Monday, 4 November 2013

Is premed really that intimidating?

I'd like to dedicate this post to my readers who are contemplating career in medicine.

A question I have received from a premed student recently was, "Is premed really that intimidating?" And, the short answer is yes and no. Largely because this is a subjective question, and it varies depending on what one might think is "hard." Additionally, you will be in school for a very, very, very long time.

I repeat: a very long time.

And to even be a competitive applicant, it seems as though there is an impossible list of requirements:

  • High GPA
  • Great ECs
  • Publication(s)???
  • Reference letters!
  • Killer MCAT score?!
  • International volunteer work?! 
  • Olympic GOLD MEDAL?!
Oh. My. Gosh. How the hell is anyone supposed to have time to even eat?!

The truth of the matter is that, no. You do not need all of those criteria to be a competitive medical student. If you did, I would have never been accepted because, let's face it, I really am quite horrid at sports. 

So what do I need to work on?

I highly recommend that you work on having a great GPA. Though this might not come easily, you might have to work very hard at this (I know I did), it's worth the effort. And you might think that you don't have time for extracurriculars, but if you choose ECs you are passionate about, making time for these will be a must for your sanity. 

You must put the hard work in because medicine is not easy and because of that, medical schools select for a certain type of keen person who is willing to dedicate their lives towards this field.

How do I deal with negativity and hardships?

It might feel intimidating at times, so please do take the time to take care of yourself. Surround yourself with people you love, and that support your goals. Also, I have had to deal with countless upsets and rejections along the way. Please, do not beat yourself up. I know so many premeds and medical students that continually strive towards perfection. Medical schools do seem to select for type A personalities, after all. But the key is not in perfection, it's within your ability to persevere.

Best of luck on your journey :)

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Anxious about FAINTING in anatomy? Part 2: Tips and tricks

In my last blog, I mentioned my love-hate relationship with anatomy. I was struggling to find a way to lessen my anxiety while working with cadavers as well as maintain my marks. Initially, I found it very difficult to keep up with anatomy because I was so inefficient in my studying. Here are a few tricks I used to keep sane during this component of the curriculum, and inevitably ace the final exam:

If you are anxious about the lab, you need to find a way to feel safe and supported. One of the best ways I did that was by studying during the lab with two classmates. After a while, I started to forget why I became so anxious in the first place and looked forward to being in the lab simply because I had friends to support me through it. 

Make the best of your time by going through your study check-list and quizzing each other until you know it by heart ;)

It's been my experience that anatomy lectures are very technical, and it basically feels like a bunch of incomprehensible language being thrown at you. But, if you've already read through the lecture notes and have attempted to commit the terminology to memory, your lab will go by much smoother. The more active you are during lab, the more you will retain. Try going through your check-list beforehand and reading the applicable material in your textbook. As with anything that requires memorization, the more you see it, the easier it will be to retain it. 

Whenever you are learning about a structure, it's often insufficient to simply identify the structure. Spend the time not only in identifying the structures, but understanding the material that feeds the second order questions that they could ask. This is especially applicable if your school requires you pass a written exam, or a lab exam with a high percentage of second order questions. 

This is especially useful if you are a visual learner, like myself. I spent quite a lot of time gathering and drawing my own anatomical artwork and making study worksheets. This can be quite consuming but if you're visual/kinaesthetic, it's an invaluable study aid as you WILL remember the anatomy incredibly well. Jasmine will show you the steps to creating an anatomy workbook:

Now you simply repeat the process until you've gone through your check-list and you'll have your own check-list based worksheet you can use throughout the semester. 

I hope these tips can help you manage your way through anatomy. To make this list complete, I've added a couple of resources down below that have helped considerably. 

Good luck!




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Wednesday, 14 August 2013

How I create my study schedules for med school.

There are no firm "rules" to creating a study schedule, and I find that the more aggressively I organize a schedule, the more I rebel from it. This is a general outline, and what works for me might not work for you. So be patient with yourself, flexible, and forgiving until you find something that works. Rest assured, you'll get into your own groove in no time :)

At the start of the block, I like to do as much work as possible to lessen the work load as I go throughout the course. I'll start by looking at the syllabus and seeing what I need to accomplish. Then I'll use a software program, like iCal, to enter my classes. iCal is great as it syncs to my mobile device. Once I've established the amount of time dedicated to class, I have a better idea of the amount of "free" time I have to spend on studying.

I have a study system for each individual week of my course. Here is an example of a "light" week:
    • complete all of the week's objectives
    • complete the weekly quiz
    • solidify lecture notes
      • e.g. I do this by utilizing a whiteboard/creating mindmaps/etc.
    • study specific problem areas I've identified in my weekly quizzes
    • read/outline relevant chapters 
    • get ahead for the following week(s)
    • use board review prep books to assess my knowledge
    • for anatomy:
      • visit the lab on Fridays with 1-2 classmates to review our check-list
You most definitely do not have to follow my schedule, but I find it useful to have a general scheme that you stick to as it alleviates a lot a stress. And stress, as you know, is not fun.

I find this especially important in the final block before our final exams as our finals are chunked together (e.g. we'll have 11 exams at the end of our semester). By completing all of my block objectives in the first week, I was able to dedicate more time studying the blocks before it.

I typically do this before I dive into my studying that day. For example, I have a general to-do list for my week (see above). Then, for any given day I'll again write a general to-do list. 

  • MONDAY (GI block)
    • understand lecture 4
    • skim chapter 4 
    • create/review flashcards
    • understand innervation/blood supply of the GI tract
Furthermore, I'll allocate a general time frame for each of my tasks. I try to make this draft flexible enough that, if need be, I can change my game plan.

  • Monday (GI block - the esophagus)
    • 3-4:30 PM
      • understand lecture 4 
    • 4:45-6:00 PM
      • skim/read chapter 4
    • 6-7 PM
      • dinner break! 
    • 7-7:50 PM
      • create/review flashcards
    • 8:00-9:00 PM
      • review GI innervation/blood supply
    • 9:15 PM +
      • if need be, finish any incomplete tasks
      • cool down, relax, and sleep!

  • Do more challenging tasks near the beginning; cool down towards the end
  • Be flexible with your study schedules 
    • they might need to change depending on your mastery of the material/work ethic that day
  • Opinion on paper vs digital planners
    • use whatever you'll stick to :) 
      • e.g.
        • I use iCal for my course schedule
        • I use an agenda for my monthly schedule
        • I use a blank sheet of paper to create my weekly schedule
        • I use a whiteboard for my daily schedule
  • Use different colours for different topics
    • this will make your schedule much more fun and organized
  • Check things off as you go
    • gives you a sense of accomplishment!
I hope this helps! Best of luck in the new academic year - make 2013/2014 a good one :)

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Image: source

Sunday, 11 August 2013

How to Outline Your Textbooks

Hey everyone!

As you all know, it's back to school time (yay -.- ... ). I'd like to share a couple of tips today on how outline your textbooks. It's a great way to condense the amount of re-reading you'll have to do before your exam time. I generally like to read and outline my text before the course begins and then review the outline during the block. It helps solidify the information.

The more you review, the more you will (theoretically) retain.


  • Textbook
  • Computer with a word processor
  • Spiral Notebook
  • Pens
  • Highlighters



Refer to your course outline and identify the textbook(s) you wish to outline.

The textbook I am using is "Thomsen. First Principles of Gastroenterology: The Basis of Disease and Approach to Management, 5th ed." This is a required textbook for my gastrointestinal block. After sifting through my course schedule, I've identified the chapters that appear to be most relevant for this block. 

This will give you an idea of what you will be covering.

If I don't have time to read the entire textbook, I'll simply read over the relevant sections I wish to cover that day.

This is simply to provide organization and continuity between your textbook notes and the textbook you are outlining.

In the textbook I am currently outlining, the first heading is "Introduction." So I will write down "INTRODUCTION" as my first heading. As well, I will number my headings as that is how they've been outlined in Thomsen's text.


When outlining the relevant sections, I will outline them as follows:

  • Point 1
    • Examples/further clarification

Essentially, as you become more detailed, the indentation becomes greater and greater. Skimming/reading the relevant sections of the chapter ahead of time will allow you to efficiently organize your points and examples. 


You can jazz up the outline by highlighting important terms.

I will typically create my outline on my PC and then print out the outlines which I keep in duo-tangs, or binders for larger outlines. Once printed, I highlight away.

I hope this helps!

Good luck outlining.

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Sunday, 28 July 2013

Confessions of a Med Student: I'm a total make up junkie

1. I like how I look with make up so much that I often selfishly leave it on at night.

2. If I could only bring one item of make up with me to a deserted island I would cheat and put my my make up bag in my bra. Yes, BRA.

3. The majority of my youtube life consists of watching cats jumping into boxes and make up tutorials.

4. I've spent more than $40 on foundation.

5. I've used every last drop of that same foundation and am fighting the urge to purchase it again. So expensive, but so drool worthy!

Thank you all for reading my Sunday confessions! This was a link up

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New facebook page!

About time.
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Saturday, 27 July 2013

Anxious about FAINTING in the gross anatomy lab? I was too.

Disclaimer: This is a highly personal blog about battling my demons - how to work with cadavers while battling my anxiety. Some of you guys might think to yourself, wait a second - if this future doctor gets queasy, why did she apply to medical school? Well, dear readers, my love for anatomy, along with many other factors, actually catapulted my decision to apply to medical school. I just hoped it would blast off into fireworks instead of a quasi-fainting episode. As always, my hope is that readers about to embark on their med school journeys take comfort in knowing they aren't alone in their anxieties. If you feel petrified, know that I was too.

My first gross anatomy lab went better than expected. Like a shiny new highlighter, I was bright and ready to be pulled in every which direction to get the job done. I even had a blast purchasing my first pair of lab scrubs beforehand with one of my classmates, and to both of our humours, not a single pair seemed to be small enough to fit me. During the lab, I was precise and accurate with my incisions, and even correctly identified the major back muscles. It was a dream, and I was relieved my lab could go so well. All of my anxieties seemed to be for nothing.

And then the brachial plexus happened. I mean, the brachial plexus lab happened. Like before, I was dressed, well studied, and ready to go. Scrubs - check; lab coat - check; determination face - check. I walked into the lab feeling competent and prepared, after all, I knew the nerve roots, trunks, etc. There was no way this could wrong.

Correction - it did go wrong. Remember my determination face? Well, that same face was held high until it performed a 45 degree rotation and saw the uncovered arm of a cadaver. My brain could barely handle this. I knew that this was precisely the job I signed up to do. If I were to finish medical school, I would have to work with cadavers, end of story. It just had to work. But for some reason, bright images of stars flashed in front of me and the room started to blur. It was as if I forgot who I was and, unfortunately, how to stand on both feet. Things were not going as planned.

A voice in my head said, get a grip!! And I looked around me and realized that, yes, I was still standing but I was standing in a room that I needed to get out of. I left to get a drink of water, and hoped that I would feel better when I came back.

I did feel better, and though I never actually fainted, I was petrified in my first semester that it would happen. In fact, I knew it was going to happen. It became less and less about how I felt about working in the lab, and more about the potential embarrassment that would follow. I had a lot of difficulties with my learning that semester as I became petrified not only with fainting in the lab, but in class, in my preceptors office, and eventually I thought it could happen at any moment.

Now, my case was fairly extreme and totally impairing. Remember, initially I seemed to be doing well in the lab but it only took one stimulus to trigger this anxiety-saturated cascade. But, there is an upside to all of this. I knew that I had issues with anatomy and my grades reflected that. I was given an ultimatum, and I had to do better on my term 2 lab examination mark.

So, how did I turn this around?

To be continued...


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Saturday, 16 March 2013

Guest Post: How to Slaughter the MCAT

Below is a guest post from a good ol' friend of mine who did a fantastic job at slaughtering the MCAT last summer and earned a whopping 6 interview invites. I'm very pleased to share his generous post with you all today - keep in mind that while this does have ONT specific tips, much of what he has written is universal. Good luck!


I think that if you get used to reading passages (especially VR) on a computer screen instead of using paper/pen, then your eyes will get used to following the lines of text to different paragraphs. This is key when you need to read fast, and get to the important areas of the passage.


Many schools these days are looking more to VR as a cutoff/important eval. tool (Mac, UWO, Calg) and my suspicion is that without WS, Queens might actually begin using VR as well this 2013 cycle. If you can score high on VR, you improve your chances for these and other schools. I would recommend if you're not "good" at VR (consistently scoring 11-13 on practice):

  • 50% of your study time should be dedicated to VR
  • practice NOT looking back at the passage at all to get the answers
  • use Process of Elimination as much as possible. 
  • get to know the question types (ex. detail, main point, etc) and their associated "Traps and Trolls" (ex. quoting directly from the psg, usually WRONG)
  • some books tell you to get the "overall" point. I really think that it's a good practice, but an even better one is to get the point of each paragraph and how they relate to one another. Some question traps lead you to the Main Point (MP) in their answers, but it's actually the detail within a paragraph, or vice versa.

You're aiming for 11+ in VR.


Yes there's a lot to learn or review. I think that though it's better to get dirty while you learn, such as doing practice problems regularly and using the full lengths to practice on a weekly basis. Not only does this reinforce your learning, but it gives you motivation to work and study harder. Will the 20-something score on your first mock hurt? Yes, but it's just a necessary pain for the 40+ that you're planning to hit. It's always better to study what you don't know than going over the things you do know from your notes.


You need time to study. Some ppl take less time to study than others, but you need to dedicate hours reviewing again and again the key concepts that will score you more points than the minutia that will rarely come up. If you're on a schedule (Ex. part time job, research), then you need to be reviewing more problems regularly and skim through the material. EK Audio Osmosis is a corny (but fun) way of doing so, as well as Kaplan Flash cards. 


Sometimes people aim for a September write, but end up not scoring what they aimed for (ex. 9 VR) which will hurt their OMSAS application later in that same month. Also if you write on the VERY last day, you won't find out your scores until Oct which by then, your OMSAS application would have already been submitted and you won't know your scores at all. It's a big gamble and I'm sure most of us would like to know what we're going in with instead of that uncertainty and possibly wasted dollars (ex. not making cutoff at UWO b/c you didn't score an 11 VR for non-SWOMEN). Instead, write your first one in Aug, and continue studying for a possible Sept. Re-write. If you find out you scored well, then you can go celebrate for a month. But if you didn't, then at least you have one more shot to go at it because you can write up to a max of THREE times for the summer. So why not have a back-up plan just in case?


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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Secret Life of a healthy med student?

Hi everyone!

Long time no talk! I hope that all my readers have been well. It's been busy lately on my end, so here is an update you on how I've been.

The last few months have been bitter-sweet  with two major close deaths. Most recently, I lost someone who was very close to me - my grandfather. He passed away due to heart complications (aortic dissection, and bronchitis for those of you who are medically interested) which he fought very hard. Now, on one hand, I'm heartbroken to have lost him. But more than anything else, I am very honoured to have had him as my grandfather.

Because I lost him during February, which is heart month in Canada, now I've become even more aware of the realities of heart complications and how serious they can be. And for those of us with relatives who have unfortunately dealt with serious complications, our risk of developing heart problems increases by a significant margin.

To honour my grandfather's life, I've become very dedicated towards maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Yes, that means exercising regularly (versus never), and eating much healthier. Currently, I'm at a healthy weight, so this is very much geared towards ensuring I keep my heart nice and healthy.

If any of you have exercise tips, I would love to hear them!
Currently, I'm exercising around 3X a week, for 45 minutes, with 30 minutes on the elliptical machine and tracking the amount of water I drink. I've noticed that dehydration is becoming too common with me!

Have a great week!
<3 C

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