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On the Wards – Pediatrics

At Orientation I learned that I had been assigned to Pediatrics for my first two weeks before classes begin. Not quite sure what to expect, I followed the directions and found myself sitting in a conference room Monday morning with the rest of the Freshman who had been assigned to Pediatrics.

The group in the conference room also included third and fourth years who were on their Pediatrics rotations. After an orientation to how things were done in the Children’s Hospital, the Attending Physician took sent us off to find the teams we were assigned to. Some first years went to the cardiology consult team, others to the GI team, some to the NICU and others to the PICU.

I, along with one other first year, headed to the Pediatric Teaching Office (PTO). The PTO is located across the street from the Children’s Hospital.

I quickly found out that the PTO is a very relaxing place to rotate through. Over my one week there, most of my time was spent sitting in the office along with the residents.

When the residents did go in to visit patients I was able to go in with them and watch, hand out lolipops, smile, and ask the parents some questions regarding the development of their child. The residents/attendings were really nice about letting me listen to some sounds with my stethoscope. One of the interesting things I had a chance to listen to was a heart murmur that indicated that the patient had a ventricular septal defect.

In between patients, there was not much to do. I did not bring a textbook to study. I would have found it interesting to talk to the 3rd year medical students or even the residents and attendings. But I didn’t want to get in their way. Those not seeing patients were busy looking up things on the internet, reading an article, telling jokes, discussing wedding plans, and describing the latest exciting cases going on across the street in the main hospital.

As a first year it was at times very overwhelming because I had no idea what the acronyms and jargon meant. I couldn’t chime in on the discussions of exotic childhood diseases or advise on the appropriate vaccination for a 6 month old coming in for a “well child check-up.” I did, however, appreciate being able to watch a number of different doctor interacting with their patients. It is interesting to note the different styles — some bad, but mostly good. Those little things will definitely be something to pay attention to as I cultivate my own style in dealing and interacting with patients.

Part of me feels like I just want to get through these first two weeks of “Clinical Experience” and start lectures. At least I will have something to do. And I will know what to do — study. But I realize that once lectures start I will miss the PTO.

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Update

Well today is already June 30. Time is really flying fast. With July just around the corner, I have about one month until registration/orientation. I’m sure it will go by quickly.

At this point, I’m just trying to enjoy the summer as much as possible while trying to mentally prepare myself for what lies ahead. I don’t want to be caught off-guard when we have to hit the books.  So it may be good to easy myself into some useful brain activity.

I’ll figure out what I’m going to do. Maybe do some reading exercises (I bought a book about speed reading). I also should probably go through a set of CDs my dad gave me last year. Its about improving your memory. I figure, if anything, a good memory and quick reading should be helpful with studying physiology, anatomy, and the rest of the physical human condition.

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MSNBC.com: Doctors Change the Way They Think About Death – Newsweek Health

Just read an interesting article about the “the new science of resuscitation” on MSNBC.com. Not that long of a read and its pretty interesting what researchers are now finding out about death. Check it out.

Doctors Change the Way They Think About Death – Newsweek Health – MSNBC.com

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GUIDE: Personal Statement

The other day someone posted a comment asking if I had any “words of wisdom” regarding these things called “personal statements.” So I thought I would add a post about this topic. Now I don’t know whether or not I do have any words of wisdom, but I will offer suggestions.

The first suggestion is to be congruent. When applying for medical school, or anything for that matter, it is often easy to “stretch the truth” to make the applicant look good. But being congruent is important. Writing that your desire to become a doctor stems from your burning passion to help orphaned children with cleft lips in third world countries is fine — that is, if that is the reason behind your wanting to become a doctor. But if it isn’t DO NOT write that. The key is to be honest and sincere. Every individual has a unique background. Bring that out. Show that. If you truly have a desire to help cleft lip patients around the world, then, by all means, do write it! It will shine through in your interview that this desire is genuine and not some fluff meant to tug on the emotional strings of the readers. Honesty and sincerity is key.

The second suggestion I have is to find someone with excellent English skills to read over your statement. And it would be preferable that the person have some knowledge of the application process. I was lucky that my Kaplan instructor had a Master’s degree in English and had already gone through the process of applying (had an acceptance to UCSD School of Medicine). He graciously offered to read my paper over and make comments about it. And this bioengineering major was sure glad to have an English major help. Another resource to use would be Premed advisors. They, in theory, should be knowledgeable about the whole process and would be a great resource to use. Just make sure that they don’t have terrible English!

That, my readers, are my two cents regarding personal statements. If you have any more advice for budding personal statement authors, feel free to post and add.

And a good luck to those writing the statements!

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MCAT Prep Course: Yes or No?

About a week after I had taken the MCAT in August 2005 I wrote a review of the Kaplan Preparatory course that I had taken. That review can be found here. Almost a year and a half later, my opinion of the prep courses is unchanged. But I decided to write some more about preparing for the MCAT because this is one of the most pressing concerns for Pre-med students.

One thing about any of these courses is that they are all pretty expensive. When I took the course, the going rate was about $1400 — and this is in addition to any AMCAS or secondary application fees. So the decision on whether or not to take the course weighs heavily on those applying to medical school. In this post I won’t discuss study methods. I assume Premed students preparing to take the MCAT will have a pretty decent G.P.A. and some study skills. So I will just restrict this post to discussing prep courses.

The first thing to remember when thinking about taking one of these courses is that it is a REVIEW course taught by people who most likely are not as qualified as the professors who taught you the material in the first place. When I took the course, Kaplan’s requirement to teach a subject was that one had to score at least an 11 on that section in an MCAT. So don’t expect to go into the class to learn the material in-depth. It should be a review of things you have already covered in Biology, Physics, G. Chem, and O. Chem classes; so study the material well while in those classes.

The second thing that one should do is assess his or her ability to get motivated to study. The MCAT covers four science subjects: Biology, Physics, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry. One useful thing about these courses is that they force you to cover a certain amount of material for each class. It keeps students moving along. For some, this structured approach can be very useful. If you find yourself as one who needs the structure of a class to get you studying, then take it if possible. Others may be able to self-study and keep a healthy pace without the structure provided by a class and these peope may be better off saving their money instead of enrolling in a review course. Plenty of students who take the MCAT without going through a prep course and score very well. And while it can be difficult, this assessment is crucial.

The third thing to consider is practice exams. Practice MCAT exams are extremely important for preparing for the real deal. I think the real value of a prep course is in putting the students through a full-length MCAT under “real-life” conditions. For an exam as important as the MCAT, one does not want to go in not knowing what to expect. Taking practice exams under simulated conditions will helps in pacing. The worst thing that can happen is to have the proctor call time before finishing a section. These practice exams are also important because they build stamina. It is a long test. Sitting for 8 hours gets tiring on the neck. Believe it or not, you build neck muscles in these practice exams! However, I hear the MCAT is going electronic and will be taken on a computer and will be shorter. But you still should be able to sit through a whole thing without fidgeting and as they say: practice makes perfect.

Alright, so you’ve read to here. Should you take an MCAT prep course or not? This is a question each individual must answer on his or her own. A prep course offers structure and an environment in which a simulated MCAT can be administered. But this can also be done without a course. So if you feel you can go it alone, then by all means do so and save the money! If not, then take the plunge, go to class, practice the MCAT and get as much as you can out of it.

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Ooops

Well here’s the update: I am no longer attending classes. Why not? Have I decided that I can learn better on my own than by listening to a lecture? Nope. Do I hate the teachers and profs? Nope. Do I have trouble getting along with the person sitting next to me in class? Nope. I am no longer attending classes because I have requested a leave of absence.

Last quarter was a challenge. I never got my “head into the game.” I could not get focused and struggled with motivating myself to study. It just was not working out. And so, two days ago I turned in my signed request for a leave of absence until this coming August when I will be joining the new incoming class.

I think it’ll work out fine. I now know what needs to be done. Well, I guess I now know how not to study.

In the meantime, I’m considering brushing up on some espanol to keep me occupied. It will give me an opportunity to re-energize and recharge for August.

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T-Minus 2 Weeks and Counting

Alright, well it has been over a month since I last wrote in. It was really good to have the 3 days off for Thanksgiving break. Although after the break, I was not ready to go back to school. Now I’m just looking forward to Christmas break.

But to get to Christmas Break, I have to get through another test week. Stress levels are up now. During our last set of exams, the class didn’t do so well on the Physical Diagnosis (Cardiac) exam. We need a 68% to pass the class. Class average for the exam was 66%. Yeah, there weren’t very many happy people after that week.

Fortunately, the professors decided that its more important for us the learn the material. They said that they will take all the questions from the first test and put about 5 in each of our tests from now until the end of the year. At years’ end, we will be able to replace the score from our first test by adding up the points from the cardiac questions that were scattered throughout the year.

Since the last set of exams we have also started Auscultation Lab. Its pretty cool. We sit in this amphitheater and each student is given a pair of “stethophones.” The top part is just like a stethoscope but there is not diaphram attached to it. Instead, there is a box that holds the battery, volume control, and IR receiver. The instructor then can play any heart sounds they want and we all hear the same thing. Next quarter we get to use the simulation lab with the dummy where we can listen to all the heart sounds, measure JVP, BP, and other vitals. Oh what fun $250,000 can buy you these days.