medical school applications

Happy New Year + Goal Setting

Happy New Year! I realize this is a bit late considering we’re already 8 days in – let’s just ignore that tidbit. First semester flew by fast! I’ll be writing a reflection post on that shortly. The post will include details on the classes I took, the challenges along the way, how I studied for each class, and my overall advice on having a successful semester – particularly for those considering the OSU MEDPATH Program. So look out for that post soon!

A lot happened in 2015 and some of you were able to share with me in those moments of celebration, as well as challenges. At the end of every year, I take time to reflect, purposefully writing down the highlights from each month, both the events that make me smile and cringe in memory. I posted an abridged version of 2014’s reflection on my blog last year (Click Here). I typically do my reflection in the last week of December. It’s good practice as it allows me to remember those times when I didn’t know how God would do it, but He did. He surely did. It reminds me how much can happen in a year, how a year can seem so short and yet so long. It allows me to see GROWTH. As I read through my past journal entries for this exercise, I see how thoughts can become actions, and how time, truly is a valuable thing. I write it all, so I can look back and always remember. It’s a practice I’ll definitely encourage. 

Coupled with this, I take time out to set some goals. These are just a list of things I’ld like to accomplish before the end of the year – they are short term. A few of the items on last year’s list included:

  • Buying my first car
  • Doing another Spartan Race in July 2015
  • Traveling to South Africa for my cousin’s wedding
  • Recording another Afrobeat workout video in January 2015
  • Consistently blogging once a week

Now I’ll be honest, I usually don’t meet ALL my goals for the year (case and point, the last two goals above didn’t happen), but I do come pretty darn close. Throughout the year, I periodically look at my list to remind myself what my goals are, to motivate me, and keep me focused. And yes, I periodically check things off during the year as well. I’m a big subscriber to the phrase:

Plan-to-Fail

I believe in doing things with intentionality. You can find a lot of articles on the importance of not only goal setting, but writing down those goals. There is power to writing them down. At the same time I also like to keep my yearly goals S.M.A.R.T.Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant & recorded, and Time bound.

smartgoals.jpgFor example, one of my 2014 goals was to turn in my med school application on the first day. The key point here is that I noted the first day. I didn’t say early (because early is relative), I gave myself a specific timeline, and in the end I was able to turn it in on the very first day (see post here). I can certainly say that what kept me focused, determined, and motivated to get my application materials ready to go, was this personal goal I had set for myself, written down, and referred to from time to time.

A popular practice is making a vision board and placing it in a location you see/ pass through everyday. I personally created a folder in my Google Drive labeled, “New Year and Reflections” where I store both my reflections for the past year as well as my goals for the new year. So far I have reflections and goals as far back as 2012 stored in there. As you may have guessed, I’m a BIG fan of Google Drive – it enables me to access my documents anywhere, anytime, from my phone, my laptop, a public computer. I LOVE the accessibility of it, and it’s the reason why I used it during my application process (see post here).

This year, I decided to make different categories for my goals. They are:

  • Fitness goals
  • Health goals
  • Spiritual goals
  • Academic goals
  • Relationship goals
  • Financial goals

Each category has about 2-3 specific goals. I’m excited at the thought of accomplishing even just a few of these goals by the end of the year. So if you haven’t already, take some time out to reflect on the previous year, thinking about each month, the things that happened, the celebrations, as well as the challenges. Then think about this new year and some goals you’d like to accomplish in 2016 – they could be new goals, goals rolled over from the previous year, whatever it may be, make sure they are S.M.AR.T.

Reflect on!

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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.

That Time I Cried in My Med School Interview…

This is a true story. All of it. 

It was interview day. Myself and the other interviewees had been given a tour of the school and a presentation on how AMAZING the university and school of medicine is. Up next were the faculty and student interviews. I had the student interviewer first. He was a first year student and instead of the usual “Why medicine?” He asked questions relating to my weaknesses and the growth I’ve had since graduating from college two years ago. The interview was very relaxing; laughs were shared and he told me about his background as well. He also gave me tips for my faculty interview and in the end asked, “Is there anything you would like me to know that will help me be a strong advocate for you?” It was the golden question, and of course I delved into a specific interest and strength of mine.

osu int

Next was the faculty interview.

I came in confident.

I’ve got this. 

Or so I thought.

So tell me about yourself?” The first question of the day. I had prepped for this and began selling myself.

I am a very driven individual. My perseverance and drive for success has enabled me to…

He interrupted me.

Yea, yea, I get all that. You’re a hard worker, driven, and all that. But tell me about yourself. When did you move to the U.S.? How was that for you adjusting to a new country? Did you speak English?

Whoa. I was taken aback. Not exactly the direction I had planned on going with it, but sure I’ld take his lead.

And then he went on.

More personal questions.

And more.

It felt like a thug of war in which I was losing…badly. I wanted to talk about how amazing I was, and he wanted to talk about my struggles.

  • Personal struggles
  • Family struggles
  • Immigrant struggles
  • Academic struggles

The tears started to swell up. He had me talking about things I rarely talk about, and which I didn’t know had such an emotional impact on me. The tears could no longer be contained. A drop fell, than another.

I’m so so sorry,” I said as I wiped my tears and began fanning my eyes, hoping to dry away the waterfall. I was embarrassed. This was my med school interview and here I was crying like a baby. I was mortified.

It’s okay. It’s a lot of things to deal with. Physicians have emotions too.” He tried to reassure me.

I eagerly nodded.

And then he threw in a joke, and we laughed.

And laughed some more.

And the interview was over.

I walked out feeling like I had been stripped of every guard and mask I had put on. I had been vulnerable and my faculty interviewer saw me for who I really was. Not just the strong, extremely driven, intelligent woman I try to portray, but other parts of me few rarely see.

My faculty interviewer made the effort to REALLY get to know me.

That was POWERFUL. 

Despite the tears and all.

Meet Ric – A 2nd Year Med Student at Drexel University

IMG_0579There are different paths to medical school, as seen through my blog. One path is through a program that offers conditional acceptance, such as Drexel’s Pathway to Medical School Program (DPMS). Note: Their application deadline this year is April 24, 2015. Although having a strong science background, Ric, a 2nd year at Drexel Med, still encountered his share of obstacles on his med school journey. Check out Ric’s story as he shares his experience in Drexel’s one year program, how that prepared him for his first two years of medical school, and his words of advice on choosing post-bacs.

What led you to pursue medicine?
When I was growing up, one of my aunts worked as a nurse at a small community health center. Whenever, I went to visit her at work, I just hung around the clinic and I admired how my aunt and the other healthcare workers cared for their patients. So from an early age, I knew I wanted to go into to medicine.

What was your major in college and how did that prepare you for medical school?
I have a B.A. in Honors Liberal Arts and Science with a concentration in Biochemistry from the Wilkes Honors College in Florida. My undergrad experience gave me a strong science background. The curriculum was also rigorous and robust so it gave me stamina and focus to tackle the courses during my post-baccalaureate year. However, I would say that only actual medical school courses, whether it is during a post-bac year or during the first few months of first year can truly prepare you for medical school. It’s a different beast from undergrad in terms of structure and what you are expected to learn and should master for the exams.

Did you ever consider giving up on your dream? What obstacles or hurdles did you have to overcome in your medical school journey?
I never did…. I moved to the United States from Jamaica for high school. So in essence, this was my best opportunity to make my dream a reality. My biggest  hurdle back in undergrad was my MCAT score. My MCAT struggle is like that of other applicants; that first score report was not what I wanted or “needed” to get into medical school. I was certainly disappointed in my first score report, and I decided at the end of my junior year to take some time off after undergrad to retake the MCAT. Around that time, I started looking into Master’s and post-baccalaureate programs.

You did Drexel’s Pathway to Medical School program, can you tell us more about that? What was the experience like for you? Any advice for students considering this option?
Yes, Drexel’s Pathway to Medical School (DPMS) is one of the post-baccalaureate programs offered by Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. I applied to this program because it is a linkage/bridge program geared towards under-represented minority (URM) medical school applicants. DPMS offers a conditional medical school acceptance to a certain amount of applicants who must complete a faculty interview before being accepted. I interviewed in May and was accepted in early June. I soon moved to Philly shortly after being accepted to start their summer prep course.

We are required to take several med school and grad school courses during DPMS. At first, getting accustomed to the course schedule and frequent study sessions at the library was an adjustment. I also had to retake the MCAT to retain my acceptance. So making the time to study for the MCAT was part of the post-bac struggle. One of the unspoken stressors of my post-bac year was the grading system: getting at least a B in certain courses required matching or doing better than the MS1 class average.

Overall, I enjoyed my post-bac year as it prepared me for the med school coursework. Nevertheless, my post-bac year was also a stressful and costly venture, and I dare to call it a gamble. Even though I did well in the courses, there was still the uncertainty of my MCAT score. I had my struggles with the MCAT for sure, but at the end of the day, I made it. Thank God!

Advice for prospective applicants: not all post-bacs are the same, so please do your research! Talk to program directors and most importantly, talk to current students in the programs and those who matriculated. Also if the program is a “bridge” program, research the host medical school and be able to see yourself as a good fit for that school and area because that is hopefully where you will spend the next four years after the post-bac. Rank the things that matter to you; for example, location/environment, cost of attendance (for the post-bac and the medical school), among others. Pursue the post-bac route with the end goal of matriculating (into the host medical school or otherwise) at the end of the program.

So after DPMS, how did the med school application process go for you?
As a DPMS applicant, I did not do a traditional application cycle. The general guideline is to apply to Drexel as an early assurance candidate. However, not all post-bac programs are like that, so like I said before, please do your research.

What was your first year of medical school like?
The best metaphor I can use to describe MS1 is that it was like a train traveling across the U.S.; there were scenic times and then there were other not-so-scenic times but the train kept moving. So in terms of the course load, we had several multi-disciplinary courses throughout the year. The most important factor seem to be keeping track of where I needed to be and what was due at a particular time. My post-bac year gave me a foundation for a few of the classes but others were unfamiliar. Thankfully, I did well by seeking out the resources that the school provides such as tutoring, talking to upperclassmen, and talking to course faculty.

What do you enjoy most about medical school?
At the end of a module/block, I’m really amazed by all the knowledge I amassed about that particular topic. Sure, the process of learning it all can be truly overwhelming at times, but when it all comes together and makes sense, it’s a great feeling. Additionally, being in medical school opens up more opportunities to shadow/intern in particular fields, conduct research and/or get published.

Please describe any activities you’re involved in during medical school
At school, I’m a Co-President for the Drexel chapter of Student National Medical Association (SNMA) and I help to facilitate an early childhood reading program at a local women’s shelter. I also work in the children’s ministry at my local church as a small group facilitator.

How do you balance your personal time with medical school?
Finding balance is definitely hard. It all comes down to making time for the stuff that truly matter. As a second year, I feel like I have less time to understand and master all the information about each organ system for school exams as well as studying for the Step 1 exam. So, I recently started scheduling “everything” into my web calendar. My personal goal is to keep in touch with family and friends as much as I can and whenever possible. I’m also in a relationship with an amazing woman, so I make time for that as well.

Do you have any advice for students considering a career in medicine?
If medicine is truly your passion and you can’t see yourself doing anything else, keep working towards that dream. Your path to medical school doesn’t have to be the traditional way directly from college so do what works best for you. Please do your own research in choosing the best-fit post-bac program, if you are considering that route. Lastly, find one or more mentors to help you along the journey.

 Thank you for sharing your story Ric. Very inspiring!
Any questions for Ric? Leave a comment below and he’ll get back to you.

Do also check out the other Med Student Spotlights!

Meet Stacy – A 2nd Year Med Student at American University of Antigua

drConsidering a Caribbean medical school? Then check out Stacy’s story. Stacy is a second year medical student at American University of Antigua (AUA). We met Summer 2010 through SMDEP (college freshmen and sophomores, I encourage you to APPLY!). She certainly had her share of curveballs on her journey to medical school. During her sophomore year of college, she fell ill with Lupus, a systemic autoimmune disease. Despite this and other challenges along the way, she refused to give up on her goal. I’m in awe of her story and very excited to share it with you all!

What led you to pursue medicine?
My parents were great motivators for me to look towards a career in medicine. At a young age, they were able to assess my characteristics and really guide me towards the field.

What was your major in college and how did that prepare you for medical school?
I majored in Biology at North Carolina A&T State University. My major assisted me with understanding the foundations during my first year of medical school. The courses such as genetics, virology and cell/molecular biology are just a few courses that I really recommend undergrads take seriously if they plan on attending medical school.

Did you ever consider giving up on your dream? What obstacles or hurdles did you have to overcome in your medical school journey?
Oh yes! After my MCAT scores remained below average, I looked at several other options within the health field. To tell you the truth, every time I considered another option a little life escaped from me.

Like many students, I had my education and career goals planned out up. I planned on graduating Summa Cum Laude, within 4 years and heading straight to medical school thereafter. During my sophomore year in undergrad, I fell ill with SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus), which was my first detour in life. Missing a semester (especially according to my education plan), threw off my course schedule which wouldn’t allow me to take the MCAT during my junior year. Therefore, I had to re-evaluate and adjust accordingly. I registered for summer classes and took a large load during the semester because I really wanted to graduate in the year 2011, even if it would be a winter graduation.

By the grace of God, I successfully obtained both my goals of graduating in the year 2011 and Summa Cum Laude.

The MCAT: I wanted to use the self-study method because I wanted to save my parents’ funds for when medical school actually approached. Unfortunately, this option didn’t allot me the scores necessary to gain acceptance into a U.S college/school of Medicine.

It’s really cool that you’re attending med school in the Caribbean, can you tell us more about that? What’s the experience like for you? Any advice for students considering this option?
Attending school in the Caribbean is a really great option for those who are still determined to pursue their medical career despite their trials. I am starting my second year at American University of Antigua (AUA) and I am extremely blessed for the opportunity to be here. One thing I enjoy about my school is that it’s comprised of students from different nationalities, all with the same goal. The classes are large (about 200 students) per semester, but the journey is worthwhile. I personally have not “enjoyed” the island because I am focused on the goal ahead of me. The culture of the local Antiguan residents is slower than most are used too, but I enjoy it.

For anyone planning on considering this option I would suggest you first pray for guidance on such a huge decision, and then find students who have attended that particular school and inquire of their particular experience. Attending a Caribbean school should never be considered an “easier route”!! One must now supersede their American counterparts board scores to be considered a spot for residency and the like.

So how was the application process for you?
Since I had all of my documents from the AMCAS system, the process was fairly easy and swift.

How is your first year of medical school going?
It is going (LOL). Or shall I say “it went” since I am entering my second year this February. It was a lot of hard work, and the pressure is always apparent. I had to find ways to relax and not stress out because medical school is a journey, not a race.

What do you enjoy most about medical school?
I love learning about how the human body functions. It intrigues me how well put together our whole body is and how we are able to self sufficiently compensate in times of stress (if all is normal).

Please describe any activities you are involved in at your school
I am actively involved in an organization called “Doctors for Christ” where last semester I was the Praise and Worship leader. We come together once a week to fellowship, pray and encourage one another through our medical school journey. I also volunteer for our campus health fairs that we hold for the local residents within the community.

How do you balance your personal time with medical school?
What personal time? LOL just kidding! I had to learn how to allow personal time in my schedule because I actually endured “burning out” and it was the most nonproductive experience ever. Since calling my family isn’t an easy option due to long distance charges, I have to find other things to do. Candy Crush was a very helpful remedy. I created time to attend a local church and spending time with the Lord in prayer has never failed me

Do you have any advice for students considering a career in medicine?
If you really have the passion for medicine take time to pray about your decision, research your options and literally surrender yourself to the journey that God Almighty will take you on. It may not be the one you planned on but If the Lord is with you, He will definitely see you through.

Thank you for sharing your story Stacy. Very inspiring!
Any questions for Stacy? Leave a comment below and she’ll get back to you.

Do also check out the other Med Student Spotlights!

Reflecting on 2014: A Year of Greater

It’s that time of the year when I sit and reflect on the year – the highlights, the lessons learned, the challenges, and the celebratory moments. To do this, I use my journal and scan through the many months of writing, laughing, “oOoo’ing” and “Awww’ing” all through the exercise. It is in this moment I realize how much I accomplished this year, the lessons learned along the way, and how much of an impact certain events had on my life. In the beginning of 2014, I sought to embody my church’s theme for the year: “2014: Year of Greater.” Below is an excerpt from my January 2nd, 2014 journal entry:

Words can’t begin to describe how excited I am for this year. Like forreal. This is my year of greater favor, greater blessings, greater miracles. I mean God is seriously about to work in my life.

And God did work. In a mighty way

Here are a just few highlights from the year:

January
I launched my fitness instagram: @fitandfine_withdee which promotes fitness, health, and nutrition.

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February
I created my Afrobeat cardio video which now has 6000+ views on YouTube. Never would have thought!

March
I felt extremely overwhelmed and exhausted working full-time and taking classes in the evening. Taking Immunobiology may not have been the smartest idea.

I also joined my church choir 😀

April
I felt exhausted for most of the month. A lot of late nights, not much sleep. I was working 40 hour weeks and taking two classes in the evenings (I also took Biochemistry during my gap year by the way). My plan was to take advantage of the tuition benefit at my job – taking up to 2 classes for free. Lesson learned for those thinking of working full-time and taking classes to boost your med school application: I should have stuck with one.

May
Traveled to Chicago for a friend’s wedding. Awesome time!

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June
Started blogging again! Turned in my med school application (AMCAS) early – oh yeaaa!!

Led a month long boot camp as an instructor for SweatU

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Also published my first med student spotlight. It was on Naya, a second year med student. The post received a lot of positive feedback and has become the second highest viewed post on my blog at 548 views (as of today).

My cousin visited me from South Africa – awesome time!

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July
Wrote a lot of secondaries for med schools

Got my braces installed – I am now team metal mouth 😛

Competed in my second Spartan Obstacle race

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August
Took my MCAT again – no more!

Taught my first college seminar (preceptorial): “Say NO to the Freshman 15!

September
Invited to be a campaign manager for Memunatu Magazine’s Indiegogo campaign

Accepted high school cross country coaching position!

Got my first med school interview invite!!!

Presented at a conference on research I’ve been working on at my job (I was a co-presenter)

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October
My birthday! Had a blast ALL week

Med school interview!

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November
Got into a relationship with the most awesome guy 🙂

I attended the RWJF Scholars Forum and SMDEP Alumni Summit – great time!

My first radio appearance!

December
I published my post: “#WhiteCoats4BlackLives: Acknowledging The Political Determinants of Health” which became the most viewed post on my site. In just less than a month, it has 1,122 views!

My post on the national white coat die-in gets published on “The health Care Blog.” This was a major accomplishment for me!! You can check it out here.

I get a promotion at my job!


All this to say, this year has certainly been a year of greater. I challenged myself more than I had done in the past and definitely pushed through several obstacles. I am thankful for an AMAZING year and very thankful to you, my readers, for reading each post, sharing them, and accompanying me on this journey. I am extremely excited for what 2015 has in store.

Cheers and Happy New Year Folks!

Med School Interviews: Dressing The Part

So before I go any further, I’m going to put a disclaimer: This post is more so for people on a budget. So no, I won’t be talking about designer suits or name brands – that’s frankly not how I live. However, if you’re really money conscious or not exactly rolling in dough, and wondering what to do about your suit situation, well then, please read on.

As we all know, first impressions DO matter. I recently attended a med school interviewing workshop held by my alma mater’s pre-health/ career services and here are my take-aways on dress code:

  • Keep it classy – Black and dark colored suits. This is not the time to rock that white “Olivia Pope” suit, you think is so fly or that bright colored suit you think still looks professional. Nope, not the time. Remember your audience, the individuals interviewing you are most likely older and conservative. Keep it traditional. If you want to add some spunk, add color to your dress-shirt/ button-up underneath or tie.
  • For the ladies: watch the shoes. Most interview days have a tour, don’t torture yourself by wearing heels you know very well you can’t last 8 hours in. The goal is to feel comfortable throughout and that most likely means wearing flats or low heels.
  • Keep the accessories and make-up to a minimum. Again, all the flashy stuff, unnecessary. Remember your audience. Keep it professional and conservative.

Now, where to get your suit.

If you’re on a budget like I am, there are just some stores, you don’t bother going into – I’m just saying. But hope is not lost, you CAN buy affordable and trendy looking suits. In August, I was shopping at Ross (a clothing store with amazingly affordable prices) when I saw this pantsuit. It wasn’t the exact cut I wanted but at the same time, it was too good not to pass up, and so I bought it. I’m definitely glad I did that way in advance.

charcoal suit

Sorry for the bad lighting/ picture quality!

The original/ compare price is $179.00 but I bought it for $69.99. Amazing. So I would definitely recommend checking out Ross, TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Burlington Coat Factory for affordable and stylish suits.

Another option is thrifting. Yes, going to the thrift store. Like I said, this is for those on a budget. A couple of years ago, I bought this suit from a local thrift store and I’ve received several compliments on it in the past (Note: this is just an example, I would still recommend a darker grey suit for interviews). The high-waisted pant and blazer were purchased separately (different brand), so I was lucky enough to find a shade that complimented both. And hey, no one can tell where I bought it. It looks great!

thrift suit

So yes, it is possible to buy affordable, stylish suits. Shop around. There’s really no need to break the bank.

Ciao!

Secondaries: Lessons Learned

Let’s talk secondaries. Earlier in the summer, when I initially wrote about my plan to tackle secondaries, I was determined to utilize all the Do’s and Don’ts I had gathered.

My goal: To make sure it was as stress-free as possible.

I’ve been done with them for quite some time now, so this post is definitely overdue. Here are five lessons I learned from writing secondaries:

1. Each school is unique in its approach to fulfilling its mission

I repeat, each school is unique. Don’t believe otherwise. Sure when you read the mission, it may appear to be very similar to the previous school you just read up on, HOWEVER, once you dig a little deeper, you’ll discover the unique programs the school has to offer. And yes, I’ll argue that each school has something unique and when you discover what it is, it’s like Aha! Definitely mention it in your secondary. You find this out by doing your research – their website, their Facebook page, their twitter and other outlets.

2. It’s a tango between showing what you have to offer and what they have to offer

Finding the balance is key. When I wrote my first secondary and had a friend read it, she gave me this key piece of advice:

 “When describing your interests in a school – try to strike a balance between talking about yourself/ interests/ attributes i.e what you can bring to the table with what the school can bring to you. It’s a 2 way relationship if that makes sense.

I thought I did that but she noted that I was falling into the trap of regurgitating information about the school as I researched them.  This is no bueno, it’s important to talk about how you will enhance those features you like about the school. This key piece of advice early on in my process was immensely beneficial.

3. You shouldn’t rush a masterpiece. Slowly get it done

rushingThis one seems like common sense, but depending on your schedule, there may be some pressure to get those secondaries done ASAP. That’s fine BUT don’t sacrifice quality in that process. Personally, I never wrote and submitted on the same day. I usually waited at least a day to look it over again and make sure I caught all mistakes and was pleased with the final product. I definitely caught some mistakes utilizing that approach.

4. Deadlines make it all feasible

deadlineRemember my two week turn around plan for secondaries? I stuck to it! Because I had my two week deadlines written in my excel sheet, I was well aware of when I wanted to submit my secondaries; I could slowly work on each of them versus rushing to get it all done in one day. Again, everyone has a different schedule. I work full-time and I am involved in a host of other things, so the deadlines I established as I received the secondaries were immensely helpful. If I hadn’t set this game plan in the beginning, I’m sure I would have felt a lot more overwhelmed.

5. Have someone read it. Seriously. 

Shout out to my mom for this. She read a lot of my secondaries, provided constructive feedback, and helped me catch the silly mistakes. She’s not a doctor and really doesn’t know anything about the application process except from what I tell her, but her input on my secondaries was incredibly helpful. A second pair of eyes is VERY helpful. This could be a friend of yours in med school, a friend who’s an English major, or like me, a parent. My application process has been a family experience – essentially they’re all applying with me (and I feel blessed to have that family support!), so naturally, they were my second pair of eyes.

Did you learn some lessons as well? Leave a comment and share them below!
Ciao!

Meet Billy – A 3rd Year Med Student at Temple University

billy yates

Billy is a 3rd year medical student at Temple University School of Medicine. I met him last year at the SNMA Region VIII Conference at Temple. Side note: SNMA conferences are great avenues to meet minorities in medicine. I met Billy and other down-to-earth medical students who showed me that hey, med students are normal folks too! Read on as Billy explains his journey to med school, his NIH post-baccalaureate experience, and more. 

So what led you to pursue medicine?
I’ve always been more interested (and more competent) in math, sciences, and problem solving which initially led me towards the engineering pathway. Both my parents are doctors so medicine was always something in the back of my mind. However, I didn’t end up deciding to go to medical school until my 3rd year of college. After completing an engineering internship, I did some soul searching and realized I wanted a career with more patient contact while having a more immediate and direct impact in peoples’ lives.

What was your major in college and how did that prepare you for medical school?
I was a biomedical engineering major for 2 years but ended up switching to psychology. I think it helped me understand the human side of medicine which a lot of science majors simply aren’t exposed to until they get to medical school.

You did a post-baccalaureate program right after college, please tell us about that
After college I spent 2 years at the NIH postbac IRTA program – a research program for students planning to eventually enter medical or graduate school. I didn’t decide on med school until my 3rd year of college, so doing this program would allow me time to study for and take my MCAT, improve my resume with research, and give me time to enjoy a few years of relative freedom before medical school and the “real world.” I had a great experience that also reaffirmed my desire to go to medical school. I worked with schizophrenic patients and found that I enjoyed interacting with the patients more than I did the actual computer analyses and genetic components of the research (although also very interesting). I’d definitely recommend the program to anyone interested in research.

During this journey did you ever consider giving up on your dream? What obstacles or hurdles did you have to overcome in your medical school journey?
I started my dream somewhat late in the game, but once I chose it, I stuck to it. There were definitely times in medical school I was afraid I couldn’t keep up or couldn’t pass a certain test (cough, cough, Step 1), but being around a good group of friends helps you push through when you realize other people feel the same way.

So how was the application process for you?
I actually found the application process to be fun. I’ll say that with the disclaimer that I was lucky enough that it went pretty smoothly and fairly successfully, otherwise it could have been very stressful. I worked with about 10 other students at the NIH during my 2 year gap that were also applying at the same time. We would go to coffee shops, work on our secondaries and talk about our different interviews during lunch; it was pleasant.

What was your first year of medical school like?
First year was definitely a change I could not have been prepared for. I went from working 9-5 and doing whatever I felt like doing after work, to essentially studying as hard as I could to keep pace with 200 other really bright students. I really don’t think there is any way I could have mentally prepared myself for the medical school load, but as with anything in life, you get used to it and learn to better manage your time.

What do you enjoy most about medical school?
I enjoy most being able to apply something I’ve learned. This really isn’t done until 3rd year since the first 2 years are mostly books. But finally seeing what you’ve learned in books come alive right in front of you is an awesome feeling.

What activities have you been involved in during med school?
I was webmaster/social chair for Temple SNMA. I taught neuroscience at the Penn Neuroscience Pipeline Program. I also like to keep active and played on an intramural basketball team and regularly play pickup soccer.

How do you balance your personal time with medical school?
Depending on the subject or rotation I’m on, I sort of learn how much free time I can get away with without sacrificing grades. I’m not particularly good at focusing my studies into one time period and my personal activities into another time period, but you have to learn what works for you.

Do you have any advice for students considering a career in medicine?
Learn as much as you can about medicine to see if it’s right for you. That’s easier said than done – I’m still learning what a career in medicine is all about. However, the more you learn, the easier it’ll be something you’ll enjoy doing for the rest of your life.

 Thank you for sharing your story Billy. Very inspiring!
Any questions for Billy? Leave a comment below and he’ll get back to you.

7 Fun Ways To Get Physically Active

Folks, it’s time to get down and dirty with FITNESS! As mentioned in a previous post, working out is one of the strategies I use to manage stress. The benefits are simply POW, out of this world. Not just physically, but mentally. When you exercise you release chemicals called endorphins aka “the feel good” hormones. According to WebMD, studies have shown that “people who exercise regularly benefit with a positive boost in mood and lower rates of depression.” Yes, exercise has been proven to reduce symptoms of clinical depression, reduce stress, boost self-esteem, and even improve sleep.

Now I know for some, working out is comparable to doing dishes. It’s that chore you just hate to do and if you can avoid it, you would.

However, you shouldn’t. For your own health.

Working out, believe or not, CAN be fun. You just need to find that activity that makes you feel like “Yes! I can’t wait to do this again!” Having tried several fitness classes and exercise programs in the past, I figured I’d speak from my personal experience. Here are 7 fun ways to get physically active (my pictures included):

1. Dancing

Dancing with my old troupe: African Rhythms

This is one of my favorite ways to get physically active. Friends and family can attest to this – I LOVE to dance. The great thing about dancing is that you can do this in the comfort of your room. Simply turn up the music and get to grooving. No one is watching and in as little as 15 minutes, you should start feeling pretty good (endorphins kicking in!). You can also take dance classes – Salsa, Batchata, Hip Hop, West African – the options are endless. Personally, I take West African dance classes when I can and I leave each session extremely sweaty but very excited for the next class.

                                                                  2. Runningphoto (1)

Interesting story here. I initially got into running because at times, I would get so angry that the only thing I felt I could do was run. Just escape it all. It was my way of coping with feelings of anger. It was about the same time I joined cross-country (middle school) and well, the rest is history. It’s an activity I actually like to do. Running is not only a great workout but an awesome way to relieve stress.

                                3. Gym time

photo (2)

If running isn’t your thing. Try hitting up some weights. There are several phone apps that guide beginners into strength training. I personally like Jefit. The benefit? You not only get a good workout but you also improve your muscle tone. Feeling good and looking good – double win!

               4. Home workouts

photo (3)

If you aren’t into the gym culture or maybe these application fees has you eating ramen for lunch and dinner and well, gym memberships are simply not in the budget, then home workouts are a really great way to get physically active. Just get a resistance band, a jump rope, maybe an Ab rollout wheel or any other equipment you desire, and you’ve got a home gym. I bought these pictured equipments from Marshall’s and the cool thing is being able to use it when I’m bored, don’t feel like going to the gym, or when I feel like trying a workout DVD or a workout on YouTube. The best part? It’s very cheap!

5. Doing fun races

10411100_10154361093935521_7326526804804366260_nI’ll be honest, this isn’t the cheapest way to get physically active but it can definitely motivate you to get moving! By registering for a race – a 5k, mud race, obstacle race, or if you’re feeling daring, a half-marathon or marathon – you set a goal for yourself. Registering in advance means that you’ve already coughed up a certain amount of money that you know you can’t get back. Now since you registered for it, you are well aware that if you don’t train or get in some sort of shape – you’ll end up regretting that. No one likes to be injured. So this is a cool way to get motivated into being physically active. When you do it with friends, it’s even better. Plus you get bragging rights – hollaaaa!

6. Yoga

photo (4)

All body strength and still a workout. This can be done through yoga classes or in the comforts of your home. For classes, I highly recommend Power Yoga – a form of hot yoga that focuses on strength and flexibility. I tried this a while back and absolutely loved it. I always left feeling like I got a workout! Unfortunately, these classes can get expensive but the cool thing about yoga is that you can do it the comforts of your home. Get to practicing, build up your strength, and in that process de-stress and reduce any anxiety you might have – perfect!

7. Other fitness classes

There are so many interesting fitness classes and often times you can get good deals on them through Groupon or Living Social. There are boxing classes, cross fit, pole fitness, and zumba classes to name a few. I was feeling adventurous once and tried a pole fitness/ dance class. I saw the deal on Groupon and thought “Hey, this would be really cool!” I tried one class and quickly realized this activity required a lot of upper body strength – Ha! Although I didn’t end up using the remaining 4 classes, the two classes I did experience were quite interesting. So again, check out some interesting classes. You never know, you might end up liking it and coming back for more.

Workout. Manage your stress. Release your emotions.

Ciao!