Winter break is here . . . Between naps and meals and spending time with your family and friends, you might find these glimpses into medicine interesting, even moving.
Winter break is coming . . . a chance to catch up on sleep, beat siblings at games of Wii and grandparents at gin rummy (or vice versa!), reconnect with friends from high school, and hopefully enjoy some home-cooked meals. At my house, I’ll be getting frustrated over tangled strings of holiday lights, getting the inexplicable need to watch football out of my system, and getting excited for Santa’s arrival with my seven-year-old son. My pre-health advisor hat will be hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that I’ll be suitably refreshed by the time I put it back on in 2014. It did occur to me this morning, however, that the break might also be a good time to do some things you haven’t had time to do during the semester. Pre-health things . . .
AAMC = Association of American Medical Colleges. For anyone aspiring to allopathic medicine (becoming an MD some day), the AAMC is the governing body of the U.S. medical schools you’ll apply to for that important next step in your education. There are many reasons to spend some time on the AAMC website. Here are just a few. . .
If you’re a sophomore who attended the recent pre-health meeting then you heard a version of this little speech of mine before. Still, it bears repeating. As a pre-health student, you are no different than anyone else in that you think long and hard (most of you, at any rate) about your choice of a major and the possible consequences of that decision. The most commonly heard questions among pre-health students are “should I major in a science?” and “can I major in something other than science?” You also grapple with what criteria to use when choosing between two or three of your favorite subjects . . .
“It’s never too late” . . . “Think when, not if” . . . and “Hey, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over” . . . These are things I hear myself saying on a fairly regular basis. To be candid, I sometimes wonder if I’m building up false hope. Is the end goal of admission to health professional school really possible for all F&M graduates as long as they’re fully committed? Is “it’s never too late” a helpful reminder or a mere platitude? It could only be a meaningless cliché if everyone already knew it, I suppose, and given the number of pre-health students I see who are ready to throw in the towel, “it’s never too late” is far from a universal belief. So is there a way of getting from college to health professional school for nearly everyone, really? Yes. How do I know? Because post-bac programs make it so.
This week has been rough. Last week, too . . . This whole time around the middle of the semester is always this way. Pre-health students become frequent, harried visitors at my drop-in hours, each with a unique situation, each with a cause for frustration, anxiety, and disappointment, sometimes to the point of tears. . . Today I think it’s important to remember a few basic tenets of pre-health existence. Hopefully these will cheer up those of you who are stressing out. They may be helpful points to return to in the coming months and years as the pre-health workload piles high. They’re especially crucial to recall during rough patches.
Guest blogger Andy Foley '13 writes, "Could we enter the health professions at a more exciting time? The greatest expansion of healthcare in U.S. history is less than 10 days away: the next phase of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare” rolls out October 1 when new insurance marketplaces will open in every state, allowing citizens to shop for health insurance and choose a plan that fits their needs . . ."
The more graduates I see over the years headed off to medical school, the more I do believe that there are some common traits you all share . . . If you have a strong desire to serve others and to alleviate suffering, then you may indeed be “pre-med” . . . If you have an interest and proficiency in science, then you may be “pre-med.” If you tend to remain composed when taking on high levels of responsibility, if you’re willing to be a leader and you’re not afraid of making decisions, then you may be a “pre-med.” If you’re curious about the world and don’t stop analyzing problems until you find clarity, then you may be “pre-med" . . .
When I ask pre-health students what they read during the summer for fun, they usually say Jane Austen. At least about half of them do. The other half used to say Harry Potter, but I don’t hear that as much anymore, which is just as well since they always seemed a little too old for Hogwarts if you ask me. Game of Thrones is a pretty popular response these days, or science fiction (but never a specific title), or “oh, you know, I love the classics” (which makes me smile), or sometimes, quite honestly, they say that they don’t read at all outside of class. What, you don’t read Anna Karenina at the pool? Shameful! No, seriously, not the news? Nothing? Not even blog posts?
Coming soon to a computer terminal near you, in 2015 actually, the New MCAT will rise up to its full height and might, a formidable dragon of a standardized test, including new sections and a longer time allotment (from the current 4.5 hours to about 6.5 hours). “Slaying” it will require the patience and focus of a saint, fearlessness in the face of the unknown, peak physical stamina, and a sharpened intellect applied in broader swipes and strokes . . .