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

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