Hello, is this thing on?

decidedlyDOlogo2Hello friend, welcome to the Decidedly DO blog!

I’ve started this blog as a way to keep track of information I have used in my journey to and through medical school, and even after. I’ve divided the site into different sections — here is a quick run-down of two specific ones:

Helpful Resources – this section will contain links to existing sites and tips that I have found helpful over the years. Of course, much of this section is made possible through effort made by others, so wherever possible, I have included direct links and reference information for the content originators.

Narratives – this section will contain pieces of a more personal nature — work, study, and life experiences.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to use the Comments sections of each post or reach out to me through the Contact page! I am always on the search for more useful resources, so if there are any that you’ve found helpful, feel free to send them over my way and I’ll add them to the list!

Thanks for stopping by!

On Being a Reapplicant

I mentioned in my previous ‘Narrative’ post that I was a reapplicant to medical colleges this year. This was the second time I applied, the first was in the 2011 cycle for entry in 2012. You could say I took my time to re-prepare and make sure that this was truly the career for me. Though, if I’m being honest, I never gave up on becoming a physician.

So, summer of 2011, I’ve been working as a tech in one of the labs on campus for almost a year, and I was applying to medical schools as I had always planned. Throughout the process, though, I had the distinct feeling that things were not going as swimmingly as perhaps they should have been. I felt lost at sea, having submitted a personal statement that I was not terribly proud of and drowning in secondary essays written in the same unsteady voice.

While I was applying, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a one month leave of absence from my lab job to volunteer with and shadow physicians in the public health system in Morocco, my home country. This turned out to be the single most impactful clinical experience in my life, even to this day. However, because I had already submitted my primary application and some of my secondaries at the time, I was not able to fully relate the experiences I had in Morocco to the schools to which I was applying. And, to be honest, the whole experience was still too fresh — I hadn’t given myself enough time to really ruminate, sift through the experiences, and allow the “lessons” to come into view.

And so it went. I finished up all my secondaries (which was a most daunting task as I had applied very, very, broadly) and come early spring, I received my final notice of rejection. This was a staggering blow. As this wave of rejection washed over me, I felt as though I had been dragged deeper into the currents with no land in sight.

At that point, I had worked almost two years in the lab, and I was relatively certain that, while it had been an interesting and educational experience, it was not one that I planned to continue much longer. Maybe that was a product of my having been set on going back to school after two years as a lab tech. In some way, I was determined to make that shift, so I began searching for masters programs, primarily in public health. It was then that I happened across an intriguing program that was a blend of public health and statistics: a Masters of Science in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. In that moment, something clicked within me and I knew that this was the program for me. It was as if, after months of treading water, I had finally found land.

I quickly put together the application materials and found myself going through the awkward process of reaching out to my medical school recommenders once more, explaining that I had, in fact, not been admitted into medical school, but that I hoped they might be able to send letters to a new program instead.

If applying to medical school was long and drawn out, this process was the exact opposite. From application to acceptance was barely a month. And shortly after that, I was back in a classroom. I was beyond excited to be a student again but also felt a bit nervous to be exploring such uncharted territory. This was never an eventuality I’d imagined or planned for — I’d always thought that I’d finish undergrad and, within two years, head to medical school. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I’d find myself back in school — for more math, no less!

Throughout the master’s program, I never quite lost sight of my end goal — I remained steadfast in my desire to eventually become a physician. Nevertheless, I allowed myself the privilege of taking time; I didn’t want to rush through things again. Many factors led me to wait a bit before reapplying, not the least of which was the fact that I had to sit for the MCAT again since my scores had since expired.

With these things in mind, I decided to re-enter the workforce and prepare for the MCAT and reapplication as well. It took me a while to find my footing and after an overwhelming few months of trying to study on my own subjects that I hadn’t seen in years, I eventually decided that classes were the way to go. So, I signed up for courses à la carte at local community colleges and online and decided to take an MCAT prep course as well. After two years of courses, I took the MCAT and re-applied.

I have to say, I felt much more sure of myself this time around. I realized that the time I had taken had allowed me to gain perspective, to ground myself in my galvanized earnestness to enter the medical field. I suppose the moral of this long and winded tale is this: don’t be hasty. There is truly seldom any reason to rush through the process, to approach a goal frantically that requires more graceful, purposeful movements.

Oh, and also: don’t give up 🙂

Keeping Up with the Newses

Next up, how about some simple ways to keep up with medical and scientific news!

I have always found this to be a relatively overwhelming task — so much news, so many sources, so little time!! Below are a few resources I use to keep up with some of the latest in scientific and medical news.

MedPage Today and MedScape

These are two separate resources but they are very similar to one another. Both give insight into recent updates in the medical field. You’ll find here articles outlining recent published papers or research studies and their findings as well as health policy news in the United States.

Both also provide email newsletters as well as a mobile App and website. You can sign up with these resources either through their websites (here are some links: MedPage Today and MedScape) or their Apps!

AAAS Newsletters

The AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) is the organization that brought us the journal Science. Though their updates are mostly for the broader scientific community, touching on topics across the research spectrum (from astrophysics to biomedical research to evolutionary biology), I really like their newsletters — they’re a super simple way to keep abreast of major science updates.

The email newsletters link out to articles about recent papers and findings published in Science and elsewhere. Some newsletters also contain links directly to the papers themselves, but at this juncture, you’ll be faced with an access issue if you or your institution are not subscribed to the journals that house these papers. Nevertheless, their newsletters are still great sources of some really interesting finds!

To sign up for these emails, simply visit this page, select which updates you are interested in, and enter your email at the bottom!

AACOM Newsletters

Yup, beyond providing information on the Osteopathic medical community, the AACOM is also a pretty good source of headlines. If you are registered with them, you will receive email newsletters on important health policy updates from the AACOM Office of Government Relations, especially as they relate to or impact medical education issues. I have found this resource very helpful in keeping up with some of the changes occurring in the US’ current healthcare climate and understanding how they might impact me as a future medical student and practitioner.

It should be noted that you do not have to begin a DO application to do register with AACOM — AACOM and AACOMAS (the AACOM Application Service) are separate entities 🙂 You can register with AACOM by visiting their site, hitting “Login” at the top right corner of the page, and clicking the “New User” link underneath the login credential prompt.

Read by QxMD App/Site

Read is a mobile App and website that functions basically as an “aggregation” tool — you can search for articles and papers, create “collections” based on interests and keywords that you list out in your user profile, or follow other users’ collections. In all honesty, the App’s user interface (UI) takes some getting used to, but if you give it a chance, it can be a pretty neat way to flag, organize, and access research papers and articles published in your areas of interest.

One (pretty big) caveat, again, is that many of these papers exist behind paywalls, so unless you or your institution are subscribers to the journals in which these papers are published, you will likely be stuck reading just the abstracts.

If you’d like to explore this tool before signing up, they let you do that here!

KevinMD Blog

This is a blog that might be familiar to you already! It is actually a subsidiary of MedPage Today and is mostly comprised of editorial-type pieces, which offer some nice insight into specific schools of thought or personal opinions of medical professionals. You can sign up for email updates by visiting the blog and filling in the Subscribe box at the top of the righthand column.

Social Media

Another way to keep up with medical and scientific updates is social media. Admittedly, this is not my favorite method, since I’m kind of a Twitter novice and I don’t visit Facebook often. Nevertheless, for quick bytes of information while you’re on a short commute or waiting for an elevator, I find following some sources on Twitter to be convenient.

For the most part, I follow news sources (like NYT Science/NYT Health, BBC Health News, NPR Health News), as well as some journals and science magazines (such as Nature, Scientific American), and established health/medicine/research organizations (like the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization). Some accounts are more active than others, and given that Twitter’s algorithms tend to favor more prolific posters, sometimes updates from these organizations can get buried in the noise. All that said, if you’re scrolling through Twitter, it’s nice to have these types of updates shuffled in 🙂

Alrighty, as lengthy as this post may be, of course these are only some of the available means to keep up with news and updates — the full list is probably actually limitless, between Google alerts, RSS feeds, direct journal subscriptions, and loads of news outlets. In any case, I hope you found these tidbits helpful! As always, feel free to share any additional suggestions/thoughts below or through the Contact page!

Why am I Decidedly DO?

To answer this question, I’d like to first talk about a bit of history…

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a physician, and that was something everyone in my life encouraged and supported. I had worked hard throughout high school and college with this end goal in mind. I had taken the MCAT during my fourth year of college (to have some reassurance from the fact that the material was still fresh in my mind 🙂 ) but decided to wait to apply until the following year, electing instead to take up work as a tech for a lab on campus.

In 2011, I applied to medical school, and after long months of nerve-wracking anticipation, I received my final rejection letter. This was a staggering blow and it took me a while to pick myself back up. I ultimately decided to go for a master’s degree, and for this decision, I am eternally grateful.

To keep this blog post a bit shorter and more to the point, the skills I picked up through my master’s program led me right to the data analysis job that I have had for almost five years, now, with a healthcare quality company. I didn’t know it when I started there, but this experience would lead me right back to medicine, and with more conviction than I had ever felt in all those years of wanting and waiting.

Why? Because the time I spent in a different but related field allowed me to gain perspective and reaffirm my interest in medicine, specifically, in the intricacies and importance of the physician-patient relationship. And this is what led me to be Decidedly DO.

This is not to say that the MD route doesn’t produce physicians who are just as concerned with creating and maintaining a relationship with their patients (in fact, I also applied to and received interview invitations from MD colleges); I was just drawn in by the DO philosophy — its principle that the relationship between physician and patient should be a partnership — and supremely intrigued by the notion of “unlocking” the body’s innate healing capacity. After all, humans existed for millennia without the aid of modern pharmaceutical innovations, and while these are incredibly helpful and have pushed the field of medicine to heights previously unknown, I do believe that they shouldn’t necessarily be the first resort in a given treatment plan, and the DO training path would allow me to learn additional skills that I could employ as alternative first resorts (such as OMM).

So, that is the long and round-about path that has led me to my decision to pursue a DO 🙂 I have tried to keep this post on the shorter side, but if you have any questions or want any additional details on why I made some of the choices I made, how I decided “now is the time to apply,” etc., feel free to reach out in the comments below or send me a message through the Contact page!

Thanks for reading!

For Pre-Meds and Aspiring Physicians

Below are a few helpful links for pre-medical students or aspiring physicians.

National Application Services

These first two are obvious but should be noted nonetheless. Beyond being your main links to the application services you will be using, these sites are home to a wealth of additional information about medical school and beyond:

Networking Opportunities

The following associations are good networking resources:

Non-Traditional Students

The following link is a fun resource for “non-traditional” pre-meds — i.e. those who have taken a bit of time between undergrad and applying for medical school.

  • Old PreMeds
    • What you might find most helpful are the forums, which touch on topics like taking the MCAT, post-baccalaureate programs, applying, getting back into “student mode,” etc. As with all forums, though, I would caution taking the information you glean from them with a grain of salt 🙂