35 pounds, 35 on MCAT- a new blog to check out

I found a great new blog written by a student who is doing post-bac pre med requirements. The author’s name is Mel and her writing skills far surpass my own. She has a goal of losing 35 pounds and getting a 35 on the MCAT by the end of the year.

The blog serves as a sort of journal of her progress, and I’m grateful for the effort she puts into it as it is an entertaining read.

Check it out here:


Good luck Mel, I hope you achieve you goals and look forward to reading about your adventures along the way.

Restructuring pre-med requirements?

Here’s an interesting article I stumbled across titled Changes could be coming for Pre-Meds and the MCAT. It’s worth reading, especially if you’re early in the pre med process.

Here’s an excerpt:

Say 10 years from now, your recommendations have been implemented. How is a typical pre-med’s life different from today?

It’s going to open up the ability to colleges to be more innovative and — this is the key word — interdisciplinary in teaching. We could envision courses where you learn physics and chemistry and biology in the same course and see how they interrelate to each other, whereas right now a pre-med takes, say, a year of physics, a year of chemistry, a year of organic chemistry.

The hope is that these science courses will be much more interesting. Pre-med students and biology undergraduates will be drawn in by how fascinating science is, rather than seeing it as this awful thing to get through in order to get to medical school.

Interesting ideas. I’m curious who they would get to teach such classes that would combine physics, chemistry and biology. It sounds great, and I would love to know more about how those disciplines interact, but making that actually happen may take some time.

The article seems to suggest that changes in the MCAT may take even more time. And they were short on specifics.

Do you have any suggestions for how the pre med process could be improved?

Words I Want to Avoid as a Physician: Asymptomatic

I’m starting a new series of posts called “Words I Want to Avoid as a Physician.” 3593239363_a69f948bfe_o

A huge chunk of my day as an ER Scribe is spent observing patient-doctor interactions. Too often I’ve seen physicians use a medical word or phrase that 90% of the time the general population would not know. Unfortunately, some doctors completely miss the fact that their patients are utterly confused.  They feel they have adequately described what was necessary and leave the patient’s room even as the patient’s face clearly is asking, “WTF did he/she just say?”

In especially obvious cases I’m tempted to stay and offer a short explanation, but I’m basically tethered to the physician I’m working with so I risk being left behind and missing something important. Thus, I leave too.

This example of poor communication furthers the disconnect between patients and physicians. Patients nearly always are initially at a position lower than their physician, as they are coming in saying, “I don’t know what is going on, you’re the expert, please figure it out.”

Clearly there are times when certain terminology may communicate most accurately what a physician is trying to explain. But is it the most effective way to communicate? If you describe something accurately but the other party has no idea what you’re talking about, what is accomplished?

With this in mind, I’m keeping track of words and phrases that most often appear to trip up patients and their families. This is mostly for my benefit, so I can go back and read this list when I’m actually practicing medicine and see if I’m actually meeting my own ideals. My goal is to be able to use simple, clear language without coming across as patronizing. Some doctors I work with are great at it, and it’s their example I hope to follow.

My first word/phrase? Asymptomatic. It means without symptoms. Example that I hear often that throws people off: “How long have you been asymptomatic?”

This question is usually answered with a blank stare.

Alternative question: How long have you not had (such and such symptom, cough, fever etc)?

I hope you enjoy the series! I’m cooking up a post about a crazy story in the ER from the other day, stay tuned…

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The Dark Side: Malpractice and Burnout

Today, links to some great medical blog posts. A common theme ties them together: the darker side of medicine. I think it’s important for pre med students to try and understand the whole picture of practicing medicine.

The first post comes from Kim at Emergiblog. Burnout occurs across all careers but I think it is especially important to be wary of in health care. Kim says,

I had stopped looking patients in the eye. I was spitting out standard responses instead of listening to what my patients were saying. I was expending the bare minimum of energy required to complete tasks.

I was doing; I wasn’t caring.

And I was burnt.

Check out the rest of the post here.

Next, I want to highlight a series of posts by Whitecoat at Whitecoat’s Call Room. Starting a couple weeks back, Whitecoat started outlining the story of his own medical malpractice trial. What he delivers is a surprisingly gripping account of a crazy process. Read the disclaimer here, then check out the first four posts in the yet to be finished series.

Post 1. Post 2. Post 3. Post 4.

Here’s a quote from the first post,

After reading through the chart, I remembered the patient. Nice older fellow who was laughing and joking with the staff when he first came in. I also remembered the patient’s daughter. As soon as she arrived, she began questioning everything we did and everything I ordered. I remember asking her if she had any suggestions for her father’s care. She wanted him transferred to his regular doctor at a hospital across town. By the time she made that request, he was already in shock and we couldn’t transfer him. That made her even more upset. Fortunately, because of the daughter’s animosity, I documented that chart very well.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the series!

My MCAT Strategy- Part 1

I took the MCAT Jan 31st, and am very happy with the 32 I received. Now that I have a good score back I feel comfortable sharing the methods I used to achieve that score. 936394705_3de472288a_b

(New to the MCAT? Check out my basic MCAT overview)

Let me preface this by admitting that I did not study as much as I could have. I say this not to sound arrogant, but rather to give you hope that it is possible to score well without sacrificing your entire life for 6 months. It still takes a lot of hard work, but don’t dread studying for the MCAT thinking that it will take over your life.

That said, here are a couple tips and strategies that I found useful.

Take as many Biology, Chemistry and Physics classes as possible before taking the test.

Because I decided to take time off before medical school, I finished a degree in Biology and a minor in Chemistry before taking the MCAT. This helped immensely. Biology classes hammer home the basic concepts (even if it’s just a quick review in the advanced courses), which is what you really need to know for the MCAT. I struggled the most with the Physical sciences section, which directly corresponded to the amount of General Physics and Chemistry classes I had taken.

Practice Tests. Start taking them early and take as many as possible.

I took two practice MCAT exams early on in my studying (5 months and 3 months before the test) to identify weak areas. Then I studied those weak areas and did a quick overview. With about 3 weeks til the test I started taking practice tests more often. Again I identified the weak areas and focused my studying there.

While practice tests are useful for identifying weak areas to study they are most useful to give you an idea of the pace of the real test. You need to know about how much time you can spend on each passage.

I found some practice tests from the local library, but the most useful are the tests you can by directly from the AAMC. Click here to access these tests. Be ready to drop $35 per test. Lame, I know.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my MCAT strategy. I’ll give some more tips and talk about the types of preparation material I used.

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