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

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Humble Pie and a shot of Patience, on the rocks

THE PAST, Part...

Summer 2005, a memorable summer. Finally took a trip to Maryland from “The Ends of the Earth” and got to see a bunch of my high school friends after 4 years and in the process also got my Nigerian spirits recharged by attending quite a few of our infamous parties. You don’t know what you’re missing until you steal a taste of it. I needed the relaxation anyways. Last semester had been hell, took a VERY healthy load of courses and had to take the MCAT in between all that craziness. But the fun could only last for so long. Before I knew it, it was June, and time to head out to “Know Your Dilutions University” (KYDU).

I was excited to be there though. A new town, a top 20 medical school and at last my first research experience. I could finally add that to my premed resume, good timing too cus I was planning to apply that summer. I was supposed to start work on Monday but I arrived on Friday and my over-zealous self wanted to broadcast to Dr.K that I was in town and ready to start work the very same day if need be. Trying to get my personal rating from a 100 to about 120. He just looked at me and made an “mhmmm” sound. That marked the beginning of my rating's plunge. In the coming weeks I eventually understood that sound to mean “Good Try, but simultaneously…Very Stupid”.

My Comedy of Errors:
Monday came, work started and so did Dr.K and I's love-hate affair. I considered him some kind of slave driver. I was in lab from 8am till whenever he chose to let me go. He had a mini project for me (…wow I was going to be allowed to cook my own dishes, the importance of this dish to him though, is a completely different question), and everyday after working on my project he proceeded to teach me what every other person in the lab was doing(PhDs, Post Docs and everyone). Along with all this I was expected to read and give him an oral summary of different research publications every week. Remember how complicated I told you those things were?
My first few attempts at these summaries were nothing more than "Look how much I can B.S" sessions and generated numerous "mhmmm"s from Dr.K. I could have sworn I heard his guardian angel and the devil arguing over his shoulder as to a logical reason not to kick me out of the lab for good. What was he to do with a girl that didn't know jack and was at thesame time stupid enough to believe she could fool a veteran.

The first three times I tried to present these papers, he sent me back at the end to read them again. I knew that was not a good sign. Note to self: DON'T ask Dr.K for a recommendation unless you REALLY have to.
Personal Rating: 60

To add salt to the wound, it was my first time doing research so I had to do almost every experiment twice and on really bad days five times. Imagine spending a whole day cooking, then your boss tastes it and kicks you right back to start over. I used to be so pissed off, all I can say is he should, or rather, I should be glad he wasn't Mel Gibson in "What Women Want". Cus if he knew what was going through my mind, I would probably have been thrown in some kind of jail for slander. The worst of all my issues with Dr.K though was in preparing solutions.

The science inclined of you will know the formula C1V1 = C2V2 used to dilute solutions to specific volume. Thing is I knew how to use the formula in theory but not practically, had never had to. So I always ran into problems. At first I tried to verify my solution concentrations with other members of the lab but soon enough he found out for himself that I wasn't so skilled in this area. I summarize this to be my worst day in his lab. He straight up told me he would not have hired me if he knew about this problem earlier. The devil had defeated his guardian angel this time. I'm not sure if I went home and actually cried that day but I know I spent the rest of the night figuring out those dilutions. A little too late I thought to myself. (Replay Note to Self, but this time add one more "REALLY").
Personal Rating: NON-EXISTENT ("Captain to Control Tower"... "May Day!")

Things improved a bit over the rest of the summer, I guess there was no where else to go but up. Got that rating back to right about a 70 or so and actually squeezed a few complements out of Dr.K. But he still had more complaints. In research you are supposed to write down every single thing you do so that if something went wrong with an experiment, you could back track to figure it out. I understood the reasoning behind this but I didn't see the point of going into detail about everytime I added an extra pinch of salt to a dish, or if I added some more water to the soup. So I wrote very vague notes. Not only did Dr.K complain this time, but he compared me to a certain Jane Doe he had in the lab last summer that took better notes than me. He had to go there. If there was anything I hated it was to be compared to someone else. But what could I do, he was the boss. I just nodded and smiled.
Personal Rating: 65 and plunging

I had about a week more at KYDU and about the same time to get my rating back to at least a 90. Maybe if I did one good thing at the end, I will leave a good taste in his mouth. Maybe.

I had to present my project to the rest of the faculty at the end of the summer. It was some sort of competition among all the students. Cash prizes for the best two. I had been working on the presentation for about a month now. Not just for the money, but to at least impress Dr.K in some way. I even suggested to him that I present it to him and the rest of the lab before the final one. He smiled. (Wow! Mr.Miyagi could actually smile). Everyone in the lab loved the presentation and I was a bit excited. All for them to leave and Dr.K called me to his office and proceeded to tear apart my presentation.

I downed one shot of patience all at once and quickly too. Unfortunately, I would need a second one in a minute.

He went on to "suggest" that I wrote out everything I wanted to say on paper. Not just the main points guys...every word I was going to say at the presentation. And rehearse with that. He claimed this would help me correct my terminology errors. Someone hand me that second shot quick along with a piece of humble pie! I never said a word during all this. Just nodded. I did not trust myself to open my mouth without raining "blessings" on him and other innocent members of his family scattered around the globe. I nodded again and walked out, the session was over.

A Little Victory:
Presentation day came, presented my project to a panel of judges and way too many professors. But I might as well have been presenting to Dr.K alone. All through out, I was wondering what he was thinking, was I sounding stupid again. I tried not to look at his side of the room. That would only make me more nervous. My five minutes of fame were eventually over, they clapped, of course they will, they always did. Got a few questions, tried to answer them the best I could. Afterwards at the goodbye reception, Dr.K came up to me.

Dr.K : "Nice presentation. You explained your project well, that's why they had questions. Some of those other students were pretty bad"

Wow, was he actaully giving me credit? I took a quick glance at the sky to see if there were any pigs flying. Could have sworn I saw a couple.

Me (Smiling and trying to restrain myself from giving him a hug): "Thanks a lot"

Dr.K: "But on that last question, you really should have said blah, blah instead of blah, blah, blah"

At this moment, the two pigs I had seen in the sky crashed right back to earth, they had lost their wings. I wanted to tell him I really didn't care about the correct answer. I was just glad it was over. I just nodded again...looking around for the waiter carrying another much needed shot of patience. None. Oh well, still had some of the last shot working in me.

The judges came back and announced the winners. I was one of them y'all. I went up to get my check. I looked at it as payment for the stress I had gone through and I quietly thanked Dr.K in my mind. Still had too much reserved aggression/pride to tell him that writing out the whole presentation made all the difference. I would eventually send him a very emotional email later that year after getting back to school.
Personal Rating: INDETERMINATE

********************************************************
Like there was not enough tension that summer, in the middle of my time at KYDU I got my MCAT scores back. For some reason, I decided to tell Dr.K my scores.

Me: "I got my MCAT scores back"

Dr.K: "How did you do?"

Me: "A 28P (V=10,PS=9,BS=9)"

Dr.K: "What score do you need to get into Ivy League Que?"

Geez, how random

Me: "Usually about a 33, but anything above a 30, you have a good chance"

Dr.K: "mhmmmm"

PS: There is a reason I'm not putting real names on here, I will do so at a time I deem appropriate. So please I don't expect you to help decode the real names on here if you happen to know it. For my own good...please.

And to the "anonymous" person who tried to call me out, only few people know these details about me, and of those few, only a very small number will try this TWICE. So believe it or not, I know who you are.

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12 Comments:

Blogger Overwhelmed Naija Babe said...

na wah for this your Dr. K.. he reminds me of that reese witherspoons female law proff in legally blonde 1.. they're tough as nails but the ones who push you to do your best... i'm glad your presentation went great, and that you won the cash prize..

hopefully that your interview goes extrememly well.. AMEN!!!

October 03, 2006 9:17 PM  
Anonymous MedStudent said...

I just found your blog, and I have been reading periodically. I just wanted to encourage you, that you have to have faith. I took the MCAT, and I was average, but before the exam, I knew I was an average test taker, so I worked on other aspects of my application, did a detailed research project, that I presented in competition, took a year off to work, to show I was mature, volunteered in a hospital for a year, and most of all made show I sold myself when I wrote my spplications to the schools. I read up on each school, and included bits about why I thought the school was special in my essays. Also found a way to make my weaknesses pluses, by saying things like, "My grades in so and so were average, however I knew I could have done better, after taking the class, I reevaulated, what went wrong, and that helped me to do better in X,Y,Z." I know you have probably passed the application stage, but the same goes for the interviews. I hate interviews, so much, but I read up on each school,practiced what example questions from each school, on Studentdoctor.net. Get there early, be tastefully dressed, and be nice to everyone, I repeat everyone. Were comfortable shoes, cause you will be taken on a tour, and for an out of shape person, like me, climbing steps was not funny. After the interview, write a thank you letter, to who ever interviewed you, or the welcoming host, to thank them for making the experience so comfortable, but don't over do it. Make a good impression, with the minority affairs representative, say something about how we are all one big family, Africans and AA etc. Also it is sometimes better to say, you are interested in general practice, fields like Peds, cause you love kids, blah, blah. Good luck to all those applying!

October 03, 2006 9:21 PM  
Blogger ABBEY said...

thanks for the encouragement guys.

Overwhelmed ur right, Dr.K was very hard on me but he pretty much set the pace for the rest of my life so far. I'll probably talk more about that in later posts.

medstudent, thanks for the tips. I'm usually a good test taker so it baffled me a lot why I did not do better. I've been going on sdn to prepare for the two interviews i have so far hopefully it does help. thanks again and keep reading. And I'll remember to tell them I love kids lol. that sounds so cliche though!

October 03, 2006 9:38 PM  
Anonymous medstudent said...

yes, saying you love kids is a cliche, so find a different way to add it in, Also, some people ask about general things, at one of my interviews the guy pretty much said, so tell me about yourself, what? were do I start birth, college, so I talked about my interests, and we ended up being College football fans, after that is whole approach to me changed, and instead of looking at me weirdly, he was more like, so when you get in what will you be doing during the summer. At another interview, my interviewer wanted to move to my city, so I talked to him about the areas, school districts etc. At another interview, the student interviewee and I discussed shoes, while making fun of the other female applicants wearing stilletoes. Point is you never know who you are going to get, but just being nice, and trying to find something in common with your interviewer, helps. It also helps to pray that you get someone nice. Also as a black female, your chances after interview, are pretty good, so you are basically, trying not to loose what is yours rather than fighting to even get it, Does that make sense? Also try not to be too ethnic, be as neutral as possible, I know that is bad, but medicine is a conservative field.

October 03, 2006 9:47 PM  
Blogger ABBEY said...

as you can tell, i'm constantly on my blog..lol. I have more essays to write but watching 'flavor flav' and procrastinating as usual :). about 16 down and two more to go. yeah i feel you on the ethnic thingy don't worry i'm not going to go for the interviews in some kente or nigerian outfit trying to rep the motherland lol.

but do you think the schools will consider me a minority? I'm an international student, no green card nothing. my research says i will be considered like any other caucasian applicant by most of the schools. and you can trust the prayer wagon is on at full gear...my peeps are already planning different fasting and prayer routines before 'game' day lol. I will be joining them in a minute too.

thanks for helping a sister out. btw what school did u end up at and which ones did u interview at?

October 03, 2006 9:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

October 04, 2006 4:34 PM  
Blogger Miguel said...

Nice blog...got me cracking up...reminds me of my summer boss..dude felt he knew everything ...it was tough hearing him! his breath could seek out Osama...lol

Thanks for dropping by my page.

October 05, 2006 10:53 AM  
Blogger ABBEY said...

lol...tough boss with a breath that kicks...i thought i had it bad. :)

October 05, 2006 11:01 AM  
Blogger NaijaBloke said...

Na wah for this ur Dr K.o ..Oya send my share from that check here for the moral support wey I been dey give u o..

Good luck on ur interviews.

October 05, 2006 4:05 PM  
Blogger ABBEY said...

lol...the whole thing probably went to the IRS, my phone company or my tuition. You can talk to any one of those peeps to claim your share.

But as per the moral support, don't worry when I get my first acceptance...we'll celebrate in some cyber manner or the other. till then keep 'em coming!

October 05, 2006 5:27 PM  
Anonymous Oworu said...

That Dr. K is probably one of the strangest people u will ever meet but am sure u have learnt something from him that u could keep and probably use someday (maybe when u become a professor). He might have been harsh but u and I knoow he proved his harshness at the end plus hey! u got some money, whatever that went to.

October 07, 2006 12:24 AM  
Blogger ABBEY said...

yup he was harsh but i learnt so much. any boss i have now is a breeze compared to him. and yup i'm very grateful for the little prize at the end.

October 07, 2006 2:49 AM  

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