The Medical Tag

So! I’ve decided to do this medical tag to answer some questions you all might have. Thank you Doctorinspe for creating this tag and inspiring us medical students and new bloggers. I love Doctorinspe‘s blog. It highlights some important aspects of medicine that we must all consider like mental health and the importance of blood donations. Thanks again Doctorinspe!

Who are you and where do you study?
My name is Alli. I am a 2nd year medical student and I attend medical school in the beautiful West Indies!

When did you start studying medicine or premed courses?
I have wanted to become a physician for as long as I can remember so it has always been the goal for me. I started my premed classes in undergrad and took two years after undergrad to complete those courses in a postbacc program.

What made you choose the medical field?
I chose medicine/medical field because I found that it was the best way for me to give back while still receiving gratification in return. Also, coming from a developing nation has always played a HUGE role in my decision to pursue medicine. I have a passion to serve underrepresented populations, especially seeing as how I come from one.  I feel that medicine is the best way for me to contribute back to my home the best way I possibly can!

I’ve shadowed a variety of physicians and volunteered in different hospitals/hospital departments throughout high school and undergrad. There wasn’t a single day where I didn’t see myself working there as a physician.

How did you come up with your blog name/username?
Coming up with my blog name was probably the hardest thing I have ever done LOL I brainstormed so much. I wanted something to connect back to where I was from and to showcase my identity. As Sudanese people, we refer to ourselves as “children of the Nile” because the Nile River runs right through our country. When I finally came up with “Nile Child” and saw that the domain was available, I definitely had to stick with it.

How would you describe your blog?
At this stage, I’m not sure exactly how to describe my blog. It’s both an outlet for me and an advice source for anyone seeking advice. It’s without a doubt geared for pre-meds or med students. I want it to be a source of inspiration for students.

What’s your favorite quote?
I have a lot of favorite quotes but my favorite one lately is: “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher” by Oprah Winfrey. I really like this quote because I believe that every goal driven person should not waste his or her time with people who are bringing them down, especially not in medical school. It is stressful as it is. There is NO TIME for drama.

Best memory in medical school?
My favorite memory in medical school so far is when I attended a volunteer event with the Muslim Student Association of my university. We went to an orphanage where we spent time with the children and had dinner with them. This was the first time I had ever been to a children’s home. It definitely opened my eyes. Sometimes we don’t realize how lucky and blessed we are. Those kids had hardly anything but they were still smiling and laughing.

What’s one course you struggled with?
oh. em. gee. Organic chem was the worst for me in undergrad SMH! I still don’t understand it. SO GLAD IT’S OVER. In med school, Neuroscience was a struggle as well. All of those tracts and such confused me and took me SO LONG to learn but once I was able to get it, I got it!

What’s your favorite book?
hmmm….this is a hard one. Can Shakespeare plays count? “Taming of the Shrew” is probably my favorite one but I like a bunch of them. The Alchemist is another book that I like. Thanks J for forcing me to read that book because turns out I really like it.

What do you do in your free time?
What free time? LOL After block exams I usually clean and get my life together to prepare for the next block which starts the next day LOL. I also like to catch up on shows on Netflix, bake/cook.

What do you want to major or specialize in?
I’m not sure exactly what I want to specialize in just yet but stay tuned. Once I get to clinical rotations, I think I will have a better idea of which type of medicine I’d like to practice. I’ve always wanted to be a pediatrician though (:

Who do you look up to?
I look up to a lot of people. For instance, Oprah Winfrey. Who doesn’t look up to Oprah though? I look up to my mentor who has guided me through life since I was 10 years old. I owe her the world. She embodies everything I want to be! I also look up to my parents who have worked and continue to work so hard so that I can succeed. Writing this, I realize how incredibly blessed I am to have these people.

How do you study (productively)?
Flashcards! Flashcards! Flashcards! and rewriting notes in different colors. I believe in active learning as well so sometimes I’ll talk to myself while reading my notes out loud. Medical school teaches you how to study. The one thing I’ve learned about studying during my time in basic sciences is that repetition is the best way to succeed.

How do you stay motivated in medical school?
A friend of mine asked me this recently. I have a huge fear of failure so I honestly, that motivates me. I’ve worked so hard to become a physician and I’ve gotten this far. Failing is not an option. I also look at my life and see where I am now and where I want to be. This motivates me a lot because I don’t want to be stuck in my current situation.

What are your best tips for future medical students?
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do it or that you are not cut out to become a doctor. You can and you will. With this being said, you have to work hard. It’s definitely not easy. There are times where we feel like giving up but thinking of the end goal helps us out. Take it one day at a time. Another tip that I think is important is working on discipline. It’s easy to get distracted but having discipline will keep you focused.

I hope this answers some of you all’s questions. If you have any more questions or need advice, don’t hesitate to email me or leave a comment (:

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The perfect gifts for medical students

It’s that time of the year again and if you are looking for the perfect gift for your medical student, you’ve come to the right place! Here’s a list of a few gift ideas (in no particular order) that may help you in search:

1. Stethoscope

As medical students, not only do we wan’t a stethoscope but we absolutely NEED one. A lot of us use Littman stethoscopes but there much more affordable ones out there and that doesn’t make them any less than Littman. No matter which stethoscope you purchase, you can make it more special by having the student’s initials or name engraved on it.

Make sure to check with the school before making this purchase to see which stethoscope they require their students to have.

2. UWorld Subscription

Medical students worldwide use UWorld to prepare for the USMLE (License Exam). These are a set of retired USMLE questions that help the students figure out where they stand. A subscription to UWorld is a little on the expensive side; however, almost every student who has taken the Step 1 of the license exam would recommend it!

Image result for uworld logo3. Scrubs

Depending on the school that your medical student goes to, he or she is more than likely required to purchase their own scrubs. A lot of schools have a specific company that ask their students to purchase from but if not, I recommend Cherokee Scrub tops and bottoms. I love the way these fit, the variety of sizes they have, and how comfortable they are. A lot of people opt for unisex scrubs as well.

4. First Aid book

I think most medical students can agree that is their copy of First Aid is almost practically their bible for USMLE STEP 1. From the beginning of basic sciences, we each purchase this book and annotate it so that when it is time to study for STEP 1, it’s ready…at least we are supposed to anyways. Make sure to purchase the latest edition of this book.

5. Coffee Machine / Espresso Maker

A friend of mine who was already in Med school laughed at me when I told her, I would get through medical school without drinking coffee. We are always so tired and sleepy and a coffee is the answer to our problem. A coffee maker would make a great gift for your medical student, no matter which year he or she is in.

6. Gym bag

Exercise is truly the best stress reliever and why not give the give of stress relief? I have the Adidas Squad III gym bag and I love it! It has so many pockets for literally everything that you would need to bring to the gym/locker room. Plus, the bag is really cute!

7. Stethoscope Heart Art Decal

Almost everyone I know has this art decal on their laptop. It’s just a cute way to proclaiming to the world that we are medical students. We are passionate about what we are doing! This is a cute and inexpensive gift.

8. Noise canceling headphones

If you are thinking about getting your medical student noise canceling headphones, you will definitely be appreciated I guarantee that! A lot of us use these in the library or coffee shops because event though we like the environment, we like to study in total silence. Here, here, and here are some cool ones that I’ve seen my classmates with:



9. Crockpot / Slow cooker

A crockpot would make a great gift for anyone who does not have a lot of time to cook. With the help of Pinterest, there are so many different crockpot recipes that can be made. I purchased my crockpot before coming to medical school and I use it for my meal prep every week. I just place whatever ingredients a recipe calls for, go and study and come back to a cooked meal. Most crockpots are also rice makers so you get a 2 in 1 deal. Such a great investment!

10. Dissection Kit

So this gift can be for pre-meds or incoming medical students. When we first start medical school, we start anatomy lab and our first human dissections. I purchased this dissection kit from Amazon for my anatomy lab. If you get this kit for pre-med students then I believe its a motivational/encouraging gift that says “soon you’ll get to use this!”

11. DNA Pendant / EKG Pendant

This makes a cute gift for a friend or significant other. Who doesn’t like jewelry?

12. Pens / Highlighters

Without a doubt, your medical students will need colorful pens and highlighters. I would like to argue that there is no one on earth who takes more notes than us medical students. We will appreciate this gift because 1) its practical and 2) we need it.

13. Watch

It looks really bad in clinicals if we don’t have a watch. This is another thing that we need. We learn to count heart rate, breath sounds, etc. and having a watch makes it much easier. I have had my Seiko watch for the longest time and it has definitely came in handy in med school.

14. Reusable spill-proof coffee tumblers

Like I mentioned before, we drink lots of coffee and/or tea. Over these past two years, I’ve accumulated a number of coffee mugs/tumblers but nothing beats the spill-proof ones I have. These are great for the library or computer lab where we are not allowed to have drinks unless they are in a spill-proof container.

15. Reusable Water bottles

No one likes to be dehydrated! Water bottles much appreciated from all of us. I love my Camelbak water bottles!

16. iPad / Tablet

I purchased my own iPad in the very beginning of med school when I realized almost everyone had either an iPad or a tablet of some sorts. A lot of people take their notes directly on the iPad; however, I use it because it is portable and I can study from it virtually anywhere. It is probably the best investment that I made and I am sure any medical student will love an iPad or tablet as a gift. When I head off to clinicals, I will invest in an iPad mini instead of the larger one I have because it can easily fit in the lab coat pocket and can be used for quick reference.

               

17. Gift Cards

Gifts cards are always the safest gift to give. If you don’t know which kind of gift card, one to a restaurant would be PERFECT!

I hope that this list gave some of you ideas! I know a lot of these gifts are pricey and honestly, a lot of us can’t even afford them, that’s why they would make an extra special gift!

The “I just graduated college but I don’t know what to do now” dilemma: Pre-Med Edition

Okay so, the title to this post was definitely shorter in my head lol

Anyways…

A friend of mine recently reached out to me asking for advice about what to do during a gap year between applying for medical school and graduation. Another friend reached out to me asking for advice to make herself a better candidate for medical schools now that she has finished college.

So I thought, “hmm…I wonder who else needs help with this dilemma and could potentially benefit from me sharing this bit of  type of advice?”

Let me start by first saying that I am so proud of anyone who is still chasing after that MD or DO or that PA despite the obstacles. You are going to make strong physicians because you are the ones that persevere through tough times. You are the ones that the world needs.

Not everyone has a straight path to medicine. I know I definitely didn’t. What’s important is that it is still the goal.

I’m here to tell you that even though you’re done with college and everyone of your friends seems to have their lives together, you can still reach your goals of getting into medical school.

Don’t be discouraged just because your GPA wasn’t flawless or you did not get a perfect MCAT or money is the obstacle. If you wan’t to be a doctor and you feel it from the bottom of your soul, you will become that doctor.

This dilemma is one that most of us in medical school has experienced before. Not every doctor you have met went straight from college into Medical School and if a student did go straight into medical school after college, this does NOT mean they will make a better physician than you, it just means they got there earlier and will finish earlier. But remember, it’s not a race.

Because  I have personally experienced this dilemma, I am here to offer some words of encouragement and tell you that yes, you will get into medical school and yes, you will be that doctor.

So, you just graduated or about to graduate but have no idea what to do next. Your academic advisor has told you that there is no way you will ever get into medical school with your GPA and you should explore other career options. You go home, and are both hurt and determined as ever by this news. You decide that you can’t give up on your life’s goal.

Lets pause here at this moment and figure out where to go from here. Below are some steps that I believe everyone in this situation should look at to help figure out what the next moves are”:

Realistically examine your situation

These are questions that you should step away from everything and ask yourself:

Where am I?

  • Have I finished college or am I going to graduate soon?
  • What does my GPA look like?
  • What about my MCAT score? Have I taken the MCAT?
  • Did I gain something meaningful out of my extracurricular activities?
  • Did I complete all of the medical school prerequisite courses?
  • Would getting a Master’s degree enhance my GPA and my competitiveness? What about completing a post-bacc program?

What can I do now?

  • Now that you have answered those questions and realistically examined where you stand, think about what can you do now in the short term before applying to schools. For instance, before I graduated college, I knew that I didn’t complete the pre-reqs for med school and I knew I would take about two years to complete them and I also knew that I didn’t have enough meaningful extracurricular activities. So, what I did was immediately contact places where I could volunteer so that I can start ASAP.
  • Also, start gathering information on medical schools immediately if you haven’t already been doing so.

What do I NOT want to do?

  • Are there some things that you consider deal breakers? For instance, I know a lot of people will not come to the Caribbean for medical school because they believe that it is a scam and that they will never be doctors. This is of course not true but for those that want to continue believing this without doing the proper research, then I can’t say much to you.
  • Also, do you NOT want to do a master’s program? Why or why not?
  • Do you NOT want to do a postbac?
  • Can you work and take pre-reqs or is that NOT an option.

As you are realistically examining your situation, you can kind of lean toward something whether it is completing a post-bacc or taking a break from school to work and getting back to it.

Whatever you decide to do, you should still follow the next step:

Gather information

Now that you have realistically examined where you stand when it comes to medical school requirements and how competitive of an applicant you are, it’s time to gather information based on your stats.

  • Going back to the first question, “Where am I?” you have to figure out what you need to do now. If your GPA is low or MCAT is low, you want to research schools that are more lenient in accepting students with low GPA’s and MCAT scores.
  • If there is a medical school close by, I would drive up to their admissions office, show them who you are, tell them what your intention are, why you are interested in their school and ask for advice about how to become more competitive to be admitted to that school.
  • Have you researched about Master’s programs and post-bacc programs? If not, this would be the time to do so. If so, which ones are you looking at and what are the requirements for them? What I did was make a long list of Master’s programs and another long list of post-bacc programs. From there, I started figuring out which programs would take me based on my stats and which wouldn’t and started crossing ones off.
  • Here, I would also research Masters or Post-bacc programs that are directly tied with medical schools. Some of these programs guarantee admissions into their medical schools assuming that you successfully complete the program with a certain GPA. Some of these programs also offer MCAT tutoring.

AAMC has great information on Post-bacc programs.

UAB School of Medicine has another list that is worth checking out.

Don’t be afraid

My last piece of advice is DO NOT BE AFRAID. There is a quote out there that says something like, “if your dream doesn’t scare you, it isn’t big enough.” I agree but then again I don’t agree with this quote.

Of course, the process to getting to medical school is a little scary because it isn’t guaranteed immediately; however, my biggest motivator is seeing those before me who have been successful with getting in and becoming doctors. I believe that if there is someone out there who made it, there is nothing stopping you from doing it.

Don’t be afraid to take a leap. I definitely did when I decided to move to the West Indies for Medical School. I never ever ever imagined that I would be here. But here I am.

Anything new is a little scary but keep reminding yourself of the goal. Keep praying. Keep believing in yourself. A little anxiety is normal, healthy, even because it motivates us to keep pushing.

You got this!

Email me questions/comments: Contactnilechild@gmail.com

 

What it’s like to be a second year Medical Student:

What it’s like to be a second year Medical Student:

My first semester of medical school was probably the most stressful with adapting to a new country and the amount of course work that I had. But by now, I have routine so its a lot less stressful trying to balance everything.

I’m sure that most schools differ in when they schedule their classes and labs but all medical students generally take the same classes so that we can be prepared for Step 1 of the USMLE and ultimately be ready to treat our patients.

With this being said, my day usually starts early at 5:30am on weekdays. I start to get ready for classes, pack my lunch, drink my tea, mentally prepare for the day, and head to campus. I usually get to campus right at 7:30am and I study for an hour or so then I eat breakfast right before my 9:30am class or lab. On weekends, I wake up at 7:30am and start studying at 9:30am.

My first lecture or lab (depending on the day) starts at 9:30am everyday until about 11:20am. We get a 10 minute break halfway through the lecture for a quick snack or restroom break. After this lecture/lab, I get an hour break for lunch. During this hour, I usually eat lunch, call my mom, and go over flashcards before my next lecture if I have time. We also have a farmer who comes to our campus to sell fresh fruits and veggies so I make sure I visit them when they come once a week.

My second lecture is from 12:30pm until 2:30pm and afterward I stay on campus until about 3:45pm either to go to office hours or just wait for the school bus. Because I attend school at a Caribbean medical school, transportation is provided to the students at my university and the majority of us don’t have cars because 1. we can’t afford to have one or 2. we don’t feel comfortable with driving in a foreign country because of our lack of experience driving here. While I’m waiting for the school bus, I usually study my flashcards.

On my way home, I’m usually flipping through my Quizlet flashcards. I love Quizlet so much because I can access any of my flashcard decks on the go. I also flip through these cards as I’m waiting for the bus in the mornings before school. I get home at about 4:00-4:15 everyday. I sit down to study for about 1 and 1/2 hour then I give myself 45 minutes to eat dinner, meal prep, and clean up a little bit. Then I study from 7-9:30 and I work out from 9:30-10 on some days. I wish I could give myself more time to exercise but because of the demands of med school, I can’t. After I workout for a little bit, I shower and get in bed and continue studying.

My schedule differs day to day but is consistent every week, if that makes sense. For instance, I grocery shop once a week, either on Wednesday or Thursday but I have an allotted time for grocery shopping. I do my laundry once a week as well on the weekend and I do the majority of meal prepping with the exception of salads on the weekend. I’m grateful for the weekend because that’s when I get everything organized for the week in terms of my personal life and academics. The weekend also gives me a lot more time to catch up on school work. Yay!

With my experience, I’ve learned t’s all about balance in medical school. I’m the type of person who plans her meals ahead of time and makes lists for every little thing but I can honestly say that that has helped me maintain my sanity because it can all get so overwhelming so fast. My routine isn’t really set in stone and flexible because it’s important to realize that there are unforeseen circumstances that arise every once in a while. With that being said, I like to try to get ahead as often as possible with school work because in case something happens that throws me off of the schedule, I’ll know that I’m not really too far behind.

I keep mentioning my flashcards because that is the study method that works the best for me. Flashcards and drawing diagrams are what I usually do to help retain the information and Quizlet has helped me so much with this.

I hope this post gave some of you guys some insight on what a day in the 2nd year of medical school is like. If you have any questions, get in touch (:

A valuable lesson for aspiring physicians

So, today I learned what I believe to be a very valuable lesson that I will take with me as I finally become a practicing physician. My professor stressed the importance of spending just 5 minutes getting to know our patients. His mother, who was in her 70’s, suffered from heart problems. When she went to see her cardiologist every once in a while, all he would do is inspect her heart and send her away until the next appointment. At one point, she started to get pain in her armpit region. The pain was progressive so every day it got worse. My professor then decided to switch his mother’s doctor to a close friend of his and the new doctor was able to examine her thoroughly. He discovered that she had breast carcinoma. A breast carcinoma is a malignant cancer. A malignant cancer is one that has already started to spread. It was then too late for my professor’s mother.

The moral of my professor’s story is that no matter what specialty we find ourselves in, we must take just 5 minutes to thoroughly examine the patient from head to toe. This will help us in a few ways. It will give us better insight on the patient so that we can better treat the patient and it will help us detect a problem earlier so that we may begin to help our patient heal faster. So, it helps the doctor and the patient.

My professor ended his story with “we all have mothers.” And this really struck home for me because felt his pain in a way. My mother is diabetic and having learned about the disease (and still learning), I would want the absolute best care for her. Then I remember, all of my female patients will be either someone’s sibling, someone’s mother, or someone’s daughter. Because of this, I will strive to give all of my patients the best possible care I can possibly give!

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What should I major in to become a doctor?

This answer is simple: Anything that you like.

Seriously.

To become a doctor, you don’t necessarily have to major in the sciences. You don’t need to be a Biology, Chemistry, or Physics major. You do, however, need to take science prerequisites before applying to medical school. I started off as a biology major in undergrad and took random courses until I found out that I really enjoyed Medical Anthropology and next thing you know, I am graduating from university with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology with the intentions of going to medical school.

I actually recommend majoring in something that you absolutely love while being Pre-med at the same time. This will give you a chance to do two things:

1.) enjoy your classes and
2.) Following your dreams.

For instance, if you absolutely love European History, why not become a history major and take your Pre-med classes at the same time? If you love art or music, why not major in those?

The benefit to going to a liberal arts college is you get to be exposed to different fields of study through the electives requirements. At my university, we were required to take a couple of courses from different disciplines to fulfill the electives requirements and that is where I found out that I loved Medical Anthropology.

Before I applied to medical school, I watched a series of seminars and visited a few schools and the various admission departments all shared one thing: they all wanted a well-rounded applicant. I’ll discuss what it means to be a well-rounded medical school applicant in a future post but one thing to take from this is that medical schools aim to diversify their classes.

Medical schools want to train doctors who knowledgeable about many different things and can relate to different people. This doesn’t mean that one should pick a major that they think will help them get into a medical school but choosing one that you love to learn about.

With that being said, don’t stress it when it comes to majors and what medical schools wants in terms of it. They would much rather hear you talking about your passionate about and what you can contribute to medicine!