Saturday, October 29, 2011

This Tuesday = Very Important

So here's the deal: I've applied to 15 med schools. I've interviewed at one so far, and I feel like it went well. Like many schools, this school posts a list of their "decision dates" online. These are the dates when, if you didn't get in or if you get waitlisted, you will receive an email telling you so.

However: I've done some light reading on the internet (studentdoctor.net, anyone?) and have found out that this particular admissions committee meets the Tuesday before each decision date to decide who will get accepted from recent groups of interviewees. Each decision date is on a Wednesday, the next one being November 2nd, which means that the next meeting of the admissions committee will be this coming Tuesday, November 1st.

After the adcom meetings end at 6pm on Tuesdays, the assistant dean of admissions personally calls all those that the committee voted to accept. He makes his calls between 6pm and 9pm; this information was confirmed by multiple sources who received phone calls on a previous Tuesday night. Apparently if you don't get a call and they reviewed your group during that meeting, you can expect either a rejection or waitlist email the following Wednesday morning.

The personal significance of this tidbit: Someone posted online that he/she interviewed on a later week than I did, and that the assistant dean of admissions told his/her interview group to expect a decision on the November 2 decision date. That means my group will likely be reviewed that day as well, since they review multiple interview groups during each adcom meeting. Needless to say, this coming Tuesday, November 1st between 6:00pm and 9:00pm I will be paying very, very close attention to my cell phone.

Yikes.

If I get a call, I'm in - officially part of the med school class of 2016. If not... well, for the sake of sanity I won't subscribe to those thought circles quite yet. Check back here on Tuesday night after 9:00pm because whatever happens, I'll be posting an update. Until then I wait, you wait, we all wait, and wait, and wait...

Let's hope I get a call, hey?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

This Is Why I Love Science

Sometimes there comes along a thing in my classes that takes my breath away. The amazingly complex and beautiful designs that form small parts of us, like the first picture below from my biochem lecture that shows the complex structures that can form as a result of complementarity in single-stranded mRNA molecules - things like this amaze me. That letter sequence is a series of nucleotides joined by glycosidic bonds; the letter actually represents the base that hangs off of the ribose (because it's RNA, not DNA) molecule within each of those nucleotides. For those non-biochemists out there, the reason this image highlights a guanine double H-bonded to a uracil is not because it's a mistake; normally guanine triple H-bonds to a cytosine (see the second image below), but there are certain exceptions to this as shown in this example; if you look closely in the macromolecular representation, these rare bonds are designated by dots instead of lines.

The second picture is an idealized representation of a chunk of DNA designed to highlight the specific purine-pyrimidine base-pairing of adenine with thymine and guanine with cytosine inherent between the double-stranded structures in our DNA. I have a quiz on this stuff tomorrow morning (well, both DNA and RT-PCR - Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction), and I couldn't help but express some of my awe at the complexity of what goes into the smallest parts of our organic beings. To me, this level of blatant design shouts that there is a designer, which I believe to be God. This is the reason I studied a science (Physics) in the first place - to closely examine the order and design present in every niche of the world around and within us. This is the stuff that makes me wish I could study every science course in existence (minus statistics, which is more of a necessary evil than a science). This excitement is why I don't worry too much about the hard-science aspect of medical school... I worry a bit, but not too much; it's definitely not easy, but I like it.

Anyway, hopefully enough of my enthusiasm came through that you weren't bored, even if biomolecules and science aren't exactly your cups of tea. For those of you that feel the same way as I do - ISN'T THIS STUFF AWESOME?!?!!



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Non-Traditional Pre-Med Schedule

Today, I got to see my wife for about eight minutes before we headed off to class. I won't see her again until after I get home around 11:30pm or so, once she's done with a study group (or something like that; her schedule's crazy too). That's a normal Wednesday.

I'm posting (check out down below) a copy of my schedule so you can get the gist of what I'm talking about. Keep in mind, this only shows the bare minimum of my daily plannings; it doesn't include things like meeting with professors, trips to the pet/grocery/bike store, group study/homework meetings and the like. Unplanned events get crammed into whatever area of white I can manage to find in layout. That is, whatever isn't taken up by eating, studying, sleeping (any nap over 20 minutes is AMAZING; I'd seriously pay to get a reliable, non-narcotic instant sleep button implanted in my forearm. My biggest problems at the moment with sleep are that 1.) It's REALLY hard to find enough white space in my schedule to come by enough sleep to make it worth attempting a nap, and 2.) most of the time when I try to nap for a few minutes, I can't manage to fall asleep.), or riding my awesomely slapped-together electric mountain bike to or from work/class.

Most days start between 6 and 8am, unless I get up earlier to study. That is very rare and only happens if I'm freaking about an exam or something. I'm trying to keep that to a minimum this semester. I think I've managed an actual breakfast once this week, as I've been dragging in bed for some reason. This behavior has been facilitated by the Quaker's "Oatmeal To Go" bars that Nicole bought this past weekend - VERY GOOD. Shower, clothes, backpack, coat(s) (it gets cold riding an electric bike at 25mph, and it's only going to get colder), take care of the dog and I'm out.

Oh, by the way, it's official - I put my car into storage a while ago, so my only form of transportation is my bike. I've ridden it for a total of 548 miles as of this morning, translating into a total savings over the past two months of $328.00, assuming an average gas cost of $3.75/gal and the $100/mo savings on insurance.

To remedy the not-seeing-my-wife drawback to being a non-traditional med school applicant is what we like to call "Doughnut Dates." Every Friday morning before class we sacrifice 1.5 hours of sleep in the name of romance to do something cheap together before class. We only actually go out for doughnuts one Friday each month, but it's awesome. Even if you're not incredibly busy, I'd highly recommend doing something similar. We both look forward to it all week!

Anyway - who knows if this schedule is the best way to go about attempting this whole process, but it's working so far. The bike thing might (WILL) get more difficult in the winter, but I'm up for the challenge. Alright, lunch (dinner?) break's over, so away I go... :)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

102.6 Fever = Sick

Woke up last night with a fever of 102.6°. Shaky and pretty weak, extremely tired. Being sick is no fun. I'm so lucky to have a wife that takes good care of me. Plus, it is very fun having her know what to do since she's becoming a nurse.

It sounds ridiculous, but I am so sore that it hurts to type. Luckily, I have Dragon Dictation so I don't have to type any of this. All I do is talk into my iPad, and it records everything I say almost flawlessly. It is a free app, and is incredibly useful when you don't feel like typing on your iPad screen.

Alright, time to get back to resting and getting better. Maybe I'll watch some Malcolm in the Middle on Netflix. Here's where I'll be for the rest of the day. Thanks, Nicole, for setting me up on the couch; it's just one small example of how well you take care of me.





Oh, one last thing. Progress with medical schools is moving along, slowly but surely. I will hopefully hear back about the results of my most recent interview within the next two weeks. Everything else is still up in the air.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Exam and Quiz Today

This week has been a blur. Nicole ran a Marathon last weekend, making me an extremely proud husband. Unfortunately, that also resulted in us not doing as much homework as we should have over the weekend, so this week have been playing catch-up. I have a Biochemistry I exam at 9:30am today, and I'm not feel feeling very prepared, despite hours of preparation full of work like this:






Midterm grades came out this week, and I am happy with them, but definitely don't want them to take a downward turn today. These pictures were taken last night as Nicole and I studied in the science center, since she has a tough exam this morning as well.






Once this exam is over, and after my Analytical Chem quiz is done, it is smooth sailing for the weekend. I finally got a secondary application quest from the University of Toledo; apparently they have been having some serious staffing issues. I was told on the phone that I should have received it in August, and they did not know why it wasn't sent, but that it would in no way affect their consideration of my application. So, I will hopefully be finishing that up this weekend. Wish me luck on today's tests!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Interview #1 - Recap

I know this is long overdue, and for that I am sorry. Life has been crazy recently, and I just haven't taken the time to write. Now, on to the recap.

First reaction - my interview went great! I felt like I clicked really well with both my interviewers (I had two - one faculty member and one current student), and the conversation flowed really smoothly.

One interesting aspect of both interviews was the relatively informal nature. Both of my interviewers went out of their way to show me that it was all right to relax, doing a great job of putting me at my ease. The questions were not what I was expecting, especially the one below, as I had already written an essay in response to this exact question for my secondary application.

"Give an example of a time when you were faced with an ethical dilemma and how you dealt with it."


I assumed that, since my interviewer had my secondary application in front of her (and it was covered in highlighting and markups) she probably wouldn't like it if I regurgitated that story to her. So, I told about how I know a man whose highest level of education was a short couple of years in elementary school in Mexico. He now works for the company where I am employed as a Human Resources technician, and is very superstitious when it comes to medicine. Everyone where I work knows that I am trying to become a physician, so naturally everyone immediately wants to discuss with me anything that vaguely borders on being a medical topic. This man in particular regularly cautions me about the dangers of things like how, if you eat Mexican pork, then drink milk, then take a shower in that specific order, you will surely die. If I am going to be a doctor, I need to know about many things like this that most doctors don't understand. He really wants to help me become a good physician. Many of his beliefs like this are harmless, but some can be dangerous, especially if he applies them to caring for members of his family - things like his belief that you need to take at least three cold showers (after which you allow yourself to dry slowly in open air) during the winter to avoid getting sick that spring.

My ethical dilemma comes into play in that I have a responsibility as an educated person to help inform him about the practices that might be dangerous to him or his family. However, I have to be careful about how I go about this because of the responsibilities inherent in my role as a Human Resources Technician. I need to maintain a respectful relationship with him so as to foster an atmosphere of trust, which can be hard to do if you tell someone, "Remember what you and your ancestors have been taught for generations - that thing you told me about the other day? Well, it's wrong, and might actually make you more likely to get sick." A delicate balance is needed if I am going to preserve the trust that will allow me to caution him in the future and have him give my words credence.

After I responded with the above, my interviewer then asked, "Now what if that patient came to you as a physician? What would you do?" I responded that, as his physician, my primary concern would be his health and well-being and that of his children, so I would be much more direct in firmly addressing the possible negative effects to good health that could arise from some of his practices. I would take care to explain everything to the best of my ability on his level of understanding, given his educational background, while still being informative and respectful.

Both of my interviewers were incredibly professional, and on the post-interview survey, I gave them flying colors. Going into it I was worried that, since this was my first medical school interview, I would make mistakes or be extra nervous. Fortunately, everything turned out to flow much more smoothly than I had anticipated, and I had an absolute blast. Now I just have to wait for the next "decision day" when they give phone calls to all those that got accepted. It could be as soon as the end of this week or as late as six weeks from now, but either way I'll have my answer relatively soon. Exciting, huh?

Granted, that's only one school out of the eleven (realistically ten; one school STILL hasn't sent me a secondary application request or a rejection), but still, it feels good to be at this stage with at least one school. I'll try to do better at keeping this thing updated in the future; no more week-long waits for an update after an interview, I promise. Thanks to all of you who have sent me encouraging emails and comments; I haven't been able to respond to all of them, but please know that they are MUCH appreciated! Thank you thank you thank you...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Interview #1 Tomorrow

Tomorrow is my first med school interview. I've taken a vacation day from work and arranged to have my Analytical Chem lab covered. I've finished my homework and lab reports early, and took both an exam and quiz this past Monday, so I have nothing to study for. I've read up on this particular school, which wasn't hard because it happens to be one of my very top (possibly THE top) picks.

Last week I went to a practice interview with my school's Career Services office. They video recorded me so that I could see myself do things that you aren't supposed to do. For example, I said "Uh" and "Um" far, far too much. I also found out that I REALLY need to make my responses more concise. I was clocking in at about 3 minutes per answer, and answers should be about 30 seconds to a minute in length. My mock interviewer also told me that it's not good to start off a response with a leading word like, "Well" or "Hmm..." It's much better to just jump right into the question after preparing your answer. So, he recommended that I just take a 1-2 heartbeat break to compose my thoughts, then answer simply and directly. Shortening my answers will also help reduce the number of "uhs" that slip out.

I plan on going for a run in the morning tomorrow. Not only does it help me prepare mentally, it also makes my body much calmer, reducing the amount of twitchy energy that I have, which might otherwise seem like nervousness. Surprisingly, I am only a little nervous right now. That might change in the morning, but I'm feeling pretty good about it, and I'm optimistic that it will go well.

Just got back from a run with Naiya, watched some Malcolm in the Middle, and now it's time for a shower and some breakfast! In case you're wondering how I had all this free time, classes were cancelled for a Critical Issues symposium. I decided that I was more in need of some self-time than symposia talks, so I kicked it at home for today. Anyway, wish me luck for tomorrow!

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