Sunday, August 17, 2008

my white coat is short

Since I became premed, and especially since I was accepted to med school, people have automatically assumed that I have advanced medical knowledge and wish to make use of my consultation right then in there in the bar by showing me their rash. Unless your rash is in the shape of an organic chemistry problem, I am less help than the bartender (who has an uncomfortably advanced understanding of modern medicine). I know nothing about medicine. My major was cognitive science, I work in a radiation oncology clinic, and I work as a personal trainer, so unless your question has to do with EEG patterns in visuo-spatial tasks, is broad and related to cancer, or is an exercise question, my knowledge is vastly limited by the fact that I HAVEN’T GONE THROUGH A SINGLE DAY OF MEDICAL SCHOOL. I KNOW NOTHING.

Decisions Decisions

In mere days, nay mere hours if promises can be kept in this modern world of ours, I will hear the final decisions from the last of my schools. Six months since interviews, nine months since finishing applications, ten months since I began applying, over a year and a half since the MCAT and six years since I decided, one sultry summer that I, Meat, wanted to be a doctor and in mere hours I will be faced with that reality.

Well a portion of that reality; I will know what school I am attending. Actually I will only know where I am attending if my top choice schools don’t waitlist me. If I am waitlisted I get to play OT and wait til I either get placed off a waitlist or am finally rejected for good. This can take until August. But Meat, doesn’t school start in august? How observant of you, why yes classes do start in August. Supposedly one can be taken off a waitlist up to two weeks after classes start. And that isn’t some statistical anomaly reserved for the really evil premeds. The one’s who wrote molecular orbit filling sequences on their hands for tests or who pushed the smaller premeds down and stole their mass spectrometry printouts, this happens regularly to good hearted, hard working premeds like you and me (well you).

Schools are, by AMCAS law, required to make decisions by March 15*, but through the magic of the waitlist, the schools can check the “maybe” box and hand you back your note as you stare blankly at the unchecked “yes”/“no” boxes on your “do you like me” letter. This leaves you with 6 more months of uncertainty, second guessing and making extravagant deals with the deity of your choice, just to get an answer. I can’t wait. Actually all I’ve done is wait for over a year, I’ve become quite good at it.

*Update: I have no fucking clue where I got this date. It’s not true at all. I didn’t hear from my last school until March 30th and I didn’t hear from a single school on the 15th. I’m an idiot.

Interview: Part Duece (read the bottom one first, silly)

Continued… If you do make it to the room, you sit down with an interviewer and try to relax. In books and handouts about interviews, they often suggest that you have friends interview you or even tape yourself to see if you have any ticks or mannerisms that will compromise your composure. I can’t think of anything in the world that would put me more in my head than knowing that in an interview I do something distracting like tap my foot or blink. There is something to be said for just being yourself and hoping that it is enough considering that’s the person who will be a doctor, not Interview Version You (who is a tool anyway).

The actual structure of the interview ranges. I had faculty interviewers, deans, students, panels, old, young, researchers, clinicians, I think I was interviewed by a stapler at one school. And within those people, some don’t see any information about you, some see only your personal statements, and some see everything. Then they ask you questions based on what they can see. They are generally straight forward; if you put it down on an application, they will ask you about it. Still, some will ask weird questions no matter what. I was asked what was on my mp3 player and what did that say about me. I was asked, in reference to my personal statement highlighting how I was looking forward to the detective work in medicine, what I thought daily medicine was really like; essentially he was saying, “medicine is fucking boring”. I had several interviews stopped for phone calls, and not the patient-in-need calls, but the Timmy-calling-to-get-picked-up-from-soccer-practice calls. One interview was stopped for 5 minutes to talk about a hawk that had recently set up residency outside the interviewers window. All in all, you leave the interview well dressed, emotionally exhausted, and almost always thinking it went well but knowing that only one in two get the crown and a chance to thank their parents. I can only hope I am that lucky gal.

The Interview: Part Uno

Med school interviews are hilariously like the Miss America pageant for nerds. We all don our best dress attire, which of course means our most boring. God forbid we ruffle the feathers of a 200 year history of medical education by wearing a pin striped shirt or letting our peepee dangle out. Once we look our most funeral like, we get together with the other contestants, and, even though we are all highly qualified just by the sheer fact that we made it past premed, the mcat, primary applications, secondary applications, and to the interview, you spend most of your time with a fake smile asking where everyone is from and then trying as hard as you can to judge this person with such force that their stats as an applicant will explode from their head like a piƱata.

You then sit in a waiting room for what can be hours, waiting to get called for an interview. The staff will often tell you in the polite accent of their region that you can get up and explore or use the internet in the library and of course not one person moves, not even molecularly. You can see people actually defying their own physiology and stopping their heart from beating lest a systole be construed as an applicant indicating their dissatisfaction with the current situation of sitting statue like in a chair while the sweat swells in their armpits, forming small bodies of water. And as chummy as you get with the other applicants by the end of an often 6 hour excursion, as soon as they pull up that statistic that essentially says 1 in 2 of those interviewed get acceptances you consider the pros and cons of pulling the staple out of your financial aid packet and turning the guy next to you into a sieve. Of course you don't because you are there to help people, not turn them into devices for straining pasta, but thoughts of that sort often cross your mind.

Finally, you get called to the actual interview. This process ranges from being taken to a room a few feet from the waiting room to being given a room number and asked to go find the room with directions that were modeled after those given to Columbus to find India. The interview room, if not close, is often in the affiliated hospital. If you have ever been to a hospital, you know that they all follow the same basic architectural design originally given to the Minotaur. More to come.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

hurting people bad, helping people good

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction books related to medicine and becoming a doctor. Maybe it’s because I’m excited to go, maybe it’s because I’m bored during these massive months standing between me and going, or maybe it’s because I’m a huge nerd (Physically. I’m around 200lbs.) Whatever the case may be, they are enlightening, enthralling, exhilarating and balls scary. All of them contain some story of the author as an intern or resident fucking something up and a patient experiencing unnecessary pain, unnecessary procedures or unnecessary death. It’s not that they are inept, stupid or careless; it’s that they are human. Fallible, inconsistent, easily influenced humans. Mistakes are inevitable.

This scares the poop right out and into my pants. These honest mistakes, from good doctors, usually result from a comedy of errors where the end result is not so comical. It’s usually a case of information passing through too many hands and a tired overwhelmed intern, resident or attending overlooking or wrongly interpreting something and someone gets hurt as a result. I don’t want to hurt anyone and I’m scared poopless that I will.

Now every time I make a mistake counting my client’s reps or spilling my milk from my cereal bowl, I think, “In a few years, that milk will be someone’s blood. And for some reason I am carrying it in a bowl. And have poured frosted flakes over it. And now I’ve spilled it. And that person really needed me to carry that blood in this bowl with the frosted flakes. And now they are hurt as a result of my careless error.” Man that frightens me.


A post-op transsexual told me I should go into gynecology because I’m good at talking to and understanding women. I’m not sure how to take that. Also, what an idiot, no I’m not.

Monday, January 28, 2008


I just finished my secondary applications which means I’m finally done applying. For those who don’t know how med school apps work, the secondary is a device for the schools to get a bit more information on you, gain some insight into your personality, and net thousands upon thousands of dollars. Each secondary costs anywhere from 50-125 bucks just for the privilege of filling one out. This in and of itself is not unexpected, what is bothersome however, is that there is no cut off between filling out the universal application and the secondary application. Very few schools (2 out of 17 that I applied to) actually look at your primary and make decisions more revealing than, “yes this application exists” . The majority of schools wait for your primary app, your secondary app and your letters of rec before making a selection. So if a school automatically rejects applicants below a 3.5 g.p.a. and you are below that, instead of outright cutting you, they will ask you for a secondary, have you spend hours filling out enthralling questions like, “describe an adverse time in your life and how you got through it” or “what does learning mean to you” and spend upwards of $100 just to be immediately rejected without ever reading a word about your difficult time making friends at theatre camp.