Saturday, May 30, 2015

MD application summer begins

I haven't touched this place in quite some time. The title of the post will tell you why.

I'll just jot down a few of my thoughts about the process here. I don't think I can really force this into a real post, so here it all is:
  1. Primaries are not as awful as MCAT studying. I have a feeling that secondaries, in terms of clock time and personal effort, will be worse. The June 4 'deadline' I have is very close, but after I really consider what's on my plate, I don't feel rushed for time.
  2. The first thing on my plate is the personal statement. Mine isn't there yet. I emerged last weekend from a truly horrible first draft -- fifth draft, but it was my first version of my PS -- and things have been better. Now, my current version seems more like a 'What is medicine?' rather than a 'Why medicine?' composition, so I'll have to work on that.
  3. AMCAS is a real chore. Work/Activities section requires the most thought, since it's essentially an expanded CV. Again, not too bad, but I need to portray my experiences strategically.
  4. The List. Oh, God, the List. It's in shambles. I cut it from 35 to 25, only to panic and think it's too top heavy. I got rid of some schools I would likely never attend, then added some more. I still need to cut, but my friends -- and I have very accomplished friends -- are encouraging me to keep schools such as HMS, Hopkins, and Penn. Harvard, Johns Hopkins, UPenn -- those are intimidating names.
  5. I have a lot of ups and downs. Ups: my GPA increased by 0.06, which I think is quite a bit; my MCAT is still very high. Downs: my writing looks mediocre, my GPA is still low, I don't have that many extracurricular activities, I haven't shadowed enough, etc, etc
  6. I've gotten a stronger desire to read and write. I finished The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down shortly after my trip to the library, and I'm about 75% through The House of God, which is making me daydream about going to HMS. Also, The House of God has a particular voice that has begun seeping into my diary entries. FUN FUN FUN. I also noticed that that voice is similar to the one I use when complaining to my sister and boyfriend.
Nothing more to say. I also bought two of the items from my wardrobe planning post a few weeks back. If only it were warm enough outside to bare skin.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Summer reading

My diary and my reading list -- slightly more aesthetically pleasing than just a page ripped out of a steno pad.

I've had the last of my final exams and am one paper away from being free to have my life consumed by medical school apps. This means the beginning of a summer of recreational reading!

Recreational reading is a term that I've come to like a lot. I don't get to do it at all during the academic year, which is unfortunate. And when I do get a chance, it's often during breaks where I reread my favorites and never pick up something new.

This is the MD app summer, so it's only appropriate that I stuff my list with meducational things. Meducational in this context refers to my immersion in the ethical, practice-of-medicine-oriented side of medicine, the life behind the career that I hope to enter. Basically, I want the non-technical side.

Summer Reading 2015
  1. The Once and Future King -- T.H. White
  2. The House of God -- Samuel Shem
  3. The Emperor of all Maladies -- Siddhartha Mukherjee
  4. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down -- Anne Fadiman
Going down the list, then. The Once and Future King is one of my favorite, moral compass-orienting novels that (grandiosely) helped define my personal sense of ethics and the human condition. High-faluting statement aside, I read TOaFK at a vulnerable, malleable time in my life. It was the beginning of the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college, my first summer living in my apartment, my first summer at the clinic, my first summer in the lab. I had come out of a semester that academically beat me down and left me questioning who the hell I was and what the hell I wanted to make of my life. The Once and Future King is a whimsical, acutely self-aware novelization of the rise and fall of King Arthur and Camelot. It's difficult to read it as only a swords-and-sorcery fantasy novel alone or a handbook on the human condition, on 'might' and 'right' and the ethical challenge of leadership by fiat and leadership by example, and a whole lot of other things. Regardless of whether it has a place in the Arthurian canon or not (well...) it certainly forms an integral portion of my own ethical canon. I  read it summer 2013, summer 2014, and will do so for as long as I can.

The House of God is the infamous creature that apparently is required reading for all bright young things interested in becoming a physician. I haven't read it yet, but I do like gallows humor and have some measure of interest in the crass and abrasive golden age of medicine. Also, I liked Scrubs.

The Emperor of all Maladies won a Pulitzer prize, and I remember it being all over the public library in my hometown when it came out. Not terribly interested in oncology, but medical anthropology seems to be something I'm getting interested in.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: a Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures wears many hats. On one hand, it's a biography of the cultural clashes between Hmong immigrants and the relentlessly bureaucratic (but well-intentioned) healthcare system of the US. On the other, it's a handbook on the ethnography, anthropology, and history of the Hmong in southeast Asia and the Hmong in the US. It's a manifesto for cultural competency and humility in the medical systems of this country, and a cry for compassion and empathy and open-mindedness. It's required reading for anthropology students here and there, and the incoming class of the Yale School of Medicine.

I'll add to this list as I finish books. I'm probably going to limit myself on the meducating and gorge myself silly on A Song of Ice and Fire as I've done these past two summers (MCAT summer included).

Monday, May 4, 2015

The List

The List -- last week's version. Ignore the foolish red-pen remarks.

Today is May 4 -- tomorrow is May 5. Trivial statement, but el cinco de mayo happens to be the day when AMCAS 2015 opens. I'm a damn mess.

(AMCAS = American Medical College Application Service)

It's happening, and I'm at once shaking in my boots and ready at the starting block.

I am ready: I've spent the last three years preparing myself for this process, preparing myself for my future as a physician, preparing myself for years and years of humility and hard work. More importantly, I've given myself ample time and opportunities to learn and understand who I am and what I stand for, what I believe my purpose in this world is, and how I must best contribute to this community I live in. Furthermore, grades (low, but acceptable), MCAT (high, thankfully), and all the other things are done and accounted for.

I am not ready: I don't know where I'm applying to. The List is still under construction. My personal statement is still an unfinished draft.

Most of all, I am fucking scared.

It's not cold feet that I have, though. I've wanted this for my entire life. Before I even knew what I was good at, I knew in some capacity that I wanted to be a doctor. Childhood dreams are pretty silly and meaningless until they really do become attainable. If I screw up now, then what?

The List is something that I'd begun toying with in high school -- and it's stupid to think that it was because I knew that Johns Hopkins was a top med school, that Stanford and Harvard were also up there, and that I only wanted to be The Best. Shitty way of thinking, but from the beginning of college, I always had some little fantasy of getting my MD training at some super institution -- and that was before my GPA tanked, before I took my MCAT, and before I really knew a damn thing about being premed.

Building my list, I eventually understood, was pretty much pointless until I had an MCAT score in hand. Even with an absurd MCAT score, I was stung by my GPA and built a school list that, eventually, my friends said undercut me.

And so after spring break, some clinic friends (four of whom will be attending top 10 MD programs this fall) gave me their input: I needed to aim high. They cited that LizzyM number, which I didn't buy. I've gotten very good at beating myself down about being bad at school, bad at organic chemistry, iffy at E&M, and so their advice to put top schools on my list that I'd long before shot down as being unrealistic came as a shock.

And even now, I don’t know what to do. More or less, my selection methodology before was to take out all schools for which I was UNDER the 10th percentile GPA for (an embarrassing amount) and schools for which I was OVER the 90th percentile MCAT for. This means I can go to almost zero med schools, so I scrapped that idea. LizzyM occurred to me, but I have off-kilter numbers -- bra size analogy withheld.

But, vaguely, I have come up with a different sort of selection criteria, and have adopted a very labor-intensive method for cutting my list down.

Questions for consideration:

  1. Do I fulfill all the admissions requirements?
  2. Location? (How safe is the campus and surroundings? Where do med students live? Proximity to airport? -- and, of course, I prefer California)
  3. What does the tuition look like?
  4. Home orthopedic department?
  5. Curriculum and interest groups (student-run free clinic is a must)

And things of that ilk. As I stand right now, I have a list of 34 that I want to eventually cut to 25. At least I'm putting more thought into it than I did for college apps.

(I added UC Berkeley last-second to my UC App. My mother practically forced me to, but I am pretty grateful that she did. Go Bears and such.)