Relationships {Old Post}

There are many different types of relationships you will be confronted within as a pre-medical and medical student. You will have to decide how to establish good relationships with professors and mentors. You’ll make steps to keep friendships alive while you are busier than ever. You’ll have to stay in touch with your family and figure out how to juggle having a significant other. Each of these relationships requires a different approach to be successful.

 Professors/Mentors

The biggest piece of advice I can give on fostering good relationships with this group of people is to always stay professional. A great relationship with someone who is higher than you on the totem pole can be ruined by one unprofessional act. An unprofessional act could be any of the following: showing up late, not attending things deemed mandatory, wearing unprofessional clothes, swearing in front of professors, talking negatively about others, lying or cheating. The last two seem pretty obvious, yet I’ve still heard them happening at the level of medical school. The first few are a little less obvious but just as important. I always remind myself that I’m in a professional school now and anything I do can compromise my future. I also remind myself that I wouldn’t want a doctor who shows up late, wears scandalous clothing or lies. If you do that you will never screw up. Keep in mind becoming a professional person is a work in progress. People will understand if you make a few (small) mistakes on the way because we all have to start as beginners. Other things to do while building a relationship with a mentor or professor are:

  • Send professional e-mails and follow-up in a timely matter

  • Send thank-you notes when appropriate

  • Visit office hours

  • Send a personal congratulatory note when you hear of an accomplishment he or she made

  • On a day to day basis to say hello and see how this person is doing

Friends

Choose them wisely. I’ll be the first to admit to having some not so good relationships with friends over the years. I think what I’ve learned from this is that you must surround yourself by people who are genuinely happy for you and have the same values as you do. I’ve had a number of friends who can’t be happy for me or won’t allow me to do my own thing. These types of friends are not the ones you want or need. I can’t stress how important this is. In medical school, you will have limited time and you need friends that will understand this. Of course, most other medical students will, but your friends who have careers need to also. I have several friends who are more than understanding of my limited time. They bend over backward to see me or help me out because they know that’s what I need at this point in my life. These are the people that will get you through the tough days.

Once you’ve found these amazing people make sure you put time and effort into developing these friendships. This can be small things like making a personal phone call for someone’s birthday or sending a cute card in the mail. This could be following up and making sure your friend who just started grad school had a great first week. This could also be dropping everything when you have a friend whose suffering. One other note on friends, in medical school you have a lot less classmates than in undergrad. I go to school with about 100 students in my year. Even if you don’t love someone’s personality or demeanor in your class, make sure to keep it professional. You could be colleagues one day and the last thing you want to do is have a poor relationship with them. If the person chooses to be unprofessional, at least you tried on your end.

Family

Thank goodness for them. I’ve leaned on my family countless times for support during my first year of medical school. Be sure to make time for them even when you are busy. I’ve had several instances when my parents wanted to visit at “inconvenient” times for me, but I made it work. Since I knew time would be limited as medical school continued, I made it a point to spend a large chunk of my summer between M1 & M2 year with my family. I visited my mom’s house several times and got to spend more time with my brothers. I went on a vacation with my mom and hosted my brother at my place for 2 months while he took summer classes. I also spent a few weekends with my dad. This may not seem like much, but it really does make a difference. I constantly talk to my family on the phone or via texting so I never feel too far away from them. I’ve had several friends just during my first year of school have truly devastating things happen to them in the realm of family. It’s incredibly difficult to go through a personal or family crisis during medical school, so my two cents is to spend as much time with the people you love as you can.

Significant Other

Okay, so I’m going to leave everyone on kind of a cliff hanger on this one. I realized that I really need an entire post to talk about how to successfully manage a personal relationship before and during medical school. I’ll give you tips on how to make it, but also how to survive the turkey drop (if you have to). So, stay tuned on this one. For now, I’ll tell you all that I currently live with my boyfriend of three years and am happier than ever!

Mom and Dad at the white coat ceremony!

Staying Sane {Old Post}

Pre-medical and medical students are typically described as having a type-A personality. We are over-achievers, often do too much and schedule our time down to the minute. Although this is definitely not true for all students pursuing medicine, I personally know it’s difficult to avoid overbooking yourself.

To get in (and stay in) medicine we must demand a high level of activity from ourselves. I’m here to tell you that too much of a good thing can be bad. Throughout my undergraduate experience and first year of medical school I’ve learned a lot about time management. Here are some of my tips to stay sane that should apply to both medical and pre-medical students.

1. Take care of yourself. This should be your top priority, not matter what. You can’t succeed if you are a complete mess. Take time to eat healthy, exercise and rest. Trust me, burnout is real.

2. In regards to extracurricular activities choose one or two truly meaningful endeavors and put much of your extra time into those. Don’t spread yourself too thin. For me, I have a larger role in AMWA (American Medical Women’s Association) on campus. I play a much smaller role in interest groups, admissions activities, etc. You can’t do everything and in my opinion it’s better to put a large focus on a few things that really matter to you.

3. Don’t be afraid to tell someone no. I’ve learned this the hard way. When your professor or colleague asks for help you often automatically say yes. We all want to be doctors, hence we are all relatively giving people. Time is precious, so don’t be afraid to admit you are too busy to help someone out. Time is a true commodity.

4. Make sure to work on your personal relationships. Who wants to succeed alone? I sure don’t. I want the support of my friends, family and significant other. I hope to triumph with them by my side. Medical school (and pre-med curriculum) can be demanding, but remember that your personal relationships will truly save you. There were so many times during my pre-med route that I leaned on my close friends to stay sane. Ten minutes for a phone call shouldn’t be too much to manage.

5. Stop paying attention to what other people are doing. I know, this one is really hard. Our society seems to value comparison, which can lead to some really depressed thoughts. When you get to medical school you will realize you are surrounded by incredible people. All of us are different, and comparing ourselves in a negative way will only lead to unhappiness. Try to focus on yourself and just be happy that you are surrounded by people who have achieved a lot. This one for me will always be a work in progress.

6. Make non-medicine things your priority too. Your life is going to be consumed by either getting into medical school or staying in. Take a few minutes each day to do things that aren’t related to medicine at all. Outside of medicine I love to write and read. I try to read a few books every year that are for pleasure. In addition, I enjoy doing some DIY projects. This summer I was able to refurbish a table, bar and paint two of the rooms in my apartment.

What do you guys do to keep sane? Any tips for the sleep-deprived med students?

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

Extracurriculars galore {Old Post}

 Extracurriculars are a large part of the AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) and AACOMAS (American Association of College of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service) applications. AMCAS is what you would use to apply to any M.D. granting schools and AACOMAS is what you would use to apply to any D.O. granting schools (more on this later).

I wanted to take a moment to discuss questions that are often asked when applying to medical school:

1) What types of extracurriculars should I be doing in college to be a competitive applicant?

Most advisors will tell you that any extracurricular activity you engage in is going to help you gain entry to med school. This is mostly correct, with some caveats. First, the more longitudinal the activity, the better. This means that volunteering in a hospital 2 times a week for 3 months probably won’t look as good as volunteering at a homeless shelter once a week for 3 years. Although having activities that show your interest in medicine is good, they don’t always have to be directly related. Serving a homeless population isn’t directly related to medicine but shows that you care about the community you reside in and are gaining social skills that are essential for physicians to have. Another thing to keep in mind would be to make sure the extracurriculars you engage in are things you are passionate about. There is nothing worse than sitting down to interview and being asked about X activity and having only a few sentences to say. It would be much better to be able to elaborate on your experience within X activity. These seem like simple tips, but this is where applicants often mess up. I’d recommend only putting activities on your application that you truly care about, spent a good chunk of time on and could talk to someone for thirty minutes about (although you may not have to do this in an interview setting).

2) How do I describe these activities in my application?

The best piece of advice I can give on this topic is to make sure to show, not tell your activities. Let me give you an example so you can better understand what I’m saying.

Ex: Jenny has worked at the University of Michigan hospital for 2 years now. At the hospital, she is a volunteer who sits at a reception desk in the surgical center. What should she put in her application about this when providing a description?

Not so good: I volunteered for 2 hours each week at the U of M hospital. My duties included sitting at the surgical waiting area desk. There I called patients up when the pre-op was ready for them. I then took them back to the nurses who situated them before surgery. After surgery, I brought the patient’s family to them once they were awake in post-op.

 Better: For the past two years my social skills have grown immensely while volunteering at the University of Michigan hospital. During this time I volunteered in the surgical waiting room. Here, I met numerous patients and families of these patients. Some of my duties included helping patients to pre-op and organizing family visits to post-op. Although my duties were limited as a volunteer, I found the social interaction with both healthcare workers and patients to be incredibly important for me. I got to see the ins and outs of healthcare workers collaborating with each other to successfully serve their patients. In addition, I saw the dynamic of patients and families before and after surgeries. At times I felt that I successfully calmed some of the patient’s pre-surgery nerves. I knew from personal experience that surgery can be incredibly scary. I took this opportunity to connect with the patients, and hopefully make them laugh a little on the way to the pre-op room. In addition, I made a point to check in with the families when any updates come in. Although surgery can be nerve-wrecking, sometimes being on the other side is even tougher. I felt that this experience helped to shape my social skills in a healthcare setting and also allowed me to gain a better understanding of the many problems and triumphs that come about in the surgical area of a hospital.

As you can see there is a way to show things through words, rather than just state the facts. The most important thing to get across to the application reviewer is what you learned from an experience and how it changed you (not necessarily just the number of hours and responsibilities you had during the experience).

3) Any other general tips for filling out the extracurricular section?

Don’t lie or embellish. This is a pretty simple guideline to follow, yet I’ve heard horror stories of students heavily overestimating hours and getting caught in a lie. Don’t panic, just try to make the most educated estimations you can. Obviously, you can’t spend more than 24 hours per day on an activity and medical schools know you are also going through a rigorous course schedule. Your hours should reflect enough time to also be going to school (presumably full-time) and having something that resembles a life outside of doing extracurricular activities.

I’d recommend trying to record your hours spent in each activity as you go along to make this easier. I always just used my google calendar or if the organization I was working with had an hour log, I used that.

Lastly, I’d recommend re-reading all of your application (including extracurriculars) prior to going to an interview. Although many interviewers may not ask about your extracurriculars (more on this later), you don’t want to contradict something you wrote on accident.

A litte bit about me:

In college I took part in several amazing “extracurricular activities” and want to share them with you.

1) Research at the University of Michigan Plastination Lab — A lab dedicated to preparing anatomical specimens for educational purposes.

2) I started a pre-medical fraternity, PhiDE, which is still going strong at U of M.

3) My senior year I participated in a marketing internship with a company called HELLA. Although this job was out of the scope of medicine, it definitely helped me channel many of my skills including research and writing. In addition, it helped me learn how to promote myself via social media. With more and more people logging onto the internet, many doctors are trying to gain a better presence online. The last thing I want is negative reviews of my skills as a physician on something like health grades!

Now, in medical school, I still find time for several extracurricular activities.

1) Vice President of the OUWB chapter of the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA)

2) Participation in interest groups: biomedical ethics, pediatric interest group, & family medicine interest group

3) Help with admissions via Admissions ambassadors

Picture from our first AMWA meeting of the current e-board!

 Helpful links:

AMCAS- https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/amcas/ 

AACOMAS- https://aacomas.liaisoncas.com/applicant-ux/#/login

Application Jumble: How to Stay Organized {old post}

August 17, 2015

Many of the to be seniors in college are probably already in the midst of the new application cycle. Some of you may still be working on your primary application, others anxiously awaiting secondaries. I wanted to give my number one tip for success during this arduous process. STAY ORGANIZED! This seems simple but trust me, in the long run, it will pay off. You wouldn’t want a missed deadline or payment to be the thing stopping you from putting on that white coat.

After deciding what schools I planned to apply to I drafted up a quick chart in word. Here is the one I made while applying:

 When you start getting secondaires they are going to fly into your inbox. It’s best to keep track of when you get them because many schools expect a quick turn around. I would try your hardest to get the secondaries turned around within 2 weeks. In my chart, I added dates received and dates turned in so I could stay on track. I was tight on money when I applied so I also kept track of how much each secondary cost and if I had gotten around to paying for it yet. In addition, I also marked whether or not my essays were completed. Some secondaries will have an ungodly amount of additional essays (I had seven for one school), while others will just ask you to cough up more money.

 I continued to use this chart throughout my interviews, marking if I had gotten an interview and later switching that status to accepted or waitlisted. Something like this is incredibly easy to make and will save you some stress as you go along in the process.

As you can see I ended up applying to 12 M.D. schools and 4 D.O. schools. I got accepted to six schools and waitlisted at two. I’ll have much more to come on topics like applying to each program, interview tips and saving for medical school application costs in this blog!