Recommended Reading

Monday, October 11, 2021


 Year 5 - my penultimate year of medical school - has started!

It's crazy to think that I'm already in 5th year. I can't believe how quickly the time has passed! 5th year always seemed to me so far away, and so close to the end. 

But this year is going to be intense. This is the year that I'll have to study for the Canadian medical licensing exam (MCCQE1) as well as the NAC, an OSCE style exam that I need to take as an IMG. Not to mention I'll need to be stalking the AFMC student portal to try and snag an elective rotation or two in Canada prior to applying to residencies. Which will be happening in just ONE year from now.

Its making me nervous, I'm not going to lie. As of my last check of the CaRMS website, it looks like I will be eligible for one of 287 IMG family medicine spots. In ALL of Canada. It seems like so little! Part of me almost doesn't even want to bother, but I also know that I can do it if I do everything right. I also think that one of the reasons that so many people are unsuccessful is also because there are so many requirements and things that need to be done way in advance, I can see people dropping the ball. Also, I'm going to apply as broadly as possible. Sure I'd prefer to be in Ontario most, with BC second, but I'm not going to true my nose up at Saskatchewan or Manitoba. I just want to get my foot in the Canadian door.

My plan is to start studying for the MCCQE1 now with a goal to write the exam in May. Part of me would prefer to wait till the summer break but I also a) need to do the NAC and b) need the summer to be as free as possible because of the possibility to do electives in Canada. And because my sister is going to try her third attempt at having her wedding go ahead (being cancelled twice now thanks to Covid) and I'd love to attend without the exam hanging over my head. That and being able to have a chance to do a retake if I fail.

I've been recommended by almost everyone to use the USMLE Step 2 question bank from UWorld as my main study focus with the Canada Qbank as my supplement for the Ethics part and CBD portion. I want to try and get through the UWorld Qbank twice and then move on to Canada Qbank and then do the MCCQE1 practice exam like a week or two before the actual one. Its an ambitious plan, especially considering that we are almost fully back in-class/in-hospital at school (for which I am actually super grateful). 

If anyone has any additional tips or advice, I welcome them in the comments!

Thursday, April 8, 2021

 Things are moving along. I got approval from the ethics committee to go ahead with my paper. Still waiting to see if the abstract will get accepted but I'm relieved that the timing worked out with the ethics approval. Regardless of whether or not the abstract is accepted, I'll be able to start writing the paper and doing a thorough analysis now. Fingers crossed I can hobble together some sort of decent paper that will be good enough to publish.

I've also had some great classes recently. The pediatric gastroenterology department was fantastic and I learned so much. After that we had dermatology and I absolutely LOVED it. To be honest I was really surprised how much I liked derm and its the first time that a specialization appealed to me to the level where I'd consider actually pursuing it. However, even though I loved it, I don't think I loved it to the point that I'd want to take the risk of pursuing it. Dermatology is probably one of the most competitive specializations you can pursue in medicine, and there is no way I'd be competitive enough. Plus I can do dermatology within a family medicine practice and I think that I'd be totally good with that.

I ended up being able to volunteer at a vaccine clinic close to my house and will keep going there whenever I have a gap in my schedule. My job mostly consists of taking temperature, helping the patients fill out the consent form and answering some questions. I was also able to convince one patient's daughter-in-law to also get vaccinated when her time came. Its really crazy to hear what people read and believe about vaccines thats just total BS. To be honest I do worry that vaccine hesitancy will be too high for us to reach that critical herd immunity level we so desperately need to start getting back to some semblance of normal.

On the plus side, both my parents and our nanny have received their first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine so its been a huge relief. 

Its looking more and more unlikely that we will be able to visit Canada this summer but I'm still holding out hope that I'll somehow be able to secure an elective rotation in September, and keep refreshing the AFMC website to see if there are any updates.

In some ways I'm so lucky that I'm in my 4th year rather than 5th year or 6th year because I have time to recover from the shit show that is this pandemic. It still a little disconcerting that this thing is dragging on so long and even with the vaccines, the time line is not nearly as quick for it to be over as I had thought initially. I do feel for some friends who are further along in their studies who were royally screwed over and have had to fall back on backup plans. One will be going to the UK for Foundation Training and another will be trying to get some experience as an assistant at a doctors office. 

Overall I'm still just so grateful that I get to be studying medicine and still haven't regretted my choice nor how this journey has been playing out at ALL. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Need to level up

Its really been hitting me recently that I'm now half way through 4th year. We are now clearly on the downhill portion of my medical school journey. But it also means less time to get those required experiences checked off my list.

My post-grad group has been very popular especially lately. I've managed to secure some great speakers to run info-sessions on getting into various English speaking residencies and inspired one member to start a spin-off group for those who want to pursue residency in German.

But I've also been attending some of these sessions too, because I also have a lot to learn and recently a friend of mine did one on the USA. He really reinforced how much the average med student as accomplished before even getting accepted into medical school and how these are the people we are competing with for residency. I mean, it's not that different in Canada.

And as much as I'd love to be able to say "HEY! I graduated med school with three kids!"  its really not going to be enough. I need to push myself to do more, to improve my CV and overall experiences.

I've started to work on a research paper on the attitudes of medical students in Poland towards abortion. I found a great mentor to help me, but I'm still waiting for approval from our school's ethics committee. I heard they can take ages though so I thought I'd just start doing the analysis and write up of the report. My mentor suggested that I present it as an abstract at a medical student conference coming up in May so I want to try and finish my preliminary work for it in the next few weeks to meet the deadline.

Next my husband suggested that since I've received both doses of the covid vaccine already, that I volunteer at some local clinics. I've called two of them already and have received a very positive response and will hear back soon as to when etc they need me. I told them I'm willing to help out in any fashion.  To be honest, I have been feeling a bit guilty, for lack of a better word, that I was able to get the vaccine so early. I think its a bit crazy for us med students to get it, when most of our courses are online. And also a bit pointless - I contacted the IM department at my university to see if I can finally complete my mandatory IM summer practice that I was supposed to do last summer, and was still told I can't because of COVID, because they still don't know if we can transmit the virus to others Sigh. So I'm just sitting at home, with all my classes on MS Teams for the next few weeks. When I mentioned this to my husband he told me to try locally instead. And that way I can both be useful, close to home and potentially include it in my CV, even if it won't count towards my practical experience requirement. 

So thats my plan for now. That and reaching out to all my contacts to see what I can do to maximize my chances of landing a Canadian residency. I have a call with the son of a good friend of my dad's who is a family doctor in BC. He already mentioned he talked to his program director about me and will tell me everything he knows. 

I'm really hoping that I'm able to do an elective rotation somewhere in Canada this September. From my talks with other IMGs this seems to be one of the main keys to having a shot. And the more I can do, the better. Especially if I can score a strong letter of recommendation out of it. And fingers crossed my vaccinated status will allow me to skip the quarantine so I can maximize my time doing rotations and hopefully, see my parents and sisters finally! Its now been 1.5 YEARS since I saw them last. 

Another thing I want to do is subscribe to a question bank for the first part of the Canadian medical licensing exam. One tip I learned, that makes sense, is to start doing the questions NOW, even though I won't be writing the exam for like a year and a half. The guy recommending this said that it will just make me that much more familiar with the style of questions and the patterns - so even if I don't KNOW that topic yet, it will prepare me much better than simply studying the content. 

So that's me for now. Lots to do. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Update - it's been a while!

 Wow, I realized recently how long its been since I last wrote on this blog. We had just entered lock-down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic and it was a bit of an overwhelming time. And now that I'm in the middle of exams, the procrastinator in me decided I NEED to write an update.

Lots of stuff happened too, in my personal life that I just didn't want to share. The pandemic really hit my family hard in many ways and it was a struggle, but I'm happy to say that everything ended up working out for the best, even though it was hard to live through at the time. 

But I'm still in med school, albeit mostly doing distance learning but was lucky to get some clinical time in too. 4th year is zooming by...I can't believe I'm more than half way done.

My focus also turned to Instagram. A friend of mine from high school is a pretty famous Polish doctor influencer on Instagram - she has a following of 750K! Anyway, one day she did a Live about how from our graduating class, all the people that ended up pursuing medicine started something else first and she talked about me and linked my profile. I was suddenly inundated with followers too and started to get a lot of messages from other moms who dreamed of medicine but thought it was too later. Or even from women who didn't have families yet but still thought they were too old. They'd ask me is it too late? How did I do it? What's my story.

So I decided to start telling my story, and went back to the beginning, to the time BEFORE I started the blog.

I've enjoyed that format at lot and decided to run with it. If anyone who reads this blog or stumbles upon it would like to see what I'm up to, check out my instagram! It's mostly just snapshots of my life, with my journey to med school shared in "episodes" like a TV series thrown in every once in a while. I write my post both in Polish and English. I'm much more active on there and plan to continue it that way but I the perfectionist in me also needs to see this blog through to graduation.

My Instagram is: Kasia_mamamedstudent

Also I get my first dose of the Covid vaccine on Saturday morning and I can't wait!

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Locked down

The Polish government just announced a total lock-down yesterday. All stores except grocery and pharmacies are to close from tonight and all flights into and out of Poland will be suspended as of tonight.

Its crazy. But also necessary, in my opinion. The sooner we stop or slow the spread, the better. No country is really prepared for this sort of pandemic and Poland especially so.

But I'm not going to lie and say that I feel totally ok about it. The idea that the borders are closed and that I can't get out is a very uncomfortable feeling. The idea that my husband is away from us and can't come back for the foreseeable future is uncomfortable. That said, I'm not freaking out or panicking because thats totally unproductive and right now my main priorities are being there for my kids. I want them to remember this time as serious but not scary. I want them to feel safe and secure and to continue to be kids.

My next priority is trying to help my school sort their shit out so we can get credit for courses where we can. My school is woefully unprepared for this sort of thing. My oldest son's school (private though), has been exemplary and have a fully functioning and sophisticated virtual learning program that they will be implementing on Monday. At least his education won't be interrupted. But I can't sit back and wait for stuff to get done - I need to do something. I had a meeting with our Dean yesterday to discuss ways to help and this is where he asked for help. At the moment he doesn't want students to be volunteering in hospitals or doctors offices so I'm going to respect his request.

I'm also going to implement a home-schooling system for my younger two. Mornings will be devoted to school type work (writing, reading, math etc) and the afternoons for playing. My nanny will be coming mid-morning or noon and will take over and then I'll do my work (and I'll try and squeeze some in while trying to study myself) and try and get some exercise in.

In the meantime I'm just grateful that my family and I are safe and secure for the time being and fingers crossed we get through this ok. And to anyone reading this - please, please, please just stay home and only leave for true essentials (food or medical care).

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

So day one of the covid-19 pandemic is on the books!

Man, things escalated quickly. Today in Poland they announced that public gathering places like movie theatres, museums etc were to close and later in the day also announced that all schools and daycares are to be closed as of Monday, March 16th for at least two weeks. They asked everyone to treat it as a self-quarantine and not leave the house unless necessary. Since this means the kids will be home during this time, I'll probably be walking the dog a LOT just to get out of the house! Luckily my nanny will around to help. And luckily my oldest son's school is fairly well prepared with a virtual learning system, which hopefully means he won't miss any school. But in the meantime I'm going to have to rely on my other babysitters, aka Netflix and Disney +, to step in. I may also renew the Xbox live account (we cancelled it earlier because I was sick of the fights over the Xbox).

There are also rumours that all big stores - including grocery - will be closed as of Monday as well so I decided to pop into a shop this afternoon to grab some milk (that I was just normally low on) and pick up a few things. I'm glad I went when I did because some things were already low/gone (like chicken and most canned goods) and I can imagine how much worse they will look. My nanny came with me to the shop and in spite of me pleading for her not to panic and just be reasonable with what we should be buying, she agreed but at the same time was throwing in extra packages of butter and bars of soap and bulgar wheat into the trolley. I wanted to laugh. She also grabbed the last package of toilet paper even though I reminded her that we have a bidet in the house and can easily get by without it. Sigh.

My university is completely closed until March 29th, but they also told us not to leave Poland because when courses resume, if we had decided to leave the country, we will face mandatory quarantine upon return and if that results in us missing school that is already in session, we will not be able to make it up. Which honestly I think is totally fair even though I had been toying with the idea of taking the fam to Canada for a few weeks, it really doesn't make sense during a lock-down to do this type of travelling. It's irresponsible and totally unnecessary. From my end, I plan on following the rules and staying home as much as possible.

There is also talk of how we are going to make up the time. Either it will be cancelling our Easter holiday and our week off in May and/or continue classes in to July. It would suck but I'm at a point now where I'm just not caring about any of it. I'm going to accept whatever they throw at us and take it in stride because I feel like it will just be a more pleasant - or at least more bearable - experience.

Plus I really don't want to get upset because of the effect on my kids. I can tell my middle son is feeling anxious about it all. He is upset that he can't go to soccer. He's upset because I told him he may not have his birthday party in April (based on the chats I've had with some parents, they won't be coming). Today he started to cry hysterically over my older son's phone cover (seriously). He asked me what the end of the world looks like and if this is it. I should have a word with his teachers to see what on earth they've been saying to the kids.

But frankly what I'm most worried about is Poland's ability (or rather, inability) to handle this crisis. As one of the highest doctor to patient ratios in the EU and some of the lowest percentage of GDP on health care spending in the EU, they are going to hit their capacity really quickly. The average age of doctors in Warsaw is over 50 and average age of nurses is over 55. So basically the highest risk group of people are also the front line. I've already heard one ER got shut down because the doctor tested positive for covid-19 and as it is, that they are sending people with mild symptoms home without even testing them. I'm itching to get in and help and I really hope I get the opportunity.

I'm curious to see how the next few weeks unfold. Like I said to some of my friends today, I'm sure we will all have stories about the mad coronavirus pandemic to tell our grandchildren!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

COVID-19 - the fun begins

Great. Just found out that all my clinical classes, lectures, seminars and basically all events, have been cancelled by my university. We officially have nothing until March 29th. I'm planning on just studying myself in the meantime and hope and pray that my kids schools aren't closed, though I think its just wishful thinking. Thank God for my full time nanny, that's all I've got to say about it!

Anyway, I've been sort of expecting this but not so soon. I'm annoyed, of course, but honestly, because there is absolutely nothing that I can do about it, I'm not stressing. People are getting sick and dying and thats much worse than the inconvenience of having 3 weeks off (for now - chances are that it will be extended).

Frankly, at this point I'm mostly wondering if there is something practical I can do to help, like volunteer at a hospital to help with triage or something. I've heard that things got so bad in Italy they DID recruit retired doctors and students to help. I want to if I can. The only issue for me would be logistical if I do come in to contact with a positive COVID-19 person or get sick with it myself. Then what? Would I have to self-quarantine myself at home? Would I have to do it outside my home? Would my kids be allowed to be quarantined with me? But hey, I guess I'll deal with it if it even becomes an issue.

For now I'm just going to try and be patient and hope it works out.