Premed Resources to Help You Get In

  1. American Association of Medical Colleges

The AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) is a centralized application service for most U.S. Medical Schools.  AMCAS info and application can be found on the AAMC (American Association of Medical Colleges) website.  This is the site where you will actually complete your application.  You can also read about or watch tutorials on the different application sections.  This can help you ensure your application is completed properly and in a timely fashion.

https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/applying-medical-school-process/applying-medical-school-amcas/

  1. Science GPA Calculator

While you’re preparing your application, peel open one of those transcript copies and take a look at your science grade point average.  My first semester of college was pretty rough academically.  The transition from a high school to college was anything but smooth.  I went from a straight A student to a C student.  I earned a 2-point-I-can’t-tell-you GPA.  I spent the rest of my time there trying to fix that.  When I finished, my grade point average was pretty good, over 3.5.  But my science GPA was much lower. The science GPA includes all your courses in biology, chemistry, physics and math.  Check out this tool http://prehealth.cas.nyu.edu/object/cas.prehealth.gpacalculator on NYU’s premed site to help you see what your potential med school will see when they look at your application.

  1. Premed Consulting

My premed advising office was pretty awesome and I leaned on them heavily during the application and admissions process.  If you don’t have one or you just need some help with your med school application, you might consider using a consulting company.  They can help you revise your personal statement or secondary essays, hone interview skills and present yourself well on your application.  Check out the doctors over at  http://www.upwardacademicconsulting.com/ for help.

  1. Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR)

There are basic requirements for medical school that you need for every school, such as biology and chemistry.  However, some schools differ in their requirement of upper level courses.  Math is the bane of my existence, but I had to take calculus because some of the schools I wanted to apply to required it.  Med schools may also differ on the minimum GPA and minimum MCAT score they will accept.  The Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) is an online database of US and Canadian medical schools.  You can purchase it for $27 over at AAMC for Students, Applicants and Residents.  Use the information about your dream medical schools to guide you as you plan your coursework.

Jarita Hagans, MD is a Family Practice physician, speaker and author of “MD Dreams:  Practical Advice for Every Stage from Premed to Residency and Beyond”. Find more info on http://mddreams.com Follow her on Twitter @doctorjarita.

Get a Job!

In the spring of 2008, I was flying high and feeling good as one of the chief residents at my Family Medicine program.  I was taking hospital call, seeing patients confidently in clinic and managing the call and clinic schedules of the upper level residents.  There was only one problem.  I was so busy focusing on everyone else’s life,  that I forgot to take care of my own.  I had not taken Step 3 of my boards and I had not found a job.  I hadn’t even started looking!  As the end of residency neared, I had no prospects.  If you’re a junior resident, use this as a cautionary tale.  If you are done in June, take heart.  There’s still time to find something great!

I used a recruiter to help me find some places to interview.  I ultimately did not choose those places, but I found the service to be helpful.  The recruiter I had did not make me feel pressured, but recruiters from other companies have.  I got (and still get) bombarded with phone calls and emails on a daily basis from companies who seem to want any physician to fill their positions.  In hindsight, it would have been better for me to create a job search email and maybe even get a separate phone number.  This would have kept my personal phone and email inbox from being inundated with unwanted messages.

I found my first job by putting my information on the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) job board.  Check the website of your specialty’s academy.  You may be able to search opportunities and create a profile for employers to find you.  The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has a job board as well, at http://www.jamacareercenter.com/ .  It is searchable by state and specialty.

Locum Tenens is what I’m doing now.  It’s given me time to write my book and build my business.  Locums is a flexible option if you don’t want to tie yourself down to one place with a long-term contract.  you can travel (all expenses paid) or you can fill in for doctors in and around your own city.  You choose where, when and how long you want to work. Check out veteran locum physician, Dr. Stephanie Freeman’s eBook here: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Locum-Tenens-Your-Questions-Answered to find out how to rock this kind of work.

Your local Urgent Care may have an opening.  I went to one near my house just to get a refill on blood pressure medicine and they offered me a job on the spot!  They seemed to have flexible schedule and good benefits.  It just wasn’t what I was looking for at the time.

Telemedicine is another option for employment.  Check the laws where you plan on practicing.  Different rules apply for different locations.  In some states, you must be licensed in the state where the company originated.  Some states require you to have a license for the state where the patient is located during the visit.  Click It Clinic is one of the premier companies in telemedicine and is owned by physicians.  You can find them at www.clickitclinic.com .

Go for an international opportunity, like Doctor Without Borders.  They require a minimum commitment of 9 to 12 months for most specialties.  They may offer a shorter assignment for surgical specialties like General Surgery, Ob/GYN and Anesthesiology.  Physicians must have an MD or DO and a current license.  You must have completed residency.

Start your application for licensure ASAP.  Some states can take as long as three months to approve you.  Even if you don’t have your board scores in hand, start filling in the information you do have.  The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) has links to each state’s medical board on their website. Click here to get started:  https://www.fsmb.org/licensure/fcvs/state-requirements .  You can start gathering the accompanying documents like transcripts, letters of recommendation and diplomas.

Don’t be so panicked to find a job that you barely read your contract.  I did not read mine carefully, but thankfully there was nothing in it that was detrimental.  What should you be looking for?  Make sure you check the length of commitment, how much notice you have to give before leaving, responsibilities such as supervising others and far-reaching non-compete clauses.  You don’t have to accept terms that aren’t beneficial to you just because you’re a brand new doctor and eager to find a job.  You have the power to negotiate.  They need you.  If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be looking.  As the Sprite commercial says, “know yourself, know your worth.”  Go out there and get it!

 

Jarita Hagans, MD is a Family Practice physician and author of the forthcoming book, MD Dreams: Practical advice for Every Stage from Premed to Residency and Beyond.  You can follow her on Twitter @doctorjarita.

Finish the Course

Right now you’re starting to itch because it’s the end of March, and almost the end of the semester.  But if you’re a junior planning to go to med school in the fall of 2017, it’s time to start taking action.  Taking action on what, you say?  Studying for finals and planning your summer vacation is important, but it’s also time to start prepping your application for medical school.  AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) is a centralized application service for most medical schools in the country.  Texas has their own service at www.tmdsas.com.  It’s available now.  AMCAS doesn’t allow you to submit your application until summer, but you definitely want to start pulling the pieces of it together now.

Start updating your resume.  If you don’t have one, at least make a chronological list of extra-curricular activities, volunteering, research, etc.  Write out descriptions of what you did for each item.  You can use this later in the activities section of your application.  You’ll be allowed to choose three “most meaningful” activities to write a short description about how they impacted you and your pursuit of medicine.

Now is a good time to go to professors and start requesting letters of recommendation.  If you wait too late, you might find that your favorite prof is away on an archaeological dig for the entire summer.  Ask early before they get an onslaught of requests from other premeds.  Don’t go empty-handed.  Take that resume or activity list and write a cover letter.  The cover letter should include your deadline, a small picture of yourself and a reminder to put the letter on official letterhead.  You also need to give them an AMCAS Letter Request form.  You’ll be able to print this form from the “Letters of Evaluation” section of your AMCAS application.  Evaluators can submit electronically through the AMCAS Letter Writer Application, Interfolio, VirtualEvals or by mail.  Go to https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/amcas-letter-service/ for FACS about requesting and submitting your Letters of Evaluation.  If your school has a PreMed Advisor office, check with them first.  Your letters may have to go through their office.  Be sure to send a thank you note or email to everyone who writes a letter on your behalf.

The Personal Statement is one of the most important parts of your medical school application.  Medical school admissions boards will be reading thousands of statements.  You’ll need an attention-grabbing first sentence to make yours stand out from the rest.  Tell a story about life experiences you had that made you want to enter medicine.  What makes you unique, different from any other applicant?  It’s the same thing that will make you an amazing doctor one day. The other thing that schools will be looking for is academics.  There is a high volume of material to learn once you get there.  Some say it’s like trying to drink water from a wide open fire hose.  Say something in your statement that shows that you can handle high level scientific thought and the course load that you’ll be faced with in medical school.  You can talk about a research experience you’ve had or something that you found fascinating in an upper level science course.  Any school worth their salt is going to be looking for well-rounded individuals.  They will want students who have a life outside of school and who know how to interact well with people.  They’ll want to hear a little bit about the sport you played, a volunteer activity, or the club or social group to which you belonged.  Explain how it helped you understand different kinds of people or helped you develop leadership skills.  Have someone who knows you read your personal statement before you submit it.  I thought mine was pretty awesome until my friend read mine.  She reminded me of some things that I had left out, like some of the research I had done.

Get your coins together.  The 2016 application fees are as follows:  “AMCAS Processing Fee: $160 (includes one medical school designation) Additional medical school designations: $37 each”.  If you qualified for an MCAT fee waiver, you might also qualify for application fee waivers.  Check out this link to find out more about the Fee Assistance Program:  https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/applying-medical-school-process/fee-assistance-program/ .

 

AMCAS Application Opens May 3, 2016
AMCAS Application Submission Begins June 7, 2016
Processed Applications Sent to Medical Schools June 24, 2016

Keep the above dates in mind as the semester closes.  It’s never too early to get started on your medical school application.  Good luck on finals and have a great summer!

 

Funky Diabetes and Other Musings

Recording artist Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest visits the Tribeca Film Festival 2011 portrait studio on April 27, 2011 in New York City. (April 26, 2011 – Source: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images North America)

 

On March 23rd, I glanced at my Facebook feed to find several posts telling Phife Dawg to rest in peace.  My first thought was, “What?!?  This must be a mistake, an internet hoax.”  But as I scrolled, I realized it was true.  Malik Taylor, the “5 foot assassin” was dead.  I knew he had diabetes and kidney problems, but I couldn’t believe he was gone.  I mean, he was only a few years older than me!  I was around middle school age when his group, A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ) burst onto the scene.  Their music was the soundtrack of our youth.  When I heard the news, I rushed to YouTube to listen to some of my favorites:  “Electric Relaxation”, “Check The Rhime”, “Award Tour” and Scenario”.  I struggled with whether or not to write this.  There have already been so many posts, articles and video tributes to Phife Dawg and ATCQ already, just in the past two days.  But I think it’s my duty to speak on it from a health education perspective.  Not only as a fan, but as a physician.

I never treated or even had the opportunity to see Phife, “The Funky Diabetic”, in person.  But in my career as a Family Practice doctor, I have treated hundreds of diabetic people.  There are two types of diabetes, Type I and Type II.  Type I Diabetes, which Phife had, is also known as Insulin Dependent Diabetes.  Your body depends on insulin to take care of the sugar in your bloodstream.  Type I diabetics do not make enough insulin.  They have to have an insulin pump or inject insulin every day in order to survive.  Most people are diagnosed with this when they are children or young adults.  According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), “Only 5% of people with diabetes have this form of the disease.”  Type II diabetes is much more prevalent.  It is caused by insulin resistance.  These people’s pancreas may still make some insulin, but the body does not listen to it as well.  When you have insulin resistance, your body doesn’t know what to do with the sugar it encounters.  Belly fat can increase insulin resistance.  Exercise can improve it.  Some people say they have “Borderline Diabetes” or “a little bit of sugar”.  What they actually have is Prediabetes.  If you are fasting (haven’t had anything to eat or drink except water for at least 8 hours) and your blood sugar is 126 mg/dL or more, then you are classified as having diabetes.  If your fasting blood sugar is 100-125, you are considered a prediabetic.  You are in danger of developing diabetes and should start making changes to prevent that.  One of the resources I direct my patients to is http://www.helpguide.org/articles/diet-weight-loss/diabetes-diet-and-food-tips.htm .  If you are already diabetic, it doesn’t have to be a death sentence.  You can control your blood sugar if you commit to healthy eating and physical activity (30 minutes/5 days a week).  You can always start small and build up to this.  Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.  Make sure you are healthy enough for certain types of exercise and ask how to prevent low blood sugars when exercising.

If you’re going to control your blood sugar, you have to know what it is.  I come into contact with so many diabetics who never check their blood sugar at home.  They only get it checked when they visit the office, a couple of times a year.  If you don’t have a glucometer and other testing supplies, you can ask your doctor for a prescription.  You can also buy them over the counter at most stores that have a pharmacy.  If you don’t know how to use the supplies that you have, ask your doctor’s office to show you or read the manual that comes with your kit.  You should discuss your personal blood sugar goals with your doctor, but here are some targets that the American Diabetes Association suggests:

  • 80-130 mg/dL before a meal
  • Less than 180 mg/dL 1-2 hours after a meal

The other number that you need to be aware of is your Hba1c.  The Hba1c is a number that represents your average blood sugar over the last 3 months.  The ADA recommends a target of 7%, but your target may be different.  Discuss your goal with your doctor.  Most people should have this test done every 3-6 months.  Microalbumin is a test that we use to monitor protein in the urine.  That number can give us a clue that something is happening to your kidneys before they show signs of distress in your bloodwork.  You should have this done at least once a year to check the impact of diabetes on your kidneys and to take steps to reverse harm.

In 2012, there were 8.1 million undiagnosed diabetics in the United States (http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/).  Make sure you aren’t one of them.  Get tested.  If you need more information about diabetes and what you can do to prevent, treat or manage it, go to the American Diabetes Association’s website www.diabetes.org.  I pray that Malik rests well.  I pray that you live long and prosper.

Disclaimer:  This article is not intended as medical advice.  It is for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you feel you have a medical problem, contact your personal medical provider.

Jarita Hagans, MD is a Family Practice physician and author of the forthcoming book, MD Dreams: Practical advice for Every Stage from Premed to Residency and Beyond.  You can follow her on Twitter @doctorjarita.

10 Things You Need to Do Before You Go to Med School

Hanauma Bay in O’ahu

 

Disclaimer: This is a satirical article about the rigors of medical school.  Some parts are over exaggerated and some aren’t.  Sometimes you have to put on blinders in order to focus.  It’s tough, but still doable.  Hopefully, you’ll have a laugh while getting your mind right…

So you’re going to be a doctor?  Congratulations!  But let’s get down to the nitty gritty, while you still have time.  If you’re already in medical school, I’m sorry.  Study hard.  If you’re not in there yet, here’s a head start on getting it in.

  1. Binge watch TV.

There are whole swaths of time where I can’t remember watching anything except occasional episodes of “Girlfriends”.  I didn’t even have a TV until the second year of med school.  I only got that to watch the review tapes my Pathology professor gave us.

  1. Hang out with friends.

You might be able to periodically see some friends that live near your med school while school is in session.  If they’re not in the same city, forget it.  That girl’s trip?  Plan it now.  Once school starts, you ain’t going.  Your days, nights and weekends will be filled with classes and studying.

  1. Take an international trip.

Most international trips need to be at least four days to make it worth your while.  It will be really hard to find a block of time where you’re able to leave the country.  I went to Mexico for three weeks the summer after my first year, but it was for a medical Spanish course.  The next time I left the country was when medical school was over.  My classmates and I took a celebratory graduation cruise to Key West, Cozumel and Belize.

  1. Go to some concerts.

I went to a Mary J. Blige concert the summer after my second year.  That’s it.  I wanted to see Wynton Marsalis and The Alvin Ailey Dance Company so bad.  But it was like they knew my exam schedule.  Every time they came to D.C.  it was the weekend before exams and I would have to study.  Every. Single. Time.

  1. Visit your family.

Your family needs a visit with you.  Right now.  You will miss a lot of family events:  birthdays, holidays and family reunions.  Look at their shining faces now and implant them in your memory.

  1. Take a road trip.

Get in your car, or a friend’s car and drive to the ends of the earth.  Stop in every little souvenir shop and touristy place you can.  I still haven’t seen the Grand Canyon, and I’m sad about it.  Seriously, though.  See the country.

  1. See all the movies.

All of them.  Even the ones you think you won’t like.  I need to go back and do a movie binge on everything that came out from 2000-2005.  There won’t be many times during your med school experience when you can justify sitting in the dark for two hours and not studying.

  1. Read for pleasure.

I knew some people who read non-medical books during medical school.  I wasn’t one of them.  There is rarely a free moment when you don’t need to be reading about the Krebs Cycle or how gonorrhea can get into your knee.

  1. Sleep!

Oh my gosh.  I almost forgot this.  Sleep as much as you can and then sleep some more.  Get a better pillow and a fuzzy blanket so you can enjoy sleeping more. Once medical school starts, you and your lovely bed will become estranged.  I used to pump myself full of Mountain Dew and tobasco Slim Jims to keep myself awake for studying.  I had a classmate who would peddle chocolate covered expresso beans to those in need.  Sleep is a precious commodity for medical students.

  1. Do nothing.

Spend a lot of time looking at the sky, lying on your couch, etc.  Look at your dog.  See how he takes great pleasure in lying in the sun, rolling around on his back and scratching himself?  Follow suit.

 

In short, have all the fun you can while you have time.  Medical school will be fun too, just in ways that you never imagined.  After all, there are cadavers to dissect and interesting medical factoids to learn.  Go forth, young grasshopper, and “may the odds be forever in your favor.”*

 

Jarita Hagans, MD is a Family Practice physician and author of the forthcoming book, MD Dreams: Practical advice for Every Stage from Premed to Residency and Beyond.  You can follow her on Twitter @doctorjarita.

 

 

*this is a quote from the movie, The Hunger Games(2012)