Super Star Blogs!

Leading in Medicine

My professional mission is simple, to develop tomorrow’s leaders in medicine. As technology advances and demographics shift, the need for strong leadership in every field is more important now than ever.  I’d argue that this is especially true in healthcare given that lives are at stake.

Doctors must be leaders. Take a moment to think about what our professional mandate is.  We lead people to better physical and mental well-being.  Throughout our schooling, we are taught how care for patients, which is essential, but there is an obvious lack in leadership training.  This leads to poor alignment between members of healthcare teams and a dysfunctional system.  My role in medicine, is to turn the tide and help future doctors understand the importance of leadership at an early stage. Furthermore, I desire to guide you all along the journey of becoming strong leaders.  That being said, here are three essential items I believe everyone must do in order to become an excellent leader.

  1. Start by following.  Physicians tend to have a“Type A” personality.  Too often, we want to jump straight into the helm and take control of the ship.  This eagerness is a great quality to have,but it must be controlled.  Strong leaders are not made overnight.  Before you can lead anybody, you must first know what it means to be a follower.  Being a follower allows you to study the characteristics of a leader.  Take a moment to think about one person who leads you in life.  Now write down 5 characteristics of that person.  Are they good at leading?  Why or why not?  How do they communicate with you?  Do they do what they say they’ll do?  What specifically makes them a good or bad leader?  As a follower of this person,how do they make you feel in various circumstances?   These are all questions you should actively contemplate in order to prepare yourself to lead at higher levels. 
  2. Learn to listen.  Leading is about serving.  Jesus once said, “the greatest among you will be your servant.”  When you are the leader, you put other people’s desires at the top and yours at the bottom. In order to know what they want and need, you must listen to them.  One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when they are trying to lead is talking too much.  We have been sold a false image of what a strong leader looks like, and often the image is of an individual who is talking.  The problem with people who talk too much is that they never take the time to be quiet and allow others to speak.  This prohibits them from learning what other people need. If you don’t know what someone else needs, it’s rather difficult to serve them.  If you’re not serving them,you’re not leading them.  Learn to listen.  Leading is NOT about you.  It’s about THEM!
  3. Be willing to take the hit.  This is where many weak leaders are exposed.  By definition, a leader is one who is out in front.  When you’re in front, you are vulnerable to take the first hit which many times is also the hardest hit.  To be an effective leader, you have to be willing to take that blow for those who are following you.  You must sacrifice your own well-being for the sake of theirs.  Only after you have been bruised and paved a way do you bring your followers along.  You bring them when the risk to benefit ratios significantly in their favor.  What tends to happen with weak leaders is they have a big voice and make bold statements that attract followers. However, when danger arises, they’re not willing to take that hit!  They lack conviction and commitment. 

So, time for you to take the lead and chime in.  What are other important characteristics that leaders need to have in order to be effective?

5 Things to Consider When Choosing Which School to Apply to!

Week 40 of  the PreMed Mondays book covers 5 things to consider when choosing which medical schools to apply to!  Yes you need to apply strategically!  There are a few key things every premed should consider when deciding which schools to apply to.  Here are some of them:

1) Has the school shown any interest in you?

2) What are their average USMLE/COMLEX pass rates?

3) What are their average GPA/MCAT

4) The specific field you are interested in

5) Locations

BONUS: Curriculum styles (e.g. PBL vs traditional)

Premeds, find affordable services designed to help you get accepted into medical school at www.PreHealthMarket.com.

What do the Ancient Greeks have to do with Virtual Medical Scribing?

Ever wonder how EHRs developed? How did anyone ever think of using a medical scribe? Here’s an outline of the history, beginning with the ancient Greeks.

Development of Medical Records

• Earliest medical records by ancient Greeks documented successful cures, observations about symptoms and outcomes, and case studies for teaching purposes

• In 1928, the American College of Surgeons set standards for record-keeping and established what is now the American Health Information Management Association

• Computers came into use for data collection as early as the 1960s

• Record-keeping gradually became more and more computerized, with recognition developing in the 1990s of the need for easier electronic sharing of information

Development of electronic health records

• 2004 – President George W. Bush called for computerized health records

• 2009 – Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act provided financial incentives to encourage the adoption of EHRs and the interoperability necessary to share data among providers

• HITECH also established meaningful use standards to use as criteria for receiving the financial incentives and penalties for not adopting EHRs

• 2014 – Government mandate fully in place

Development of Medical Scribing

• As charting in EHRs became more detailed and time consuming, physicians found themselves focusing on their computers rather than their patients during encounters, and they spent more time outside the encounters updating their records.

• Physician burnout increased in direct proportion to the time requirements of working in EHRs.

• Physicians began using scribes to assist with EHR documentation, freeing them to focus more on patients and spend less time after hours working on charts.

• Industry growth began in emergency departments, with proven efficiency and results

• Scribing soon spread into other aspects of healthcare such as inpatient and ambulatory settings.

• Multiple studies have documented the benefits of using medical scribes.

The rise of virtual medical scribes

• Remote scribing has grown rapidly

o Rural communities with limited workforces can receive scribing services

o Many patients find it less intrusive than having a 3rd person in the room during the encounter

o Virtual scribe services are often more cost effective for providers

o Scribes can be located anywhere

5 Tips to Get Recruited to Medical School

Week 39 of  the PreMed Mondays book covers 5 ways to get recruited to medical school.  YES, you can get recruited to medical school, and you should want to get recruited.  There are plenty of reasons why a medical school may pursue a student and you want to be well positioned to be one of those desired students.

Premeds, find affordable services designed to help you get accepted into medical school at www.PreHealthMarket.com.

Advancing Science for the Health of Women: The Trans-NIH Strategic Plan for Women’s Health Research

Happy International Women’s Day from the NIH!

“Advancing Science for the Health of Women: The Trans-NIH Strategic Plan for Women’s Health Research, [a project] for advancing a vision in which sex and/or gender influences are integrated into the biomedical research enterprise…Within the framework of this strategic plan, interdisciplinary approaches, which leverage expertise and advances from several fields, can help to accelerate progress toward improved health care for women of all ages and backgrounds. Efforts aimed at supporting women from their early careers to leadership positions in biomedicine will help the research enterprise to gain a wider array of expertise, perspectives, and creative problem solving that is critical to scientific progress.”

My MCAT Story + Tips

Hello, Premed Stars!

I am a graduating senior who will be matriculating into medical school this Fall. I wanted to share my MCAT journey with you hoping that you can gain some different insights. This site helped me so much while I was studying for the MCAT. And, there are plethora of resources on here that can help you– from blogs to your connections.  

Studying for the MCAT is a journey. You learn a lot about yourself– both your strengths and weaknesses. You fall and you rise with every practice test. You reason through convoluted passages to prepare for the day when you have to make a diagnosis. Everyone is unique. So, every journey would be different. Quite frankly, reading about how other people walked through this process kept me motivated and eased my anxiety while studying for the MCAT. So, I am trying to be the been-there-done-this person, attempting to alleviate your worries. So, here goes another MCAT story 😀

There’s never too much notes 🙂

I scored a 509 (80th percentile) when I took the MCAT in 2017. Although it is not a mind blowing score, it is around the average of the national medical school matriculant’s  MCAT score. I began studying for the MCAT in my sophomore year in Spring 2016. This was early on but I was not studying squarely for it. Instead, I was trying to understand the structure of the exam and also retain high yield topics that were taught in class. So, I skimmed through my prep books every now and then just to familiarize myself with the tested topics. That way, I can streamline my attention towards specific topics discussed in class. This helped solidify my foundation in the tested concepts.

An eight hours uninterrupted study time in the library

In Spring 2017, I started studying 1 chapter a day and did practice questions at the end of each chapter. With 7 subjects to cover and each with roughly 12 to 13 chapters, it is definitely tasking to study and retain every detail. But I have to tell you, paying attention in class really helped me in covering that much content within the spring time. I take notes while studying. Cornell note-taking system worked out well for me combined with the regular note-taking style. I made flashcards for psychology and sociology contents, and annotated my prep-books, especially those with diagrams. I switched up my studying style to find out which was best for me. I used the Pomodoro technique a couple of times. It was helpful but I felt restricted, given the amount of material I had to cover. So, I modified it  by creating my own time blocks and break times as the test date approached. Taking breaks in between helps with retention. For instance, on some weekends, I don’t study at all. As summer approached, I started wrapping up studying all the subjects, and began to look into other prep books to fill lapses in material coverage. No one test company can cover the entire scope of the material on MCAT in details. Hence, it is important to have other resources to supplement your study.

A rough draft of my schedule a month prior to my test date.

I did not have a concrete study plan for the summer. After choosing a date in May–August 11, 2017– I made monthly study schedules and followed duly. I found all the free practice test available online and spaced them evenly on my schedule. I haven’t taken Biochemistry course when I took the MCAT. Since I pretty much self-study most of the time, I began to watch lots of video tutorials and read each chapter slowly. This took up a chunk of my study schedule. Also, I knew I was weak in the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, partly because I am not a native English speaker. So, I did extra practice everyday on that section. It is important to tackle your weakness early on and build on your strengths simultaneously.

Although I did not have a study buddy, I found an online support group for the MCAT via my connections on PreMed Star. A huge shout out to Auburn, Noor, and others on this platform. You guys are awesome! We scheduled MCAT jeopardy nights, review full length practice, and do daily CARS practice together on Skype. This helped me stay motivated to study and improve on my test taking skills. Other things I did to stay motivated was to shadow physicians, volunteer at the Alzheimer center, and most importantly, reflect on my ‘Why.’ All these acts helped fuel my internal drive to keep studying.

So based on my experience, here are a few tips:

Choose a date early but not too early. Remember to finish all the prerequisite courses before your test date, unless you have prior knowledge on the course’s topics. It’s mostly advised that you should allow 3-8 months interval between the start of your MCAT study and test day. Also, the best time to take the MCAT is at the end of your junior year, provided you don’t want to take a gap year. This time is best because if you do not do well, you will have enough time to make plans and retake it. Aim to take it once. In this case, the more isn’t merrier. Some schools choose the highest scores, some average the scores, others choose the most recent ones. So, taking the MCAT once is the safest route. And remember, you can only take it three times a year and seven times in your lifetime.

Get the right preparation resources and make a realistic study schedule. Remember not to overwhelm yourself with resources because there’s a lot of information out there. I will suggest that you get a main prepbook and supplement with other prep books. I personally used the Kaplan 7-subjects Book Review as my main prep book and supplemented with other online resources like Princeton, NextStep, Altius, Barron, Khan Academy, MCAT Gold, and so on. For extra practice in CARS, I used Exam crackers 101 passages. Check your local library for some of these books. It could save you lots of dollars. Take advantage of free online webinars also. I know Kaplan organizes lots of webinars on strategy and practice test on a monthly basis.

Practice, Practice, Practice. I cannot stress this enough. Do practice questions after reading each chapter and do evenly spaced out full practice test in a simulated test center setting. The library or a technology lab would be a great place to do this. The concepts on the MCAT are tested in a interdisciplinary/applied manner. Hence, doing practice questions would train you to think in such way.

Review both right and wrong answers. Sometimes, the reason why an answer is right might be different from the reasoning you apply to get to a similar conclusion. Hence, reviewing all answers and questions could help you up your game while studying. Also, keep a journal for accountability if you have the time. Write down why you think you got a question wrong. It would help you understand the materials better.

Stay healthy and motivated. Take care of yourself while in the “MCAT cave.” Exercise, stay hydrated and well-nourished, and do fun things outside of studying. Take breaks and do not feel guilty. Remember to take a deep breathe and remind yourself: You got this!

If you have any other tips that you have employed to ace the MCAT, feel free to share your insights. Let me know if you have any questions.

What I Learned in Research 

For those of you who don’t know me, let me give you a little bit of background to my premedical journey. I am a first-generation college student who entered the University of California, Irvine Undecided/Undeclared. The best way I can explain my time as an undergraduate (and even the better part of my gap years) is figuring things as they came. I’m sure all of you can relate to that feeling to a certain degree. One of my biggest regrets is not finding the proper mentors early on to help guide me on my path. Luckily for me, following my interests and saying yes to a lot of great opportunities have kept me more or less on track.

Upon graduating from university, the professor I did research with as an undergraduate offered me a paid position to continue and finish some of the research projects I had been working on in the lab. I jumped at the opportunity to see some of the projects through as I prepared myself for medical school. Recently, I was asked to be a panelist at an undergraduate symposium discussing the importance of scientific research and offering some strategies for success. Here were the biggest takeaways from our discussion.

The best time to get involved is now

This was the answer to one of the most asked questions. One of the biggest worries most premeds have is how they’ll balance all of their academics, extracurricular activities, and social commitments. It can be daunting to think about all of the activities that we should be involved with. Many admissions committees will tell you that it is vital for aspiring doctors to have exposure to some type of scientific research. Try not to put off getting involved in research until later in your premedical journey. The best time to get involved in research is as soon as you are able to balance it. Even if you can’t devote a ton of hours to research per week, it is far more impressive for someone to follow through on a research project over the span of a few years than cramming it into a few short months. I once had a counselor tell me that one year is the minimum span of time I should spend on an activity, two years is good, and that three years shows even more commitment. Granted, everyone has their own path to medical school. Depending on your personal situation and the resources you have around you, getting involved in research before medical school may not be feasible. However, if you can work research into your schedule, consider getting involved with it for the long haul.

Research will make you a better medical student candidate and a better doctor

Over the past couple of years, I have learned a lot from research: navigating through pubmed, how to design proper controls for a study, and how to run through countless experimental protocols. I’ve learned so much, but the most valuable tool I got from research was learning how to think, not what to think. When you’re working in the cutting edge of research, a lot of what you’re studying is widely unexplored. This leaves you with a huge opportunity to grow, both personally and academically. You’ll be left to make a lot of predictions, figure out a way to find the answers, and analyze your data only to realize that things didn’t necessarily come out exactly as you expected. You learn to pause, reflect, and refine your approach. Even when working on independent projects I’ve learned the importance of collaboration- reaching out to your peers, mentors, or other experts in the field will only help you along in your search. Being active in research evokes a certain level of creativity in problem solving and persistence.


Explore your Interests

One of the biggest misconceptions that most premedical students have about research is that it won’t match their interests. When I used to hear the words research lab I would think of people in lab coats and goggles mixing chemicals and working on cell cultures or mice. That image probably kept me from getting involved in research earlier on- I mean most of us want to go into medicine because we enjoy working with people, right? I had this preconceived idea that medical schools would want me to have experience in clinical research or working as part of a team on a clinical trial. I ended up looking into research labs in the developmental and cellular biology department after really enjoying one of my upper division courses on the topic. I researched each of the groups, their studies, and reached out to the PI of the lab I was interested in. It ended up all working out and I began bench lab research a week or so later. The funny thing is, I ended up as one of those people in lab coats making solutions and working with animals, but instead of mice we use zebrafish as our genetic model. I immersed myself in research and loved it. In truth, not everyone is interested in bench research. But there are so many other options. Don’t be like younger me and think that you have to go into specific research fields if you want to get into medical school. Think about which areas of research would spark your interest. Consider getting involved in clinical research, public health, health policy, psychology, or pharmaceutical research. Still, if none of those attract your attention, think of how you can utilize the scientific method to conduct research in one of your own personal interests.

Got to present my research at a regional conference! 

5 Tips for Writing a Great Personal Statement

Week 38 of  the PreMed Mondays book covers 5 tips to writing a great personal statement.  Besides your actual interview, this is your best opportunity during the application process to show the medical schools who you really are.   The 5 tips are:

1) Make it personal

2) Don’t embellish

3) Write when you feel like writing

4) Don’t turn your essay into a CV

5) Have at least 5 people review your essay

Premeds, find affordable services designed to help you get accepted into medical school at www.PreHealthMarket.com.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Doctor?

A week ago, I was honored to be a part of the Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit in Dallas, Texas. This was an AMAZING event spearheaded by Dr. Dale at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Students from all over the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and some from out of state were present along with parents and teachers. There were a number of volunteers, medical doctors, premed students, and teachers in attendance as well. I was in awe at the attendance and highly inspired by everyone who spoke.

Dr. Dale gives his G.R.I.N.D. talk at the Youth Summit!

As I chatted with the young students in attendance, I began to notice nearly everyone had the same two questions for me?

1. How long did it take you to become a doctor?

2. Why did you choose Endocrinology as a specialty?

These were two excellent questions. I liked them because they allowed me to appreciate the dedication these students had to the field of medicine. As we say, medicine is a long road and it is best that you count the costs before embarking on it. I thought I’d share with you my answer to these two questions but first I must explain what it is I do as an Endocrinologist.

Endocrinology is the branch in medicine dedicated to studying endocrine glands and hormones. As Endocrinologists, our bread and butter is diabetes of all types but we also treat a host of hormonal disorders stemming from the pituitary, thyroid, parathyroids, adrenals, gonads, and pancreas glands. We also deal with metabolic disorders, growth disorders, and bone disorders. I personally think it is the coolest job in the world.

So back to the questions.

#1. How long did it take you to become a doctor?

This was a question asked primarily by the young students but when I think back, I don’t know that I could answer this question while I was a premedical student. I took for granted that I was going to medical school straight out of college and did not have anything but time on my hands. “A veeeery, veeeery long time,” was the answer I gave most of them as I watched their eyes open wide. I thought I surely scared them off with that but not at all!?! Nothing could deter these kids from their dream of becoming a physician. Most of them inquired further by asking me to explain the steps needed after high school all the way to my specialty. I obliged. 

   

So there you have it.. 10 years! This is a long time to dedicate to training but it is necessary to become a competent physician. During this time, friends will start jobs, buy homes, get married, and start families. You may have to put those things on the backburner but in no time you will catch up and it will be worth it. Delayed gratification is the key.


#2. Why did you choose Endocrinology as a specialty?

Medical students ask me this question all the time. My answer is, I chose Endocrinology because I had to be true to myself. To be an internist, you need to be intellectually curious. You must master the body in an out. As a medical student, I liked the cerebral challenge of internal medicine and felt it would be applicable in serving my family and community. While I rotated through the wards, I paid special attention to the cases that kept me up at night. These were the ones I loved to round on. The ones I was eager to see the lab results for. I found myself going back to the patient’s room after rounding so I could teach them about their condition. These were the cases I would watch on one of my favorite TV shows called “Mystery Diagnosis”. Pheochromocytoma, Addison’s disease, and acromegaly were always those zebra diagnoses in the back of my mind. How small glands such as these can transform one’s life continues to amaze me to this day but it is great to know that with the correct diagnosis and tools, you can help a patient out tremendously. 

There are many paths to become a doctor and many flavors of doctors. The road is a long one but oh what a privilege and honor it is to don the white coat.

Networking as a Pre-Medical Student!

Week 37 of  the PreMed Mondays book covers the importance of networking as a premed.  This is the “N” in my G.R.I.N.D. success strategy and one of the most important things for you to get right on your journey to success.  Show me your 5 closest friends and I’ll tell you who you are!

Premeds, find affordable services designed to help you get accepted into medical school at www.PreHealthMarket.com.

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