Monthly Archives: September 2013

Careful What You Read

So I probably did not fail my exam today. That’s as certain as I can be. Only a few more weeks before we launch into Anatomy, where I anticipate that things will start to get a little crazier. Good news: the anatomy course is “streamlined” and “redesigned” this year. I should hope so, since the last time they “updated” it was back in the 1990’s.

This is the follow up to “The World is Hilarious and Sad”. I talked about a few current events, but left out a glaring one that had happened not a day before. This is (probably) old news by now (three days later), but I will use it to make a few points. In an effort to keep this post both trendy and technologically advanced(ha!), here’s a iPhone pic of USA Today’s cover the day after the shooting.

Image

Notice the quote there at the top? That’s some excellent journalism right there!

Mass shootings like this are just about guaranteed to get people actively all wound up about guns, violence, drugs, religion, “kids these days” or whatever else they see as the main factor involved in the shooting. In every single case, they are wrong. This is an instance of over-simplification, people seeing what they want in an issue and using it to further their cause. As tragic as all of these shootings are, they will be used shortly afterwards for political/economic/social gain. Anyone who claims to have a “magic bullet” solution for these mass shootings is seriously misinformed.

So let’s look at some of these silly ideas. The most obvious fight is the “guns are the problem” people versus the “everyone should have guns” people. One side believes guns to be the very tools of Satan, and the other side carries their gun EVERYWHERE because they can and they like to. So here’s the funny thing about guns and violence. Ready? It’s been decreasing a lot. Since 1995.

Yup. Weird. My observant readers will notice that this graph cuts off at 2005, and argue that it goes up after the graph ends. Not true. It’s down even more after 2005. That same data shows that gun violence accounts for 5-8% of all violent crime. I should point out that the more violent crimes are often shootings, but they are not alone in that category. Bombings and mass stabbings are also capable of producing large numbers of fatalities. What those numbers mean is that if we could somehow eliminate every gun from the world, we would see a 5-8% reduction in violent crime. Lame. Hence the problem with gun control support. What do you do with the millions of existing guns? Why impose new laws on people intent on breaking them anyway? Another strong point against that argument is the fact that these events are often stopped/averted by other people with guns, and these events are less prominently reported. Also, guns are pretty cool.

Even Obama thinks so. By the way, this photo has some hilarious photoshopped copies floating around the internet. Just saying.

So the guns aren’t the problem. The next thing people will talk about with our latest shooting is probably violent video games. This most recent shooter played Call of Duty, because he was a guy with an Xbox. It is very tempting to correlate violent video games with violent behavior, but it’s lazy and ill-founded to do so. Why? Here’s one reason. In a recent presentation, the CEO of Activision boasted that around 10 million people per day play Call of Duty. That number jumps up to 40 million people who play it once a month. That’s a ton of people playing a video game (or doing anything, really). If a hundredth of a percent of those daily gamers (a fantastically small portion, .01%) ended up being violent shooters, that’s like 1,000 people. There haven’t been that many mass shootings in the last few decades put together. Video games didn’t really exist until the early to mid-1990’s, when the industry really took off. Does that correlate with increased gun violence? Nope. In fact, the graph above shows that gun violence drops hard right at that same time. Weird. I think a better assumption is that Call of Duty (or video games in general) helps stop these events from happening by giving people a virtual outlet for real world problems. Also, non-gamers would probably be surprised at the extend to which video game skill does NOT cross over to firing an actual weapon(full disclosure: I’m quite good at Call of Duty, and lucky to hit the earth in real life).

What about religion? That’s another hot topic. Terrorist attacks have brought attention to Islamic fundamentalists. The Columbine shooters were not religious (as far as I know), and the Naval Yard shooter was Buddhist. Yup. While commonly seen as a peaceful religion (most people think of the fat Buddha statue meditating), some Buddhists just wrapped up a decade long civil war in 2009. No one would suspect Buddhism of turning out shooters, however.

Those are a few of the issues that stir the greatest controversy, but we are still missing some factors that make a huge difference. Here’s a common thread no one wants to talk about: mental illness. In nearly every shooting I can think of, the shooter exhibited a form of depression, substance abuse, or personality disorder. Our public health system is underfunded and poorly equipped to take care of the Adam Lanzas in this country. What about the link with drugs and medication? How about the fact that the perpetrator often gets a temporary spotlight? That may be a motivating factor for those who are trying to make a point. What if we shifted coverage from documenting every aspect of the shooters life and motivation to extensive reporting on the victims, their families, and those who survived? What about all of the “almost shootings”, like this and this and this? Let’s learn from these cases that could have happened and figure out how to stop the next one.

There will be a next one. It may happen in the next few weeks, and it will certainly happen again in the next year. When it does, all of these issues will raise their ugly heads. The news will get it wrong, but hopefully we continue to learn and improve our efforts to stop these events from happening.

If you’re reading this, maybe I earned a like? As always, I welcome your feedback in the comments or directly at sortadrwordpress@gmail.com

Thanks for reading!

The World Is Hilarious and Sad

NOTE: It’s been a week since my last post. My bad.

I made an honest attempt at reading my entire inbox today. I get exactly 3 million emails a day on my medical school email, as well as a surprising amount of emails on my undergrad email (which I am slowly cutting off) and my personal email. Having gone most of the weekend without checking any of those accounts, then not catching up during Monday and Tuesday, I finally made an effort to catch up. See, while a majority of the emails I get are blasted to my entire class, and are mostly advertisements for events, classes, socials, etc, there are a few IMPORTANT emails that have to be detected. So I missed the one telling me NOT to come to my small group workshop today because the faculty member was sick. Just great.

So, faced with an unexpected afternoon off, I had several options. The most logical choice would be attempting to catch up on the library of biochemical pathways thrown at us during lecture this week, in a last ditch effort to pass Friday’s quiz. More attractive options included going home and sleeping, perhaps later followed by a run. Instead, I found myself reading the newspaper on a bench, enjoying the gorgeous weather outside today. While I may be a millennial, I do have this habit of reading the newspaper every single day (especially the comics and crossword). And so, ironically, I am more caught up on current events than I am lecture material, a situation medical students rarely find themselves in.

This happens all the time, actually

While I have the same chance of beating the average on Friday’s quiz that the Jaguars do of beating the Seahawks on Sunday (less than zero, for my non-NFL readers), there’s a lot going on outside the walls of my medical school that is ridiculous/tragic/interesting enough for me comment on. I promise this will be interesting even if you don’t follow the news or current events.

Let’s start small. My medical school is hosting a “poverty simulator” in a few weeks (I actually read that email). Some faculty noticed that most medical students have no experience living in poverty or low-income situations. Really? Gee, who could have known that a bunch of 20-somethings attending a private medical school likely came from middle class families? I picked up on that in my first week of medical school, before I even knew where the cafeteria was. To help us gain empathy for those with lower income, we will do a simulation where we have to pay bills, find childcare, contact agencies, and arrange transportation to a job (as well as maybe finding a job) based on scenarios that are given to us. So how long does the scenario last? 60-90 minutes. The sad part is that many patients in our city are living in poverty, but the best our school can do to help us learn to help them is a 90 minute class on a Friday morning with free breakfast. I’ve spent enough time in free clinics and outreach centers to know that there’s more to poverty than a lecture, but I will still probably go because there will be free food.

Next topic. There was much discussion among my iPad wielding friends last week about a certain article published in the New York Times by one Vladimir Putin. While many were impressed at the open tone of the article, I found it hilariously hypocritical and misleading. He references our alliance during World War 2 as if we were pals back then. We may have been allies, but we certainly weren’t friends. Allies of convenience, if anything, but mostly we shared a common enemy. He also references that the conflict in Syria is fueled by “foreign weapons”. And just who could possibly be supplying weapons to Syria? Who gets implicated every time North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, or other unfriendly countries begin acquiring weapons? RUSSIA! Despite this article, we are not friends with Russia. Period. The list goes on, but I will cut to the chase.

He makes one last point that will help me transition to the broader context of this article. He says that it is “dangerous” to encourage any people to consider themselves exceptional. Specifically, he means the idea of “American Exceptionalism”. In my mind that’s an adjective, not a theory. To argue that we aren’t exceptional is a little bit silly. Everything we have done in the last 100 years has been exceptional. We put men on the moon, won a bunch of wars, and provided the driving force for progress in science, medicine, technology, and civilization as we know it. Even things we do poorly are done horrifically. Not only are we the fattest country in the world, we are getting fatter FASTER than any country in the world. Not only are we spending our money quickly, we are spending MORE AND MORE money FASTER than other countr- you get the idea. Even Assad himself said in 2009 that there was “no substitute for the United States of America”. True story. There are very few countries in the world that can blow something up anywhere in the world in less than 24 hours, and no countries that could spend more money doing it.

When you step back even more is when it gets even weirder. It becomes more and more obvious that Obama is terrible at foreign policy. This second term has caused him to wade into the shallow end of international diplomacy, and he is already in way over his head. I like to think of his strategy lately as “leading from somewhere”. First, he declares that we will certainly do something about Syria. Then, he decides to ask Congress first (reversing a 150 year old precedent). Then, when he goes to Britain for help, they say no. Mind you, this is the first time since 1782 that Parliament has said no when the government asked for a declaration of war. That’s crazy! England has a long history of invading countries because there wasn’t anything good on TV.

The countries in red are ones that have NOT been invaded by England

The next step of hilarity came when an accidental remark turned into serious policy. Kerry (or maybe his hair) mentioned that Syria could just give up the weapons, and suddenly Assad (and suspiciously Russia) seemed ok with it. What? What? Since when has any country ever stockpiled illegal weapons against international law, then decided to just “give them away”. What is going on?

That’s really the crux of the issue. There’s a lot happening here that we don’t know. Lots of the intelligence is classified, and so the reasons that various governments have for making their decisions can’t always be public. It’s in situations like this where we need to be able to trust the people we elected to weather this storm and protect our interests. The problem is that I don’t trust Obama. I have seen enough in his last five years to doubt his motives and ability to handle a situation like this. If he would have appeared on the news in June to announce that Syria was stockpiling chemical weapons and we knew it, so we went in and blew them up, I could have supported that. I could also have supported a similar press conference two weeks ago where he explains that we won’t blow anything up in Syria, but that we will be watching closely and actively working to confiscate the weapons. I have a hard time supporting whatever Obama is trying to do right now. Side note: Putin used to be the director of the KGB, which is a nastier, meaner version of our CIA. Obama was a community organizer in Chicago. Who do you think will out maneuver the other?

Well that went longer than expected….and I’m not even done. If you are still reading this, perhaps I earned a like? Tune in later today for the rest of this long post.

I love this show.

What is Happening?

As I sit in my comfiest chair with sweet tea on the table next to me and no class until tomorrow (yes, I am done at noon today), I can’t help but marvel at what a glorious week of medical school this has been. After miraculously beating the average on the last exam (despite spending hours doing house projects with my wife), this week has been cake. A main focus has been epidemiology and biostatistics, which sounds hard, but really it’s just common sense with a little bit of math thrown in. There have been a few Cell Biology/Metabolism lectures thrown in, but we have covered a fraction of the material I was expecting. The rest of the time has been taken up with optional small group exercises (nope), clinical skills groups (already done), and sessions on our non-optional electives.

Ah yes, electives. Electives are courses you want to take, right? I took some in undergrad, like swimming, wine tasting, etc. Not in medical school. My university has decreed that between now and April, we will occasionally be given an afternoon off to pursue our individual interests, so long as we are interested specifically in their University sponsored electives. A quick glance at the offerings is not encouraging. Research, while helpful, has so few spots that 4% of our class will fill it up. Some bogus options include an online Sexual Health and Gender Studies course, which isn’t actually accredited, but somehow counts as an elective, as well as the ridiculous and potentially hilarious seminar called “Acting Like A Doctor”. There are some other electives that involve health literacy advocacy, disparity in health outcomes, and even lobbying stuff for local legislation.

I should be fair and say that there are some legitimately good options here. For example, I would enjoy tutoring immigrant high school students in math and science. I have a strong background in tutoring and really enjoy it, so a position like that sounds great. Unfortunately, the good options are so few that they will be gone faster than the Jimmy John’s turkey sandwiches at a lunch meeting. I should also mention that the popular electives are filled by lottery. I have a pretty solid history of never winning anything that involves luck, so that rules me out of any good lottery electives.

My last hope, of course, is the vague and potentially awesome “Self-Designed Electives”. I have a few ideas that fit nicely with my interests, as well as the reasons I will be using to encourage their approval.

1) Gainful Employment – In the interests of not being broke, I would like to utilize this time to make money, so that I can put gas in my car and drive to school every day of the week. I have worked enough places in the past that I could likely find a job near my house. I could probably tutor local undergrad and high school students as well (I already hope to do this on the side, I could just do a lot more on my afternoons off- I mean “doing electives”)

2) Self Designed Study – Effects of consistent napping on memory retention. In this individual study I will compare my ability to study with or without a nap. My controls will be every day that isn’t elective day, when I study without a nap. On elective days I will nap (they recommend spending at least 4 hours per day on your elective) for at LEAST 4 hours, then see if I am able to recall more material after studying. I have to admit, this sounds like an ideal elective.

It also sounds vaguely scientific.

3) Dietary Education in the Community – In this activity (which would probably require funding), I would spend time in the community gathering information that would directly enhance the lives of my classmates. Specifically, I would eat at multiple local restaurants and determine which places serve great food. Because there are so many restaurants in this city, this elective could potentially last for two years, if the funding is there.

4) Writing and Self Development – In this elective, I take entire afternoons to not study. Instead, I could write for my readers on this blog, work on my book, and develop my self. This sounds pretty great, especially if my book were more than a 20 page Word Document and a notebook of scribbled ideas. Oh well.

On a more serious note, I will probably find a decent elective and do something productive. Hopefully.

What does everyone think of the design here? My very talented brother in-law helped me design it, and I think it’s awesome. If you also think it’s awesome, let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

So You Have A Blog

Note: I am actually writing this from a “microscopy lab”. Don’t let the name fool you. I haven’t looked through a single microscope since undergrad (thank God). I believe the actual lab room is being used by “other people” (according to our rulers), so we all sit in the lecture hall and watch a recording of our professor looking through a teaching microscope while teaching last years class. This process is as hilariously ineffective as you imagine it to be. In addition, the video isn’t buffering today, so we get to watch it in 30 second intervals and then wait a few minutes for it to load. Awesome. And I almost studied from home today!

So some of you reading this have your own blog. Others don’t, at least yet, but every single person that reads this has a Facebook, I bet. We all maintain this “online presence” that is a bit like our public personality. When applying for jobs, scholarships, or residencies, you can bet that people will be looking you up on Facebook, Twitter, and simply Googling your name to see if anything nefarious comes up. When I was applying to medical school I was urged to “clean up” my Facebook page (which is private), getting rid of bad pictures, deleting posts, and making myself look better in case anyone came snooping. I didn’t have to clean anything up (because I am generally not a prolific Facebooker), but I know some friends that needed to do some “editing”.

Fact is, anything posted on the internet will be there forever, and may someday come back to haunt you. The most obvious way to avoid this is to carefully filter what you put on the internet, and to avoid doing something dumb and unintentionally starring in a YouTube video.

But what if you have a blog? Blog posts are inherently one dimensional. After I post this it will exist forever, exactly as I left it, and people will run across this post as time goes by (hello future readers!). Any opinions I express are recorded for all time, and are made readily available for anyone curious enough to do some reading.

If you have a blog it may be personal. You have friends and family that follow it, and you post pictures of your friends, family, pets, and life events. That’s probably fine, but that’s not what this blog is. I prefer to hide behind a small veil of anonymity. I enjoy the freedom to mock my school, classmates, and otherwise write whatever I want. In order to maintain that I try to be generally vague about myself. If someone REALLY wanted to find me, they probably could. One could pick pieces of information and put together a fairly accurate picture about myself. And that’s okay. I’m cool with the fact that no one is truly anonymous on the internet. That’s it for this mini-post (short and no pictures. oops)

Thanks for reading!

Decision Time (Eventually)

I have thoroughly enjoyed this last weekend. My wife is here full time now, sort of, and after taking the exam on Friday there wasn’t much to study over the weekend. We did tackle a disgusting project, however. My office/study area had blue wallpaper that was poorly applied, and so it was peeling all over the place. We peeled it off, only to find more wallpaper underneath. And so we kept scraping and peeling wallpaper, and kept finding more disgusting layers underneath. The last layer was an especially ugly floral print that was probably put up when the house was built 60 years ago. Here’s a picture to demonstrate some of the ridiculous patterns we discovered.

Photo: Five layers and six decades of style later, we have finally reached the last layer of wallpaper.

Over the weekend and during the aforementioned wallpaper scraping, I was giving some thought to the future. Who will win in the first week of the NFL? When, as my sister asked me, will my wife and I go back home to visit? Have I forgotten to do anything before class next week? When can I eat at Chick-fil-a again? (Monday, actually. They are giving away free breakfast all week next week. True story)

One of the more serious things I have been thinking about is choosing a specialty. Asking someone’s potential specialty in medical school is like asking about someone’s major in college. It’s an easy question to ask because it’s a task we share in common. Also, while everyone thinks they know what they want to do as a freshman, most people inevitably change their minds, sometimes several times. Also, we don’t exactly get to pick and choose due to Step 1 and the match. Regardless, it’s something that’s been on my mind. I have jokingly seen this graphic several places now:

And so I am writing this initial post as a baseline. I want to look back in four years, as I start residency (that should frighten you, knowing that I will treat actual patients and prescribe things in just four years). I want to be able to look back at my past self, read what I thought my plans were, and then laugh at my past self. For tagging purposes and organization, I have invented a scoring system for each specialty, which I shall call the HLAITDTFTROMLH score (How Likely Am I To Do This For The Rest Of My Life?) The scale is either 1-10, with 1 being never ever, and 10 being pretty sure. Ready? Here we go.

Radiology: 1ish. Despite being afraid of the dark (see chart above), I can be reasonably certain that I would go insane as a radiologist. My reasons for getting into medicine had a lot to do with patients and not so much to do with imaging. While the hours, pay, and lifestyle seem fairly nice, I would probably slowly trade in my sanity until someone invents a robot to read images and I get fired.

Pathology: 1ish. I draw on four years of bouncing my legs and tapping my toes, impatiently waiting to get out of ______ lab during undergrad for this rating. I do not enjoy bench work, and probably never will. This specialty is so unappealing to me I almost forgot to include it on the list.

Pediatrics: 2ish. While I can’t rule this out completely, it’s not high on the list right now. It’s not that I don’t dislike kids (SO many negatives in that sentence), it’s the parents I couldn’t handle. Just kidding!! Anyways, I have a very hard time seeing myself in any pediatrics field, even when I try really hard to imagine myself wearing a bow tie (just kidding again…sort of)

Internal Medicine/ General Surgery: 3ish. This is more of a practical decision. I would go do IM if I decided to go into primary care. I would not do general surgery, simply because it seems terrible in every way. Realistically, I think I have a good enough chance at getting into a sub-specialty, which is more appealing in many ways that IM/Surg. We’ll see.

Emergency Medicine: 5-6 or so. I trained as an EMT during undergrad, spending significant time on the ambulance and in the ER, and it was definitely a rush. I see definite benefits in shift work, pay, and salary (lifestyle stuff, I suppose), but there are serious downsides in the high burnout rate, night shift work, and no real patient follow up.

Sports Medicine 6.5. I have attended two sports medicine meetings so far, and have found them very helpful. I would enjoy working with high school/college athletes, professionals, and weekend warriors. There are lots of opportunities for operative/non-operative practices, as well as academic/private practices. Very interesting.

Ortho/Surgical Subspecialty: 8. This is a broad field, but there are tons of options here. The idea of surgical care is appealing to me because it gives me the chance to fix a tangible problem. I’m a problem solver by nature, and the idea of direct intervention is VERY appealing to me. I like the idea of “fixing” something. One downside I see to IM is treating patients with chronic conditions, adjusting medications, etc.

Orthopedics is high on the list due to a doctor I shadowed during undergrad. He worked hard, but had fun and had a better lifestyle than other surgeons I shadowed. This would also give me the ability to treat some of that athlete/adolescent population from sports med (as well as geriatrics). This is a specialty that seems worth a 5-6 year residency.

There are some other fields I will be learning more about in the coming weeks. For example, I became interested in plastic surgery after reading a book about Harold Gillies, one of the pioneers of plastic surgery. Oncology is a double edged sword. On one hand, if I went in to oncology I would likely be part of a revolution in cancer treatment and care. On the other hand, it would be a difficult field, and one where my patients would frequently lose their battles against cancer.

That’s where I am at right now. The decision will partially make itself. At the end of my second year, I will take Step 1. If my score isn’t high enough, I can go ahead and rule out the really competitive specialties. Should I match into ortho, for example, I will probably find some niche that I particularly enjoy and pursue that. I can’t know that now. For the next two years my best course of action is to get good grades on my tests and go to free lunches to learn as much as I can, so that when the time comes to make a decision I’m not limited by poor scores or by a lack of knowledge about my options. Plus….free lunch 🙂

Thanks for reading!

How to Not Get Into Medical School

Since I have an exam tomorrow, it is natural to assume that I am doing lots of things that are not studying. We were given the entire day off to prepare for this exam, and I have managed maybe 4-5 hours of actual studying today. The rest I spent distracted for no reason, or helping my wife with stuff around the house. Now I’m writing, soon to go for a run, and maybe at some point study again.

I do want to touch on a topic that I think many people wonder, especially pre-meds that stumble onto this blog in the future. Also, I get asked this all the time by friends I made during undergrad that have been doing their AMCAS over the last summer. As an undergrad, I wanted to know how to get into medical school, and I wanted it straight from the source: the medical students. I figured that because they got in, they must have it figured out.

Then I got accepted into medical school and realized the truth. While there are some real lessons to be more successful, medical school admissions can be a pretty arbitrary process. It’s actually more of a crap shoot than you would like to think. I gave myself less than a 1% chance of getting in to my current school, yet here I am. My state school, where I considered myself very competitive (higher than average stats, etc) didn’t even put me on their waitlist. Why? No clue.

And so if you are looking for tips on getting in (and I know you are), I would like to refer you to anywhere else except this blog. I actually have far more experience being rejected by schools than accepted by them, so that will be my focus for this post. If you do these things, you will make yourself a much easier rejection.

1. Tank the MCAT.

I almost don’t want to start here, but I think I should. I’m not saying it’s fair, and I’m not saying I like it, but medicine is very performance based. Medical schools care a lot about the way you will perform on bigger and harder tests, and the best way for them to judge that is your score on your most recent test. There may or may not be a minimum score at your dream school, but my admissions directly told our class (quite honestly, I thought) that they make a HUGE first cut based solely off of MCAT scores. He acknowledged that there were likely great applicants in that category, but due to time constraints they had to draw a line somewhere. If you are currently pre-med, I’m sorry. This only adds to the stress associated with the test, and I get that. I want to encourage you that it isn’t that bad. Just don’t screw it up 🙂

2- Do anything really stupid.

This should go without saying, but it happens fairly often and is really important. Do not cheat (or even worse, get caught cheating). If at all possible, do not withdraw from a class during undergrad. If possible, stay at the same school for four years. DO NOT GET CONVICTED WITH A FELONY. If you make it to the interview part of applications, your chances are much improved. At this point, they are mostly looking for red flags, and part of that search is a standard background check. Even misdemeanors can be red flags. Your goal is not to be perfect, just to give them less things to worry about when considering your application. They will notice things like withdrawals, and ask you about them, so either stick it out or have a good reason for it. This dovetails nicely with my next point

3- Fail A Class

It is nice to have a good GPA, but that’s about it. What’s the difference between a 3.7 and a 3.85 if the students went to two different schools, took different classes, and had different professors? Who knows? Who cares? GPA is dumb, and most applicants will have pretty solid GPA’s. A surprising number will have 3.9+. You don’t need a 4.0 to get in to a medical school, but if you fail a class (or a few) you will make life much harder. In undergrad, especially, there are so many ways to improve your score. Seek help from the professor, classmates, tutors, etc. Ask for extra credit, or ways to improve your score. Don’t bother your professor and beg for extra points if you get a B in Organic Chemistry, but make sure you work hard enough that you never find yourself begging for a C.

4 – Expect Too Much

I will tie this in to a talk our deans gave us on the first week. They told us that on the first exam, half of our scores would fall below the median (that’s just math). For most of those who scored less than the median, it would be the first time that has happened to us EVER. So by the same token, do not enter the application process convinced of your own superior abilities. Nothing will make you feel more inferior than meeting a genius in your class. I’m talking guys like William Hwang, absolutely legendary (think very hard before reading his bio). If you are considering medical school, you have probably been one of the smartest people in your class since forever. Realize that your class will be, on average, just as smart as you (or in my case, much smarter). Even if your uncle happens to be a Dean at __________ School of Medicine, just understand how many insanely talented people are lining up to pay them 40k per year to go to school.

5- Be Boring

So you’re a biology/chemistry/biochemistry major from __________ University? You volunteered at some clinics and hospitals, did some research in undergrad, and shadowed a neurosurgeon/heart surgeon/ER doc? You’ve also got a minor or two, some fun hobbies, and were involved in six different charities during college? EMT? On academic scholarships? Get in line! Ok, so I’m joking a little bit, but that is a stereotypical mold for medical students. Why? Personally, I think it’s a self fulfilling cycle. Medical schools accept those students because a majority of good applicants fit that mold, so the next cycle of good applicants also fits that mold, so medical schools accept more of the same kind……..repeating over and over again. Otherwise, I have no idea. The point of this is to try to do something interesting, so that you stand out a little bit more. I don’t mean doing another thousand hours of volunteer work, I just mean whatever it is that makes you unique is what you need to capitalize on. Make sure they understand that you also started a business, wrote a book, lived in another country for a few years, etc. I’m the only Ironman triathlete in my class. I don’t know if that helped my application, but I bet it didn’t hurt.

6 – Be a Tool

Doing all of the above will get you rejected from medical school fairly quickly. This last one has more to do with the school than with you. Your MCAT, Step 1, and other stats don’t tell too much about how good of a doctor you will be one day. Schools want to turn out good doctors, both because it’s the right thing to do and because it makes them look better, therefore making them more money. Our Dean told us (at the interview day) that they try to detect traits that can’t be measured, but that will someday make us good doctors. Translation = they try to sift out all the jerks and narcissists as best as they can. Don’t be that guy. I can tell you already that they missed a few, based solely off of a few students that crashed an otherwise productive study session I was having with some friends today. Plus, everyone has a story to share about some terrible doctor they’ve met before, right?

I hope that helped! In all seriousness, feel free to ask questions (or add your own advice) so that over time, somebody, somewhere, will somehow find this useful.

Now what else can I do before I study?

Thanks for reading!

Reality Check

Our first big exam is coming up on Friday. We have already had some smaller quizzes and evaluations, but this will be our first really big one. It really shouldn’t be too bad, but you wouldn’t know it based on the opinions expressed by my classmates last week. When asked how much I was going to study this past Labor Day weekend, I honestly told them “very little, if at all”. I got a lot of wide eyes with that comment.

The things you can find on Google.

I am specifically talking about three or four people in one of my small group activities. They get pretty worked up about everything, and I don’t really see how they learn anything. In lecture a few days ago they would constantly ask each other (and me) annoying questions like:

“What did he say? How do you spell that? How do you know that? Why does it have to be that way? How do you know that? How do you spell that?”

I’m surprised they were able to hear enough of the lecture to ask questions about it, much less learn anything. I do try to learn a few things in lecture, every now and then. In fact, all the way through undergrad, I have been able to sit in lecture, hear what is told to me, and then promptly regurgitate all of that knowledge onto an exam a few weeks later. I think I also have a special kind of laser-like focus, such that I remain completely engrossed in the lecture or totally concentrated on my iPhone.

My class looks something like this, just with a few additional iPads, so no one even notices.

So anyways, we have all kinds of time given to us to study for this exam, so that’s beautiful. We still have to learn things that are most likely pointless knowledge. For example, I spent a good portion of the day re-learning the steps and enzymes in metabolism. Our lecturer today told us we will need to know this stuff exactly twice. Once on Friday for the exam, and again next year for Step 1. After that, we can just look it up on the Interweb.

Anyways, (I’m so good at transitions. I just switch to my new topic and let you catch up). So anyways, lots of crazy stuff happened over the long weekend. I wanted to touch on two things and tie them in with my main point for the night. In case you were distracted while watching for another post from this blog, I’ll help catch you up. First things first, the Slane girl. A few weeks ago a young girl got a little extra friendly with a guy at an Eminem concert in Slane. Over the last few days this has spawned multiple memes and quite the commotion over some social stereotypes (the women is considered a slut, but no one seems to hold the guy accountable here either). Interestingly, she is claiming sexual assault, and I think she may be a minor.

Then there is the slightly more important tension with Syria. The crazy guy who runs Syria is apparently using chemical weapons (WMD’s) to murder his own people, and Obama may or may not do something about it, depending on what Congress says. I’m not even going to bother linking that, since it will continue to develop even as I write this. Needless to say, no one seems to have any idea what’s happening, especially in Washington D.C. I know this because I was stuck in yet another auto store today and forced to watch CNN, where I saw the hearings. There was lots of posturing and nonsense from both sides, and no one was thinking clearly. Interestingly, however, they used the word “reality” a lot.

I thought that was interesting. One person would express an opinion, and they would then be either reassured or rebuffed by an appeal to “the reality of the situation”. What’s interesting is that reality is the state of things as they actually exist, not the way we perceive them.

And so, of course, my way of viewing reality is the right way. “&$#! no it isn’t,” you think as you reach for your mouse to email me. And you’re right as well. To you, your way of viewing the world is reality, and mine is just a construct. Some people think the girl from Slane is a slut. Some think that everyone there is terrible for even going to an Eminem concert. Others are reading that article, grateful that there were no cell phones at concerts/parties they had attended in the past. I think we should probably get involved in Syria, but my neighbor wants nothing to do with it.

Fact is, both of our views are probably constructs. Since our view of reality is shaped by so many factors, many of which are completely out of our control, it is unlikely we will ever experience enough of the world or life to be able to claim we have a grip on “reality”. I was fortunate enough to be born in a wealthy, middle class American family. I have no knowledge of living paycheck to paycheck, I have never had my utilities turned off, and I have never been in any real danger of becoming broke, as I have a small army of friends and family members that would help me out if I really needed it. That’s reality for me. Others know the flip side, so reality for them is a much grittier experience.

I’m not saying “reality” doesn’t exist. As a concept, it certainly does. It just isn’t a concept we could ever conceivably grasp enough of to ever claim we understand it. Any time you hear someone tell you what the world is actually like, they really are saying something like “This is the way the situation seems to me, based on how I see the world”. Does anyone actually think that John Kerry (and his hair, rumored to be an entirely separate, sentient organism) actually understand what life is like on the ground in Syria now?

See? I don’t think they are attached

So undoubtedly some of my classmates are still at the medical school right now, frantically making flash cards and studying even harder to get 102% on the first exam. Out of 40 exams. Out of one year of medical school. Whatever. That may just be worth it to them.

(I’m also really good at conclusions. I just end the post and go watch Netflix)

Thanks for reading!