Getting into Medical School, aka Holy of Holies (the F-1 version)

My adventures as an international student trying to get into a US medical school as a prestigious MSI student!

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Location: East Coast, United States

I am a 22 yr old Foreign lady trying to get into an American med school. The journey has been "rough" to say the least. So join the band wagon and let's see if they think I'm good enough to become a doctor. I hope my story encourages someone, maybe you. Not necessarily to become a doctor, but just to follow your dream. Leave your comments as you read...I thrive on feedback. And if this is your first time here, catch up on what you missed, cus every post IS important...well almost all. So forget that board meeting(at your own risk) or skip that class (again at your own risk) and lose yourself in my archives. REMEMBER: "If it aint ROUGH, it aint RIGHT" - Richard Hamilton, Detroit Pistons Guard

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Appetizer

I know there are quite a few people waiting to finally find out what I got the second time I took the MCAT…it’s coming soon, I promise. It should even be the next post or so, so far nothing comes up in between. So before that I would like to educate you on a few things that might help with the next post…a breakdown to the layman of what exactly Research is.

If you’ve ever watched Hell’s Kitchen, Iron Chef or any other cooking show, you might actually have a heads up, cus research is pretty much cooking. Like these shows, the main goal is to cook up something using your own version of some basic technique and then hopefully discovering a taste no one has ever found before(the cure to cancer, etc). On accomplishing this you proceed to write about your discovery in the most complicated way possible(a publication) and hope the judges(reviewers) are just so confused that they give up trying to understand how you got such a unique taste and just give you the prize(getting published in a major journal e.g. Cell or a Nobel Prize).

But not everyone can just up and decide to cook a masterpiece. To be given your own cooking space in a kitchen (lab), there are numerous hoops (degrees) you have to jump through. Before you are even allowed to touch a spoon in the kitchen, the head chef must be sure that you know the basics, e.g. boiling water, at least in theory. This prerequisite is usually satisfied by showing you have taken such classes as “What is the point of cooking anyways?”(Biology or more specifically Emerging Diseases of the 21st Century), “Will the kitchen really burn down if I dip the paper recipe unto the burning stove?”(Chemistry) and “What happens if I toss the pancake up too high?”(Physics). To get an edge above the rest, you could even take “Dish Washing 101” a lab class that will exempt you from having to go through the breaking in ritual of washing all the Petri dishes your first few weeks in lab.

All these classes are usually satisfied by jumping through the first hoop (a Bachelor’s degree) and if you want to get a bit ahead, just a bit, the second hoop(Master’s). But unlike most other professions where the second hoop makes a big difference, here, if you don’t jump a third one(PhD) you might as well just stop at the first. The first two hoops only guarantee that you will be able to assist a chef(a PhD student or higher) with his side dishes, never the main course unless you prove yourself worthy. And never your own personal dish, unless you are some kind of guru. Proving your worth is really easier said than done. Think of the first time you ever really followed a recipe to cook a new dish, did it actually taste the way it was supposed to?...exactly. But then you probably just kept that failure to yourself and tried it again later. Unfortunately in a research kitchen, if you are only a cooking assistant, every mistake you make gets broadcasted to the chef you’re cooking for and the rest of the kitchen. Sometimes if you’re really unfortunate, the Head Chef too. It’s like trying a new recipe for a party and not knowing you screwed it up until everyone has tasted it. Then you go home wondering if you are still going to be allowed into the kitchen the next day, and if yes, what new way of screwing up a dish you were going to discover, because believe me for every step in the recipe numerous things could go wrong. Even the simplest instruction, like “Place the pan in the oven at 30 degrees Celsius”, the question is which oven? The oven you cleaned with bleach or the one you just used soap to clean? The direct heat oven? The indirect heat oven? The oven/stove combo or the plain oven? And believe me each one will produce a different result when it comes to tasting time (running a gel). So you might have mixed all the ingredients right, put just the right amount of salt, sugar, and even the baking powder but bam! You put it in the wrong oven, you might as well have been baking a stone for all they care cus your results will be pretty much useless.

So you can only imagine the presence of mind needed to avoid making a complete fool of oneself in the kitchen. Things like getting excited over say…getting an interview, or thinking about how much money you owe Uncle Sam, are bound to convert your cooking expedition into a comedy of errors, unless such emotions are locked up in some obscure corner of your mind the moment you hold that spoon in your hand. The only other alternative is to jump through enough hoops to enable you cook independently. That way if you screw something up, you just have to make sure you can do it again quickly before the head chef finds out, you don’t owe anyone else any explanations. The chances of the whole lab discovering you screwed up something? Slim to none, except of course your screw up entails blowing up the kitchen completely.

So everyday I go to work…even with the thousand things I have to keep track of outside work, I empty my mind and become just a cooking assistant. I add two teaspoons of salt when I’m asked to, not a grain more, not a grain less. I ask every obvious question possible because I’d rather look stupid to one person than to the entire lab and I read every recipe hundred times before starting anything. Unfortunately, this still doesn’t always guarantee the best tasting dish cus in the long run, the only thing that makes a difference is experience. It’s like making Fried-Rice with your grandma’s recipe and expecting it to taste just the way hers does. Needless to say, you might come close but never close enough…

PS: Refresh your memory by checking out my History 101 sidebar before the next post...

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Blogger NaijaBloke said...

Abbey oooo .. now done make me start to have second thots abt cooking/experimenting with my ogbonna soup this weekend.

Nice post ..

Take care and have a nice weekend

September 28, 2006 7:24 PM  
Blogger ABBEY said... this soup for you alone or for

September 28, 2006 8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog and a noble quest(getting in the f-1 version !). Represent the Motherland

September 29, 2006 10:31 PM  
Blogger ABBEY said...

thanks for stopping by, by God's grace I will attain the price of the quest.

September 30, 2006 12:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Next Post with Interview info and MCAT scores,

Where art thou Brother ? :)

September 30, 2006 3:03 AM  
Blogger ABBEY said... know what you want huh, i'll do my best, not sure about the interview info just yet though! and it's sister...minor detail :)

September 30, 2006 9:39 AM  

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