My Doctor Reading List

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

On Immunity

I started reading this book  "On Immunity: An Inoculation" by Eula Biss recently and I love it. It does such a great job of delving into the fears and perception of risk we have in society especially when it comes to medical interventions. Plus the author writes so well, I don't feel like I'm reading a heavy scientific text but almost like a magazine op-ed.

I've been a vaccine advocate ever since I realized that there are people that I KNOW who are totally against vaccines and it totally baffled me.

I mean, I always knew there were people who are on the fringe of everything and believe in crazy conspiracy theories, like that the earth is flat, that 9/11 never happened, that the government is controlled by aliens or whatever and thought that people who were against vaccines belonged to that group.

But when a friend on Facebook posted a stupid article stating that the HPV vaccine causes young girls to become infertile, after reading the article and realizing that the whole article was based on one instance in Australia of a young girl who did start early-onset menopause a few weeks after getting the vaccine and her doctor wasn't sure what caused it, I pointed it out to her that one instance (of an unproven complication) does not mean that its unsafe, thinking that maybe I'd calm her fears.

However, she responded saying that she strongly believes that vaccines are bad and none of her three children have been vaccinated - for ANYTHING.

I was baffled and wanted to know more so I asked her about why she thought that (very politely) and she responded with the usual (that long term effects of vaccines are unknown, probably cause authism/cancer/autoimmune diseases) and said she believes that the organic, whole food diet that she gives her kids will ensure their immune systems are strong enough to beat any of those diseases and that she KNOWS this because she attended a seminar by Dr. Palevsky.

I was dumbfounded. But as a just another parent and with no real authority to tell her she was wrong, it did get me thinking that this is another reason that I NEED to keep pursuing medicine. And having immersed myself afterwards in the world of the anti-vaccinators, I feel like I'm getting a real insight into why they believe what they believe and how to try and change their minds - or at least, SOME of their minds.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


Yesterday I finally got word that my NZ permanent resident visa was approved! A big item is now checked off my list.

I was starting to get a teeny bit worried about the timing because I've decided to try and do one course (or "paper" as they are called in New Zealand) from the first year Health Science course list completed beforehand at a university close to where we will be living when we first arrive in New Zealand. As the next semester starts mid-July this means we NEED to physically be in New Zealand before this date.

As it is, I hope I can actually register for the course prior to actually landing in NZ because the deadline to register is in May and the earliest we will get there is mid-June.

I had decided to try and take a course or two in the year before starting medical school (if I get in, of course) for two reasons. One is that I'll be able to show commitment to a career change (and taking a risk, since if I do badly it won't reflect well) and two is to make my first year, the pre-med year, easier. There are seven required courses and they are no joke. Luckily IF I get in, from what I'm reading all I'd need is a 70% average but being new to science and getting back to student mode may require a bit of adjusting. So if I can get just one course out of the way, it will allow me to focus more on getting the best grades possible in the other courses.

I found only two of the seven courses have equivalents at the local university, however I'll only be able to take one because one of them is only offered in the first semester (and in NZ, the school year runs from February to November), so I won't be able to take it. Luckily the course that IS available AND equivalent is Chemistry, which is apparently one of the toughest courses in the pre-med year and which is the subject I'm most scared of.

At first I was a bit bummed that I will only be able to get the one course out of the way, but my hubby thinks that its better to take just the one course and focus on getting the best grades possible and not overwhelm myself. Which is a good idea, since I also want to get some solid volunteering in when we move and want to have time for that (not to mention that I still have a family that will need some of my time).

Sunday, March 15, 2015

In the saddle again


I'm sure many people reading this blog have reached my most recent post and thought, yup, she's done.

MD or bust? Looks like it was BUST.


For a while I did put the dream on a back burner. At times I even forgot about it. But it was still there, slowly simmering away. And it didn't go BUST.

Because, my friends, I am  NOT done. Not yet. I have a new opportunity to make this dream of medical school a reality.

Looking back over my journey, I made a lot of mistakes. My main mistake was rushing things. I had a degree and my grades were ok. I had decent life and volunteering experience. I was so close that I thought it would be ok to skimp on a few things and thats where I went wrong. Taking a distance study course, MCAT prep course, volunteering, running my home was a lot to take on in just one year before applying.

What I should have done:
1. Enrolled into a BSc program and made it my job.
2. Waited to take the MCAT. People, the MCAT is a relative exam - that means that you are being compared to everyone who is writing it - mostly people who have been studying the topics for at least a year or two - and I don't know how I thought taking a prep course (with NO science background) would enable me to get a decent score.
3. Realized that at 27 (when I started) - I was still SO YOUNG and had time. Who cares if it would have taken me a couple extra years via doing an actual BSc degree? I'm 30 today and if I had taken my time, I could have been 30 and a BSc. One day I'm going to be 40. The question is, am I'm going to be 40 and a doctor or just 40?

Ah, hindsight.

Anyway, back to my new opportunity. My husband is from New Zealand and he has been desperately wanting to move back there. He hasn't lived there as an adult and wanted to try to see what its like. He has been working very hard and his company love him - enough to let him move (crazy, eh?!) and keep paying him to work remotely.

At first, I was hesitant - my life (and my family and many of my friends) are HERE, in Toronto. But then he held out an irresistible tidbit - he said that by moving to NZ, maybe I could go to med school there? I had done some research on NZ medical schools in the past but was turned off because they were six year programs (1 year of Health Science then if your grades were good enough, 5 years of medical school). However, I realized its either six years of schooling and becoming a doctor or six years and....well, just six years of whatever else I'd be doing. And I still haven't found anything that I have passion for remotely like I have a passion for medicine.

So I started looking into the programs more closely and I found one which, when I read about it, I actually felt faint. Because it was like it was a program made JUST FOR ME.

Basically, one of the medical schools has an "Other" entry category. Its for people who have a degree that was received at least three years ago (CHECK!) or from an international university (CHECK!), have a 70%+ average (CHECK!), someone who is a NZ citizen or permanent resident (CHECK!) and who wants - get this - a career change (CHECK!!!!). So to apply, all I need is a greater than 70% average (mine is way higher), my CV and a personal statement on why I want to be a doctor to see if I get an interview. Then, its  pretty much how well I do on the interview that counts (explanation of why I want a career change and why medical school, understanding of the NZ medical system/medical issues) and the panels impression on my academic potential (do I have what it takes to succeed in medicine).

From my preliminary research and visiting of NZ medical school forums, it seems that the most important part is my life experience and how I do on the interview and from explaining my situation and background, most students who have applied successfully through that category think that I am a text book example of an successful applicant from that category. Obviously, I am by no means considering this a slam dunk. But I do think I have a real, fighting chance (1 in 5 people who apply get an interview and 50% of the people interviewed get in - when I compare that to Canada...).

There are is a "catch" though - it is that you get ONE shot at this category. You can only apply via this category one time and that is it (personally, I think this is a great strategy). Also, if you get accepted, you may need to do the 1st year of the Health Science program and pass with a 70% average to continue on to the medical program (which I would most definitely have to do, and am ok with).

The only "issue" is that I wouldn't actually be getting an MD but an MBChB, which is the title (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) that I would get from completing medical school and training in New Zealand. So the title of this blog won't make as much sense...but...haha, of course that it doesn't matter!

So....what's next? Well, I'm currently waiting for my NZ permanent resident VISA to come in (any day now!) and then we will start planning our move (probably in June/July of this year). Then I plan to enrol in some of the 1st year health science courses at a university close to where we will be living initially to be able to hit the ground running (and show my commitment to this) and do some volunteering in NZ before applying in April 2016.