Super Star Blogs!

Congratulations to Kavisha! Premed of The Week! – April 24th, 2017

Join us in Congratulating Kavisha! 

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.  I am currently a junior at the University of Connecticut (UConn), pursuing a dual degree in Physiology and Neurobiology and Accounting. Usually, this statement raises a few eyebrows, but I believe that the business aspect of my education will allow me to successfully reach my aspirations of becoming a physician who serves her community through ethical healthcare, while working to reduce the health disparities, provide education on preventative methods, and continue to develop an integrative and holistic approach to better serve patients. Having grown up in Newington, CT as a first generation student, I have developed accountability and compassion as two of my strongest personal virtues. As an extrovert, I thrive off of the energy of others and crave social experiences. This coupled with my innate curiosity have allowed me to partake in a wide range of activities. My interests are immensely varied, and I am genuinely passionate about many things, especially education and learning; I will be graduating UConn with 200 credits. I have a particular interest in service, and strive to contribute as much time as possible to campus and community organizations. In my spare time, I am fond of cooking and improving my photography skills, and have recently begun pursuing painting.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?  My favorite teacher in school was Mr. James Kravontka, the history teacher at Newington High School. He not only made history interesting, but also encouraged students to lead meaningful lives. From him I learned to always know the why behind anything I do. Having kept this advice in mind has allowed me to be conscious and mindful of my actions on a daily basis. By continuously asking myself ourselves why I am doing something, I am able to find the things in life that align with my ore beliefs and values. Most importantly, following his rule of why has allowed me to grow as a person, and develop a broader perspective.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? I first decided that I wanted to become a doctor in high school, after shadowing Dr. Elizabeth Simmons, an Ophthalmologist at UConn Health. Each interaction with a patient made me realize that treating and healing patients through medicine is what I wished to do as well. She was an excellent physician, and her work was impeccable. What struck me the most were the relationships she had with her patients and her staff. These interpersonal relationships and the collaboration between the professionals had really drawn me to the career, because I genuinely enjoy spending my day with others and working with a team. Since then I have continued to enrich in various health related activities, but have also tested the waters in other areas of study, and these experiences have further affirmed my decision to pursue a career as a physician.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in? It’s okay if you don’t know yet. As of right now I do not know which area of medicine I wish to pursue. After having shadowed doctors in multiple specialties, I’ve become interested in many of them, and am keeping all options open for the time being.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey?  The coolest experience I’ve had so far on my premedical journey was the UConn Health Disparities Clinical Summer Research Fellowship Program. While the program included conducting research at the National Alliance for Mental Illness and shadowing doctors, the most fascinating and eye opening part of the experience were the trips to Hartford, CT. I was exposed to parts of Hartford that I had never known existed despite having lived five miles away – parts where there isn’t a grocery store for miles, HIV runs rampant from the use of unclean needles, and homelessness has no shock factor. I felt like I was contestant on a reality TV show who was placed in a remote location without the tools necessary to navigate my way back. This was the beginning of a new journey for me; a journey to gather the tools and knowledge necessary to help alter the health-care ecosystem for disadvantaged patients.

6. What is your favorite book? My favorite book is The Road To Character by David Brooks.

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know. Something that most people don’t know is that I’ve travelled to 57 countries. Everyone travels for different reasons, and my urge to travel comes from wanting to be exposed to different cultures, and to understand the values and beliefs of people in different countries. The best part of all these experiences was talking to locals to understand their views of the world, learning about the experiences of their lives, and becoming immersed in cultures so different from my own.Traveling has furthered developed my sense of curiosity and continual learning. Through these experiences I have come to value differences, challenge my own assumptions and those of people around me, and become more culturally aware. The experiences I have had, and the discoveries I have made have allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of my own place in the world, and has solidified my personal values and ambitions.

Should I do a Post Bacc? – Three Things to Consider

It must be that time of year again.  Over the past couple weeks, quite a few students have asked me about pursuing the structured post bacc route.  Some students have decided to put off medical school for a year, while others are still waiting on the acceptance letter to come in.  Needless to say, this is time of stress and anxiety for many people and figuring out what to do during that gap year is a key contributor.  The reality of the medical school application process is that there are many different roads to get to the same place and the post bacc route is one of those roads.  Each year, thousands of students enroll in post bacc programs, typically with the intent of improving their chances of getting into medical school.  Post bacc however is a major commitment, so what types of things should premeds consider when deciding whether or not to do a post bacc?  Here are just a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Structure: I am often asked whether it is better to do a DIY (Do It Yourself) post bacc plan, or enroll in a structured program that does not grant a degree.  This is a difficult question which I liken to whether or not someone should take an MCAT prep course.  In  my opinion, it comes down to how disciplined of an individual are you.  Just like MCAT prep courses, post bacc programs tend to offer a certain structure that is difficult for many people to achieve on their own.  Besides the classes that you take, structured programs tend to offer other resources such as counseling, seminars, and prep courses for the MCAT.  These are all things you could do DIY style, however it might be a little more challenging to accomplish.
  2. Finances: Most post bacc programs aren’t cheap. I would say this is the biggest drawback in that it poses a very real risk.  The simple fact of the matter is doing a post bacc program does not guarantee you acceptance into medical school.  I have seen some students go into serious debt and come out with not much to show for it.  Every student considering a post bacc should ask themselves this question, “How will I handle this debt if I do not get into medical school?”  Thinking back to my premedical and medical school days, I did not have a good appreciation for the burden of loans.  Now that I’m on the other side paying them back, I know they’re real.  One thing to keep in mind is that whether or not you get your MD/DO, your lenders are coming for their money…with interest!  The one bit of solid advice I can give you on this topic is absolutely DO NOT do a post bacc if you are not 100% confident you are willing to work harder than every other premedical student to ensure you get into medical school.
  3. Degree Offered: Obviously, anytime you work hard for anything, you’d like something to show for it. I did not do a post bacc, but had I, my preference would have been to enroll in a degree granting program (i.e. some post baccs offer Masters degrees).  Even better, I would have preferred to enroll in a program that has guaranteed medical school admission if certain criteria are met (e.g. GPA and MCAT goal).   This third point links back to the finances.  Having that extra degree may not only increase your chances of getting into medical school, but also gives you an extra credential that would be useful should you take another gap year.

Gap year planning is never easy but it is essential if you are serious about becoming a doctor. I recommend that premeds who have subpar GPAs consider post bacc programs as an option, but before applying, make sure you have considered the 3 items above.  Also, remember that admission officers don’t bite.  As a matter of fact, we have some very friendly post bacc admission officers who are recruiting with PreMed StAR and I am sure they’d be happy to answer your questions (they know MUCH more about the process than I do).   A great many of doctors have traveled this road and are now happy doing what they always dreamed of!

 

Image credit pixabay

The Fire Hydrant – Transitioning from premed to medical student!

Your first year of medical school might be the most challenging year of your entire academic career. You will likely get hit mentally, emotionally, financially, and physically. It’s like drinking out of a fire hydrant! With so many things coming at you at once, how do you handle it all? There will be new environments, new faces, and new material that you must adapt to while restructuring old relationships habits. Making the transition from being a premedical to medical student isn’t always easy. You need to plan ahead and make sure you are prepared. Here are a few areas of change and transition that you should prepare for.

 

Environment:  Finding a new place to call home for medical school can be tough. Many premeds sneak in a few weekends to visit the campus and view real-estate. Some buy their first home, rent apartments/condos, or move in with family or friends. You will need to look into factors such as distance from campus, nearby distractions, cost, and safety. Many medical student and housestaff vehicles were targeted in my apartment parking lot because their white coats were left out on the seats. This always caught the attention of the local addicts searching for prescription pads or those ignorant to the fact that med students are broke. You want to choose a safe location where you feel comfortable driving or walking to at odd hours of the day. The last thing you want to worry about while in medical school is getting robbed! Research your environment very well since many hospitals tend to have a few rough areas in the vicinity.

Relationships:  Medical school will affect every relationship you have. Plain and simple, your friends, significant other, and family will likely not understand the dedication medical school demands of you. The hard truth is that many relationships will not survive due to distance and lack of quality time needed for growth. This may actually be a good thing for some but may also be very painful. I have witnessed a number of friends call it quits with their long-time girl/boyfriends but I have also seen others leave medical school because it hindered their relationships. And then there are those who came into medical school somewhat prepared for the challenge. They continuously informed their loved ones about what to expect, set their priorities, and actually grew stronger with them through the journey. At the end of the day, many students come to realize that it was better for them to break some bonds and strengthen others through the process. That’s just a part of life.

Class Demographics:  The medical school body may not look exactly the way you expected. It certainly wasn’t the student body I was prepared to meet. My class was a very diverse group of students mainly in their early to mid-20s. Most surprising to me was how socially adept the majority of the class was. This wasn’t the studious crowd I was used to seeing in the library at odd times but rather they were the intramural athletes, student organization leaders, and fraternity/sorority members. Be prepared for a lot of partying in medical school. These people will share a special bond with you. You’ll be surprised just how much you will like your classmates and how many lifelong friendships you will develop.

Studying:  Attempting to drink water nonstop from a fire hose…that’s what learning in medical school is like. You will quickly learn that premedical studies were child’s play compared to medical school studies and begin wishing there were more hours in the day. Learning the best way to study so much material will be a challenge initially but be careful not to stress over it. With time, you’ll figure out what works best for you! Also, it is important to filter all the advice you get. Everyone seems to have the “best” strategy for your studies. Many first-year medical students fall into the trap of buying nearly every book in the book store simply because someone else recommends it. It is very easy to spend more time researching which books to buy and how to study that you do actually reading the book itself. These books aren’t cheap by the way. By the end of the year, hopefully you will have begun to develop concrete study habits that work well for you.

These transitions might be tough, but they are definitely doable. What you want to avoid is med school shock. Go in knowing what to expect and things will be much better for you!

 

Recruitment Fairs – Making a First Impression!

This year, we have had the opportunity to attend a few premedical conferences.  They’re always wonderful events and the excitement of the students is palpable.  One of my favorite things to do at these conferences is to take note of the students who stand out above the rest.  I always ask myself, what is it about that student that made him or her stand out among several hundred other students? Why is it that I will actually remember that particular student, but will forget most of the rest.  After attending such conferences for over a decade now, I know what the answer is.  The memorable students are the ones who came to the recruitment fairs prepared!  The entire purpose of recruitment is to build relationships.  Well, it’s pretty tough to do that if the recruiters won’t remember you.  Here are three tips to ensure you make a lasting first impression at recruitment fairs.

  1. Hand out your business cards. There is a very good reason why CEOs and Presidents carry business cards.  They know not everyone will remember them, so they make it easy for them by giving them a small piece of paper with their name and basic information.  This is networking 101, you have to carry business cards working to build a professional relationship with people you are meeting for the first time.  On the flipside, also be sure to ask others for their business cards so you can remember them.  Here’s a little trick I learned way back when.  Immediately after getting someone’s business card, write something down to help you remember them.  For example, if the person is a Duke basketball fan, write that down on the card.
  2. Ensure that your resume or curriculum vitae is up to date and available. This is another essential to ensuring people remember you.  Students who have organized and presentable resumes or CVs are considered impressive.  This is true because a great many premedical students haven’t even made their resume or CV.  At a recruitment fair, you want the recruiters to know you are among these impressive students.  In the past, some students would carry their resume with them at the fairs.  While this is still a good thing to do in many instances, it is not as powerful anymore given sites such as PreMed StAR that allow you to keep an online profile which you can share with recruiters.  The important thing to note here is that you should maintain an updated resume or CV.  When speaking with recruiters, be sure to tell them you would like to share your resume/CV and if they are open to that, find a way to get it to them.
  3. Send follow up emails. Again, this is networking 101 but you would be surprised how many students actually do it.  The answer is not many.  I meet countless premeds throughout the year in various arenas, many who desire mentorship or other opportunities.  The conversation typically ends with them saying, “I’m definitely going to email you Dr. Dale.  I really appreciate it!”  What percentage do you think actually email?  I’d say less than 10.  Keep this is statistic mind when networking with medical school recruiters.  If you remember to send them a quick thank you email, you’ll be among the few and might end up on their short list of recruits!

Many premeds have the wrong understanding of what a recruitment fair should be.  For most, recruitment fairs turn into informational fairs.  As a premedical student, you want to do everything you can in order to stack the deck in your favor so you not only get into medical school, but you get into the school of your choice.   Following the three tips above will put you one step ahead of the crowd!  This is your first impression and you need to make it count.  Smile, have a firm handshake, and execute on the tips above!

 

Bullseye! More Than Perfect Numbers! – My Interview With Two Medical School Deans

3.98 GPA, 518 MCAT Score, 150+ hours of clinical volunteering, 75+ hours of shadowing, president of a premier pre-medical club, and five semesters of undergraduate research experience are the credentials of a student who was DENIED admissions to medical school. If you are a premed student reading this article right now, I am sure that your blood pressure is rising and stress level is at an all-time high. However, neither should be occurring because getting into medical school requires more than just the right numbers. As a premed student myself, I have always turned to peers for advice on what medical schools seek in their applicants. However, premed students overlook the most reliable resource available, medical school admissions committee members.

This article provides two, very credible perspectives on medical school admissions. The Campus Associate Dean for Campus Integration and Academic Enhancement, Dr. Leslie Lee, and Associate Professor of Medicine, Dr. Howard Cohen have been on the admissions committee at the AU/UGA Medical Partnership for many years and have excellent advice for prospective medical students.

As premed students, we constantly struggle to balance our commitment to healthcare and also show diversity in our interests. Dr. Lee states that students should show an awareness of current healthcare issues and pursue interests that they have a strong passion for. An example of this would be volunteering consistently with Habitat for Humanity while also keeping up to date with conflicts between the Affordable Care Act and the American Health Care Act. The key is to be able to show that you are an active citizen and a dedicated, lifelong learner.

Another question that premed students ponder over is what attributes medical schools look for in their applicants. Dr. Cohen looks for two fundamental characteristics in applicants: at the forefront is a commitment to serve humanity and the other a desire for a long term career in medicine. It is important to shadow physicians in clinical and hospital settings to understand the degree of commitment that healthcare requires. On the other hand, Dr. Lee looks for humility, compassion, and intellectual curiosity in applicants. Premed students are by far one of the most academically inclined groups of students on campus. Unfortunately, one quality that this group lacks is humility. It is important to know that while you may know a lot and have earned high achievements, there is still a long road ahead, much more to learn, and many levels to keep climbing.

Premed students in their first two years and final two years of undergraduate studies are stressing about the same goal, getting into medical school. This should not be the case for the former group. Dr. Lee and Dr. Cohen both agree that college is a time to explore your passions and discover new talents. They encourage you to take courses unknown to you and to not put blinders on with preconceived notions. A student who has explored his/her options before finalizing upon medicine will have a breadth of experiences that they can expound upon in an interview. Dr. Lee states, “Put yourself out there and create life stories that you can talk about.” For upperclassmen getting ready to apply to medical school, do not shy away from considering gap years. If you can take time off, do it and pursue dreams that you could not otherwise if you were in medical school. This time will not come back again, so do not let it go. Do not feel pressured by what others are doing.

If you take away anything from this article, it should be that the road to medical school is not a “one size fits all” ordeal. It is a process where you are allowed to develop yourself into a unique individual and show the world that you are more than just the right numbers.

 

 

The Nontraditional Student

Looking back on my medical school days, the students that still stand out tend to be those that were just a little different. There was the student who sat at the front left who always had the most up-to-date gadgets, asked a ton of questions and was always the first to assist the lecturer when their slides or computer malfunctioned. I recall the student who on the first clinical skills session taught many of us how to draw blood the right way. And I can’t forget about the stoic guy with the buzz cut who would always hush the class when we were getting too rowdy.

So, who were these folks? They were all nontraditional students in the sense that they were older and had careers prior to entering medical school. The first gentleman was in his mid-30s. If memory serves me correctly, he previously worked in the tech department on Broadway. The second student worked as a nurse for 5 years before deciding she would switch careers. The last gentleman served in the military prior to entering medical school. He was married and had two precious kids. These students added a very unique and valuable touch to our class which enhanced the rest of our learning. They were problem solvers, leaders, and were not afraid to ask tough questions.

The average age for matriculants to both osteopathic and allopathic medical school in 2016-2017 was 24 (according to both AAMC and AACOM data). Far and wide, medical schools greatly appreciate what these typically more mature students have to offer to their environment.  There is no substitute for the real-world experience these students bring.  Experience allows one to understand work-life balance, finances, recovering from failures, prioritization, etc.  The list keeps going.   The maturity and diversity that non-traditional students contribute to the classroom can’t be replaced.

The nontraditional route offers unique challenges. First will always be self-doubt. In my opinion, this is the most crucial barrier to overcome. If you don’t have confidence in yourself then you will not be ready for the nay-sayers. As a nontraditional student, you may battle with the time it will take to begin practicing and the length of time you will have to practice once training is done with. Returning to school can be intimidating since the classroom environment has evolved from the simple notebook and pen to more technologically advanced and interactive sessions. It may also be tough sitting in a classroom with younger and (quite frankly) sometimes less mature co-students, professors, residents, and even attendees. Nontraditional students almost always sacrifice a lot to follow their dreams. This may mean taking a huge pay cut (or I should say pay elimination), relocating, or putting off family plans. Returning to school will be challenging, but once you have convinced yourself it is completely worth it then go full steam ahead and don’t look back.

So back to the students I previously brought up. What became of them? The first gentleman struggled during his first year and had to take a few years off from school d/t health issues with his wife. He ultimately returned to school and graduated with his MD. The second student was very successful during her clinical years, feeling right at home on the wards. She did however run into a few behavioral problems primarily due to the fact she was used to doing things a particular way and was not afraid to let the (sometimes younger) nurses and residents know the “right way”. Our last student graduated with little issues academically. He did face some social stressors and got divorced during medical school. Last I heard, he and his wife remarried (each other) and are now again a happy family with their beautiful kids. There were other nontraditional students in my class and I recall at least 3 of them going on to become AOA (Alpha Omega Alpha) honorees.  This is the most prestigious award for medical students.

My advice to nontraditional students is to first count the cost. Medicine is a great and rewarding field and you likely have unique qualities you can add but make sure you prepare for the many challenges that will come. Capitalize on your nontraditional path to medicine and use this as a strength. Despite your experience and qualifications, stay humble. Do not be the “know it all type” that thrives on making others feel inferior. Prioritize wisely. You will need to remember that others around you (spouse, parents, friends, children) will have to learn to gradually adapt to your new lifestyle and it may not be easy for them. I wish you the very best of luck on your journey.

 

 

This blog was written by Dr. Daniel

The 21st Century Premed – Information Overload! Separating Good Advice From Bad Advice!

Premeds don’t acquire information the same way they did 10-20 years ago. Just think about it, how many times have you actually gotten up and gone to the library to get information about medical school? With the advent of YouTube, Facebook, and various other social media platforms, the ability to obtain information is easier now than ever. That’s a wonderful thing…well, it’s wonderful assuming you know how to vet the information. In this day and age, how can the 21st century premedical student know what’s reliable on the internet? The truth is, you may never know if everything you read is solid, but there are some things you can do to make sure you’re on the right track.

1) Know the basics! As a premedical student, there are certain basic things that you must know. For example, what is the average grade point average of a medical school applicant? What is the average gpa of a medical school matriculant? What are the prerequisite courses necessary to apply to medical school? Do these courses vary from school to school? These are some fundamental bits of knowledge that all premedical students should research on their own, directly from the sources that produce the primary data. For allopathic medical schools, you need to find this information at the AAMC website. For osteopathic, this information will be on AACOM’s website.

2) Know the credentials of the people providing the information. All of your information does not need to come directly from a doctor, admission committee member, or premed advisor, but you should have an idea of who the people communicating with you are. Knowing the credentials of these individuals allows you to ask the right questions to the right people. For example, there’s only one group of people you’d want to ask the question, “What is it really like to be a doctor?” Yes, you can ask anyone and they can tell you what they’ve heard or read, but only doctors can give you an answer based on actual experience.

3) Confirm with a trusted source. Every premedical student needs to have at least one mentor who is a trusted resource. This person should have a proven track record of navigating the premedical journey (either as an advisor, medical student, or doctor). Anytime you come across something you are not certain about, ask your trusted source. There’s too much on the line for you to accept bad advice!

In this day and age of the internet, there is a lot of inaccurate information circulating in the premed world. You can’t avoid it, but you can be wise and protect yourself from bad advice. Remember, it’s your responsibility to fact check everything. Not using online forums to acquire information would probably be a very bad choice in the 21st century. Take advantage of your access to information, but be sure to do so wisely!

 

 

Image credit: Pixabay

Classroom Etiquette – Always Be on Your Best Behavior!

In speaking with premeds struggling in school or simply wanting to optimize their grades I have come to realize there are many causes that can hinder their performance. One area I always address is their behavior in the classroom. I believe in order to have made it to the college level nearly all students ae capable of doing very well. There are simply factors that some students capitalize on better than others. Below are the 5 tips I think are important to optimize one’s performance in the classroom.

  1. Show up to Class  Nowadays in this technological age there are many tools that one can use which sometimes makes it seem as though physically being in class is unnecessary. I believe going to class can be very beneficial for a couple of reasons. First, you will pick up material that you cannot obtain any other way. Getting to class early enough you can often times interact with other students as well as the professor. These students tend to be ambitious ones who can potentially supplement your knowledge. Make friends or at least develop acquaintances from this group. You will likely see them again in other classes or in medical school. This was the case for me. Being in class also lets the professor know who you are and this may be handy when you need that letter of recommendation.

     

  2. Strategically Choose Your Seat  There are many studies out there on classroom position and each has mixed results. It is hard to account for the confounding variables. I advise students to select a seat which is as far away from distractors as possible. It may not be wise to sit next to the exit or in an aisle seat where people will constantly walk by. Sitting at the back can be distracting due to movement and noises. If your neighbors are talkative then it would be best to pick up and leave that spot. Studies have shown that students who sit closer to the front and in the center tend to engage more in class. Be honest with yourself and try different locations to see what works best for you.

     

  3. Turn off or put Aside your Gadgets  It is important to remove anything that will disturb your focus in class. As hard as it may be, your GPA will thank you later. The average attention span for the average college student is about 10 minutes so the temptation to surf the web or check your email will be too great.

     

  4. Read Ahead of Time  Having familiarity with the subject will certainly make the classroom experience smoother. We tend to appreciate things more when we have a preview of what is to come. This is why movies have trailers. Likewise, books have preface and table of contents to give you an idea of what you are getting into. Going into a lecture blind can hinder the learning experience since there will be terms used that you may need time to look into. If you are prepared by reading ahead then you will know which areas you will need to pay a little better attention to. My recommendation is not to spend a lot of time pre-reading but simply get the main points down. Consider reading the chapter objectives or summaries to at least familiarize yourself on the topic. Or you may listen to an audio lesson while getting ready for class in the morning.

     

  5. Ask Good Questions  Before, during and after class is your opportunity to soak up as much knowledge as possible. Professors love to give out little joules to those students who show interest in the subject enough to come to class early and stay late. Often times, the questions one asks speak volumes about their understanding of the material. Do not be afraid to speak up and ask a question because other students are also wondering the same thing. This will also give the professor a clue as to how he or she is communicating the message. Although I encourage asking questions I do believe you should put some thought into the question. I personally believe there is such a thing as a “dumb” question and I think many professors (sometimes subconsciously) also agree. This again goes back to the previously mentioned areas. Doing the above will allow you to be prepared, engaged and focused enough to ask proper questions. Failing to follow them may lead to one of those “dumb” questions. These would include questions that were already asked or ones that 99% of the class already knows the answer to. A question should address a topic which will efficiently add to your knowledge in that particular setting. There are some questions that may be better answered by a book or a classmate rather than having the professor spend 10 minutes answering in front of everyone. Some questions may be better answered at a different time such as after class or during the professor’s office hours.

Getting the Most out of Your Premed Weekends

Weekends….everybody loves them! For the premedical student, they are like gold. When you become a doctor, they’re even more precious and can be thought of as diamonds! During the week, you spend your time in class, studying, playing sports, attending meetings, conducting research, and for some of you working. With so much to do, how do you decide the best way to spend your weekends? Here are some basic concepts that will help you make the most of your premed weekends.

Rest on the 7th Day. There are two type of premedical students. The first is the student that works all day everyday. This student is always going 110% percent with the firm belief that the person who works the hardest always wins. The second type of premed is the one that thinks he or she will simply be able to get into medical school because they have declared the premedical route. “As long as I complete the courses, I’ll become a doctor.” Both of these are the wrong attitudes to have. The key to success is working smarter, not harder. Going 110% is great, however, you have to take a break at some point in time, and when you do, you want it to be a real break. Taking off one full day each week, simply to relax and re-energize will do you more good than you could ever imagine. Also, please do remember that you need to earn this day off. In order to take off the 7th day, be sure you’ve worked hard the prior six days!

Reflect and Plan. Each week should end with a reflection of your performance the prior seven days and a plan for the next. In reflecting, you should ask yourself: (1) Did I use my time wisely this week? (2) Are there any topics covered in class that I don’t fully understand and need to revisit? (3) Did I put my passion to work this week (whatever it is that you are most passionate about in life, you should find a way to use it every week! In planning for the upcoming week, ask yourself: (1) How do I need to restructure my schedule to get the most out of this upcoming week, (2) Who do I need to connect with this week (strengthening your network should always be a part of your weekly plan) (3) How will I put my passion to work this week. These may seem like very basic questions, but the impact will be tremendous!

Hang out! Yes this is okay to do! It’s really just another way to network. In the section above, this concept is eluded to but not detailed. Networking is of extreme importance no matter what career you pursue. In the medical field, the lives of your patients, in some instances, may be affected by the strength of your network. For the college student, growing your network is done in large part by hanging out with friends and attending events. When considering the first concept above, “Rest on the 7th Day”, one could argue that hanging out isn’t necessarily resting. In doing so, you are building your social capital which will prove to be beneficial over the years to come. Take caution however not to do anything that will ruin your chances of getting into medical school. As an example, drunken fights at the frat party are a quick way to weed yourself out of the applicant pool.

Weekends can be used in an infinite number of ways. In the end, the key is simply that you are intentional with your time and pay mind to use it wisely. These simple concepts certainly won’t guarantee that you will become a doctor, but they will provide you with a framework to move one step closer by maximizing your weekends.

Letter of Recommendation: Commonly asked questions answered

1. What is a letter of recommendation?
A letter of recommendation or letter of reference is a document containing a writer’s critique of someone’s qualities typically in a positive way. Many premeds underestimate the importance of these letter. They can actually ruin your chances at getting into medical school if done incorrectly. According to a survey of med school admission officers at 113 medical schools, the letter of recommendation was ranked as one of the most important tools used to assess candidates.1¬¬¬¬ Most letter of recommendations speak highly of the candidate so a lukewarm letter can be damaging.

2. Who should I choose?
A letter writer should be someone who has spent enough time with you to comment on qualities such as your professional behavior, perseverance, leadership abilities, and academic skills in a positive light. You may consider choosing writers who can highlight different areas you excel at. Examples of writers may be your professor, employer, volunteer supervisor preferably in an area related to medicine and healthcare. A shadowed physician can be a good choice only if you have worked with him or her on more than one occasion. Do not select an obvious family member. Also, avoid selecting someone who knows little about you, is unenthused about writing for you or is unreliable.

3. When should I ask?
Start early in developing relationships with those you feel may be strong advocates and mentors. Let them know your goal of becoming a medical doctor. Keep strong bonds with professors by meeting with them occasionally during their office hours to update them on your progress. Ask at least 1 month in advance for a letter. You need to make sure they have plenty of time. Letter writers are humans too and they can easily procrastinate.

4. How should I ask?
Do not request for a letter directly by email, before/after class, or in passing. Instead, try setting up an appointment to meet in person so you can discuss your future plans with them. Do not simply ask them if they can write a letter for you. Ask him or her if they feel comfortable writing a letter which will be helpful in supporting your application for medical school. This approach may help you get a feel for if that person can confidently and happily do so. It also allows them the opportunity to back out if they do not feel strong about writing you a powerful letter. Remember, they are doing you a favor so do not demand a letter but instead request for one. Waive your right to see the letter since many prefer confidentiality and many schools also prefer this. Provide your letter writer with a neat folder including all the materials which they will need to write the best letter they can. This may include recommendation forms, your CV, personal statement and a cover letter with your name and due date. Make it as easy as possible for your letter writer.

5. What next?
Hopefully you have done all of the above and provided your letter writer with plenty of time. Now you can sit back and relax a bit. It is okay to follow-up with your letter writer in a polite and non-nagging manner. Always think of a back-up writer just in case one of your writers fails to write the letter in a timely fashion. Don’t forget to send a thank you note to your letter writers.

References:
1. Dunleavy DM, Sondheimer H, Bletzinger RB, Castillo-Page L. Medical School Admissions: more than grades and test scores. Analysis in Brie. 2011;11(6):1-2.

 

Written by Dr. Daniel

Image Credit: Pixabay

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