My Doctor Reading List

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Accepted.

I still can't believe it. 

On Monday I got an email said from the Medical University of Warsaw with just "Decision" in the title. 

And they said that based on my results from the entrance exam that I took on May 6, the Admissions Board is offering me a place in the 6 year medical program starting this October.

At first I wasn't sure if I read it right. I even CALLED the admissions department to make sure.

But I'm in - for sure.

And I have to tell you about the crazy, last minute whirlwind I had to endure.

So my plan was to apply to the medical program based on my IB grades. However, I didn't have the required chemistry and my biology was at a lower level than required. But the admissions lady I spoke with at the time assured me that I could still apply, I'd just get a lower ranking and that I could take the chemistry portion of their entrance exam. And if that didn't work, my plan was that I'd take the premed prep program that they offered (a year of biology, chemistry, physics and anatomy) to help prepare those who are really keen for the entrance exam and I'd also apply to a bunch of other programs around the country that also required an entrance exam. 

Anyway, two days before the applications were due I was ready to submit my application. But there must have been a bug in the online portal we had to do it in, because I kept getting an error. I called the admissions department and the woman I spoke with agreed that it was a bug - and then noticed that I had included my high school diploma and asked me why I was applying via the IB route if I had graduated high school as well. This was odd to me as I assumed everyone who did the IB diploma also graduated from high school so I never thought to ask about applying with just my high school diploma. She told me that I'd have a way better chance of acceptance if I applied via the entrance exam route - however that would require taking the entrance exam in chemistry, biology AND physics.

I told her that I wish I'd known that earlier, because I had only been preparing for the chemistry portion. The entrance exam was in two weeks. There is no way that I'd be able to prepare for all three subjects well enough! 

She then told me that in her honest opinion, she didn't think my IB marks would be enough because apparently they only reserve a small number of their spots for IB candidates and said even if I did poorly in physics but well in chemistry and biology, I'd have a shot. Biology and chemistry each took up 35% of the exam while physics was 30% and the exam was all multiple choice.

I honestly didn't know what to do. First of all, I was surprised she would even tell me. This would NEVER happen in Canada! And while sure, I felt confident in my chemistry I hadn't done any biology review in years and the last time I did physics was when I was in 10th grade. 

Yet something told me to try this anyway. She also told me I'd find out if I got in much sooner as they inform the candidates shortly after the entrance exam. A part of me wanted to know earlier so I could plan ahead - if I got in, it would mean I'd get to enjoy my summer and give me time to deal with the logistics of going back to school full time. If I didn't, I could immediately apply for the prep program (which only accepts 40 people pre year) and also try and enjoy my summer. Going down the IB application route would mean waiting until the end of July to find out. I just wanted to rip that bandaid off.

Again my family stepped in to help me big time. My husband convinced me to take the risk. My parents convinced me to go away for a week and do some hard core studying without any distractions. They came to stay with the kids and I took off to the Polish seaside and did some hardcore cramming. 

I managed to review most of biology and chemistry but didn't get to physics at all. I decided to just answer "B" on all the physics questions (seriously).

The exam was hard. And there were so many people taking it! For only 120 spots, I was sure that I didn't stand a chance against a group of smart looking people who had known they needed to prepare for the whole exam from the beginning. There were easily 400 people taking the exam at the location I was writing it in - and there were six or seven other locations where the exam was taking place as well! Also, the chemistry portion of the exam ended up having way more organic chemistry questions than I expected and while I'm comfortable with it, some of the questions were incredibly tricky. I honestly think I did better in biology.

I still don't have the actual results of the exam (they will be published next week) but they basically take the top X results and those people are accepted. If you take the entrance exam, its the only thing that counts. So I must have done much better than I thought in both chemistry and biology. That said, I do wonder if I scraped through at the bottom with a point to spare or if I did better than that.

As my mom said, "Who cares? It doesn't make you more or less accepted."

But I still can't believe it. I'm going to be a doctor.





Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Third time's a charm?

So I'm back.

And I have some good news and some bad news.

The bad news is that I didn't get into the medical school in New Zealand. I was devastated. Completely. It took me several days to just accept it and grieve it. It really felt as though someone had died.

For a while I thought that this was it, that I had to move on. And I tried. I looked into law school, I looked into starting a new business. I looked into taking a digital marketing course. And while all those had some positives, I couldn't commit to any of them in my heart. None of them excited me, but I thought I had to do SOMETHING. I also knew I didn't want to go back to accounting. In my heart I knew that being a doctor was all I really want. But tried to bury it.

One day (after a pretty big fight too, I might add), my husband forced me to admit that I wasn't over not getting into medical school. He said he knew it and sighed and said "Let go to Poland then."

So the good news is...we did! We up and left New Zealand and moved to Poland just so I could pursue my dream of becoming a doctor.

I did a bit of research before biting the bullet and there really are some great medical schools with English language programs here. Truly! Of course there are also some that aren't good, so if this is a route you are considering, DO YOUR RESEARCH!

I know there are a lot of snobs out there who wouldn't dream of pursuing this path. Europe (and especially Eastern Europe) is not as prestigious as Canada or the US - I know. But this really doesn't mean that they are sub-par in terms of quality of education. I read "but you'll never get back to Canada!" etc and that is absolutely something I am aware of. However, I connected with some people I went to high school with (I went to an American high school in Warsaw) who went to the University of Warsaw medical school and did the English program and they are all doing extremely well. One guy just finished up a fellowship in radiology at Oxford and is considering pursuing a PhD there. Another girl did a residency in Scotland and is now a family doctor in Canada. A couple my sister knows (they met at the medical school) are both practicing in the US. Another stayed here in Poland and is a mini-celebrity with a huge following of her OB-Gyn themed Instagram and blog and TV appearances. They all loved the program, many chose it over other seemingly more prestigious universities and couldn't recommend it more highly.

I know the risk is that I may never get to practice in Canada but that is okay. This is MORE important to me and my husband is okay with it (the only condition he has is that we are to never move to the USA and I'm okay with that too).

Ideally after I graduate I'll be able to do a residency in an English speaking country, with Canada or New Zealand being my number one choice. However, I know that statistically this isn't likely so my next goal would be to do one in Scotland, Ireland or the UK. After completing a residency in one of those countries, I can be a family doctor in Canada without additional training OR if I decide to pursue a different specialty, I can do that residency and practice in New Zealand.

Lastly, if none of the above works out, I'll do my residency and training in Poland and just practice here because I am also a Polish citizen. So this isn't the same as, for example, going to med school in the Caribbean and not getting into a residency program in Canada or the US. I won't be left with no-where to practice. I can also work anywhere in the EU. That will also help in getting into residencies in Ireland (EU residents get a priority over non-EU). Unfortunately with Brexit, I don't know how it will affect my chances in the UK, though currently they accept anyone from the EEA of which Poland is a part of, but if not perhaps my Canadian citizenship will help there.

My husband said that he will figure something out and in any case, he is in the type of industry where remote work is abundant. Luckily he really likes living in Poland and is actively learning the language and is able to keep doing his same job, since its 100% remote. He also said he isn't ready to "settle" anywhere permanently yet (this was also part of his readiness to move away from New Zealand, because if we stayed there, it would require we "settle" indefinitely).

So what are my chances? Well, here is the next piece of good news. My grades from IB are the ONLY thing that counts and from my discussions with current and past students they are more than acceptable (I did well). I will, however, need to do an entrance exam in Chemistry, since I didn't do it at the IB level (the program requires IB Biology, IB Chemistry and IB Math or Physics). But since I JUST completed a university level course in Chemistry, I just need to review it to prepare myself. But grades are all that matter and applicants are ranked from 1-120 and those people are the ones who get in. No essays, no extra-curricular, no MCATs. Just grades from high school (if IB) or entrance exam results (or a combination if you don't have one of the required IB courses). And my understanding is that my grades are very competitive.

But there is a catch. And that is that there is also a very high attrition rate after the first year. As much as 25% of the accepted applicants will not progress to the second year, however after that the university really works to ensure all students succeed. I also spoke to a current student who told me that the pass rate of those who took IB is much higher and the only person he's ever heard of leaving the program with an IB background did so for health reasons, not because of poor academics).

Of course there is every chance that I won't make the cut-off. But I have a back up for that. The program I want has a "Pre-med Prep Course" where you take a year of biology, chemistry, physics, math and organic chemistry and they basically teach to the exam. So far the people who take this course have a 100% success rate of getting in. Its very expensive (10,000 euros!) but my husband said that he would insist I take it if I fail to get in this year. That said, tuition is among the cheapest in the world (currently its 11,000 euros per year) and we can easily afford that .

So watch this space! At the moment I am reviewing my chemistry notes and doing practice problems to prepare myself for the entrance exam coming up in May (which is all multiple choice, of which I will only have to answer the 40 chemistry questions).

Friday, April 22, 2016

Going private for a while

I am in the process of submitting my application for med school and have decided to make this blog private for a while. The reason is that I want my application to stand alone and don't want the off chance that someone from the admissions committee finds it and something I may have written about in this blog negatively affects my chances.

Interviews (if I get one) take place in a few months and final decisions come out at the end of August. I will update then on whether or not I have been successful.

Wish me luck!


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Why medicine?

In just one month, I will be able to apply to the medical program. I can't believe how quickly the time has passed!

I haven't had much time to post because I've been incredibly busy with my newborn, my parents visiting and then transitioning back to being sans help - though luckily that coincided with school starting up again here in New Zealand so at least I have a *bit* more free time with my oldest in school and my middle one in preschool.

Still...that time is being used to just keep up with all that needs to be done - housework, laundry, childcare, book keeping and administration of my husband's business as well as becoming more involved with the PTA at my son's school.

Plus I'm trying to lose that baby weight that I gained and unfortunately what they say is true - it DOES get much harder when you are older. I remember that once I started to exercise and eat well after having my first (and waiting a very resopnsible 4 months to begin exercise), the weight just melted off. It was a bit harder with my second son, though the last 10-15 pounds required a lot of effort. This time its even harder but I want to make sure I do it in a smart way - I did a lot of damage to my pelvic floor muscles by exercising too intensely and too soon after having my second son and I don't want to worsen my problems.

But I digress...the most important part of my application (other than GPA) is a one page statement that I have to write on why I want to pursue medicine. This is going to be the hardest thing too because I could write a book about why medicine. Parring it down to just one page is going to be tough..

So I'm asking for some help from those who chose medicine, why? What is it about medicine that made you want to be a doctor?



Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A+!

I just got my final mark for my Chemistry course and...its an A+! Its  the highest mark I can possibly get and I'm so stoked about it. I must have done really well on my final! I was well prepared for it but of course I looked back on some questions and wondered...

This made my day - I've been super uncomfortable with my pregnancy (now 37.5 weeks in) and in general in a somber mood because of some upsetting family news this past weekend.

I'm so excited to apply to the medical program now. I'm so proud of myself.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Grateful

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

Frustrated

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...).