My Doctor Reading List

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


One of the requirements for a strong medical school application is some sort of volunteer work. Although there is no magical number of hours required or places for volunteering, from what I've been reading (and honestly its common sense too), consistency is better than haphazard volunteering, and there are better and worse places to volunteer for sure. Experience where you can get hands on experience dealing with patient or really, just people in general, is much better than sitting in an office or doing administrative tasks. Areas that give you a glimpse of what it is like to be a doctor are also good because it will give you real experiences to mention when asked in an interview  "What do you know about what it is that doctors do?".

Anyway, in So you want to be a Doctor, eh? The author also notes that its important to get a meaningful experience out of the volunteer work. So in researching places to volunteer, I definitely kept this in mind. My mom made a great suggestion that I should look to volunteer at this Polish independent living and long term nursing home. Its an excellent choice (at least, I think so) because a) being of Polish background and speaking the language fluently will make me useful - plus it makes it more meaningful, b) it will give me the opportunity to deal with the residents there, most of whom will have some sort of medical issues (they can't help it, they are old) and c) its close to my house.

I went there today and met with the volunteer coordinator who was very excited for me to join. She was incredibly nice and was very enthusiastic and supportive of my desire to be a doctor. I was honest and told her that I'm looking to get this experience because I need it to apply to medical school but also because it will be a great way to see what it is to deal with sick people. To be honest, this will be the first true test for me to see if this really is something that I want to do in practice and not just in theory. Luckily she completely agreed with me and said that they will write me a very strong and positive letter of recommendation too (and she volunteered this without even my asking!).

I'm really looking forward to it actually. On Friday I go for orientation and then I was asked to attend a lecture on palliative care on Saturday morning, which should be very interesting.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Whoa there horsey!

Ok, so I may have been a bit too optimistic when I planned my study schedule. I was looking at my course outline for the Biology course and even though the recommendations were to do a chapter a week, I thought, hell I can do a chapter a day AND throw in some labs and assignments.

To be fair, I had started reading my text book while I was still working so that was obviously hard to do a lot of. But since Monday was my first day not working, I thought, WOW I have SOOO much time, OBVIOUSLY I'll be able to do this hardcore. And I really thought I could. Except I also actually still have all the responsibilities of wife and mother on my plate so I can't just focus on my courses. Not to mention I have a ton of administrative things to do related to this process: signing up for my MCAT course, calling an exam proctoring center to make sure they would be able to proctor my mid-term, registering for my mid-term...

And the course text book isn't exactly a Marian Keyes novel (I love her books by the way). I mean, its interesting for sure and I like learning (or rather re-learning) this stuff. But 10-15 pages of bio does take a while, especially when one actually wants to understand the words that they are reading.

But today has been a bit frustrating. I had decided to write up a lab report on the first lab I did. I have to submit two lab reports on two of the seven labs I have to do as part of this course and thought, why not get one out of the way? The lab was easy and it was fresh in my head. But since its been a decade (I chose decade instead of 10 years to highlight how long ago this was) since I've written a lab report, I wasn't quite sure where to start. Besides I'd never done one at the university level before. So something that I thought would take an hour or two max has turned into over four hours. Its done though, and submitted. Now I just hope the grade on it will reflect the time I spent on it!

I do want to get as good grades on these courses as possible. Even though I know that for U of T they won't factor it into my GPA, they will for McMaster. This would be such a good opportunity to  boost my average.

Anyway, back to studying. Chapter 4 - Enzymes isn't going to read itself.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

And so it begins!

Whew! The last few weeks have been a real whirlwind. But....I'm DONE with work! I have to admit it took me a while to decompress and de-stress after that last week. I'm always like that. I remember even in University, after mid-terms or finals were over, I never felt that instant relief of being always took a few days at least.

But I'm done, and have started full steam ahead with my prep for getting into medical school. Yesterday I finally got a chance to do my first lab for my Bio course. It was a lot of fun actually and I can't wait to do the next one. I've given myself a fairly aggressive schedule and timeline to finish this course because 1) its just a 1/2 course and I need to complete it to start the second half, 2) I signed up for a "hyperlearning" MCAT course that begins in less than a month and 3) I also need to sign up for another Life Science course. So my goal is to write the midterm by November 8th/9th if possible and the final before Christmas.

So I'm going to be busy. My mother-in-law asked me what it feels like to be a "lady of leisure" the other day but to be honest, I don't know because I just have so much on my plate.

Next up are finding some volunteering opportunities. There are two things that I really want to do. The first is to volunteer at this Polish nursing home. We have a family friend who is there and he is the nicest man. I'd love to go there on a regular basis even if just to see him and make his day a little less boring. Being of Polish background myself may also be a big bonus. The second is that I really want to shadow my family doctor, who is also a great guy. He also has a research company and am hoping that he might have a few projects that I could help him out with. Third is that I want to get in touch with some people who I would like to ask for a letter of recommendation. Even though I'm pretty much a year away from applying, I don't want to spring this huge request on these people who I respect and admire - and also want to have time to find a back up in the event that they can't or don't want to do it.

So...I'm really excited to finally be able to focus on this!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

If I become a physician

Today I had to take Tubes to the doctor. He had been running a fever for the last 2.5 days and his cough seemed worse and I reached that point where it would not longer be over-reacting to take him.

But that's not the point of this post (he's fine by the way - just a virus that seems to be on its way out). The point is that I realized today how important it will be to have a great receptionist if I ever become a doctor. I dealt with two of them today and had a complete 180 in terms of my experience.

The first was with my family doctor. I called as soon as his office opened to see if they could squeeze me in. The receptionist told me that unfortunately they couldn't because except for a couple hours in the morning, the doctor would be away at a conference the rest of the day. She was polite, apologetic and suggested alternatives.

The second was at the clinic I was forced to go to as a result. I had never been there before and as soon as I walked in I knew by the look on the receptionist's face that she clearly did not want to be there and did not want to talk to me. After walking up and saying hello I was interrupted by the receptionist with "Have you been here before?" and just I finished saying "N-", I was interrupted again with "Health card." So I meekly handed it over. While she started typing away, I bravely dared to ask, in my meekest voice possible, "So how long will the wait be, approximately?" She looked up at me, as if I'd just asked her the stupidest question on earth and replied with "He just got here." Ok, so that means....what, that it will be fast because we're one of the only patients? Or long because he's already seeing a bunch of patients?

Anyway, luckily the doctor was incredibly nice and efficient so it was worth the visit but I couldn't over the stark contrast of the two receptionists I dealt with today and vowed should I become a doctor, the first thing I'll do is hire an awesome receptionist.