Author: Derin A.

Hi I'm Derin! Here you'll find tidbits about my life and my exciting and (I'll admit) stressful journey to and through medical school. Come join my fun ;-)

Study Strategy II: Studying on the go

This is part two of my four-part series on study strategies. In part one, I discussed time management and what I’ve been doing this semester to be more efficient and maximize my time. Yes, I’m still using my trusty log book, and yep, still counting hours. I’m telling you, it works! If you missed the post, check it out here. In today’s post, I’m going to focus on LEARNING the material. In a previous post, I mentioned that one of my preferred learning styles is auditory (see the post here). Knowing this, I decided to use this to my advantage for one of my classes. I decided Human Physiology would be the best fit for this. Having a part time job (I’ll discuss this in a future post), I knew I had to find ways to maximize the amount of information I learned AND retained within my scheduled study time. I also didn’t take human physio during undergrad, so this was certainly going to be an interesting experience. The goal was to:

1. Use my study time effectively
2. Understand core concepts and lecture material in advance of the exam. Essentially the day before the exam, I should be feeling confident on the material, and if possible, straight chilling. Absolutely NO panicking.
3. Ace those exams!

Using the method I explain below, I learned to study on the goMost phones have a “voice memo” function, and as long as you have your phone and head/ear phones, you’re good to go.

Here’s what I did:

Step 1: Come to class prepared. This means powerpoint slides already printed (or for those with tablets, downloaded). This is particularly important since I took additional notes from lecture directly unto my slides. Coming to class prepared also meant my mind was mentally prepared. I’m not pulling out my phone to reply a text or go on Facebook, I am instead, listening intently to understand as much as I can so I spend less time later trying to understand what was thought.

Step 2: Within 24 hours, usually that evening or the next day, I reviewed my lecture slides and make sense of the additional notes I may have written on particular slides. I also made sure to clarify concepts I didn’t quite understand. Clarification usually meant looking up the specific concept on Khan Academy for a short and concise video on it.

Step 3: After reviewing my notes once, I could now record. I usually did this the next day. Literally, I would record myself going through each PowerPoint slide. Not just reading over the slide verbatim, but actually breaking it down as if I was teaching someone else. As I went through each slide, I could refer to other things I had mentioned. I was literally teaching myself in this recording.

voice memo

Step 4: Listen to the recording over and over again. It was best if I could listen while looking at my slides. This way I could target both the visual and auditory part of learning. Most of the time though, it was pure listening.

  • I listened to my recording while on the treadmill. My lecture notes would be mounted up so I could follow along (Side note: walking on 12.0 incline and 3.3 speed is the sweet spot for me)
  • I listened while driving. I have about a 15 mins commute to school daily so on most days, I’ld listen to my recording.
  • I listened at night.
  • I listened in the morning.
  • I listened while grocery shopping.
  • I listened whenever I could.

It worked for me. The key thing was repetition. I kept listening to lectures over and over again to the point where I knew what would come next in the slide AND I understood what I was talking about. I used this strategy for the first two exams in my Human Physiology class. Having a part time job, I felt restricted with time. I HAD to be efficient with time.

How effective was it? Well this strategy was effective enough for me to get an A minus on my first two exams.

I find that recording myself going through the material is more effective that listening to a recording of the professor because: (1), There are no tangents, random discussions, or interruptions to lecture; (2), it’s a much shorter recording; (3) I explain concepts in words I understand, using examples I can relate to; (4) I get to talk it out, out loud – which is very important.

For my last two physio exams, I switched my study style to accommodate the increasing complexity of the material. I’ll talk more about that later in the series. I hope you find this strategy helpful. Try it out and let me know what you think!

Check out my other posts on study strategies:

“Study Strategy I: Time is Money”

“What’s your learning style?”

50 (Awesome) Days Left of 2015

December is fast approaching and with it marks the end of another year. Yesterday, I glanced at the goals I set for myself for 2015 and was pleasantly pleased that I had accomplished a few of them. I usually create these lists of goals the last week of December and refer to them periodically throughout the year. This year, buying a car, getting into med school, and my trips to South Africa and Florida were some of the major things on the list and I was pretty excited to cross those off. There are still a few things I’ld like to accomplish before the year is over and according to my nifty countdown app, there are 50 days left of the year (well, as of yesterday). A lot can be accomplished in 50 days right? Cheers to ending this year with a bang!

50 days

Study Strategies I: “Time is Money”

This is part one of a four-part series on study strategies. I’ve received a few emails in the past requesting advice on general study tips or any advice on studying while working full-time (which I did during my gap years). So in this series, I’ll be presenting strategies that I currently use and have found to be effective. To kick it off, I’m starting with the major requirement for any study session and successful endeavor:

Time

Time pic

Time management is a skill most people struggle with at some point; it’s something I find myself constantly fine-tuning. Although I consider it one of my strengths (years of experience juggling competing priorities), I know it’s something that can always be improved on. During orientation this past August, one of the speakers, Dr. Alvin D. Pelt gave a workshop on study skills that changed the game for me. BIG TIME. I’m going to focus on the time management technique I gained from the presentation and have been using everyday for almost 3 months now. It’s a system that has been immensely effective for me, particularly with my challenging schedule (to be disclosed later).

“Time is like money. You always think you have more than you actually have.”

This was an analogy Dr. Pelt made and I must admit he was quite right. Ever look at your bank account and go “How in the world did I spend that much?” or look at the time, perhaps in panic, and wonder “Where did all the time go?!

Yea.

Time and money are two peas in the pod. Similar to how you would budget your money i.e. a certain amount for rent, bills etc, is the same way you should budget your time. This brings me to my first point:

Schedule daily

study

Make a “budget” for your time that day. When do you have free time? What amount of time is spent in class? commuting? Eating dinner or talking on the phone? Basically account for each hour of the day. This allows you to see the potential times during your day which can be made more productive. Once you’ve blocked out potential times during the day, then comes the crucial step:

Log actual study time

No, this doesn’t mean logging in 4 hours in the library, when you actually spent 2 hours on Facebook, half an hour in the bathroom, another half hour getting situated, and only one hour in the books. Nope not that. As Dr. Pelt put it, your actual study time is different from your perceived study time. So here’s the key ingredient, the magic to this technique:

Log in & out each time you start or stop studying. Exclude bathroom breaks, naps, phone calls etc.

pic study 2

Please excuse my chicken scratch handwriting 🙂

Boom. That’s it. It sounds so simple and perhaps you’ve done a version of this in past, but this method requires discipline and definitely some behavior adjustments. The picture above is my log book. This notebook is EVERYTHING. I carry it everywhere.

Seriously.

It’s always in my backpack and folks who have studied with me, have seen me whip it out and scribble in a time as soon as we stop studying or take a break. I personally aim for 4 hours/ day or a minimum of 20 hours/ week of focused studying. Although I may fall short on my 4 hour goal on some days (unexpected interruptions, my mood etc), I consistently exceed my 20 hour/ week minimum (weekends to the rescue!). This leads to the last point:

Graph the results. Place the graph where you will see it everyday

Now, I’ll be honest, I typically don’t graph the results because I find tracking my daily progress in my small spiral notebook very effective just in of itself. However, this last point was mentioned by Dr. Pelt. As he noted, it’s particularly important if you’re studying for a major exam for a long period of time i.e. USMLEs, MCAT etc. It allows you to see if you’re on track or should perhaps, postpone. There’s also something gratifying about seeing a visual representation of your work and discipline.

charlie-sheen-winning

Success takes discipline. Budgeting my time and tracking actual study time has definitely worked for me. Give it a try. Stick to it. You might find yourself being more efficient and having more productive study sessions.

Thank you to Dr. Pelt for his awesome workshop!

Time: Image source

#Winning: Image source

The Ohio State University’s MEDPATH Program: The Info

“The expert in anything was once a beginner.”

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I’ve received a few questions regarding OSU’s MEDPATH Program and I’ll admit this post is long overdue. I know the OSU secondary deadline is coming up in a few days (November 1st) so this might be helpful to some people. As some of you may know, I was conditionally accepted into Ohio State’s Medical School. Still feels surreal. It’s an acceptance and I’m here at Ohio State, but…there are conditions. I was accepted into the medical school for the incoming class of Fall 2016 through the MEDPATH program. Yes, that’s not a typo. It’s Fall 2016. To retain my acceptance, I do have to complete the one year MEDPATH program. This entails:

  • Achieving/ exceeding a 3.0 MEDPATH GPA in order to matriculate into Med-1
  • Taking the MCAT (again) during spring semester as arranged by the MEDPATH Program and achieving/exceeding a certain MCAT score on the first attempt on that scheduled date
  • Passing the Summer Pre-Entry Program

There are a few other requirements but these are the major ones. You can view the full list and official information on the program here. The program is fall, spring AND summer. The summer component (and the classes in general) puts you somewhat ahead of your fellow incoming MS1 students – you take Anatomy and a few other classes that you’ll be taking during MS1 with some of the same professors that teach in the medical school. It’s pretty cool. The whole program is designed to make you a strong and competitive student while in medical school; it’s meant to build you up for success. The people in charge of the program are really supportive and want you to succeed. There are only 15 people accepted, so this allows you to form close relationships with your cohort. There are a lot of resources and OSU is just amazing all around.

So yes, there are conditions BUT there’s also a white coat with your name on it waiting for you. The 2014-15 MEDPATH class had 13 out of 15 people matriculate. I would call that very successful, so going this route isn’t an impossible feat.

The application process:

Now regarding the application process, you do have to apply to Ohio’s medical school just like any other applicant and also turn in your secondary before the deadline. I personally applied early and completed my secondary for Ohio State sometime in July. Around October, I received a notification from the school informing me that I had been rejected but was being considered for MEDPATH and would receive more information about it soon. To be honest, I wasn’t aware of the program prior to receiving the correspondence from them. So I started scouring the web for any information on it (imagine if there had been a blog detailing all the info and an individual’s personal experience! *wink wink*). The information I did find (thank you SDN), did convince me that this would be an incredible opportunity if accepted.

I later received another email from OSU inviting me to fill out the supplemental MEDPATH application, that was due end of January. A few months passed and I was invited to interview at the school. The interview IS your medical school interview for Ohio State. It’s with a medical student and faculty. You go on a tour of the medical school and receive a lot of information just like other medical school interviews, but it’s recognized that you and the other interviewees are possibly incoming MEDPATH students. Just like OSU does for their incoming students, they call to let you know you got in. As I wrote in a previous post, when I received that call, or rather voicemail, I FREAKED THE HECK OUT! 

The stats:

From what I understand – and please don’t take my word as the “official word” on this – 100 students who apply to OSU but get rejected are invited to apply to MEDPATH. You have to be invited to apply and that’s the only way you can get the supplemental application. Out of the 100 students, 30 students are invited to interview. There are 2 interview days in the first week of April and it’s split up with 15 people each day. I interviewed on the first interview day.

Out of the 30 people interviewed, only 15 are accepted. As you can see, it’s competitive BUT if you’re able to get an interview invite, the odds are in your favor (50% chance – at this point just ace your interview!). It’s a conditional acceptance. So you’re accepted to OSU at this point as long as you complete the aforementioned requirements, and of course, sign the form that you’re coming.

My experience thus far:

Loving it! I’m studying my butt off (hence the lack of posts) but I’m thriving and that’s honestly what matters. I’ll be detailing more about my experiences in future posts. I have exams coming up next week so it’s back to the books I go! However, I hope this information has been helpful. If you have further questions, drop a comment below and I’ll get to it as soon as I can.

All the best with applications!

One Year Later: Memunatu and Promoting Literacy

School is in full swing and it’s certainly been quite busy. Three exams done so far and I’m proud to say it’s all going well (updates on school to come later). About a year ago, around this time, I mentioned I was working with Memunatu magazine as a campaign manager for their Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. During that period, I had the opportunity of working with a startup whose mission I believed in – promoting literacy, leadership, and empowerment for West African girls through a classroom magazine. It was a cool experience working with the Memunatu team; I even had my first radio appearance through this role. Well fast forward to last week, I finally received a copy of the inaugural issue! I’ll be honest, I almost squealed with excitement when I opened the package and saw it was really here.

mem

I had the opportunity to contribute to the magazine as well. Yep, right there on page 7.

mem1 A lot of work was put into making this publication happen and I am so immensely proud of Mariama and Fatmata (the co-founders of Memunatu) and the rest of the Memunatu team. Do check out their website to learn more about Memunatu.

covermemSpeaking of literacy and education as a whole, have you seen Michelle Obama’s 62 million girls campaign? It’s a part of the Let Girls Learn Initiative. I love it! Every girl deserve an education. Check out 62milliongirls.com and post a picture on Instagram or Twitter with a caption on what school taught you.

What’s Your Learning Style?

This might seem like a simple question, but it makes a world of difference when it comes to learning large amounts of information in what might feel like a very short time. With a new school year beginning, it’s something that’s been on my mind. The big question: What is the most effective way to learn new information? This varies for most people. Thinking back to my college years, there were many nights where I sat bent over my textbook, reading a chapter, only to find out 5 pages in, I had NO IDEA what I just read. Alas, back to page one. Who knows what I’m talking about here? Struggles. For me, reading was NOT my dominant learning style (at least for this particular subject). Neither was writing my notes over and over again –  still I had a difficult time.

I was struggling to utilize a method that was simply not my dominate way of learning.

struggling learning

SOURCE

It took me a while but it finally clicked; perhaps if I sat in the front two rows, never missed a lecture, and instead of trying to write down everything being said by the professor, just simply paid attention. Just listened.  

*BOOM*

I found the missing link. I discovered I’m a strong aural (auditory) learner and retain information better that way. I needed to hear things and have discussions for the information to stick. This makes sense because close friends know me for being a good listener (which further translated into my interviewing skills for qualitative research). Furthermore, the classes I enjoyed the most were discussion based or taught by professors who sought to really engage the class. So for me, sitting in the back of the class or maybe just the middle, wasn’t ideal. And missing a lecture, simply a NO-NO. For others, maybe not so much.

VARK model

SOURCE

So what’s the big deal about finding out your preferred or dominate learning style? Well for one, it makes you more effective at studying and learning new material. If you’re putting a lot of hours into a class, perhaps you have stacks of flashcards, lots of outlines but still find yourself struggling with the material – it might just be that you’re not utilizing your dominant/ preferred learning style. Determining what learning style is most effective for you can help you determine what strategies to use for studying and disregard others that may just be time wasters for you.

Thanks brain

SOURCE

Organic Chemistry for example, is a class where you’d really want to know your preferred learning style very early on and create effective study strategies based on that. Personally, I’m multimodal with aural (listening to lectures/ discussions), visual (pictures, charts), and kinesthetic (trail and error, practical exercises). This means that either of these strategies work for me based on the subject I’m learning OR I need to see the material presented in different modes to really learn it (I’m still trying to figure out which is most true for me!). So to grasp the topics in Organic Chemistry, I knew reading wouldn’t be enough for me – that would be struggle bus all the way. I need to hear the explanations over and over again and see visual representations, so I sought out videos. In my case, I used Coursesaver videos, and YouTube, and truly those helped me a lot!

So how do you determine your dominant learning style? There are several quizzes and questionnaires online that can help you with this. The VARK model appears to be a popular one and splits the learning styles into four categories: Aural (auditory) learners, visual learners, reading and writing learners, and kinesthetic learners. I encourage you to check it out!

The new school year’s begun and it’s time to hit the road running! So what’s your learning style?

Summer Vacation Over

Hi Everyone! It’s certainly been a while since I’ve written; you could say I took a Summer hiatus. But no more! I realize it’s time to get my head back in the game and stay focused on this journey of mine. So much has happened since my last post in May. Realizing this was my last “real” summer – after all MS1 summer is spent on research and every other summer after that is nonexistent – I was determined to make the most of it.

enjoying PR

In June I traveled to Puerto Rico. Absolutely amazing time! It was a gift to myself on gaining a med school acceptance as well as a celebration for my significant other who took (and passed!) his USMLE Step 1 board exam for med school.

SPARTAN BLOG

Look it’s the photographer!

July rolled around and like the previous 2 years, I competed in another Spartan Race. This was my 3rd Spartan Race and my 2nd time at this course – still however, it felt more physically and mentally challenging than any race I had ever done. Finishing was certainly an accomplishment! It took me 2 hours and 36 minutes of pain, sweat, moments of discouragement, fun, and finally VICTORY. At this point, I’m ready to call this a tradition. Looking forward to my 4th Spartan Race, hopefully next year!

ruth wedding

All dressed up for the wedding

Also in July, was a friend’s wedding and my 3rd wedding of the summer – side note: there has been more weddings and engagements this year than I’ve ever seen, I’m convinced there’s something in the water LOL. The wedding was in Florida, so it was cool to check out the state for the first time (although it rained most of the time we were there).

Finally, the month ended with a bang when I made that 8 hour drive/ move to good ole Ohio.

I enjoyed my summer, definitely made the most of it, now it’s time to get back in the grind. It’s funny, crazy, slightly frustrating, but no matter what season you’re in, where you are in your journey, there’s always going to be some obstacles.

Yea.

I already had a curveball tossed my way since I’ve moved, but God is crazy faithful and so clutch for always having my back 😀

I’m very excited to share about the awesomeness that is OSU (Go Buckeyes!), my program and more. The journey continues!

BRUTUS

Source

Staying Encouraged in the Storm

It can be incredibly hard to stay encouraged in the middle of a storm. In my application cycle, I had many moments where I felt discouraged, helpless, angry…I mean literally crying and asking God (okay I’ll admit, a few occasions yelling to God about how angry I was) why things weren’t going as planned.

Yea.

This application cycle was a roller coaster of emotions.

glass case of emotions

I’m someone who applied to 19 schools as early as June of last year (see relevant post here) and filled out 15 secondaries. Out of the 15 schools my application was complete at, I received only 2 interviews. One interview was held the 1st week of October and the 2nd interview exactly 6 months later (to the exact date). I mean the application cycle was ROUGH.

Add in the fact that the first school I interviewed at deferred me in November up until the last week in March, when I received the final decision. Rejected. 6 months of waiting. Hoping. Refreshing my emails. Checking my mailbox.

Every.

Single.

Day.

It was freaking hard.
charlie-brown-waiting-by-mailbox
During this period there was one particular song that really encouraged me when I had those dark days. It’s a Nigerian gospel song.

In the video, the protagonist’s (artist) significant other is sentenced to be killed. She’s devastated, sobbing, feeling helpless, but then she begins praising God: “Jesus you are worthy, Savior thou at worthy…Kene nu Jesu o (Give Jesus thanks)…” In the midst of her praising God, her situation turned around. The man’s life was spared.

Every time I watched the video, listened to the song, I was reminded to praise God regardless of what I’m going through. To find God in this situation. Yes the wait is frustrating, but guess what, my patience is way higher now. I know all about waiting. Yea, I only had one interview for a very loooooooooong time, but hey, at least I got one. That was a miracle on its own considering my stats and how competitive this application cycle was.

I listened to this song and was reminded to be joyful. To counteract my negative thoughts with positive ones.

It worked.

In the midst of this incredibly challenging application cycle, I was blessed in so many ways. I got into a relationship with an awesome guy (who supported me immensely during this process), I got a promotion at my job, and several other things happened that I’m thankful for.

I’m saying this to encourage someone out there. You might be in the middle of your “storm,” you might be frustrated, angry, perhaps feeling helpless…

Stay encouraged.

Lift your head up.

Find God in your situation.

Find reasons to be thankful.

A heart of praise does wonders for the soul.

The Beginning of the End

The countdown till I move to Ohio is ON.

In the midst of looking for an apartment, a possible car to buy (because Philadelphia and Columbus are NOT the same when it comes to public transportation), I’ve also being making it a point to spend time with family and friends. Each weekend has brought on new adventures and memories.

summer

Enjoying the sun this past weekend

For the first time since graduating from college 2 years ago, I’m not taking any classes while working full-time, not studying for any exam after working 8-9 hrs (death to MCAT!), not writing essays for med school apps during my weekends, not working a second job (coaching high school track/ cross country), I am completely FREE. Well, free meaning I’m just working my full-time 9-5pm. Nothing extra. It’s a great feeling and I am absolutely LIVING IT UP.

I traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa last month (April) for my cousin's wedding

I traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa last month (April) for my cousin’s wedding

I’m looking forward to a summer full of fun, travels, memories, and weddings.

Oh. So. Many. Weddings.

Last month: Johannesburg, South Africa

In Johannesburg, South Africa last month (April). I was a bridesmaid!

It’s the beginning of the end. The end of one chapter and the start of an equally exciting one. One full of its own challenges, curve balls, excitements and victories. Soon I’ll be on that med school grind and this summer will just be a memory.

The BEST doggone memories.

The Moment I Found Out I was Accepted To Medical School…

I was getting antsy. It had been over 2 weeks since my interview. 18 days to be exact. On my interview day, I and other interviewees had been told to expect an answer within 2 weeks. A guaranteed fast turn around. So then what was taking so long?

waiting

I casually glanced at my phone. No missed calls. It was 9:30 AM on a Friday, if I didn’t hear back today, it meant another long weekend. Now believe me, I was no stranger to waiting. I had waited almost 6 months to get a decision from a previous interview. This school, however, was different. A defined waiting period.

10:20 AM 

I glance down again. A missed call. One new voicemail. Both from a (614) area code.

OH MY GOSHHH!!!” I screamed in excitement! My coworker had been startled and looked at me now, worried.

Are you okay?

Oh my gosh, oh my gosh…” I continue to mutter incomprehensibly. My hands shaking as I called my voicemail.

“…I just wanted to let you know you’ve been accepted…” The voice on the other line said.

I immediately screamed.

I’ve been accepted!!! Oh my gosh!!” I jumped up and down ignoring the rest of the message. Two other coworkers rushed in, seeing me jumping up and down, they immediately knew.

Derin, congrats!!!

The squealing, hugging, and jumping up and down continued.

I had been accepted.

ACCEPTED!

It felt surreal.

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I wanted to cry, I wanted to laugh. I didn’t know what to do, but my coworkers were there and they understood how long of a process this had been for me. They understood. So they squealed and jumped up and down with me.

After they left, I played the voicemail over again. And again. And again. Then the flurry of texts to my parents, boyfriend, and close friends.

I had been accepted to medical school. Not just any medical school, but The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Wow!

osume

It’s a conditional acceptance, and I’ld have to complete a one year program before beginning my first official year of medical school. Nevertheless, it’s still an acceptance. I’m going to be a DOCTOR! I’m going to be an Ohio State BUCKEYE!

I’m excited for the next 5 years, the lessons I’ll learn and the growth I’ll attain. It’s been a few weeks since I found out I was accepted, but that feeling of excitement is still the same. The journey continues!

Go Bucks!