Categories
Application Process Blogging Medical School Premed

Catching up and Slowing Down

The blogging was slow throughout my neuroanatomy block. It was easily the roughest time since first semester when my class took our foundational science courses along with anatomy. Now the year is winding down. We are in our psychiatry block, or as we like to call it- “Psych-cation”. This is my last full week as a first year medical student. I had high expectations for this year. Nothing went as expected, but that’s not to say it wasn’t one of the greatest things I have ever been a part of. It continues to be my desire to wake up and learn and do medicine. I also continue to struggle each and every day to work my hardest, dig deep, and put my best forward. Some days are easier than others. I struggle to this day with the discipline to study for a full evening with no distractions. Time management- and the guilt that goes along with making tough choices- will always be tough for me. Whenever I choose to run and meal prep, I feel guilty for not studying. If given the the chance to watch my niece for an evening or be with my family, it is always my first inclination to pick them, and then spend my time with them rushing through it or worse, resenting them for pulling me away from studying. Yet, the same is true on the rare occasion I decide to continue studying- I start to get down on myself for being the studious, uncaring robot I never wanted to be and cursing my choice of medicine for making me betray my family. It’s so easy to fall to extremes whenever I am presented with two choices in the same window of time. I have a horrible fear of missing out (#FOMO) on fun with family and friends, but on the same token, I have awful anxiety when it comes to tests that I haven’t studied enough for. Life with me is always a certain roller coaster of emotions. It will soon be my last somewhat wide open summer. There are high expectations for that as well.
From my time with the doctors I love shadowing, and in spending time with our attendings that teach and grade us in clinical skills and OMM, I have learned how vitally important their experiences are to me. They give us tips on how to cause less pain, on how to find the diseases that “hide”, how to care for the difficult, stubborn, and “unwanted” patients. I love them for passing on their directly usable knowledge. I always remember what they say best when so much of medical school is only “practical” in the sense of boards. In watching and learning from them, I have decided that it wouldn’t be right for a doctor to learn all this and go about their practice without ever mentoring or teaching the upcoming doctors in some capacity. I may not have realized it, but this sort of outlet is one of the reasons blogging is great. So here it is; if I ever didn’t make it clear, or you thought I was to busy- here I am saying I am available to give you whatever I can offer you in your journey into medicine. If you are premed or thinking about premed or know someone that is- send them my way! I want to help anyway I can. Resumes, applications, stats, extracurriculars, what school to pick, what classes to take- I’ve been there and it helps to talk out your goals and reaffirm your passions with someone who knows the long road it will be. You can contact me on here. I read every email I get through my “contact” form. If you’re in Oklahoma, I can get students to come speak to your premed club. If you know me personally then you can contact me on Facebook and get coffee. Whatever you need, I’m available to mentor you and set you up with great doctors in the area that mentor too.  Especially now that summer is within sight!

Categories
Lists Medical School Premed

How to Study for the MCAT Volume 1

Since I’ll be getting busier and busier, I have begun recruiting some guest posts. Especially for you premeds, which I have been neglecting-since all of my posts have been about medical school. So you’ll see some of my buddies from undergrad posting on different things.
Today is Jenna’s post. She’s about to start her senior year and just submitted AMCAS and AACOMAS this summer! She took the MCAT back in January and she has compiled an awesome list of things to do- and not do- to study for it! Here ya go!
Jenna—————————–
I laughed when Andi asked me to write about the MCAT because she knows how much disdain I have for this test, but I’m happy to do it! No doubt, the MCAT is the worst. Both the studying leading up to it and the test itself are brutal but I think it’s important to not let it consume you in complete misery. If you’re hoping to read about how to totally dominate the MCAT or very detailed study plans, fair warning that this is not either of those things. Instead, here are a few general points that helped me and that I’d do again if I had to start over at the beginning.

  • Carefully consider your test date. I took the MCAT this January so I wouldn’t have to worry about classes at the same time, and also to leave room for a second attempt this summer if necessary (it wasn’t). You want to give yourself a good amount of time to prepare, and make sure that you’ll actually use that time! I made a mistake in blowing off my plan to begin studying in mid-October and didn’t start until Christmas break. Oops! I’d choose January again though.

 

  • Find a routine. I was home in Tulsa for the holidays and then at OBU with a few other MCAT-takers for the last 3 weeks before my test. My studying at school was much more productive than at home because I made a plan and stuck to it. Every day was the same:

–   9-12: review with flashcards.
–   12-1: lunch. Sometimes we stretched this to 1:30 for sanity.
–   1-5: practice problems/tests.
–   5-7: back to the apartment, make dinner, take a break.
–   7-9 (sometimes 10 or 11): more practice.
–   sleep, repeat.
I hope you can sense the immense *joy* I was experiencing during this time. It was hard and boring and exhausting, but it got easier as it became habitual. The same will be true if you space out your studying over 2 or 3 months instead of cramming in a few weeks like I did.

  • Review (duh), but not excessively. Reviewing is obviously a crucial part of studying for the MCAT, unless you never forgot the Henderson-Hasselbach equation and whatnot. The reality is that there’s no way to know everything covered on the MCAT. My strategy was to focus on the basics/broad themes and not worry about the special scenarios that are only true if x, y, and z happen on a Thursday when it’s raining (organic chemistry reactions, anybody??). Everyone I know who’s taken this wretched test has felt underprepared going into it, so if you feel that way, you’re not alone.

 
I was (am) bad at physics. I still joke that the only thing I learned from two semesters of it was F = ma and how to deal with failure. Probably 60% of my review was physics. Starting with the subjects you don’t do well with allows you to go back and review them several times leading up to the test date. Physical sciences was still my worst section despite devoting so much time to it, but that alone is an indicator that it’s what I needed to do. If you don’t particularly struggle in one subject more than another, then of course a more balanced subject review would be beneficial to you to maintain or improve understanding.
 

  • Practice so much that AAMC should hire you to write MCAT questions. Looking back, this was the single best thing I did. MCAT questions are generally written in ways that most people don’t encounter in undergraduate exams. Repetition is your best friend and it really builds confidence that you can figure out exactly what the question is asking because you’ve seen similar ones in the past.

 
I decided to be at OBU for the second half of break because they offer an MCAT “prep course” that’s really just independent study (no teacher instruction involved) with access to a good collection of full-length tests and individual practice sections. Also, Andi offered me her review books, and each of them had a few practice tests (she’s a kind soul, folks). Chances are you have friends in grades ahead of you who no longer need what they used, so ask around! Otherwise, I know that buying prep books from Kaplan, Princeton Review, etc. and practice tests directly from AAMC is expensive, but it’s more expensive to take the MCAT twice because the first time you weren’t very familiar with the question styles.
 

  • Try a few test strategies and pick one to stick with. Do this early in your studying so that you’ve established your preferred method long before test time. I remember reading a ton of ideas on the best way to take the test and it was overwhelming. I settled on answering all stand-alone questions first and then doing the passages in the order presented. I tended to do remarkably better on the stand-alones and I wanted to give myself the best chance to answer them without rushing.

 
For verbal reasoning, I remember trying one method that involved skimming the passages while writing a short summary sentence for each paragraph. Then, the passages are ranked from easiest to hardest and completed in that order. That stressed me out like no other, so I decided to just use the highlight tool occasionally and do the passages in the order presented because it was simple. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you’re good at executing it and that it’s actually helpful to you.
 

  • Do other things. Especially anything physical. I ran a few times and I should’ve done it more often. A couple of us took the night off to play some tennis and we had a blast laughing at our lack of athleticism one night. Other times, we watched trashy TLC shows or saw a movie. Don’t stop your life completely to study for this test. It’s refreshing to spend time with your favorite people, so make them a priority! Even if it’s just an hour here or there.

And a few quick things I would change/improve:

  • Don’t cram. It made the whole thing more stressful than it needed to be. Looking back, I would’ve much rather studied less intensely for a longer time.
  • Minimize complaining. I wasted too much time on negative talk. If you want to be a doctor, you have to take this test. Keep it in perspective that this is a temporary burden.
  • Stay in the loop. This kind of goes with my “doing other things” point, but if you can’t do fun things with family/friends, at least make an effort to talk on the phone or email or whatever floats your boat. Studying = isolation, and that can wear on you. I would do a much better job of this if I had to go back!

 
So there you have it! I know none of these are groundbreaking ideas or anything but that was my experience with the MCAT. Also, I know AAMC is adding biochemistry, statistics, and psychology/sociology effective April 2015. Unsolicited advice for anyone wanting to start medical school in 2016: if you feel like you can prepare well enough for it, take the current version. It’s offered every month from now through January 2015, except December. I took a trial section of the new MCAT, and I don’t really have any comments other than I was already mentally exhausted after just the three scored sections.
Lastly, to be totally transparent with you, I scored a 27 (7 PS/10 VR/10 BS). I realize I might have just lost some credibility to some pre-meds since there’s nothing particularly special about my score, but I am perfectly fine with being average (my GPA is also very middle-of-the-road). Sure, I benefit from living in Oklahoma in this regard since many schools in more populous states require 30+ scores for “competitive” applicants, but your MCAT score is not the only thing considered by admissions no matter where you apply. Since I’m just now applying, I can’t attest to getting into medical school with less than top-of-the-class stats, but Andi has already written a few thoughts on that 🙂
 

Categories
Application Process Medical School Medicine

My Personal Statement

Caution: Post with heavy reading!
Since I have a lot of friends that just finished their junior year and are applying to medical school, I thought I would share my personal statement. If you’ve been applying then you already know the basic guidelines they give you and some of the more google-able tips you can find on what to put in it- and what not to.
For example:
About a page in length.
Highlight your good qualities. Duh.
Say what makes you unique.
Things like that.
But, the thing is. In all my searching, people rarely share them. I mean yeah, you can find a couple of examples, but I’m pretty sure they’re professionally written so as to be unrealistically bad, or “ideal scenario” good. Is mine perfect?  No. Is it real? Yes.
So here it is. The personal statement of a real, imperfect student that really really really wants to be a doctor. I didn’t have all the right connections, I didn’t have the perfect grades, I didn’t have a stellar internship working for the dean of the medical school. I’m an average student that worked my butt off, and never felt like I was going to get in. And now I did.
I wrote it myself, but like I said here, many many people proofread it for me. Just to have people read it and tell you different points of view on how it comes across is valuable, I think. You should see how many drafts of it that I have on my computer. It’s a little ridiculous.
 

“Dear Admissions Committee,

As I begin medical school, below is a letter I envision sharing with my patients when I begin my career.
 

To My Patients:

 

Thank you so much for trusting me as your physician. I want you to know the doctor who will be giving you excellent care for a number of years, I thought I would begin our relationship by giving you a brief look at how I ended up as your doctor.
You are an amazing being. It is almost hard to comprehend how many things had to go right for you to be conceived, born, and here in front of me today. My love of medicine began when my older sister became pregnant; I was just thirteen. I read all the pregnancy books, went to ultrasound appointments, and listened intently at her prenatal visits. Not only did I enjoy the learning aspect, I loved taking care of her while her husband was at work and she was on bed rest. We grew closer as a result of the caretaker role I filled. I shaved her legs, made sure she was consuming enough calories and gave her the medications she needed to avoid preterm labor.
Ever since I could write, I have kept a journal. If you were to read my journal, you would see my gratitude for sharing life with people and hearing their stories. I believe everyone has a story to tell. This, and the fact that I was raised to respect and help others, fits seamlessly with my interest in medicine, being that a doctor connects the story of a life in need with the hope of healing.
While on a mission trip to Mexico during two of my Spring Breaks, I helped build new houses in a small village. Our team gave the people there more suitable housing and spent time playing games with their children at a nightly carnival we hosted. Here, I learned how helping a community changes the lives of both those served and those serving. My lifelong commitments to learning, listening, and serving in the world around me have taught me how valuable people are, no matter their background, economic status, or level of education.
Firm in my resolve to become a doctor, I began volunteering at a free clinic in Tulsa sponsored by OU Medical School serving those with no health insurance. One of the clinic’s goals is to improve the health status of a part of the city that has relatively poor health and low income. I love seeing the patients at Bedlam Clinic- learning from the medical students, and getting to experience different procedures and tests each time. The exposure alone is an invaluable experience I will carry with me throughout my education and practice. Each day, I leave Bedlam with a smile on my face that does not go away for hours afterward. The thought of a future continuing to see and help patients, is a true delight for me. I cannot think of anything I would rather do than be your doctor.
As a biology student, a devoted aunt of five young girls, a runner, a research lab intern, a church member, an avid reader, and a volunteer, I am used to working hard. I enjoy being busy, and maintaining a rigorous but fun routine. I thrive on learning and working with my hands, body, and mind alongside all kinds of people. Best of all, I love this journey I am on. Trials and errors, ups and downs, knee injuries and finish lines- I have learned that I am capable of more than I thought possible. In running, as in life, I have learned that going the distance leads to a better, stronger me. Taking the hard way has never led me to failure, so I will continue to live and care for patients this way.
I offer my heartfelt sympathies regarding whatever ailment is bringing you in today. I promise you my best to assist you in getting well. From my shadowing experiences, I built bonds with great doctors who, in turn, allowed me to see their bonds with their patients at a family clinic. It touched me to be privileged enough to enter these rooms. Since patients seek their doctors when something is wrong, illnesses and problems become very personal in nature. I think just being examined by a doctor makes you vulnerable. Mothers, you might bring your kids in to see me, putting their care in my hands. Sons, you might bring your beloved elderly parent in about a concern you have. The responsibility of taking on this role for you and your loved ones is something I do not take lightly.
In my pursuit of loving people, positively impacting the world around me, and eagerly seeking to grow in medical knowledge, I am privileged to call myself the physician to the best patients in the world- you.”

 
You may notice I picked a slightly different approach. I was told by a couple people mentoring me, could be pretty risky. Instead of addressing it to the admissions committee, I addressed it like a letter to my future patients. I did this because I knew it would be easier to write to “them”- my patients- about why it is I became their doctor than it would be to convince an admission committee or interviewer of all the “great” things I had done to become the best student for their medical school. It isn’t about being a medical student after all- its about the doctor you become.
In the end, to make it stand alone, I told the reader (my interviewers) that I was writing it unconventionally and explained my intended audience.
I do think that the whole thing was a risk. But the risk paid off. Plus, I’m really proud of it because I’ve never seen one like it out there.
The doctors I shadowed all said they loved it and gave excellent criticisms that I took into account and changed a few things. But what I really like about it is that I ignored some of the advice I was given and left it the way I made it so that it stayed “me”. So feel free to ignore this post if it takes the “you” out of your personal statement.
I also gave it to my mom’s coworkers (public school administrators), my professors, an OU resident I met through an OU information session that became a mentor, as well as all of my letter writers for their opinions. Some liked it, some didn’t. The best compliment I ever got was someone telling me that they wanted me to be their doctor after reading it.
This was me.
Unknown
 
Source
Both interviewers at OSU complimented me on it, but the young resident told me that he received my file the night before and read through it. (OSU told me that this is the ideal to have their interviewers read over your file the night before they interview you, which I thought was really nice). He said he read it twice and then he read it to his wife and they both loved it. He said that if every doctor felt that way about their patients, it would change the health of the world.
I encourage you all to do something creative with it! As creative as one page with all your attitudes, accomplishments, and activities can get! Who knows, it may pay off!
 

Categories
Application Process Family Medical School

AMCAS and AACOMAS

Preparations for family vacation are well underway! Since all three of us “daughters” are rarely in the same state anymore, our vacation is always more complete when everyone can go so we opted to go somewhere close while everyone is here! To the lake it is! We were going to camp but it looks like thunderstorms are in the forecast so we booked a lodge in the state park. Vacations with my nieces are the best because I get to be like a kid again. I just show up when the food is ready, eat, and then go play again. Haha!
Other than that, summer is pretty calm. I’m feeling much better, and not worrying about AMCAS, AACOMAS, letters of recommendation or anything like that like I was last summer.
To anybody who is there right now, or will be there in the next couple years-
1. I suggest staying organized. AMCAS and AACOMAS (and I’m sure the Texas application service) are organized by tabs so I always organized related papers in the same way. I had folders with tab dividers that helped a lot.
2. Print and save a copy of everything. I typed all my “activity descriptions” in a word document and saved it. That way I could email it to everyone I knew, which I did for my next tip…
3. PROOFREAD, proofread, proofread. I had several people edit over everything I submitted. That included personal statement, the CV I had to make for my premed committee letter, my activities and work experience- all of it.
4. Make “letter writer” packets- I printed a copy of my CV, my personal statement, and the AMCAS or Interfolio instructions for submitting a letter an addressed and stamped envelope just in case they decided to submit their letter that way all in a nice crisp Manila envelope with each letter writer’s name on it. I thought the extra effort and thought would look nice and make sure that they put some thought into it, since I made it look important. I also put a $5 Starbucks card inside a handwritten thank you card in with it. I didn’t want it to reflect as a bribery technique or anything but you could send it separately if you think that far ahead. My card was thanking them in advance for thinking of me to write the letter but mostly I thanked each of my letter writers for their role as a mentor in my premed career. (I sent another thank you card promptly after I saw that they had uploaded their letters). I’ve never written a letter of recommendation for anyone. Maybe most of them do consider it an honor to use their credentials to help you in your goals, but if they do a lot of them, I imagine it gets sort of hard to write something original. Plus, if you look at this way, they take time out of their busy workday to spend time doing something for you, so being overly grateful isn’t really possible. I was shadowing one of my letter writer docs one day and he actually asked me to go shadow someone else while he went to lunch and wrote my letter! He was glad to do it, but it just puts it in perspective.
5. Thank everyone who helps you. I think it’s a good habit to write handwritten thank you’s and I got a lot of practice last summer! Thank people who proofread for you, thank your mentors, thank your professors, thank your parents, etc.
6. Submit ASAP. Make sure it is complete, well-written, no mistakes, and represents YOU. Once those are checked off, don’t obsess any more about it. Just turn it in!
7. If you’re applying DO through AACOMAS, I used interfolio. It just seemed a lot more streamlined and efficient. I paid $6 for the one-year subscription and all my letters were available to OSU for as many copies as they needed, and instead of having to fret about if my letter writer sealed and sent the envelope right, on the right letterhead, etc. (The schools are rarely particular to the letter writers about how they send it anyway because they know they are busy) and they can’t bother you about it because you didn’t write it!
I feel your pain, Juniors-now-Seniors. Your apps will be in before you know it and you will be prepping for interviews!
Good luck!

Categories
Application Process Family Friends Health Life Medical School

Kids, Sickness, Hangouts, and Medical School News!

Nothing keeps me busier than when these four kiddos come to visit! The highlights of their days include Magic School Bus, fish sticks, swimming pools, playing the floor is lava, and anytime a slushy is involved. The highlight of my day is “quiet rest time” when they don’t have to nap but they have to sit still. They do funny things to get around it, like crawling very very slowly, playing “very still” tag- which turns out to be not very still at all, and repeating everything one of them says until that one person is crying. I also like helping them with their summer math and reading practice more than all of them like school combined.

IMG_2707
Summertime and the livin’ is easy

I was always much more into school than they are. Maybe because having three other siblings that close in age is more fun than anything school has to offer. I’d probably be the same way if I had had several roommates to play with. It’s a good thing that they are staying juvenile as long as possible. When I was the twins’ age, (8) I feel like I was pretty self-sufficient. I could make my favorite meal by myself, stay home by myself, and bathe myself. I want them to stay young as long as possible. Though, I do admit being an adult is a lot better. Being as independent as I was, I got frustrated a lot when I got to preteens and teen years and people were still telling me when to go to bed, and how much I could eat. With these kids though, they would eat nachos til they puke, not bathe for 6 weeks and watch TV until their eyes bleed, so I’m glad they still depend on us to take care of them.
With the kids come new germs my body is unfamiliar with so I have the beginnings of an upper respiratory infection. It always comes on the same. I wake up with a sore neck in the back, sore lymph nodes beneath my jaw and a painful throat with no cough. The second day I get an even worse sore throat, a puffy face, and a nice stream of mucus down the back of my throat that makes me not hungry and feel like I could gag at any minute.
I usually nurse one dose of Dayquil liquid for about ten minutes every 8 hours. It tastes terrible but its good at coating my throat.
Despite the oncoming full-blown infection, I went out last night to meet some future medical schools classmates. We were going to go to a minor league baseball game, but it got rained out. Instead, we watched the Thunder game at a sports bar called Leon’s. It was super loud whenever Thunder swished it, which I thought was cool. I went even though I didn’t know anyone else there. Everyone was super chill, friendly, and funny. Several guys brought their wives or girlfriends, which I thought was cool. You get to know more about people on a deeper level that way.
We met up through a Facebook group, so the joke of the evening centered around a guy on Facebook who couldn’t find where we were sitting. One guy went around the bar trying to find “Matt” who none of us knew. He asked a bunch of strangers and people that looked alone or lost. It kept getting funnier because people were walking around and people kept yelling “Are you Matt?” One person held up Matt’s Facebook profile picture and yelled, “If this is your picture, sit down!” I thought it was hilarious.
Some second years asked if I was excited to start with a skeptical look on their face. I told them I knew it was going to get scary really fast but that I really was ready to meet everyone and see what its like. I do still want my FULL summer first, though!
We also talked about where we were when we got “the call”. I think its something that everyone remembers. One guy said he was at work at a clinic and his boss was a doctor so he let him answer let him leave early too. Mine was during class. I stepped out for a minute and called OSU back after I got the missed call. Unable to stop smiling or silently shrieking, I ran back into class and yelled to everyone that I just got into medical school. It was a good moment.
Speaking of getting into medical school. I got an email this morning that I have made it off of the wait list into OU med. It was surprisingly uneventful. Having already made so many plans at OSU, I entertained the idea of actually going to OU for about 3 minutes total, (but man those mods are nice). I’m happy and proud that a great school like that would offer me a spot, but ultimately it came down to a technicality.
Getting an interview somewhere means you are qualified to go to the school. Getting on the wait list means that your arbitrary “score” with the interview considered wasn’t high enough to get an outright offer of admission. Basically it means that you didn’t completely blow your interview, but they aren’t ready to let you in in case they can get someone “better” in their sense of the word.
Getting off the wait list just means that enough of their “preferred” people have accepted offers elsewhere, so they’ll “allow” me in more or less.
It was different for me at OSU. I felt valued as an applicant from the moment I started dealing with OSU. Like they were saying “Thank you for considering us,” to me. And when I was wait listed, I still got a personal phone call and was welcomed to send them updates on what I was doing. Then, I found out that like dating- OSU wanted me to want them too. (My physician mentor that’s an OSU alum looked at my file, saying that I applied to OU. Since they figured I would get in there too and pick there, they didn’t make me an immediate offer.) So I sent in a “letter of intent”, and a week later I got in.
 
It’s a shame that something this important to my life comes down to games like this that both OU and OSU play. But that’s the way it goes.
Maybe I’m too prideful to accept the offer from OU when I seemed to be a second rate choice. Regardless of the reason at the heart of it, I know I’d have a good time suffering for four years at either school. Like so many other things in life, it comes down to it being what you make of it. I’m sticking with OSU, though, because it already feels like home.
 

Categories
Application Process Medical School Medicine

My Second Medical School Interview

I woke up this morning and felt like writing, so I’m going to get this doozy out of the way. I’ve been meaning to do it for a while- since I wrote this post about my first interview back at the beginning of April.
I’m struggling a little bit with how to write this, because I want to be honest. For me, this wasn’t as positive of an interview. I feel like I said the right things, and I didn’t colossally screw up. It was just not a great experience for me. That’s an opinion. It’s how I personally feel about what happened. It is a really great school. It just isn’t the school.
My second and final interview was at OU.
Unknown
 
Source
Again, I went to bed early the night before. Also like the first time I woke up ready to get it over with.
I distinctly remember getting to the medical park- which includes seven post graduate healthcare profession schools, a few hospitals, many research institutes, student unions, etc- and not having a clue where to go. I wandered aimlessly, thinking showing up 15 minutes before required was plenty of time.
Two minutes later, when I found where I was supposed to be, I also found I was the underachiever of the bunch. I was one of the last ones to get my name tag and my packet.
The panic that was assuaged when I got to my first interview and discovered I was one and the same with my fellow interviewees, was exacerbated when I got to this interview  and discovered I was not one of these people.
First of all, there were too many of us to count. Secondly, many of them it seemed were non-traditional students (which can be intimidating on interview day, to a kid that has never had a meaningful job in here life). They had briefcases and stilettos. I had a water bottle and flats.
After letting us mingle in the lobby, they sent us into one of the main lecture halls and told us about the school, the campus, and the selection process. We were divided into groups. Some people went to their interview first, some went on a tour, some went to see the skills lab, and some talked about the online lecture system with the med students. I was in the group that got a tour first and then my interview.
My group’s tour guides were wonderful. They were easy to get along with and answered a ton of questions. That was soothing to me; that when everyone wasn’t in interview clothes and all high-strung and nervous, I felt like I could fit in with the type of students OU has. The children’s hospital is gorgeous and inspiring and it made me want to be a doctor right away. The entire medical campus has like 548960958 places for faculty and patients to eat, which was cool. (I will be eating soft pretzels everyday from Quiktrip a mile down the road from where I am going).
At my interview, I waited outside for the last group to finish for what seemed like forever. Finally the door opened and I was introduced to a female family doc, a fourth year male med student, and an ancient male plastic surgeon. They asked me about myself. I struggled to mention a few adjective that described me and then I decided that saying I was “diligent” meant nothing to them so I went on to say what it is I like to do. When I mentioned that I have five nieces and grabbed my necklace with their initials, the family doc wanted to see the necklace, and she put her hand on my shoulder. Boom, I liked her. We were connected. From then on, she was on my side. The med student and I had a mutual friend. Bam, connection. These two people asked me questions that were easy to answer, fed me prompts so I knew which direction they were looking for, and understood the answers I was going for.
The plastic surgeon, not so much. I had no common ground with him. He asked me odd questions where I wasn’t sure what he was getting at. We started discussing Shawnee. He mentioned the casino there and asked me if I had ever been. I said “No, I have not”. He asked, “Are you against gambling? Do you gamble?”  To me, those are two different questions and both are irrelevant to obtaining a medical education.
I said, “No I do not gamble, not necessarily for any other reason than that I don’t think it sounds fun. Am I against gambling? No, not particularly, though it does cause some difficulties for those that do gamble so its not always wise.” Blah blah blah. I knew I was rambling. I had no direction because I wasn’t sure where to go or what he was wanting.
The other bothersome question he asked me was about medicine at least. He asked if I see a patient- and am completely unable to help them, I just send them home, would I charge them for their visit. I said, “What do you mean, unable to help them?” He said, “You provided no services and no care because you did not know what was wrong.” I said, “I’m not sure that I would see that as an acceptable visit. I would do something else to figure out what was wrong, refer them to someone, do some labs; but, if I really did not do anything for them, no I would not charge them.”
He wrote something down on his paper and I wanted to scream. WHAT WAS HE AFTER? The family doc offered some verbal buffer because she could tell I was confused. I wanted to know what was wrong with the hypothetical patient I couldn’t help and why I was so incompetent to not help them. The plastic surgeon asked the medical student what he would say. The med student said he would charge for it. The plastic surgeon said “You see, when medical students come in their first and second years, over half usually say that they wouldn’t charge them. But third and fourth year students and practicing physicians learn that a doctor’s time is worth a great deal more than you’d think even if a service isn’t provided. At my practice- just making someone an appointment when they show up and sit it my waiting room, it costs me $257 in overhead. So when a woman comes in and asks me if I mole is cancerous and I look at it and say no and send her on her way, I charge her for it.”
Ahhhh. I see now. Relief. He didn’t care what I said. I thought to myself.
I was a part of his own personal survey project of testing-the-naive-little-pre-doctor-on-her-lack-of-jadedness-and-isn’t-she-so-cute-with-her-ignorance.
I called him on it. I told him that the mole scenario was a different story than the situation he gave me. If the woman made an appointment to see if her mole was harmful, she was paying for a professional opinion, even if it just meant she was getting peace of mind. In that case, yes, I would charge her. I also stuck to my guns and said that in the first situation he gave me, where I was literally unable to do anything for a patient, I do not see it as correct to charge her if I just send her home.
OU has a partial blind interview. Halfway through, after they “get to know you” (in fifteen minutes), you step out and they look at your numbers- MCAT and GPA.
I stepped out and my medical student tour guide talked to me about how it was going, assured me that I had a right to be here and to be proud of my grades and MCAT- after all, I was here. She said that they have already determined my grades to be good enough to go here, that they just want to hear my side. With a little bit of comfort, I went back in.
MCAT first. Plastic surgeon said, “If you had taken your MCAT again do you think you could have done better?” “Yes.”
“It says Physics is your lowest subscore and you also have a poorer grade in physics on your transcript.”
“Yeah, Physics is definitely not my strong suit. But, I did improve my Physics subscore and brought up my physics grade by a letter grade in between physics 1 and physics 2. I just had to buckle down and learn how to study.”
“You won’t be able to go into orthopedics or plastic surgery without an understanding of physics. Those specialties require an understanding of structures and straight lines and connections.”
Me, not too heartbroken or swayed by one man’s opinion of the medical importance of physics, “Ok, I’ll keep that in mind.”
Med student pipes up. “Do you feel like you did your best?”
“Um, that’s difficult question. At the time I felt like I was giving it my all. Looking back though, I can always see ways in which I could have done things differently to improve.”
Plastic surgeon “Your GPA is a little low, would you be worried coming in to OU that you would fall behind?”
“Not at all. My ‘low’ GPA is due to a couple of classes that are required for medical school to show you can do the work. If you look at the semester where I took 4 biologically relevant LAB science classes all at once and got straight A’s, you will see that Anatomy, M&C, Physiology, Genetics, etc do not deter me. PILE THEM ON, I LOVE THOSE COURSES.
Yes, I said “pile them on”. And my biggest fans smiled. Plastic surgeon did not. Plastic surgeon thinks Physics is of paramount importance because he got an A in it in 1842 when he took it and there was only one chapter.
Other questions:
What has been your most meaningful volunteer experience and why?
In your shadowing, have you ever seen a patient that stuck with you emotionally, why?
Where else did you apply?
After my interview, we had lunch and did the rest of the touring/rotations. They had baked cod, salad, and mashed sweet potatoes, which I though was weird. All I ate were rolls and cookies.
I was emotionally drained by the end of the day. And starving. I felt proud that I had answered the “grades” questions with conviction and told plastic surgeon off, sort of.
But, I didn’t like that I had a naysayer. Nobody likes a naysayer. I didn’t like the huge impersonal environment, where I would get lost. I was upset. At the time I was still on the wait list at OSU and so much was unknown. I was afraid that if I didn’t get in to OSU and did get into OU (unlikely) that I would have to go to OU and wouldn’t like it.
Thankfully, it all worked out in the end, as it always does.
 

Categories
Application Process Growing Up Medical School Medicine

My First Medical School Interview

I mentioned here that I hate interviews.
Applying to medical school is a funny thing because a lot things are very personal, (GPA, MCAT) but everyone wants to know how you’re doing. Vague answers usually get you by- but now that I’m in- knowing that in a lot of ways (test scores) I’m very average and that, in the end, it was enough- I don’t care who knows what. So I might as well maybe help someone know what to expect, or explain more fully to my loved ones what it was like for me.
Now it all feels wimpy because I’ve lived to survive the tale. But when you’re in it, its very scary and it definitely feels like a strange, stressful torture in the weeks, days and minutes leading up to it.
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My interview with the school I’m going to was my first interview and I had it pretty early in the interview season (Nov. 1). In the two week notice I had leading up to it, I somehow got through my classes in a blur because most of my energy was focused on panicking. I had several legitimate panic attacks, spent hours on the internet searching interview questions and their proper answers, and spent even longer awake in bed at night imagining different scenarios in my head instead of sleeping. I asked my family and friends to ask me practice questions, but I would get so worked up that I had to stop practicing a couple of days before I went to the interview. I took a lot of walks to calm down.
Why was it so scary?
Well, first of all, the entire application process is torture. So its all scary. You go into every new wave of premed, slowly going up the ranks, wondering what new form of cruel and unusual punishment awaits you.
Secondly, I heard somewhere that getting an interview means that a spot in the class is “yours to lose”.
Yikes.
Looking back, I was way too worked up. But being a Type A, I had to be doing something to prepare and sometimes thinking about it feels more productive than not thinking about it. It was also extremely scary to think about all my studying, years of work, volunteering, and worrying coming down to a 30 minute conversation. It almost felt insulting that it was all reduced to resting on this one interview.
The night before my interview, I went home, ate a good dinner, shut off my computer, set out my clothes, (complete with knee-high stockings, bleh) and took a Benadryl at 8:30PM. That was the best thing I could have done for myself, honestly. I slept like a baby. I woke up rested and ready to go. Nervous? Yeah. Excited? Yes. Ready for it to finally be over? Definitely.
Once in the building, they escorted me into a conference room where there were beverages and 6 other nervous applicants. They were all boys my age! (ahem, men). I was the only girl. Suddenly, looking at these other guys my age, it occurred to me- I‘M THE SAME AS THEM! They have the same amount of training, we are all equally qualified. Heck, if I went to school with them, I could have easily been friends with them. I guess maybe I was expecting to walk into a room full of intimidating doctors, because that’s how unqualified I felt to be there. So, once that all set in, I realized that I had a right to be there. I deserve to be here, I thought.
The dean of admissions introduced herself and the recruiters and talked for about 30 minutes. I don’t think any of the applicants could tell you what she said. They divided us into three interview sessions, I was in group B at 10:30. So I had to sit there fidgeting and making small talk with the other guys for 2 hours. They let us be, though, and I was grateful for that. I texted my doctor mentor who used to teach there and told him my interviewers names. He assured me that they were both very nice, gave me some encouragement and told me to try to enjoy the experience. Bless that man.
I worked the previous summer in a lab upstairs and my boss came and visited me too. Both of those moments soothed me a lot. I don’t remember much else. Except that my stomach started growling about 15 minutes before my interview and so I choked down a granola bar in my purse because if my stomach growled audibly during my interview, I was certain that I would absolutely just die.
These thoughts I’m having, the events that transpired that day, how many times I peed that morning, none of these things are things that I thought the holy medical student, much less a doctor, would have as they were interviewing to become said doctor. But more and more I’m realizing that I have immortalized the career as unattainable and even other medical students are not as human as I am. Their stomachs don’t growl. They don’t listen to Jesse McCartney or watch Spongebob. Then I pinch myself and realize that I’m one of them. But, I’m just a kid. I don’t have an ever-loving clue. Well America, we are your medical students now! God bless us all.
Anyway, I was introduced to my two interviewers. An older guy that works as a clinical psychologist. And a younger pediatric resident. I shook their hands, told them that yes,”Andi” was preferable to Andrea, “thank you for asking” and sat down.
The resident halted the interview at once and said, “Before we get started, I just wanted to commend you on your personal statement. It was extremely mature, well-written, and unique. I read it twice myself and once to my wife. She liked it too.”
Be still, my heart.
The psychologist then asked me to tell him what I do for fun. Wait, what? “I don’t have fun.” Was my first thought. I told him I run, cook, and I have 5 nieces that I love spending time with.”
The resident piped in a answered half that question for me. He said “It looks like you have a lot of church and volunteer activities too, is that something you do for fun.” I said that yes, I was very happy about all the opportunities I’ve had to help others and travel and it’s become an important point of maintaining perspective from school work I genuinely love it.
It was at this point I realized I did not have control over this interview. My interviewers were charming, kind, genuinely interested, and eloquent. They treated me as an equal and I became all of those things as well. God had this. I never had anything to do with it.
Some other questions they asked:

  • Why do you think being a D.O. is something you want to do?
  • Why do you think OSU is a good fit for you?
  • How do you relieve stress?
  • What would you do if you had a patient that had a problem that you could treat, but was not compliant and would not listen to you?
  • What has been your most meaningful medical experience and why?

It was very conversational, and my interviewers would interject their own thoughts and agree with me or add something to my answer. I felt like I belonged there being colleagues with them. I went 15 minutes over my allotted interview time. A lady had to come in and drag me out. I shook their hands again, they smiled genuinely at me and I smiled genuinely back. I really could have talked to them all day. My boss was waiting for me outside the room again because I was on his floor. He asked me if I threw up on them. I laughed, grateful that he was there, and shared my first breath of relief with a familiar face. It was nice. I was happy.
I’ve been so used to looking like an idiot in front of my professors, that this new-found confidence and equally-yoked conversation about medicine struck my fancy quite well.
The rest of the day, I was much more relaxed. We did a tour. They demonstrated their simulation patients for us, and we had lunch with some medical students. By the end of the day I was tired. I was ready to go home, wipe off my polite poker face and squeal about how well it went to my mom and dad.
Some tips:
1) You’re going to be nervous. Just know that you are going to be nervous and try to learn how to best present “you” when nervous.
2) Prepare for the questions you think they’ll ask. But quit a couple days before because you’ll just freak out about everything you don’t have a perfect answer to.
3) One thing I regret is how private my classmates and I were about our experiences applying. Like I said, for some reason, scores and interview offers are very personal and every individual journey into medical is very different. Perhaps for jealousy or competition reasons but it doesn’t have to be that way. Find someone else going through it to talk about it with! It helps to talk about it. It keeps your worrying thoughts from going to “the dark place” when you can bounce them off of someone else out loud.
4) Sleep good the night before, even if you have to take something.
5) Enjoy the experience! Its not everyday, you get to be considered for something so prestigious.
6) When asked a question, its okay to take a breath. Pausing before answering sounds a lot better than blurting something out or taking several different paths throughout your answer to end up where you wanted.