Super Star Blogs!

5 things to do to maintain your willpower

The journey to becoming a physician is a long and arduous one. This fact cannot be reiterated enough. Life already has its high and lows, not to talk of being coupled with the highs and lows that come with being a premedical student, medical student, or a physician. Willpower is the control that one must exert to do something or to give up something. It is the drive that keeps us motivated to achieve a certain goal even when the odds are stacked up against us. It is what keeps you up at night when everyone else is sleeping. This may sound too abstract but we all have that thing that keeps us going no matter what. But how do you maintain your drive and how do you ensure that your willpower is not ephemeral?

1. Like minds don’t repel: One of the steps that need to be taken to maintain your motivation is to find like-minded people. Being with colleagues who have similar goals and are proactive in working towards those goals keep you focused and on track. As a result, there are pre-medical clubs on various school campuses. And if your school doesn’t have one, like mine, then Premed star is equally a phenomenal platform for connecting with students who are on the same journey as you. I realized that ever since I have been active on the PreMed StAR and started to chat with other premedical students, I felt more motivated than before. Talking to people who are facing the same struggles as you, gives you some level of comfort and prevents your drive from plummeting.

2. Be active on your set goals: Everyone can say, ”I want to become a doctor” but not everyone is willing to do what it takes to become one. The reason behind this is that it takes a high level of motivation to pursue a career in medicine. The obstacles do not stop surfacing nor do the amount of information to be learned gets easier. So, always set feasible goals with plans of attaining them. You can write down your goals in front of you but if you do not keep the plans in mind, the goals are soulless. Be so active on achieving your goals that others can feel it. While I was shadowing a pediatrician on a Friday afternoon, in the exam room, a patient’s father said to the doctor,” that young lady behind you is so focused.” I was stunned by his knowledge of me without knowing me. My point is when you are active on your set goals, you have no option but to be focused. And by being focused, you increase your willpower to get things done.

3. Don’t be focused all the time: This may sound counter-intuitive but it works. It has been mentioned on this platform several times that it is healthy to have interests and hobby outside of anything pre-medical or medicine related. We must remember that we are humans. To provide care, we need to take care of ourselves first. When you focus on a bright shining star for too long without taking your eyes off, it falls in the blind spot and you will not see it unless your shift your gaze for a while. Similarly, being laser focused on a single thing all the time can wane your drive and make you lose focus. So, when you get tired or bored, take a break and do something you love. Then get back on the ship and keep sailing.

4. Be conditioned to finding a silver lining: It is easier to focus on the pessimistic side of things and get bogged down by that. It takes a strong willpower to be optimistic no matter how bad a situation gets. This is the most important point because we will all witness the other side of being a physician like having to lose a patient or making a mistake that put a patient at risk; or how about the persistent burnouts of medical students, the financial burden of medical education, the worries that comes with matching to a residency, and so on. It is not all rosy. Finishing high school earlier than my peers at the age of 16, I was excited to apply to medical schools directly (the process is different in my home country). However, I got rejected twice in two consecutive years and became depressed. Now when I think back on that experience, I say to myself, “maybe I was not mature enough to take on the rigor of medical education or maybe I would not have had the opportunity to come to the United States where I could learn so much more.” The question is can we rise above all of those hardships? Can we learn from the mistakes we made and move on? Can we channel the negative feelings we have into positive outcomes? To do this we need to be conditioned to see the silver lining, the good, the positive, and with that attitude, one can maintain the willpower needed to navigate one’s journey.

5. Worry about only things in your control: When willpower means the control one exerts to do something, why worry about the control you cannot exert? When you do that, your willpower to do things diminishes. We must come to terms with the fact that sometimes things may not go the way we planned. Even after doing all the hard work and putting in all the time and effort, the result might be otherwise. That is life in play. Learn to be proud of the work you have done and the goals you have accomplished. Those are the things you had the ability to control. You cannot control how others perceive your efforts and investments nor can you control the decision that others would make based on those efforts and investments. You have done your utmost best and you have to give yourself a pat on the back for that. The outcome is not in your control; it is always a gamble.

When you believe in your dreams enough and maintain a strong willpower, there will be no halting moment for you. Good luck on your journey to medical school and on your journey to becoming a physician.

Five Things to do Before the Semester Begins

It’s difficult to believe that school is soon to start again.  Summer has come and gone, and now it is time to get back to business.  At times, re-focusing can be difficult so we thought it’d be best to get you started with 5 basic things to do before the semester starts.

1)      Set your GPA goal and write it somewhere that you will see it every day.  I remember writing my goal and placing it dead center on my college dorm room bulletin board.   I couldn’t miss it.  In doing this, I held myself accountable and had to face myself every day.  It wasn’t as if someone else had put the goal there for me, I placed it there myself.   There are a lot of things in life that can motivate a person; of which one of the greatest is their personal goal.  It is easy for students to set goals then forget about them, BUT it you write it in a very visible place, you are without excuse.

2)      Get your books!  I feel that I should not have to use a top 5 position for this, but you’d be surprised at how many students will wait until a few weeks into the semester to buy their class books.  The distractions of college life sometimes take precedence over buying the books, especially when there isn’t a test for several weeks.  The problems with this is that, by the time you finally do get your books, even though the test may not be for some weeks, you’ll already be behind those students who got their books and started to study on day 1!

3)      Plan your extracurricular activities.  It is very easy to get pulled into several organizations while in college.  Pre-med clubs, fraternities/sororities, cultural organizations, intramural sports, etc.  There are just so many fun things to do.  Because that is the case, you need to set your limit at the start of the semester.  3 extracurricular activities in which you are an active member will take up plenty of your time and committing to more than that may become detrimental to your studies.  It is important that you consider your current GPA and how much time you will need to study prior to over-committing yourself to various extracurricular activities.

4)      Email your professors.  There are few things that professors like more than invested students.  They want to know that you are a serious student and are trying very hard to do well in their class.  By sending them a quick introductory email at the start of the semester and even asking for study tips, they will automatically set you apart from the other students.  This in itself will not get you the ‘A’ in class, you will need to earn that.  What it will do is motivate you to do well, get you good study tips, and put you in great position to get one of their best rec letters.

5)      Get a Mentor!  This perhaps may be the most important of the five items listed.  You need to be mentored by someone who knows what he or she is doing.  This person should be Available, should be Accomplished (meaning he or she should have achieved something you are working to achieve, example gotten a medical school interview), and should be Attached to your mission (meaning, your success is their success and your failure is their failure).

Our hope at PreMed StAR is that all of our students will perform at an exceptional level.  Those of us who have worked hard to do so understand there are certain keys to success.  These are 5 of them, and they will help you build a rock solid foundation to start your semester.  Remember, it was the wise man who built his house on the rock.

Stress Relievers and Decompressing

1. Sleep Hygiene. Be sure to set a routine schedule including a regular sleep schedule. I have found that getting adequate sleep has increased my productivity and mood levels. I am more alert throughout the day, and have become more efficient completing tasks. I suggest not to take too many naps throughout the day, but if you have to then limit the nap to 20-30 minutes. For some individuals, a power nap helps them re-charge and focus.

2. Exercise. Head to the gym or embark on a hike a few times a week. Staying in shape will keep your mind sharp and elevate your day-to-day activity. Recently, I invested in a Fitbit per a friend’s recommendation and I look forward to utilizing this tool to monitor my HR and daily steps. If you’re able to workout with a friend or join an intramural sports team it can motivate you to be active on a regular basis. Furthermore, consider meditation this is something else that i’ve recently gotten into. It’s a great way to relax and soothe your mind.

3. Spend Time With Friends and Family. Being a part of a cohort naturally progressed into many of my classmates becoming some of my closest friends. We made it a point to carve out time once a week to spend time with each other by grabbing coffee, lunch, or playing some type of game to get away from the academic grind. In addition, I personally made it a point to FaceTime and catch up with with my niece, parents, and siblings on the weekends. These individuals are a part of my support system and have played a key part in my success. Be sure to spend quality time with your support system!

4. Alone Time. Although I love my family and friends, from time to time, I need “me time”. Being able to collect my thoughts and reflect is another avenue to decompress and express myself. I journal weekly and write down goals I wish to accomplish and any barriers I wish to overcome.

5. Read a Non-Academic Book. If you’re like me, I always have a non-academic book in my backpack. I turn to this during my study breaks and before I go to bed. Currently, I am reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks! It’s a nice way to get my mind off of school and studying. What are your favorite books?

6. Plan Vacations. I LOVE to travel when afforded the opportunity. I like to plan future trips with friends and family. This is a nice little distraction during a study break; I feel more motivated knowing that i’m just a few days away from a nice little get away. If you set a strict budget, you can make traveling inexpensive by carpooling or taking short trips. Traveling can be a change of pace and seeing new scenery may motivate you once you get back to campus.

What are some ways that you alleviate your stress? Please share!

A Snapshot to Success, Tips For Studying

1. Buy a Planner/Organizer. Purchase a planner to help organize your weekly assignments, classes, work, and extra curricular commitments. This is the best investment to ensure success. Using a planner will enable you to map out your day-to-day activities and study blocks. Planners/organizers are generally inexpensive, consider using Google Calendar or if you’re like me, use the old school method of writing everything down in a physical agenda and cross things off as you accomplish a task.

2. Start Early. Be sure to to pre-read your lectures or chapters ahead of time. Before you go to class you should print out the handouts and look over what topics will be covered.  Then in class, follow along and take notes right on your handout during lecture. 

3. Review Your Notes. Skim through your notes on the topics covered within 3 hours after your class ends and before going to bed. Try to review your notes between work, classes, and your extra curricular activities. Reviewing your notes often will help you retain and digest large amounts of information. 

4. Draw Connections and Tie Concepts Together.  After the lecture, when you study, make yourself explain in your own words the concepts and the details.  Your style may include drawing pictures and diagrams that give you the big picture filled in with details, and perhaps writing out the details. Or your style may include talking to a study partner or friend or to yourself or the wall. If you need to create a story or a song to help you break down complex concepts, then do so! Don’t be afraid to try something unconventional, whatever it takes to “master” the material, go for it!

5. Utilize Your Resources. When I was an undergraduate at a large institution, I was afraid to approach professors and I felt inferior to my peers because I was afraid that I would sound silly asking basic questions on simple concepts. However, asking questions actually means that your brain is working hard to grow and make connections. Never stunt that growth! If you have you any questions do not be afraid to pull your professor aside and ask them to clarify or ask a TA. Furthermore, ask your friends and classmates by creating a study group. I think the best study groups consist of individuals who compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses, teaching someone else content helps reinforce the material. The earlier you seek help, the sooner you will be able to grasp the material.

6. Take Breaks. Make sure that you are studying effectively and efficiently. Taking study breaks yields better results. Designate a 5-10 minute break for every hour that you study, and create 2-3 hour study blocks. After a large study block, take a 30-45 min break and do something that involves moving such as jumping jacks, go for a light jog, or do some type of mindless task. Taking breaks helps in retention and it will help build stamina for extended study sessions.

7. Attitude and Sleep. Motivate yourself with a good attitude toward learning these fascinating disciplines knowing that your courses will help you with your career objectives.  Avoid cramming and avoid procrastination. Practice good sleep hygiene to help memory storage and recall.

Congratulations to Jamelah! Premed of the Week

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.  As a non-traditional student my mantra continues to be ” A dream deferred is not dead!”. As long as I continue to accomplish at least one thing per day to propel me on my pre-med journey to medical school, I will succeed in my goal. I love learning and I’m a big fan of MOOCs. I complete at least one MOOC per month to help expanding and retain my knowledge. I currently hold a Master of Science degree in Biomedical Science and a Master of Public Health degree. I graduated from my undergraduate institution with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. I also love volunteering at my church where I have the opportunity to interact with diverse populations. I recently completed training as a Behavioral Health Lay Counselor. In addition to my academic and volunteering activities, I’m also a wife to my college sweetheart and a mother to our children. My family is my biggest support system and they have kept me encouraged on my pre-med journey.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?  My favorite teacher is my elementary school teacher, Mrs. Ruffin. She was very strict. I didn’t appreciate it at the time but the manner in which she taught and interacted with her students proved her desire to see her students reach their full academic potential.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why?  I first decided I wanted to become a doctor after being hospitalized as a child. The way in which my pediatrician interacted with me and seeing them working in that setting stuck with me.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in?  I am interested in practicing Family Medicine.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey?  The coolest experience I’ve had so far on my pre-med journey was observing cadaver preparations for incoming medical students. It was so surreal to see inside the human body.

6. What is your favorite book? My favorite book is also my life manual, the Holy Bible. It keeps me encourage and grounded to live a life of significance and service to my community.

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know.  Most people don’t know that I can sing and I love to dance. I was a part of a dance group when I was younger. I love music and you can find every genre of music in my music library.

Preparing For Your First Year of Medical School

You’ve put in the work, went through a tedious application cycle, received an acceptance, and now you’re finally about to start your first year of medical school. Congrats!  It’s completely natural to be a bit anxious about embarking on a new step on your journey to becoming a physician, and it’s pretty common to be confused about where to start. Just know that you are not alone, and eventually everything will become second nature. It never hurts to have a little guidance along the way though, so here are a few tips to help maximize your transition from pre-medical student to medical student.

The Summer Before Medical School: The summer before medical school is pretty much the last time you’ll have to truly relax without worrying about studying or other stresses involved with medical school, so take advantage of it. Travel, catch up on sleep, try new foods, visit local places you’ve never had time for, etc. Once the first year “fire hose” hits you, you’ll definitely wish you had taken the time to relax. Some students also think pre-studying will help them, but to be honest, it will only help for maybe the first two weeks of classes. The information presented will not be an issue, but rather the massive amounts of information presented will be hard for some to adjust to. It won’t matter if you already have a PhD or you’re fresh out of college, everyone will have to adjust to medical school, so no need to stress out about it before it even starts.

Start getting organized: Making it through the first year of medical school involves developing good organizational and time management skills. It never hurts to invest in a large white board, and having some type of scheduler, whether it be a planner or an electronic resource can help as well. This will help make sure you always stay on top of things. It also might help to write down a list of goals for the year along with some motivational phrases to help get you through the rough times.

Wait Before Making Large Purchases: It can be tempting to go out and buy all the medical equipment or books listed on the syllabus, but it’s best to wait it out. The class above you might already have a drive that has all the books you need in electronic form, or you might find out later on that you didn’t actually need that one piece of equipment you spent $700 on. It’s best to just wait on the advice from the upperclassmen. There is no such thing as too many highlighters, pens, pencils, etc., so feel free to go crazy on the small stuff.

Go to Orientation events: Most schools have off-campus orientation events the week before classes start, and this will give you a chance to interact with your new classmates informally and have some fun. If you’re new to the area and don’t know anyone, this can be a great way to make some new friends. And even if you’re not the most social person, it is still a good idea to attend at least one or two orientation events so that you can get an idea of who you’ll be spending at least the next two years of your life with sitting in a classroom all day.

Keep an open mind: Your first year of medical school will definitely be an experience unlike any other you’ve had in your life, so the best advice for getting ready is to keep an open mind. As with anything in life, your education will be what you make of it, so stay positive, enjoy the ride, and take it all one day at a time.

 

 

Written By: Danielle Ward

Read More of Danielle’s blogs at: www.aspiringminoritydoctor.com

How I Got Straight As My Last 2 Years of University

I have met many fellow premeds on my journey through classes, extracurricular activities, and various online networks. Just the other day, I was introduced to a girl who is nervous to begin her junior year this fall. She expressed her deep concern about “only having a 3.5 GPA,” feeing uncertain that she could bring it up before application time. Her worries resonated with me as I remember having a nearly identical uneasiness in the middle of my own undergraduate education.

As premeds, we all too often have the destructive tendency to base our chances with medical schools too heavily on our GPAs. Luckily for many, these applications are holistic processes- your GPA alone does not define how well you’ll do in medical school or how successful a physician you’ll be. An impressive GPA alone does not guarantee admittance, but it is still an important component of an application. A GPA below the cut is enough to keep certain opportunities out of reach. For these reasons, I thought I’d share with you how I was able to get straight As my last two and a half years of college.     

Preparation is Key

This one is a lot easier said than done. Go into lecture prepared. Don’t let lecture be the first time you’re seeing the material. If your professor assigns pre-lecture reading, strive to complete all of it before going to class. At the very least, read through the lecture slides if they’re posted ahead of time. Make it a priority. Between a full course load, extracurricular activities, and other commitments, I know just how difficult it is to find the time to prepare for class work that hasn’t even been covered by your professor yet. But trust me, investing a little bit of time every day will pay off come test day. By thinking ahead and preparing for what’s to come, you’ll understand and retain more of the material covered in class. Once I learned to be more efficient and effective in managing my pre-lecture study time, I saw a huge payoff in my grades. As odd as it sounds, I no longer had to study for exams. Instead of cramming for hours before tests to teach myself the material, all I had to do was review and practice. The bulk of my efforts had already been done. A little bit of prep can go a long way in improving your performance and comprehension, while lowering your overall stress.     

Why > What 

General chemistry was easily the subject I struggled with most in undergrad. I remember getting so frustrated while studying. I focused most of my attention on finding patterns on which equations to use for which question types. Oh boy, don’t even ask me about some of my quiz/midterm grades. I don’t think I realized what a superficial way that was to approach “learning” until I began peer tutoring for other subjects. Higher education courses put much more emphasis on how to get to an answer rather than whether or not you know it. Don’t get me wrong, knowing details is important, but the more challenging and significant understanding comes from knowing how fundamental concepts interconnect. I’m talking inference and application, rather than factual recall alone. When you review, think critically about the material. I grew a lot throughout my undergraduate education, but I think my most memorable lessons came from learning how to think rather than what to think.

Get involved  

Learning is an active process so the way you study and review should be too. I can’t tell you how many times I used to lay in bed rereading my notes to prepare for an upcoming quiz or exam. We tend to think that if it was printed on a powerpoint slide then it must be fair game…everything else is irrelevant for getting a good grade. Wrong. I learned that knowing all of the details front to back is not sufficient to master the material. Engage with it. Try to get away from rereading your textbook or watching a lecture podcast a second time- those are passive ways of reviewing the information. Instead, switch up your routine with some more creative study methods. About halfway through college I ditched the lined paper, left my computer at home, and took all of my notes on blank printer paper. I was able to manipulate the material to be more understandable and memorable to me. Start with a blank slate and build from there. Personalize your notes to be organized in a way that makes sense to you: draw concept maps, make diagrams, color code.

My last piece of advice is don’t just think, talk. Start up a discussion with some of your classmates. Be the type of student who actively participates in office hours. If you’re doing office hours right, you should already have reviewed your notes and identified which concepts you need a little extra help with. Most importantly, show up with specific questions. It’s okay not to know all of the answers, after all, you are taking the course to learn something new. Nothing is more exciting to tutors and professors than seeing students who want to work towards the answers rather than just being handed them.     

I hope this advice finds you well if you’re looking for ways to give your academic performance a boost. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula to guarantee you’ll get that A you want. These are just the three major changes I made that led to significant improvement in my education and performance. Keep working hard and your efforts will begin to pay off. Please feel free to leave comments below sharing your own strategies towards achieving academic success.   

Congratulations to Deniko! Premed of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.  I am a biology, pre-medical undergraduate at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since I have been enrolled at Jackson State University, I had the privilege to be part of the Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society, Chi Alpha Epsilon Honor Society where I serve as Mr. Chi Alpha Epsilon for the upcoming school year, and I am also part of Jackson State University Sports Medicine Team or in other words I have the benefit of working and learning from the training staff at school.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?  My favorite teacher is my Biology Professor, Dr. Anita K. Patlolla. From the beginning you could see how much she love and passion she has for teaching the next generation of science/health professionals. I loved her personality and teaching style so much I took her twice for General Biology I & II. I can honestly say there are not many professors out there that want to see you accomplish your goals in life but she does and that’s why she is hard on me and the rest of her students because she knows that we can do the work, we just have to be willing to put in the work. As for me, she continues to be there for me. For example, I can come to her office at any time to ask her questions or simply have a conversation with her about life in general. I can ask her if she could write me a recommendation letter at anytime. Dr. Anita K. Patlolla is a great professor, mentor, and human being.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? The day I lost my grandfather to cancer was the day I devoted myself to become a doctor, specifically a surgeon because I will have the opportunity to cure or manage diseases. A surgeon save lives and this is what I hope to do for people. As my career progresses, I would like to open my own free medical clinics, which will be named after my grandfather, “John Montgomery Memorial Clinic” in Jackson, Tennessee and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In addition, being a doctor will not only allow me to change my patients lives but impact the lives in my community. Born and raised in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I grew up with gun violence, single parent homes, and children with no ambition or dreams in life. I would like to use my career as a platform to connect with at risk youth and help them to have a healthy positive relationships with successful men. I want to serve as a role model to young African Americans, particularly males, to show them how to advocate for themselves and not be a part of the system.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in?  Since I decided to go down the medical route I knew from the start that I was interested in surgery. Therefore I would like to become either a cardiovascular surgeon, neurosurgeon, or plastic surgeon.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey?  The coolest experience I had so far in my premedical journey is being part of the Summer Health Profession Education Program at Howard University this past summer which I had the opportunity to meet and greet with a wide range of healthcare professionals such as the staff from Howard University School of Medicine and Dentistry. Furthermore, I had the priviledge to meet with people from the The Association of American Medical Colleges and National Institute of Health. In addition, I had the opportunity to conduct research in the W. Montague Cobb Research Lab which allowed me to write a Biohistory by using human remains. However, the best part of being part of this program was being surrounded by likeminded people who shares the same passion and dream as me for wanting to become a doctor and help serve the underserved communities.

6. What is your favorite book?  My favorite book has to be “Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine” by Dr. Damon Tweedy.

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know.   I love to write short stories and poetry from time to time. Also, I love to lip sing.

Congratulations to Caitland! Premed of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.  My name is Caitland and I am a junior in college. I am majoring in public health with an emphasis on health promotion and minoring in communication disorders with a pre-med focus. I come from a family of healthcare professionals and have always had an innate love for medicine, innovation and science.

Outside of medicine, I am your typical girly-girl. I love all things beauty and fashion related which I hope one day, I can take those passions and implement them into my practice as a physician. I recently created my own personal blog that details a variety of things from lifestyle, beauty, fashion, travel and of course, my journey towards medical school.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?  I met my favorite teacher during my freshmen year of college. Dr. Alicia Battle has hands down been one of the most incredible and influential people that I have ever met. She has helped me in ways that goes way beyond a classroom. Dr. Battle has allowed me to explore my interests in medicine and to major in something that I am actually interested in learning about. She has welcomed me with open arms and has given me so many different opportunities. Her passion for what she does is infectious and radiates onto those around her.

Although not a typical “teacher”, I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Ned Laff. I consider him to be my own personal teacher when it comes to my medical school journey. Dr. Laff has impacted my life probably more than any other teacher I’ve had, alongside Dr. Battle. Coincidentally, I met Dr. Laff through Dr. Battle last fall and I could not be more thankful for that first meeting. He has taught me so much when it comes to the medical school application process or the “game” as he calls it. He has also given me so many great opportunities that helped solidify my dream to become a doctor. I am grateful to have two of the best mentors in the entire world.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why?  For me, it wasn’t a clear “ah ha” moment that made me decide to be a doctor. It was an accumulation of different things that has occurred during my lifetime that solidified my decision to become a physician.

I grew up in a family of medical professionals and that is where my initial interest in science/medicine came from. Growing up my mom worked in the hospital as a rehab nurse but has since then become the director of nursing for an assisted living community. My dad worked in the emergency room for most of my childhood but he is also a part of a forward surgical team in the US Army that has deployed to Afghanistan twice and traveled all over the world. He also works for Flight for Life as a flight nurse. I grew up hearing stories that can’t be heard anywhere else and it really stuck with me throughout the years.

I also dealt with a lot of different injuries from being a gymnast my entire life and then moving onto cheerleading in high school. I was seen by different doctors for injuries and it was amazing how they could “fix” me. I’ve also had the opportunity to volunteer at a community health clinic that provides healthcare to low income, uninsured individuals and families at no cost. That experience really opened my eyes to a side of healthcare that I did not know existed.

That final moment that really solidified my dreams to become a physician happened not too long ago. I started working in the emergency room as a medical scribe which allows me to work alongside physicians. I am able to be in the room with the doctor when he/she goes to see a patient. It has allowed me to see things that I have only heard in stories and it is so different when you see these things for yourself. That first day working in the emergency room is an experience that I can’t even describe. I don’t think there is just one reason for wanting to become a doctor. For me, It is for every reason.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in?  As of now, I am really interested in reconstruction/plastic surgery, trauma surgery and dermatology. I know this may change as I go into medical school so I am keeping an open mind. I believe that no matter what specialty I get into that I will still be making a difference in people’s lives.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey?  Thus far my coolest experience on my premedical journey has to be working in the emergency room as a medical scribe. I get to work alongside physicians almost everyday in a clinical setting and see that patient-physician interaction. I also get to complete physicians charting which allows me to get familiar with different terminology, medications, orders and diagnosis. I’m able to see why the physician made the decision that they made and how it is going to help the patient. It is also cool because I’m learning so much outside of what my job entails. Just by listening to the physicians and nurses talk has taught me so much outside of the cases that we see. It has hands down been one of the best experiences in my entire life.

6. What is your favorite book?  My favorite book is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know.  I love giving back and helping those that are in need. Through volunteering, donating blood or even just spreading my knowledge on things I have learned- I love it all. Outside of becoming a doctor, I hope to complete as many medical mission trips that I can. I think it is so important to provide access to healthcare in underserved communities around the world. Helping to provide health, wellness and quality of life with those populations that are in need. 

A Day in The Life of an Intensivist

The very first day of my problem based course in medical school, our Dean of Medical Education went around the table and guessed what each of us would end up doing for the remainder of our medical careers. When he got to me, he said, “Dale, you’ll be a critical care intensivist.” I smiled in agreement although I had absolutely no idea what that was. 11 years later, as a practicing Pulmonary & Critical Care Intensivist, I know exactly what that is. Dr. Hosakawa was right.

During my residency training, I was determined to focus my career on things pertaining to business and entrepreneurship within medicine. I had applied to and was accepted into a Health Service Research Fellowship and was one step away from matriculating into one of the nation’s best MBA programs. Then I did my ICU rotation. Where I trained, the ICU was a beast to deal with. Q3 call (i.e. every 3rd night we stayed in the ICU for a 30 hour shift) with some of the world’s most complicated medical patients. The loud beeps, oddly shaped machines, and unconscious patients were enough to give me nightmares. But the rush of the code, the gratification of revival, and the smile on a patient’s face were more than enough to give me pleasant dreams. After seven straight weeks of q3 call in the ICU, the decision had been made. I’d go on to do my pulmonary & critical care fellowship while at the same time, working to bring my entrepreneurial visions to fruition (but that’s a story for another time).

When my doctor hat is on, my greatest joy comes from being in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). There’s an understanding that the “buck stops here.” When everyone else has done what they can for the patient, if things aren’t going well, that patient will likely end up in the ICU. Everyone looks to you, and if you and your team can’t figure it out….

My typical ICU day begins at 6am. That’s when I wake up 😉 (not when I get to work). By 6:50am I’m on the road and at work around 7:30am. Some people would say that’s a long car ride, but it’s just time for personal growth as I listen to tons of audiobooks in attempt to be my very best. From 7:30am to 8am, I do a cursory review of the patients in the ICU to make sure there were no major issues overnight or anything that needs to be handled immediately (e.g. actively dying patient). Then at 8am, the games begin.

One of the things I love most about my job is I get to teach residents, fellows, and medical students. I also allow premeds to shadow (so if you’re in the Dallas area send me a message on PreMed StAR). Mornings rounds begin at 8am as the team gathers around a large table. Typically, the post-call resident (the one who worked overnight taking care of patients) then presents their patients. We get all sorts of things in the ICU. Heart attacks, ILD flares (somebody look that up and post a comment/reply to this blog explaining what it is to everyone), pulmonary embolisms, septic shock, etc. It’s really exciting to sit down at that table and have no idea what the resident is going to tell me. It’s almost like playing detective.

We typically do our sit-down rounds from 8am to around 9am. This is when we hear the case presentations of the new patients, look at labs, EKG, X-Rays, and all other supporting data that helps of take care of our patients. It’s an ideal time to do short lectures/chalk talks to teach the new physicians various pearls in caring for critical patients. Often times we teach in the form of “pimping”. No we’re not putting them out on a corner. Pimping is a method of teaching in which we choose a trainee and ask them question after question after question. When intense enough it’ll make anyone sweat. Personally, I’m not much of a “pimp” myself because I remember the anxiety that comes along with the string of questions, but it is an effective way to teach. Trust me, when you’re pimped in front of your peers, you’ll remember the answers to the questions you missed and read up ahead of time to make sure you’re ready for the next session. However, there are plenty of other effective methods that can be used to teach.

From 9am to about 11am, we do our walk rounds. During this time, we get up and walk through the ICU. Before we enter each patient’s room, the resident presents the events that occurred overnight. We then look over vital signs, consultant notes and ask the nursing staff if there are things they need us to know or orders we need to write for them. Next, we enter the patient room to examine them, look over the various life support machines (e.g. ventilator, dialysis machine, etc.), and ensure the IV medications are appropriate. Once walk rounds are over, the trainees usually do any procedures we need done and if they need any extra assistance, I’m there to help. The rest of the day is spent putting out fires (e.g. code blues, respiratory codes), writing notes, and doing more teaching.

There are few things I enjoy more than serving critically ill patients. The life of a physician is wonderful and once you find the perfect field for you, there is plenty of joy to be found. Perhaps next time I’ll share my passion for entrepreneurship in a blog.

My question to you this week is; What field of medicine are you interested in and why? Post your comments below so others can learn more about you!  

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