Monday, September 29, 2014

UnderGrad Chronicles:The Student Worker

{My typical undergrad school/employment semester schedule. Freshman through Senior YR. Its kind of hard to schedule certain parenting obligations and studying, (which unfortunately was fit in wherever I had a moment to breathe) so they are not listed in the schedule above.}  
Lecture/Study/Life balance is an essential component of maneuvering through college and being academically successful. When you add working part time and/or full time as well as being a parent, the balancing act can feel more like you’re walking a tightrope 20 stories high.  

I chose to work while in college because working was a necessity for me. Coming from a single parent home, my mom and family couldn’t afford to contribute substantially to my siblings needs and towards my education. And, even after multiple sources of funding, there still was an unmet need. Working helped supplement that void. When I became a parent, working was even more essential, it was my year around means of healthcare, adequate means of transportation, and so on. This lead to an imbalance in my work/school life schedule. And, not only did my academic performance suffer tremendously, but so did my personal outlook on my future.

Working as a full student is probably one of my biggest regrets but it’s also one of the most valuable lessons I have learned. I wish it was different but for majority of the time that I worked while in undergrad I had poor time management, stretched myself to thin and neglected my studies, which was ironically my primary reason for working. It goes a lot deeper than a 300 word post but in summary: I am not the first student to have to work while in college and I am sure I won’t be the last.  I learned that this is just another obstacle, I will face in life, a test of my true strength, and an opportunity to exhibit perseverance. I have held several jobs since undergrad and I will continue to work until I enter medical school, because that is my reality (unless I win the lottery ;-) but now I am wiser and I know that I can’t let short term factors take precedent over long term goals.

When I finally decided to quit my long term employment role (of 7+yrs), my former manager said to me, “Don’t be a career student.” Initially I kind of took that as a “Jab” at my professional aspirations with a twist of bitterness because of my departure. Today, I find wisdom in her words because now I see that there is nothing wrong with being a “Career” or better yet a lifelong student. I never want to reach a point in which I am complacent and think that I have all the answers. I want to continue to evolve and grow, this will require an endless array of “Schooling”, which will consist of collegiate training, filled with worldly experiences. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Stay Tuned

Here are a few of my upcoming Blog Posts in no particular order:

  • Life is so Fair....
  • Shadowing
  • Starting a Non-profit

PsycholOGY vs BiolOGY

In order to practice medicine you have to major in a "hard core" science, such as Biology (preferably), Chemistry, Biochem and ______ (Insert a typical Science course/major). I am not sure if this way of thinking still exist but this is what was drilled into my psyche during high school and as I entered into college.

I personally consider this to be a misguided concept. When I graduated from high school and thought about my future, there was no doubt in mind that I wanted go to college, medical school and become a physician. And, when I thought about spending four years in college, I wanted to maximum both my personal and professional growth. I wanted to spend those years learning something intriguing, something new, something that I could apply in my everyday conversations and observations and I wanted preparation for my intended career field. And to acquire all of my desires I didn’t want to sacrifice one interest or passion for the other.

During 1st year orientation week , I was provide with words of wisdom from someone that I trusted wholeheartedly and admired dearly, “I think you should major in Biology.” Before starting college I had my mind set on being a Psychology major and not because I thought it was a cool word or I feared the rigor of the traditional “hard core” science. It was because of my personal experiences, my interest in understanding varying personalities, motivations, lifestyles and people and etc. Yet, I was easily convinced after being advised that a major in biology would provide me with the best preparation for medical school. I read around, looked at several stats and Biology was the most prevalent major for medical students, so Biology is what I declared! Looking back I can understand why my “Advisor” made this statement, but that was not the best major for ME, for my interest and my personal goals, so I eventually changed my major to psychology and today I still stand by that decision. Lesson 1) All advice it not necessarily the best advice for you, no matter how educated, experienced, or trust worthy the source is. Listen to the advice, digest it, and reflect on everything of value to you, pray on it and then make an educated decision. You may not always be right in your choices but that’s what life is about learning, growing and being able to share your experiences.

I am not sure how every single college in the world is structured, but at my liberal arts alma mater, most majors also had various “tracks” associated with them. For instance, as a Psychology major interested in medicine, I was provided with a list courses I should take that met both my psy graduation requirements and medical school pre-reqs. If I wanted to major in Psychology and pursue law, there was a track for that; Psychology and pursue research or grad school, there was a track for that. So I knew my options were not limited a traditional science just because that was the standard. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with majoring in Biology, Chemistry or ______ (Insert a typical Science course/major), as long as it is what YOU want to do, and not because of your parents, siblings, advisor, or what societal norms think. Lesson 2) Choose a major that fits who you are. Sometimes we don’t immediately know "who we are" or what we like, so do your research, talk to people, and think about your end goals. Upon reading about the recent changes to the MCAT, it appears others are starting to think outside the box as well, academic training is only a fraction of the journey, healthcare delivery is a puzzle and in order to really reach patients beyond the facade of the credentials that follow your last name, we have to have a body of individuals that understand a lot more than how to order labs, prescribe antibiotics and so on.

If there’s only one road to your destination but you are clearly miles away on uncharted land, then start digging your own path, one that’s right for you.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Dear Reapplicant :-)

I was no where near prepared to begin an AACOMAS/AMCAS application, let alone be a medical student, when I completed undergrad a few years ago. Due to declaring a new major at the beginning of my sophomore year in college (Biology to Psychology) to ensure that I completed all of my Psychology core requirements for graduation I had to forgo the traditional pre-med route. I had two options: A) complete all of my premed pre-reqs and finish undergrad in 5 years  or B) graduate in 4 years with a Psychology Degree and complete my Physics and Organic Chemistry pre-reqs later. I attended a Private Liberal Arts College and tuition was extremely high so I opted for option B.

If you have ever been to an amusement park than you are more than likely familiar with roller coasters and for me my undergrad experience was analogous to the hilly, looped filled, unpredictable roller coasters at your local amusement park, which would need an entire blog post on its own.

After graduating from college with it a GPA that was anything but stellar, I was still hopeful that medical school was somewhere within my horizon. Unfortunately, I was not able to enroll in school to complete my post bacc program immediately after graduating because of limited availability due to my work schedule and home obligations. But not to despair about 6months after graduating I was enrolled in a non-traditional post bacc program. I was enrolled for a total of 17 consecutive months because I took classes during the summer as well and for the most part my course load consisted of between 6-10 credits per semester. I completed both sets of Organic Chemistry including labs, both set of Physics w/integrated lab components, Biochemistry and a few other non medical school related courses. For me taking a limited amount of classes was the best option because it fit my budget and my times constraints (work and home life). And it proved  beneficial because I was able to perform very well in all of the classes.

Performing well in my "Post Bacc" classes was just the motivation I needed to spark added flame to my medical school dreams. Yet, I wanted to participate in a more rigorous academic program, so I enrolled in a masters program. Fast forward to present day, almost 2 years after completing my M.S program, hundreds of volunteer and shadowing hours, a couple of MCATs and medical applications later, Here I am! Even though my journey has been very rocky and slightly extended, I have learned a lot along the way such as: what study methods work for me, how to overcome test anxiety, I gained a vast amount of medical shadowing experience, learning how to balance school work/parenthood and perform well in class, what factors are important to me in an academic program and I even had the chance to interview with medical schools.

As you can tell by reading thus far, my journey was not swift or effortless. At times I felt like Dorothy, her trek towards Oz was not as carefree as she may have hoped and the yellow brick road had several pot holes and unwanted travelers along the way. But with perseverance and the help of a few supportive mates she made it. I can too and God willing I will!

To Blog or Not To Blog!

To Blog it is.....

Thank you for visiting my blog. I am a newbie to blogging but I am very excited the share my journey thus far with readers.

Who I am:
I am a non-traditional “PreMed”, I am applying to medical school (re-applicant)
I am in my mid twenties, I was born and raised in the southeastern region of the US, I have a B.A in Psychology and M.S degree as well, I have grade school aged child. And, I am not currently enrolled in academic course.

Why did I choose to blog:
I began writing creatively after finding myself engulfed in a poetry assignment I received from my 5th grade gifted teacher. And, at times I have found that poetry has provided me with the opportunity to express myself more effectively than through spoken language. I believe writing this blog will provide the same comfort. Additionally, I randomly stumbled across a few blog sites of medical students (Aspiring MinorityDoctor and Mrs. Mommy MD) this year that gave me so much life and provided me with such inspiration. Seeing them live out their dreams supplied me with additional motivation that I too one day will get to do the same!

Where am I today:
I am in the midst of the 2015 application cycle. I submitted my primary application this summer and recently reunited with my dear friend Mr. MCAT! And I am in the process of waiting for interviews, completing newly received secondaries, and waiting to receive my scores (which should be within the next week or two :-) so that I can receive additional secondaries. Outside of the ever exciting and exhilarating application process, I am working and pursing additional shadowing and other medically relevant activities.