Postbacc

Roses, Long Distance Relationships, and the Joys of Anatomy

Last week was full of celebration. I received my official email, chose my white coat size, I mean it was legit. I also purchased my first DSLR camera –  woot woot! I’m trying to pick up photography as a hobby, but I’m a total newbie – alas, I’m still learning the basics. A friend of mine invited me out to a baby shoot she was doing for a client and I got to observe. It was my first time at Columbus Park of Roses and I was stunned by how breathtaking the whole park was. Here are some dope (raw) shots I took:

My boyfriend also visited that weekend. He’s a medical student and had just completed his last clinical shelf exam for third year (woot woot 4th year status!), so it was double the celebration! We’ve been long distance for the past year, so seeing each other always feels like a treat. I believe the saying goes, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” well I’ll add that it certainly makes you appreciate the time you’re able to spend together. Especially since we’re not only long distance but both in medical school now (double whammy!), we definitely treasure the times we’re able to physically see each other. And per usual, it was full of laughter and adventures.

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Sadly, Monday rolled around and it was time to get back into the swing of things, aka studying and getting more acquainted with the cadavers. Anatomy is a huge learning curve y’all! Right now we’re on upper limbs and I’m like, so many muscles in the forearm and hand, all these origins and insertions, the brachial plexus, tis too much! Yea, keeping it all straight is a challenge. Our practical and written exam is this Monday and I’m just going to keep going over the material till it sticks. I use Net Anatomy to study since my school has  a subscription to that. I also use Gray’s Atlas of Anatomy. It’s a bit challenging since we don’t have 24-hour access to the cadaver lab for this summer portion. I suppose I can’t complain though, it’s pass/ fail. Most importantly, being able to recall most of this material when we start MSK block (musculoskeletal system) in the fall is GOLD. I’m always down with anything that makes life easier. On that note, back to the books I go!

Reaction video: It’s official!

Yesterday was a BIG day for me. How big, you ask?

FLIPPING BIG!

Yesterday, the MCAT scores were released *GASPS!* Yes, I know. This is major. As you all know, one of the requirements for my conditional acceptance into medical school was retaking the MCAT. The date was scheduled for us, fixed, with no chance of rescheduling. All 15 of us MEDPATHers were set to take it on May 14th. This was about 2 weeks after our second semester ended. The goal was the meet/ surpass the minimum score required of us. As part of the program, we took The Princeton Review MCAT prep course; this was our “Independent study” course and counted towards credits for the spring semester. This was HUGELY beneficial for me since I had never taken a MCAT prep course in the past.

Anyhoo, fast-forward through all the studying, taking the exam that fateful Saturday, then waiting 31 days for the score to come out. June 14 finally rolled around and being the person that I am, I documented the moment I saw my score – I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for capturing memories. I opened my score page and…**drumroll please** not only did I meet the goal score, but I surpassed it and scored in the 80th percentile. To give you an idea, that translates to somewhere between 30 – 31 on the old MCAT. So yea, it went relatively well. No more ifs, buts, or maybes, my white coat ceremony is August 1st! I’ll definitely write more in-depth about how I studied in future posts. But first…here’s my reaction video!

Click here to  watch

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

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.