Saturday, August 16, 2014

How many people fail out of medical school?

I've been asked this a few times as an upperclassman.   At my institution, I'd say probably 2 people dropped out in my class.  About 3 took a leave of absence due to grades and came back as a repeat MS1.  Failing happens but it's not the end. Med school is hard but there are a lot of people watching out for you if you're at a good school.  If you're struggling, get advice right away, because there's no time to fall behind.   Let me know if you need any help

Monday, August 11, 2014

The surefire mcat prep

Examkrackers MCAT study set, and Kaplan's MCAT online study prep with Qbanks and book helped me get the score I needed to interview everywhere I wanted to go.  Got accepted everywhere except for a place that waitlisted me, but that's just the way it goes.  Take dedicated study time and work hard.  Take as much time as you need and treat it like you only have one chance to take it

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Medical Student Budget and Saving Money II

So here are more real-life examples of budgeting and money saving during my medical school journey.

1. I bought a lot of music on iTunes but it was getting to be so expensive that I switched over to Spotify's $10 a month plan.  Saved me a ton of money and it was the most reasonable thing to do because I love discovering new music.

2. I cancelled my cable television and just use internet.

3.  When looking for apartments, I went for the best balance of safe, affordable, and close to school.  Being on a public transport route saved me a lot of money too.  Some med students with more money than sense decide to live in luxury condos.  Brilliant.

4.  I cooked my own meals and brought them with me.  Made my own coffee too.  Otherwise, I'd be spending $200 a month on  just lunch and coffee.

5.  I'd go to the liquor store to buy what I like to drink and then have gatherings with friends instead of going out to a bar to pay $7 for a beer when a six pack of that beer would be like $10-$12.

6.  Along that theme, I would get together with friends and we'd cook/do pot luck dinners.

7.  I've never gone on a vacation that involved airplanes in med school.  I just don't have that kind of money.  Probably missed some great memories, sure, but debt is terrible.  I'll go on vacation when I can afford it.

8.  I only bought clothes for clinic when they were on sale.  I wore scrubs to class or wore whatever I had around.

9.  I didn't buy a new computer just for med school.

10. Saved money by plugging my desktop into a TV.  Didn't have to shell out for a new monitor.

Basically, just live within your means.  Carpool, have roommates, don't throw lavish parties.

Also, lose your ego.  You're a med student, not a celebrity, so you don't need to be treating people to expensive dinners or show off this stereo or tv or whatever.  All my friends know I'm in serious debt and that's cool because that's just life.

As far as future income, who knows what it'll be.  Watch ortho's reimbursements get slashed, see primary care's get bumped up, or start seeing dermatologists get the shaft.

It's going to get harder and harder to hang up a shingle and run your own practice, honestly.  That's a thing of the past.  Health care has gotten to be so expensive that you should expect to practice in a hospital or a multispecialty kind of center.  Sorry if that was your dream, but let's be real here. Shadow a doc who has their own practice and you'll see them have their family members be the secretaries and billers and all this.  It's out of control.

Also, don't be a surgeon because that lifestyle is terrible (unless it's ophtho I guess.  ENT can be insane with facial reconstruction/neck dissections, but it's not as bad as ortho or trauma).

Just because you're in med school doesn't mean you're smart with your money!  Take care of your money and it'll take care of you.

The Medical Student Budget and Saving Money I

A reader of mine requested that I write an article on budgeting and living expenses as a medical student.  They were also concerned about the huge stack of debt US med students accrue and decreasing reimbursements when they start practicing as a physician.

How much does medical school really cost?

You've probably already submitted your applications to med school or are a college student looking at going to med school.  Congratulations.  All the financial aid information is on each school's website: easy.

There'll usually be a financial aid person to talk to on your med school interviews, and if not, get a card from someone or look them up on the website.

Tuition can be the biggest expense depending on where you go to school.  But there are costs you can help decrease like costs of living, eating, etc.

Here's what I recommend:
1. Get a roommate.  Med school isn't a time to live luxuriously on your own because you're borrowing all that money and it needs to get repaid.

2. Buy food/shower/bath/kitchen things in bulk.  Try either Amazon or bulk sales stores

3.  Minimize eating at restaurants and cook.  Cook enough for 3-7 days at a time, and make sure you cook multiple meals so you can eat something different everyday.  Bringing your own meal is great for morale on rotations.

4. Use public transport as much as you can

5. Go on Amazon or Google Play for textbooks instead of anywhere more expensive.  There are also some cool, inexpensive review books you can find on there.

6. Keep a fan on or put a sweater on to lower your heating/cooling bills.

7. Apply for financial aid early so you can benefit from institutional loans with lower interest rates (if offered).

8.  I avoided schools who had tuition of $60K+ a year..sure they were prestigious but expensive and I'm not sure I actually would've been happy in those cities.  That's also before factoring in cost of living.

9.  Avoid the thought of "well, I'm going to be a doctor, so I can buy this new stereo/tv/designer clothes now."  You're making "negative" money, so don't live beyond your means.  At most, treat yourself to a nice dinner within reason.

You hear debt ranging from anywhere to nothing (rich kids) to $300K or even $900K (due to extreme life events).  Managing your debt is a lot like eating healthy: you need to make wise decisions daily so it doesn't catch up with you and kill you in the end.

As far as residency goes: there are different repayment methods for your loans.  One is "pay as you earn," another is "income based repayment," then there's forebearance.

You can learn more at this AAMC website:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Parachuting Caffeine Pills

That title is really just part of my commentary on the dire state of medical training, which is actually a lot less terrible than it used to be, apparently.  Let me give you an little inside look to training, civilians and prospective medical students:

Everyone hears their doctor friends "being on call."  They, including a younger version of me thought: "Whoa, that's really badass.  They're like saving lives and being all cool and respected."  

When really you're spending the 24 hours or so in the hospital managing blood sugars or putting your fist/forearm into a stranger's birth canal for an indeterminate amount of time to tamponade some post-partum hemorrhage, depending on your specialty.  

Call schedules disrupt your sleep schedule, and you end up eating a lot in order to feel better and comfort you psychologically and physically.  For example, I'll work a normal 6am-Xpm week.  Then, in the middle of the next week, I need to flip my schedule and take 24 hour call, then flip my schedule again to be as rested and functional as I can the next work day.  Ad nauseam.  

Multiply that by the rest of your life until you retire (unless you're a dermatologist or something), and you're probably a few pounds heavier and managed to shed a few years off of your life.  I guess being on call is supposed to test you and be extra education/training, but I'd rather do all my call shifts in a row, activate beast mode, and get through it.  Forgot to mention that when you're on call, it's usually just one attending, and you, taking care of anywhere from 10 to 90 patients.  Hooray.

Having all your call "shifts" in a row would be great, but that'd make too much sense.  I'm post-call right now and ready to fall asleep but there's so much I need to do right now.  cheers

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

When med school is less than educational

Sometimes teaching hospitals and the teams in them get so busy, teaching doesn't really happen.  Often times I've seen students be sent off to go fetch food, fax documents, or just be ignored.  There's also just not a lot students can do on surgeries.  90% of the time, students retract, and the other time they suture or cut sutures.  But don't feel bad, it's just the high risk nature. The more you prove yourself, the more you're trusted though.

Med school is a time to "put yourself out there" and impress your team by doing as much as you can for your team, though.  Volunteer to pick up a new patient or go see the new consult.  Teams remember that behaviour and the residents and attendings actually talk about students pretty often. 

Never run out of energy, keep working hard and never stop learning.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

How to make the most out of your rotation

Besides being active and volunteering to do more work, make a list of questions to ask your attending or resident to further your education.  It's best to write down questions as you read a text or clinical research.   You'll look like a star and you'll learn much more.