Super Star Blogs!

5 Dual Degree Programs to Consider

Week 42 of  the PreMed Mondays book covers 5 dual degree programs to consider.  One great thing about the field of medicine is that other degrees complement the MD (or DO) very well.  In this episode of PreMed Mondays, we’ll discuss five dual degree programs that premeds can consider.

Premeds, find affordable services designed to help you get accepted into medical school at

Who’s got Your Back?

What if I shared with you a trick to increase your chance at being successful by 95%? It’s really not that hard but even if I share this hack I’m willing to bet that less than 10% of you will actually follow it.

We all know the importance of setting goals. If you read through our blogs you will see that many of them highlight the necessity of setting these goals. Goals are easy to set but why do so many of us fall short and give up? According to the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD), committing to an accountability partner can increase your chance at success by 65%. In order to increase your chance of success by 95%, you need to get specific by setting up accountability appointments with that person. You must select a reliable accountability partner and COMMIT to a plan with that person. You must not overcommit yourself to your own detriment and you must not overburden your accountability partner as well. So, who makes a good accountability partner?

1. Your Mentor: I stress to every premed student the need for a solid mentor. Since 2011, Dr. Dale and I have had the honor of mentoring and providing mentors to premedical and medical students across the nation through online platforms. We took it upon ourselves to structure the mentorship not only by linking people together but also by recommending meeting schedules. Through this, I have come to recognize that many of those who succeeded in reaching their goals were committed to meeting with their mentor. A mentor who has walked your path will know exactly what to do when times get tough and you want to quit. I liken this to the role a good physician has with his or her patients. Physicians and mentors alike can help you (better than most people in your life) to refine your goals and steps to make them more appropriate since they have either been through the same journey themselves or have the knowledge of what it takes to get there. When you establish a mentorship, make certain to have a meeting with that mentor to share your goals and steps you will take to get there. Make sure to ask her or him if you can check in every so often. If they say “no”, then please move on. You can use your mentor as an accountability partner but you must allow them to be just that.

2. Social Media: I love seeing social media posts of people exercising, eating healthy and showing the world that they have lost 20 lbs over the past 3 months. These people are much more likely to reach their goals than those who keep the goals to themselves. We all love to see hard work pay off as though we were watching Rocky training for that big fight. We tend to chip in and offer tips, helpful products, promotions, and important dates to those who are bold enough to put themselves out there. You will be motivated like crazy to succeed but if you do fail while doing this it will likely hurt but you will have a lot of people there to pick you up along the way and you will not want to let them down. If you had gone at it alone, then you just may give up and leave your dreams behind. There is no prouder moment than watching students traverse the premed path while sharing their progress each semester until they’ve reached their goal of matriculating to medical school. This is awesome and it is what PreMed STAR is all about. We have developed a community in order to provide a safe space for accountability and encouragement. Many have taken advantage of the platform and have made the most of it. For those who prefer to be private, I recommend connecting with one or two people also applying to medical school on PreMed STAR. Share your goals with that person and schedule a monthly check with that person. These are the things that set successful people apart.  

3. Parent: Never forget where you come from because this just may provide your biggest motivation to succeed. “I want to move my mom to a bigger house.” “I want to be able to treat my grandpa’s diabetes one day.” “I want to raise my children like my parents raised me one day.” Most of us don’t even recognize that our parents tend to serve as our best accountability partners. I have read a number of personal statements and helped with mock interviews over the years. I can easily say that a majority of the “why medicine” answers stem from an experience involving a family member. Often times it is a parent’s ailment or encouragement that serves as a driving force. Making promises or setting goals with your parents creates an accountability partnership. Unlike other partners, parents can be 100% real with you and offer solid constructive criticism. They know what drives you and can reach far back into your history to trigger an emotion. At the same time, some parents can also be poor accountability partners. As a medical student, I had a very close friend who nearly quit medicine because her mother continuously dissuaded her. While I was motivated and encouraged after chatting with my parents, she was in tears and felt guilty after listening to her mother begging her to quit and stay home with her child. It is important that you only allow people into this accountability role who will positively support you and share hard truths.

4. Best Friend: This one is a no-brainer. By now, those of you who have followed our blogs on PreMed STAR know how strongly we emphasize friendships. I hope those of you reading this have already filtered your friendship circle to a solid core. Your best friend may be a childhood buddy, teammate, sibling, significant other or spouse. This person should want you to succeed. He or she should be one of your biggest fans. You will likely have more encounters with this person than anyone else. Unlike other accountability partners, your best friend will wake you up in the middle of the night to make sure you finished your assignment. Your friend will go on a jog with you and chat about future goals with you. They will likely be the first person you will talk to after a rough break-up or bad test score. A best friend should not be competing against you and you should not be doing the same to them. Jealousy should not exist in the relationship. If you can’t be honest and transparent with your best friend by sharing grades and plans, this is likely not really your best friend and you may need to work harder in this area.

5. Yourself: Last but definitely not least, YOU can serve as your own personal accountability partner. I’m not asking you to develop split personality disorder but you may have to adopt unique strategies to hold yourself accountable. For instance, keeping a calendar, writing down important deadlines, ridding your space from distractions, creating incentives, and setting alarms can keep you accountable. Develop healthy habits now so you can thrive as you reach your goals. Many of you who have heard Dr. Dale speak are aware of his large 4.0 poster hung over his bed. Despite having others (even accountability partners) discouraging him, he persevered partially because he returned to a room with that 4.0 staring at him. I was a witness to this and it was no shock to me as he earned that 4.0 semester after semester until graduation.

Your task for this week is to: 

1. Write down the person and/or social media platform you intend to use as your accountability partner.

2. Commit by informing that person or preparing your account.

3. Get started!

Outlast Failure

Week 41 of  the PreMed Mondays book covers  Outlasting Failure.  We all struggle with challenges along our various paths and at times we experience “failure”.  But what is failure? What does that word mean to you?  The famous quote says “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.”  Check out this episode of PreMed Mondays as I discuss what it means to outlast failure.

Premeds, find affordable services designed to help you get accepted into medical school at

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

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

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! 


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