I came across this post by Tenzing, a high school senior, and it reminded me of my own inability to put into words my desires to go into medicine, of my own fears at the seemingly insurmountable wall of education and selection processes that faced me. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m incredibly glad I’ve come this far. Don’t give up. If you want it, you’ll get it.
I have always wanted to become a doctor. There has been times i have reconsidered my options, because of money issues…but always, in the end i have come to the same decision, I want to go to medical school, work hard, survive and become a surgeon.
During my undergraduate years I actively passed on a few courses because I figured why put myself through the torment? They’re just going to teach it to me in medical school. Well, as it turns out, had I taken an extra course or two in college, this first year would have gone a looot smoother. Granted, I did just fine so far, but it was far from easy.
1) Biochemistry - backbone for what seems like everything. Its an entirely new language to learn and it sure would have been easier if I could have at least drawn the krebs cycle.
2) Anatomy - its the basis of medicine. wow, I sure was lost for the first month. Would have been nice to know the basic layout ahead of time.
3) Physiology - ok, so I had an animal phys in college, but it was research based. So far, knowing the basics has been a lifesaver.
Keep in mind - they are going teach (make you memorize) you all of this in medical school at a depth you didn’t touch during your undergrad. So, just because you took the courses in undergrad doesn’t mean you’re going to breeze through anything.
I’m sitting in a class right now, listening to a doctor go on and on about prescription drugs- their uses, mechanisms, and side effects. He’s tossing around names; each drug has two nonsensical names that we are to commit to memory along with all their baggage. We’ll skip the discussion on American’s being over prescribed for now, but I can’t help and wonder if this is necessary. With the advent of ultraportable personal information devices with permanent internet connections, how often will physicians in five years be relying on their memories to correctly dose patients? It would be easier, and safer, to have the current up to-date information at your fingertips. The New York Times (sorry, can’t remember the link for the article) recently ran an article that stated that physicians use mostly the same medications they were taught to use during their residency. Also, with the advent of direct to consumer drug advertising, what effect does that have on prescribing practices? If you’re going from your memory, how likely are you to be objective when you’re writing a script? Granted, knowing exactly what you’re prescribing is extremely important, but how useful is knowing the mechanisms or antidepressants when you’re a radiologist? I guess the real underlying question is – is medical education outdated?
sometimes i reminisce about my college years. to the days when studying four hours was a chore and often avoided. now, having entered into the next level, my days have grown exponentially longer. eating, showering, communicating, and studying are all scheduled and there are exactly 16 hours per day to accomplish those. frequently, studying and class consume at least 12 hours of that chunk. however, 14 hours of studying is not uncommon and i tend to be on the conservative side of my peers having a firm respect for my sleep. from what i hear, the days only get longer.
Its spring break time and while some of your friends may be heading down to Cancun to enjoy a spring break they wont remember, there are an incredible amount of medical opportunities for a service oriented spring break trip. Here are just a few:
"Vets With A Mission has a variety of projects. We work to establish Clinics and Rehabilitation Centers and have currently built twenty one rural health stations in Vietnam. We offer medical training programs and work with the local doctors to help improve their level of education and skills in the medical profession. We provide medical supplies and equipment to the clinics we’ve built as well as existing clinics. We work with local churches providing Bibles and Christian literature, funding church repairs, and supporting their outreach efforts, which includes Christian medical teams that reach out to those who are unable to get proper medical care. Through Vets With A Mission these medical teams can give hope to the increasing number of addicts and HIV/AIDS victims in Vietnam."
"For more than 20 years, Flying Doctors of America has been bringing together physicians, dentists, nurses, chiropractors, other health professionals and non-medical support volunteers to care for people who otherwise would never receive professional medical care. We operate under the “Mother Teresa Principle,” focusing on the poorest of the poor who live in conditions that are difficult for most Americans to imagine. Knowing that someone cares renews hope for these people who live in an otherwise hopeless situation."
And what about you pre-med folk? This sounds like an awesome opportunity I wish I knew about:
"Our initial and primary focus is on the orphanages we support, in Jaibon and Monte Cristi. But as our volunteer program has grown, we have begun working with many disadvantaged children in the communities around the orphanage. Each year, volunteers teach basic English and public health classes to over 5000 children in Dominican grade schools, provide summer learning camps to over 3000 children, teach a formal English curriculum to over 100 children in the Orphanage Outreach English Institute, and see over 2000 patients in Orphanage Outreach medical and dental clinics. Volunteering is the heart of Orphanage Outreach."
Do something different with your break - help someone.
somehow the higher you go in education, the worse the education gets. medical school professors are some of the worst teachers i’ve ever had. perhaps its that they’re hired on the amount of research fame they can bring to an institution. apparently, learning how to teach is not part of getting a phd. dont get me wrong, there are some amazing professors in medical eduction, but so far, the majority of them would not be allowed to teach high school. makes me wonder how much more productive and educated medical school students would be if professors taught instead of lectured. lectured might be too strong of a word— lets try prepare bloated powerpoints and say memorize. yeah, that fits better.
The NYT follows a premed hopeful that gets into one of the newest additions to the sparse sprinkling of medical schools in the united states. Interesting article that brings up the issue of the extreme costs of medical school that might drive medical students away from rural and underserved populations. Interestingly, the article fails to mention D.O. schools other than as a backup. Worth a read:
the answer is rather simple. you only need to accomplish two things: get good grades and a high mcat score.
like i said- simple. so long as you’re able to provide those two credentials you’ll get into a medical school. after all, are medical schools ranked on how personable their doctors are? what about how caring and compassionate they are? nope. board scores and residency placements reign supreme. and how do you do well on the boards? you do well on the mcat. how do you get a residency? do well on your boards.
all that being said, the mcat is a standardized test. if you’re a standardized person, you might do well on it. but when was the last time you met a great doctor that was standardized? not everyone does well with a pencil in their hand. maybe you’re handier with an otoscope or a scalpel. so, what do you do when you can’t meet those two simple requirements? you keep trying- you demonstrate that you’re more than a pair of numbers and pursue your passion. you’ll get there. i did.