I am a miracle made up of particles and in this existence I'll stay persistent and I'll make a difference and I will have lived it - Medicine for the People

Some Advice From A Med Student

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Listen up everybody, I found something amazing. This podcast of an interview about the importance of mentors (and lots of other med school-related things) with Alexis Miesis, a second year student at Icahn School of Medicine is just brilliant and I was kind of floored by how relevant it was to my life. The discussion on learning from mistakes and taking the time to figure out what went wrong particularly resonated with me. I think this is something I’ve sometimes had a hard time with both during college and throughout my post-bac program and Alexis made the significant point that, in order to succeed in a class you struggled with or do better on the MCAT the second time around, you have to take the time to figure out why you were unsuccessful previously. Additionally, there's a lot of good advice on how to find a mentor who can be instrumental in your journey to medical school. I think the whole podcast is fantastic and highly recommend that you have a listen to it when you have some time. 

The Future Of Medicine

Monday, December 2, 2013

I know there’s generally a lot of pretty discouraging articles out there about where the medical/healthcare profession is headed so I wanted to share this encouraging article and video (below) about the future of medical schools from a really positive standpoint. Enjoy!

Hello From The Newest Contributing Writer For The (Almost) Doctor's Channel

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I am very pleased to announce that I was offered the opportunity to contribute weekly for The Almost Doctor's Channel blog (which I've written about before here) and I've accepted! My first piece as a regular writer for them was posted Monday so please take a peek and feel free to comment and/or share. I have to admit, I'm chuffed to bits I get a bio/pic of my own on the contributor page. I absolutely couldn’t have done this without all of your support, dear internet (and real life!) friends, so thank you for following me and reading my articles, you are the best!

A Little Bit Of Positivity For Today

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I'm trying to be better about writing more and I thought I'd follow up yesterday's post with a bit of good news - I have my University of Vermont College of Medicine interview next week! 

After getting the news back from Rush that I didn't get in I was so upset it was hard to remember that I'm very lucky that I got an interview at all. Last year there were almost 8,000 verified applicants to the school. Out of that ridiculously high number only 372 were interviewed and 128 ultimately matriculated. It's easy to lose sight of the little triumphs in the face of disappointment but it's reassuring to know that this year, I at least was chosen out of thousands of other applicants to make it through to the interview round.

Now I'm focusing on what's to come rather than what's happened in the past. Not only do I get to go home and visit my wonderful family, I also get another chance to experience the interview process at a new school. I promise to write an update after I return and let you all know how it goes!

Green mountans, VT, Vermont, UVM
I've been missin' these mountains...

And Now We Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Monday, November 25, 2013

Did you guys miss me? I hope so because I REALLY missed you all! I haven't been as active on the interwebs lately because I've been a lot more busy at work and also, honestly, there were a few disappointing events in  the applying-to-medical-school part of my life and I didn't really know how to share that.

I'm a pretty private person (which many of you might have noticed since I don't usually talk about my personal/family life on here) and that extends to things like GPA and MCAT scores and getting rejected from schools. I'm sure that's fairly normal since there's always an element of shame when you don't get in somewhere you really wanted to go or you get your MCAT back and it's lower than you had wanted (and felt like you deserved). I never know if that's something I should share because comiserating helps you feel better and also helps others in similar situations feel like they aren't alone or if I should keep it to myself because I'll feel worse if everyone knows about something I've perceived as a failure in my life. I've also noticed that we all tend to get really competitive when talk turns to concrete things like GPA and MCAT and if the Student Doctor Network is any indication we pre-med folks are sometimes a lot more damaging than encouraging to each other. I hate getting into that kind of mindset because I know enough current medical students that have shown me the importance of  hard work and perseverence over a perfectly competitive application. Because of that, I've always been really loathe to discuss the numbers that I'm less than proud of.

But because of recent happenings I've been rethinking this approach and I guess the decision that I've made is that there should be a balance. Maybe it's not necessary to share exact numbers but it's OK to tell everyone that I didn't do as well on my second MCAT try as I had hoped. Maybe I don't need to feel like it's a sign of weakness if I tell you all that I was crushed when I heard back from Rush and I didn't get in. I think ultimately doing this will help me to feel better about these setbacks and feel encouraged to keep moving forward rather than wallow in the bad feelings that accompany getting this kind of news. Nothing in life works out perfectly all of the time and learning to deal with disappointment definitely helps you to become a better person. So I'm going to try my best to be more open and share these things with all of you because I think not only will it help me, but for those of you out there who might be facing similar distress, it might help to know you're not the only one.

Thanks for reading!

Fall Slump - Am I The Only One??

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It's just starting to get really cold in Chicago and while I'm loving being here despite the plunging temps it's making me want to stay curled up in my bed all day with a mug of hot tea. As a result, I haven't been doing much of anything, including taking time to write and I realized today that I miss it. I've slowly started to acclimate to my new job and I'm really enjoying the projects I'm working on but it's still kind of strange to not have to divide the hours of my day between five different activities. Over the last few years in addition to having a job I was always taking a class or two, nannying, volunteering, researching, studying for the MCAT, and trying to fit in time with friends & family. Now I have only have to juggle two of those things and it's not very difficult. It's making me realize that I enjoy the challenge of multi-tasking. I like being busy and spending my time doing useful and fulfilling things and this blog is one of them. So, I'm going to try to start writing more often. In the next few months I'll be posting an update on how the application cycle is going as responses from schools slowly keep trickling in. I'm also hoping to start volunteering at a local family health clinic and will definitely post about that as soon as I'm able. As always, I'm open to suggestions and would love to hear ideas if you have them! 

Cuddling, Cold, Fall Weather, Chicago
just cuddling under the blankets, keeping my nose warm

Interview Day At RMC Part II

Friday, October 18, 2013

HA! I'm sure most of you had despaired of me ever writing this post BUT HERE I AM! I am not really sure why it took me so long to get around to it. I think I just lost the momentum unfortunately and have frankly been enjoying relaxing a bit too much lately BUT I finally kicked my butt into gear and here it is: the second part of interview day at Rush. Enjoy :)

I left off on my last post on this topic as the interviewees were being funneled back into the original meeting room for lunchtime. At this point we were all quite hungry and tired so it was nice to take a seat and eat something. I was very impressed with the healthy food choices they had (it's a medical school so I guess that's an obvious one) and the best part was that several first and second year students joined us for the hour! One of my wonderful friends who is currently an M2 at Rush was able to volunteer for my interview day and it was so nice to see a familiar face as I ate my salad with terrifying speed (did I mention how hungry I was?). It was comforting to have a friend there but also really helpful because I was able to hear his answers to several questions posed by my fellow interviewees that I wouldn't have thought to ask.

After lunch the Rush students took us on another tour. This time we were taken through the Anatomy Lab, the Library, Classrooms and Lecture Halls and were able to learn about the academic part of the school directly from the students. It was great to have a first-hand account of how it was to be a student at Rush and ask about things like living on or off-campus, where was the best place to eat out and how much do you have to study in a given week. It was also amazing to see how happy the students were. They really seemed genuinely thrilled to be there and glad to show us around and their excitement was infectious. It was plain to see that, while they were clear about the difficulty of classes and the amount of hard work that goes into doing well, it's not hard to be happy at Rush - which I think is an important distinction and it really stuck out to me. I know students from other schools that don't feel the same way about their institution and I think it's really marred their experience.

The academic tour came to a close all too quickly and we were hurried back to HQ (this is what I'm going to call the home base conference room from now on) for the next set of interviews. I had Dr. Robert Leven who was a professor in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology next and I was a little nervous because this was going to be my open file interview which meant he would probably ask me more pointed questions.

When I was ushered into the room and met Dr. Leven I was relieved to see that he didn't look incredibly intimidating, which was good. Unfortunately for me, he jumped right into the interview and for the next 30 minutes rapidly fired questions at me. I definitely felt my palms get a little sweaty in this interview, not because I felt like Dr. Leven was harsh or unfair but because I hadn't quite expected the intensity. There were also a few times he asked a question that seemed to not follow from his previous question and I had to take a moment to sort out my thoughts and form a coherent answer. I've heard horror stories from friends who had an interviewer who was outright rude or mean and this was definitely NOT the case for me but I did feel like it was hard to catch my breath and still keep up! All things considered though I felt like it went well and was inwardly throwing punches gleefully into the air when he asked me a question on Obamacare because I had specifically read up on the ACA in advance so I would be prepared (thanks A for the tip!). I also felt reassured towards the end of the interview because, although the overall tone was less relaxed than my morning interview, Dr. Leven asked to accompany me back to HQ so we could talk further after our time was up which I took to be a positive sign and when we parted he seemed quite warm as he wished me luck and told me he had really enjoyed our talk.

After everyone completed their second interviews we were all escorted back to HQ for another set of talks. I feel like at this point I was so exhausted I didn't really properly take everything in but I do remember one of the speakers sharing her interest in pediatrics and community health which I am very interested in so I felt excited at the opportunities available for getting involved. There were several others who discussed their work in community service and outreach and really impressed upon us the importance of these endeavors at Rush (one of the reasons I love this school) and it was great to hear from the many fantastic individuals who are so dedicated to working with underserved populations.

By the time it hit 3 PM I was so ready to head home. Although the day had gone loads better than I had nervously anticipated, it had worn me out and as soon as I walked into my house I gratefully kicked off my heels and sat on the side of the tub and soaked my feet in cold water (and then I took a nap!).

While I'm really looking forward to my UVM interview, it's going to be difficult to top the acceptance and eagerness that radiated from those I met at Rush. The passion and excitement for not just medicine but excellent patient care and volunteer work that I encountered made me fall in love with the school and I'm waiting with baited breath to hear their decision on November 14!

Rush Med, Rush Medical College, RMC
Beautiful new "butterfly" building at Rush Medical Center

Newest Article - Taking Chances

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Good MORNING wonderful readers. I had a pretty awful day yesterday for reasons that I may or may not get into at a later date but I wanted a share with you this piece I wrote for The (Almost) Doctor's Channel. Basically it's all about the importance of not letting life pass you by as you work towards that MD/build your career in medicine. I won't say too much else since I want you all to read it but I think it's good to remind ourselves that if we want something, we have to try really hard for it now instead of putting it off till later (and that applies to many things in life, not just studying for an exam). I hope you enjoy and I'd love to get your feedback!

PS I am sure some of you have been waiting (with baited breath, obviously) for part II of my interview day at Rush and I will absolutely be posting that by the end of this week, I've just been hitching a ride on the strugglebus so it's taken me a while and I apologize!

Chance, Joke, Pun, Take One

Vote Dr. Georges Bwelle For Hero Of The Year!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Some of you may have seen my previous post regarding CNN Heroes and how Dr. Georges Bwelle, founding surgeon of Ascovime was nominated. Now he's made it into the top 10 and voting has opened up for Hero of the Year. This is where you can help - every day you can go to this link and vote for your favorite to win a total of $300,000! With this money, Dr. Bwelle will have the funds to keep Ascovime running, allowing him to bring healthcare to rural and underserved areas. So please, take a moment every day to vote for such an amazing cause - it really makes a huge difference!

The (Almost) Doctor Channel

Thursday, October 3, 2013

I stumbled across this blog via Twitter the other day when I read an article written by one of the "Almost Scholarship" winners about social media and medicine and I really liked what I found. My interest was piqued at the fun idea of contributing an article for one of their scholarship categories so I decided to write a post about social media and applying to medical school. The editors liked it and said that if it does well I will have the opportunity to write another piece and maybe become a regular contributor! This is where you guys come in - all you have to do is click on this link and take a peek at what I wrote and maybe leave some feedback/love/angry comments. I would really appreciate it (and if I personally know you, I will make you cookies. As a bribe. Just kidding, as a reward for being awesome). The more interest I get, the more of a chance I have to keep contributing, which would be really exciting for me so THANK YOU for reading this and if you take the time to read my article THANK YOU EVEN MORE :)

Almost Doctor's Channel, Medical School, Pre-Med Blog

Interview Invitation #2: University of Vermont College of Medicine!

I checked my online applicant center for UVM today to see if there had been any updates since they "small pooled*" me and when I signed in a page popped up telling me my interview had been scheduled! I was incredibly surprised because I never received an email so I didn't even have an inkling that there was a change in my status. Needless to say, I am absolutely thrilled to be flying to Vermont in early December to interview at such a wonderful school (in my home state!). My parents are pretty excited too. Let's hope interview day #2 is as pleasant as interview day #1!

*For those of you who may not know what this term is referring to: at UVM, after a preliminary review of their AMCAS and secondary, most applicants are placed into a small pool of individuals to which an interview may be extended. It's better than being "in review" or outright rejected but doesn't mean you have a guaranteed interview so you are still waiting/hoping for an official invitation.

Vermont, Mountains, Scenic
lovely vermont mountains

Interview Day At RMC

Today I had my interview at Rush Medical College in Chicago and surprisingly, it was a wonderfully positive experience. The people that I met, the students that I was interviewing along with, the program and hospital itself - all of it was truly wonderful.

I'm getting a bit ahead of myself though. Before I began writing this post I was thinking about how I wanted to recount my personal experience but also, hopefully, answer some of the common questions pre-meds have about interviewing and give you all a better understanding of how the day will work. With that in mind, I'll go through the day chronologically and try to be as thorough as possible.

The first thing I want to stress is GIVE YOURSELF SO MUCH TIME TO GET THERE IN THE MORNING. I live in the Wicker Park area of the city which is about 15 minutes by bus to the Rush Med campus. I knew I needed to be checked in by 8:30 AM so I figured I'd leave at 7:45, giving myself 45 minutes to make the commute. Unfortunately, I took a little longer than I had expected to get ready and ended up in a panic because my bus was almost half an hour late and I blew my "cushion time." Luckily I was able to get there right at 8:30 so I was OK but I realized that I probably should have given myself a full hour to make the trip. Even though I usually don't like getting anywhere more than 15 minutes early, I think in this case (and for my own peace of mind) it would have been a good idea to have given myself extra time. 

Once I arrived, sweating and out of breath, I was handed a schedule with my name on it and ushered into a spacious room with chairs set around tables placed into a U shape. There were drinks and refreshments and I immediately drank a huge glass of iced water which helped me to calm myself (at this point my nerves were a little frayed and I was feeling a bit dehydrated). I was surrounded by 23 students, most dressed in dark suits which made me glad I had chosen to wear black but also happy that I decided to wear a print top that kind of stood out from the typical white/light blue shirts in the room. It was kind of funny actually because several of the professors that spoke to us joked about how serious we all looked in our identical suits so I was glad that I decided to deviate a bit with the top that I chose. There were one or two students who wore lighter/different colored suits and they still fit right in so it was nice to feel like there was a bit of leeway to express yourself.  I know this might sound silly or mundane to some of you but I was really concerned about what image I would project based on my clothes and I had read everything from "don't look like everyone else" to "interviews are not the time to experiment" so hopefully this will calm those of you who want to change up your look a bit without going too crazy.

After we all settled in, Jill Volk, the director of recruitment and special programs, walked in and the mood went from slightly strained to pretty relaxed in about five minutes. Jill was funny, energetic, and reassuring. She made it very clear from the outset that they wanted to make the day as stress-free as possible and that, while we were there to be interviewed by Rush, this was also Rush's opportunity to show us why we should choose them. I really liked this approach and felt like it made everyone so much more comfortable than they would have been otherwise. It especially helped me to focus better because I wasn't wasting mind-space being worried about how intense my interviews were going to be. 

We found out that each of our schedules were personalized and that no two schedules were exactly the same. Everyone would be present for the welcome and financial aid talks but then roughly half of the group would be up for their first interview while the remaining half stayed behind and got to know each other. One of the nice things that I appreciated about the organization of the day was that you were brought to and from each interview (which was held down the hall from the room we were all in). This took the onus off of us to worry about timing and was a huge relief to me because I had read about people being late for their second interviews because their first interviewer went over their time. Luckily this wasn't a problem because Rush was responsible for getting you to everything on time so if you were late, it was their problem not yours. Again, it was just a small way they were able to help make the day smoother for us and I really appreciated it and felt like it really showed how much they cared. 

In addition to Jill Volk, we were welcomed by the Assistant Dean and the Associate Dean of Admissions as well as a representative from the Financial Aid Office. I liked that we were greeted by some of the higher ups in the College because it showed that they were intimately involved with the interviewing process, which I think is important. They were also so excited, friendly and eager to talk to us that the general mood was considerably lightened.

I was in the first group of interviewees so promptly at 9:30 I was whisked off to meet with Dr. Rebecca Hoban. Rush's interview day includes two 1:1 interviews which can be with a faculty members or students. I got two faculty but some others had people had a professor and a student. Dr. Hoban was a neonatologist which was really exciting for me because I have been interested in neonatology/pediatrics ever since I decided I wanted to pursue medicine. Our interview was "closed," which meant that my interviewer had only seen my basic information but I liked that because I felt like it made everything a bit more relaxed. We had no problem getting to know each other and our time actually flew by. We had to get two warning knocks on the door before we were finished and I left the room feeling pretty good. This may be an attribute of Rush in particular but the questions were pretty basic and Dr. H seemed really interested in just getting to know me as a person instead of interrogating me so the experience was much more pleasant than I had expected it to be.

When our interviews were over we were picked up and returned to home base where we had a few minutes before people were called for the second group of interviews, leaving the rest of us to sit and chat among ourselves. It was great to have a bit of down time and we were able to get to know each other and also ask Jill some questions about the school. She was incredibly knowledgeable and super laid-back which encouraged a friendly dialogue. We were able to learn a little bit about the process that occurs after interview day and how the selection committee functions, which was helpful. 

Everyone reconvened after the second wave of interviews and we were introduced to three M4s who took us on a tour of Rush Hospital and Cook County/Stroger Hospital, which is partnered with Rush and the location where Rush students have many of their rotations. At this point I was having a bit of trouble because I had a blister but I had asked for bandaids earlier and everyone was so nice they just went and grabbed me a few from somewhere so it wasn't too bad. Keep this in mind ladies...pre-emptively bandaid if you're wearing shoes that aren't super comfortable!

Touring the hospital was awesome because walking the halls made the idea of being a doctor one day SO REAL. It was also not my absolute favorite part of the day because it was difficult for all of us to keep up and sometimes hard to hear our tour guide. I couldn't listen the whole time because it was impossible to understand what was being said so for the most part I just soaked everything in. After the tour we were escorted back to the room for lunchtime (thank goodness, at this point I was so hungry!). 

This is getting to be a crazy long post so I'm going to postpone the lunch-and-after half until tomorrow (also that way I can build suspense about my next interview...). Keep tuned for PART II!

Suits, Medical School Interviews, Professional Attire

The Health Insurance Marketplace is OPEN

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Today is the first day the Health Insurance Marketplace is open which means that many formerly uninsured people across the United States are now eligible for health insurance! If you don't know exactly how it works or if you are covered, go here to check out the government website where you can read all about it, ask questions, and learn about your options. The government may be shut down temporarily and there is a lot of controversy and unease about recent healthcare reform but I have to think that making healthcare more accessible is a step in the right direction so yay for today!


Monday, September 30, 2013

It's been a bit quiet around the blog lately, mainly because there hasn't been too many exciting things happening in my life (I'm not complaining!) but I wanted to let y'all know that I haven't forgotten about you and that I have a few very exciting (for me, at least) blog posts in the works currently. I'll be interviewing at Rush Medical College on Wednesday, an experience I am looking forward to sharing with all of you and I'm hoping to do an interview of my own with a doctor involved in medical school admissions that I will post on here. I'm also still working on the LOI post but have been having a hard time getting enough personal feedback. If anyone has anything they'd like to contribute or if you have any ideas on other posts you'd like to see, please let me know! I'm definitely open to suggestions.

Some Encouragement For Your Tuesday

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hello lovely people, I hope you are all having the most wonderful Tuesday. I wanted to write a brief post specifically for those of you who are in the middle of the current application cycle because honestly, filling out secondaries can be an absolute nightmare. Most of you are probably faced with 10-30 apps that all require at least one essay (or five, depending on the school) on various topics ranging from typical (Please discuss a recent volunteer experience) to difficult (Write about how you would handle a bioethical issue as a physician) to downright strange (If you could re-name yourself, what name would you choose and why?). Writing well-thought out essays that are tailored to the individual school's values and mission can be exhausting and it's easy to get bogged down under the enormity of the task ahead. 

This is the important part of the post so pay attention - no matter how stressful it feels, you have to remember that your first priority is getting those apps out as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this isn't the message that most of you will hear. I was given terrible advice when I was filling out applications including the suggestion that a month or more was a perfectly acceptable time to sit on an app. Luckily, I listened to the one person who told me that if I could manage a short turnaround (days rather than weeks) I would be in good shape. Their logic was this: the earlier you send in your application, the less competition you will have to get an interview. It makes sense. It also shows the school that you are eager and excited to be applying. If the admissions committee member who reads your application has only read 50 or so others, that gives you a much better chance of standing out than if you are one of 500 and they will be impressed at how quickly you were able to put everything together. While not necessarily prominent, there is feedback out there highlighting the importance of good timing - check out this well-written and informative piece on why applicants fail to get into medical school and you'll see "submitting a late application" on the list. 

I'm not saying all of this to scare you, quite the opposite. I wanted to offer some words of encouragement because you CAN do this! For me, what really helped was setting a strict goal. I gave myself a week from receipt of an invitation email to fill out a secondary to submit it and I took this deadline very seriously. For the most part, I was able to submit before the week was up but there were one or two apps that took a little longer and that was OK, I refused to penalize myself, I just determined to try harder and do better. Overall though, I treated that deadline like it was set in stone. I didn't go out, watch TV, or relax until I was sure that I was up-to-date on sending things in. And you know what? It was awful, for a few weeks, but then I was done. In a very short amount of time I was completely free and it felt like a breath of fresh air. 

I really hope this helps anyone who might be lagging behind a bit or losing steam! As always, feel free to comment below with your own suggestions or if you have any questions for me.

PS I am still working on getting advice from current med students (and medical  professionals involved in the admissions process) on LOIs and I'm also doing a little experiment on my own so stay tuned for a post on that coming soon!

Ta da! I Am Officially An Employee of The Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine!

Monday, September 23, 2013

It's my first day (don't worry, I'm on my lunch break) and I am so looking forward to being finished with the new hire paperwork so I can get to some actual research! I've only been in Chicago for a few weeks but I was able to get connected with some amazing people at Northwestern who really took an interest in my research background and were instrumental in helping me find jobs to apply to in the clinical informatics field. I was offered a research assistant position on a patient-centered informatics project last Monday, which I immediately accepted and here I am today (sitting at a desk with THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VIEW!).

Some of the things I'll be doing are new, which is great because I'll have the opportunity to learn and grow as a researcher. The biggest change will be working directly with cardio patients who are involved in the study. While I loved my job at Partners, that was the one area where it fell short and I'm very excited to get experience working in the hospital. I'll also be part-time on a project that is focused on a local community health clinic, which I'm excited about because it will be a great way to get involved with public health in my own neighborhood! That's just a brief overview of the two projects but after I've plowed through the rest of the protocols I will post a bit about the actual aims of the studies and what I'll be working on in particular.

Finally, I cannot express how grateful I am to be settled into a new apartment in a new city with a new job all in less than a month. I absolutely could not have done it alone so THANK YOU to everyone for your support, advice, and assistance. I can't wait to see where this new adventure will take me!

Amazing view, Lake Michigan, Chicago, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine
Gorgeous view

Interview On Accepted.com

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Another day, another interview, only this time I was the one answering questions! Check out my interview on the blog for Accepted.com, a website with professional advice and information on all things admissions related from school stats to personal statements to what you should wear on interview day. The Accepted blog is authored by an number of impressive admissions consultants who have had extensive experience in the field and are well-qualified to share their expertise.  I was very excited to share my story with them and I hope people enjoy reading about my journey to medical school as much as I enjoyed telling about it!

Letters of Interest - Tell Me What You Think!

Monday, September 16, 2013

As you all know from my last post I am incredibly excited to have received an interview invitation from Rush Medical College(!), but that doesn't mean that I'm not still constantly checking the status of all my other applications online and wondering what the next step is for all the schools that I haven't yet heard from. After I finished the long and arduous process of submitting all of my secondaries I realized that I don't know a whole lot about what to do next. As in, what happens after your submit your apps? I feel like there are really two ways you can go - you can breathe a huge sigh of relief and immediately take a brain-vacation from thinking about anything medical school related until you start getting interiew invitations/rejections or you can be an "active" applicant. Basically it's like when you apply to a job - some people just send out apps and then never follow up. I've always belonged to the school of thought that you should at least email or call the hiring manager of the company where you applied because this helps you to stand out and might give you a better chance of getting the job. This approach has always worked well for me and I'm wondering if it's something that applies to med school as well. Of course, this is entirely a theory I've developed on my own but I feel like it's something I've applied everywhere else in my life with relative degrees of success. Applying to medical school is a competition to show the admissions committees not only WHY you are well-suited to become a successful student at their school but also HOW MUCH you want to attend their specific school. With this in mind, I wonder how important it is to send out letters of interest. I know it is recommended to send updates to schools you are waiting on and there are definitely those people who feel that sending out an LOI was what got them an interview or off a wait list but then there are many others who feel that they don't help at all. So this post is to ask all of you - what do you think? I'd love to hear of any experiences writing letters to admissions during the application process - positive or negative! Please feel free to comment, tweet at me or message me on Google+. I hope to gather some advice and later share what I find in a Part II post. Thanks in advance, all of you wonderful readers (and current applicants/med students). And if you're still filling out apps, keep slogging, it'll feel amazing to be done!

Medical School, Admissions, LOI

I Got Invited to Interview at Rush Med!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I'm actually beside myself with excitement right now so this will be a very short post but I'm so happy to let you all know I got my first interview invite! I received an email from Rush Medical College today inviting me for an on-campus interview and immediately screamed so loud I scared everyone in the house. I'm thrilled that my first interview will be at Rush, one of my top schools for many reasons, most notably their dedication to community service and the fact that they're in Chicago (I wouldn't have to move!). I can't wait for October (interview month) and will definitely post about the experience! Thanks to everyone for their wonderful support. It's nice to know I have so many people rooting for me!

Interview With Dr. Saul Hymes - Pediatric Infectious Diseases Specialist

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I recently connected with Dr. Saul Hymes on Twitter and immediately got the idea to do an interview (it's the journalist in me). Two of my greatest interests in medicine are Pediatrics and Infectious Diseases and I was lucky enough to find someone who works in both fields simultaneously! Dr. Hymes graciously agreed to answer any questions I might have and responded to my long list with some fascinating, touching, and informative stories about his experiences as an ID doc. If you're interested in becoming a doctor or in going into Peds ID in particular then definitely take the time to read through the transcript because there's nothing like getting advice from someone who has been through it already. As always, any questions or comments are welcome!

1.    Please tell us a little bit about yourself – where do you work, what field of medicine are you involved in and what are some of your non-medical interests?

I am an Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Stony Brook Children's Hospital/Stony Brook University School of Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics and more specifically in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. As a Pediatric ID specialist, I perform consults on children with infections--and that is absolutely as broad as it sounds: everything from cellulitis from MRSA to Lyme Disease to HIV to infectious complications of a bone marrow transplant and everything in between. In addition to inpatient and outpatient clinical work, I conduct clinical research on antibiotic use and bacterial infections, and I teach med students, residents, and fellows. I love my job, but when I'm not working I like to read--especially sci-fi/fantasy, I sing off and on in a choir, I blog at http://infectious-ideas.org, I tweet (@IDDocHymes), and I try to keep up with my wife and my two children, ages 5 years and 17 months. It's a busy life!

2.    How did you decide you wanted to be a physician?

I sort of always knew I wanted to be a doctor and I have no idea really why, as nobody in my immediate family is a physician. I have always been interested in science and biology in particular, and was weighing as early as 9th grade the pros and cons of a research (PhD) career vs. going the route of an MD. But more than that, I think it came down to my own models: I had a great couple of pediatricians myself who left a serious impact on me--George Lazarus and Barney Softness, both based in NY City where I grew up. Dr Softness even nurtured my interest and let me shadow him when I was in high school & college and helped answer my questions about why he had chosen pediatrics. It's always important to have good role models in a career and these two pediatricians were incredible ones! Once I got to college at the Univeristy of Chicago, I knew for sure and from there it was just a question of navigating the med school application process…oy, what a pain!

3.    Can you discuss your medical school experience briefly? What did you find most challenging/rewarding while going through the process of learning to become a doctor?

I had an interesting medical school experience. I attended Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons in NY and while I got an amazing education and was incredibly well-prepared for residency, I also felt like a bit of an outsider. Many of the students were single and I was in a serious relationship with the woman who later became my wife, and was living with her rather than alone in the dorms. So it took me some time to navigate the balance of school and home socializing and find my niche of friends. That's an important thing to think about in choosing a med school--if you're older and married or even have kids, you may not want to be at a school filled with young singles…or you may--just keep this in mind.

Otherwise, medical school, for me was probably the same as for everyone--it was hard! The first two years were a ton of memorizing, some brutal, brutal exams, and a lot of stressing over grades once they were introduced in second year. Third year was hard because of the huge amount of knowledge you thought you'd already learned, but now need to relearn in a whole new way in order to actually apply it to patients--it's like taking a boggle cube, shaking it up after you've already found all the words, and then having to find the same ones all over again. But once things started to click, it was amazing. I was finally taking care of patients, which is why we all want to do this in the first place! This of course brought its own challenges--knowing something or not wasn't just a question of an exam question--it was answering a patient’s question about their med, or telling the resident the newest lab. Getting it wrong had major consequences and while you always double and triple checked, the importance of what you are doing really starts to be felt. And then 4th year was wonderful, as I could finally do things only related to pediatrics, and I chose some wonderfully fun and educational electives, including Pediatric ID.

4.    When did you realize you were interested in pediatric infectious disease? What drew you to that field?

I always knew I wanted to do pediatrics--that's what I went to med school to become--a pediatrician. I've loved babies and kids for as long as I can remember and once I got to med school, other than a brief dalliance with OB and psych, I continued to think pediatrics all the way. On OB, I realized I liked taking care of the babies more than the moms and almost contaminated myself and the patient by trying to turn my non-sterile back on a c-section to look at the baby once or twice…and on psych, I liked the patient's childlike minds, but I missed the actual children, as well as the actual organic medical problems.

I was first interested in "peds ID" as we call it during my second year micro class. I loved the infections--the bacteria in particle were fascinating, the antibiotics and how they worked and how resistance worked--this was all super-interesting to me. So knowing I was doing pediatrics, when the time came in 3rd year, I chose a 4th-year elective in pediatric infectious diseases. It was everything I'd hoped it would be. The patients were sick, yet treatable; we had the time to think and make differentials and puzzle through pathophysiology of an infection, rather than rush to make snap decisions as one does in the ER or the ICU; we saw patients everywhere in the whole hospital so we had to know a little (or a lot) about everything in the world of pediatrics--I loved specialties with this kind of general knowledge base that didn't focus on only one organ or part of the body.

However, when I got to residency at Mount Sinai, I was drawn to heme-onc--they too were sick, complicated, interesting, but very often treatable. And I liked the longitudinally of their care--the hematologist-oncologists were these patient’s doctors for years. They got to have their cake and eat it too, being specialists while still having years of longitudinality in their patient-physician relationships, just as I'd admired in my own pediatricians. Ultimately, though, when I did an elective early in second year of residency, I realized I liked the sick inpatients with their infections far more than the healthier outpatients just moving along the chemo protocol. What I liked heme-onc for was, in fact, the infectious diseases. And so I decided to do a fellowship in that instead, ultimately back uptown at Columbia, and the rest is (recent) history.

5.    What kind of cases would a doctor working as a Pediatric ID specialist come across? Is there any one patient in particular that impacted your development as a physician?

We sort of work on everything and everybody, as long as what they have is an infection. So as an example, a recent list of inpatient consults might be: a patient with Staph aureus bacteremia and a septic hip whose team needed antibiotic advice; a neurologically devastated ICU patient with persistent staph bacteremia and probably endocarditis; a 3 month old with persistent fevers that nobody could figure out the source of; an ER patient with Lyme disease; a 19-year old with a chronic toe osteomyelitis from Stenotrophomonas, an intrinsically highly-resistant bacteria; a baby born to a mother with HIV; a new onset lymphoma patient who the team worried also had a superinfection of one of her cancerous lymph nodes.

And a recent list of outpatient clinic patients might be: a teen with Lyme disease, a 6-year old with recurrent fevers; a 2-year old with MRSA colonization and recurrent boils; post-hospital follow-up of a10 year old with osteomyelitis; a travel visit for vaccinations for 3 siblings in one family ages 1, 3, and 7 all there prior to travel to Bangladesh; a mother whose husband was anti-vaccine but she wasn't sure and wanted data and advice on vaccines for her baby.

The one patient who impacted me most as a physician was a teenage girl I took care of with HIV/AIDS. She acquired HIV perinatally but in the days before routine newborn screening, so she was not diagnosed until age 8 and, for a variety of reasons including psychosocial ones, had a lot of trouble once she hit the teenage years with taking meds and following physician instructions. At age 17 she began to lose weight and have chronic abdominal pain and fullness; a CT scan showed she had huge abdominal lymph nodes and biopsies and blood cultures confirmed the diagnosis of disseminated mycobacterium avium (MAC). Already noncompliant with one part of her regimen, she did not take the anti-mycobacterial drugs we prescribed either and ended up dying after nearly a year of intermittent hospitalizations and attempts to get her on board with treatment. Her death was not a good one--we had known she was incurable for some time and had tried to do hospice care, but her mother would not agree. In the end she died in some degree of pain in the hospital, rather than at home, comfortable, with loved ones around--the "good" death we had all been trying to help her have. I learned more from this one patient--about HIV, about treating recalcitrant infections, about connecting successfully with difficult patients and families, about my own abilities to cope (see below) than I did from any other before or since.

6.    How do you deal with the emotional fallout from handling a difficult case or the disappointment of a negative outcome?

That is a fantastic question, and one without an easy answer, because everybody handles it differently. To some extent, we all go through the classic 7 stages of grief described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (worth reading about if you're going into medicine!), some of us more quickly than others. That means at various times I'll blame myself, or be angry at the parent or patient for making a particular decision, or yes, even deny that the outcome was bad--sometimes we tell ourselves that the patient was going to die no matter what so what we did or didn't do doesn't matter.  But ultimately, if there is a bad outcome or a difficult case that doesn't go the way we want--even if it's just that you fail to connect with a patient and they switch doctors but no bad outcome occurs--it's always hard and also always a learning experience.

For me, the important thing is to keep perspective and try to separate my life from work as much as I can. So I go home, I hug my wife and kids, I call my folks--I use the natural support structure of family and friends to help me stay grounded and realize that while, yes, this was a horrible thing for the patient or their parents or even us, their doctors, it does not need to rule my life. Of course if or when a patient dies it is a horrible experience. The department often holds a debriefing session for students and residents and fellows and even attendings involved in the case. And people cry and talk about it. And people get angry and upset. We are only human. Ultimately, having a good support network and a way to decompress--see a movie, play basketball, go for a run, drink some wine--allow you to move past it, go back to work, and learn from any mistakes you may have made. Those are mistakes that you or anyone else involved in the outcome will never make again!

7.    What do you enjoy most about teaching?

There are two things I really enjoy about teaching med students, residents and fellows. The first is the ability to give back to the system that produced me--I became a doctor thanks to brilliant teachers and mentors and so the least I can do is try to be 1/10 as good as they were. It gives me joy to see a student finally understand how MRSA is resistant to methicillin, or a resident truly 'get' why it is so important to be aggressive with antibiotics early in sepsis, or a fellow analyze a piece of basic science literature and apply it to their own research. In all of these moments we who teach see echoes of ourselves at the same stage and it is awesome to see somebody else trying and enjoying following the career that we've chosen and that we love.

The second is that I always learn when I teach. Learners at all levels--from premeds shadowing to fellows about to graduate--will always ask questions you never thought of, or reframe a problem in a way you didn't see it. Or they'll simply ask you something you don't know the answer to. And it's important to maintain humility and openness about that as a teacher--if I need to look something up myself, I'll say so. Sometimes I'll make the student or resident look it up and report back so they can learn from the exercise (I already know how to do a literature search but they may not), but sometimes I'll open the text book or go to UpToDate or another online resource and we'll both learn the answer right there. And learning is one of the most fun things there is!

8.    Is there anything important you’d want to tell a student who was interested in pursuing a career in your field?

I would say first, regarding medicine in general, you should be sure it's what you really want to do. I know that's trite and clich├ęd, but it is a long road and there are many other careers in the health sciences that are equally clinically rewarding like nursing, or being a PA, that are shorter easier, and cheaper re: cost of education. If you want to teach, if you want to do research, overall if you want to become a leader in the field, I'd say get an MD/DO--become a physician. Regarding pediatrics, you have to love kids, and you also have to love and relate to parents--you need to be willing to deal with nervous, anxious wrecks who think their kid (who may not be that sick) s dying, or who are confrontational, or tired, etc. And that's not to judge--I've been a parent of a sick kid in an ER and that's how I am too! But there's an added mystery to pediatrics--your patients can't always tell you a history that's as good as what an adult might give. So you get to use your brain more, your physical diagnosis skills, and you get very good at generating interesting differential diagnoses. Finally for pediatric ID, I would say you need to be a bit of a nerd. We tend to be a kind of nerdy, intellectual specialty. Most of us do research because we like to, but also because it's expected--there isn't a lot of clinical money in ID and often grants are needed for salary support or at least research is needed to convince your boss you're worth spending money on :-) And of course you need to love and be fascinated by the bugs! Overall, a career in medicine can be very rewarding, but never forget what it is--it is a job, and ultimately only a job. Even the greatest job in the world can never be more than partially fulfilling, and the rest comes from everything else. Make time for family, for friends, for life. Yes you can work hard, but find time to play no matter what field you choose or you will burn out faster than an old light bulb. And, a doctor who never lives in the world around them will never be very good at relating to patients--being well-rounded is ultimately one of the best traits a physician can have, because at the end of the day, the patients don't care what your board scores were or what school is on your diploma--they care if they like you.

Welcome to Chicago

Monday, September 2, 2013

Hello there, dear readers. I know it's been a while since I've posted but that's because I have been very busy moving! For the past seven years I have been living in Boston and had various committments tying me down; school, a job, my post-bac program. I loved the city but was beginning to feel almost suffocated with how comfortable I had become. I decided a few months ago to move out to Chicago to be closer to some wonderful friends and also to broaden my own horizons and now that I'm here, I'm so excited for this opportunity to learn and grow! Onwards and upwards, always.

So far, I'm loving it.

The Bean, Chicago Skyline, Willis Tower

PS Chicagoans, suggestions for places to go and things to do are always welcome :)

Quotes About Perseverance

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

OK I know this is kind of sappy and whatever but I was googling a quote to find the author and came across this Goodreads collection of quotes about perseverance and a few of them really resonated with me. This one in particular:

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” 

It perfectly describes how I feel about the field of medicine and made me glad that I haven't (so far) let that brick wall stop me. It sounds silly but when I'm feeling discouraged, words of wisdom like this can really help so maybe next time you're feeling down look up a few of your own favorite quotes and you might feel better!

On a Slightly Unrelated Note, I Am Obsessed With Acroyoga

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Watch this video and you will be too. How amazing is that?! To be able to move your body with someone else like that is just crazy cool. I've been practicing yoga for several years now and I love it so much. It's a great way to de-stress and ground yourself and it's also an intense workout. When I found out Acroyoga was a thing I immediately wanted to try it. I've been trying to find a beginner class to go to so hopefully I'll be able to try this whole thing out and report back on how it goes!

Acroyoga, YouTube, Chelsey Korus, Matt Giordano, joshmaready

Ain't Nobody Got Time for Volunteering

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Everybody, I have a confession to make - this is how I feel every time a secondary app asks me to talk about my community service experiences:

OK, not seriously, but this is a tough one for me because honestly, I LOVE volunteering. It’s such a great way to give back to your community and it’s so fulfilling. I really enjoy it every time I get the chance to participate. The problem is that I don’t get that chance very often. I’ve always had to have a job to support myself and I just never had the time to do anything except that and go to school. After undergrad I started a post-bac program and let me tell you, taking classes at night and working all day and studying in between literally gives you no spare time. Unfortunately, most of hospital volunteer programs I was interested in demanded a certain time commitment that I was just unable to give. I was able to volunteer for a semester at Beth Israel (which was amazing) and I also work with a non-profit aid organization (Ascovime) but when I talk to my peers I always feel like it’s not enough. Some of them didn’t get jobs SPECIFICALLY so they could volunteer, which is wonderful and I’m glad they were able to have that opportunity but that was just not a possibility for me.

So, while I have a lot of research experience under my belt, it’s a bit nerve-wracking when it comes to filling out the “volunteer experiences” section of apps because I just don’t have a laundry list to put on there. I’m always so nervous that schools will see that and take it as proof that I’m not service-minded or that I don’t care about my community which isn’t true. The few opportunities I have had to volunteer have had an incredible impact on my life and one of the things I look forward to in the next year is being able to volunteer more.

Thinking about this recently has made me realize that it’s important to find creative ways to accomplish what I want. Recently working at the NAPVI conference is a great example because it was only a weekend but it was such a great event to be involved in. I was talking to a friend the other day who mentioned that there are several organizations that don’t demand a huge time commitment for volunteering; you just have to find them. That conversation reminded me that my contributions don’t always have to be in the field of medicine, there are a million other efforts that are close to my heart that I can join. I did some searching on the interwebs and found this fantastic website that lists all kinds of requests in the Boston neighborhood for volunteers in a variety of areas including the environment, crisis relief, health etc. You can also connect with other volunteers through Boston Volunteer Bridge whose mission is “to increase the level of civic activism in our community by making volunteer opportunities available and accessible for time-constrained young professionals and graduate students.”

It’s stressful to feel like part of your application might not be as substantial as you’d like, but the exciting thing is that you almost always have the opportunity to improve it! It’s just important to not give up when you get frustrated. Keep looking for alternative ways to get to where you want to be and it will happen!

Volunteering, Boston, PreMed

Medical School Interviews: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Monday, August 19, 2013

While every part of the application process can be agonizing, I think there is nothing more stress-inducing than the thought of being scrutinized by an admissions board member as you attempt to explain your thoughts, beliefs, and passion for medicine in a coherent manner. I typically love discussing my journey to applying to medical school with anyone who will listen but the idea of being judged while I do so is a little terrifying. What if I slip up? What is and is not appropriate to bring up? What kind of questions should I prepare to ask them, if any? Interviews give you the perfect opportunity to really shine and allow you to show schools why they should choose you. This is your one chance to bring to life the person that they've read about in your application. Unfortunately, this means there is a huge amount of pressure on you to not mess up.

Luckily, there are loads of resources out there to help and the best one I've come across so far is this fantastic interview with Dr. Norma Wagoner. Dr. Wagoner is a current professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine with 30 years of experience in admissions who has previously worked as the Dean of Admissions at Colorado and as the Dean of Students at the University of Chicago's Pritzger School of Medicine. The podcast is a bit long but definitely worth a listen. They go into the nitty-gritty details of what you should (and absolutely should not) wear, how you should conduct yourself, and even what parts of your application (if any) you should discuss in further detail. It was extremely helpful advice for me and I feel a lot more prepared for the interview process now that I've absorbed some of the wisdom Dr. Wagoner had to impart! 

Medical school, Interviews, Dr. Norma Wagoner
This doesn't have to be scary!

Shadowing a Physician

Friday, August 16, 2013

This week I was able to shadow Dr. David Bates, the chief of general medicine at Brigham & Women's hospital and a very well-known researcher in the clinical informatics field and it was such a great experience. I got connected with Dr. Bates through my job at Partners Healthcare; he is the head of my department and although I don't work with him directly, he was kind enough to respond to a blind email I sent inquiring about shadowing opportunities.

When I arrived at his office Wednesday morning at 8:30 AM I had no idea what to expect. My only prior experience working in a hospital had been volunteering in an orthopedic trauma clinic which was very fast-paced and where patient interaction consisted of physical exams, a quick consult and that was it. Observing Dr. Bates was completely different. It was clear to see that he had developed strong relationships with all of his patients and was interested in hearing about more than just their medical issues. He was able to ask them about specific ailments without referring to their charts and remembered medications and issues they may have had with past treatments in detail but he also asked them about their recent activities, if they had been able to participate in their favorite hobbies lately or how their vacations went. It was really interesting to see how close the doctor-patient bond was and that he truly cared about the well-being of the folks that were coming to see him. There was only one walk-in patient that day but Dr. Bates treated this man with the same respect and care that he gave to his other patients.

The importance of forging strong relationships with patients and the ability to truly become a part of their lives made a definite impression on me. In particular, I noticed that there was a fine line between acting as a physician and being a friend. One patient we saw that day was an elderly woman who was undergoing chemo. Her prognosis was poor and she was sad, confused and worried. Throughout it all, Dr. Bates was very compassionate, but not in the same manner as a best friend or family member would be. He obviously cared, but I think was trying to show this woman that, as her physician, he was going to be the one to hold it together and allow her to be emotional without falling to pieces trying to comfort her. That was enlightening for me because I think my tendency is to rush to someone's aid when they are upset and try to fix it all for them when sometimes they need me to just let them cry it out or be angry or frustrated and have that be okay.

While it was hard to see patients going through a difficult time, I'm so glad I was able to experience working with Dr. Bates. I learned so much about how to talk to patients, how to discuss controversial subjects and how to approach giving advice like "you need to lose weight" or "it's important for you to drink less." And there were actually a couple of times I knew a little something about whatever we were discussing and got to feel a tiny bit impressed with myself!

Occasionally when I'm bogged down with a lot of work or not feeling very hopeful about my chances for getting into school it's easy to forget why I'm doing all of this. Wednesday gave me a huge boost of encouragement and was a wonderful reminder of what I'm working towards.

BWH, Internal Medicine

Thank You For Your Submission to JAMIA

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I've been working very hard lately on a manuscript for my supervisor that had been roughly drafted by a previous research assistant a few years ago and then somewhat neglected until recently when I was asked to basically rewrite it. My initial excitement at being a part of a publication wore off quickly when I realized how much work this paper needed. It ended up being a much bigger job than I had anticipated but today I am extremely happy to say that after MUCH toil (long afternoons, short lunches, struggles with grammar and collaborative writing efforts with my principal investigator) I have finally submitted it to the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association! What a relief. Also, check it out, I'm listed as an one of the authors!

JAMIA, Journal of American Medical Informatics Association, Publication

DO or MD?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

*Disclaimer: these are just my opinions, I am not trying to disparage or endorse either MD or DO schools.

The short answer is that neither one is objectively better; you have to choose for yourself which track will better fit your learning style and personal philosophy of medicine. The long answer is a bit more complicated. The thing is, there are many professions nowadays that allow you to practice medicine on a very involved level without actually becoming a doctor. You can be a nurse practitioner (NP), a registered nurse (RN) or a physician assistant (PA) to list a few. If you just want to help people but aren’t sure how, it’s really important to take the time to think about what you value. Is it taking care of patients? Because then you might want to look at nursing programs. Is it getting done with school quickly but being able to do much of what a doctor does? Then you may want to be a physician assistant. But if you’re sure you want to be a doctor, you should educate yourself on what sets a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) and a Doctor of Allopathic Medicine (MD) apart.

The difference between becoming a DO or an MD is mainly in the approach to medicine and the school curriculum/structure. DOs believe that “you are more than just a sum of your body parts” which gives rise to a “whole body” view of medicine. They focus on preventative care and are specially trained in understanding the musculoskeletal system and the interconnectedness of the body. Here is a fantastic website with a lot of further information on osteopathic medicine. MDs on the other hand typically focus on more mainstream methods of treating patients, including drug therapy, surgery, etc. That’s not to say that being an MD means you can’t use a holistic approach, it’s just a trademark of DOs.

When it comes to applying to schools there are some important things to keep in mind. There are fewer DO schools than MD schools in the US. The typical age of entering students is 26 for osteopathic schools versus 24 for allopathic. Additionally, osteopathic schools have a reputation for being slightly easier to get into because they look at the applicant overall rather than just their scores. Finally, there has been a lot of effort over the past few years to integrate many of the holistic models of patient care from osteopathy into allopathic curriculum. Some allopathic schools may very well appear similar to osteopathic schools so definitely do your research.

I personally like the holistic view that is employed by osteopathic schools but have chosen to apply to allopathic schools primarily because I believe that specializing is more encouraged and feasible as an MD. DOs tend to go into family practice or internal medicine because they are the specialties that are most targeted by the curriculum. The boards that are taken by DO students are different from the USMLEs that are required by many fellowships  and competitive programs. While it is possible to study and take them on your own, from the personal accounts I’ve read, it’s a lot more difficult taking the step exams as a DO student because the curriculum at their school doesn’t “teach to” the USMLEs.

Further, while I think it’s important to take a “whole body” approach to healing, I appreciate new innovations in medicine and love research to the point where I am not as interested in learning special body manipulation techniques (OMM) as much as I am in being involved with generating a new EHR system or studying new therapies for chronic illnesses. 

I think that at the end of the day, the amount of information you learn as either a DO or an MD will set you up well for a career in medicine, but for me, I think becoming an MD will allow a broader scope and better advantages to be a competitive student. I have always loved pushing myself and getting involved with challenging projects. I love developing relationships with people and want that to be a part of my life as a doctor but I think it’s also important for me to keep moving and learning and that as an MD, I will be given more opportunities to pursue my passions. On the other hand, I know several people who don't want to get involved with research, aren't interested in surgery or specialized medicine, and want to have regular hours and work with the same patients every day. For them, a DO school would be an excellent choice because it takes them to exactly where they want to be and they don’t have to worry about missing out on anything because of the two letters after their name.

Osteopathic, Allopathic, Medicine, MD, DO

Social Media & Medicine Part Deux

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hey everyone! I've been doing a lot of research on this subject and came across these two extremely helpful articles talking about being involved with social media and applying to medical school. I think this subject is becoming more and more relevant because having an online presence can be a positive thing to include on applications but you have to be careful about how you present yourself. For example, we have all heard the horror stories of students kicked out of school because of inappropriate Facebook photos or graduates who couldn't get hired because their prospective employers were turned off by the obscenities they indulged in on Twitter. I have a Twitter account and every day I'm surprised to see little freshman and sophomore pre-med students with Twitter handles like "Pre-Med Partier" posting about red flag behavior like underage drinking. Obviously not everyone who applies to medical school is perfect all the time but that doesn't mean it's advisable or acceptable to post about one's foibles online! I think the problem is that, in our culture of casually putting everything personal out there on the web, younger people don't realize that the things they write on a social networking site like Facebook or Twitter are going to be there forever. They don't think about how a silly Twitter account can affect their future. On the other hand, having a professional Twitter, Blog, or Tumblr where you explore and talk about your interests and initiatives you are involved in can really help to show the world the kind of activities you are engaged in. The trick is to make sure you're doing it right and these two articles outline some helpful advice on how to do that so enjoy!

This article gives some fantastic guidelines for how to build your online image effectively and appropriately.

This article has more pointed advice on how to present your social media participation to an admission board and how to speak intelligently about it during a med school interview.

Catch Dr. Georges Bwelle On CNN Heroes

Thursday, August 1, 2013

CNN Heroes is an initiative that seeks to recognize everyday people who are making a difference in the world and bring attention to their efforts to help others. Over the course of the year, thousands of submissions from across the globe are submitted to CNN.com and each week one person's profile is posted on  the website and aired on CNN. I am very excited to announce that tonight will showcase Ascovime founder Dr. Georges Bwelle. You'll be able to watch his segment on CNN or check out his profile on http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cnn.heroes/.
You can also personally get involved by voting for Dr. Bwelle. In September, the top 10 Heroes are announced and viewers can then nominate their favorite online. Popular vote will determine a first choice and this person will be revealed on a special broadcast Thanksgiving night. Each of the top ten nominees will receive $50,000 and the Hero of the Year will receive a total of $300,000 (imagine what you can do with that amount of money!).
If you don't get a chance to watch tonight then take a look at the schedule below for all subsequent broadcasts of the special and definitely make a note to vote for Dr. Bwelle in September!!

Tentative air schedule:
FRIDAY (8/2)
CNN: 8am, 11am, 3pm, 9pm

HLN: 6am, 1pm, 6pm, 8pm (11pm, 3am)

CNN: 9am, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm

HLN: 8am, 12pm

SUNDAY (8/4)
CNN: 4pm

MONDAY (8/5)
CNNEE: 7pm

CNNi: 8am (first half hour), 1pm (second half hour)

CNN Heroes, Ascovime, CNN, Anderson Cooper