My Doctor Reading List

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Re-strategizing

Not sure if its even a word, but I've come to the conclusion that I need to rethink my strategy. What I'm doing now is just not working - I am not able to do anything one thing well because I'm just doing too much.  Currently on my plate:

MCAT Hyperlearning course - 6 hours a week of class time plus homework, pre and post readings
Biology university course via correspondence
accounting work for my dad's business
payroll for my dad's business
volunteering at the family doctor's clinic (one day a week)
volunteering at the nursing home (one day a week)

and that doesn't include my family responsibilities laundry, dinner, being a mom, being a wife (I DO need to be there for Jordan too)...

Anyway, I've decided I need to cut back because I can already see that everything is suffering. So I think tomorrow I'm going to call the MCAT course people and ask if I can drop out and change to a course that will start in January instead. That will give me the time to finish up my Biology course and have one more thing crossed off my list. Then from January to April I can focus JUST on my MCAT course and I'll post-pone signing up for another university course until after I write the MCAT. That way I'll again only have one academic commitment at a time and I think I'll be able to handle that much better.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Discouraged

I got my bio midterm back and I'm so disappointed - I got a 69%. That's like an F in med school terms. Ugh. I know that I'm just getting into the swing of things but I just feel like I don't have the time to screw up now! I need to get at least an 85% overall as that equates to a 3.9 and will bring my mark up for Mac.

The midterm was only 20% of my mark but I now I just have that much less wiggle room for the final.

Jordan thinks its because I'm not in a traditional school setting and he may be right. It's hard to make myself study in a consistent manner and truth be told I'm completely out of practice when it comes to studying. I honestly don't even remember how I used to study for science - its so different from from the social studies and business classes from university.

Sigh. Anyway I go still have a lab report, an assignment and the final to redeem myself.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

MCAT prep

An important requirement for most medical schools in Canada is the MCAT, which is a mostly multiple choice based exam that covers biological sciences (biology and organic chemistry), physical sciences (physics and general chemistry), has a "verbal reasoning" section and a writing sample. I heard that in 2015 they are totally revamping the exam, however, as that is still like 4 years away, I'm not going to go into those details.

Anyway, given that currently I'm only taking Biology at the university level (and all the sciences will be tested on a first year university knowledge level) and the last time I took chem or physics was literally over a decade ago, I knew that I needed to take a course in order to prepare me for this exam.

A friend recommended one and said that you can go from zero knowledge (which is pretty much where I am in terms of knowledge) to a decent score.

I have to admit though that the MCAT is the one thing that really worries me. My GPA is ok, my extra-curriculars are decent (and I keep reading about stuff that others post and remember, oh yeah! I did that too! I also got that scholarship etc).

But the MCAT is a different beast and every school has a different requirement (along with their different GPA calculations). And its the one thing that is still undetermined and how I do on it will decide my fate. If I do poorly I may have to kiss my dream of med school goodbye. If I do well in some areas but poorly in others, I may have a chance at a school like U of T which only uses the MCAT as a flag (though still has a minimum requirement). Others like McMaster only look at the score of the verbal reasoning sections but then UWO has a strict MCAT score cut off (i.e. if you get even 1 point below their cut off you will automatically be disqualified).

I think MCAT wise, my best shot will be McMaster. I hope to do really well in the Verbal Reasoning section because its literally just reading a passage and then answering questions. Since I spent a lot of time reading in undergrad and also just for fun I've developed great reading skills (I'm good at picking up important info, I read fast etc). That being said, McMaster looks at ones cumulative GPA - of EVERY SINGLE university course ever taken. Which sucks because as part of my CA requirements, I had to take some online courses but I wasn't too concerned about doing well, I just wanted to pass. And I'm pretty sure most of the marks were in the 70s which will bring down my GPA quite a bit - and I'm nervous that I'll lose my competitiveness. For UWO on the other hand they calculate based on the best 2 years and my GPA there is quite high - but their MCAT cut off is very high and I'm nervous I won't do that well.

But I digress...back to the course itself. So far, its been good - but its also shown me that I'm quite behind in chemistry, especially. Plus I didn't love the teacher. He was nice and funny etc, and he's the only teacher I've had so far that is an actual medical student but he really rushed through it - some people (who've taken chem before) seemed fine but to me it was like he was speaking a different language. Sigh. It means more hard work for me.

The good news is though, that I've been so scared by all this stuff I'm definitely going to be intent on really learning it - whereas if I remembered a lot I think I'd probably get complacent.

Still, its going to be an uphill battle for sure.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Some dream - some do

I came across this quote today and thought it was very apt. I'm glad I'm finally a "doer" and not just a "dreamer".

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A good day

I had a great day today.

I mentioned to my family doctor a few weeks ago that I was considering switching my career to medicine while I was seeing him to get my flu shot and I asked if there as anything I could do with him (like shadow). I was pleasantly surprised to hear him not only encourage me but also said he thinks I would be a great doctor and ask would I be interested in working in his clinic to get some experience?

Well, I jumped the at the opportunity. One of the things he does is clinical trials of certain drugs and said I could help out with that. He also said I can join the nurses in his practice when they admit patients and later, will be able to do it myself.

So today was my first day. I wasn't quite sure what to expect though...it was my first day there and I know next to nothing about clinical trials - everyone else doing the clinical trials is either a science grad or a doctor (well, two people are doctors from other countries who aren't licensed to practice in Canada, but still).

Anyway, it was a very eventful day and got going very quickly. I saw a patient get injected with the trial drug, had a patient come in with genital herpes, a guy with severe migraines and...the best was I got to watch the doctor do a minor surgery!

I have to admit, I did get a bit faint while watching the surgery, even though I thought it was so cool (the doctor had to remove a sebaceous cyst from a woman's head). I tried to hide it by leaning against the counter and dropping my head a bit, but the nurse saw me after as was like "Uh, are you ok? You look like you are going to pass out." Great. I laughed it off (she didn't believe me) and said I was fine (I was). But I am a little worried about this reaction and hope that its something that wears off. God, what kind of doctor would I be if I can't deal with blood and cuts? And its weird, I can't help the reaction. The whole thing really fascinated me - but its like my brain just did not like the sight of the doctor slicing into this lady's head and made me feel like I would faint. Hopefully I'll get over it though.

I think what made the day so great was that I really got a feel for what its like to be a family doctor. I really enjoyed talking to the patients, I liked seeing how directly the doctor was helping them. But not only did I love it (I can't wait till next Wednesday when I get to go back!) but also I felt so relieved at the end of the day - because it reaffirmed my desire to do this.

The only problem is that now it will be that much more crushing if I don't get in to med school. But I'll try not to think about it just yet.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hacking it

As part of my journey towards becoming a doctor, one thing I've been doing is reading blogs of doctors (or at least people who claim to be doctors). I like to see the not-so-glamorous side of what it means to be a doctor and the process of becoming one, because most of the blogs I read out there do focus on these topics, I suppose, as an outlet for these doctors. I admit that sometimes I might do too much of this blog reading (it gets a bit addictive) and what I really should be doing is studying, since at the end of the day, if I don't have the prerequisites and MCAT scores to get me it, the closest I'll get to being a doctor is reading other doctors' blogs. But I digress.

A lot of what is out there is funny - doctors who complain about having a hard time in medical school or as interns...but I feel like in a way, it will prepare me for the time when I'm being yelled at by an attending or a senior resident and will hopefully be able to remember that all doctors go through it and not to take it personally.

But recently, I came across a different, more serious type of blog while I was reading another one and noticed it on their blog list (and which incidentally is called "Incidental Findings"). Its a great blog and many of the posts that I've read are truly inspiring. But this doctor also has a bunch of posts that are part of a series called the "Don't Become a Doctor" series. In it, he goes on to describe the ugly side to being a doctor.

Reading this series is hard for someone like me. Hard not because I don't want to know it or that I like being in denial about this side to the profession. But hard because I still really want to be a doctor and this type of stuff can really put a damper on my motivation. I haven't read all of the series yet because its hard to read about all the stuff that I will  have to deal with if I ever obtain my MD.

One thing that he writes about is that as a doctor you fall into a group of people who have to keep secrets. The law protects the conversations with your lawyer, your priest, your spouse - and your doctor. And he mentions that in this capacity he has heard some horrible things that happen to his patients: spousal abuse, drug abuse. Greed. Infidelity. Rape. And worst of all, child abuse.

This is probably the one side to being a doctor that not only sucks, but that can destroy a person and I worry about how I would be able to deal with it.

Indeed, I worry in general about how I will be able to deal with a lot of the hard stuff.

I started my MCAT course today and Jordan and I were having a conversation about it. I think that if we both took it, even after studying, Jordan would probably do much better than me on it, at least on the science parts. So I said, You should do this too!

But Jordan says he couldn't. He says that one thing he doesn't think he could ever stomach doing is telling a parent that their child is going to die. He said he would rather shovel garbage for a living than have to do that. And it made me think. If I become a doctor, this is something that I will undoubtedly have to do one day. As a parent, I know that the worst thing that I could possibly ever hear is that my child is going to die and there is nothing I can do about it.

So I wonder - will I be able to hack it? I hope so. Because I really think that I can do some good.

But I guess if I don't get it and this dream doesn't pan out, at least I will be thankful for not having to deal with that ugly side.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Roller coaster ride

As I do more research into this whole "getting into medical school" journey, I've learned that there is a LOT of conflicting advice and opinions out there, especially when it comes to evaluating my chances.

For example, I met with a special career consultant to specializes in medical schools. He came recommended to me by a friend and I must say, was very good. He told me that 32 of the 33 people who he advised over the past 2 years have been accepted into medical school. And he told me he thinks that I have a shot (woohoo!) and will be happy to help me with the process. BUT he couldn't stress enough about how competitive it all is and basically said that while I DO have a shot, I'm not a shoo-in. Which is exactly how I view myself. Obviously, I wouldn't be applying if I didn't think I had SOME chance. But on the other hand my grades (while impressive in every other field) won't be stellar in the eyes of most school admissions committees. My lack of science courses may not matter for some schools but others may hold it against me. I haven't written the MCAT yet so who knows - if I do well, it may really open some doors for me, if not, well I guess it depends how badly. And I can always take it again.

But when I post my grades on medical school forums, most of the moderators/members think I have a great chance at getting an interview, which is my goal. I think I interview well - I'm confident, I don't get flustered and I know how to sell myself and I think (I hope) I'd be able to convince an interview panel that I would be a terrific doctor.

Its hard though. I'll have someone post and say that I'll definitely get an interview and I'll think "YES, this is GOING to happen!!!"  Then someone else says, well maybe for University X, but its slim for University Y...I'll read statistics on the accepted applicants and my heart will sink, because I'm definitely on the low end of the spectrum. But then I'll talk to someone who wasn't remarkable (in terms of a med school applicant) and they got in, so I think, if SHE/HE managed to do it, why shouldn't I?

Its definitely a roller coaster ride. One moment I'll be so excited and feel confident, then next having a minor panic attack, wondering WHAT THE HELL AM I THINKING and worrying about what I'm putting my husband and child through.

But I've started and there is NO turning back. I'm in it for the long haul. And I just really, really, really want to be able to post "Medical school bound!" as a Facebook status come May 2013.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

First exam!

Today I have my first real exam since I wrote the UFE. EEk! I'm a bit nervous but hopefully it will go well. Jordan did say to not put too much pressure on myself as I'm just getting back into the swing of things...but I am worried about the stupid Krebs cycle. It may prove to be my undoing.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Balance

One thing that I'm having a bit of a hard time with lately is balance. Sigh. Which was my problem before I quit my job too. Though its a different type of balance that I'm having trouble with.

I guess my problem is everything now is pretty much on my terms and my schedule. While on one hand that's a great thing, on the other hand everything falls on me. I can no longer blame my job for not having the time to study or even to keep the house clean. If I do badly on an exam it will be 100% my fault for not being prepared enough and that's a tough pill to swallow.

My mother-in-law (who I absolutely love) asked me the other day what it felt like to be a lady of leisure, assuming I just have so much free time now, I must be a little bored. She even suggested I look for a part-time job in a shop or something to keep busy! I almost laughed (though I think she just doesn't realize a) how serious I am about this process and b) how much work is actually involved). Because really, I feel way busier than I ever did when working.

I think a lot has to do with the fact that I've set much higher standards for myself now. When I was working, my goal was to do my job well, but I wasn't out to go above and beyond. I felt perfectly happy to meet expectations (it was the smart thing to do - the effort it takes to be considered exceptional was not worth the additional $2-3K in higher salary). Also, because I wasn't physically at home most of the day, I didn't give myself a hard time about the state of my house, whether dinner was made from scratch and even if I opted to spend free time surfing the net or indulging in a good book.

Now my goal is to do the best possible in my courses. I got an 85% on my first lab report and I have to admit  my first reaction was one of disappointment, though really it is a good grade, especially since I'd never written a lab report before. I also want to spend quality time at the nursing home, make a proper dinner for my husband and son when they get back from work and preschool and want the house hold chores that I was forever playing catch-up with to be done.

I realized recently that this is just NOT going to be possible. Especially since I'll be adding both another course and also doing research work for my family doctor's clinical trial company (which I'll go into more detail about in another post) in addition to taking over the accounting responsibilities for my parents family business. When I assess what my new work load will be it honestly looks like way more than I've ever done before. And I'm constantly going to have to juggle these things, which ultimately will perpetuate this unbalanced feeling.

But at the end of the day, I'm still happy. I'm growing more confident every day that I made the right choice and feel content with it. Though the days of TV marathons in my PJs, and hours strolling around malls are just not going to materialize like I think my mother-in-law thinks (ah, who knows - maybe I'll give myself a day one of these days...Boxing Day maybe?).