Cake or pie?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

MCAT: Check

Yesterday I took the MCAT, I signed up for the 8 a.m. administration and it went pretty well. I took a few practice exams and self-studied for the exam using a schedule I found over the past several months, and kind of hybridized it. Before taking it and after taking it you're reminded that you can't disclose any information regarding the material on the exam, i.e. what specifically the questions were or what the prompts were for the writing sample. So I'm not doing that, of course.

On the elevator ride up, it was just me and another guy, about my height but Asian. We chatted a little bit, since we were both going to the same floor, and wished each other good luck. I forgot to mention I don't believe in luck, I believe in good preparation. Maybe that's the Boy Scout (actually Eagle Scout) in me? So what was my impression of the administration? Check-in was easy, it's a computer-based test, so I gave the desk person my ID, they checked it against my registration, and they gave me a tray to put my wallet/extra stuff in, which I put in one of their lockers. The only items allowed on my person during the exam were the locker key and my ID.

They told me I would need to show my ID to get in and out of the testing room, and sign out/sign in each break. They take biometric data at this testing center, namely digital fingerprints of my left and right index fingers, and then took my photo. The worker said if I had to take another exam there, check-in would be a little easier and they'd only have to take one fingerprint to verify my identity. That's pretty useful, I thought to myself, in case I lose a hand or something. That would be a pain in the ass to try to check in as a one-handed man when they require a fingerprint from each hand. Now I'm going off on a tangent, but one of the things I think that is interesting about me (physically) is that the lines on my hands are different. I mean, I'm aware that no one has identical markings on both hands, but the lines on my hands look different from each other. If I got my palm read, would I go by the dominant hand or the nondominant hand? Not that I'd put much stock in it.

The format is the same for every MCAT administration I think, in that physical sciences is first, then verbal reasoning, and then the writing sample, and then finally biological sciences. When I was taking the test, I would get to the 10 minute breaks between sections, and just kind of sit in my chair, try to disengage a bit, think about happier and less stressful activities like trying not to drown--just kidding--and then forge ahead. Actually, each break I would close my eyes, say a little prayer, and then continue. I don't think any of the breaks I took was longer than a minute, and I never left the desk/chair in the testing room where I was taking the MCAT. When I checked out for good the worker was surprised, making a comment about how I took no breaks, and I said, "The quicker I finish, the quicker I can start drinking." I had one beer on Saturday after the exam at my sister's house - she made my favorite dinner, which our mom always used to make for me on my birthday, so I was pretty happy with it. 8D

How do I think I did? I felt pretty confident walking out, at least about the PS, VR, and the writing sample. I didn't feel as confident about BS, and they mentioned I had to wait 30-35 days before I could get my score. I told my friends that feeling confident is either a really good sign or a really bad one. :)

I'm hoping it's a really good one.

Monday, October 4, 2010


I wanted to write an entire post in cliches but I just couldn't do it. Cliches really bother me, and maybe because I listen to sports talk radio on my drive to school but I feel like they are drowning in cliches that while they're appropriate I guess, they're overused and surely there must be a more elegant or clever way to describe an event, a play, a player, whatever.

The biggest one that comes to mind, and it's used in many areas, not just sports talk, is "game-changer." The entertainment industry and corresponding media that covers them uses this cliche a lot. "Blah blah occurs in the second episode and it's a real GAME-CHANGER!"

There has to be another way to say that with the stories they break, write, produce and film are innovative in comparison to what the audience has previously seen or expects. Cliches are shortcuts. Maybe I will try to invent a new cliche? I'll get to work on that. I think the main tie-in to pre-medicine for this point is to avoid cliches in your personal statement and secondary essays. Also, avoid quotes from Mark Twain, Emerson, or Thoreau. If you must use a quote, maybe go with Richard Pryor? Just kidding.

I'll have more posts up later, I'm in the middle of writing two papers, plus a different blog for a class assignment, so this blog has gotten no love from me recently. I will get in the habit of updating more soon, once things calm down a little bit, and once more notable things actually happen, i.e. I take the MCAT (which I've started to study for but have not settled on a date to take it), and when my application cycle starts (next year).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fall 2010 is Here!

The Fall 2010 semester has started. I am taking 14 hours and it seems like it will be a great semester, I like all of my professors because they all seem passionate for once about what they teach, unlike a few other classes I've taken when the professors are inaccessible or seem like they couldn't care less about whether students learn in their class or not, just that they can keep their job and keep doing research. I wish the fall season itself would hurry up and get here as well, I can't see it yet but I can feeeeel it. I'm running the Marine Corps Marathon this year for the 4th year in a row, on October 31, and for the first time I am not running it for charity. I had run it the previous three years on behalf of an organization that my mom was involved with for nearly ten years, but I decided not to run on their behalf this year for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest reasons was money. Look at the bright side, at least I won't be propositioning everyone to make a donation! Yay!

As a student, and a non-working one at the moment, living on my savings account, I do what I can to save money and stretch my dollars. This organization over the past four years has allowed the minimum amount of money that participants must raise to climb precipitously. When I started running for them, I think it was $750, then it was $900, then it was $1000, this year is it over $1200.

I know the money is for a good cause, and in the past they gave the participants up until a month after race day to raise the money. This year participants have up until race day, and the drawback is when you register to run on their behalf, you fork over your credit card number, and if you do not meet the fundraising obligation, you are charged the difference between that and what you actually raised. I think everyone understands this concept, but in case you don't, if you are required to raise say $1500, and you only raise $750, then they will charge your card $750 on November 1, the day after the race, to meet your expected commitment. It kind of saddens me, because it seems like it has become all about the money and less about providing support for people who need it, and to participants who are trying to raise awareness and visibility first and money second on behalf of a great cause, we're sorry, you get the shaft. While this organization is requiring prospective participants to raise over $1200, and to their credit, they are very clear about that up front, some of the other charity partners of the marathon require participants to raise lesser amounts such as $300-600. I haven't done the math but I'd say the average charity requires probably $600-800 out of its participants, I'll do the math later.

Ironically, earlier this year I was a member of the planning/steering committee for this organization, but I had to step away from my involvement as I learned more about the plans and requirement of participants this year. Since I was active with this organization in memory of my mom, I thought maybe in the future I will become involved with an organization in honor of my dad, but I haven't decided anything for sure yet.

As far as running goes, I'm looking and feeling like a new man, and I think I am on track for a PR (personal record) at the Marine Corps Marathon this year. My long run this past weekend was 18 miles, in 2:33. That felt like a good pace, and I think on race day I'll actually run faster, but we'll see how it goes... I am feeling like I should finish somewhere in the neighborhood of 3:45-4:00. Ohh... and since the MCM this year is on Halloween, should I wear a costume? Last year it wasn't on Halloween, but there were a few costumes to see, I distinctly remember running elbow-to-elbow with the Flash. I thought he would have been faster but I passed him. Any ideas? My costume may just be North Face Voracious Short (they're 2-in-1, they have a built in compression liner which is pretty awesome and also makes it so you don't really need to BodyGlide your crotchal region), and a technical shirt TBD. Maybe I'll go sleeveless. It's not like there's a red carpet in the starting corrals and the reporter asks you who you're wearing. If they did..

"So, who are you wearing for this year's marathon?"

"Trash bag by Hefty to keep warm before the race, I'll probably shed it sometime before I cross the starting line once we get moving, shorts by North Face and singlet by Armani Privé, just kidding it's also North Face. Shoes and socks by Asics."

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I love my family. I have two older sisters who have always taken an interest in my life and ambition, and my father has done the same as well. You may notice my mother is missing. My mother was incredible as well, she was a paragon of encouragement, and not just of her own kids, I loved her very much and if you're new to reading my blog (people actually read this?), I'll fill you in. She passed in 2007, after originally being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, then going into remission a year later and metastases occurring a year after that to her liver, lungs, and bones.

I was watching my oldest sister's dog, a Yorkie named Theo, since she had to go out of town for work, for a conference where she was a featured speaker for a presentation, for which the organizer had allotted an hour and twenty minutes. She got back into town today and we went to Macaroni Grill for lunch. We both ate healthy, in case you were wondering. They are nice enough to put the lower calorie options on an insert in the menu, and we both picked things under 600 calories, which is pretty decent. When we were deciding where to eat, I decided not to go to Chili's, following Steve Carell's lead, mainly because I looked up their nutritional info on the web a week or so ago because someone had given me a $25 Chili's gift card for my birthday back in May, and my "research" revealed ridiculously high calories and sodium in pretty much all of the dishes there with a few exceptions.

Getting back to my family, I can always count on my sisters for good advice. If I was really smart, I'd go into the same career fields they are in, as the barrier for entry is much lower (i.e., I could drop this non-trad pre-med course I'm on and start ASAP), the opportunity cost not as high, and they're both doing well for themselves. They're supportive, and they understand why I'm doing what I'm doing, and I am so thankful for that. It was good to hang out with my oldest sister today, since she had just gotten back into town. Lunch was good, and she wanted to buy a new laptop since her work one crapped out on her trip. While she was waiting on a new one for work, she decided, like I decided not to eat at Chili's, that she wanted a personal laptop to use, since she has not had one until this point. And she's over 30. I told her maybe we could find a Fisher-Price "My First Laptop" somewhere.

We ended up getting her a laptop at Best Buy, and the associate was nice enough to do the whole Geek Squad thing, loading up the antivirus, MS Office, etc., while we browsed the store. We both like the same entertainment for the most part. We looked at TV shows on DVD, and were commenting on the shows we like, Psych, Dr. Who, etc., when I saw the cover for "Being Human" which is a BBC show. I've never seen the show, but apparently it features three roommates, a ghost, a vampire, and a werewolf. Vampires and werewolves are definitely a big part of pop culture at the moment, but I digress. While I was looking at the box art, I feigned ignorance and put on my best puzzled look and asked my sister, "Which one is the ghost?" (Picture below, and note it's easy to see the vampire, since he has a bag of blood attached, the ghost is ethereal and diaphanous or maybe you've just seen a photoshop or two in your day, and by process of elimination the werewolf is generic glasses-wearing white guy... which sounds strangely familiar). My sister looked at it, was about to identify the ghost and then realized my joke. I love playing dumb sometimes. I definitely have the freshman grades to prove it.

After we stopped laughing we had a conversation about, if we were shapeshifters, what animal would we shift into? We've both watched True Blood and read the Southern Vampire Mysteries they're based on, so we know pretty much everything is on the table, werewolf, werebat, werepanther, etc. She couldn't decide, I said maybe I'd be a were-aardvark, except I'm not really sure what aardvarks look like, and my sister said she always pictures armadillos. Then I said maybe were-anteater? I think subconsciously I seemed to have been working my way through the alphabet, with the "A's" first, just not in order. I'd probably be some kind of animal that wouldn't scare people or that people would want to shoot. I settled on were-dolphin, but then my sister said it would probably be a drag to phase into dolphin form on land. Because then people would go nuts, and probably wonder what the hell a dolphin is doing in the middle of a Best Buy.

I love these random conversations we can have, it always happens with my sisters and I never know where it will end up.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Specialty Assessment

This is definitely putting the cart WAY ahead of the horse, but I took one of those specialty assessments. There are a few online, and after reading the thread on SDN, I took the assessment after weighting different factors about what I prefer and do not prefer. The assessment takes into account the factors that you adjust via a sliding scale, I'll have to find the link for it, but essentially a "low number" in the results is good, and a "high number" in the results is bad as far as matching your chosen preferences. The factors include the following, and this list isn't all-inclusive:

  1. caring for patients
  2. continuity of care
  3. autonomy
  4. diversity
  5. personal time
  6. expertise
  7. income satisfaction
  8. creativity
  9. certainty of outcomes
  10. clinical decision-making
  11. patient decision-making
  12. (several others)
The most important things to me were diversity, autonomy, creativity, clinical decision-making, interacting with other physicians/members of health-care team and sense of accomplishment. I noticed that my results tended to skew towards a bunch of surgical fields. I'm not really sure how else to interpret the results, and some of my top results were specialties I had not really thought about, for instance my number one, pulmonary/critical care medicine I hadn't really considered. As I've mentioned before, this is mainly a thought exercise since I have not even applied yet, and I'll have a much more solid idea of what specialty to pursue if and when a) I get accepted somewhere and b) once I start clinical rotations and get more exposure to them.

Here are my top 10:
  1. Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine (16.85)
  2. Radiation Oncology (19.04)
  3. Vascular and Interventional Radiology (21.31)
  4. Otolaryngology (21.39)
  5. Neurological Surgery (21.62)
  6. Emergency Medicine (22.16)
  7. Gastroenterology (22.93)
  8. Orthopaedic Surgery (23.4)
  9. Urology (24.76)
  10. Sports Medicine (24.88)
I wasn't really thinking much about #1, #2, #3, #5, #7. To be fair, I hadn't given much thought to specialty choice in general, other than knowing a particular specialty I'm not particularly interested in, due to dating a woman during her intern year in that field.

My bottom 10 (worst to least-worst for me according to my preferences, I suppose?):
  1. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (134.53)
  2. Psychiatry (117.45)
  3. Radiology - Diagnostic (84.63)
  4. Pathology (79.89)
  5. Obstetrics & Gynecology (78.87)
  6. Medical Genetics (77.64)
  7. Preventive Medicine (76.74)
  8. Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism (74.11)
  9. Geriatric Medicine (68.18)
  10. Infectious Diseases (67.52)
I guess psychiatry is just not a good match for me. If I matched into psychiatry I must be wearing Bad Idea Jeans. I didn't think it would be that wide a discrepancy, but damn those are some big ass numbers™. I didn't have a high preference for schedule, or continuity of care, or certainty of outcomes. I'm okay with ambiguity (kind of like the ending of Inception, lol).

I have a wide band of specialties that seem like good matches outside of the top 10, from the low 20s to 40, including vascular surgery, plastic surgery, cardiology, neonatal-perinatal medicine, general surgery, nephrology, anesthesiology, thoracic surgery, ophthalmology, family practice and physical medicine & rehabilitation. After that it gets more spread out from 40 to to "bottom 10."

What does this all mean anyway? Hell if I know. While I was dating the intern, it was a game to guess what specialty I would end up in. I guess if I get in, we'll find out, a few years from now!