Here are a few suggestions to help you stay healthy:

  1. Maintain a healthy diet. Multiple sources predict on average a college freshman will gain somewhere between 10-20 lbs in that year. If you are like me during college, your diet probably consists of ramen noodles, ravioli, hot pockets, pizza, sandwiches, and plenty of soft drinks. This is a very unhealthy diet. It will serve you well to begin adapting to a more balanced diet, even if you have to set aside a little time to incorporate this. I suggest you be very thoughtful while grocery shopping. If you have access to a stove, spend 1 or 2 days in the week preparing a cooked meal and save your left overs in the freezer or in Tupperware for the week. Buy nuts, granola bars, and fresh fruits for snacks. Limit or avoid soft drinks all together. Taking a stance on this will not only improve your health but also allow you to set a strong example for others around you as well as for your future patients.
  1. Work out. It is recommended by the World Health Organization that adults age 18-64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of this. Doing this can improve heart and lung function, keep bones strong, and reduce risks of noncommunicable diseases and depression. I have always found this to be one of the best stress relieving techniques out there.
  1. Pay mind to your mental health. This unfortunately is one of those areas that has been swept under the rug for far too long. There remains a stigma that keeps this issue from being dealt with appropriately. Doctors and med students are human beings who witness emotional loss of lives and failures which may lead to PTSD. Doctors offer a lot of time and emotional sacrifices for their patients day-in and day-out and some may feel this is not reciprocated. This is partly why the depression, divorce and suicide rates are higher for medical doctors than the general population. I recall two medical students taking their lives while I was a student. So does this trend hold for premedical students? Unfortunately, it does. Based on a study by Fang et al. looking at 647 premedical students at University of California, San Diego, there was a significantly increased prevalence of screened positive major depressive disorder in premedical students than their non-premedical counterparts. The pressures placed on you by friends, family, and even yourself can be overwhelming at times. Remember to take time for yourself, take care of your health and get professional help if you need it. You must be your biggest advocate because no one else will know exactly how you feel.
  1. Don’t do drugs. I cannot stress this enough. It is again very unfortunate that statistically, doctors are more likely to suffer from substance abuse problems significantly more than the general population. We are much more vulnerable to this due to easier access to these potentially harmful agents but this dependence tends to start while in college. Drugs are anything that alters your normal state. This does include alcohol in excess, stimulants, and sedatives. The pressure of school can get to many students so much that they eventually begin to rely on external agents to function and to sleep. We have all seen the TV show’s Dr. Gregory House of House M.D. and his reliance on pain meds to get by. I have witnessed too many students and doctors damaging their futures this way. It would be best not to start any potentially addicting agents unless medically necessary and if so, only while under the care of a medical profession.
  1. Don’t neglect your spiritual health. Often times this is put on the back burner for many premedical students when times get tough. However, I can attest to the benefits of spending time in prayer and attending church service. Sometimes, it is helpful to see past the premedical trees to appreciate how beautiful life is and how grand is the world in which we live!

 

 

 

 

Image Credit Pixabay

Social Media For the Premedical Student

Social media has gradually infiltrated our every day lives and continues to grow every year. There are currently 2.3 billion active social media users [1]. Users of social media check accounts constantly throughout the day. Social media has been instrumental in the success of many people by helping them to self-advertise and by providing information and resources to others. However, the constant feed from the lives of other individuals can become a major distraction. Observing snippets from the lives of other social media users can leave you feeling as if you don’t measure up. We often compare ourselves to those around us. However, comparing your destiny to other individuals’ can cause feelings of disappointment and unworthiness. Do you often wonder why it has taken you longer to achieve the same goals as your peers? What did they do differently? These thoughts constantly creep in and make us lose confidence in our abilities. Nevertheless, you must remember to focus on your goals and not anyone else’s. Your path may be different from your best friend’s. She may get into medical school on the first try, while you may have to wait another year. Should you give up? Absolutely not! In life, although, we may share the same goals, our journeys are often different. We all have different experiences that make us unique and give us a various viewpoints of the world around us. Keeping this in mind, we must avoid the trap of social media and use it to our advantage!  Here are some ways to use social media as a source of encouragement instead of a distraction:

Don’t measure yourself to someone else’s success. Remain focused on your goal. Do not compare yourself to other people. Your road to success may be different but you will achieve your goal, if you don’t give up.

Reach out to the people that you admire on social media. For example, instead of secretly following those that you admire, become active on their social media forums. Everyone wants a mentor, however, the best way to get insider information is to simply ask questions. Many current medical students and doctors recall their pre-med years and are happy to give advice and encouragement.

Limit your time on social media. Just as you manage your time for other areas of your life, do the same with social media usage. Commit to specific times to check your social media accounts. For example, every three hours or 8 am and 8 pm daily. Strategically scheduling social media time helps you to get the most out of the time you spend on social media.

Join social media accounts specifically for pre-meds. Become an active member of a pre-med site like PreMedStAR.com and connect with other premeds. You are likely to meet other students who understand many of the things you are experiencing and have had similar questions to your own. Stay active on the forums and ask questions! Make sure you pay it forward by answering questions posted by other premeds as well.

Stay in your own lane and  don’t give up on your dream to become a physician! Your future patients are counting on you to succeed!

 

To Submit a Blog, Email it to Newsletter@PreMedStAR.com.

Reference: Smith, K., (2016). Marketing: 96 Amazing social medial statistics and facts for 2016. Retrieved from https://www.brandwatch.com/2016/03/96-amazing-social-media-statistics-and-facts-for-2016/

Image Credit: Pixabay

 

How to Choose Your Specialty

Choosing the right specialty is easy right?  Go to medical school, get decent grades, then start a residency in your field of interest.  That’s all there is to it!  WRONG!  There are a few things that are never truly explained to premedical students, one of which is how to choose a specialty. Here are 3 things to consider when choosing your specialty.

  1. Do I like (and are you capable of doing) the bread and butter of the field? Many students are attracted to the “Sexy” parts of certain specialties.  For example, in Pulmonary Medicine, everyone wants to do bronchoscopies and cool procedures.  However, the bread and butter is COPD and Asthma.  Yes, you do get a chance to do the cool stuff, but the majority of your time will be spent doing things that are probably less interesting to you.  The first question you should ask yourself about any field is, “Do I like the bread and butter?”
  2. Are the attendings happy? Once you get in medical school, you will be exposed to residents and fellows more than attendings.  Students often error in decided whether or not they like a specialty by evaluating the happiness of the young physicians who are still in training.  Do NOT do this.  Training is temporary.  Yes, it might be a miserable 3-8 years (depending on how specialized you get) but your life as an attending (a doctor who has completed training) might be much different.  Evaluate the life of the attending, not the trainee!
  3. How much money will you make. Yes I brought up the dollars!  There is a somewhat asinine concept that permeates through medicine and encourages us not to think about money.  “As long as you love what you do, it’s all worth it.”  Well, tell that to Uncle Sam who will be asking you for his loan money back with interest.  As a physician, you have spent a significant amount of time in training and taking on debt, while your age mates (who likely studied less than you and made lower grades than you) have been out making money and building wealth for several years.  Loving your work is great, but that love in and of itself won’t pay back your loans, feed your children, or pay your mortgage.   Remember, it’s the LOVE of money that is the root of all evil, not the money itself.

This about sums up how to choose your field of specialty.  If you like the bread and butter, the money is right, and the attendings are happy, you’ll be a good fit.  Certainly there are other things to consider such as are you good with your hands, and do you prefer to work with people or mostly alone, but three listed items above are a good guideline to get started.

 

 

Image Credit: Pixabay

Addressing Your Doubts

What is holding you back from pursuing a career in medicine? What keeps you from going in 100%? Have doubts creeped into your life and destroyed your premed dream? Is there someone whispering in your ear that you are not good enough or this is the wrong career option for you? There are many misconceptions about doctors and often times these are perpetuated by individuals who have never walked in a doctor’s shoes.  Let’s address some of these.

  1. I am not smart enough. If you can successfully make it through college then you are capable of succeeding in medical school. As much as society places doctors on an intellectual pedestal, many if not most physicians at one point or another also questioned if they were smart enough to become a doctor. Even upon entering medical school, it is very common for new medical students to feel inadequate as though they were somehow selected by mistake. Physicians are regular folks but what tends to separate them is their dedication and hard work ethic. Don’t let this hold you back.
  1. My scores aren’t good enough. This doubt cannot and should not be sugar coated. Getting into medical school is very tough and scores do matter. MCAT and GPA scores are extremely important but they are not the be all and end all for matriculation. We love to root for the underdog who may not have had a great score but came out on top of his or her class. There are plenty of stories like this. If medicine is what you want to do for the rest of your life then you must proactively find a way to get there even if you must take a couple of detours. Consider a post-baccalaureate program, graduate school, or repeating your MCAT. If medicine is your ultimate goal then the extra time and effort it will take you should be well worth it. PreMed Star is now a novel way to develop a more holistic score and a chance to increase your exposure. Take advantage of this opportunity.
  1. I can’t afford medical school. Medical school can be pricey but do not let this discourage you.  As a physician, if you are able to work and do not live beyond your means, you will be okay financially should be able to repay your loans. There are scholarships, grants, and loans available to assist you with costs. Be proactive and seek out these opportunities. There are also opportunities for free education through MD/PhD programs. You may also investigate loan repayment programs through the military, federal programs, or practicing medicine in underserved areas. When you finally do begin to practice, a huge chunk of your loan may be paid off through a stipend or bonus if negotiated well in your contract.
  1. Doctors work too hard. You do need to know what you are getting into. It is true that as a physician you will most likely work very hard during your training as well as during practice but the same can be said about many other professions that offer less job satisfaction and pay much less. You also need to understand that this is dependent on the specialty you chose to enter. Some physicians take call while other don’t.  Some will arrive to work very early in the morning for rounds and leave late in the evening while others work a 40 hour week. More and more, doctors are getting bombarded with paperwork and nonclinical duties but there still remain many pluses that still make this a great profession at the end of the day.
  1. It’s too late. Currently, the average age for entering medical students is 24. However, more and more students are entering medical school at later stages in their lives. This may actually be beneficial to them since many programs appreciate students with diverse backgrounds and years of “real world” experience. The wisdom, experience, and resilience you bring as a mature applicant can carry you a long way. It is never too late to get started.

T’was The Night Before MCAT!

T‘was the night before MCAT, when all through my mind,

Not a law could be remembered, not even Einstein’s.

I read and then re-read, my last minute cramming,

But rather instead, my brain kept on jamming.

On practice exams, my scores weren’t so great,

So now you can see, why I’m up studying so late.

Medical school is my destiny and fate,

So I’m praying this all-nighter, will get me a 528!

Take a moment and breathe!  Just think, in 24hrs, it’ll all be over.  It is quite possible that this is the most nervous you have ever been.  The night before that dreaded MCAT is one you may always remember.  So, how should you approach it?

  1. Do NOT study after 5pm. You have to know when enough is enough.  Hopefully, by this point in time, you’ve studied for several hundred hours in preparation.  Yes, there will always be something more that you can learn, but the time spent learning those few last minute details is likely not worth as much as the relaxation time lost.
  2. Choose your dinner wisely. Some of you will have some legitimate “night before” jitters.  These jitters can make you nauseous and queasy.  Eating a little too much grease might be the one thing that tips you into a night hunched over the toilet.  Also, know your body!  If you are lactose intolerant, don’t have a bowl of ice cream!
  3. Go to bed 20 minutes early. It is extremely difficult for many premedical students to sleep well.  You’ll toss and you’ll turn.  You’ll stare at the ceiling and count sheep.  You’ll wake up and look at the clock to make sure you haven’t overslept.  Those extra 20 minutes
  4. Set an extra alarm. Read number 3 and you’ll be able to appreciate the possibility of sleeping through your normal alarm.  We’ve all heard the horror stories; you know, the ones about the power going out, or the student setting their alarm an hour late.  Cover yourself by setting an extra alarm, and if possible, get one that is battery powered.
  5. Say a prayer!  Hey, it never hurts to get a little extra help!

The funny thing about the MCAT is that at the moment, it seems like the most important thing in your life, and it just might be!  However, when you are wearing that short white coat in a few years, then the long coat a few years later, nobody, not even you, will care about your MCAT.  So, although it might be the night before MCAT, there’s no need to fret!  If you’ve worked hard up until now, you’ll be okay!

 

Image Credit Pixaby

 

Why a 4.0 and 528 Won’t Get You Into Medical School!

RejectedSo you’ve busted your butt through undergrad to get all A’s and the highest MCAT score ever!  Done deal right?  You’re good to go! Every medical school in the country will want you!  WRONG!  On the contrary, you very well might have set yourself up to be scrutinized as if you are applying to join the CIA.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, the author makes an astute observation.  For many things in life, it is not necessary to be the best at that specific task, but rather you only need to be good enough.  To be a successful physician, you need an IQ of at least 115.  If you have that IQ, your potential to perform well as a doctor is just as good as the person with a 140.  So what does this mean for the medical school application?  A 4.0 student is not necessarily going to get in before the applicant with a 3.8.

Many admissions committee members default to one of two views when they see the 4.0/528 applicant.  View one, this student is phenomenal and there is nothing else to be said.  View 2, this student must have no life.  There are countless of students from across the nation who could get all A’s if they did nothing but study all day.  There is a direct correlation! Study more, get better grades.  Now, I do not want you to misunderstand what I am saying, good grades are great.  However, just as much as the student with a low gpa needs to demonstrate that they excel in other areas, the 4.0 student must do the same.

Holistic!  This may be the hottest word in today’s premedical community.  You must find a way to be a well-rounded student.  So if that means that you get a 3.8 but have the opportunity to work as a scribe, considering doing so rather than getting a 4.0 with no meaningful extracurricular activities.  So, to answer the proposed question: Why won’t a 4.0 and 528 get you into medical school?  It’s quite simple; that student has not demonstrated that he or she is more than numbers.  Get a 4.0, get a 528, but be sure to show them that you are more than numbers!

 

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Top 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Applying to Medical School

This is the question that every premed student must answer. It is the automatic query that follows after you have informed someone of your future goal to become a doctor. It is also the question many med school interviewers will ask in an attempt to gain their first impression of you.

“Why do you want to be a doctor?”

Everyone who poses this question has their own intention behind it. Your follow-up answer will be very telling. I do not believe there is one answer which will satisfy everyone but it is important to know your audience and understand motives behind them asking you this question so you do not fall into any traps. Let’s dissect a few of these motives.

  1. Are you doing this for yourself or for someone else?  Warning! Be true to yourself and make sure you are doing this for you. The medical journey is not an easy one but it can be enjoyable. I have crossed paths with medical students and even medical doctors who remain bitter or quit because medicine is not what they truly wanted to do with their lives in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, being a doctor is an amazing career but when the sleepless nights come around, knowing you are doing it for yourself (not your parents, your spouse, or anyone else) will help carry you through the storms.
  1. Do you know what you are getting into? I do not believe anyone fully knows what they will encounter in medical school but it is good to have a basic understanding of how you can achieve this goal and challenges you will face. Have you set goals for when you will take your prerequisites and MCAT exam, how you will afford your school, or know what age you will be at completion of your training? You do not need to know the details at this point but you should know the basics of anything you are truly serious about.
  1. Are you passionate about this? Your passion for medicine can easily be conveyed through your response to this question. If you are passionate about medicine you will likely also be passionate in providing this answer. When you are excited about something your body language tends to show while your answers tend to be free-flowing and authentic. Give it some thought but allow your passion to speak for you. The listener will appreciate this.
  1. Why not another career? You will get this follow-up question anytime you give the infamous answer, “because I want to help people”. You can help people by being a nurse, or a teacher, or working at a fast food restaurant. Why be a medical doctor instead of a physician assistant or nurse practitioner who cares for patients?  Make sure you know the difference.
  1. Is this an attainable goal for you? The pessimistic and realistic questioner will automatically think of your weaknesses. This may be one’s financial limitations, GPA, MCAT score, personal responsibilities, or lack of role models. They may doubt you initially but how you answer this question may allow them to understand that you have thought about this already and have a way around these potential weaknesses. It will be beneficial to know how to turn your weaknesses into your strengths.

 

By Dr. Daniel – PreMed StAR Blogger

To Blog With PreMed StAR Email Newsletter@PreMedStAR.com

Top 5 Premed Don’ts For Your Personal Statement

Your medical school personal statement is one of the most important components of your application. This short essay can be the deciding factor as to whether or not you will spend the remainder of your life practicing medicine. To be honest, most personal statements will be similar enough that they’ll fit right in with the rest. There will be a handful that standout above the majority, and if you can be in that handful…great! However, there will be a larger number that standout in a bad way. Your first priority is to make sure you are not in the “bad” bag! Here are the top 5 Don’ts for your personal statement.

1) Don’t Turn Your Resume Into an Essay. It is amazing how many premedical students simply transcribe their resume into paragraph form, then add an introduction and conclusion section. Read over your personal statement and if this is what you’ve done, you might as well start re-writing it now. Medical school applications have a specific section for your resume, and it is not the personal statement portion. It is okay to select one or two key of your high accomplishments to include in your essay, but please take caution not to go overboard!

2) Don’t Exclude Transition Statements. Admissions committee members read a lot of personal statements. To say the least, the essays can become somewhat mundane. In order to decrease the pain they face in reading so many, applicants can help them out by writing a ‘smooth’ essay. Transition statements are key in making this happen and cannot be overemphasized. Don’t jump trivially from one paragraph to another, but rather make sure you maintain good flow throughout. Your personal statement does not need to be a Pulitzer literary work of excellence, but it should be readable.

3) Don’t Be Impersonal. It’s called a personal statement for a reason. Medical schools would like to know how you, [Your Name Here], can make your potential classmates better. In order for them to determine this, it is critical that they get a good idea of the real you, the personal you. Don’t be reluctant to tell your tear jerker story, or to share real life struggles which you have had. Remember, the struggle is not what determines your success, it’s always the way you responded to it!

4) Don’t Embellish. Many students work hard to be standout students during undergrad and once they reach the application process, they come to a false realization that there is “nothing special” about them. This leads to embellishments in their personal statement. All of a sudden, a student’s minor flesh wound injury as child when he or she fell off a bicycle turns into a near death motorcycle experience. Don’t do this! If you get an interview with that school, it is likely they will ask about the most interesting aspects of your personal statement, and you don’t want to be caught sweating! Lying is a major Don’t!

5) Don’t Forget to Have 5 People Proofread It! Perhaps the biggest mistake, yet easiest to avoid, is leaving typos and grammatical errors in your personal statement. If you want to know the quickest way to get your application tossed out, then submit an essay with errors in it!

 

Image Credit Pixaby.

5 Tips to Excel In Class

I am frequently asked for advice on what a premed student can do excel in class. As long as you are not at the very top of your class, there is always room for improvement. Since I now consider myself a professional student, I will share 5 simple recommendations that will likely improve your chances to excel in any class.

1. Get there early: It is true what they say, “The early bird gets the worm”. The worm in this case is knowledge. You wouldn’t believe how many worms there are crawling around before class starts. Professors who arrive early tend to pay attention to those students who show up early. If that professor is there, this is a perfect opportunity to ask questions in order to (1) clear up any confusion on what you’ve read and (2) show him/her that you are working hard. By doing this you may set the standard for what the professor believes his/her students are learning. However, it is important not to abuse this power so you are not seen by the professor as “that annoying student”. There is also a good chance that other studious classmates will be there early. Talk with them occasionally and they may share a worm or two.

2. Sit at the front: This allows you to stay focused and to avoid distractions that may be taking place in the back of the class. It also may serve as motivation to actually show up to class. I was first forced to sit at the front of the class after an injury requiring crutches. The only handicapped seating was at the front of the class. While there, I felt more engaged in the learning experience and even began to participate in class. I was also able to make friends with very intelligent students. Although I was sleepy at times I couldn’t unless I would face possible embarrassment. While at the back, I tended to people-watch, doodle, and make friends with those who showed up late to class. It has been proven that those who sit up front and center do better.

3. Stay after class: As a former gym rat, I can state that the best gains come after practice is over. Those of us who stayed after were able to perfect our newly learned plays and coach always appreciated our hard work. The same can be applied to the classroom. It amazes me how much information professors give out to those who stay after class. Remember, they want most students to pass and a select group to do very well. It is very important to develop a strong student-professor rapport since you never know if you will need him or her to write your letter of recommendation.

4. Make friends with the top student: As long as you surround yourself with intelligent people and you are confident in yourself there is a strong likelihood you will succeed. Study with them, discuss future plans with them, and gauge your knowledge of the material with them.

5. Take care of yourself: This is essential. Without health, none of the above is possible. Learning can actually be fun if you are doing it with purpose. Make sure you are doing this because you want to and not for others. Be sure to find some time for yourself outside of the classroom. Go to the gym, visit family on a free weekend, eat healthy food, and get your annual health exam. Do not neglect yourself and make sure to avoid potentially harmful stimulants as these can take a toll on your body.

The Worst Major for Pre-Medical Students!

“What should my major be?” This question is asked thousands of times around the country as high school graduates are preparing to start college.  It is a rather fascinating question when you think about it.  They are really asking, “Could you please tell me what to study while I’m paying thousands and thousands of dollars in college?”  Well, I can’t tell you what the best major is, but I can tell you what the worst major is…are you ready for it…it’s the one that you are not interested in!

The pre-medical journey has become somewhat cookie cutter.  Major in biology, get great gpa, score high on your MCAT, do research, volunteer in a hospital, and shadow.  Boom!  If you do those few things, you’re in!  You’ll be Dr. Insert Your Name Here!   There is nothing wrong with this journey by any means, but if you’re not enjoying it, then you’ve chosen the wrong path to your dream.  You only have a few years in college and that time will come and go quicker than you can imagine!  Enjoy it!  Learn what you want to learn! Just remember to do the prerequisites along the way.

Gone are the days that you have to be a biology or chemistry major to become a medical doctor!  Pre-medical students should understand that medical schools have prerequisite courses for a reason.  The reason is simple; these are the courses they feel you should be competent in if you desire to do well in medical school.  As long as you are competent in these courses, they couldn’t care less what other classes you take.  In today’s world, we need more holistic doctors!  We need businessmen to direct the intensive care units, artists to make the first incision in the operating room, actors to make children laugh as they listen to their rapidly beating hearts.  Medicine has always been, but now is better appreciated to be a field vastly greater than the hard sciences.

When you are deciding what major to choose, pick the one that you find most interesting and can be passionate about.  In case it has not been clearly conveyed thus far; you do not have to major in a hard science to go to medical school.  The field of Medicine is big enough and welcoming enough to incorporate the skill set you will acquire from majoring in whatever discipline you choose!  So go after the best major for a pre-medical student, the one you find most interesting!

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