All I want for Christmas is…..a Dockatot!

To co-sleep, or not to co-sleep? That is the question. While I’m not here to debate co-sleeping with you, I am here to tell you about a product that should be on the very top of your Christmas list and is THEEEEE BEST co-sleeper I have ever used in my life! We simply can’t live without the DockAtot.

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So what exactly is a DockAtot? Literally exactly how it sounds: a place to dock-your-tot. This item has been so convenient for my baby AND me that we use it every. single. day. Besides bottles, it’s the one baby item that we’ve gotten the most use out of.

There are two versions of the DockAtot: the Deluxe, which is for infants 0-8 months and the Grand which is for babies 9-36 months. You know how you have a docking station for your phone to charge? Think of this as a docking station for your baby to sleep and recharge! You can also take the dock anywhere you go. You can use it traveling on the plane, anywhere in the house, on the bed, by the pool, outside, at a friend’s house, in the bathroom while you take that 4 minute shower (yes, mama, we’ve been there), I could go on but you get my point. I like to think of it as a little raft that safely transports and confines baby to wherever you need to go, although please do not try and float it on water or use it in the bathtub LOL. It comes in so many fun colors and you can even get different covers to switch out the style you’re feeling that day. Check out my Instagram stories today (Dec. 11, 2018) and then highlights on my page to see what I’m referring to.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard a million horror stories about parents sleeping with their babies at night and rolling over and suffocating them. I’m gonna be honest, co-sleeping totally scares the crap out of me and still does. However, this product alleviates that fear of mine COMPLETELY. The thick, rounded sides not only cradle baby and give a womb-like feeling, but the sides are also high enough to keep us parents from rolling over onto them. Sometimes you’ve done all you can – your baby is changed, fed, healthy, in their crib, but they’re still screaming and crying and the ONLY thing that comforts them is laying with you. The DockAtot allows you to have this comfort without the risk of accidentally rolling over in your sleep onto your child. It is literally impossible to do with how it is designed. It gives you and baby a safe barrier to co-sleep in your bed without fear. If you still don’t think co-sleeping is for you, the dock fits perfectly in any crib (including my ROUND crib!). My son sleeps in the dock in his crib every night and then I just take it out and transport it to our bed when necessary.

Not only is it the best co-sleeper, but you can use it simply as a lounger, tummy time, changing station, etc. Again, the large sides (see pic below) give babies their own space and boundaries which many of them need for months out of the womb while they are still transitioning to the outside world. Remember feeling baby kick? He was so comfy and cozy in your womb because he could stretch out and feel the uterine wall, aka his boundaries. The DockAtot works in a similar fashion – babies can kick and stretch out and feel the soft but firm tubing which goes all around them, simulating mom’s womb. Babies LOVE this feeling. Below is my son when he was a month old just loving his dock.

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We are still using the DockAtot deluxe, but we can’t wait to transition to the grand! This one is bigger than the deluxe, it still offers toddlers and growing babies their own safe and comfy space to relax, play, and rest. It also eases crib to bed transition and helps your growing little one get ready for their big boy/girl bed! I’ll definitely be transitioning to this one when we hit 9 months (5 months to go)!

The DockAtot deluxe retails for $195 and the DockAtot Grand retails for $300. It is worth every penny and is a smart, sound investment for your little one. It is safe, comfy, and is extremely convenient. Honestly, I really wish they made one for adults. Jealous of how sound my baby sleeps in his, tbh. I highly recommend this product and it should be on every mom’s registry! Just go to www.DockAtot.com and sign up for their e-mails and you instantly get $10 off! They ALWAYS have great sales going on and offer free shipping to all orders above $99 in the U.S. I can’t say enough amazing things about this product. Whether it’s for your little one or a baby you know, this is one of the best gifts you can give a mama and her baby this holiday season.

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My Newborn Must Haves ft. Nanobébé

As a new mom, there is nothing more important than feeding your baby and making sure he or she gets the right nutrition. You’ll feed them so often that you’ll stop and think, “Wait, didn’t I just feed you an hour ago?” and the answer is yes. Yes, you did. You’ll even wake up in the middle of the night half asleep, wandering to the kitchen, feeling like a total zombie while you make a bottle. Babies grow so fast and with this growth requires A LOT of food whether it’s directly from mama or in my case, a can of formula from the store.

Quick side note: I’m not here to debate breastfed vs. bottle fed. My decision as a mom was to formula feed so this review is based solely on that. To my pleasant surprise, you can use these bottles even if you formula feed like me!  I will tell you though, that everything I say below works even better for my breastfeeding mamas.

So which bottles are best to feed your precious little one? We all want the very best for our babies. If you’re a new, first time mom like me, you’ve probably spent hours researching which bottles are best, which ones mimic mom the most, which are most affordable and easiest to clean, which are the most popular and best rated, which ones will last and grow with your baby, which are anti-colic yet provide the best nutrition, etc. etc. amongst another sleuth of questions you probably have running through your head. Well, look no further! I’ve done the research for you and I’m about to breakdown which bottles I absolutely cannot live without and are NEWBORN MUST HAVES for your baby registry!

I was so fortunate to receive the newborn starter gift set made by Nanobébé.  This entire gift set comes with all of the following below for $94.99:

4 x 5oz/150ml breastmilk bottles
1 x smart warming bowl
1 x microwave steam sterilizer
1 x compact drying rack
2 x breast pump adaptors
2 x 0-3m flexy pacifiers
4 x slow flow silicone nipples
2 x medium flow silicone nipples
4 x travel covers
4 x storage caps

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If you break everything down, at 25 items in the gift set, this lands you at about $3.80 cents a piece. You cannot beat that price, especially for a sterilizer and bottle warmer, are you kidding me?!

Let’s start with the breastfeeding bottle. The design is absolutely beautiful. It is sleek and perfectly mimics mom’s breast. It’s just so aesthetically pleasing and unlike any other basic bottle that you would find on the shelves of your local box retailer. Not to mention, the bottle was specifically designed by a team of pediatricians, lactation consultants, and biomedical engineers which makes any mom feel good. Their bottle warms 2 times faster than standard bottles, which is great if you are impatient like me or have a demanding baby like mine.

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The domed shape and concave base make it ideal for tiny hands, so babies only a few months old can easily hold it and learn to self-feed.  The advanced 360° venting system releases air even when covered by baby’s mouth, which reduces colic! COLIC IS MISERABLE for both baby AND parents so this is a God send! It’s dishwasher safe and super easy to take apart and clean. No tiny parts or special brushes required. DID I MENTION THE BOTTLES STACK?!?!?! This saves SO MUCH room on your countertop or fridge. No other bottles do that on the market. Also, they grow with your baby! No more having to buy the next size up! Just put the base in and they expand to hold more volume for your growing little one.

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Think back to your high school or college biology course. Remember how bacteria can double every 20 minutes? Same with breastmilk or formula when stored at room temperature. These bottles cool breast milk as quickly as possible, so that the immunological properties inside go towards baby’s nutrition rather than fighting that bacterial growth. Nanobébé’s bottle allows breast milk to be spread into a thin layer that cools quickly, reaching ideal refrigerated temperatures 2 times faster than standard bottles.

Next, we have the “smart warming bowl”. I LOVE THIS. It is the fastest warming system on the market! I love the fact that there are no cords required which is super safe for both me and baby and it warms the bottles so evenly that there are no hot or cold spots like you get with other warmers. Yes, I’ve tried other warmers and literally none compare. You just fill the bowl with warm water, put your bottle or breast milk bags in, and BAM: warm milk! It’s really that easy. This pleases a hungry baby and sleepy mom (or dad – shout out to all the dads that help out during those late night feedings, ya’ll are the real MVPs!) Your breastmilk, or formula in my case, will reach the desired temperature and not get too hot which avoids any denaturing of proteins.

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As far as the sterilizer goes, it’s even easier than the bottle warmer. It kills 99% of all household bacteria in 4 minutes and keeps the contents sterile for 24 hours! This is great for when you want to sterilize a day in advance or on the go as it fits basically any microwave. I have a premie so I’m constantly sterilizing everything! Again, the design is so elegant and visually pleasing. It’s futuristic almost. It’s like a magic clear globe where all the germs go to die. I didn’t think a sterilizer could be “pretty” but it is.

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The drying rack is sleek and slim and less than one inch! It has pegs that look like cute little trees where you can hang the bottles, pacifiers, and breast pump adapters. You can adjust the pegs as necessary which is something that I haven’t found on any other drying rack. Usually, it’s just one big mat or stationary posts and sometimes, things don’t fit so you just have to make due and they don’t properly dry. This was another big win for Nanobébé in my book.

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Pacifiers… aren’t they all a dime a dozen? I thought so, too, but not hardly. Babies are pickier than you’d think. My premie would hardly take any pacifier, as they all were too big or didn’t fit in his mouth properly. Not Nanobébé.  Their design adheres to the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for newborns and is flexible, super soft, and promotes healthy oral development and is perfect for little mouths, especially my premie!

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I hope this review helped you! I HIGHLY recommend using Nanobébé. Not only are their products outstanding, but their customer service is phenomenal. They truly care about you and your baby, which is not something that can be said for a lot of big time companies. This is a MUST HAVE for all my mommas and moms to be out there. You can add Nanobebe to your baby registry from Target, Buy Buy Baby, or Bed, Bath & Beyond! I promise, it’s worth every penny.

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Diva Do-Over: How Failing Med School Became My Biggest Success

Imagine putting everything – blood, sweat, and tears (literally, lots of tears) – into three years of medical school just to find out that your career is over; you’ll never be a doctor and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. Welcome to my life.

I loved being a medical student. So much so that I wanted to document my journey along the way, and began sharing my experiences and excitement online. I developed a large presence on @MissMedDiva. So when the dream came to a halt, it was all the more public, visible and crushing.

I got through the first two years of med school with a solid B average and took the Level 1, the end all exam of the basic sciences in med school. It’s high stakes; students only get three attempts and passing is a must to continue. Shortly after beginning my family medicine clinical rotation, I learned I had failed the big exam. I was pulled out of the clinical experience to focus solely on passing. I retook it and went back to clinical learning before finding out a few weeks later that it had happened AGAIN.

With fear and anxiety building, I was sent to a prep course twelve hours away for eight weeks, specifically designed to help struggling medical students, only to try and fail a third time. Before that third try, the dean told me I wouldn’t pass based on my numbers. I let it get to me – I believed it – and it came true. I watched my classmates move on while I was left behind. This nightmare from hell became my new reality.

Then came the letter from school I had been dreading. Obviously, I knew what was inside, but it hurt to open it; I had been dismissed for failing my boards. I cried for several days, never left the couch, slept a lot, lost all hope, contemplated how I even got to this point, and questioned everything about myself: my intelligence, self-worth, value as a human being, and what I could possibly do going forward. When the dream is shattered, it’s hard to see how to put the pieces back together. I had never imagined I would be in this situation, feeling so defeated, lost and helpless.

It’s a cliché, but everything truly happens for a reason.

After meeting criteria for major depressive disorder for weeks (which I knew from my medical training), one day I awoke with the random urge to pack my bags, move my entire life and get away from where I had been the most miserable. Growth is painful. Change is too. But nothing is as painful as staying somewhere you don’t belong. My family thought I was running from my problems – and maybe I was – but looking back I can tell you it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Taking the Leap

Leaving most of my family behind, I surveyed the scene and found Austin, Texas calling my name. I moved with less than $1,000 to my name. I did so with no job or plans. The struggle to find work, a career and purpose was real. I didn’t even know where to begin searching for answers, but I began nonetheless. “What are my talents? What do others say I’m good at? Who am I supposed to be? were just a few phrases constantly piercing my mind.

Job-search sites were new and confusing as I had always been a student. I put my application everywhere that made sense, and even some places it didn’t: the FBI, government health departments, pharmaceutical and medical device sales, office and research assistants… the list goes on. I used every search engine, applied for more jobs than I could count, and was desperate. Surely, I had some knowledge and skills for being basically ¾ of a doctor, right?

A Chance Encounter

I thought that experience would count for something, but every one of my applications went unanswered. “You don’t have the sales experience necessary for this position, sorry but this position has been closed for months now, you need to have a master’s degree etc.” As the frustrations built, I shut down my social channels, too ashamed and depressed to let others in as I dealt with the chaos. Yet even as I was pulling the plug, one of those connections made an introduction for me that changed everything.

When I was introduced to Dustyn and Jamie, the founders of OnlineMedEd, they flipped the script. The conversation was immediately different; what others viewed as shortcomings they saw as real assets:

  • I knew what it was like to be a med student
  • I understood and generated a large social media following
  • I was motivated like none other to learn and find my purpose

They helped me realize that I could differentiate myself and contribute in a way few others in the world could. After all, most people who go to med school end up with the same title: doctor. This is a lesson applicable to everyone reading; you must believe in yourself and your potential. You have so much to offer! There’s an opportunity out there for everyone – one that you are perfectly designed for and which you can truly excel.

A New Beginning

Which brings me to today. Here I am, living exactly where I’ve wanted for what seems like my entire life. I have an opportunity as a marketing associate with one of the most widely known medical education companies in the world. Honestly, I’ve never been happier and I’m doing something I’m good at and truly enjoy.

Months back when I was looking in the mirror and asking myself who am I supposed to be, I didn’t know. But now I realize the question was completely wrong – I am just who I am – and OnlineMedEd is giving me a different avenue to realize it. I’m still involved in medicine and get to work with our users on the things that matter beyond medical knowledge: human interaction, dealing with stress, and the importance of self-worth.

I’ll be writing content for this blog, engaging our audience across social channels (@OnlineMedEd on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook) and helping expand the OME mission wherever I can. What I love about OnlineMedEd is that it’s constantly growing its base as it tries to touch every medical student in the world. Here, students aren’t the customers; they’re the purpose. I could talk non-stop about the wonderful things that are happening here and how much they give back. Really, I just want to say how much it meant when the founders reached out to me and saw my value and potential at a time where I didn’t even see it in myself. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Closing Thoughts

The experience of failing and leaving medical school is something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, but I’ll say it again: everything happens for a reason. When I was a little girl my mother always pushed me in math and science, and it was drilled into my head that I needed to become a physician to be successful and fulfilled in life.  While I’m thankful for the direction and guidance, that’s where the line blurred between what was truly my dream vs others’ dreams for me. Now I’m chasing what I really want, no longer worrying that I might spend my life only wishing I had.

When you think you’re experiencing failure small and large, know that it could actually be the start of something great. It may not be apparent, but keep those tired, tearful eyes open because you’ll see it one day. I promise. If you are faltering along the way – failing exams, searching for answers, losing hope, and no longer believing in yourself, well, I hope this blog post finds you.

If you’ve failed out of med, nursing, PA, dental, or pharmacy school or are on the brink and think this is the end, remember that your self-worth isn’t defined by those abbreviations at the end of your last name. The one who falls and gets up is so much stronger than the one who never fell.

Pick yourself up and dust yourself off, because your comeback will be far greater than your setback.

Thanks, and welcome to our community,

Marteney Jacobs

OnlineMedEd

http://www.onlinemeded.org

Every medical student’s worst nightmare: failing boards.

Boards.

To most, that’s just a word. To others, that one simple word can cause the most debilitating anxiety, an overwrought feeling in the pit of one’s stomach, an uneasiness that shakes the core of their being, and strike such an intense fear that courses through every vein in their body.  Now do you understand? Brace yourself because it’s about to get real and you might want to sit down for this one.

I pride myself in always being honest and genuine and giving you glimpses into my life in med. school and as you may or may not know, it hasn’t always been pretty. In fact, I often say that “med. school isn’t all sunshine and rainbows” and for me, it has rained far more than the sun has shined.

If you need the long story, please refer back to my previous blogs so I can save you some time. For a quick recap, I had a rocky start. I got waitlisted, got accepted the day class started and then took a semester of personal leave to get my mental health in order after having two back to back deaths in my family and failing two courses because of that. In undergrad you can just pick up right where you left off or retake a class, well, not in med. school. There are more school policies than I can count and one of them is that not only do you have to retake courses but if you fail more than 2 then you have to repeat the entire year and ask for a chance to prove to them that you can make it. Talk about pressure, right? Thankfully, I was never in that position. I came back the next year, learned how to study, addressed my mindfulness, and killed it my first year. Granted, to me “killing” it is passing but I’ll have you know that I got A’s and high B’s in those courses that I previously failed, I can’t say that for the rest of the courses that year but I do know in medical school that a doctor that made straight C’s is still a doctor. I did well in second year, maintained my B average and passed my OSCE. The COMSAE was a different story though and actually where this tale begins.

The very first COMSAE I took was in January. To those unfamiliar with this term, it is the practice board exam for D.O. students that they have to pass before they take COMLEX level 1 aka USMLE Step 1 for D.O.’s. I actually wrecked my car on the way to the exam because the roads were so icy and hadn’t been salted. It was really bad. Thankfully I wasn’t hurt, but my car and another car were in bad shape. My taillight was hanging on by a wire on the way to school and my kind classmate helped me duct tape it until I could get it fixed! The night before the COMSAE, I stayed over at a classmate’s house because I was worried for her own mental health and wanted to be there as a supporting friend and a shoulder to cry on. You know what they say, no good deed goes unpunished so I wrecked the following morning. I cried all the way to school and found a way to gather myself up and go in there and take the COMSAE. I actually contemplated not taking it because I was so distraught but I knew that there was technically no punishment for underperforming so I just went for it. Granted we didn’t have to get a 400 on this, we weren’t even finished with courses for the year, and I had done ZERO board prep thus far (it was only January for goodness sake) but they still wanted us to get above a 250 for very good reason. Miraculously, I did. The worse that would come of not getting a 250 or above was talking to the dean about how to improve and I was so lucky to escape that madness, or so I thought.

The next COMSAE came in May. We had to pass to be able to sit through boards, and I failed it. I didn’t fail horribly, in fact I did better on it than I did on the COMLEX, but it wasn’t enough. My school put me on a prep track along with 40 or more classmates that had also failed. This wasn’t permanent and no one saw it, but we did have to pass before we took the real thing. After this month-long prep program put on by the school, I either benefitted slightly or I just did better on a different form of the exam because when I took the next COMSAE, I passed. If I didn’t pass this second comsae, my rotations would’ve been delayed. I got exactly what I needed to pass and my COMLEX level 1 date was a week away.

At this point, I was so over studying. I was so burnt out. I had been going hard since March, but thinking back it was more quantity over quality. I couldn’t study that entire week and my mind was not there. I got to the testing center that morning and I probably couldn’t even tell you my name. I felt like I blacked out during the second half of the exam because of testing fatigue. I started at 7:45am and didn’t get out until 4:15pm. This exam is 400 questions, 9 hours long, and there are no breaks besides your permitted 30 min. lunch break. Actually, there are 2 optional breaks but don’t take them unless you’re literally going to pee your pants because THEY TAKE TIME OUT OF YOUR ACTUAL EXAM. This is something I wasn’t aware of and I took my sweet old time, a good 8 minutes both times (16 minutes total WASTED) and this made me panic even more because I almost ran out of time. I was so crunched for time that I was trying to guess as best as I could and was frantically clicking through the last set of questions. At the end after I clicked submit, I was so angry, so upset, and felt that it was such an unfair exam to test my knowledge but you know what they say: life’s not fair and that is so painstakingly true.

I waited an entire month for my score. I cried, laughed, cried some more, panicked, and forgot. I tried my best to put it behind me but deep down I felt like I failed. Sure, everyone thinks that after they take step 1 right? Well I actually did. You never think it can happen to you until it does. It was one of the worst days of my life. I contemplated writing this the day after I failed, but I was SO motivated after seeing that score that I didn’t want to waste a single second and I wanted to get back to work ASAP. I had already completed half of my family med. rotation, was loving it, and my preceptor even gave me an A. As for the following 2 months, I studied by butt off. DIT clearly didn’t work for me, I know it works for many people but personally, it wasn’t the best program for me. This time, I tried boards boot camp, which is a program made specifically for D.O. students. I really liked this program but I found that it was so extensive and had over 360 hours of things to complete, I knew I’d never complete all of that before I went to take it a second time. That ALSO gave me anxiety which made my studying even worse. Nonetheless, I picked myself up, did the best I could, and studied with two other classmates who had also failed. I had heard about ~30 students out of 215 or so had failed. It was very disheartening to hear it had happened to others but honestly it was quite comforting to know that I was not alone in such an awful place.

I took the exam and then immediately started my psychiatry rotation. I actually felt better coming out of the exam that time. I still felt like I failed and was hoping for a miracle to just barely pass. I know my strength does not lie in standardized exams and that I will never be the student in the 600 or 700 range (Comlex max. score is 800, passing is a 400.) During this psychiatry rotation, as you might have heard through my other social media sites, I felt like I found my calling. A little bit of that passion inspired me to write this blog for you today. I loved every minute of it and also did very well in that rotation. I know I have what it takes, but for some reason, standardized exams get me every single time.

I got my score two days before I was scheduled to finish my last four weeks of my family med rotation. I was so excited to finish this rotation with this preceptor because he is my personal family doctor and also my mentor in the Rural Health Initiative program. It was set up to be the most perfect rotation but I didn’t even get to start. A classmate, the same one that studied with me who also failed, told me the Psych COMAT scores (Shelf exam for rotations) were up. I anxiously went to NBOME to see how I did because I thought I did really well. I didn’t find the exam difficult and I LOVE PSYCH but my scores for the psychiatry shelf were not there, there was a different set of scores waiting for me. I expected to get my scores for level 1 that day because usually you get an e-mail saying they’ve been released. I looked down for my COMAT score and I see two “Failed exams” back to back. I thought I misread something or this was a COMSAE score. “Surely I didn’t fail again, that can’t be possible, I should ask for a re-score” were the thoughts that flooded my mind. Deep down, I knew I didn’t need to re-score it, the NBOME never makes mistakes, and it actually took almost 2 months to get these scores so they’re probably as correct as they can possibly be and it was true. I failed. All of my practice COMSAE’s I passed, sure they weren’t with flying colors but they were well above a 400, my percentages were increasing on combank and comquest (question banks similar to UWorld for MD students) and I even ended my last question set with a 75% which was a win for me. I thought I was ready, but I wasn’t. I actually did WORSE on this exam than I did the first time and I have no explanation for that besides debilitating anxiety. My anxiety truly comes to a peak during exams and has been undiagnosed and untreated for years which leads me to talk about how important mental health is, especially in medical school.

No, you can’t just tell someone with anxiety to “get over it,” “just relax,” or “it’s all in your head”, because it doesn’t work – in fact that makes it worse so please don’t do that. Just because you can’t see a mental illness, doesn’t make it any less real. It doesn’t make you any less of a human being, it doesn’t make you any less worthy as a person, and it doesn’t define you or who you are. I’m so passionate about this that I want to make it my life goal to end the stigma on mental illness and mental health. I’m so tired of the negativity behind it. Over 21% of adults are affected by some sort of anxiety disorder, and I am included in that 42.5 million population. Since my second failure, I have made an appointment to get my anxiety under control and to finally address it being the 25 year old woman that I am. It’s time to control my anxiety and stop letting it run my life.

Sometimes people I don’t know will comment things like “can I be you” or “I can’t wait to be in your shoes” on my pictures or on my tweets. I always chuckle at this because some days I don’t even want to be me. If y’all knew what I’ve gone through, you wouldn’t want to either. Just because I have cool pens or highlighters or a cool purse and post about it, doesn’t mean my life is perfect or I have it all together. Probably more days than not I don’t have it all together. I’ve never been the perfect or “ideal” med. student, and I probably never will be, but what I’ve always been is myself, and that counts for something, somewhere. I have one shot left to take this exam. I’m actually going to a program in Florida called “Wolfpacc” that guarantees a pass on step exams. I’ve had several classmates who have failed step 1 or level 1 twice improve by 100 points, and also a now practicing DOCTOR that failed step 1 and step 2 both TWICE EACH that pointed me to this program. I started January 3rd and finish February 24 and am giving it my all because honestly what do I have left to lose?

I truly feel in my heart, as crazy as this may sound, that I’m meant to suffer and go through hardships in order to help others that may be in that same situation one day. I feel like I’m meant to go through challenges to shed light on the situation and be a beam of hope to someone else that has to endure it and if you’re that someone, I hope this reaches you.

You’re more than your number, and I know I need to take my own advice and listen, but we really are. So many doctors have told me that they’ve failed a board exam whether it’s step 1, step 2, or BOTH, and are STILL doctors today and got a residency. Yeah, it may be harder but it’s definitely not impossible and where there’s a will, there’s a way, and somehow we will make it through. I don’t know what my future holds, in fact, I’m not even sure I’ll be a medical student come April if I don’t pass this exam, but I DO know that I will do everything in my power to conquer this exam that has defeated me twice now and has defeated my friends and classmates alike. If you’re in this boat, I want you to know that it is NOT the end. Unless you’ve absolutely done all that you could, exhausted all resources and options, and the school dismisses you because you’ve failed 3 times and broken their academic policy, then it’s NOT over for you so I don’t want you to act like it is or even feel like it. SO MANY doctors fail boards, but no one talks about it. Why? Instead we shut ourselves out, isolate ourselves, and do everything we can to sweep it under the rug and pretend like it never happened. We are so ashamed that it happened yet never stop to think that we aren’t alone and it happens to even the best doctors.

A few of the administrators at my school loved to speak fear into the eyes of medical students – they probably didn’t mean to, that’s just how it felt on the other side being a student. It started first year getting talks about boards, and then the year after that getting told in a roundabout way that you won’t get a residency if you fail and it’s the absolute worst thing that could happen to you. Well it’s not. In fact, I saw a homeless man today – as I stopped to give him all the spare change I had, I couldn’t help but think how selfish  I was to be this upset when there’s a man in front of me with no house, no food, and no money and here I am crying about a test. It really put things into perspective and how it can ALWAYS be worse than what it actually is.

Please don’t give up. I’m not, and you shouldn’t either, whether you’ve failed a class in high school, college, medical school, a board exam, an entrance exam, whatever it may be. Remember why you started, don’t quit, find a way. If you need time off, take it, if you need help, seek it, if you need to retake the class or test, do it. If plan A doesn’t work, guess what, there are 25 more letters in the alphabet.

And to those of you reading that for some reason don’t like me or my account or feel like you’re better than me and so many others that have struggled and failed because you passed on the first try, congratulations. If you feel the need to belittle me, criticize me, judge me or my journey, or my failures, go right ahead because I can PROMISE YOU that you won’t say anything worse than I’ve already told myself or how I’ve felt about myself. Your opinion of me does not matter, you don’t walk in my shoes, and you don’t live the same life that I do or anyone else for that matter. You cannot get to me because I am my own worst enemy. For those of you that truly act that way, shame on you and I’ll pray for you. As a patient, I’d actually take a doctor who struggled over someone who didn’t because you know what that shows me? That despite almost losing it all, they found a way to prevail and succeed in the midst of adversity just to help me.  Just because I failed doesn’t mean I’ll be any less of a doctor, and I guarantee not a single future patient of mine will ever know about any GPA or board score nor even ask, and neither will yours! One exam doesn’t determine how great of a doctor you will be. Sure, a failure might close a few doors but when one door closes another opens. Sometimes we look so long and regretfully upon the closed door that we often don’t see the door that has opened for us. So keep your head up!

Sorry this was such a long post, I had a lot to say and there was no shorter way to not put it all out there. Please feel free to contact me at any anytime whether it’s on here, snapchat, Instagram, or twitter, I promise I read ALL of my messages and do my very best to help everyone that I can. I will be here for YOU, talk you off the ledge, and let you know that it’s going to be okay when I’m trying to make it myself. Please take care of yourself, you’ll do your patients no good if you aren’t well yourself. Life is not perfect and neither are we but I can guarantee that at the end of our journeys, it will be because they’re OURS and no one can ever take that from us.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline 
1-800-273-TALK

Suicide & Crisis Hotline 
1-800-999-9999

Help Finding a Therapist 
1-800-THERAPIST (1-800-843-7274

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

Panic Disorder Information Hotline. 800- 64-PANIC.

Drug & Alcohol Treatment Hotline
800-662-HELP

Thor goes to med. school!

IMG_7935.JPGIf you’ve ever sat and thought to yourself, “Should I take my dog to medical school?” or “Should I even get a pet in med. school?” then this post is for you!

I never met a dog I didn’t like. You know those med. students at parties that are in the corner petting all of the dogs? That’s totally me. No shame. I’m a dog person and by dog person, I mean HUGE dog person. Meet my baby Thor! He is a full blooded, brindle, American Great Dane! He’s 175 pounds at 3 years old and is my very best friend. He loves ice cream, squeaky toys, and long walks around the med. school campus. I can’t tell you how many times he’s been there for me whether I’ve failed a test, gone through a break-up, or just am a stressed out, emotional med. student. Having a dog in medical school is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Granted, it was not the easiest nor the most convenient/fun going through the puppy days during your first year but we made it through to the other side and thank God the puppy stages are over! However, I do miss being able to carry around my dog, even though that was only for a few months!

There are lots of pros and cons to having a pet in medical school. This list differs for the type of animal, obviously. I can’t imagine that list being very long if, for example, you had a pet fish or a lizard and yes a lot of med. students have them. Fun fact, I used to have an iguana and even won 1st place at my county science fair in middle school for doing a project on Iguanas’ eating behaviors. Anyway, the list is very different when comparing dogs to cats. Nothing against cats, but dogs are better 😉 just kidding…I also have a cat: Manny PacMEOW. Cool name, huh?

Life in medical school can be crazy, hectic, unpredictable,  stressful and challenging to say the least. Keep this in mind when choosing a type of dog. Obviously, having one of the most hyper breeds is probably not in your best interest but again, to each his own. One of my classmates had an Australian shepherd – she just made sure to always get an hour of exercise with her pup every day. This is something to keep in mind. Are you willing to give up 30 minutes or more a day to walk your pup/play with them at the park? For me, I take frequent study breaks and also like to work out so I essentially was killing two birds with one stone – working out and also walking my dog as my study break! Granted this might take an hour at most out of your day, but don’t forget about letting your puppy out in the morning, at lunch, and then again before bed. If you’re like Thor, you like to go outside as much as you can so sometimes you go out 4-5 times a day, all of which are about 5-10 minutes at a time which also needs to be factored into your schedule. If you’re not willing to get up an extra 15 minutes early to let your dog out before you have a full day of lecture from 8am-noon, getting a dog might not be for you. You are going to have some days where you are required to stay on campus from 8am-5pm even through lunch breaks and sometimes even later. Do you have a friend/roommate that can let your dog out if need be? If you don’t, you have to make other arrangements if that means getting up earlier like I said, racing home after lecture, finding a pet sitter or a doggy day care if you know you’re going to be gone all day, every day, and so on. There are no doggy daycares. 😦

Three words: pet friendly apartments. You’ll quickly learn that finding an apartment in med. school can be tough and it only gets tougher when you need to find a house fit for Fido. I got lucky and had an amazing town house and it was plenty spacious enough. Not only is it harder to find pet friendly apartments but is your breed on the safe list? Don’t get me started on the people that make these lists because it’s about how the dog is raised, not the entire breed. Plus Great Danes are known to be “gentle giants” and how they are on some aggressive breed lists determined by the landlord is beyond me. Like I said, don’t get me started. Furthermore, how much does your dog weigh? So many places have weight limits. Some apartments I was looking at had a limit of 50 pounds…which is basically what almost one of Thor’s legs weigh hahaha. Not only is it hard to find a place fitting all the requirements, but it will be MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE. You will be required to put down a pet deposit which is usually an extra month’s rent or more and will be required to pay for any damage by your pet, etc. To me, having my best friend to cuddle with every night is worth every penny, but if you aren’t willing to pay a couple extra bucks, again, a pet is probably not for you.

Speaking of cost, pets can be expensive. Thor’s food is around 50$ at least once a month. That doesn’t include treats, toys, vet bills, flea medicine, heartworm medicine, leashes, dog crates, food stands, feeding bowls, and the list goes on. All of this is something you need to budget when you get your loans in medical school and it can easily be done. You need to find a vet that is a good fit for both you and your pet in your town.

Are you the type that can only study on campus? This is an easy one. If you absolutely cannot study at home and get easily distracted, you probably shouldn’t get a dog. Now cats, fish, lizards, parrots etc. take significantly less time and attention. You never have to let a cat outside and can be gone all day with no guilt because cats basically take care of themselves – dogs, not so much. This is one of the most CRUCIAL factors to consider when weighing the options of bringing your pet/getting a pet in med.school. I study both on campus and at home and can adapt easily and also make a flexible schedule so when I needed to focus, I’d go spend several hours on campus but when I wanted to study at home, I kid you not, I’d literally recite my notes and try to teach my dog whatever I was learning. Hey, they say if you can teach it then you know it right?!

Training your dog should be a priority. Having a poorly behaved dog that chews up your notes when you go to a group review at the library is never fun, trust me, I know from experience. Again, this will require time and/or a trainer or at least someone with experience in handling/training dogs. This is something to consider – are you going to have time for an additional 15-20 minutes of training your dog during the day – whether that’s teaching them tricks, manners, rules, or socializing them, it’s extremely important to their lives and yours that you do so. If you’re bringing your dog from home who is already trained, your life just got A LOT easier. Can you imagine a Great Dane who stands 6’6” on his hind legs jumping up to greet your friends as they walk through the door? I can. A well behaved dog takes time, effort, and patience!

I’m going to be honest, at times it was very difficult to have Thor during medical school. Yes, he’s a Great Dane so my problems were a lot BIGGER than average. I either had to be in the anatomy lab all day and worried about how I’d make it home to let him out and then cleaned up pee or poop when I couldn’t find someone to let him out, or some days I  didn’t feel like taking him on a walk especially when we had 2 feet of snow outside, or when he chewed my beautiful Tory Burch ballet flats that I wore to clinicals (one of the worst days ever!) With that all being said, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. He is literally one of the biggest reasons I made it through my 1st and 2nd year. He has brought more joy to my life than I ever thought possible. Having him was a huge stress reliever. He taught me so much about responsibility and life and having him on a schedule kept me on a schedule and more organized. He was there for me when other humans weren’t and buying him was one of the best decisions I ever made. They say dog’s are a man’s best friend, but for this medical student, my dog is one of the greatest companions I’ve ever had in my life.

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I took this picture when I was quizzing myself on the kidneys and Thor was like “Please no more studying, Mom!”

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I hope this post shed some light on owning a pet in medical school and can help you decide if getting a pet is for you! As always, if you have any questions or want to know more tweet me @StudentDrDiva or leave me comments below! 🙂

 

 

My Basic Beauty Essentials

Hi Guys! So I know I haven’t blogged in forever — SO SORRY! Med. school owns me, literally. Boards are approaching..you’ll understand when you get there and to all of you that have already been there, PROPS, I can’t wait until I’m in your shoes. Anyway, I got asked by several of you to post my skincare routine, beauty tips, and a few of my favorite products so here goes. I’m gonna go from the head and work my way to the toes just as I would in a head-to-toe exam 😉 haha, see what I did there?

Before I proceed, I have a few skin facts for you: your skin is the LARGEST ORGAN in your body. Therefore, I am very particular about what I put on it. You know the saying, “Don’t put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat”? I agree with that to some extent, of course I’d never eat my body wash but you get my point. Your skin absorbs up to 60% of what it touches – so whatever you put on it will get absorbed and go into your bloodstream. I use all organic or at least 100% natural skincare products, you just have to be careful because the term “natural” isn’t FDA regulated like organic.

Parabens, Pthalates, and Sulfates, OH MY! Parabens are very similar in chemical structure to Estrogen and even fit their receptors. When parabens bind to estrogen receptors, this can disrupt the endocrine system and cause breast cancer as well as other forms of cancer. Pthlates give plastic its elasticity – this is a no brainer, you don’t want any form of plastic entering your skin..again a risk for cancer. Sulfates can form carcinogenic nitrates which is also linked to cancer. These are all common products found in BRAND NAME beauty products! To each his own, I just personally don’t want any type of chemicals going into my skin. 🙂 ALL OF THE PRODUCTS MENTIONED BELOW ARE EITHER ORGANIC, OR 99-100% NATURAL!!

1.SHAMPOO & CONDITIONER – Some of my favorite brands are Organix, Gud, Jason’s, Burt’s Bee’s, Yes TO, and Wen. All of these products are either organic or natural in nature and don’t contain any artificial fragrances, perfumes, dyes, parabens, pthalates, petroleum, sulfates, etc. I have long hair and one of the most frequent compliments I get is on my hair. I’m currently using one of Organix’s new scents: Niacin & Caffeine and absolutely LOVE it! My hair has felt thicker, stronger, and more smooth. I’m also a huge fan of their biotin and collagen shampoo and conditioner. These are found at your local Wal-mart, Kroger, CVS, H-E-B, Amazon, their website. etc!

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2. BODY WASH – First, I ONLY use a real sea sponge. They are 100% natural, being found at the bottom of the ocean floor, are a renewable natural resource, eco-friendly, less abrasive than artificial sponges, exfoliate better, and don’t contain any added colors, chemicals, or toxins that artificial sponges contain. I recently just switched to these… I know, I used to love the colorful Bath & Body works sponges too. My current body wash is Gud’s by Burt’s Bee’s Mango Moonwash but I also love the Yes To body washes, the grapefruit Burt’s bee’s, and the Organix body washes. I love the Mango Moonwash scent of Gud’s, but then again, I love all of their scents! I get the sponge and bodywash from http://www.Amazon.com and use my student Prime 2 day FREE shipping!
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3. Make-up Removal – Philosophy’s gel cleanser make-up removal is literally the best removal I’ve ever owned. It gets rid of all traces of make-up! It makes my face feel SO CLEAN and smooth. I do this step before I use my simple sugars green tea facial scrub.You can get it from Sephora, Ulta, Amazon, etc. I use the Yes To Eye Make-up Remover pads to get rid of any stubborn mascara marks and they work wonderfully! Also get them from either the Yes to site or from Amazon.

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4. Facewash/Facial Care – I don’t know if any of you watch the show “Shark Tank” but recently there was a company shown called “Simple Sugars.” I am obsessed. I am very prone to breakouts with my oily skin and STRESS, surprise right? I use the green tea facial scrub – it’s excellent at reducing inflammation, is a natural antibacterial, an excellent antioxidant, and makes my face soooo smooth after washing and has also cleared my break-outs. BTW I have NO TIES to any of these products and am not endorsed, these are just my honest opinions. 🙂 The only downfall is your skin can feel “greasy” if you use too much or if you’re not used to the feeling aka you are used to the “squeaky” antibacterial clean which strips your body’s natural oils and balance fyi. They also do body scrubs which I use a couple times a week. The smooth, soft feeling you get after using their scrubs is amazing – you literally DO NOT need to add lotion, that’s how silky you’ll feel but clearly you can if you like. I am a huge fan of the grapefruit scrub (the only one I’ve tried so far) but it’s also a very powerful antioxidant and even reduces the appearance of cellulite! I’m so excited to try the coffee and chocolate scrubs next! Below is a picture of my actual products I received from them, they come in cute pink packaging! HUGE FAN! You can get their products at http://www.simplesugarscrubs.com however I also love Alba’s organic facial wash to fight stubborn break outs, you can get it from Amazon! My 2 OR 3 step routine is usually the Philosophy make-up remover cleanser, Simple sugars green tea facial scrub, and THEN Philosophy’s RENEWED Hope in a jar (the original hope in a jar is much thicker and not as effective in my opinion) on very harsh, cold winter days when my face is dry. I ALSO add a weekly facial in my routine and my favorite thus far is the Alaskan Glacial Facial – Alaskan clay which is gathered from a river that carves through an Alaskan Glacier, it’s literally a glacial facial and all natural! I chose the peppermint lavender because it is so refreshing and rejuvenating. It makes my face feel soft, smell great, and removes blackheads, toxins, and impurities from my skin. I usually only do the 2 steps though because I’ve learned that the less I bother my face, the better. My skin type (on my face at least) is oily and gets aggravated very easily so I use as less product as possible (the body heals itself – notice the osteopathic concept? 😉 

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5. Shaving Cream –  I love how smooth EOS makes my legs feel after shaving, and I love even more that they’re chemical free, no animal products, no artificial colors, parabens, etc..you get my drift by now. Far better than any Skintimate or Silk brand. eos-shave-cream.jpg

6. Lotion – You can see the trend here, my favorite lotions are Organix, Burt’s Bee’s, Yes to, and EOS. My current lotion is the cherry blossom and rice milk. The scent is amazing. I love all three scents but I always like to switch it up each month and go from brand to brand.lotion.jpgyes2lot.jpg

7. Deodorant – I’ve searched high and low for a product like this. Again, if any of you are Shark Tank fans, then you know what product I’m talking about. Piperwai! I’ve tested it short and long term and it actually WORKS as an anti-perspirant and deodorant. I compared it to Tom’s natural deodorant I’ve had previously which worked as a deodorant but wasn’t an anti-perspirant..I don’t recommend it. But Piperwai is a natural cream charcoal with NO aluminums (aluminums are also linked to breast cancer and other forms of cancer), no parabens, no pthlates, no chemicals etc. It rubs in CLEAR and works ALL DAY! I compared it to Dove (what I had before Piperwai) and found that it actually worked better! Who knew?!

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Whatever you do, you’re going to be in your own skin until you die. That’s a while. Might as well get comfortable in it! 🙂 Stay tuned for my favorite make-up products and tips in the very near future! Hope you guys enjoyed this! XOXO -M.

Everything One Needs Before Entering Medical School

Hello, first years. I hope this finds you all well and you’re enjoying summer and NOT trying to study in advance for your first day. Seriously, don’t do that. Anyways, since I have survived my first year in medical school, I figured I would share some advice and tips for all of you incoming first years. It should be pretty useful for those of you this coming fall and years to come. This can also be added to for those of you that aren’t first years and are farther along than me and reading this. Feel free to comment on it and share your ideas. So read it, take it in, share it, whatever. These are in no particular order. Enjoy and good luck! XOXO, Student Dr. Diva

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  1. Plan your week out on Sunday night – thank me later. You will save so much time being on a schedule, knowing when you are going to the gym, what you’re going to eat for dinner, how many hours of studying you need to put in for the day, etc. I plot my schedule in Excel and plot an Ideal vs. Real graph and plot what I really did after I’ve planned out my ideal schedule for the week. It shows me where I spent the majority of my time and where I can save time in other areas. A Sunday well spent brings a week of content!
  2. School Supplies: As far as this goes, everyone is different but here are a few of my absolute necessities: papermate felt tip colored pens and other ballpoint colored pens, computer paper, mechanical pencils, hi-lighters, a stapler, staples, white-out, scissors, a hole punch, pens, (you’ll get a bunch of free medical ones though), the pens that come with 4 colors in one (I use these for frameworking before lectures, see previous blogs), colored pencils, a pencil sharpener, markers, huge 4-inch 3-ring binders for each course, binder tabs, a good agenda (I like Erin Condren or Lilly Pulitzer), a stylus for you tech people, sticky notes, page tabs, a pencil pouch (Michael Kors or Lilly Pulitzer are my favorites) and a crate to put it all in or a desk organizer at your seat in class.
  3. Ipad Air – mini or full size – The mini fits in your white coat and can be used a lot during rotations. However, my friend uses her mini during x-ray lectures to see the screen better. Also, a ton of my classmates take notes on ipads, apparently it saves more trees 😉
  4. A good pair of headphones – I personally recommend Beats by Dre. I have the noise cancelling studio headphones but I recommend paying extra and getting the wireless. This does wonders when trying to cancel out noise to listen to lectures, or just studying with no music. It really helps when I’m studying the morning of exams to cancel out the noise from the students talking nonchalantly. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Plus they come in tons of colors! Mine are hot pink!
  5. Make friends and fast. You’re going to want a buddy to cry with over how much work you have left to do, how there is not enough time in one day, grades, relationship problems, or about how med. school just sucks in general some days. It’s always good to have people going through the same things as you so you can relate and it definitely helps to not be alone. Plus you can encourage and motivate each other! Most people find their best friends in medical school.
  6. Be nice to people! Don’t be that gunner that is rude to everyone and purposefully teaches people the wrong terms on a cadaver practical and screws all of their friends over on purpose to get ahead. NEWSFLASH: 1ST 2 YEARS OF GRADES DON’T MATTER IN MEDICAL SCHOOL. Take that, gunners.
  7. Back to grades – if you don’t make straight A’s, so what! 7-0=D.O. or C=M.D. Just be careful with these statements if you want a top notch residency in neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, etc… then your class rank might matter a little. But as far as that goes – all that matters are BOARDS SCORES, interviews with residencies, WHO YOU KNOW AKA CONNECTIONS, letters of recommendation, 3rd and 4th year grades, and thennnnnn clear at the bottom are 1st and 2nd year grades which I’ve been told by residency programs that all they do is check for an academic transcript. So don’t jump off a bridge because you got a B or even a C. Seriously, some people contemplate it. I’m not making fun or a joke, it’s seriously sad seeing someone getting so broken down over them. It’s not that big of a deal, promise. Ever ask your family physician his grades in medical school or what rank he was? No I bet you haven’t nor have even thought about it until you just read this sentence. Most of them can’t remember nor ever kept track or cared. Pre-med/Undergrad is over people. Don’t sabotage your friends/classmates for grades that don’t “amount to a hill of beans”…WV reference.
  8. MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF, YOUR FRIENDS, FAMILY, AND RELATIONSHIPS! Only the crazies study medicine 18 hours a day and have no life or friends. Medicine is a huge part of what we do, yes, but it is not all that we do or all that we are. Never forget that. You have people that love, care about you, support you, and would do anything for you. Never leave them behind for a career that will always be there. Your parents and grandparents won’t always be around, medicine will. Remember that.
  9. Eat well and exercise! I swear this is one of the most important concepts people fail to realize. Our bodies are intricately and perfectly designed machines. They are just like cars – they run on what we put in them! You wouldn’t put 85 unleaded gas in a Ferrari, so why put a ton of fried, artificial, junk food in your body especially on weeks of exams? Stress eating is real, but learn to combat it with healthy foods and snacks! It does wonders for your brain and energy levels. Exercise at least 30-45 minutes a day, 5-6 days a week. Not only will it boost your energy levels and endorphins, it will help rid all of the stress in your body and get your mind off of school for a while. It’s also been proven to help with memory, learning, and the list goes on and on.
  10. A nice computer. Usually your school gives you one. Ours aren’t that fabulous. I recommend a Macbook Air that is lightweight, top-notch, and thin enough to be carried anywhere and everywhere. Yes, you will be trying to research and study in the areas you’d never believe you would.
  11. Start prepping for boards. I’m not saying take your first aid the first day of class and fill it out vigorously and read every page. I am saying though, that every exam you take is preparing you for boards. There are multiple questions on each of those exams that you’ll take that you will see again on boards in a different style, version, etc. Take it seriously.
  12. Try not to procrastinate – take it from me! Also, youtube why medical school is like eating pancakes and you’ll understand this procrastination concept in medical school. It is much different from undergrad. It is so hard to catch back up. I know you don’t feel like studying today, but don’t make it hard on yourself by having double the workload tomorrow. Suck it up, get it done, and stay on task.
  13. SLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP. Another concept students don’t seem to feel is important. They’re gonna regret it when they graduate and look like they’re 50 years old when they’re actually 25. Sleep is CRUCIAL for encoding memories, healing the body and mind, and again, the list goes on. So don’t avoid it or you will crash and burn, literally. Try to get at least 6 hours, each body is different (I need at least 7) and can work on different ranges but 7-9 is preferred.
  14. Don’t be that annoying person that asks a question every single lecture in the classroom on purpose to hear yourself or something. I really don’t get what these people get out of it but that’s just my guess. Definitely don’t ask it if you don’t know what you’re talking about. People will talk about you and might even question what you’re doing in medical school, it might be so bad and distracting to students that they might even include it in a blog like “Everything a first year needs to know”. Just being honest. You wouldn’t believe the comments and remarks I’ve overheard about certain “question girl or boy” as they’re referred to. You don’t want to be that person.
  15. Invest in supplemental materials for boards and to help encompass curriculum learning: Picmonic, Firecracker, Pathoma, Sketchy Micro, Osmosis, etc. These all get pricey but I do have a discount I can give you guys on Picmonic – tweet me for details! I love using Picmonic because I am a visual person. I will remember a picture, not words. I also love firecracker because it’s like a huge question bank that I can access on an app and use while I’m waiting in lines, traveling, etc. I am not endorsed so I’m telling you for your own benefit. Make sure you check the program out to see if it fits your needs before you go spending a ton of loan money.
  16. Textbooks – if you want an ipad and use PDF’s disregard this. If you’re old school like me and kill trees (not purposefully, I love nature tbh) then you’ll still use textbooks. You don’t need every textbook on your list that the school gives you and if you need it, you can always access it in the library and print off pages by making copies. Save yourself a few hundred bucks and talk to your peer mentor, a current student, or the employees in the bookstore. I have a list that my school recommends which will probably be different from your list. I will update this blog July 1 when it is released and give it to you all. Come back then!
  17. A good stethoscope! You’re going to want to hear that murmur your grader is telling you she hears so you better have a good stethoscope, not a fake, plastic one from wal-mart. It’s an investment, it’s not that expensive, and you’ll use it more than anything else and can carry it all the way through medical school and into residency and beyond. I recommend Littmann Cardiology III. I love it, it’s great quality, and mine is pink! Yes, you can get whatever color you want and no, it is not unprofessional. Don’t be boring and go with grey. At least get black with brass and your name on it or something 😉
  18. DO NOT REFER TO YOURSELF AS DOCTOR ANYTHING. YOU ARE NOT A DOCTOR. You are a piddly first year that is a STUDENT doctor, so do yourself a favor, take Dr. out of your bio on Instagram, twitter, snapchat, Tinder, whatever social media you have. It’s kind of lame/rude when you refer to yourself as doctor when you haven’t earned it yet. Also, you’re not going to have the answers when a patient asks you a question or when your attending asks you a question, so you’re going to want to be a first year. Live it up while you can. Trust me, I’m only a silly second year. Also, prepare yourself for the millions of questions you will now get from your friends and family that assume you know everything a doctor knows. My favorite reply has been an educated guess followed with “but I’m not even a doctor yet so I’d recommend going to see someone for that.”
  19. Professional clothing. I’m not saying don’t wear yoga pants (because I wear these basically every day that I’m out of class and studying in the other classroom) but I do try to dress nice and look professional for each lecture when I can. These are your professors, future colleagues, mentors, etc. Impress them. I’m not saying dress up every single day, but nice jeans, a nice blouse, nice shoes, not your club clothes with tons of skin showing. Again, undergrad is over. No more thirsty Thursdays wearing those sky high heels. You’re thirsty Thursdays will now consist of drinking massive amounts of red bull or coffee and will be spent in a library. You also need a nice suit, dress, dress pants, and blouses etc. These will be for shadowing your physicians, patient clinical encounters, awards banquets and ceremonies, etc. Look sharp. A professional, well-dressed person earns more respect.
  20. A whiteboard. This is one of the most important study tools in your entire medical school career. Don’t drop 200$ on a fancy, expensive one either. Save your money and get showerboard from Lowe’s! I got a 5ft. x 8ft. whiteboard that is thin but I screwed into my wall for around 20$. I used this so much over the year that my hands would get stained from markers.
  21. Treat yo self, but don’t overdo it. If you get an A in a course and want a new Tory Burch tote, or Lilly Pulitzer dress, or Michael Kors watch, or a Sephora trip, go for it guuuuuurl. Obvi, boys get your boy things like a new video game or something idk. Just don’t be doing that once a week or anything crazy. You are a broke med. student and most likely you’ll be taking out loans unless your parents are rich and pay for your entire tuition, bills, rent, food, textbooks, diagnostic equipment, clothes, gas, etc. In that case, spend whatever you want, lucky you. If you’re like most people, you’ll be 200,000 dollars in debt on average – so don’t spend $1,000 on an unnecessary coffee table for an apartment you’re only going to be in for 2 years. Just a suggestion.
  22. PICK A GOOD SEAT. Yes, even if you have to go in the night before orientation and sleep there (all my friends and I did it, it’s fine, we have no shame.) It was worth the sleepless night. We got the exact seat we wanted, and they were the best seats in the class, sooo there ya go. If you’re in the back, you can’t see as well and definitely aren’t engaged by the professor. In our lecture hall of 215 seats, it’s impossible for the professor to make eye contact with every person. If you sit up front, studies show that you pay better attention, plus it’s just rude to text in the lecturer’s face while they’re presenting. Trust me on this one, ALL SEATS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL. But for other people, they don’t get distracted and it doesn’t matter where they sit so they might like the back, especially if they want to be the first ones out of lecture.
  23. Go to class! If you can speed the lecture up at home and don’t take many notes, that’s understandable, or can’t keep up and need to slow it down, also understandable. Again, studies show that one learns more by simply attending class and absorbing the material. I know it made a world of difference if I just listened to the lecture or actually went and saw the professor talking. I’m not an auditory learner which brings me to another point:
  24. Figure out your learning style. Our class was made to take a short quiz and see which learning styles we would utilize based on our responses. I’m visual. My friend is auditory, my other friend is kinesthetic. Learn this early on and it will save you tons of time by knowing how you can learn the most efficiently which is key when they bombard you with SO. MUCH. MATERIAL.
  25. TAKE TIME OFF. Don’t try to study ahead on thanksgiving or Christmas breaks. YOUR BRAIN NEEDS THAT BREAK! Seriously, burn out is so real. Don’t study the night after exams either. Go have fun with your friends, go drink, go do whatever it is non-medically related that you do. You will be much happier and simply put, sane.
  26. Be open minded. Everyone you meet is for a purpose – to teach you something, give you something, learn from you, etc. Everyone is so different in your class, yet you’ll find some very similar to you! Each person’s style and learning techniques vary substantially. Be nice to them and understand this point. Sure, you’re not going to like some people in your class which is normal but who knows! You might meet your best friend as I mentioned before or even your soulmate. I’ve seen it happen. Furthermore, be open minded about specialties. If you come in wanting to do neurosurgery but don’t like neuro, don’t be discouraged, but don’t be so dead set on a specialty that you won’t budge. Most people don’t select their specialty until they can be immersed in it during rotations. It’s great to have an idea once you come in but allow yourself to remain flexible.
  27. Any time you see “HIGH YIELD” or hear those two words in a sentence, star it, highlight it, flag it, write it on your hand, do something. It’s obviously important or on some type of exam you will have in the near future. Also any of these phrases are similar to the high yield phrase and possibly on exams like “this is worth mentioning or remembering, this is important, you should know this, I put stars by this, I made this bold, this is in red for a reason, study the objectives, this is noteworthy, I would remember this if I were you, this is an exception,” etc. IMPORTANT!*
  28. A large desk with the maximum surface area possible. If there is clutter on your desk, then there is probably clutter in your life – also another study found which you can google these said studies fyi. The clearer your desk is, the more organized you are and this is true. Only put your absolute study essentials on the desk and what you have to do that day with all of your needed materials so do actually put your clothes away and don’t just pile them onto your desk.
  29. Scrubs – I like brightly colored scrubs from Wonderwinks. I’d recommend 5 sets one for each day of the work week. We had cadaver lab every day, twice a day some modules and they start to smell. Also, if you have OPP lab (osteopathic medical schools) you’ll need t-shirts and scrub pants and it’s always fun to wear different colored scrub pants each week and not the normal ugly blue, grey, and hunter green ones. I have yellow, bright green, coral, peach, pink, and black……and also the ugly colors (that I never wear. Ew.)
  30. Set rules and guidelines especially if you have roommates. Know what bothers them, let them know what bothers you. Create a list, sit down a talk to each other in weekly or monthly meetings in the house, or whatever works. Work together to not drive each other crazy. Seeing each other all day in class, then at home each night can really be annoying for both of you. It’s medical school. It WILL happen. It’s also important for your friends to not call you during the day to disrupt study time and to let them know when it is okay to call. They might be mad at first but they’ll get over it.
  31. Lastly, but not least, TAKE THE SUMMER OFF BEFORE YOU START MEDICAL SCHOOL. I cannot stress this enough. You will probably tweet and thank me later. You cannot physically learn and prepare all you need to know for the entire year in 3 months of summer vacation. It’s impossible. Your mind won’t get a break, it’s unnecessary, and no one does it. Odds are, you’ll forget most of it anyway and you should be prepared or at least somewhat prepared after your pre-reqs and MCAT. ENJOY THE LITTLE BIT OF FREEDOM YOU HAVE LEFT!
  32. A good phone. I have an iphone 6 plus and I love it. You need a good phone not necessarily to talk to people but basically to check your school e-mail everyday….not kidding. Also call your family from time to time and a reliable phone is important when you have a study group and certain agendas you need to be on time for. I also use this for an alarm which you will definitely need after studying all day until the wee hours of the early morning and getting up at 7am.
  33. Realize you’re not perfect, and it’s okay to say YOU DON’T KNOW. You’re not in undergrad anymore, Dorothy. You CANNOT learn everything. It is physically impossible unless you’re a genius and an amazing test taker with a photographic memory all in one that gets 100s on almost everything. But those are extremely rare. You WILL go into a test that you studied everything for the best you could and still not know 100% of a concept or material. In case you forgot already, read bullet 27 again.
  34. Whatever you do, no matter how hard it is or how much you want to, don’t give up. Remember why you started and why you’re here. Post motivational quotes on your wall, write them on your mirror, print them out and put them at your desks. It will be hard. It will be mentally and emotionally trying but you WILL get through and make it and it WILL be worth it! 🙂

In order to succeed, you must first believe that you can. “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

 

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How I Got My Fire Back!

“Your success is extremely important to us, and we want to do everything we can to help!”

@ProMEDeus (whom you may see me tweet from time-to-time) said these words to me. I have been lucky to have these people around me to help me out whenever I need it and to keep me on track to becoming a better physician! I have known the physicians from ProMEDeus for about a year now. As you all remember (and if not feel free to check my old blogs) what I went through last year and how I really struggled dealing with circumstances that were out of my control. Dr. Tovar, the founder of ProMEDeus, was one of the first people to reach out and give me advice and help get me back on track.

The more I talked with Dr. Tovar the more I came to realize he and the advisors at ProMEDeus really do care about helping pre-med and medical students be successful. If you’ve read Dr. Tovar’s bio (the founder), you’d see that he at one point was a struggling med student who had to work hard to figure out what was wrong and fix it on his own. He went on to be a rock star in residency and beyond. I love how he says he knew he had the potential, he just needed some help getting there. Sounds just like me last year and a lot of students I know. Any time I have reached out to ProMEDeus they have been there so willing to help with whatever I need.

What I like most about ProMEDeus is how it can suit any student. I originally sought help from another program but honestly it was more of a ‘catch all’ as the students in my class all struggled for different reasons. It’s amazing how we are each uniquely wired and learn so differently. Their advisors work with students from pre-med through residency and can help you with just about anything you need like med school applications, interview prep, study strategy, exam prep, residency match or SOAP, and they also help students who have been or are at risk of getting kicked out of med school. I also liked being able to connect with my advisor online, face-to-face, instead of a classroom or through a prep course. While my med school provides academic support services, I have to work around their daytime office hours during the week and the advisors aren’t physicians. I don’t know about you but I do most of my studying in the evening and that’s when I need help!

I know a few students that have used this program say that they are convinced they would not be in their top choice schools or residencies without ProMEDeus’ help. That being said, I know finances are usually an issue for students – face it, we’re all in debt aka BROKE. Part of their mission statement is to work with every student based on their budget so if a student asks for help, they will find a way to make it work. This is one of my favorite things about their program and a huge reason I support them, share their name with my friends and why I’m writing this post today.

They have advisors who have served on admissions committees so they know exactly what medical schools are looking for. One of their specialties is helping students standout despite a low GPA/MCAT score. (AKA Yours truly with the 19 on the MCAT! Shh, that’s our secret. #dontjudgeme) They also help with MCAT preparation & strategy and teach premeds how to study like a medical student. The amount of information you encounter your first year can be SO overwhelming and it’s important to have the skills in place to conquer the material effectively.

We’ve been taught since Kindergarten how to study in a linear fashion, which I’ve come to realize does NOT work in medical school. They teach premeds and med students their F.R.A.C. study method. The F.R.A.C. is a totally different way of learning. I wish I were taught this method years ago; it would have saved me SO much time! As a student (especially a med student) I’m sure you’ve witnessed first hand how important it is to be a critical thinker. Among other things, the F.R.A.C. teaches you how to make connections across subjects, which I’ve found to be the key to doing well on exams. It teaches you how to study for learning/understanding, not memorization and they have this really comprehensive learning assessment that gets to the root of any underlying learning issues you may have.

Getting high-yield results from my study efforts is very important, as my time is extremely limited. I have to handle large amounts of information and manage what little time I do have effectively so having a quality study schedule is vital for success. (I have learned all study schedules are definitely not created equal!) They work with each student to create a study scheduled tailored just for them, which is especially helpful for med students around boards and shelf exam time. I love that they include time for wellness on their study schedules; I would go crazy without a little me-time and they’ve helped me see how I can structure my time in a way that allows for work AND fun!

I think having the opportunity to work with someone who has been in your shoes is what truly sets them apart from other programs. A physician has walked your walk and more importantly, they know what’s required to achieve success. In fact, their Chief Learning Specialist is responsible for raising one university’s USMLE Step 1 board score averages from 212 to 227 and passage rate from 86% to 99%. ProMEDeus is not just for pre-meds and medical students: it’s for pharmacy students, veterinary, physical therapy, etc. They are just tailored a little more specifically to medical students and the medical field because they have “been there, done that!” but their study methods and study schedules will work for anyone!

I hope that any student who needs help, wants to prevent problems, and/or just wants to gain a competitive edge in whatever program they are in will see this blog and check out ProMEDEus. I know they can help you succeed, and I want everyone to have that same opportunity! Check them out HERE! You won’t regret it! Good luck, and God bless!

 XOXO,

Student Dr. Diva

How To Study in Medical School

Hi guys!

So I know I’ve promised a blog, I just haven’t gotten around to it. I figured I’d have time during fall break, but here we are 🙂 A lot of you have been asking for new study methods, how life is in medical school, and how I’m managing my time, etc. so I figured this blog will be a hodgepodge of sorts hopefully covering everything. My study methods and habits have changed dramatically and by this I mean completely different from what I’ve ever done before. I took a class that teaches you specifically how to study for medical school and pharmacy school, whichever pertains to you and I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned how to schedule, take tests, study in general, organize my space and time, and balance my life so that I can spend time with my friends and family and do well in school. I’m gonna give you a bit of information of how this all works.

Before every single class or directed study, which is basically a lecture or reading we have to teach our self (any assignments in general that aren’t lectures), I do a process called frameworking. Frameworking takes about 10 minutes for every hour lecture, or 20 for a 1.5-2 hour lecture etc. You get the picture. Basically all you’re doing is decoding what the presenter is trying to teach you. You’re figuring out the basic and main ideas of each lecture, the highlights and most important points, and where the bulk of the information is coming from. You set your timer to 10 minutes and begin by flipping through the lecture to see the flow, how it’s organized, and what will be talked about. There are several different types of frameworks – I use outlines primarily but I’ve used webs and cascades more here recently. Some people use only webs and cascades, others use only outlines etc. It depends on the lecture and format and how your brain is designed to perceive this new information. Once you get the basic idea down, depending on the type of framework you’re using, you get to work. With an outline, you put the main idea in black or whichever color you choose. For a web, you put your main idea in a bubble in the middle of the page or the top etc. The key for choosing a color will show you the layers into the presentation and the levels of detail. Your first pass should always be the same color, second pass another, third pass another color. You won’t get more than 3 passes usually within those 10 minutes looking over the material. The idea with this is it’s giving you a guideline/map before you ever go into lecture. How many people see a packet of 100 slides and get overwhelmed and have no idea how anything fits or relates to each other and then have a hard time differentiating the details between all of this mumbo jumbo? THIS GIRL. But with my framework, if I ever get off topic I go and check my map and see where we are in lecture. Every “ping” I make back to my map while taking notes on the handout solidifies information. Back to the colors, for example if our main idea of a lecture is bone diseases, that would go in black. Our second pass tells us that there are different types – osteogenesis imperfecta, osteoporosis, achondroplasia etc. those would all be in blue (again or whichever color you use, I’m just showing what I do) then your third pass which is more detail would be in red, and your fourth in green etc. The key is to NOT READ the slides! YOU ARE NOT READING TO LEARN. You are reading to decode and find main key points, how it all ties together, and the BIG OVERALL PICTURE. Your active learning will be in class the next day (or if you stay at home, during the audio). You want to do this as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Back to the layout, bone diseases are our black bubble in center of the page, in blue are the bubbles around it which are the types of bone diseases. In red coming off of those blue bubbles are the etiology, risk factors, etc. & in green is even more detail. I’ll post a picture online of examples if need be. This is NOT A CONCEPT MAP. Let me be clear. Concept maps are done after you’ve studied, been to lecture, read, etc. and make connections and big elaborate pictures. You are getting the basic layout of every lecture or handout you’re given which can be HUGE for detail people like me. Take home points: e is fast and you should have a physical timer in front of you, frameworking is NOT reading in advance and it’s NOT about learning, you must concretely write them out on a blank sheet of paper and it CANNOT BE MORE THAN ONE PAGE, cannot include details only categorical placeholders, you are finished when your timer goes off, and do not bog it down with any details since this washes out the organizational structure, if your framework is wrong or unclear – fix it, if you don’t know where something goes – put it in its own separate box and figure it out during lecture, this MUST be done 24 hours before the lecture – either the day of or night before. Pictures below: of outlines and a web.

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After frameworking, which I refuse to go into lecture without one ever again, I attend the lecture. I take notes, although I do not take very many. I only take those deemed important. NOT EVERY WORD THAT THE PROFESSOR SAYS IS IMPORTANT. Note that. I used to be a crazy note taker trying to write every single word that they say. If you do this, you are not learning anything actually. You’re basically a typewriter. and you’re not getting hardly anything out of lecture. Sit back in class, really try to absorb and think about how it all makes sense and what is being discussed. Usually you’ll have clues about what’s really important and what you need to study for tests. Also, a  lot of the information they are talking about is on your slide just in different words. I pay attention, I leave my phone in my bag or away from me to avoid distractions and really clue in on what’s important. After lecture, I go home and dynamically read and mark what I’ve done for the day. This is step 3! First step is frameworking, second step is attending lecture or listening to it. Also, dynamic reading and marking  is not highlighting willy-nilly. This is also an active process. I only highlight what’s written in red, underlined, or bold by the professors or I highlight in layers according to my basic framework. You shouldn’t have more than a couple of points highlighted for each page. You are not trying to decorate your lectures. AVOID EXCESSIVE HIGHLIGHTING!! Another point some people miss inadvertently, if professors took time out to underline or bold anything, you better believe there’s a reason. KNOW IT. I underline in red what’s important, numerate things in blue for example if you’re given a big paragraph of symptoms, I’ll number all of them. What’s KEY for me is marginal questions. From each slide I’ll pick a question, sometimes two, on what’s most important. For example: going back to bone diseases: my question on a slide would be “What’s the mechanism of achondroplasia etc.” I’ll have about 3 marginal questions per page (usually my slides are 3 to a page) but no more than 5 questions because you don’t wanna get crazy with it. Also within your reading and marking you can create character maps – for example: maybe making a superhero out of Calcitonin and calling him Calvin and drawing how he affects blood Calcium etc. To sum up dynamically reading and marking: underline what’s important in whatever color you choose (for me it’s red), numerate (for me it’s in blue), annotate (in green for me), make maps, highlight, draw things, write marginal questions for yourself, and summarize. It takes some time, but it’s a much more active process than re-reading pages from a book over and over and not getting anything from it. This REALLY works for reading assignments they give us. It also is more beneficial than just going through the lecture material and highlighting anything.

After dynamically reading and marking, I’ll go back to my original framework and retrofit it. This means I’ll add anything I missed the first time around, which is usually a good bit but the key here is to not write everything down. For example: the types of Osteogenesis Imperfecta – you wouldn’t write out all 4 types and everything about them because that gives you a FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY. You’re reading over the information being “Mhm, yeah ok I know that. I got it” then you’re put in a testing situation and you’re like “ummmm, what was that again?” Instead of writing all of the types out, you’d write Types (4) and leave it at that so later on when you self test, you can force yourself to recall the different types and distinguish them from one another. I do this for every framework I make. Once I’m done with frameworking, attending, dynamically reading and marking, then retrofitting, I’m done with the material and just self-test daily before the exam. Self-testing is key to everything which brings me to my last point in the process.

PRACTICE RETRIEVAL: WHAT TAKES A B TO AN A. There are 4 basic types I’ve learned: basic self-test, timed self-lecture, framework self-test, and voice flash cues. I don’t use voice flash cues but those are simply making questions on your phone or ipod and pausing, trying to answer them and then checking to see if you’re right by listening to the answer. These are great for workouts, commuting, anywhere on the go when you don’t have any notes handy. Basic self test is just choosing your material – a chart, concept, etc. and writing it down on dry erase board, paper etc. then checking. The timed lecture is taking 3 minutes and writing down everything you know about a certain item, topic, lecture etc. and then self-checking to see what you missed. It is the same as the basic self test but with a timer and under pressure like in a test situation. The framework self test is doing what I mentioned earlier – writing the causes down of a disease for example there’s 4 causes, and then going through and trying to remember those causes, but you do it for each slide of the lecture or point on your framework. You can use any of these 4 methods of practice retrieval at any time during your study block – so if you’re falling asleep because you hate immunology and are bored, start a self-test. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS SELF TEST! It’s better to figure out what you don’t know now and force yourself to recall versus getting to a test and it showing you what you do not know. Trust me.

That is my basic study sequence. Framework. Attend lecture. Dynamically read and mark. Retrofit/Condense/Make notes or maps. Self-test. It’s done wonders! This brings me to time management. Each study block should be 50 minutes, no more or less. You should have a timer and have zero disruptions during this time. No cell phone, no web surfing, no social media, no not even playtime with your puppy. Those 50 minutes are devoted solely to trying to learn new information and make it into long-term memory. This cannot be accomplished with multiple distractions. With every ping of your iphone, even subconsciously your thoughts are being directed elsewhere even for a split second. This causes problems when trying to encode new information into your memory. Do not go more than 4 study blocks of 50 minutes and make sure you take 10 minute breaks after each 50 minutes. This keeps you on track, lets you know how much you’ve accomplished in less than an hour, and also gives your mind a break. The breaks are crucial. Don’t skip them and think you’re fine because if you do you start to not be as focused and lose minute details when encoding. I recommend keeping a schedule. Some people do, some don’t. I have my days marked down to the half hour. I keep an IDEAL vs. REAL schedule and have tables set up Sunday through Monday. Do I follow it rigorously? I try to yes but I don’t kill myself if I don’t. I mark down what I did instead – so if I went grocery shopping instead of my study block I was supposed to have, I’ll mark it down. Here’s an example of color coded ideal vs. real schedule. Note: I have abbreviations for everything. PS: Personal study, EX: exercise, S: Sleep, LEC: lecture, R&R: rest and relaxation, M: Maintenance – getting ready, and traveling to and from places, etc.

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I also recommend keeping a personal study agenda. This is different from a to-do list. It only has things to do concerning academics. You have a daily agenda – get a small notebook from wal-mart or something and write things you need to do for the day or after lecture. Do not put anything that doesn’t have to do with school! Attached is a picture as your example. My notebook is sparkly, obviously.

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As for other methods such as memory palaces and character maps, these can be saved for another blog. This is already lengthy enough and covers all the basics. I’ll send the other blog out pretty soon. Plus you guys will really enjoy my crazy character maps for biochem intracellular signaling – the JAK STAT pathway involves jack in the boxes in case you’re wondering but I didn’t miss a question on that quiz so it works 🙂 if you’re current study methods are working, don’t change them! But if you need a boost, need different methods, are struggling etc. try these and don’t ever hesitate to get help –> Promedeus or the STAT program are 2 great programs I recommend! All of the above methods are courtesy of Ryan Orwig from the STAT Program. I did not make any of these up, these are his that he created and has designed specifically for medical and pharmacy students as well as pre-med, pre-vet etc. All credit goes to him. If you’re interested in his program, google him and his site will pop up. It was the best money I ever spent. Never in life do I ever worry about failing a test because I have the proper tools and techniques to keep me from doing so. Now I only try to get A’s 🙂 Hope this helps anyone out there!

Until next time,

XOXO,

Med. school queen.

MCAT: The Struggle

The dreaded MCAT… many shudder at the mere mumbling of the word. I, unfortunately, am one of those people. While many changes are on the way for the new and improved MCAT of 2015, I still would never want to sit through that exam again. Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of tweets in regards to the MCAT. Many of you are studying for it, getting ready to take it or maybe re-take it, applying to medical school, and for some this is your first time even hearing about it. One particular tweet stuck out to me though and it reads “I don’t have a 4.0, I didn’t get a 40 on my MCAT, I’ll never get accepted to medical school now.” I’m about to unfold why this statement is so absurd, and the pressure that this individual has put on themselves for thinking that requirements like this exist, is unreasonable. Yet I, too, was one of those individuals.

I’m a small town girl from a small state with about one million people in the state’s entirety. There are two Allopathic medical schools (M.D.) and one Osteopathic medical school (D.O.). For most U.S. medical schools, at least a 24 on the MCAT, an average of 8 in each section, is required to even be considered for an interview, which means you won’t get passed the first round if you don’t have at least an 8 in all categories. Sure some can get away with a 12 in 2 categories and a 7 in one, etc, but a lot of that is about who you know – and that’s life. There will always be outliers. Both M.D. schools in my state required a 24, the D.O. school did not have a minimum requirement, but had more students applying than both of the M.D. schools combined. Do note that just because the D.O. school did not have a minimum requirement, its average MCAT score was about the same as both M.D. schools. Granted, this D.O. school takes about twice as many students as the M.D. schools, an average class size of 200+ so there is a greater MCAT range. Guess who was at the bottom of that range? This girl.

My best MCAT score I ever received was a 19. “A 19, are you serious?!?” Yeah, dead serious. There, I said it. I’m not ashamed because guess what? I GOT ACCEPTED to my FIRST CHOICE school! I’m the perfect example of why one test score does not showcase an individual’s true potential, and that WE ARE MUCH MORE THAN A NUMERICAL VALUE ON A STANDARDIZED EXAM. My MCAT was my only flaw in my application, and yet somehow, with such a low score, they saw past this, and saw me for the sum of my parts, not an individual component. I might’ve aced an interview, but that’s for another day 😉

Here’s how it went down. My undergraduate school is a state funded school, no Ivy league, nothing special; it has less than 2,000 students total. We didn’t have a pre-med program, there was one “pre-med/pre-vet/pre-dental” etc. for the entire group of science majors wanting to continue their education in healthcare. Getting a couple of tips from my pre-med advisor, I thought taking the MCAT would be a breeze. “What, I only need a 24 on a scale of 1-45? That will be a piece of cake. I’ll at least get a 30.” WRONG. I went in to the exam comparing the fact that I had aced my courses in my biology major, done well on the ACT entrance exam to get into college, and had always been good at math and science and would do just fine, and I didn’t need to study. This is  flawed thinking that I would like to address that NO ONE should have. I took the exam, never studied at all for it, got an 18. I was somewhat appalled, but more shocked than anything. Now that I think about it, that’s not too terrible considering I guessed on about 75% of the physics and chemistry portion. Yikes. 

How could I get that low when I knew so many things? Obviously I attributed it to the fact I didn’t study at all, chalked it up as a loss, and scheduled to retake it. When I say didn’t study at all, I truly mean DID NOT study at all. No review book, no notes, went in cold. This was in the spring. My plan for retaking it was not even a plan, really. I bought a review book from Barnes and Noble, Baron’s I believe and I don’t recommend. It had a CD on it with a practice exam, I took it once and got a 28. My thoughts exactly, “Hey, that’s pretty good for not studying. If I just got a 28 on this practice exam, I’ll surely do better this next time!” Wrong again. I copied a few notes down from each of the sections, avoiding physics and math because I hated the subject and found it very difficult (something I also don’t recommend) and that’s about it. I retook the exam, this time I received one point higher, my now famous score of 19.

Fears flooded my mind followed by many tears wondering how it all happened, thinking I wasn’t smart enough to get into medical school, and wondering if my life-long dreams were crushed. I was helpless, I felt depressed, discouraged, and lost. If any of you are at this point, it does get better, I promise you! After doing some heavy meditating, talking to schools having already applied, and scheduling my MCAT for a 3rd and final try, I decided to break down and join a KAPLAN course. My friend was already enrolled, I won’t mention her score but it was worse than mine. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to take this course thought extremely expensive, but I will tell you now, it did me more harm than good. It works for some, for my friend, it raised her score a few points, but for me, my score worsened. How could it worsen you ask? You don’t wanna know.

To make a long story short, I interviewed with my 19. Of course they drilled me on the fact that it was so low, and asked where I went wrong, what did I do or would do differently to raise it, and mainly what happened, and I was honest with them. Honesty goes a long way and really is the best policy, especially in interviews. I explained to them that I did not think I had to study for it, and that my accumulation of knowledge from passed coursework with flying colors would suffice. One professor laughed actually, one of the same professors I have now (how ironic) and I proceeded to make a joke out of it, which is what my score is in the grand scheme of things: a joke, because even though it’s low, NO ONE CARES. It doesn’t matter now that I got in, although it was one of my major hoops I had to jump through to get into the spot I am today.

So, with all that being said, and recognizing another struggle I’ve gone through to get here, I’m here to help any of you in need (please don’t ask me to tutor you in physics though HAHA). For those of you pre-meds that this is your first time hearing about the MCAT, I do encourage you to do your research, mainly on http://www.AAMC.org and get a feel of what you will be diving into. Also, talk to peers, previous students that have taken it, get some study tips from them, and TALK to your advisor but seriously listen to them! Take what they have to heart and APPLY it. Make an agenda. You can take the MCAT anytime, but most take it in the spring of their junior year right before they apply that summer for medical school. This gives them adequate amount of time to complete all of the pre-requisites required for the MCAT and medical school. You should order a review series, I did purchase Examkrackers at the last minute, and it seemed to be the best out of the bunch for me. I loved the cartoon characters and it made it somewhat fun, although this is not my term of fun, it wasn’t as daunting. Kaplan does work for some like  I mentioned, some use Berkley Springs or Princeton Review, it’s all up to you but choose ONE source and stick to it! For those of you taking the pre-reqs now, it’s never too early to start studying. Use those books to complement your studying and truly help solidify the material. If you’re struggling and having difficulties with subjects, talk to your professors! Never be afraid to ask for help! And if you need further education because face it, some professors in undergrad downright are terrible, then take a course! Whether it’s Examkrackers, Kaplan, in person, online, whatever, do what you need to do, just make sure you have sufficient funds to do so.

Here are 10 top tips to study for the MCAT: (note: some overlap with above said comments)

1. Create a plan of attack. Make a step by step study plan. The MCAT is not something you can cram in one night, trust me. Make a study schedule, daily, weekly, and monthly. Promise yourself, and me, that you will stick to it and follow it religiously! This is YOUR JOB. Buy a planner. Usean agenda, map out what concepts of each subject need to be covered. Outline the chapters, make concept maps, memory palaces, some review books come with flashcards, set a designated time to study for it each day. No distractions! Sorry, not even reading my blog or tweets 😉 heehee. Seriously, you’ll thank me later.

2. Find a review source or use your old notes and textbooks tailored to your personal needs. Just because your friend is using Kaplan doesn’t mean you have to. One is not better than the other, people succeed with various sources, some use none at all and strictly textbooks from college. It just depends on how you want to study and what methods you want to use. Systematically review, don’t cram.

3. Take practice exams! For 35$ a test, AAMC offers practice exams with past questions on them! Great investment of your money! Simulate your testing environment so you get used to taking the exam in the same conditions: no distractions, one room, no snacks, scheduled breaks etc.

4. Analyze. Go over your practice tests, see which questions you got wrong, and analyze why you chose that answer, your though process, did you know the content or was it a test taking mistake? Did you read the question? Track your progress and keep a log. Don’t kill yourself if your scores are not where you want them to be. Relax, you’ll get there with a lot of hard work, time and dedication.

5. Get in shape physically! While your mind is getting in shape preparing for the exam, get in shape physically! DO NOT cut out meals, exercise, sleep, etc. just to cram in as much studying as possible. This will set you up for failure and with a proper schedule, there’s no need to cut any of this out. Physical exercise increases blood flow to the brain, improves memory, and increases concentration are just a few among a plethora of good things fitness does for us! Eat healthy also – your body needs to run on good fuel, you wouldn’t put regular gasoline in a Lamborghini would you? No. Don’t put crap into your body! Your body and MIND will thank you!

6. Get in shape emotionally! Taking the MCAT is a mind-numbing, daunting task that is more than 5 hours long, give or take. Set time for yourself to meditate, pray, relax, each day! If you have anxiety, find ways to rid this. De-stress by performing a variety of activities (ahem, see tip 5). Take scheduled breaks but don’t get carried away. Study 50 minutes, off ten in 4 hour increments.

7. Find a study buddy. Odds are, your friends will be taking it too! Go to the library, you don’t necessarily have to study together, but make yourselves accountable for the material by studying in the same room. Studying alone is great but you can learn so much from another person and they can also from you! Keep your study group to a minimum, no more than 4 people. It’s important to keep good group dynamics and more than 4 sets up for easier distraction. Keep a time limit, keep everyone on task, and make it a scheduled activity.

8. Familiarize yourself. The MCAT is like no other test. Research it, learn it, live it, love it. While you do need to know the content, you need to know how to take it! Brush up on your test-taking techniques and improve on them. Taking the test is one thing, knowing the material is another.

9. Plan your test day. Think positive thoughts! Always! Plan everything out. Get a good night’s rest a couple days before, try not to stress, get up early that day, have a good breakfast with complex carbs for long-lasting energy, bring healthy snacks, avoid a lot of caffeine, drink water, and dress comfortably. Know where the testing center is so you can avoid any confusion or traffic the day of. It’s amazing what being in a calm, proper mindset can do for you.

10. Consult your colleagues. It helps to get a view from someone else’s eyes. Talk to students that have taken it before, talk to your teachers, anyone that knows about it. It can put your mind at ease. If you don’t wanna discuss your scores with others, don’t! It’s no one’s business but your own. However, it is very beneficial and insightful to learn from others and see where they went wrong so you can improve yourself! —> Hi 🙂

In conclusion, if any of you are discouraged by your score or are struggling, thinking it’s the end of the world, don’t fret, don’t think you aren’t smart enough because you are. They say the score is supposed to be a helpful indication of how well you’ll do in medical school and that’s not necessarily true. Example being: I know a guy who got a 21. He graduated 3RD in his class of 120 students from medical school. That’s a HUGE accomplishment. So many pre-meds think you have to get a 45 on the MCAT or you’re finished, can only take it once etc. Don’t think your career is over, because it probably isn’t. Is it harder to get in with a lower score? Absolutely, so make sure your app is a killer. But is it impossible? No! Look at me, with my silly 19, taken more than once, that no one ever knew about until now. Not every app is perfect and if yours contains flaws, so what. You’re unique. You’re HUMAN. NO ONE is perfect, and don’t kill yourself trying to be. Whatever you do, don’t count yourself out. Where there is a will, there’s a way, and you CAN get in somewhere, whether it’s M.D., D.O. in or outside the U.S. etc. just promise me that you’ll never give up on your dreams.

XOXO