Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Cancer. Malignant. Metastases. Tumor. Survival rates.

These are terms many of us might be lucky enough to never hear in our lifespan. They are the medical terms that indicate our worst nightmare has come true. Hearing them once in a lifetime is one time too often than what is welcome.

My aunt was unfortunate enough to hear them over and over again during her life. She first heard these words when she was 42 years old and they would haunt her for decades as she bravely fought the breast cancer that had invaded her body.

My aunt was incredibly brave, beautiful and the most elegant person I’ve known. I was a little girl when I first found out about her illness and I didn’t really comprehend what it was. All I knew was the she kept changing her hair! She had a variety of wigs she wore and eventually her hair grew back totally different. I vividly remember stroking my fingers through her hair commenting on how soft it was.

She had gone into remission after being treated with chemotherapy and had been in good health for years only to find out she had a reoccurrence. This time it was more dangerous and this time she’d lose more of herself to her cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy and later breast reconstruction in hopes of ridding herself of the cancer. Her procedure was a success and she thrived in the following ten years of her life.

After ten years of being cancer free, she felt something on her sternum. I can only imagine the fear that set in at this point. She ignored the voice telling her to get it checked out. She didn’t have insurance due to her pre-existing condition (the affordable care act wasn’t a thing yet). She waited months. Those months slowly allowed the cancer cells to spread through her body, sending cells to her bones and later to her brain. When she finally got diagnosed she was told she had stage IV breast cancer.

The news was devastating to us and I don’t think she ever truly accepted that it had come back for a third time. It was as if her entire life was being controlled by her cancer. She fought for years and was very lucky to live with her cancer for years before things got bad. In these years she changed a lot and to be honest, I was mad at her for it. She was different. She often was cranky and didn’t take an interest in my life like she had when I was a kid. Her demeanor wasn’t soft and she was quick to get angry. I didn’t understand her.

The week of my USMLE Step 1 exam I got the news that she was in the hospital and she would most likely remain there until her death. She had a belly full of fluid, getting liters pulled out daily. I was overcome with guilt because I wasn’t able to travel to see her. Even though my parents reiterated that she wasn’t herself; she was a shell of herself and wouldn’t want to be seen this way. The night before my exam I spoke to her over the phone and told her to go to a better place, that it was time. She wasn’t able to respond because she was knocked out by various medications.

As soon as I walked out of my exam I started balling. Her battle was finally over. I was devastated that her time on earth came to a close, but I also felt a sense of relief. Cancer had truly stolen every ounce of her being. It stole her body and more saddening it eventually stole her elegance, happiness and inner beauty. Cancer had made her someone I didn’t want to spend time with.

For awhile after her death I felt guilty that I hadn’t made more of an effort to be with her in her toughest times, even though she made that nearly impossible. The more I think about it and the more I learn from patient care I realize that every person grieves and fights in their own way. My aunt didn’t do it the way I would have, but I have to accept her path. I try my best to remember the times that I felt she was truly herself. I’ve used her battle as a learning experience to help me care for my patients.

Her ‘end of life’ care wasn’t ideal by any means and in some ways I’m sure I couldn’t have changed that for her. This experience caused me to reflect deeply upon the subject of how we can help patients determine the way in which they want to die. It sounds morbid – but I’ve seen so many patients ignore the difficult questions, only to suffer in the end.

The moral of my aunt’s story is that:

#1: We aren’t going to ‘understand’ anyone’s cancer battle. We can listen, support and empathize, but we won’t really get it unless we have to go through it.
#2: You can’t make someone spend their last days the way YOU want them to. Sometimes denial can change the way people do things and that’s OK. Not everyone is going to see their morbidity as a chance to spend time with family and do the things they love one last time.
#3: End of life care matters and we don’t do enough talking about the topic. Ask your patients the tough questions early and often. Understand what is important to them. Do they want to be doped up on pain meds only to barely be able to say goodbye? Do they want chest compressions, intubation and other measures to prolong their life?

This piece is dedicated to my beautiful aunt Sam.

 

See the original post here on Medelita’s blog: click me.

Advice through the Years

So as many of my followers know I’ve been doing a lot of “video blogging” on my Instagram video feed in lieu of some real writing mainly because I’ve been super busy with school! I finished up my family medicine rotation and kicked butt, thankfully. I’ve decided on my specialty and am so proud of myself for successfully retaking my surgery exam and kicking butt on my family medicine shelf. {pat on the back}. I just started my psychiatry rotation this week and have been getting a flavor of what this rotation will be like, more to come soon. In the meantime, I wanted to give you guys some advice through the years and reveal some embarrassing pictures.

The Highschool Dayze

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You can laugh, but hey I thought I looked good. Okay, but in all seriousness, if you are a HS student and are thinking about medicine here’s your advice. #1 priority is to have fun, yes you read that correctly, HAVE FUN! It is so important to your growth to meet new people, try different things and laugh, a lot. #2 take some science classes if your school offers them, I recommend anatomy. I was lucky that my HS had an anatomy class in which I got my first introduction to dissection and surgery {saw an open heart surgery hehe}. #3 find someone who shares your passion. See this chicky in the photo – she’s going to be an amazing doctor. She’s currently attending Emory’s med school and thinking about going into Urology, can you say inspirational? She was my HS buddy who shared my nerdiness and love of science. It’s important to find friends who have as big of goals and dreams as you do. #4 Do not worry about getting into medical school. You have time to worry about this later. Focus on determining if medicine is what you are passionate about and focus on gaining entrance to a college that has a major that can support that passion.

Here comes the collegiate 

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I was really just a freshman trying to survive dorm life. What are your goals freshman year? First off, survive — college is hard and is a huge transition. Stay healthy and sane. Next, find at least one club/extracurricular that you are passionate about. It doesn’t have to be medically related!! Second, start volunteering and stay consistent {and pro-tip keep track of all your hours, they ask this on your app}! This will help you out junior year when you are freaking out about your med school app, trust me. Sophomore year? Begin to expand your #bosslady and #futuredoc community. Join a medically-related community. That could mean pre-med club, a research position or start a pre-med frat like me. See these lovely ladies below? Both attending medical school at Wayne & Loyola. They are both huge parts of my success within college. I cannot express how important a support system is at basically every point in your life. Lastly, start thinking about applying to medical school. I said think, calm down. Just try to begin talking about what things you need to apply {classes, letters, MCAT, etc}. When do you want to take the MCAT? Are you considering a gap year? All good things to start getting in motion.

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Junior year, this is a big one. For me junior year brought a lot of my hard-core science classes I needed for medical school. Do well in these courses and maintain a good gpa. Hammer down your plans for studying for the MCAT and applying to medical school, especially if you don’t want to take a gap year like me. Make sure you have a good advisor and are continuing to do all the right things — volunteer, shadow, get letters of rec, etc. A good advisor can REALLY help you out. Also, start saving money for those expensive applications. {sorry, reality sucks}.

Senior year — this will be different for everyone based on their path, but for me I had already submitted my application and was into my interview season, which was hectic! Try your best to balance your current coursework and your interviews. My best advice for interviews is to just be yourself. Why? You are awesome. You got this far and absolutely deserve a spot at the best medical school. Believe in yourself. When you’ve successfully gotten admission to your medical school, make sure to graduate {don’t flunk those easy classes like the Aliens course I took senior year} and CELEBRATE! If you are taking a gap year start thinking about what you will do in that gap year to improve your chances of getting into medical school.

Welcome to the best and worst days of your life: future doctor land

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M1 year: Treasure all of your firsts. Your white coat ceremony, that first awkward meeting with your soon to be best friends, your first OSCE, the first time you feel legit when you use your stethoscope. These are all important moments that you should be thankful for, because hell you worked so hard for them! Next, don’t be too hard on yourself. Some of the smartest people I know barely passed a few exams in the beginning or were met face to face with their first failure. It’s OK. Buckle down and get back on track, you can do it. Find something you are interested in and pursue it. Very much like your freshman year of college you should find some activity that you enjoy. For me, that was my involvement in AMWA. And lastly, start building connections with physicians you meet!

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M2 year: Don’t get complacent, but also don’t be a looney. What do I mean? Studying is important and may come easier to you now that you are a seasoned pro, but don’t forget you’ve got Step 1 coming up. The harder you work through the year, the easier your Step 1 study period will be. That being said, don’t forget that you need to have a life and maintain your relationships. These will come in handy when you see the stress of Step 1 & M3 year. Don’t stress out too much about your M3 year. After Step, you will most likely have no idea what is happening, but it’s okay. You will get the hang of it, I promise.

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M3 year: Be okay with being bad at a lot of things and not knowing a lot of things. Easier said than done, but there will be a lot of situations in which you really feel like you don’t know what the heck is going on. Be on time, it’s important. Work on reading something every night — that’s what all physicians say is the key. But really, working all day is difficult and then studying at night?! It’s just something you need to practice and it will get easier. Pay attention to what you like and don’t like. Pretty quickly you will get a feel for whether you like inpatient work or if you enjoy outpatient clinic. You’ll figure out if kids are your thing, orrrrr not. You’ll begin to see the differences from specialty to specialty and that’s important for when you make your M4 schedule.

M4 year: TBD 

OK guys, I think I’m all typed out. I hope this was useful to someone out there and if you have more questions don’t hesitate to comment below or shoot me a DM on my Instagram. Hope you all have a wonderful week and stay tuned for a fun giveaway on my Instagram soon. 🙂

X/O A

5 Ways to Cope with What Feels like a Huge Failure

Anyone who has been following me on my Instagram @medicineinmichigan knows that I recently had a hiccup in my third-year. I recently found out that I failed my first exam in medical school – my surgery shelf exam. I was incredibly disappointed when I saw my Christmas break crumble before me. After a few days of recuperating I’ve put together this post for anyone who is going through what feels like failure {emphasis on the feels} right now or maybe needs this in the future.

Anndddd I have no pictures for this post, so here’s another adorable picture of my puppy.

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#1 – Talk to someone you love. When I first found out this news I called my fiancee and promptly started crying to him on the phone {maybe this is dramatic — but, at the time I was really upset}. After, I talked to my mom over the phone. There’s something so comforting in hearing things from those you love. My mom’s continuous pitch is that she is so proud that I’m getting out there and at least trying something that is SO difficult. She always tells me even if I made it to the day before graduation and then quit, she would still be so proud of me for giving it my all.

#2 – Let the emotions pour out. Sad? Mad? Downright angry? Let it all out. Emotional catharsis I think can be a good thing, but with a time limit of sorts. I told myself I’d be mad/upset/pissed for one day before I re-organized. I’m a believer in the fact that sooner or later it’s all going to come out and, personally, I’d rather have my mini-meltdown sooner, rather than later.

#3 – Reach out for support. There is NO shame in needing help. I met with several academic support folks at my school and they were nothing short of amazing and understanding. I also reached out to several friends and colleagues for advice. You don’t have to do things alone. In fact, medicine is about collaboration and sometimes we all forget that when we are in test mode.

#4 – Try to change your mentality. I told myself this was unfair, that my break was ruined, etc. One of my friends in college made me a sign that read, “You can’t have a positive life with a negative mind.” Positivity isn’t always easy — it definitely doesn’t come easy to me always. I’m trying my best to reframe this “negative” event into a positive one. Although I’ll have to work hard over break, studying now might give me an advantage down the line when it comes to overlapping material and step 2. This is also an opportunity for me to really show how hard I can work and my perseverance.

#5 – Lastly, remember why you started and what the end goal is. Between the studying and gruelling hours, there are the patients. The ones that make you laugh, the ones who make you cry and the ones who make you wonder how the hell they figured out how to become super-human. Those are the people that I started for and the people that I’ll finish for.

 

X/O A 

{How to Study for Anatomy}

Hi, everyone! Hope you are all having a lovely day. In Michigan, it’s quite a hot one today! I will be spending some time studying on my back porch in the sunshine! I was super lucky and got done with my floor patients around noon today, holla! I recently got some questions about two specific courses at OUWB called AFCP and BFCP. These courses are basically an anatomy course and a foundational science course. I gave some advice to a friend, so I thought I’d share with everyone my tips on how to study for anatomy. This advice will probably be applicable to any school that has a course dedicated to gross anatomy and works with cadavers.

A little background — I worked in a cadaver lab for three years at the University of Michigan and really enjoyed my time there. This sounds crazy to anyone not in medicine, right? Who likes to spend time with corpses? Well, for me, I learned a lot about the donation process and donating your body to science. I have such respect for the people who are selfless enough to give their bodies to science to help us learn.

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LOL, this is from before my MSK exam. My friend fixed him, don’t worry. On that note, let’s get started.

#1 & #2

You really need to have a great anatomy atlas to refer to. When I took anatomy we were given the Netter’s atlas, which I highly recommend and basically is a little mini-bible for anatomy. Find a copy here. The second item that is super key is the  Grey’s Anatomy Review questions, which can be purchased here. Honestly, I would say these two books [or two similar books] are absolutely essential and worth the $$.

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#3 In regards to anatomy lab

Don’t waste time in the lab! Many schools, including OUWB, spend extensive numbers of hours in the lab dissecting. Some people complain and say they don’t learn in the lab, BUT you need to set yourself up to learn. I recommend coming prepared to the lab so you get the most out of it. For me, this entailed looking up all the structures I knew I would be dissecting/looking for that day. I would use Netter’s and highlight away and even sometimes black out terms and write them in myself. I would look up anything I wasn’t sure about including muscle actions, bony processes, etc. The more familiar you are (you don’t need to know them by heart), the more you will get out of the dissection. Secondly, some schools, including mine, have several students dissecting each body. Meaning some people aren’t necessarily dissecting every time they go to lab. My lab group had these “extra” people pull up lecture notes and quiz the group on key concepts or, if everyone was clueless, that person would try to teach the information to us while we dissected. This was super helpful because many questions came straight from lecture notes on our written exam.

#4 In regards to the lab practical

Many schools require students to take a lab practical that entails walking up to a body, being prompted with a question (and usually timed) and then you answer and move to the next body. We had roughly 50 questions on our practical for each midterm/final for anatomy. For this what you want to do is be sure to see as many bodies as you can in the lab. For our school, there were about 20 bodies that were fair game for the practical. Once you start dissecting you will see quickly that everybody is SO different. The general pattern is the same, but you will want to be oriented to as many bodies as you can. Outside of lab time head into the lab and practice finding structures on a few bodies that you didn’t personally dissect. This will help immensely! I always went in with friends who were in different lab groups and we would quiz each other on the bodies. Also, if your class is willing to work together to set up a mock lab practical, that’s what my class did!

One other tip for being successful on the lab practical is to make sure you know which structures are fair game. For OUWB pretty much everything is — we get questions about muscles, nerves, muscle actions, bone landmarks, radiology images, etc. DON’T FORGET THE BONES! Bones are such easy points if you’ve looked at the images even just a few times. But, remember to try to orient yourself to each bone in several views. For example, I got a scapula on a tray once and they asked what a specific bony prominence was, but the scapula was rotated in a way that wasn’t exactly “normal.” I had to re-orient myself to realize what they were asking me!

I hope these tips help; feel free to comment any other questions below!! Oh, PS always study anatomy in the beautiful sunshine, because most of the anatomy labs have no sunlight {except OUWB, #humblebrag}! Wish I had my sunny porch during 1/2 year!

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X/O A

Let’s Talk Physician Salary {Old Post}

Hi everyone! Hope everyone is staying warm on this cold Michigan day. I’m currently bundled up in my blanket scarf at Starbucks!

My Life

  • I’m in the midst of my musculoskeletal course and beginning my Step 1 preparation.

  • I also recently finished up my commitment as Vice President of AMWA (which is a huge relief!). I’m super excited to see what the new board has in store for the organization.

  • B and I are now almost four weeks in on our at home workout plan. It’s been going pretty well so far and it’s been really fun to work towards a goal together. We are doing the Bikini Body Guide by Kayla Itsines (don’t laugh!). I’ll let everyone know how it goes, but so far I think its definitely worth it!

Topic for today (Credit to, hyperlink: Doximity)

 So as I’ve said in previous posts I follow Doximity and they send me some awesome articles. I recently got one discussing physician salaries, which I found really interesting. Salary is something that’s a little bit taboo, but that makes it really hard to understand the current market. Doximity gathered 35,000 data points on salary to help us debunk some of the confusion. Some key findings:

  • Location matters: In regards to average annual income, physicians in Minnesota and Indiana made 13% more than the national average. Thinking primary care? Head over to Arkansas, Iowa or South Dakota for the most money. Thinking of becoming a specialist? Avoid working in Vermont, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia if you are looking to be highly paid. Check below to see data from the study.

What about the gender gap in pay amongst physicians? This information was especially concerning to me and a bit upsetting. Nevertheless, I think it’s important for females to know which specialties have the largest gender pay gaps, and others that seem to be more “fair.” Thelargest pay gaps were seen amongst ophthalmology (males making 36% ($95,000) more than females), physical medicine and rehabilitation (males making 24% ($80,000) more than females), and cardiology (males making 29% ($97,000) more than females). Angry? Yeah, me too. Even the specialties that had a smaller pay gap are still upsetting.

Although this study has its limitations (check the link for more thorough information), it still sheds light on some of the hard to find information on salary. Other than getting involved in organizations like AMWA and others that promote equality and equity amongst physicians, you can learn to negotiate. What am I talking about? So, we had an event at which we were presented with many helpful tips on how to negotiate your salary (and other benefits). Although this is thinking pretty far ahead in the game for me, its something useful to know going forward. You shouldn’t feel bad negotiating because remember we are paying back $200,000+ in loans! You can find all of this information here: link. Thanks to my awesome colleague, Jeff Cross for creating this!

Okay, last thing. So, B’s stepmom is probably one of my favorite humans on Earth (top right in the photo). She’s always been so supportive of me and has the most interesting life experiences. She helps me remember to keep it light and stress-free (when I can). She’s been sending me these for the past few Fridays and it never fails to make me giggle. So, I’m sharing the joy! Love you T!

Stress Management {Old Post}

Stress management is a vital part of success within medical school (and really for anyone who is super busy). There are many good and bad ways to manage stress. I’ve seen classmates truly crack under the pressure that medical school puts on them, on top of all of the other life responsibilities they have. We have had several sessions on relaxation techniques, which taught us benefits of meditation, guided imagery and yoga. Although these are great options, sometimes I feel like I don’t even have enough time to learn how to do these things then make more time to do them. It almost stresses me out more, ha!

 With my neuro two examination finally out of the way, I’ve had a little time to reflect on how stressed I’ve felt recently. I thought this would be a good time to compile a list of some of the stress management techniques that have really worked for me over the past year and a half of medical school. I think its important to realize medical school is a whole different beast that requires some creative thinking to master. Again, these are things that worked for me, but its important to figure out what works for YOU. Hopefully these tips are a little bit different than the ordinary, “eat healthy, sleep and exercise” advice we get for stress relief.

Things you can do WHILE you study:

1. Scents. For me awakening my senses is very relaxing. I think we can all agree there is a certain sigh of relief when we light our favorite sugar cookie candle during the holiday season. Use scent therapy while you are studying! It is something that literally takes two seconds that can put you in a better mood or make you more relaxed.  One thing I’m excited to try out is aromatherapy! My mom got some scents and is sending me a few. 🙂

2. Make a cup of tea. I recommend Hi-Caf teas for study time because they have the same amount of caffeine (if not more) in comparison to coffee. You can get them at Whole Foods or online! If you aren’t studying and need a relaxing cup, my recommendations are green, mint or chamomile for bed time.

3. Try a face mask. Okay, don’t do this in the library because you will scare everyone, but at home this is awesome. I started using theTony Moly sheet masks (they are reasonably priced on Amazon too). You will literally look like a serial killer, but they all smell amazing and my skin feels awesome after. They even have one that has red wine in it, which is definitely my kind of beauty therapy.

Things to do when you’ve hit your limit and need a short break:

1. Take a walk with a friend. Even if its just for five minutes, this will help reduce your level of stress.

2. Have a dance party. I used to do this all the time during my first year! Its bound to end in a few laughs.

3. Write down or say aloud one good thing that happened today or one thing you are happy about. B always asks me this when I have a bad day. I come home angry and he just stops me and says, “Aleah, what is one good thing that happened today?” It may take me a few minutes to get on board and think positively, but this always helps keep things in perspective. Even if your day has gone totally wrong, there is always one thing we can find to be happy about.

4. Remind yourself of how far you’ve come. Pull up your favorite photo from your white coat ceremony or college graduation. YOU have accomplished a lot more than many people in this world. Give yourself credit for working so, so hard to get to wherever you are today. Success doesn’t come easily and it doesn’t come quickly.

5. Connect with someone via touch. I know that probably sounds weird, but it is a huge stress relief to just be touched. Hug your best friend or trade massages with a significant other.

 Things to do to get organized and inevitably lower stress for later:

1. Create realistic goals. If you make a list of 20 things to get in one day it probably won’t happen. It’s better to make a few goals for each day. I like to split mine up into study goals and life goals. By life goals I mean things that need to get done for me to be a productive human being (aka pick up the dry cleaning, grocery shop or clean the bathroom). Its a lot easier to relax when you know those things are completed.

2. Prep the night before. Before I go to sleep I always double check my schedule for the next day. I make sure if I need to dress up or have my white coat I set those things out so I don’t forget. I also make sure to have my lunch ready to go and coffee timer set for the AM. This leads to less scrambling in the morning and a smoother day all together.

3. Anticipate stress. If you have an exam coming up prepare for your stress to hit an all-time high. If you can prep meals in advance, plan a reward for post-exam time or pencil in a phone call with an old friend to help you de-stress do it. For me I have the Step 1 exam coming up and I’ve already put money aside and penciled in a few manicures and a massage because I know I’ll need some relaxation time.

4. Take steps to fix your worries. For example, one of my friends has had trouble eating healthy and cooking while in medical school. So, she took steps to fix her problem. She started ordering healthy food from Blue Apron. This service delivers all the ingredients you need for healthy meals to your doorstep and gives you step by step instructions to prepare your meal. For me, I’ve had a lot of trouble getting to the gym. So, I found a home workout plan that is a lot more manageable for me.

Little things you can embed into your life:

1. Remember when I mentioned scents? I buy Method brand hand soap (pomegranate and vanilla chai being my favorites) and put these in my bathroom and kitchen. I always get a little energy boost when I wash my hands because these scents are seriously amazing. Leaving little mood boosters around really helps me, even if they are as simple as hand soap.

2. In general, I like to tackle the hardest tasks first. They are the ones that are weighing on me the most. Once I get these big things done, I can be more productive, rather than ruminating on this huge thing that I’m anxious about.

3. Focus on what you do know and what you are good at. It’s so easy to participate in self-judgment, and never truly tell yourself that you have kicked butt so far. When studying for exams remember you know A LOT. Focus on what you know and don’t sweat the small stuff. I remember being really nervous for my first organ systems exam and my little brother told me, “You’ve studied hard and you know all of the material. The exam is just the time to spit it back out and brag.”

4. Learn to say no. Are you so stressed that you have trouble sleeping? Then don’t tell your friend you can help plan their birthday party or take on more responsibility in one of your clubs. You DON’T need to do everything. It’s not the end of the world and they will find someone else. It’s really hard to say no, but its vital to listen to what your body is telling you and back off when needed.

5. Appreciate (and make use of) the time you do have to yourself that is built in stress free time. For me there are only two times during the day that I can guarantee I can’t do anything else but focus on that task. So, I count them as blessings. You may laugh, but these two times are my commute to school and during my shower. If I have to commute anyways and I can’t really do anything else in the car, I take that time to not think about school and instead listen to an awesome playlist of music. When I shower I make sure I take some time to clear my mind and also use scent therapy (my shampoo has eucalyptus in it, it’s amazing).

6. Be OK with being a beginner. One of my favorite quotes goes like this, “Allow yourself to be a beginner. No one starts off being excellent.” Dale Partridge nailed it. You can strive to get an A on that exam, but remember that we all need to start somewhere. There will always be room for improvement, and that’s a good thing. I remember I did OK on my first organ system exam and kind of beat myself up for it afterwards. Looking back, I realize that I shouldn’t have been so hard on myself. This was something new that I had to master and now I have, after hard work and dedication.

 Hopefully, this list gives you some new ideas! Stress really isn’t going away for any of us, but we can learn to manage it better and be a little more positive. This is going to be a life long process for me, but I’m happy I’ve taken a lot of steps in the right direction.

In other news, I got my track for my third year! Time is seriously flying!! I’m almost half way to getting my MD. Getting my track assignment basically means I know the order I will rotate through which department and who I will be doing it with. Our school does a lottery and I happened to get lucky and get my top pick! My schedule is as follows:

Internal medicine (8 weeks)

Pediatrics (8 weeks)

Surgery (8 weeks)

Capstone (1 week)

Family Medicine (6 weeks)

Psychiatry (6 weeks)

OB/GYN (6 weeks)

Capstone (1 week)

Ophthalmology (1 week)

Neurology (4 weeks)

I’m super excited (and nervous) for third year. It will be a huge change from being in the classroom, but I’m sure it will be very rewarding.

All Eyes On You {Old Post}

 As September begins so does interview season. Interviewing, whether its one on one or in the multiple mini interview setting can be intimidating. The best thing to do to calm your nerves is to go into an interview prepared. This can mean practicing with friends or family prior, learning about the interview style/setup, or reviewing your application a few times. Let’s talk about the two main types of interviews and some tips for good interviewing.

Traditional interview

So, this is probably what you’d think of when thinking of interviewing for a job. You will meet one on one with a professor, physician or other faculty member (all the way up to deans) and be asked a series of questions. Some schools have interviewers that conduct the actual interview in a more conversational manner. Even though this may seem more relaxed be sure to keep it professional at all times. Other schools may have a more formal format set up with just a straight Q & A back and forth between the interviewer and interviewee. From my personal experience, most questions have to do with different experiences listed within your application. Some other questions may include ethical based ones or what your goals will be when you are a physician. I never got anything too tricky luckily.

 Multiple Mini Interview (MMI)

This is a newer format that many schools are adopting. The most common set up includes different rooms or stations with separate interviewers at each. Different schools will each have their own unique way of setting this up, which is why it can be confusing when preparing. I’ll give you an example of how two of mine were set up so you have a better idea.

At X medical school there was 10 stations, each in a different closed room. All of the interviewees stood outside of one of the rooms and would eventually rotate through all of the rooms. An admissions worker would ring a bell and we had 60 seconds to read the prompt that was hanging on the door. During this time, we could take notes on a piece of paper. When the second bell rang we knocked on the door to meet our interviewee. This person was either a faculty member, medical student or professor.  We had 10 minutes to answer the question. When time was up we thanked the interviewee, left the room and began at the next room. So, these interviews were basically all one on one and were in a closed room, which helped eliminate some of the pressure.

At Z medical school there were 8 stations, all at different tables in a large banquet hall. So, I could see all of the other candidates interviewing and vice versa. We had a similar set up in which someone rang a bell, we had about a minute to read the prompt and then could start talking whenever we wanted to the interviewee. We had about 7 minutes to answer the question before we moved on to the next station.

As you can see the general format is similar between both school X and Z, but there are small differences in how each session is run.

How did I prep for my interviews?

I am a huge reader so, prior to my interviews I ordered two books off of Amazon.

1. How to Ace Your Medical School Interviews: 224 Sample Questions and Answers with Insight on the Interviews and Premed Process

http://www.amazon.com/How-Your-Medical-School-Interviews/dp/1483651673/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1442180090&sr=1-1&keywords=how+to+ace+your+medical+school+interview

 2. Ace Your Medical School Interview: Includes Multiple Mini Interviews MMI For Medical School

http://www.amazon.com/Ace-Your-Medical-School-Interview/dp/1492346098/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1442177022&sr=8-6&keywords=medical+school+interview+book

After reading these I felt very prepared as far as knowing what types of questions may come up. I spent time thoroughly reviewing my primary and secondary application for each school. I researched each school by browsing their websites. I also interviewed at a few schools at which I had friends attending, so I gave them a call and asked for some tips.

I’ve always felt that I had decent social skills and have had experience interviewing for jobs throughout high school and college, so I didn’t feel the need to attend any mock interview sessions. That being said, I would strongly recommend actually doing this. School career centers or other pre-medical geared entities may have a lot to offer in terms of interview tips.

 Aleah’s top tips

1. Remind yourself that the interview goes both ways. Even though they are interviewing you, keep in mind how your interview day goes. You wouldn’t want to attend a school that isn’t a good fit both ways.

2. Come professionally dressed. If you aren’t sure if something is acceptable, it’s not. They expect business attire, which means full suit. It is incredibly noticeable when someone comes in with an unprofessional outfit.

3. ALWAYS be on your best behavior. Even though schools may tell you when you are with students you can relax a little bit, don’t get carried away. Students can report things they find particularly offensive (you talking badly about other applicants, the school, etc) if they feel strongly about an interviewee.

4. Send thank-you notes. To do this, make sure you get a card or contact information from your interviewer before you leave. For MMI’s sending one thank-you note to the office of admissions will suffice.

5. Come to interview day with a few questions about the school. I think it’s always impressive when students ask about different elements of the school because it shows their genuine interest.

6. Do not act as if any interview you go on is for a “safety school.” You don’t know the outcome of your applications yet, so put your game face on. Every interview is a chance for you to get your dream job.

On current life things….

This past weekend was full of relaxing post-renal exam. On Friday I caught up with some things around the house and fell asleep early. Saturday I woke up at 630 AM to get ready for the first University of Michigan home game. We headed to Ann Arbor to spend time with friends and celebrate the big game. Saturday evening I was back at home watching Grandma’s boy with B (I know this movie is quite odd…). Today we went out to breakfast with two friends from college, went shopping at Great Lakes Crossing and I plan on getting caught up with some school work. We started our GI unit on Thursday!

Exam Day & Brunch {Old Post}

 Yesterday we finally took our renal final exam so I wanted to share my pre-exam tips!

–> Eat a healthy breakfast. In the morning I made a blueberry, peach, banana smoothie to start my day off. I just ordered the Ninja brand blender to make this whole process easier, so I’ll let you all know how it works! I also personally don’t drink coffee the morning of exams because it really irritates my stomach.

–> Sleep a full 8 hours (or more). I’m generally really good at getting a full nights rest, but on test day this is especially important. You want your mind to be sharp and fully alert.

 –> R-e-l-a-x the night before. I know this is hard for a lot of people to do because of test anxiety, but in my opinion there is no amount of last minute cramming that will truly help my cause. So, instead I watched the movie Fury with B. It is about WWII and was quite good. It reminded me of how lucky we all are to be living in a safe environment. There are so many people in terrible situations that fear for their safety on the daily. This helped me at least keep my exam in perspective (aka it’s not that big of a deal and it is a privilege that I got to take it).

 –>  Talk things out with a friend. Even though many of us are tempted to study alone thinking we will be more productive, it’s useful to go over concepts with somebody. Sometimes other people pick up on small details that you missed or focus on different topics. This is something that has gotten a little harder for me to do now that I live farther from my school (and friends).

–> Don’t sweat what everyone else is doing. Someone studied 17 hours today and read over all of the first aid prep books, who cares? If you have a clear study plan that is working, keep on keeping on. Don’t get bogged down by what everyone else is doing.

–> Take a deep breath. You’ve prepared for the exam and put in the hard work of learning the material. Now, all you need to do is regurgitate that knowledge.

 –> Surround yourself with people who lift you up. The last thing you need is someone to suck up all your energy. When I do study with other people I make sure they are the type to help keep me motivated and are as passionate about learning as I am.

Post exam I always feel so free! We got lucky and had an entire day off post-renal exam. I decided to go out to Black Lotus with friends last night to celebrate and went to brunch this morning at a place called Toast in Birmingham (it’s amazing). This morning something awesome happened. After we ate breakfast I asked the waitress for our bill and she told us that the man who sat near our table in the restaurant had paid for our entire tab. As a broke medical student this was awesome! It’s amazing how generous people can be. This random act of kindness made me so happy — thank you random Toast man, we love you! Hoping to pay it forward in the near future. The rest of the day will probably consist of putting my life back together (chores, errands, etc) and relaxing this evening.

How Much Did It All Cost? {Old Post}

Unfortunately, getting into medical school is not only difficult but it’s also expensive. I had been working during college and in high school so luckily I had quite a bit of money saved up. If you aren’t aware of the costs associated with medical school, keep reading. Even if your family has agreed to foot the cost of applications, you will want to inform them just how much that’s going to set them back.

Below I have a breakdown of my costs. Obviously, each person is going to be different so I’ve included a few of my colleagues info too. Keep factors like # of schools applied to, distance of to the interview, and whether or not you are applying to both DO & MD schools in mind.

 Aleah’s Cost Breakdown

DO schools (4):

  • $250 for secondaries

  • $140 ($35 each) for primaries (+ $195 app fee)

MD schools (12):

  • $420 ($35 each) for primaries (+ $160 app fee)

  • $950 (got 11 back) for secondaries [*keep in mind you may not recieve requests for a secondary from all of the schools you put a primary in for)

  • MCAT/Kaplan Course: ~$300-sitting fee; ~$1000-discounted course + $100-travel on test day

  • Travel: $300 (gas for driving); all my hotels/flights my dad used points for (drove to 7, flew to 1)

  • Interview outfit: $450 (suits are expensive!)

  • Sending letters of rec: ~$20

Grand total: $4,285

As you can see this can get quite pricey. I factored in the cost of taking a prep course ($1,000) to this budget too, so this may be different for other people applying. Keep in mind that your testing center may not be close to your house, so you may have additional travel costs. In addition, I was lucky to get all of my hotels and my flight paid for via points that my dad had from travelling for work. Some schools do offer student host programs, but others may not have this option for you. You may be shocked that I spent about $450 on an interview outfit, but trust me it was worth it. Looking the part may not seen important, but it’s essential to put your best foot forward. I found a discounted suit at Banana Republic, blouse from Target and new shoes from DSW (I’ll try to do a post soon on what’s appropriate for an interview).

Friend 1 Cost Breakdown

DO schools (9):

  • $700 for secondaries

  • $140 ($35 each) for primaries (+ $195 app fee)

MD schools (9):

  • $415 ($35 each) for primaries (+ $160 app fee)

  • $700 (got 9 back) for secondaries

  • MCAT (took 2 different times)/TPR Course: ~$600-sitting fee; ~$1000-discounted course + $150-travel on test day

  • Travel: $300 (gas for driving); Hotel/ Air travel/ Car Rental/ Food: ~$500

  • Interview outfit: $350

  • Sending letters of rec: ~$70

Grand total: $5,000

Friend 2 Cost Breakdown

MD schools:

  • $1000 ($35 each) for primaries (+ $160 app fee)

  • Got 24 back for secondaries

    • Each secondary ranged from $50-$110

    • MCAT/Princeton Review Course: ~$300-sitting fee; ~$1000-discounted course

    • Interview Travel

      • Drove to 6 interviews, Flew to 5 interviews (scheduled interviews so that I only need to fly out on 3 trips)

      • 5 nights at hotels (stayed with friends for some interviews)

    • Interview outfit: $250 (I wore some pieces that I already had)

    • Sending letters of rec: ~$20

Grand total: ~$7,000

Take a deep breath. I know these grand totals seem insane, but there are many ways to apply to medical school.

-For students who truly can’t afford to pay the cost please check this link out: https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/fap/

-For everyone else who won’t qualify for any time of financial assistance here are the ways I saved up money for the fees associated with applications:

1. Worked throughout high school and college

2. Saved money on my Kaplan course by joining a student group on campus that had a partnership with their program

3. Started a Go Fund Me page that my family/close friends could donate to

4. Asked for my interview outfit as a Christmas gift

5. Used points to fly & stay in hotels

6. Tried to apply to schools within driving distance

 Below I’ve hyperlinked the AAMC website where they have additional information about the cost.

Helpful links: https://www.aamc.org/services/first/first_factsheets/94390/cost-applying-med-school.html 

DO VS. MD {Old Post}

 In college, I had a plan to become a doctor. It never changed and I never really had second thoughts. Because of that, I didn’t explore the other options available to people who want to be in the health care field. I’m sure many of you are aware you can pursue a career in nursing, become a physician’s assistant, or a pharmacist. I’m not trying to veer you in a different direction, it’s just always good to be aware of the options that exist.

Becoming a physician is difficult and requires a specific type of person. You will have to be hard-working, persistent, and above all compassionate. If this is the road you want to take, you should be aware that there are two different paths to becoming a doctor.

Today I want to talk about the differences between applying to a DO school and an MD school. There are lots of misconceptions and I’d like to try to clear some up. Let me start off with some basics.

 I’d recommend going to the link at the bottom of this post for the AACOM (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine) for more detailed information about what their schools have to offer. To put it simply, I really don’t think there are huge differences in getting your MD or DO in the long-run. That being said there are educational differences that you will run into during your time in medical school.

Most DO granting schools emphasize the following:

1. Hands on care through osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) [DO students take extra courses in OMM to prepare]

2. Strong desire to cultivate physicians that excel in primary care

3. Holistic medicine, i.e. seeing the person as a whole

These are some of the things you would read on the AACOM website. That being said, I’ve talked to close friends who attend DO granting schools and have heard the following:

1. OMM is just an additional thing they learn, like an extra tool in the tool box. This means you can use it in practice, or if you don’t want to, you don’t have to.

2. You can enter any speciality you want coming from a DO school, not just primary care.

As some of you get closer to applying to medical school and start looking at the stats for entrance into these schools you will see for the most part there is a difference in scores. To just put it out there, many DO schools will accept students who have lower GPAS, MCAT scores or have some “flaws” in their application. Even though this holds true for some of the DO schools, many of the DO schools are just as competitive to gain entrance into as MD schools. For example, I applied to MSU’s osteopathic medicine program and their average GPA range is 3.5-3.7 and their MCAT just above a 28 (http://www.com.msu.edu/Admissions/Profile-Successful-Student.htm). As you can see, DO schools are becoming more competitive as more students apply to medical school. But, for those with a small blemish on their application, you may want to consider applying to DO schools.

 Okay, now onto the applications. To make it short, DO and MD applications are quite similar. For both you will be filling out a primary application (including a personal statement), submitting secondaries, and going on interviews. There are small cost differences in application fees and differences in length of essays/what reviewers may be looking for. Since I applied to both my application costs were higher, but I’m happy I did it.

I found the pitch of holistic medicine very intriguing and found DO schools to offer a lot to students during their training. I wasn’t nervous about not getting into an MD school, but it was nice to apply to a few DO schools with “lower” stats as a safety net. As in previous posts, I ended up applying to 4 DO schools and 12 MD schools.

Some tips I have for students applying to both types of programs:

1. Don’t reuse your personal statement from your MD apps for your DO app. Write a new one. DO schools look for a strong interest in the osteopathic curriculum and a good understanding of the difference between getting an MD vs. DO degree.

2. Don’t treat DO schools as back ups. They are still very difficult to get into so put your game face on for interviews.

3. Go into interviews (and essay writing for that matter) with clear cut reasons as to why you would want to practice osteopathic medicine.

4. Make sure you are financially ready to apply to two programs. Because you have to pay the intial cost for each type of application plus money for each school you apply to, costs add up. In addition, DO schools historically require a much larger deposit to hold your seat.

5. Make sure to shadow a DO so you know if you’d like it and also to get a letter of recommendation!

Quick note on number four — for those of you who don’t know, when you gain entrance to medical schools and you get closer to the school year they will ask for a deposit. They obviously don’t want you to say that you are going to attend their school, then back out for a “better” offer later and have too small of a class. Most MD schools will ask for a small deposit, between $0-$300 on average. DO schools will ask for much more, I’d say more in the range of $500-$2,000. Obviously, if you are going to attend that school then this is just part of your tuition. If you are considering multiple schools be very careful of submitting deposits, as most are non-refundable.

Lastly, let’s clear up some rumors. I’ve often heard pre-medical students say they are hesitant to apply to DO granting schools because people won’t take their practice seriously. Let me ask you, whens the last time you looked if your doctor was an MD or a DO? Do you even know? I doubt it. Most people have no clue which degree their doc has. All of my colleagues that attend DO schools are incredibly smart. I’m talking some of the smartest folks I know. Do not underestimate them. As an MD student, I would never speak poorly of my colleagues because we are all working towards the same goal. We all have a strong desire to improve the health care field and help those in need.

About me: I’ve been studying for my renal midterm all week! Have you guys heard of hand written tutorials? It’s a great site for some more difficult medical topics! You can print out the drawings and annotate as you watch the short videos. Go here to check it out: http://handwrittentutorials.com/index.php

Helpful links:

http://www.aacom.org/become-a-doctor/about-om