My Doctor Reading List

Saturday, October 31, 2015


Just to take a short break from my last day of studying, I thought I'd reflect on something that I've been grateful for.

Today, its been my husband. He has been amazingly supportive of this decision to attempt medical school again and has proven it by actions and not just words.

Not only has he actively encouraged me to study, he has come up with ways to make sure I get quiet time to do so. He has driven me to class, he takes his responsibility as a father and equal partner in our house and he does it without being asked.

The last few days he has completely taken over the childcare. I know it shouldn't be a big deal when a dad does what he is supposed to do, but I KNOW there are many, many men out there who really do think its the "woman's" job to do certain things (childcare, kid's activities, cleaning, laundry, etc) even if the wife works or is sick or whatever. So I'm incredibly grateful that mine really doesn't see it that way. I'm grateful that in spite of working over 50 hours a week on average, he was happy to do everything so I could go to the library and study. Happy to organize outings for the kids so I can study in quiet at home once the library closed. Organized dinner. Did the laundry.

I got married very young - I was 22. My husband was 23. We had been together since high school, went to the same university together and got married immediately afterwards. Now, in many, many ways I think that we are incredibly lucky to have made it this far and to be so happy. I wouldn't actually recommend getting married so young to most people because you change so much as a person from that time of being young and newly independent to mature adult. It could have been a disaster, but luckily we were always on the same wavelength in terms of what we wanted and have always been supportive of each other. But we also have had some tough times, some not so perfect moments in our marriage (though I've come to realize that this is basically ALL successful marriages)  and we don't always agree on everything.

Still, just scratching the surface of what it will take to have a successful career in medicine has made me realize there is NO WAY I'd be able to do this if my husband weren't the type of person that he is and if I didn't have his backing the way I do. Because this is the first of many moments to come and I'm so grateful that he has proven to me that he has my back and I can do this.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


I'm studying for my final exam, which is on Monday afternoon.

I have to admit, I dropped the ball a bit in the preparation for it. We finally moved into our new house and even though we didn't really have that much stuff, setting it all up, unpacking etc took much more time (and energy) than I anticipated. I go around to actually start studying a full 5 days after I had originally planned to.

And, as always with studying, I feel behind in where I was hoping to be.

One thing that I wanted to do though was do at least 3-4 of the previous years' exams as a way to gauge my understanding and pin-point my weaknesses. I started to skim through them when I realized that there were NO answers posted on the website for my course.

This frustrates me to no end. What is the point of posting the prior year exams with no answer guide? I mean, yes, they will be mildly useful to know what kinds of questions to expect but no answer key at all kind of defeats the purpose.

I emailed the prof for the course and she was like "oh we don't have the answer key...I might be able to throw something together but probably not before the exam." Um, ok? So I asked if I could at least do one and send it to her to mark and she said sure. By why don't they have the answer key? Surely one was developed when it was being written in the first place.

Ugh. I'm just super grumpy now after reading the email from the professor - and it came at a bad time (as I was reviewing all the organic chemistry stuff - I really know nothing except the nomenclature and how to draw the molecules...).

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


It hit me today that I have just one week of lectures left.

Spring is in the air in New Zealand (so weird when to me October is usually the first real month of fall) and students are getting ready to finish up another year (perhaps their last ever?) of university.

 I have to admit, I'm looking forward to being done my course even though I've thoroughly enjoyed it. The pregnancy is starting to tire me out and the 2.5 hour round trip commute is starting to be more uncomfortable than not.

BUT I'm in a great place mentally - I feel very motivated to study and do as well as I can on the final. On Monday I got my results back from our lab test and recent group report (that I wrote). I got 100% on both and was especially proud of the test, as I was one of only two people to get the perfect score (the other was my lab partner!).

The final is worth 60% of my grade though, so I do need to do very well on it even though I'll be going into it with a 96% average. Still, I think its totally doable!

One thing that I'm starting to realize - and it both excites and scares me - is that I actually have the ability to do this. A part of me really wondered if I have what it takes to do well in science. In high school, I was good at biology and did well in physics but my real strengths were in the social sciences. My IB courses focused on English, History, Economics and French. I always took a backseat in the sciences because they didn't come as easily to me.

I'm excited though, because if I do well on this final - and there is no reason for me not to if I study appropriately - then my gamble of taking this course will have paid off. I'll be able to apply to the program and show the admissions committee that while, yes my background is in business I can ALSO science. And hopefully, taking this course will allow me to lessen my course load in that first year of health science courses.

I'm scared, on the other hand, because of what it means if I have a real shot of getting in, that I will get in and the changes that it will bring. It will mean uprooting and moving my kids again. It will mean moving away from extended family again - but this to a place where there is no support. It will mean pressure to do well at school and hold it together on the family front. It will mean taking on debt and it will mean several years of not contributing financially.

However the reason I'm pushing for it is because the alternative is just coasting. Sure, being a mom is awesome and keeps me busy. But soon it will no longer be enough. I don't think I would be satisfied if my life's long term focus was just my kids. As it is I spend way too much time engaging in debates about GMO's, vaccines, gun control, alternative medicine etc online just to scratch that itch to use my brain. I want and need a bigger challenge.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hard time

I've been having a bit of a hard time in my personal life.

The move, being away from close family and friends (and realizing that I'm "out of sight, out of mind" for some), being pregnant, not getting as much exercise as I used to and being overall a bit bored created a perfect storm of low feelings recently.

Things came to a head a couple weeks ago when my husband left for a two week long business trip back to Canada (I was so jealous!) which also coincided with a two week break from my course. I was very lonely and bored and all those feelings which I'd been keeping at bay just started to overwhelm me. I would get sad and cry for no reason, I started to sleep poorly and just felt like I was in a bad mood all of the time.

I decided to take my midwife's advice and sought some counselling. The counsellor was a very kind and sympathetic person but got me a bit worried when she decided to refer me to a psychiatrist for further assessment.  Luckily he told me that he really didn't think I was clinically depressed and that all that sadness was a result of a perfect storm of what I've been through recently plus being pregnant. I was actually incredibly relieved to hear him say that because I know that being depressed is not healthy for the baby and because I was nervous about being put on anti-depressants.

He was also very encouraging about me applying for medical school and even made a follow-up appointment with me in a months time specifically to talk about it and to share some advice on what to do to get it.

One thing though, that is always in the back of my mind is what I'm going to do if I don't get into medicine. Right now its the force driving me forward and gives me hope and motivation...I do worry about what I'll do if I don't have that any more. The doctor told me that I'm a high functioning person who needs a lot of stimulation and that is part of the reason I was feeling so low - because of a lack of it.

Ugh. Life is not easy eh?

Monday, August 24, 2015

First grade is back

So I got my first "real" grade back.

What I mean by "real" is that it was real test of my knowledge via a proctored test. I've had online quizzes and labs, but the online quizzes are a guaranteed 100% since we are allowed to do them as often as we like and they will take your highest grade. They said the whole point of them is to encourage people to keep trying and that there is a direct correlation between the number of attempts and grades (so even if you got 100% of an attempt, they encourage you to take it again for study purposes).

So, so far I've been able to post a 100% on the first 3 of my 8 quizzes. They are worth a total of 10% of the whole grade, so no insignificant but still not a real test of my understanding or knowledge - since I can have my notes and take my time.

For labs we pretty much get full marks for attending and doing the lab right. Again, I'm averaging 100% on those (also worth 10%).

But my test, worth 15% was a REAL test and I got 89%. I was a bit disappointed because I know exactly where I lost marks - I left the test knowing that I got at least 87% but I remember blanking on something easy and of course remembered just after I left the test and was a bit confused about the instructions on another question (it was easy but I was a bit uncertain about what exactly they meant). Since the test was out of 30 marks, losing just one mark affects the percentage.

Anyway, all in all, not a bad mark for my first foray back into school and since the test was only worth 15%, my 89% is like 13.7/15 so I lose a whopping 1.3% off my total mark. It was also way above the class average, so that makes me happy too.

Mostly I'm just happy that I still *know* what to do to get a decent grade and that I'll have to make sure I do the same thing when it comes to the final exam (which is worth 60%!).

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Patience and Impatience

Wanting to go to medical school requires a ton of patience.

Even if you go the traditional route, it requires so much patience.

When you want to go as a mature student or a non-trad, it requires even more.

Today I had a bit of a meltdown. My toddler has a bad cold and yesterday my husband and I agreed we would keep him home from daycare today - my husband would take care of him while I went to class. Except my husband (who works from home) was on a work call that was taking forever and it forced me to be late for my lecture. I couldn't just dump a sick two year old in front of the TV because when tried, he would freak out and cling to me (hello mommy guilt) and I couldn't obviously take him with me. In the end I did stick him in front of the TV with some chocolate to buy me the time to sneak out and my husband to finish his call.

I hate being late so this put me in a bad mood. I was actually angry at my husband for not making my class a priority for him. Its silly I know, since he is earning all the money now and can't just hang up the phone on his boss because *I* need to leave - and I'm doing this for myself more than anything.

But I'm mostly just feeling so impatient with the process. I've given up a lot to move to New Zealand but one of the trade offs was that I'd have another chance at medical school. But its not a guarantee that I'll get in. I'm doing what I can within my limits to get in and its a major balancing act with two kids, a baby on the way and navigating a lot of uncertainty in general. I wish I could look into the future and KNOW what's going to happen so that it would be easier for me to be patient. I'm actually borderline terrified of what I'm going to do if I don't get in.

Anyway, vent over, time to hit the books. First exam is a week away!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

3 Advantages to starting Med School later

I love reading doctors' and medical blogs and books, both fiction and nonfiction. I feel like it gives me a good insight into the good and the bad, the rewarding and the ugly sides of medicine.

One thing that I've definitely realized from reading these blogs is that even though I'm going down the med-school path a bit later than most, I feel like I have some advantages or at least, there are some benefits to doing medical school later. I never really thought about there being any positives to starting later - I always focused on the negatives (more responsibilities to attend to than just my studies, less time to get in, being older than my classmates and all that comes with being older in general...).

But I do have some advantages:

1. I'll be done having kids before I start medical school. I never really thought about this as a positive thing, but I've seen more than one mom doctor mention that having a kid during medical school is a terrible idea and having one during residency is very, very hard to manage and stressful. I believe that, because kids, and especially babies, require SO MUCH attention. That being said, I also understand that biologically and logistically, women only have a certain window of time to have children and that happens to fall during the med school/residency years and they can't afford to be picky. Not to mention that many students/residents aren't in serious relationships or married during this time, adding even more time and uncertainty to the process. And as someone who has suffered from multiple miscarriages and have seen friends suffer from infertility, I know that not everyone can depend of being able to plan exactly when to have their kids even if they are in a relationship and ready to have kids. So I feel lucky that I get to experience the joy of parenthood for sure because I'll already be a parent when starting and it's something I won't have to worry about missing out on. And bonus is that I got to stay home with them all, at least for the first year of their lives, and have that experience. I think that would be almost impossible to do in med school, residency or even as a full-fledged physician. I'm very grateful to have had that opportunity.

The flip side is that I'll have kids while in medical school that will need attention, but at least my youngest will be 7 years old by the time I'm in residency, which is when I'll be the most crunched for time. Hopefully if I am able to treat med school like a full time job, I'll be able to get away with being a med student during the traditional "work" hours and a mom during the traditional "home" hours - which wouldn't make life for my kids any different than if I were working as an accountant for a big firm.

2. I'm financially stable. I'm incredibly lucky to have a solid financial foundation. My family will be able to afford for me to not work for the entire time that I'm in medical school because a) my husband makes good money and has a good amount of work experience in his field under his belt (so we aren't living on the low starting salaries that many young couples do at the beginning), b) we have a bit of savings and equity already which I won't even have to drain to attend school and c) I discovered that I'll be able to qualify for the student loans for the entire time I'm in school, which will be another burden off my family's coffers and because I won't have to be paying off living expenses as well, the amount of debt at the end won't be crushing like for many traditional students who not only have med school debt, but also undergrad debt and the cost of living debt. I won't have to "post-pone" my life like many med students have to - when starting med school, I'll already have a house, car, family, travel...

Flip side is that I won't be making any money and in a sense, holding my family back. Luckily neither my husband or I are particularly materialistic, so it doesn't bug me if I have to drive a KIA when some of my other friends are driving Audis.

3. I'll have some decent amount of relevant life experience under my belt. I've lived on three continents, I've worked in a profession with responsibility, I've suffered miscarriages, I've had babies, I've experienced death and cancer in my family as an adult. I know that many traditional med students may have also had some of these experiences, but less likely to the same extent. I've been pooped on, vomited on and yelled at for messing up. I've had to deal with bad or worrying news myself. I've had to support myself and have learned how to multi-task (though this is something I can definitely improve on!). Its made me more understanding and less judgemental. This may not necessarily make me a better med student in a classroom setting but I think it will in a patient setting.

Flip side is that I've realized that medical school and becoming a doctor isn't the be-all and end-all of life and that may take away some of that drive and determination to succeed. But I guess time will tell!

So I'm glad that there are some positives to this path. But anyway, must get back to studying :)