Pre-med

Reflecting on the Past Year

I can’t believe I’m officially done with my first year of grad school! I’m half-way to my Master’s degree, and only a few weeks/months from applying to medical schools. What a journey this has been!

This year has challenged me more than I could ever imagine. The first semester was rough being away from my family, but I managed to come out on top. This semester was even more challenging, juggling full-time parenting of my three year olds and full-time school. I was close to a 4.0, but I fell one point short in Anatomy and got a B (my school doesn’t do +/-). I was upset at first, because I wanted to crush it like first semester and be a super mom while doing it! But… I learned I can be super mom without having perfect grades. My kids still love me and they’re healthy and happy. My marriage is in a good place and my husband is amazing and supportive. My life is everything I could’ve possibly dreamed of; I’m pursuing my dreams and I have a wonderful family.

If you had told me I would be here a year ago I wouldn’t have believed you… I didn’t even know I was even going to grad school! I was relentlessly chasing after my advisor to send my LORs so I could finish my apps. I was worried I would take a gap year and I wouldn’t get a chance to improve my GPA. Yet here I am, having done just that! It’s amazing and I feel so blessed to have all these opportunities.

Now that I’m 27, I wanted to set some goals for myself. I have a lot of self-doubts, and I think it’s about time I put those behind. My goal for this year is to stop doubting myself and my abilities. No matter how much I prove that I can do something, I always bring myself down instead of enjoying it because it’s not “good enough.” Well, not anymore. If I don’t believe in myself no one else will either. Besides, it only adds to the stress I have, it doesn’t alleviate it.

Here’s to 27. Here’s to always being a better person than I was yesterday. Here’s to not being afraid and to believing I can accomplish my dreams. Here’s to failure so I may learn from it and keep going. Here’s to my family and friends for always being there for me. And here’s to my future dog, may my husband let me get adopt you sooner rather than later! 😘

Andrea

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Pre-med

Quick update

Hi everyone!

The semester has been crazy busy. We just finished our second exam and got our results today. I’ve been doing well in two subjects but anatomy is not my favorite right now! I hope it’ll get better now that we’re getting into the brain! It should be more enjoyable.

MCAT is… MCAT. I have no motivation and I feel discouraged every time I study for it. I’m not sure how to get out of this rut. 😕

Now it’s time for some well-deserved sleep!

Andrea

Life

Happy Holidays!

Hello everyone!

Just wanted to write a quick post wishing you all a wonderful holiday season! It’s been crazy at our house; we finally moved the babies out here, got everything set up, found a babysitter, and are ready to take on next semester.

I ended up with a 4.0 from my very first semester of grad school! I’m very proud and excited to see how the next semester will go. I will do my best and will aim for a 3.5 at the very least. 🙂 I’m also trying to figure out a new MCAT study schedule so we’ll see how that goes!

Hope you all have a happy new year!

Andrea.

Pre-med

Studying for Organic Chemistry

Hi everyone!

I’ve had a few people ask me how I studied in order to do well in O-Chem. I figured I could write it all down here for any who might find it useful. 🙂

First, a little background on my learning style. I learn best by watching others do whatever it is I’m learning. Once I’ve seen it, I practice a lot. Having visual cues as well as auditory ones are important for me; if I can’t see it, I don’t remember it well. Reading the book helps me a lot, but this won’t work for O-Chem! You HAVE to practice. Practice so much that you dream about O-Chem! This isn’t necessary, this is just what happened to me! It was pretty funny but also scary.

So, with that in mind, this is what I did to do well in O-Chem!

1) Go to class. The best thing you can do is to go to class! This is great because you’ll learn exactly what you’ll need for your quizzes or exams.

2) Go over your notes. I read over my notes and re-wrote my notes at least twice. Most of the time, I would re-write them three times. This helped me remember the theory part of things, which does involve some memorization.

3) Practice questions. We got lucky with this, because our professor would pick book problems that he felt were useful for us to practice. Besides that, he would post old quizzes and exams for us to do to get more practice and get used to his exam style.

4) Watch videos. This probably saved my grade. I watched a lot of youtube videos! The ones that helped me the most were khanacademy, Leah4sci, and theorganicchemistrytutor. Theorganicchemistrytutor has really long videos, but it’s worth it to watch them all the way through. Khanacademy videos are always free; Leah4sci runs a tutoring service, so not all of her things are on youtube; theorganicchemistrytutor has some videos you can pay to watch, but I’ve never watched those.

5) Tutoring. At our school we have something called supplemental instruction. A student who has done well in the class holds sessions 3x a week to go over the material and help you understand it better. I went twice a week, but if my schedule would’ve let me I would’ve gone 3x. They also have one-on-one tutoring, but that doesn’t help me as much as group studying.

6) Study group. My friend and I would meet every Saturday morning to study for our quizzes or exams. This was very useful because if one of us didn’t know something, the other could explain it in terms we could understand. Plus, if you can teach it, you will learn it better.

7) Read the book. This one was my least favorite thing to do, but sometimes it helped me a lot more than asking my professor. It helps if you read before class, but for me, I had to read it after so I understood the material better.

That’s it! I hope those will help you! If you can’t really sit for long while studying and need to be constantly moving, I heard that recording lectures and listening to them while doing another activity can help. One of my psych professors told us of a girl that would record lectures and listen to them while running. Apparently, this helped her learn and do well in her class!

Good luck with O-Chem!

Andrea.

Pre-med

Gap Year?

Hi everyone,

The semester is over and I have nothing to do for the next year! Actually, that’s not entirely true… I have to start studying for the MCAT, again, so I can be ready for next Spring!

I haven’t heard back from post-bacc schools and I’ve basically given up on it. The schools have not received my letters of recommedation, and my pre-med advisor is nowhere to be found. He resigned, and although his last day is June 30th, he hasn’t answered any emails or texts. I guess my application is not a priority. I sent in my apllications two months ago, and although he has supposedly sent them twice, the schools don’t seem to get them. This is really frustrating for me, and I’m at a loss as of what to do.

I did apply to another program a few days ago that doesn’t require letters of recommendation, so we’ll see if I get into that one. That program gives you a certificate, not a Master’s, which makes me a little sad. It’s okay though, because I just want a chance to improve my GPA!

I applied to a CNA job as well, but haven’t heard back yet. What do people usually do with gap years? I’m still volunteering at the hospital, and besides MCAT prep and taking care of the twins there’s not much I have going on.

Anyway, happy early Mother’s Day!

Andrea.

Pre-med

Upset

Hi everyone,

It’s almost the end of the semester! Today’s my last day of lecture, quizzes tomorrow, review the rest of the week, lab finals this week, lecture finals next week, and I’m free for the forseable future!

I can’t wait for summer, my trip to NC for a pre-med thing, and spending more time with my family.

So why is the title of this blog “Upset?” Remember how I applied to two graduate schools a little while ago? I haven’t heard back from either school yet. No phone call, no e-mail, nothing. So I went to check on the status of my application; I have only done it for one school so far, because I have to e-mail admissions from the second school to ask them about it.

Anyway, I go to check and my application is still under review. That’s fine, it will take a little bit of time for me to hear back. Well I kept reading… and my letters of recommendation haven’t been received yet. My heart dropped. My advisor was supposed to send them in at least two weeks ago. It doesn’t take two weeks for letters to arrive… I sent in my transcripts through the mail and they arrived within two days.

I sent my professor an e-mail over the weekend to ask him about it. No response. I’m only slightly freaking out… I didn’t realize how much I DIDN’T want a gap year. I love studying, I love learning, I love the stress… what will I do with a gap year? I have the MCAT to study for, of course, but that won’t help improve my GPA.

So I went through all these worst case scenarios in my head about how I wouldn’t get in anywhere. How if I didn’t improve my GPA I wouldn’t get into med school. Honestly, I’m still really worried about all this… But I never give up. I’m going to digress a little and talk about a speech I gave last week.

It was for this project called Mi Verdad, or My Truth. It was about the struggles/stories of Latino college students. I was lucky enough to be able to participate, and I learned a lot about my culture and myself. My theme was “Hard work,” because it’s taken a lot of it to come back from my low GPA and do relatively well in my classes. I might post my speech after finals so you can have a better idea of what I’m talking about. Anyway, I told the audience that you can do anything you set your mind to, that all you need is to put in the work and it will pay off. So how could I give a sort of inspirational speech and then not take in my own advice?

Back to the problem at hand. I’m scared of a lot of things, but I will not let my fear get the best of me. I will check the status of my application again, this time for both schools, and I will e-mail my advisor one last time to ask when he sent in those letters. I will annoy him if I have to, although I really don’t want to, because I consider myself a nice person. I will make sure my application is complete and wait for the schools to make their decisions.

If I don’t get in, I will be sad. However, I will know that I did everything I could and I will figure out the best way to improve my GPA if I have to take a gap year. I will find ways to strengthen my application, and I will apply to med school June 2018. I can and I will do this.

Wish me luck,

Andrea.

Pre-med

Updates

Hi everyone,

I have some awesome news to share. I got an A- on my O-Chem exam! I followed the plan I outline in my last post and it helped so much! I’m really excited. My grade in class has gone up from a D+ to a C+, which is not a great grade but it’s something I can definitely improve on, especially because my professor drops our lowest exam score. Once he does at the end of the semester, my grade will be much better, since my lowest score so far was a 61. I’m going to continue studying so I can make sure my grade remains high.

Now comes the interesting part. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m signed up to take the MCAT on May 19th. I signed up two days ago for a prep course through Altius Test Prep. I’ve been reviewing content on my own since August on and off, but I knew I would need something more structure to prepare at some point. Finances are tricky though, so it took me longer to sign up than I was expecting.

I was excited and ready, until I looked at their introduction. I knew the course would be difficult, and I knew it would take time, but what scared me was how advanced their other students are compared to me. I’ll start a little over a month AFTER their short track students. Surprisingly, they say that they won’t accept students later than the beginning of February, but I was still allowed to join a group. I’m worried that I won’t be ready by May, and I thought about pushing back the MCAT for another month to have more time to prepare.

I kept reading what they gave me. The time commitment, the things that need to get done… and honestly, I panicked a little. I don’t think I can finish all of that in under three months. I’m seriously considering pushing the MCAT until next April. I won’t be taking classes so I would be able to concentrate on studying for it. However, that means I’ll have to postpone applying to medical school yet another year.

Honestly, postponing it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I could ensure I’m more competitive by having a strong MCAT. However, I would have to contact everyone that wrote my letters of recommendation and asking them to change the date on them, again. It’s been difficult to do that already, since some people are more cooperative than others. I’m still waiting on one for this year, and another one that should’ve been written by now but hasn’t. It’s discouraging. Additionally, I’ll lose a lot of volunteering, shadowing, and patient exposure hours. What I mean by this is that my advisor let me know that only extracurricular activities from the last four years will count. Since I’ve been pre-med for such a long time, a bulk of my hours came from 2013, which won’t count if I apply in 2017. I’ve been looking for info about this from the actual AAMC website but I couldn’t find anything about it, so it’s difficult for me to make a decision.

I’m going to wait a few days and think it over. I’ll wait until my tutor contacts me and I get a better idea of what this program will require. If I feel like it can be done, I’ll stick with it. Otherwise, I will get a refund and start the program in the Fall.

I’ll keep you guys posted. If anyone knows anything about the four year extracurricular cap I mentioned, please let me know! It would help me out a lot!

I do have another update that I’m afraid is the worst of them all. The hospice patient I’ve been visiting for the past year and a half passed away on Wednesday. I’m usually sad when my patients pass away, but I cried over this loss. He had become a good friend and I learned so much from him. He was an amazing person who will be sorely missed; he wrote a book about his life, which was really interesting, just so he could donate all the profits to charity.

RIP Walter. We will all miss you; from the happy “Hellooooo” you gave when you answered the phone and the “wunderbar” answer you gave when asked how you were doing. I will always remember you and the lessons you taught me about life. Thank you for everything.

Andrea.

Pre-med

Midyear Update

Hi everyone!

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve updated this; life has gotten busy! First of all, I graduated! I even managed a 4.0 during my last semester. That A in Biochem was difficult but I did it! I even got close enough to my professor to ask for a letter of recommendation. 🙂

Unfortunately, I’m not done with that school and pre-med classes. I had to change my schedule to be able to graduate before my financial aid ran out, so I still have O-Chem II and Physics II to go through. I planned on taking O-Chem this summer and Physics this fall, but after a day in O-Chem I realized I wasn’t ready to take it. When I looked back at my transcript I realized it had been two years since I took O-Chem I and Physics I. I didn’t want to bring down my GPA, so I decided to drop the class and re-take O-Chem I and Physics I this fall. That means O-Chem II and Physics II will happen in the spring. After that I’ll be done with my pre-med classes, yay!

I’m not sure if I’ll take the MCAT next year, but I feel if I don’t do it now I’ll never do it. Taking it will make it much easier to apply to post-bacc programs as well, and the ones with the best programs require either the MCAT or GRE. I decided because of this that I will start studying tonight. I still plan on taking a course, but I’m not sure of the timeline. Most post-bacc program deadlines are in January or February, but I would like to take the MCAT in May so I have enough time to prepare. I think I’ll make an excel sheet with information about the schools and their deadlines. I think if most of them are later in the year, I’ll take the MCAT closer to May. If not, I’ll take it closer to January if I feel ready. I wish more deadlines were closer to June, but I understand schools need time to fill their classes for fall.

I’m hoping to start a post-bac program next fall. My husband and I are already planning a move out of our state, since there aren’t any programs available here. I’m so ready to move on, but I am kind of nervous. I’m mostly nervous about getting into a program; I still have doubts about being smart enough. I know I’m not the perfect student, but I have worked extremely hard for this, and I will continue to do so. I guess it’s just hard to believe in yourself, at least it is for me.

Besides MCAT and classes, I need to find a job as a CNA to get more patient exposure. I had one for a week, but the schedule wasn’t working out and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought. I decided I’ll look for a job at the hospital close to my university, the one I had my boys at, to make it easier to go from school to work. It’s also much closer than the other job, so it’ll save on gas.

I’m also still volunteering at a hospice, and I have plans to go back to Big Brothers Big Sisters this school year. However, since I need another leadership experience, I might need to stop BBBS and find something else. I was planning on using hospice as patient exposure, but since I can work as a CNA I was thinking of using that instead so hospice can be my medical-related volunteer experience. If not, I need to find another medical-related experience, and fast. I’m not sure what I should do, or how to fit it all in my schedule, so I may need to talk to my advisor first.

Anyway, I think that’s all I can think of. Life is going well, for the most part. Hope you’re all doing well! Hopefully I’ll have some time to update this more often. 🙂

Andrea.

Life

Late Afternoon Thoughts

Hi everyone,

Today’s post will be a little different. There’s something that’s been on my mind lately that I’m hoping some of you out there will be able to help with.

I’ve been struggling this summer a bit. I haven’t gotten back to my volunteering or shadowing, let alone studying the way I wanted to. I feel like I’ve been stuck in this “shame spiral” my neuro professor talked to me about. I can’t bring myself to call anyone to set anything up because I’m afraid to leave my twins home, even if the person watching them is someone I trust (husband, mum, aunt, etc). Studying is difficult because they always need something (like any normal baby) and they like to take turns. By the time they sleep, it’s time for me to sleep so I can get up and take care of them.

I have two semesters left before I graduate, so the classes I’ll be taking are difficult and aren’t offered online. I also need to find a job during the weekends to help support my family. I’m worried that I won’t be able to keep up with everything… Then those thoughts turn to medical school and residency. I know I wouldn’t want to do anything else, so I’ll keep pursuing my dream to be a doctor, but maybe surgery isn’t the way to go. Maybe a specialty that isn’t as demanding would work better for my family. But what if I fall in love with surgery? Would I be able to balance it? I know it’s far enough away and that I shouldn’t worry, especially since I haven’t even gotten into med school, but I guess this is the kinda thing you worry about when you’re a parent or maybe just when you’re me.

To all working parents out there, how do you do it? How do you find balance? If you are a doctor, did you consider what field to go into if you had/have children? I could use some advice.

Thanks in advance and sorry for the rant.

Andrea.

Physician Shadowing

Physician Shadowing III

Hi everyone!

So here’s my post about my latest shadowing experience. We’ll call this doctor Dr. I for privacy purposes. 🙂

This happened over a two day period. Dr. I was in her last week of residency when I shadowed her, so I got to see her last day and how she said goodbye to all her patients. It was a bittersweet moment for everyone, including myself since she had been such a big part of my hospital experience. Every doctor I’ve met has been fantastic and I wish to be like them in some way, but if I can be as caring and helpful to my patients like like Dr. I is I will be happy with the level of care I provide. Dr. I, if you ever read this, which I doubt, thank you for everything. 🙂

Okay, so on to the actual experience! I did about 11 hours worth of shadowing. Since she is a resident I can’t count it as accrual shadowing experience, so it will go on my application as patient exposure.

One of the patients we had had shingles. She knew what she had since it was her second time having it. We were in and put within minutes, which doesn’t harken very often when I shadow.

The second patient was a child who had persistent cough, about a month if I remember correctly. Dr. I let the parents know coughing isn’t necessarily a bad thing, that it’s just a reflex. She thought it was likely due to allergies. After a while of trying to convince the mum odd this, we moved on. We then talked about how she was almost certain that the parent wouldn’t listen to her instructions because she felt the parent didn’t trust her diagnosis. She then told me only about 60% of patients actually do what doctors tell them, so all you can do is reassure them and hope they’ll listen.

We also had a patient who had chronic pain and had come in because she had fallen and hit her head. Dr. I isn’t a fan of narcotics (neither am I) so it was a big hard to deal with. On the one hand you want the patient to be comfortable, but these drugs are dangerous. Your tolerance for them increase, but the toxicity curve doesn’t move. The more you take them, the more meds it takes to help your pain… and the closer you get to that curve. I found a diagram for it here Dose-Response Curve. In the end Dr. I let the patient know she was taking too many and that she wanted her to wean off of them a little bit.

I also saw a few cases of cellulitis! I’d never seen it before so it was really cool. Cellulitis is an infection of the soft tissue, that presents as a red area that is hot and swollen; more info here. Dr. I prescribed medication for it and also outlined the red area so the patient could see if it spread further or if it was receding (and the medicine was helping). After we saw the first patient with it Dr. I and I went back to her office so she could show me another case of cellulitis… in her cat! It was awesome! It’s always interesting to see what disease we share with other species!

At one point we had a patient who came in because she was experiencing some abdominal pain. While she examined the patient she poked the areas that hurt and then asked her to do sort of a sit up before poking those places again. The patient tensed up and Dr. I concluded her exam. I later asked her what she was feeling for and she said she was looking for masses, tenderness (lower or upper), guarding (which is the tensing up), and peritonitis. The guarding is important; when the patient tenses up, the muscles are protecting the organs. If the problem was internal, the patient wouldn’t feel pain when doing the sit up. However, since the pain was superficial, Dr. I discovered her pain was muscular. I think that was one of my favorite things to learn about that day. The patient also had a hernia, so I asked Dr. I what you do about those. She told me that the bigger the hernia, the less they worry about! She said it’s big enough for the bowel and blood vessels to go through it, so it gets some blood flow.

I asked Dr. I why she went into family  practice. She said she went into med school wanting to be a neonatologist, but she later realized it was too specialized. She then thought about peds, then OB/GYN. However, she realized that after you cut the cord, that baby isn’t your patient anymore. She also said she wouldn’t like to do it every day; she loves it, but she wouldn’t love it if that’s all she did. She then chose family practice so she could do all of those things. She likes the variety. She is also doing a fellowship in OB so she can keep doing C-sections, which satisfy her liking for surgery without needing to be in an OR longer than an hour.

I also asked her if she could fire patients as a resident and she said you could. They are usually due to the clinic policy, like for no-shows, but that she doesn’t do it very often.

I also wanted to know what her stand on patients who didn’t vaccinate was. This was the most insightful conversation we had, so I’m glad I asked. She said that if you ban them from your practice you don’t get the chance to talk to them and ease their fears. If they are comfortable with you and respect your opinion as a doctor, they might change their minds later on. She so said you don’t want all the crazies in one room (aka all the anti-vaxers in one physician’s office). That comment made me laugh. 🙂 The other side of that argument is, if they don’t trust you on something that science indicates is effective, why would they listen to you when you say something else? If later on they need antibiotics, will they listen to you and take them? Or would they be against that too? At that point you have to ask the patient if you two are a good fit and perhaps have the patient find another doctor.

I also got a chance to shadow another resident while Dr. I waited for more patients to come in. It was a 6 month old baby and she came in for a well check. Dr. C let me look through one of the instruments (I’m afraid I don’t know the name of) and look at the red-eye reflex. It was so cool! You basically look for that red-eye that shows up in pictures. If it appears red-ish it means the eyes are healthy. If they’re not, they’ll present as white, which could indicate a tumor.

The second day was similar. There was a patient with no insurance who needed a colonoscopy; he would have bowel moments but blood would be the only thing that would be passed. He had had this problem for six years. It was upsetting because the procedure was so expensive without insurance that Dr. I was almost positive he wouldn’t get it done, which is the reason he didn’t do it three years ago. Dr. I set him up with the financial assistance department and said all we could do is hope for the best. He did have hemorrhoids so she treated him for those and gave him a stool softener so they wouldn’t get worse.

At one point we had a patient who had to decide if physical therapy or surgery was the right course of action. He decided that he would like to try physical therapy first since he didn’t like surgery, and Dr. I agreed with him. She said that sometimes spinal surgeries don’t completely fix the problem and they can lead to even more surgeries. That was another interesting thing I learned about that I probably never would have thought to ask!

We also had a child come in due to cellulitis on his toe. It had been going on for a while and the mum was putting neosporin on it constantly. Turns out that the neosporin was what was causing it since the child had developed an allergy to it. Dr. I’s attending explained to the patient’s mum that neosporin had an ingredient that when used too often leads to allergic reactions; she needed to stop using it in order for his toe to get better!

The last thing I asked Dr. I was what she wished she knew before starting residency. She told me that medicine felt a lot with business (insurance, marketing yourself to the patient so they would continue to see you, etc.) and that she wished she had taken a course on business management during college. She also said if you wanted to travel (with my kids) that I have to do it before med school; you don’t have time after that. You can wait until you graduate but you can’t take off to much time since your patients need you and they don’t want a doctor who will be gone 6 months. It was good advice, but I did tell her I was already 24 and I probably wouldn’t do it since I felt I had already lost enough time not knowing what I wanted to do.

In the end she set me up with another doctor so I can shadow him this summer. I gave her a thank you card but also told her how thankful I was for everything she’d done for me (since it wouldn’t fit in the card). She hugged me like 5 times and told me that although she’d be on the other side of the country to call her with any questions about med school and my application. She was very sweet about it and even told me she thought admission committees would love me and that I’d be accepted.

It was a great experience. I’m very lucky I was able to meet such a caring and ambitious doctor. If I can be half the doctor she is I would be happy.

Thanks for reading and I hope you found this post insightful and interesting. 🙂 I’ll be getting in touch with the doctor Dr. I set me up to shadow some more, so I’ll let you all know how that goes.

Wish me luck!

Andrea.