Super Star Blogs!

Giselle’s School for Orphaned Children in Burkina Faso West Africa

I am currently deployed to West Africa. I had the opportunity and privilege to donate some much-needed items to a primary school (elementary school for American Citizens) today that services several dozens of orphaned children. The school is chartered by the national government but does not receive any funding. It totally runs off donations. The teachers are paid approximately 50000 West Africa Cifa which comes out to less than $100 a month for their salaries. The school has no power and learning is conducted through chalkboards and individual tablets that can be erased and reused because is too high of a commodity. Why am I bringing this to your attention? As Americans, we have “first world” problems. For the most part, if we do not like the teacher/instructor we can do something about. We can choose what institution of higher learning we can attend. We can shop around for the better deal on a textbook. We have the option of bringing food from home or getting fast food at the food court. Despite their lack of supplies they made up for any shortfalls with big hearts and pride. Every classroom I entered my group was welcomed with a visitor greeting song. We are going to be physicians and leaders in medicine. But please know that is what we will be and not be who we will be as human beings. Do not lose sight or get out of touch with your humanity along this journey. My father was killed in the military when I was very young. My mother and grandmother raised me. The way those women taught and cared for those children took me back for a moment when I was a child. Though things are not ideal for them you got the sense that they felt safe and secure. These pictures and video were taken at the request and expressed consent of the Founder and Headmaster of the Giselle Primary School for Orphans.

Being More Than a Premedical Student

Does this sound familiar?

     Other Person- “Hey [insert your name here], tell me about yourself.”

     You- Oh, I’m a premed.

Why is it that we identify ourselves by what we do rather than who we are? We think we are our jobs. But what happens when you lose your job? How many men and women go into great depression for this exact reason. For the premedical student, this situation is just as dangerous. In 15+ years of mentoring premeds, I’ve witness many with this exact issue. This, “premed or bust” mentality can be extremely dangerous for multiple reasons, and I don’t believe it’s the right way to go about becoming a doctor.

I really enjoyed Payton’s podcast episode this week (check it out HERE). In it, she discussed the pressure of being a premedical student. I remember feeling the same way during my premed years. Always stressing to make sure you get all the premed checkboxes completed. You have to do this, and you have to do that. For many of you, what makes it even worse is that your friends and family have no idea what it takes to earn that white coat so you’re often going at it alone.

I’m going to propose something radical to you. It’s probably not what you’d expect to hear from a guy like me who focuses on getting students into medical school. Are you ready for it???? Here it goes…. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A DOCTOR TO BE HAPPY! I know, that just completely blew your mind. Take a moment and breathe, you’ll be okay. If you can achieve your life mission without being a doctor, then I think it’s reasonable you do just that! As an example, check out

There’s a difference between a person’s work and his or her job. A job is what you do to make a living. That’s what pays the bills. My job is to be a medical doctor. Work on the other hand focuses on an individual’s purpose and life mission. It’s why you’re here on the planet. My work is to glorify God by helping others live to their God given potential. As simple as that may sound, it took me a very long time to learn that about myself. My job as a doctor is one way which I accomplish my work. When considering my identity, it is linked to my work, NOT my job.

I encourage you to focus more on your life’s work rather than the job you desire. I focus much more on how I can help people enhance their performance and use their God given gifts than I do on the practice of medicine. As a doctor, the reason I want you to be healthy is so you can achieve what you’re here to achieve. So my mission is to help you accomplish your mission. One way I can do that is by medically treating you, but I’m not limited to that.

So here is my suggestion to you, and I believe that if you can embrace this, you’ll be much happier along your premed journey. Don’t fall into the trap of being just a premed. Step outside of that box and do everything you can to decipher your life’s work and then figure out how to make that happen. If being a doctor is a critical piece of the puzzle, it’ll make your life as a premed much easier. In the end, you won’t simply be a premedical student, you’ll be a leader with a mission, who also happens to be premed.  Keep this in mind as you progress Your life’s work is what will make you happy, not simply being a doctor.  There’s a huge difference. 

Does this resonate with you? Have you found yourself linking your identity to a future in medicine? Do you think this is a good or bad thing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Pressure of Being Premed

Hey y’all! Today on The PreMed Voice I am taking over the mic again and talking to all about the pressure of being a premed student. Sometimes I have a freak out about not having a plan B in life, so I wanted to share some of the things that I do to put those thoughts to rest! Enjoy the show!

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If you’re a premed, we’d love to have you on our show.  Send us an email at Voice@PreMedSTAR.com with your name, the link to your PreMedSTAR.com profile page, and the topic you’ll be discussing.  We’re looking for personal stories (struggles, humor, and successes), premed tips, and anything else you think is worthwhile!

Please remember to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Google.

**Premeds, join our online community of thousands of future doctors at www.PreMedSTAR.com.

 

5 Reasons to Sit in the Front Row of Class

 

Week 20 of the PreMed Mondays book covers 5 ways reasons to sit in the front row of class!  On this episode, I’ll break them down.

1) You have fewer distractions

2) It is easier to interact with your professor

3) You will stay more alert

4) Your professor will remember you

5) It boosts your confidence

Congratulations to Bri’Ana! Premed of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.  Hello everyone! My name is Bri’Ana Gardiner originally from Shreveport, LA but now a resident of Houston, TX. Currently, I attend the University of Houston Downtown as a post-bac, while also working full-time as a Research Coordinator for UT Health. I have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Human development/family studies and a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. Throughout my college career I have always been actively involved in research. First within the psychology realm focusing on children and young adults with anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder. Then moving into the medical devices research for vascular and cardiothoracic surgery. When I have free time I enjoy giving some of my time back to my community through volunteering. I also enjoy traveling and doing anything that involves being outdoors.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?  My favorite teacher was Ms. Marshall. She was my 4th grade elementary teacher and the first teacher I ever told that I wanted to be a doctor. I still remember her response saying, “You know what you will be a great doctor one day, so do not let that dream die no matter what anyone says”. I was so hard on myself and still am when I do not get things quickly, but she always figured out a way to teach things in multiple ways, so that everyone could understand and excel. The environment she created within the class was one of empowerment and resilience. Till this day I thank Ms. Marshall for building part of my drive I have today.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? To this day my mother and father have said I always said I wanted to be a doctor, even when I was young. To this day that has never changed, I started my college career as a pre-med student. However, life happened and that plan became derailed for a little while. The reason I wanted to be a doctor back then is because I wanted to help people. Now it’s even more than that, I have experience being on the side where my mother was the patient and I had to discuss with her doctors what the next plan of action was to getting her well. That experience just opened the door to make me want to be on the other side talking to patients and their family on what I think the next steps should be and to help everyone understand and be comfortable with their medical decision. My why and goal is to not only be a physician but also an advocate for my future patients.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in? I am in love with surgery! I get excited every time I walk to the operating room. So of course surgery, specifically trauma surgery is what I am most interested in. However, I am keeping my mind open to other possibilities the farther I go into this path.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? In my current position I have the opportunity to shadow the surgeons in clinic and in the OR. Well the coolest experience I had so far was when I went to my first surgery at my job. I was able to learn so much not only from the attending but from the fellows and residents as well. I saw the importance of making sure the patient completely understands what you will be doing to them, while also having the empathy to know it is a scary process for them. I was able to watch anesthesiologist prepare the patient for the surgery by giving them general anesthesia. Each physician, nurse, and tech working together to save this patients life. It is an experience that I will never forget and an image that will be another motivating factor that I will carry throughout my journey.

6. What is your favorite book? I do not have one favorite book but the book that I read most recently was Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness. I enjoyed reading this so much, that it only took me a couple of hours to finish it. I love reading which is why I cannot just choose one book as my favorite.

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know. I love to write poetry, in high school one of my poems was actually published. I have not been able to write recently due to my busy schedule, which I definitely miss and need to make the time for again. However I do still try to be a regular at poetry slams that are happening around the city. Writing or hearing the emotions behind every word, it is electrifying experience.

8. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do? I would be a psychologist, I find mental health and health go hand in hand. When you are treating a patient it is not just the symptoms that we as future physician should just look at but other aspects in the patient’s life that may be contributing to their decline in health. Also if you had not guessed it already, being a psychologist was my Plan B.

9. What has been your biggest obstacle as a premed and how did you (or are you) overcome it? My biggest obstacle as a premed was coming back to this journey. I know for a while I did not feel like I was worthy to ever be called a doctor or even go through the process of becoming a doctor. Then my mother fell ill, so life threw some hard rocks and boulders at me. It took me a while to finally shake them off and tell myself that I am the only one who can stand in my way of my dreams. I had tried my Plan B and was not fulfilled, even still having medicine always on my mind. So now here I am again a non-traditional pre-med student.

10. What do you like most about PreMed STAR? The opportunities to network with other individuals on the same journey as I am. It is always nice when you see what others are going through on their journey and their successes they have achieves. In addition, I find the discussions and webinars that are posted from Dr. Dale and other members on the site to be beneficial and motivating.

Dr. Death: the premed years

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the tragic story of the infamous Dr. Death. The story was brilliantly told through a 6-episode series podcast which I found to be captivating and horrifying. I experienced emotions of anger, anticipation, sorrow, frustration, and bewilderment. I often had to keep myself from yelling as I listened on my morning commute. How could a neurosurgeon who trained at one of the nation’s top programs be responsible for destroying the lives of 33 patients?

Dr. Christopher Duntsch was a Dallas Neurosurgeon who completed his residency at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Subsequently he was recruited to Baylor Plano where he was paid $50,000 in guaranteed income monthly. It wasn’t long before suspicion grew that this man was a cold blooded killer. Despite, multiple patients (including his best friend) coming out of surgery in worsened condition, paralyzed and even dying, Dr. Duntsch continued to practice with very little to no reprimand. There was even evidence of cocaine and alcohol abuse but this man continued cutting on people. In fact, he remained pompous as ever and claimed to be the best neurosurgeon in the area with amazing reviews online to back him up.

So, how does this happen?

There is an obvious systemic flaw that failed the general public. Fortunately, this tragedy has brought to forth a much needed conversation about our health care system. The health care checks and balances point blank failed us, but thanks to the persistence from a few courageous physicians willing to call him out and the legal system they eventually reported him to, Dr. Duntsch was finally stopped. What I fear is getting less attention is what we must do to make certain another Dr. Death was never allowed to practice in the first place. Maybe medical schools should better screen for certain character flaws and be more willing to dismiss students who are not worthy of serving the public. We should be encouraged to make letters of recommendations better reflect the student. Not only strengths should be written about but flaws of that student should be brought forth. Possibly, anonymous complaints or compliments from peers should be encouraged without fear of retaliation.

Let’s be real, medical doctors are a “unique breed” and likewise, premed students are also very peculiar. You don’t spend hours upon hours studying and sacrificing so much without being a unique individual or developing certain extreme characteristics. What type of person is willing to dedicate 10 plus years of their lives under such stressful conditions? You almost have to be a glutton for punishment. Well, as they say, this type of pressure either cultivates diamonds or causes one to crumble in one way or another. Most physicians do shine bright as diamonds but I have also unfortunately seen a handful become extremely jaded. I’ve watched some become depressed and some who drink excessively or abuse drugs. Many of these traits start way before that physician first dons the white coat. Although Dr. Death is likely an extreme and likely isolated case, there are other physicians who have and continue to be dangerous to society. There were certainly traits that he demonstrated as a premed that may have hinted at the type of doctor he would become. These include:

1. Narcissistic personality

2. Overconfidence

3. Extreme determination to be number one (at whatever cost)

4. Volatile personality

5. Substance abuse

A handsome, athletic, personable, determined premed student with great grades. How could any medical school pass on him? Is it possible that medical school only exacerbated these personality traits? In medical school, I remember at least 2 students who I cringed when I heard they would be graduating and practicing medicine. One in particular, was reported multiple times by their peers because they were deeply afraid that the student could be homicidal. By the time a student has made it so far in their medical training, it is extremely tough for them to be kicked out of medical school and even tougher once they are a full-fledged physician as evident in Dr. Death’s story.

What do you think? Should the system be better designed to identify and stop certain personality types from even matriculating into medical school? When exactly along the path should Dr. Death have been stopped?

Planning My Extracurriculars


Hey guys! This week on The PreMed Voice we have DeMario Malone talking about some of his goals and plans for this year. His plans are definitely plans that all of us could mimic to help enhance our application! If you need ideas on how to fill your upcoming semester with, you are going to want to tune into this episode!

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If you’re a premed, we’d love to have you on our show.  Send us an email at Voice@PreMedSTAR.com with your name, the link to your PreMedSTAR.com profile page, and the topic you’ll be discussing.  We’re looking for personal stories (struggles, humor, and successes), premed tips, and anything else you think is worthwhile!

Please remember to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Google.

**Premeds, join our online community of thousands of future doctors at www.PreMedSTAR.com.

5 Ways to Maximize Classroom Time

Week 19 of the PreMed Mondays book covers 5 ways to maximize classroom time!  On this episode, I’ll break them down.

1) Go to Class

2) Put your phone on silence

3) Sit in the front row

4) Take notes

5) Ask questions

 

Subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Google Podcast

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Attention premeds, join thousands of premedical students networking and sharing resources for free at www.PreMedSTAR.com.

Congratulations to Magnus! Premed of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Hello! I’m Magnus Chun. I was born in Massachusetts, raised in Colorado, and currently a senior studying Chemical and Biochemical Engineering (minoring in Biomedical Engineering) at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, CO. I will obtain my B.S. in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering in May 2018, my M.S. in Chemical Engineering in May 2019, and then right after, hopefully enter medical school.

As a high school senior, I knew I wanted to become a physician, but I ended up deciding on engineering as I also loved problem solving, math, and sciences. Why not become an engineering pre-med student? Will it be challenging taking engineering courses and pre-med courses at the same time? Absolutely. Will I regret following this path? Absolutely not, as I knew being either an engineer or a physician would satisfy my inner drive as a human being.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you? I remember the time when my Biology teacher hugged me after I walked across the stage to receive my high school diploma. She told me these exact words, “You have so much potential to go and change the world.” So far, I have followed her advice and tried to make an impact to everyone I interact with and the world I live in, so that it can be a better place. I know that if I become a physician, I would not only make her proud, but myself proud, as I have gained the potential to heal the world as a physician.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? I was a dedicated student-athlete in high school being on the varsity swim team and qualifying for state every year. However, my ability to continue swimming was in doubt when I was diagnosed with scoliosis. Swimming became challenging for me as the curvature of my spine impacted my physical and emotional ability. Every night and day, I had to wear a suffocating brace around my torso and I became frustrated explaining my diagnosis to people that stared at my back inquisitively. I thought I would have no hope of swimming again.

I remember the moment when my orthopedic surgeon said to me, “Magnus, I need to surgically fuse metal rods to keep your spine straight.” My heart was beating anxiously in my chest and my hand started trembling. But it all changed when my surgeon held my hand, taught me how my condition could be cured, and told me through collaborative support from healthcare team members, that I could return to swimming. They showed me that it was possible to recover even when I felt there was no hope through educating me, being emphatic, and treating me as part of a whole team. After the surgery, swimming was no longer difficult for me, and I was able to pursue my life-long interest, along with the peace it provided. From that moment on, I realized the impact of medicine not just on me, but potentially on others. I knew immediately I wanted to become a physician so that my patients could live their lives to their fullest.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in? I haven’t decided yet, but I’m really into cutting things open, so there is a good chance that I will choose a specialty within surgery. I’m currently shadowing a plastic surgeon and am amazed at how he could turn something that looks horrible into something beautiful. I aspire to be a surgeon just like him.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? My coolest experience occurred when I was shadowing cardiology residents and attending physicians at my local teaching hospital. I had the opportunity to listen to a patient’s story of living with a heart condition. He lay in bed, was in pain grasping his chest. Through the attending’s stethoscope, I heard the patient’s irregular heartbeats that showed signs of Atrial fibrillation and instantly felt a connection to not just his biology, but also to the patient himself. Through his fatigued eyes, I could sense he wanted all of us to help him return to his normal life. When the family members, physicians, residents, and I, formed a tight circle around the patient’s bed, I knew why medicine had enticed me. This image of collaborative support of the whole healthcare team and my experiences have made me excited about the responsibilities and possibilities as a physician.

6. What is your favorite book? Medically related: Mountains beyond Mountains. It inspired me to see that one person can make a difference. Dr. Paul Farmer had that goal in mind and executed it to perfection.
Non-medically related: Ready Player One. I finished that book in 3 days. I really enjoyed the aspect of living in virtual reality vs living in reality.

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know. I’ve had a passion for tutoring and teaching students in biology and engineering classes. After seeing my fellow students on campus struggle through their academic workload, I recently decided to start a volunteer private tutoring service at my campus to help those in need. Since the tutoring is all volunteer, the students don’t have to pay for tutoring, receive the 1-on-1 tutoring they need, and can schedule meeting times based on individual times, not office hours. So far, it has been a success as I have 4 tutors and 15 students. The professors have more time for office hours, while the students that truly need private help will be able to receive that service through my group. We tutor students in Chemical Engineering and Biology classes.

8.  If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do? If I couldn’t be a doctor, I would become a chemical engineer in the oil/gas industry. I am very fortunate to have done undergraduate research in the oil/gas industry for 4 years now and have gotten 2 publications out of it. I would be working on the flow assurance team to assure a constant flow of oil in subsea pipelines.

9. What has been your biggest obstacle as a premed and how did you (or are you) overcome it?  My biggest obstacle was the MCAT. I had to take it 3 times and every time I had to do something different and learn about ways to improve my score. I was very lucky to receive a high enough score the third time to be recently accepted into an allopathic medical school that is my top choice in which I will be attending next year (Tulane University School of Medicine)!

10. What do you like most about PreMed STAR?  Collaboration, not competition. To see other students helping other students (through lecture videos, forums, posts, chat, etc.) become successful and succeed in applying to medical schools brings joy to my heart.

 

 

 

**Originally premed of the week January 29th, 2018

Premed Grit! Never Quit!

There’s a certain characteristic that many successful people have in common.  Whether it’s LeBron James, Mark Zuckerberg, or John Maxwell, these leaders in their fields all have grit.  Grit is an unrelenting work ethic towards a goal that you are passionate about.  Grit is all about fighting for your dreams!

In her book, Grit, Dr. Angela Duckworth highlights doctors as being a group known for their grit. I’d have to agree with her, by the very nature of our training, we must have grit to make it this far.  When I look back on my journey to medicine and consider all the ups and downs, there were many times that I could have quit, but I didn’t.  This isn’t the case for just me, I’d be willing to be that almost every doctor you speak with would say the same.  So, it’s fair to say that if you want to become a doctor, you need to resolve now that you will become a person of grit.

As I see it, there are two things necessary to become this type of person.  The first is you must be passionate about a goal.  When we say people have grit, it doesn’t mean that they have grit in every area of their life.  For example, although I just told you that doctors have grit, you’ll meet many businessmen and women who disagree.  That’s because when a lot of doctors pursue business opportunities, many often quit because they know they can simply go back to practicing medicine and have a great lifestyle.  The key point to understand here is that if you are not passionate about something, you won’t have the grit to see it through.    You won’t tolerate the late nights, empty bank account, and broken relationships.  Step one in developing grit, is to learn what you’re passionate about.

The second essential criteria to become a person of grit is to be consistent.  This means you keep on chugging along regardless of the results.  Yes, you may need to pivot and change directions, but you keep on moving in a consistent fashion.  John Maxwell speaks of the compounding effect of consistency.  Just think about it.  If you’re learning a new sport and practice once a month, you’ll probably never be as good as the person practicing once a day.  The small things add up with a compounding positive effect.  You may not see the results on a microscopic level, but when you take a step back, you’ll be blown away by the progress.  Grit is what makes this possible.  Remember, it’s hard to see the forest through the trees.

As a premedical student, you need to be passionate about the field of medicine.  Take a moment to ask yourself, why do I LOVE (not like) medicine so much that I’m willing to sacrifice years of my life for it.  You need this answer ready at all times because in challenging situations, it will pull you through.  It’s this answer that will allow you to maintain your consistency as you struggle day in and out towards your goal.

I am fortunate to be in a position that I have heard so many student and doctors personal journeys to medicine.  The one thing that is consistent across the board is that they all had grit and stayed the course.

This is my advice to you, when it comes to your academic success, focus on yourself.  Be aware of where you stand against the crowd, but do NOT compare yourself to others on an individual level.  Put your blinders on and get to work.  If you’re passionate about the goal, and can maintain your consistency, your grit will pull you through to success!

I’d like to know, what tips do you have that help you stay focused and push through the challenging times?

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