Links: Back To Work Edition

I’m back working as an ER Scribe for a few shifts before I head off to medical school. I actually found myself missing work when I was on my little excursion to Peru. Just a little. It’s good to be back to work and I’ve found the scribing is just like riding a bike, it all comes back to you.

Most of all it just makes me excited to be a real doctor some day. That some day being about four years away now.

Anyway, here are some links I’ve found recently that are relevant to the Pre Med Journey:

Thanks to Hack College for discovering that Amazon is offering Amazon Prime free to students for a year. That’s free two-day shipping on most stuff from Amazon, pretty cool! Check out this link to sign up for Amazon Student.

-Another classic post from Cal Newport at Study Hacks titled “Treat Your Mind As You Would A Private Garden.” There are plenty of parallels between tending a garden and nurturing your mind and he makes some interesting insights.

(Sidenote: I just picked up Cal’s book “How To Become A Straight-A Student.” So far it’s awesome, look forward to a full review soon.)

Trent over at the Simple Dollar reveals one of his biggest financial mistakes: Using excess student loans to finance an unnecessary lifestyle during college. It may seem common sense to some people, but when thousands of seemingly “free” dollars are staring you in the face it can be difficult to turn them down. Don’t make the same mistake Trent did.

-I recently joined Premed Network, an online community for pre meds. While it is still fairly new, a significant number (over 1,400) of people have already joined. You can see this site is brimming with potential and I’m excited to see where it goes. Check out my profile here.

-The Memoirist over at A Med School Memoir talks about his first week during the third year of medical school. A nice glimpse into a med student’s life, although his experience so far is a little discouraging.

Hope July is going well!

The Financial Cost Of Applying To Medical School

If you are currently applying to medical school you are probably encountering a harsh reality: it is not cheap. So what sort of expenses will you be looking at?

In this post I will break down exactly how much I spent during the entire med school application process from the MCAT to deposits holding an acceptance. This will give you an idea of the costs to apply and then plan accordingly. I’ll also toss in where I saved money, some of which I mentioned in this post.

The MCAT

  • MCAT Test Fee: $225
  • MCAT Practice Exams from the AAMC (3 at $35 each): $105
  • Lost wages due to giving up shifts to study: $360

Total MCAT Cost: $690

How I Saved Money

  • I chose to self-study as opposed to taking an expensive review course. $1500-$2000 in savings.
  • I borrowed the Examkrackers MCAT Complete Study Package from a friend. $110 in savings.
  • I used practice tests and material from the local library. $35 per test.

Primary and Secondary Application Fees

  • Applications to 7 MD schools through AMCAS: $346
  • Applications to 8 DO schools through AACOMAS: $390
  • Secondary application fees to 13 different medical schools: $1,110

Total Application Fees: $1,846

How I Saved Money

  • I chose not to complete secondary applications for 2 MD schools. Approx. $200 in savings.

Interview Costs (7 Interviews)

  • New Suit, Shirt and Tie: $220
  • Flights to 4 cites for 5 interviews: $823
  • Hotels (2 nights): $140
  • Rental car for one interview: $100
  • Gas money to the other 2 interviews: $50

Total Interview Costs: $1,333

How I Saved Money

  • One flight was free as I earned a voucher on a previous flight. $300 in savings.
  • At three interviews I stayed with student hosts instead of hotels. $210 in savings.
  • I turned down interviews to 2 DO schools and 1 MD school. Perhaps $1200 in savings.
  • I scheduled back-to-back interviews saving another flight. $400 in savings.

Miscellaneous Costs

  • Nonrefundable deposits to hold acceptance spots at two osteopathic schools: $2,000
  • Deposit to confirm acceptance at Creighton University: $100
  • Thank you notes with gift cards for everyone that wrote me a letter of recommendation: $55

Total Miscellaneous: $2,155

Grand Total: $6,024

Wow, that’s a lot of money. No doubt about it, applying to medical school is expensive. I feel like I did a lot to cut down on costs too. Adding up my potential savings comes to approximately $4,290.

Hopefully you can use this post to gauge how much you will spend to apply to medical school. I recommend planning ahead and saving that money, unless you’re lucky enough to have parental support.

Have I missed any other costs? Does this compare to your experience applying to medical school?

A Slight Change Of Plans

Our brains are funny. When we make a decision and start planning, it is often difficult to change direction when another option presents itself. Like a large, dense object travelling at a certain velocity, our decision has momentum that takes a lot of force to change (that’s for all those studying MCAT physics).

A few months ago I was accepted at the Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine. I was excited, as this was my top choice among DO schools. As I traveled through Peru I waited to hear from the two MD schools I interviewed at, my state school OHSU and Creighton University. I love my home city of Portland and being in Peru made me surprisingly homesick. Therefore I started hoping to get into OHSU.  Unfortunately I was waitlisted at OHSU with a terrible ranking that essentially ensured my fate (only 87 more people need to give up their spot, I got a chance, right? Nope).

So I started getting excited about DMU. They had accepted me, and I really enjoyed the school. Creighton was great too, but as I was still waiting it did not feel like a real option. DMU was real, so I focused on it.

That changed a little over a week ago, when I was accepted at Creighton School of Medicine.

Initially I was torn. I had spent over a month getting excited about DMU. The campus was smaller at DMU and I felt more comfortable there. Tuition is more reasonable. At first I didn’t want to change my mind.

Then I started having conversations with friends and family. I remembered that one of my biggest motivation for becoming a physician is to do international work. I remembered that osteopathic physcians have full practice rights in only 50 countries. I just spent three months learning about medicine in Peru, and if I became an osteopathic physician I would not be able to return and actually practice medicine.

We can debate the MD vs DO thing for a long time (do a search over at SDN if you really want to have some fun) but at the end of the day I don’t want that limitation hanging over me.

Therefore, I’m ecstatic to announce that I will be attending Creighton University School of Medicine. This is certainly a change of plans, but one that I am very excited about. Once I pushed my mind to past that initial block to consider my choices, the right decision was clear.

So what’s the lesson here? Well first, the med school admissions process is crazy. Although I was disappointed at times, ultimately I had options which was a blessed position to be in. Second, when presented with a new option that changes your plans, take some time to really consider it carefully. Talk it over with people who know you well. I’m glad I did.

Go Jays!

Dr Atul Gawande- Physician, Writer, Role Model

Last year I attended a lecture by Dr Atul Gawande, a physician with several best selling books (Complications, Better and most recently The Checklist Manifesto) who came into prominence due to an article he wrote in June 2009 for the New Yorker called The Cost Conundrum. It is well worth your time to read it.

The article became popular after President Obama read it and brought it into a meeting with several senators regarding health care reform. Since then Dr Gawande has increasingly been seen as an innovative voice in regards to improving health care quality while controlling costs.

Based on the speech I heard, that distinction is well deserved. He is an impressive speaker. He explains complex issues clearly and is a talented story teller. Most of all, he is inspiring. He sincerely believes that we can improve health care and he’s so passionate about it that you can’t help but want to come along for the ride.

One of his main points was that when examining outcomes and making comparisons in medicine the most useful comparison is not looking at good vs. bad, but rather good vs. great. Most physicians and hospitals in the USA fall somewhere along the good spectrum. Dr Gawande argued that the best way to to improve care is to observe who is standing out and doing the best, then examine why that is the case and how that can be emulated in other places.

At the end of the lecture they allowed a question and answer period. The questions were written on note cards by audience members during the lecture. My question was picked! I asked,

‘What can medical students be doing while in school to make sure that they become great?”

His answer was brief and basically touched on two points.

1. Medicine is become more and more collaborative, so the better you work in a team environment the better a physician you will be. Practice working with other people.

2. Take the initiative to learn things on your own.

Medical school starts next month. I’ll do my best to become a great physician, with Dr Gawande as a role model. Maybe someday I’ll write some bestsellers too!

Have you read any of Dr Gawande’s books? What did you think?

Med School Update, Home Sweet Home Edition

It has been a busy past few months! After traveling in Peru for nearly three months I’m now back in the states enjoying the beautiful northwest summer. The transition back has been smooth, save for a minor illness (which thankfully was not some strange tropical disease).

Now I’m in full preparing for med school mode. Right now, this mostly means spending time with friends and family. Soon it will mean working out all the details for a move halfway across the country. I’m also going over the “DMU Primer” which is reviewing some basic science stuff.

I hope you have enjoyed the more frequent posting the last couple months. In case you’ve missed some of the newer posts, here are a few highlights:

My review of the Examkrackers MCAT Complete Study Package

10 Great MCAT Study Tips

How To Save Money During The Medical School Admissions Process

Thanks for reading and commenting. The blog has been growing in readers lately and it would be great for this to continue. Tell your friends and share articles you find useful!

How To Use Google Docs To Streamline The Secondary Application Process

Sending primary applications to fifteen medical schools means you will like receive fifteen secondary applications from those schools, provided you meet some minimum requirements for those schools. I used Google Docs to streamline getting these applications done for three reasons: I could work on the essay questions at any computer with internet, the work is constantly saved and I did not have to worry about accidental deletion.

Getting fifteen secondary applications within the span of a few weeks is naturally overwhelming. Each school is different. Most have web-based applications, some do not. Some want pictures. Most have additional essay questions. All need varying amounts of application fees varying from $50 to $250.

All this amounts to a staggering amount of information to keep track of. In this post I’ll describe how to organize all that information and keep it in a secure place using Google Docs.

Here’s what to do.

First, create a separate folder for secondary applications. Then, create a unique document for each school. I titled the documents with the name of the school and when I got the application. This document will be where you collect any and all information pertaining to that application.

Here are 4 examples of what you might might put in it. Keep it simple.

1. A To Do List. May include sending extra transcripts, paying the application fee, uploading or printing a picture, finalizing references and completing essay questions.

2. Address to Send The Application (for paper applications).

3. Application Fee Amount.

4. Essay questions.

Most of the time I used these documents to work on essay questions. Having all the information in one place was handy too, especially keeping track of when I received the application. When I finished the essay questions I would print and edit them, then copy and paste them into the application. Easy as pie.

That’s it. It’s a simple system but it works and it cuts down on a lot of paperwork. Hope it’s useful to those currently in the application process.