Machu Picchu And A Journey In Medicine

I recently finished a three day trek to Machu Picchu. The “Lost City of the Incas” is perched atop an incredible ridge, overlooking the surrounding mountain ranges and a beautiful valley below. It is the definition of impressive.

The trek to Machu Picchu was difficult but exciting. We combined mountain biking, river rafting and a decent amount of hiking (including the final ascent to Machu Picchu at 4AM!). We started on top a 4,300 meter mountain, passed through jungle, hiked old Inca trails, tasted freshly picked coffee beans and swam in an ice cold stream among other adventures. The whole trek, from start to destination was amazing.

I have been thinking about the journey to becoming a physician and what it has to do with my recent trek. I like the concept of a “journey”. It is the reason behind the name of this blog.

Journeys are fun. They take you places you´ve never been before. You see new and wonderful things. And if you make it to the end you are rewarded with the  joy of reaching your destination.

Journeys are also challenging. You may have hardships and setbacks. They may be painful at times. You may have the heartbreak of not reaching your destination.

I wonder if pre med students are enjoying the journey to med school. Is your pre med journey fun? Are you having great experiences and learning? Are you perservering through the hard times and using them as an opportunity for growth?

Or are you just jumping through hoops longing for the destination?

Summer is a great time to explore these questions. There are no right answers. But consider this: if pre med life is constantly miserable for you, what makes you think that will change once you get into medical school?

Photo Credit

How To Find A Mentor

As part of my post on 5 powerful goals for pre med students, I recommended finding a mentor. Mentors can help you develop leadership ability, inspire you or help you become a better student. But how do you find a solid mentor?

Here are a few suggestions to help you brainstorm about where to look for a mentor and how to approach a potential mentor.

Where To Look For A Mentor

Your School Mentoring Program. This one is easy. Many schools have a mentoring program set up that will connect you with local professionals in fields you are interested in. At my college the mentoring program is affiliated with the school of business but they had no problem finding a doctor with tons of global health experience to be my mentor. Look into programs at your school.

Leadership positions. If you have participated in any leadership positions in college you most likely had an advisor or supervisor. If this is someone you look up to and have a positive relationship with they can make a great mentor.

Professors. Hopefully you have had some great professors in college. Why not ask one you respect to be a mentor?

Anyone else you look up to. An older fellow employee. Your family doctor. The only requirements are someone you respect and get along with well.

How To Approach A Potential Mentor

The first step is to consider what you´re looking to get out of a mentoring relationship. Are you looking to learn more about being a physician? Is there a particular area you´re looking to grow in? Do you have a personal goal and want someone to hold you accountable for it?

How you ask someone to be a mentor depends on the current relationship you have with them. Face to face interactions are always best. If you feel comfortable, set up a time to share some coffee or meet in their office. If not, an email will suffice. Either way, choose your words carefully.

Ideally you explain why you are looking for a mentor, what you are looking to get out of a mentoring relationship and why you are choosing this specific person. Keep it to the point.

Finally be sure not to corner someone into making a decision on the spot. Make it clear they have time to make a decision.

Here is a brief example of what you could say in an email or in person:

“I understand you are a very busy person but I have a request for you to think about. I highly respect you as a physician and see you as someone I could learn a lot from about medicine. Would you consider meeting once or a twice a month to talk about life in medicine?”

Final Thoughts

I know this may be hard to do. You have to put yourself out there and it may be awkward. If you ask and they say no, it may create some tension for a little while.

Just remember this: It is worth it.

A little time and effort now could result in a influential relationship for a long time. Go for it.

Photo credit


5 Powerful Summer Goals For Pre Med Students

Congratulations on finishing the school year! Here are some simple yet powerful goals to work on during the summer.

    Relax
    While it’s natural to want to avoid boredom during the summer, being just as busy as during the school year defeats the purpose of a break. The summer between my sophomore and junior year of college I worked 20 hours a week and took a full year of Anatomy and Physiology. It was terrible. At the end of my Junior year I was burnt out. Do not do this. Find time to relax, read some good books, go on a vacation and give that brain a little well deserved rest.
    Get Medical Experience.
    Volunteer at a non-profit clinic, clean rooms in a hospital, shadow your family physician or try to find a job as an ER Scribe. The point is not to bolster your application but rather to better understand medicine and to be sure it is the right path for you.
    Find A Mentor.
    I wrote about this a while back. Mentors can challenge and inspire you. One mentor I met with has gone on over 30 medical mission trips (recently returning from Haiti). Talking with him always reminded me why I wanted to go into medicine. Take the summer to think about who might best mentor you and respectfully ask them.
    Read Medical Blogs.
    There are excellent physician and medical student blogs out there. It’s a great way to get an unfiltered perspective on medicine from the eyes of those actually practicing it. A few of my favorite are ER Stories, Vitum Medicinus, KevinMD, Med School Memoir, Agraphia and Jae Won Joh.
    Reflect.
    Take some time to think about the past school year. What study habits worked for you? Is there a subject that particularly interested you that you may want to do some research on? What were the highs and lows of the year?
    After reflecting on the past year, take some time to consider the coming school year. If you want to bump up your GPA, what grades will you have to get in your classes to meet your goal? If you’re going to take the MCAT, what is your ideal score? How can you simplify your life to reduce stress?

Working on these simple goals over the summer will help you have a great start to the next year. Do you have any other goals for the summer?

Hello, My Name Is Steve

My name is Steve Krager and I write for MD Journey. Here’s a picture of me climbing a big mountain in Peru a few weeks ago:
steve

I thought writing anonymously would give me more freedom but I am only feeling more restricted. So from now on I’ll be writing as me, Steve. Nice to meet you.

My Pre Med Journey

I grew up outside of Portland, Oregon and went to college at Seattle Pacific University. I graduated in 2008 with a degree in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Spanish. I loved SPU.

I went to college with the vague idea of doing missionary or international development work. I changed my sophomore year to pre med. It sucked at first. I was a valedictorian in high school but my first quarter of college Biology I barely scraped by with a B-. My first General Chemistry exam I scored a 64%.

Ugh. Do I really want to do this pre med thing? I pushed through, found a tutor in chemistry, discovered more effective study methods and started to improve. I pulled out a B in Gen Chem I. Gen Chem II, an A-. I made strides in Biology, slowly.

I graduated with a 3.65 overall GPA with a science GPA of about 3.4. In January of 2009 I took the MCAT and scored a 32M. The last two years I have worked as an ER Scribe.

Last summer I started the medical school application process. After 12 secondary applications and 8 interviews I was accepted at 6 medical schools and waitlisted at 2. I will be attending Creighton University School of Medicine in August. I’ve been in Peru the last two months watching births and dressing newborns in a public health clinic. It’s been amazing.

I’m passionate about global health and living a remarkable life. My faith is a huge part of why I want to be a physician. I am also passionate about helping pre med students navigate the journey to medical school. I believe deeply that you can be a great pre med student and have an awesome life at the same time.

I’m hoping to be a great medical student and have an awesome life too.

So that’s my story. Any questions?

Keep up with the blog and I’ll be sharing more personal stories about my pre med journey, research on how to study and take tests effectively and other useful pre med content.

What’s your pre med story?

Applying To Medical School This Summer? Check Out This Checklist

If you are applying to medical school for the 2011 cycle, hopefully you have started working on your primary application. If not, it’s ok, you still have some time. Click for AMCAS (MD applications) or AACOMAS (DO applications) to get get going!

Here is a checklist of things you need to keep track of for your application.

    Transcripts. You must send your transcripts from every college you attended (even if you only took a class) to AMCAS or AACOMAS.
    Letters of Reccomendation. If you have not asked for letters of reccomendation yet, today is the day. If you’re applying to DO schools, do they need a letter from an osteopathic physician?
    Personal Statement. This is your time to shine. Do you have a good working 1st draft? Have you asked for feedback from multiple sources who know you well? Make sure you edit carefully! Check out this post from a med student on how to ace the personal statement. Hat tip: Pre Med Hell
    MCAT. If you’ve taken it already, great. If not, do you have a study plan? Have you thought about what you will do if your score is not as high as you would like?
    AMCAS or AACOMAS (or both). Even if you have your personal statement done and all your activities listed, this can be a huge time sink. The most time consuming part? Probably entering in every grade from every class you have taken. It’s maddening.
    Money. Applying to medical school is expensive. Do you have enough money saved up? Think around $500 for the primary application, and then about $100 per secondary application. Then flying for interviews. It all adds up very quickly.

The application is long, but do not be discouraged. In the big scheme of actually getting into medical school, you are towards the end of the road. Finish strong.

Photo

BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Improve Studying with a ¨Winner´s Brain¨

I stumbled across this article from Harvard Medical School called ¨Cultivating a ´Winner´s Brain´¨ which has several applications for pre med students.

When procrastination is a problem, the issue may be that the task at hand seems too big to accomplish. The authors suggest that people first envision or “map” the multiple steps necessary for reaching an ultimate goal, and then concentrate on achieving each step.

How many people have had trouble starting a large task? The key is breaking the project down into steps. Whether it´s a huge lab report or studying for a final, this is how to tackle it.

Multitasking — can take a toll on the brain. In a study of 14 participants who underwent fMRI, researchers at Vanderbilt University found that when people try to juggle two tasks at once, a bottleneck occurs in information processing. The posterior lateral prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that is involved in decision making, delayed one task until the other was complete.

This backs up Study Hacks´ idea of hard focus.

The article also notes that sleep, nutrition and exercise are all vital to keeping your brain healthy. Do all of these things! You will be happier, plus you´ll do better in college!

Pre Med Resources

495524570_415c91b283_mThis is the best list of relevant websites, articles and blogs regarding the pre med journey that you will find on the internet. Bookmark this. I’ll be updating the list as I find more useful info.

Pre Med Basics

MCAT Links

Perhaps the most dreaded part of the pre med journey. Be not afraid.

Medical School Application

Best Books for Pre Meds

These are books that I have either read and used or heard great things about.

Pre Med and Med Student Blogs

Pre Med Forums


Top 99!

According to rn-to-lpn.net this blog is one of the top 99 blogs for pre med students to read. Wahoo!

While I’m shooting for something better than top 99, I’ll take what I can get. : )

Look forward to more posts in the near future- I’m finally done with all my secondar applications and for various reasons should have more free time in the next month or so.

Do you find Premed Journey helpful? Spread the word, tell your friends, post helpful articles on your own blog, etc. Think I can improve the site? Send me an e-mail (sam (at)premedjourney.com) and let me know your thoughts!

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:

http://35and35.wordpress.com/

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