October 2, 2014

Becoming a Well-Rounded PreMedical Student

Through Kaplan’s exclusive, national partnership with the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), we will be providing a series of personal stories from AMSA leaders about their pre-medical experience and journey to medical school. Jai Kumar Mediratta: University of Nebraska-Lincoln   [caption id="attachment_1632" align="alignright" width="278"] Jai getting involved at Camp Kesem (http://campkesem.org)[/caption] “GET INVOLVED!” said every pre-health advisor ever. I would be willing to wager that there is a brightly decorated bulletin board in your career center that is dedicated to this very theme. Today, more often than not, “getting involved” is associated with being “well-rounded,” and as a premedical student, you are familiar with the concept of a “well-rounded” individual. It is a common theme that has been championed by medical school admission committees. The Association of American Medical Colleges even makes this point on their medical school admission requirements page by saying that: “A well-rounded sampling of extracurricular activities or work experiences, both related and unrelated to medicine, will help broaden an applicant's knowledge and development.“ However, what is the “well-rounded individual” and why is it important to be one? I argue that the well-rounded individual is simply someone who pursues his or her natural curiosity. This is not only important for medical school admissions, but also for your long-term success. Here’s why:   1. You are truly motivated when you follow your passions At times, you may feel like the famous titan Atlas, bearing the brunt of the world on your shoulders and it’s easy to become jaded when harboring these feelings. With the pressures of classes, MCAT studying, maintaining your health, and balancing your social life, you do not want your extracurricular to become a burden or a responsibility. The old adage goes “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.” As a future physician, this quote is incredibly relevant to your profession but it also applies to your current premedical experience and extracurricular activities. When you follow your interests, you are motivated to actively involve yourself.   2. Natural motivation allows you to excel in your organization Along with the natural motivation comes a more active involvement and enthusiasm, both of which are necessary to excel in your position. Medical schools are aware of the sophomoric numbers game that some applications play: it’s not about quantity of organizations you are involved with; it’s about your level of involvement. Tangential to this is your progression of your involvement and this is where leadership positions come into play. I would like to quote the famous rapper Drake: “Started from the bottom, now I’m here” This not only applies to his personal struggles, but also to your experience with an organization or extracurricular activity.   3. An increased level of involvement allows for a diversity of experiences and this benefits medical school admissions. As you pursue your interests, and become more involved with the select few organizations you are truly passionate about, you will realize that discussing your involvement becomes second nature. This alleviates a major part of the stress associated with medical school interviews because a great interview is nothing more than a great conversation.   4. The experiences you gather from your deep involvement also benefit you in the long run. Your college experience does not have to be dominated or defined by your premedical experience. In other words, just as the AAMC suggested, it’s highly encouraged that you follow your curiosities, even if they lie outside the realm of medicine. If you decide to deeply involve yourself in a non-medical extracurricular, you are not only benefiting your medical school application, but also yourself in the long run. In our society today where medicine is becoming increasingly integrated with the fields of research, business, and public policy, a diverse set of skills is highly valued. This is evident by the increasing demand for dual degree programs such as MD/PhD, MD/MBA, or MD/MPHs. The premedical experience is overwhelmingly stressful. As you power through the rigorous weed out science classes, the late night study sessions, the MCAT preparation, you will find that your extracurricular activities will act as a reprieves. They will be activities you look forward to doing every week and following your interests and passions will only enhance this experience. It really is that easy, folks. Just do what you love and you too can be “well-rounded”   Now that you’ve read about Jai Kumar Mediratta’s journey to unlocking the good life and getting into medical school, we’d like to hear from you!  Tell us what the good life means to you in the comments section, on Facebook, and on Twitter using #kaplangoodlife. Visit our Unlock the Good Life site and find out more about a career in medicine. Learn about salaries and read profiles of people just like you who followed their dreams. ...read more
September 29, 2014

4 Reasons Why You Should Take a Kaplan MCAT Class

Hello my excited readers! Today I'd like to answer a question that I get a lot from interested students:

Why should I take a Kaplan MCAT class?

I've been teaching for 6+ years at this point, so clearly I believe in the benefits of the Kaplan MCAT program. I took a Kaplan MCAT class in 2006 and did well enough on the actual test to score-qualify to teach the class. If you aren't sold by that fact alone though, I have some four great reasons for you!

1. Flexibility

One of the best features of the Kaplan MCAT program is the class schedule flexibility. You can take an On-Site class with an in-person teacher that runs 1, 2 or 3 times per week. If you live farther from a big city, have a different work schedule or learn best online, there are two online class options: Classroom Anywhere (live, online classes with varying scedules) and On Demand (self-study via previously recorded lessons and 24/7 access to an online syllabus). One of the advantages of the Classroom Anywhere online option is the ability to learn in your bed with your PJs, while still receiving the same high-quality instruction you would in a traditional On-Site class! Finally, if you learn best in a one-on-one, face-to-face setting, Private Tutoring allows you to set your own schedule. All of our live options (On Site, Classroom Anywhere, and Private Tutoring) also include access to Live Flex Sessions: these optional, online sessions cover key science topics that appear frequently on the MCAT and they run on weekends, weeknights and at varying times throughout the day. My students are frequently blown away by how often they can log-on to their syllabi, hop into a live flex session, and work on some content with a Kaplan teacher. Speaking of teachers, that brings me to reason number 2!

2. Dedicated Teachers

I have had the opportunity to work with and mentor hundreds of Kaplan instructors. I honestly have never met a Kaplan teacher that I didn't like. Every instructor is a top performer on the exam (90th percentile or higher), undergoes a rigorous training program, and is constantly evaluated by students to ensure that you have a truly exceptional experience. They tend to be a great combination of smart, engaging and committed to student success. In fact, we had a panel discussion a few weeks ago in which brand new teachers could ask veteran teachers their questions. I was blown away by how thoughtful the questions were and how concerned the entire group was with making each class session successful and making sure each student gets the help they need to reach their best score.

3. Tailored for your needs

I've already touched on the flexibility of the schedule, but there are other aspects that ensure you get an experience that's tailored to your individual study needs. One of the best aspects to Kaplan's technology is the Smart Reports that are generated after each practice test you take. They help you focus your studying on specific content areas, question types and passage types. That way you can study smarter, not harder. There are also different aspects of your syllabus that allow you to practice timing, content, strategy, or full-length exams. Basically, I'm getting at my next reason- the abundance of resources!

4. Tons of resources

We have the most available official AAMC practice, including the newly released Self-Assessment Package as well as all eight officially released full-length exams. From AAMC and Kaplan full-length practice MCATs (19 full-length exams in total) to 11,000+ practice questions, in addition to MCAT Qbank custom quizzes, the resources in your Kaplan syllabus are set up to help you increase your score and destroy the MCAT on Test Day! The Topical Tests will help you battle through tough content. Section tests make practicing your timing a breeze. Beyond your online syllabus, you also get a Review Notes book for each content area: Biology, Organic Chemistry, General Chemistry, Physics and Verbal Reasoning. These books are also available on your online syllabus if you don't want to haul around actual books. The Review Notes are essential because they are a focused review of MCAT-pertinent material. Each section is rated based on the difficulty of the content and the frequency it appears on the actual MCAT. That way you don't spend too much time stressing about an infrequently tested, hard to understand topic!   So, what are you waiting for? There are so many great reasons to sign up for a Kaplan MCAT class today! I'd love to hear why you chose Kaplan in the comments. Let me know! Happy studying, Emily ...read more
September 23, 2014

Med School Letters of Recommendation, Part 2

It’s a well known fact that med school letters of recommendation (LORs) are an important part of your application. In my last article, I provided some tips and guidelines to consider when choosing who to pick as your letter writers. Now that you know who you’ll be asking for letters, today we’ll pick things up by discussing how to request your letters and make sure you get them.  

Set Expectations for your Letter Writers

As soon as possible, and in person, ask each of your potential writers if they are willing to submit a great letter of recommendation on your behalf. Yes, you must say “great” in your request! If they aren’t excited to help, find someone else! To those that say yes, offer to meet with them for coffee or during office hours to give them additional information about your background and answer any questions they have about you. My organic chemistry professor and I met after class for this reason and ended up in a deep conversation about his recurring shin pain and how our fathers both have atrial fibrillation. Naturally, the discussion turned to my past professional medical experience and goals for the future – perfect fodder for a letter of recommendation!  

Give Useful Information About Yourself to Each Letter Writer

You need to make sure that your letter writers have enough information to write you a truly outstanding letter. While they should know a fair amount about you already, you need to provide them with the tools to complete the picture. In a big envelope, give each letter writer the following:
  • Cover letter: thank them for their help, share directions, deadlines, and contact info for you and your pre-med advisor, if applicable.
  • Directions for submitting their letter: Visit the AAMC website for complete instructions on submitting your med school letters of recommendation. Some letter writers know how to upload your letters themselves into the AMCAS system via Interfolio or other applications. Others will need an addressed, stamped envelope: the delivery address is either
    • your address
    • that of your pre-med advisor if he/she collects your letters on your behalf
    • AMCAS: Attn: AMCAS Letters, AAMC Medical School Application Services, P.O. Box 18958, Washington, DC 20036

Note: If you are collecting your own letters, keep them clearly sealed and mail them together to AMCAS. If the writer is sending the letter via USPS to AMCAS, you need to also include the official AMCAS Letter Request Form, downloaded from your AMCAS application.

  • Curriculum vitae: your “CV” is an expanded resume containing your educational background as well as work experience, extracurricular activities (non-medical and medical), leadership experience, teaching experience, awards and honors, and publications. Ask your mentor for a copy of their CV for a clear idea of what one looks like; for the rest of your professional career, you will add to this document!
  • Draft of your personal statement: invite them to respond with comments or suggestions for revision, if they wish, but mainly this is to give them a sense of what your application will look like.
  • Academic history: science & cumulative GPAs, undergraduate/graduate/post-bacc GPAs, explanations for poor performance, MCAT test score(s), and your short- and long-term goals for the future! If there’s a gap or flaw in your academic career, a strong letter may be able to help explain it.
  • Tentative list of medical schools to which you hope to apply: you never know who they might know! Plus, they may have insight into some of the schools or offer suggestions for ones you didn’t yet consider.
 

Be kind, but persistent about getting your letters returned on time!

Send brief, encouraging emails or phone calls well in advance of your deadline. In an email to your letter writer, carbon copy (cc) your letter writer’s secretary or assistant and your pre-med advisor if a deadline passes and you haven’t received confirmation that your letter is complete – this little trick has never failed me!
  

Submit your letters to AMCAS, and then write personal ‘Thank You’ notes to each writer.

A handwritten, simple, sincere message of thanks means more than you realize! You don’t have to go this far, but I was so thankful that so many busy people helped me with my application that I sent each of them a handwritten thank you note with some homemade cookies and a $5 coffee shop gift card. You don’t have to buy gifts or go overboard – just be thoughtful and communicate this in a timely, heartfelt manner.  

Keep your LOR writers updated with news of your application & acceptance(s)!

Some of these people will serve you well as mentors and friends throughout your medical career, so keep them in the loop! Nothing’s worse than for them to invest time and energy into making you look good for your application and never hearing what became of it. Typically, your letter writers will be overjoyed to hear about your med school acceptances! (At which point you can write them another thank you card.) ...read more
September 3, 2014

Top Loan Forgiveness Programs for Students Facing Medical School Debt

As a pre-medical or medical student, you may not be worried about your future earnings as a doctor: after all, seven of the top-10 best paying jobs of 2014 are in health care. But that’s cold comfort when your post-medical school debt could pay for the average American home in full. The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) estimated that the median four-year cost to attend med school, including living expenses and books, for the class of 2013 was $278,455 at private schools and $207,868 at public ones. With nearly a fifth of students taking on more than $250,000 in education debt, many pre-med and medical students are looking to mitigate their impending debt by seeking out loan repayment, forgiveness programs, and scholarships available to current and future doctors. So, what to do when medicine is your calling but the thought of a six-figure debt also rings loudly in your ears? Among your options, the National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program and several other state- and school-specific scholarship programs reward you for providing primary healthcare in Health Professions Shortage Areas upon graduation.

Service incentives for med school students

Physicians, but also physician assistants, nurses, and other health professionals who commit to serving areas in need can have their medical school debt paid for, often on a one-for-one basis. One popular initiative is the Student to Service Program, which offers up to $120,000 to med students (MD and DO) in their last year of school in return for a commitment to provide at least three years of primary care at an approved Health Professional Shortage Area. While these programs represent a way to become debt-free faster, the intangible rewards go deeper. “I think altruism is a big motivation,” says Meredith Henson Talley, Director of Student Services and Admissions at the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine. “Most students will tell you they want to go into medicine to help people. In Tulsa, students have a chance to not only learn to treat patients and improve their health, but to think about system change and improving the health of whole communities. There are great scholarships and service incentives available and I’m sure that is a motivation for students.”

The need for community physicians

In the AAMC’s December 2013 Academic Medicine journal, Dr. Gerard P. Clancy, president of the University of Oklahoma–Tulsa campus, cited a 2006 analysis of public health data by the OU College of Public Health that revealed a 14-year difference in life expectancy between residents of Tulsa’s predominantly African-American north region and its predominantly Caucasian south region. To address the disparity, medical schools in the area needed to not only think outside the box; they needed new boxes altogether. “We also realized that a new kind of physician and physician assistant are needed. A kind of provider that really understands the needs of the community of the population they are serving, and thinks outside the box when treating their patients,” says Talley. And it’s working! The Tulsa World says preliminary findings show that more than half of the key health outcome indicators improved in the last four years.

Why work in community medicine?

Here are the top three reasons to pursue community medicine:
  1. You like to work on a team. “Students work […] right alongside students from other disciplines such as social work, pharmacy, and nursing. We practice team-based medicine, and I believe our students graduate with a great appreciation of the other disciplines and will carry that over into their careers,” says Talley.
  2. You see medicine as a bigger picture. Talley says that in Tulsa, “students have a chance to not only learn to treat patients and improve their health, but to think about system change and improving the health of whole communities.”
  3. You like to approach problems in a non-traditional way. Through managing chronic diseases such as obesity, OU medical students realized their patients didn’t have a place to exercise, which led to a partnership with the YMCA and better access to exercise for patients.
Applying to medical school can be a daunting process. Between juggling AMCAS, the MCAT, and FAFSA, if you choose to pursue one of the Health and Human Services scholarship programs, consider a few Dos and Don’ts:
  • DON’T gloss over the fine print. Committing to these programs shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. What happens if you change your mind?
  • DO consider your motivations. Are you passionate about providing for underserved communities?
  • DON’T skip the internship. See if rural or community medicine is for you before making your decision.
  • DO expect to be creative and pragmatic. You will have to work with what you have.
Unlocking your good life by pursuing community and rural healthcare unlocks the good life for others, too. We want to hear from you! Tell us what the good life means to you in the comments section, on Facebook, and on Twitter using #kaplangoodlife. We may share your story in an upcoming post. Visit kaptest.com/unlock to see what the good life has in store.  Stay tuned for more personal stories to inspire you. ...read more
August 28, 2014

Pre-Med Study Abroad Questions Answered, Part 2

[caption id="attachment_1559" align="alignright" width="300"] Emily is enjoying some downtime while studying abroad.[/caption] Hello again my pre-med study abroad readers! In part 1 of this post, we talked about the specifics of who, where, when, and how long to study abroad. In part 2, I'd love to discuss how studying abroad makes you a better pre-med student, better medical school applicant, and a better physician.  These experiences can make it possible to live your version of the "good life" sooner rather than later. 

A Better Pre-Med Student:

Have you ever experienced studying burnout? The demanding schedule of a pre-medical student can leave you feeling exhausted and wondering why you're even trying to go to medical school. Studying abroad for a week, a month or a semester can reinvigorate your studies and help you recommit to your classwork. It can also give you a fresh perspective on your life and your goals. This new energy can be especially true if you get the opportunity to work or volunteer in a medical setting during your study abroad experience. It's a lot easier to sit through a boring organic chemistry lecture if you've spent time with medical students in other countries or patients who can inspire you to keep working hard. It can also help put your struggles into perspective, which is something every pre-med student needs now and then.

A Better Medical School Applicant/Student:

Admissions committees are taking more holistic approaches to reviewing applications. They want to know that you're not only excelling in school, but can also demonstrate more intangible qualities like motivation, maturity, compassion, leadership and integrity. Having experiences such as living or volunteering abroad can help demonstrate these intangible qualities and help paint a picture of you as a more well-rounded applicant. You can showcase these experiences throughout the application process: many secondary applications and interview questions also get at the idea of your ability to empathize with patients from different backgrounds. Getting outside your comfort zone by traveling abroad and meeting people with completely different lifestyles and cultures can help you more effectively answer these questions, but more importantly help you relate to people from other cultures. Once you are accepted into medical school, there are many opportunities to continue studying and volunteering abroad. By establishing contacts in another country during undergrad, you can focus on doing a meaningful project during medical school based on these previous relationships.

A Better Physician:

Studying abroad expands your horizons. If you learn a foreign language, you can communicate effectively with an entirely new patient base. Volunteering in a resource-poor community can help you appreciate the resources in our hospitals. Interacting with people from different backgrounds can help make you a more culturally sensitive and overall more effective physician. Basically, if you have the time and opportunity, you should make it a priority to study abroad during your undergraduate career! We want to hear from you!
  • If you hope to study abroad:
    • Where do you hope to study abroad?
    • How do you think studying abroad will help you as a pre-med student, med student and/or physician?
    • How will studying abroad fulfill your vision of a good life?
  • If you've already gone:
    • What did you like about the experience?
    • Is there anywhere you would recommend?
Tell us in the comments section, on Facebook, and on Twitter using #kaplangoodlife. We may share your story in an upcoming post. Then stay tuned for more articles to get you inspired! Visit kaptest.com/unlock to see what the good life has in store. Happy studying! ...read more
August 21, 2014

Pre-Med Study Abroad Questions Answered-Part 1

[caption id="attachment_1538" align="alignright" width="300"] Emily's most recent study abroad experience was learning medical Spanish in Costa Rica.[/caption] Hello my travel-hungry readers! Today I'd like to start a two-part series on the importance of studying abroad as a pre-med. One of the big questions with regards to the changes made on the 2015 MCAT is, how will students be able to fit in the new required coursework? Many students are worried that they'll have to sacrifice important learning opportunities such as studying abroad or extracurriculars in their journey to become a physician. This article will tackle the pre-med study abroad questions of who, where, when and how long, while the next article will discuss why studying abroad makes you a better applicant, better medical student and even a better physician. So, let's get started!  

Who should study abroad?

Everyone should attempt to study abroad at some point during their undergraduate college career, but it's especially important for pre-med students. Medical schools are always looking for experiences that set you apart from the crowd of applicants and studying abroad can provide a valuable opportunity to do so! I understand that it's often difficult to set aside money or time, but the experience you will gain from living in a foreign country is worth it. There are often scholarships, loans or special opportunities available to facilitate studying abroad, but they're competitive so start looking early!  

Where should you study abroad?

Before you select your country in which to study, you should consider what your goals are for your study abroad experience. Are you trying to learn about another culture? Are you curious to see what the life of a physician looks like in other countries? Do you want to volunteer in a medically-underserved community? Are you trying to become fluent in another language? These goals will have an important impact on where you can go to have the best pre-med study abroad experience. You’ll want to start by checking with your university to see which programs are available in your desired country. Don’t worry: even if your school doesn't have a program in a certain country, there are non-affiliated programs in which you may participate. One of the factors that can limit your destination is ability or desire to learn a foreign language. You’ll automatically narrow down your options, if practicing your language skills is one of your study abroad goals. Beyond that, the world is free for you to explore!  

When should you study abroad?

Finding time in your packed pre-med schedule is difficult, but your time will be even more limited as a medical student. A lot of undergrad students have success studying abroad during their junior or senior year of college. You want to start researching and planning during your freshman year. Make a plan now to study abroad in your sophomore year or fall semester of your junior year. If you’re planning to go straight through to medical school, you’ll want to keep spring semester of your junior year open for MCAT prep. It will take careful planning to work in your pre-med classes and studying for your MCAT, but it can be done.  

How long should you study abroad?

In reality, as long as your schedule will permit! All study abroad experiences have the potential to be impactful. For me, I was able to study abroad in Spain for a semester to fulfill some of my requirements as a Spanish major. I'll tell you more about that in part 2! The main takeaway is to make this experience happen.  Be it one week or one year, these experiences last a lifetime.  There are many organizations that make it easy to fit in travel, tourism, and medical volunteer opportunities into one compact trip: Global Brigades, MEDLIFE, and Smile Train are just a few. Over the next month, we’ll share stories from Kaplan’s 'Journey of One Million Smiles' contest winners, who received an all-expense paid four-day trip to Guatemala to see Smile Train’s work firsthand.   We want to hear from you! Where do you hope to study abroad? How do you think studying abroad will help you as a physician?  How will studying abroad fulfill your vision of a good life? If you've already studied abroad, what did you like about the experience? Is there anywhere you would recommend? Tell us in the comments section, on Facebook, and on Twitter using #kaplangoodlife. We may share your story in an upcoming post.  Stay tuned for more personal stories and get inspired by others’ achievements, so you can better achieve yours. Visit kaptest.com/unlock to see what the good life has in store. Happy studying! ...read more
August 14, 2014

5 Tips for MCAT Success

Some of you reading this may be planners. You may have color-coded binders with tabs and dividers, organized desktops and files; you may group your apps into folders based on category. Some of you may refuse to use any writing tool other than an ultra-fine point Pilot G2 0.38mm (yours truly). If this doesn’t sound like you, you might need to “fake it til you make it,” because doing well on the MCAT and getting into medical school is all about planning. And it starts now. 5 Tips For MCAT Success: 1. Start your MCAT prep early. Start immediately, in fact. The single best thing you can do for yourself for success on the MCAT is to plan. No one who gets a 42 on the MCAT wakes up the week before and decides they’re just going to wing it. (Actually I’m sure that guy or girl exists out there, but they’re the rare unicorn of the MCAT world). You need to plan early, and plan well. 2. Choose a MCAT date. Pick a date with plenty of time for you to adequately prepare ahead of time. The AAMC recommends at least 300 hours of study time before taking the MCAT. It’s up to you to decide how much time you need to spread out your study time, depending on course load, extracurricular activities, and other commitments, but in general, students can prepare adequately for the MCAT in about 3 months. Commit to a MCAT date and register early. Then whip out your calendar and put a big circle (color-coordinated, if that’s your thing) around the date you’ve chosen. 3. Build your MCAT study schedule. Building your calendar may be the most important step. Take your calendar, and work in anything you have to do in between now and your MCAT. Birthdays, family get-togethers, and personal days come first - stick to them: they’re what will keep you sane during your study. Next, build in your big blocks of study time. Build in your Kaplan MCAT class times, your full-length exams, and your test reviews. Build in extra study time, which you’ll inevitably need. Build in more time than you think you’ll need; that way when you can’t finish a section in the amount of time you allotted, you have the ability to spill over into “make-up days.” 4. Be honest with yourself. After your first pass through your schedule, ask yourself “Can I really handle this?” Sleep on your new schedule for a night, and ask yourself again in the morning. This is your one best shot at tweaking your schedule or starting over from scratch, so make sure to make changes now! 5. Stick to your test prep schedule. The MCAT is the doorway to becoming a medical student and fulfilling your lifelong goal, and your schedule is your roadmap for the MCAT. Stick to this schedule no matter what! If you’re disciplined and reasonable with yourself and your time commitments, you’ll be cruising for a competitive score that will impress your interviewer and get you in the door to a lot of medical schools. Tons of students I’ve worked with have determination and drive to spare, but they lack the direction and the planning to get into medical school. Both are needed to make it to your first day on the wards, and sticking to a plan is a sure-fire way to get you one step closer. ...read more
August 12, 2014

Questions From a Future Physician: Is Effective Healthcare Limited by Cost?

  Hola estudiantes! Frequently in the U.S., I am faced with the question “what good is the best doctor, if the patients can't afford to pay for their healthcare or their prescriptions?” In Costa Rica, within a few hours and using my broken Spanish, I was faced with the same question. As a member of CU-UNITE, a track at my medical school, which focuses on working with medically under-served populations, I think it's crucial to have the skills to communicate with a diverse group of patients. This past summer I spent a month in Costa Rica learning medical Spanish in the hopes of being able to better serve my Spanish-speaking patients.  I frequently work with patients who speak only Spanish and although I was a Spanish major in college, it's difficult to explain illnesses and ask the right questions without having the right vocabulary. I think it's important to gain that vocabulary because of the relief I see on my patients' faces when they realize I understand what they're saying and the subsequent frustration when they find out that I can generally ask questions, but I don't know the word for hemorrhoids. Learning medical Spanish is also one of the many opportunities that medical students have during their "last summer" before second year. For me, I have an important purpose in going to Costa Rica, but also hope to relax by spending some time eating delicious food, visiting the beach and watching futbol, Vamos Ticos! A day here involves spending the morning learning from and working with the public health officials, attending Spanish class in the afternoon and chatting with my host family at night. What I really want to share with you today though, is my experience as a medical student upon arriving in Costa Rica. First, we took an overnight flight from Denver and arrived in San Jose at five in the morning. Immediately, we hopped on a bus to go to our home base, the town of San Isidro. I don't know if you have ever tried to speak a foreign language on four hours of sleep, but I assure you it is difficult. We met our host families at seven a.m. and were separated from the group to settle into our new homes. My host mom fed me and asked me if I wanted to go with her to volunteer, and even though I was sleep-deprived and disoriented, I said yes. I walked with her to the church having no idea what I had just signed myself up for. I looked around the room and noticed at the back there were large bags of food, diapers and other household goods. After about twenty minutes, the church women started calling out names and handing out the bags to the waiting families. I noticed one woman who received her bag was quietly crying in the corner. The church women approached her and she began to explain her story. As she spoke, she directed her words to me, even though, or perhaps because I was a foreigner. Her son, who could walk well a few months ago, was suddenly unable to walk. She demonstrated with her son who was approximately eighteen months old. His legs were pale and weak and could not support his weight. She had visited the doctor who said that he lacked vitamins and minerals. The mom explained that her son had not been eating much because he had lost his appetite. So, the doctor prescribed a special, very expensive baby formula. The mom could not afford to pay for the formula and thus was in tears. The church ladies were able to obtain the formula for her and she left, hoping it was enough to restore her baby's health. What do you think?
  • Does it matter if you become the best doctor in the world, if your patients can't afford your recommendations?
  • What should be done to improve this healthcare problem?
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Being in Costa Rica for the summer is an awesome experience for a first year (soon-to-be-second year!) med student. Check out Unlock the Good Life to see other fun advantages to being in med school and being a doctor! We want to hear from you! Tell us what the good life means to you in the comments section, on Facebook, and on Twitter using #kaplangoodlife. Happy studying y ciao! ...read more
November 25, 2013

University of Tennessee Medical: The Traditional Choice in Medicine

University of Tennessee Medical College is the oldest public graduate school in the nation. The school has two locations in Chattanooga and Memphis. The college aims to help students whose primary focus is surgery and internal medicine.
  • University of Tennessee College of Medicine has 190 students enrolled in graduate programs.
  • The college has core clerkships for students interested in obstetrics, gynecology and surgery.
  • The cost for full-time students is $31, 432 for in-state transfers. For out-of-state prospective students, the costs are $62, 292.
  • The average GPA for accepted, enrolled students is 3.68 and the average MCAT graduate test score is 29.
  • Students enrolled in the graduate medical education program are paid through the university during internship, and the school pays for insurance and liability.
Student Culture and Campus Life The University of Tennessee Medical School is a less competitive school than most peer, public schools. The UT Medical School is a part of several associations, so students are introduced to communities such as the AMSA Career Development program, the AAMC Medical Student Resource and MedFools, which helps match students with the right residency program. UT also hosts the Center for Advanced Medical Simulation, which is a state of the art simulation center that mimics a real clinical setting. What's unique about this college is its Erlanger Health System. Finding your way around campus can be difficult for first year students. This system is an interactive, real-time map system that helps students find their way to class quickly and create an itinerary for class schedules. Student's Perspective Even graduate students need some time off, and University of Tennessee is placed next to several good eats, coffee and bars for entertainment. Memphis is known for its music and museums, and students who enjoy music can see Elvis' Graceland and Orpheum Theatre. Students who enjoy sports can watch some baseball at AutoZone Park or basketball at Fedex Forum. Chattanooga also has plenty of hotspots to take the student's mind off of stress and studies. Students can visit the Tennessee Aquarium, Lookout Mountain, Rock City and Ruby Falls. Chattanooga also has scenic areas and parks such as Harrison Bay State Park and Missionary Ridge. Tennessee is known for its good food, especially the BBQ scene. For nightlife, Chattanooga has Hair of the Dog Pub, Big River Grille and Black Inn Café. Memphis students can enjoy Silky O'Sullivans, Interim Restaurant, Huey's Downtown and Celtic Crossing. It does not snow as heavily and as frequently as it does in other states, so students will usually see mild winters. Summers are hot, so expect to spend time next to water to cool off or stay indoors. Career Placement and Advising Every doctor must find the right internship and residency program before he can officially practice. University of Tennessee's career advising offers a way for students to find the right program in its clerkship placement. Clerkship starts in junior year, and students can continue their rotation throughout senior year. Advisors also help place students in fellowship programs which include surgery, hospice medicine, neuro-sciences, vascular surgery and gynecology. [cf]skyword_tracking_tag[/cf] ...read more

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