Tag Archives: Background

Brains, Blogging, and My Favorite Month of the Year

It’s Friday, the sun is shining, the leaves are brilliant shades of red and yellow, and November is just getting started! So many great things happen in November each year that it always makes for a great month. Allow me to walk you through some of these things by first backing up to yesterday.

It was fitting that our dissection of the skull and into the brain would be scheduled for October 31st. I spent the majority of the morning and afternoon carefully sawing, chiseling, and hammering my way through our cadaver’s skull. Eventually we were separated the brain itself from its protective covering (called dura mater) and removed it from the head as well. I think an appropriate amount of Frankenstein/Halloween jokes were made throughout the day. Personally, I thought this dissection was great. Not only did we get to use power tools, we also got to hold and examine the brain, the most intricate and beautiful organ in the body. One partner in my group was a little disturbed by the whole process, and I’m not actually sure where she was most of the time. The skull is quite thick, and the sawing process created lots of dust and a terrible smell (I thought it smelled like burnt hair and cheddar Sun Chips) that grossed many people out. The sawing part was tricky, since we didn’t want to cut too deep and turn our nice brain into a brain smoothie, but we also had to cut far enough to lift off the skull. I didn’t love the smell, but I thought the work was pretty cool. Side note: Chipotle was selling burritos for $3 if you wore a Halloween costume yesterday. I had a pair of scrubs in the car, which I realized doubled as a costume, and since I dissected straight through lunch my burrito for dinner was extra delicious. Yes, I just transitioned from brain smoothie to burritos in two sentences.

Another reason I love November is that my birthday is each year in November. I get less excited about presents every year (yet I also look forward to that….let’s be honest) and more excited about spending time with my family. Since I live farther from home now that I’m in medical school, I’m really looking forward to having my family come stay with me for part of the weekend to celebrate my birthday.

November is a bit of a sad month, because baseball is over, but also a happy month, because a whole new season kicks off. Yup. Gaming season. This pre-Christmas period is launch time for big budget video games that I enjoy playing, like Assassin’s Creed, Battlefield, and Call of Duty. Ever wonder why work/school is a little less crowded on the first Tuesday of November? Call of Duty came out, that’s why. Add in some time off for Thanksgiving, a few premature Christmas carols, and you’ve got a great month ahead of you.

There’s some other things going on this month that I would like to mention as well. You may or may not have heard of NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. Each November, several hundred thousand authors attempt to write a full length novel (50,000 words) in one month. They register online and could potentially win prizes when they submit their finished story by midnight on November 30th. All genres are fair game. I don’t think I can honestly commit to writing 1,667 words a day while in medical school (I’m not sure I say that many words a day), but someday I’d like to try. The beauty of NaNoWriMo is that the rush and pace help spark creativity. You essentially forget about editing and revisions and just dive in and write. That sounds like fun to me.

A more realistic goal is NaBloPoMo, AKA National Blog Posting Month. The challenge is to post once a day on your blog. The posts don’t have to be long or complicated. I’m pretty sure anything goes. I’m a firm believer in setting low expectations and then surprising yourself (just kidding) and this challenge is much more manageable than writing a novel this month. It takes just a quick glance to realize that despite blogging for nearly six months, I have only accumulated 29ish posts. Attempting to double that in a month will be challenging, to say the least.

I’ll wrap this up for today. I’m worried about my dog, who has chased her tail consistently for the last five minutes and looks a little bit dizzy. Thanks for reading. As always, feel free to leave a comment below or send it straight to my face at sortadrwordpress@gmail.com

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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!

Introduction

Welcome to my first post on this blog. I should probably introduce myself, as well as the blog that you have either just landed on or have been reading. Which one first? How about me?

I am a medical student (or soon to be, at this writing) at a large allopathic medical school. I intend to blog my way through medical school and residency, perhaps, with the end goal being that someone who wants firsthand info on the life of a medical student can search around the blog and find my take on that issue. As a pre-med, I spent a significant amount of time looking for tips and advice on medical school on the internet. Many of the blogs I read were good, but I never found quite what I was hoping to find. Now that I have been accepted, hopefully this becomes that blog.

Speaking of the acceptance, I should probably background that, since that was a common question I had during college. “What were your stats? Where did you go to undergrad?” These are important for people trying to rank themselves compared to other applicants. Since this blog is anonymous I will do my best to summarize.

I am a white male, 22 years old when matriculating to medical school. I attended undergrad in the same state as my medical school, but since I have a private medical school that didn’t matter as much as usual. I majored in Cell and Molecular Biology, with a bonus minor in Chemistry, and had a final GPA of 3.70. My undergrad is a little known state school with a terrific program in CMB, and I was able to attend for free due to academic scholarships. I did most of the usual volunteer activities through college and worked at the local hospital for 2 years as a tech before being accepted. I married my high school sweetheart before my junior year in college. She is a designer, and very talented.

Finally, I scored a 32R on my only take of the MCAT. I applied to eight medical schools during my senior year of college (that’s lower than average, I think). I interviewed at two schools and was only accepted to one. It was almost the last school I expected to accept me, but I am excited to attend regardless.

I am going to medical school with an open mind. I have a broad interest in surgery and sports medicine, but since I have been through zero days of medical school I don’t know much about anything. I did the same thing with my college major, entering with a general idea of what I wanted to do and refining that idea during school. You will likely see me thinking through those ideas on this blog, as I tend to process information and events by writing about them.

Hopefully the quality of the blog improves over time as well 🙂 I blogged for several years on the Blogger platform and recently switched to this WordPress program. I should get better at this as I go. I will start this blog in earnest when August rolls around and classes get going, and I will update this post with more info as needed.