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Entries in Medschool (3)

Thursday
Oct022014

The Non-Traditional Pre-Med Student Effect

getting into medschoolGuest post by Christopher A. Perez

Pre-medicine as we currently know it has to change.

I’m not talking about the required courses that have to be completed or the ultra-important MCAT. I’m referring to the notion that pre-med students must carry a full load of classes every semester in order to demonstrate to medical school admissions committees that they can “endure a rigorous schedule of classes”. Commonly, pre-med counselors advise students that they must take 16-18 credits a semester and for many students it’s just not possible.

The traditional student who attends a four-year university directly after high school is not as common anymore. Many students work because they don’t have the financial luxury to only concentrate on school while other students choose to first attend a community college because the cost of tuition is considerably cheaper. Then, there are also career changers. Career changers are students who already have a career but have decided to return to school in hopes of learning a different field then what they have previously studied. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), nearly three out of four college students are considered non-traditional (Choy). It is the single largest category of college students today. What makes up a non-traditional student? The NCES states that anyone who satisfies one of the following criteria is considered a non-traditional student:

  • Delays enrollment (does not enter postsecondary education in the same calendar year that he or she finished high school);
  • Attends part-time for at least part of the academic year;
  • Works full-time (35 hours or more per week) while enrolled;
  • Is considered financially independent for purposes of determining eligibility for financial
  • Has dependents other than a spouse (usually children, but may also be caregivers of sick or elderly family members);
  • Is a single parent (either not married or married but separated and has dependents), or  
  • Does not have a high school diploma (completed high school with a GED or other high school completion certificate or did not finish high school) (Choy).

Getting into medical school is highly competitive and it’s time to level the playing field for all pre-meds, not just the “traditional” students. A student who excels academically whether they attend college part-time or first attended a community college should be placed in the same regard as the “traditional” pre-med student with the same academic statistics. The pre-medical community must remove all negative sentiments of “part-time” and “strength of class” (à la community college versus university courses) and adopt the idea of universal uniformity instead. This will expand the pool of suitable medical school candidates, increasing the competitiveness of getting into medical school which would ultimately benefit medical schools. It will also diversify the profile of matriculating students that are entering medical schools.

Guest post by Christopher A. Perez
Author of Getting into Medical School: A Comprehensive Guide for Non-Traditional Students

Choy, Susan. “Nontraditional Undergraduates.” National Center for Education Statistics. NECS 2002-12. U.S. Department of Education, 2002. Web. 1 Feb. 2014.

Thursday
Mar082012

By Far The Most Common Conversation In A Hospital Is Complaining

By Tamara Moores, a fourth year medical student at Loma Linda University specializing in Emergency Medicine.

They tell me that I’ll change.

They always do.

In our first two weeks of medical school, freshmen students are assigned to shadow senior students working in the hospital. When I was a freshman, my senior student’s final comment to me was “Wow. You’re really enthusiastic… That will change.”

Now as a fourth year medical student, today’s version of the story was – “intern year will change you. You may look the same on the outside, you may portray that same bubbly, sunshine personality, but inside you’ll be different – harder, less tolerant, mean.”

They say it with confidence, they say it with authority, brooking no disagreement, allowing no doubt. Attendings, residents, nurses – they all deign to tell me my future – “there’s no way you can stay that energetic, it’s incompatible with a medical career.” Over and over I have heard this. As a medical student, I am supposed to listen and learn - to be guided by these wise elders. This morning when I heard the prediction for the 100th time, like always I politely listened with a half-smile. Yet silently my spirit roared “How DARE you smugly tell me the fate of my soul?! How DARE you justify your own insecurities about your passionless heart by attempting to degrade mine?”

Medicine is a unique environment. In my short foray into this time-honored, traditioned society, I have been buffered and shocked by the rampant negativity that oozes through the hospital walls. People seem to even take pride in their ability to bemoan their situation.

“Oh God, another consult from the ED, think they managed to even do a physical exam before calling?”

“That professor has no idea what’s on boards.”

“I can’t believe we have to be here.”

“This computer system is a joke.”

By far the most common conversation in a hospital is complaining. Tomorrow, try something different - stop and listen to the myriad people talking at work. The ratio of negative to positive conversations will overwhelm you.

Why is hospital culture like this? Shouldn’t a place of healing be full of warm emotions, positive thoughts, and uplifted people? Why is a ‘negative nancy’ the most common type of medical professional we meet? What are we doing wrong? These questions often come to mind during my workday. There is no easy answer. At the very least I know my top goal is to NEVER become that stereotypical cynical physician, and instead be the uncommon doctor with true passion for medicine.

So how do I accomplish this in such a caustic environment? Have no doubt, even at my current bubbly baseline, it is a daily war to maintain my heart for this career. So many physicians before me have fought this battle and lost. How can I succeed where they have failed?

A resident who I highly respect recently told me ‘be careful what you say, because talk patterns become thought patterns.’ This, more than anything, is my first defense against cynicism. It is SO easy to fall into conversation filled with complaints. These tiny conversations seem harmless, but over the course of a lifetime they shape your soul. Now at the end of my medical schooling, and at the cusp of residency, I am awed by the power of the spoken word. It’s undeniable - what we say both molds and reflects what we think.

Overall I believe the best weapon against developing permanent pessimism is to be deliberate in how we react to daily adversity. How do we respond to a floridly difficult, unpleasant patient? Do we moan about how annoying they are? Do we ruminate about how unfairly they treated us? Permit me to suggest a different response. Instead of focusing on how unjustly that patient has treated me, I instead try to feel gratitude. Whether or not it’s right, these difficult patients make me grateful that my life has not put me in their position. They must be really unhappy inside, to so poorly treat the people who are trying to care for them. When I am mistreated by an attending, I remind myself that they are but a momentary discomfort, and soon will be gone from my life. Over and over I find myself fighting to see the positives in my life. It is a deliberate, intentional strategy, which allows me to shine out with joy even in the little moments of the day.

I firmly believe that working as a medical professional can be a path to a life filled with meaning and passion….if we let it. Not all days are perfect, but most days I feel like I’m the luckiest girl in the world to be in my chosen career. The patients are interesting, my skills are stretched, and I feel fulfilled. Beyond these personal reasons, more than any other career, medicine reminds us how short and precious life is. We deal in broken bodies, lives cut short by car collisions, by strokes, by chronic disease. How lucky we are to be able to move our bodies without wheelchairs, to be relatively self-sufficient. Working in the medical field reminds me daily that everything can change in a moment. It is this acute awareness of the frailty of life, which makes me embrace life with so much abandon. It is this knowledge that gives me joy in the workplace, even during the rough days. To put it bluntly, life is too darn short to be grumpy.

So why am I reflecting via this forum? Perhaps because I hope that I am not alone in this fight. Perhaps I hope that by starting a discussion, we might nudge forth a change in the standard hospital culture. Maybe with forums like this, we can shift the caustic paradigm. Here’s to hope.

About:: Tamara Moores is a fourth year medical student at Loma Linda University. She is specializing in Emergency Medicine. https://www.facebook.com/reflectingthelights

Read the original post on Uncommon Student MD

Wednesday
Feb152012

The Top 10 Reasons You Should Go To Medical School... And The Single Best Reason Not To

By Jeremy Weaver, Medical Student and Editor of Uncommon Student MD

Whether you're a first year medical student or a practicing physican, there's a good chance you've asked yourself the quesion, "WHY the @#$% DID I GO TO MEDICAL SCHOOL?" Here are a few EXCELLENT reasons... and one bad one.

Just as the blisses of Christmas break was ending for most of us tortured souls who fly the banner of "medical student," and sail these uncertain scholarly seas, Uncommon Student MD got some serious traction with medical students around the world. I believe timing had a large part to do with the explosion in its popularity. Simply put, after christmas break a lot of medical people were thinking, “what am I doing here?!” - A case of mass buyers remorse.

It is an understandable and laudable question to be sure. If we spent half the time wrestling with the question of what to do with our lives that we spend OMGing and LOLing on Facebook, we would probably all be Nobel laureates (at the very least we wouldn’t use retarded abbreviations as much). There are a lot of bad reasons to go into medicine and there are a lot of good reasons not too… Conversely there are also many great reasons TO pursue medicine as well as a lot of bad reasons not too. Confused? Me too, but I do know that there are two sides to every pancake (perhaps three if you screwed the recipe up).

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” So, even though I happened to agree with a few salient points made in the aforementioned article, I am trying to follow the advice of good old F. Scott and entertain the flip side of the coin. Maybe incite some wrath while I’m at it… one can only hope.

I am not sure, but I am of the opinion that there are as many good reasons TO go to med school as there are NOT to go (we should do a prospective cohort study to find out). At the very least I know there ARE more reasons than the sole example our friend Dr. Ali Binazir espoused. And so without further hemming and hawing… The top 10 reasons you SHOULD go to medical and 1 reason you should RUN WHILE YOU STILL CAN… in no particular order.

1. You will have a HUGE range of options at the end of your medical education.

To me flexibility and possibility in a career are of FAR greater importance than money, girls, fame, cars, illicit drugs, horses, blue suede shoes, kittens, my high score on angry birds, tickle-me-Elmos, or just any other temptation under the sun. Medicine opens up a WORLD of...

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