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, February 28, 2007


There's that feeling of knowing you let yourself down, knowing you could have done better, laying down to sleep and thinking that if you will it hard enough, you could go back in time and do things over(even though you have tried and failed for most of your life). sometimes even dream that it is that day again, that you're in that moment-the moment before the moment everything went downhill. The moment when you decided to go right instead of left and have to forever live with that part of your history forever.


It felt just like every other April morning, the snow was finally melting and spring was fighting its way out of its deep slumber. She was not deceived though, she knew old man winter was going to strike again before long. 5 wintry years had taught her indellible lessons. She walked down the familiar hill toward the familiar room. But this time the room was going to be serving another purpose. It was going to be the site of the 3 battles of a war. She tried to feel for the usual eye sting she got whenever she did not quite get those 7 hours. Slightly there, but certainly not as much as the first time. We can definately work with that. She made a mental account of the many sleepless nights that had led till today...hopefully they were enough. The room was now in sight and she took in the surroundings. They were going to be her home for the next few hours. Too many hours. She noticed her wide eyed counterparts...all chitter chattering in little hurdles, clutching their drug of choice. She had since learned that the best way to face this was cold turkey, better to be a little slow at first than have to fight the caffeine gitters for the next few hours. If only they knew what lay ahead. She did.

They all took their seats. The battle was about to begin. She glanced around one last time to see if there was anyone noticeably crumbling under pressure. It was a tough crew...everyone with their game face on. She mentally recited the rules of the battle along with the general...there had to be some points for remembering those-for being a real veteran. Battle 1 began. She recalled the pattern. Attack the weaker foes first in under 15 minutes and move on to conquer the tough ones. Today though the supposedly weaker foes seemed to have gained a new kind of strength, they weren't giving in easily. She knew the was 15 mins,leave them and proceed. Leave them and proceed. But the demons from her past wouldn't let her go.

"You have to do them, they're easy spoils, they're your chance"

"But I have to move on, there's bigger foes to conquer"

"But how do you know you will conquer the bigger foes, remember this has to be your last attempt at this war?"

20 minutes and counting...

"Ok I'll give it another try..."

30 minutes

She gave up, and moved on. But now she had eaten into the time for the rest of the battle. Her heart was pounding.

"Why didn't I just move on?"

She rushed through the rest of the battleground, slashing throats blindly with no time to verify the enemy was completely down. The more enemies she attacked, the higher the chance of her at least killing some.

Battle 1 was over. All the foes were down but she was positive they were not all out. Among all her past wars, battle 1 had never felt this way. This was bad. She was convinced her best bet was to surrender before the other 2 battles. Give up, walk home and roll back into bed.

Not in this lifetime...

Battle 2 started. But she never really concentrated, the wounds of the first battle were still hunting her.

"Why didn't I just move on"

"Why, Why...But it's now the past, must concentrate on this one"

The voices silenced themselves but not entirely. They relocated to her subconscious and the whole battle seemed to play out in slow motion. She was doing the conquering but she knew this wasn't the same either. Her mind wasn't right. She chugged along, the thoughts of ejecting herself mid battle creeped in again.


The final battle was her strong point. She had studied this enemy for most of her life and knew it like the back of her hand. By this time all the thoughts in her subconscious seemed to have been silenced. Everything went smoothly. There was even time to make sure each enemy was completely out. That had never happened in the last two wars. It was definately a good sign. She approached the general after the war. At this moment, the happenings of the earlier battles revived themselves. You might have one the final battle but what about the other two? She had one more chance to cancel the whole experience...erase it from time like it had never happened. Again the blatant answer was "NO!"

She walked would take 6 weeks to count the number of foes that she actually conquered. 6 long weeks. She stepped out into the open...the day always seemed different after a war. You felt like you had just faced death and lived to tell the story. The grasses looked a bit greener and the dirty melting snow a bit whiter. No matter the situation, this was going to be her last time in battle. 3 times was more than enough...whatever happens here on, HAPPENS.


Something did happen. The dreams began.

To be continued...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

OK Friday has come and news. The word in town is that they have postponed decisions till next week!! Longer wait I guess, no stress...YEAH RIGHT!

Monday, February 19, 2007

The News in (not-so) Brief

Soo umm yeah...Hope everyone had a nice Val's day. As for me, it confirmed my theory that I am skilled at picking the worst days of the year to travel. Trying to get to my last interview was a nightmare. Almost all flights were delayed out of NY and many of them eventually got cancelled. My flight was to leave at 4:30 but got delayed till 7pm instead. It was currently 3pm. I took it calmly...never mind the fact that I woke up bright and early and skipped work all in an effort to get to NY on time. But the we'll-just-wait-and-see spirit died out quickly when flight after flight was getting announced as cancelled every minute. I started getting nervous and decided to call the school to find out if my interview would be rescheduled in the VERY LIKELY event that my flight got cancelled. They were nice about it (seeing as their airport itself shut down a few days before) and let me know that there were other available dates. Cool! But even if I got another date how did I know I would be able to reschedule another flight for the right time in the middle of all this mess! The biggest motivating factor though was my $133.80 that was currently dangling dangerously close to the drain.

As my bank account and the hours of labor it would take for me to make that money back flashed before my eyes, I quickly threw my half eaten lo-mein noodles down the trash and carried my bag and baggages to the front desk. Another flight to my destination that was supposed to have left about 3hrs earlier was currently boarding so I figured I better try to get my behind on it. As the ladies(dunno their official titles) punched away at their keyboard creating magic seats for people, I waited in line trying to think of a convincing story as to why I needed to get on this flight by any means necessary. Just in case having an interview that might determine the rest of my life, or the fact that the longer I stayed at the airport the more time I had to feed my unhealthy addiction for airport spending wasn't enough. Luckily though, I didn't even have to give any reason. They worked their magic, I got on and enjoyed every ear-popping-chewing-gum-not-helping minute of it!

Coming back was just as rigorous though and I did not get home till about 4am the next morning...four hours before I had to feign allertness at work. But all in all, the interview was great and I got free and much needed lunch bag(at least that's what I'm using the bag for). And for now, I'm done with interviews.(Dear GOD, Surprises are very welcome, please).

The week also had another little happening. My student got the scores of her test back. I spoke to her while on the bus to the airport after my interview, we were trying to schedule our next meeting and work out minor details(they are taking another test in MAY). We finished talking, we hung up and then it clicked to me that she was to receive her test scores back that day. The fact that it was not the first thing she blurted out over the phone only pointed to one thing-that she did not do well. Or if I wanted to be a Pollyanna about it, that the scores just did not come out that day. I nervously called her back and as I expected, Pollyanna died a quick and painful death. She had a little above a 600/800 on the test. Now that is by no means a bad score, and it was a significant improvement(150+ points) but it is definitely not what she wanted(700+/800). I felt so bad for her because I knew her parents were going to be extremely disappointed in her...which she confirmed later. I'm sorry to stereotype but I feel Asian parents tend to be a bit too hard on their seriously, I know African parents are hardcore and the only professions they know are Medicine and Engineering, but I have to give the Asians the award. They expect their kids to have perfect grades and simultaneously be the best at the countless extra-curriculars they do. At least African parents don't care about extra-currics, musical talent or any other skill they cannot explain to their friends in one word!

Long story short I was/am a bit down about the whole thing and my confidence has fallen way down. Even at our last session I was second guessing everything I said and wondering if they were going to call me later to fire me. As much as I think it's not completely my fault(remember I said they changed the exam timing on me) I still can't help but put some blame on myself. Oh well, life goes on and she will probably be taking the exam again later, maybe we'll have more time then! So needless to say I've been preparing like crazy for our future sessions and just trying to make sure I'm doing everything within my power(this whole thing was supposed to be a casual extra money affair but I'm quickly become emotionally attached-it's beginning to sound like a one night stand gone bad right?) top it all, I get a decision about my admission from one of my top choices at the end of this week! If I remember correctly, after interviewing, there's a 50% chance of an acceptance, 10% rejection and 40% waitlist. I'm trying not to think about it but currently failing hopelessly in that avenue!!

Monday, February 12, 2007

The "If All Else Fails" Option

Location: ER in Abbeyville talking to a patient's foster mom. Patient(~2 years old) has a very rare genetic syndrome(less than 5 living cases currently). She's getting ready to spend another night with him in the hospital, I was passing by her room and she looked dead tired so I stopped by to perform my very "important" role:

Me: "Would you like some juice or something..."

Mom: Sipping her juice "Everytime we come here everyone is just so nice to us. But honestly though...I think they just want to study him. All the doctors start popping in and paging each other incase someone missed the show the last time we were here"

Me: "I don't blame's pretty intriguing that he's the only one in the whole US with the syndrome. But taking care of him must be so much work"

Mom: "Well I wouldn't have adopted him if he wasn't classified as adoptable"

Me: "Yeah...makes sense, but you're doing such a great job"

Mom: "Thanks...but honestly, after him, I'm done with foster kids. Except I go to Africa to adopt. There are so many kids over there that need a good family and anyways, that's what Oprah said we should do now"

Me: "Ohh" wow Miss Oprah is more powerful than I thought "But please lay off the Madonna stunts"

Mom: " the way, what do you want to be eventually?"

Me:"A doctor"

Mom: "What kind?"

Me:"Not really sure, I don't have to decide for another 3 or so years..."

Mom:"But you have to have an idea..."

Me:"Ok if you insist...for the last few weeks, I've been wanting to be a neurologist" At this point I go into a spiel about how I would love to do surgery if I get a chance, but need time for family and fun blah blah blah "...but as of now I'm still scared of the potential debt I will be incuring in school"

Mom: "Oh you need money for med school?

Me: "Yup a whole lot..."

Mom: "Just send Oprah an email"

Me: ::Very confused look gradually creeping up on my face::

Mom: "Shooo I did it"

Drafting a hypothetical email in my head:

"Dear Oprah,

How are you? And how is Chicago?(geez..sounds cheesy already) Hope Stedman is doing good too. You see I don't really watch your show-it comes on way too early in the day but if I could, I really would(my letter would be officially tossed out at this point)-and you did a great job with that school in South Africa, if I could go to high school all over again, I would surely bust my butt to get in, but I guess it's only for poor South African orphans. I don't mean to sound like an ingrate, everything done to benefit Africa is good, but why does everything have to happen in South Africa...they're like the most developed Sub-Saharan African country, but that's OK it's probably the Mandela factor and I respect that.

I'll cut to the chase and acknowledge the elephant in the room...
Can you hook a sista up with 250Gs for med school? Haa faave!!

Sorry I'm getting carried away...

Why do I need your help you might ask? Well I have not saved the world...yet, it's on the agenda though, I have not swam across a river filled with hungry alligators to save myself from warring rebels, I know you tend to like stories of overcoming hardships like that...but would you use my normal childhood against me?? It reminds me of the time I went to a free clinic and was turned away for HAVING INSURANCE even after explaining that I was UNDERINSURED. One of the few times I could actually afford to purchase some meagre insurance policy and it was used against me? Sorry, weak analogy. Oh AND, with the change from the loan, I could get TiVo, record your show and watch it when I get back from school. Touche.

I'm sure you are just dying to meet me after this outstanding email...never mind, I'll be in Chicago on val's day and I won't hesistate to stop by your studio to put some pressure on meet you in person.

School starts in about 6 months(HINT HINT)

Thanks and keep up the good work,
"Not-so-Poor-African-Kid that really wants to be a doctor"

Seriously though...who thinks of doing that??

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


I am gradually becoming the person I never wanted to be: A "Once-A-Week" blogger. It's not that I don't have ideas, it's more a matter of time, so please bear with me. And to make matters worse I'm about to pull out stuff from the back corners of my know-the place where you lock up stuff you don't want to deal with until it miraculously unlocks itself and you have to step back and ask for answers.

So open up your mind, and work with me:

It must have been sometime in December last year, I was standing in front of some random white board in a random conference room trying to creatively convey to my student why sponges(phylum:Porifera) are considered animals and at the same time why they are less complex than say... earthworms(phylum:Annelida), an organism that evolved later in time. I remember cramming all the Pteridophytas et al (American Pronunciation:teree-DAW-fta, Nigerian Pronunciation: TE-REE-DOH-FAAIGHTA. Back then, we probably figured if we were going to have to memorize weird latin words, we might as well emphasize every single painful syllable it had lol) in high school and regurgitating them mindlessly on exams and eventually, in college using theories of evolution to explain how we came to being from some random one celled organism that existed eons ago. But I had blocked my mind and sequestered these concepts to an obscure part of my brain, it wasn't my opinion, it was that of the crazy scientists. But here I was now imparting this crazy scientist knowledge on some one else, but with a little caveat to save face-"at least that's how THEY say it works, I personally don't believe it but just learn it for your exam"

After that random tutoring session, I remember thinking of myself as a hypocrite. I grew up believing beautiful stories of Adam, Eve and the Garden of Eden. How GOD created the world in seven days, etc and all throughout my short career as a science student, I put pen to paper numerous times and boldly attested otherwise. For the first time though, I let the "church" part of my brain talk to the "science" part. I laid all my guards down and after the brief but awkward silence that two strangers thrown together in a room experience, the ever liberal scientific side asked the conservative "church" side..."WHY CAN'T WE BE FRIENDS?"

Thus began an ongoing "re"concilliation process. I have tried to think logically of a way GOD could be involved in evolution. Where logic fails, prayer fills the void. Is it not possible that GOD could have created a self-maintaining system that HE did not have to micromanage? You know, like creating the first microbe and setting the wheels in motion for a process that would lead to the development of the most complex of HIS organisms-US. The evidence is really compelling. Why else will scientists be able to test new drugs on mice, monkeys et al and just add on a few tweaks here and there to make it useful in humans. And of course the closer "related" the organisms are to man in evolutionary time, the less tweaking is needed (usually). And if you look at any random genetic code, certain proteins have been conserved(remained similar/the same) from organisms like roundworms all the way to humans.

One compelling point I got from a Christian Scientist whose opinion I respect, was this challenge. Why do we think 7 days is literally SEVEN DAYS. It could be the equivalent of SEVEN EONS right? Didn't GOD tell Abraham he would soon become the father of many nations only for the events to happen more than 20 years later? Also even the creation story acknowledged the land was first separated from the waters, then sea animals were created and then the land animals. This strongly supports scientists theory that the evolution of higher animals, started with the fish(water), then the frogs(amphibians-both land and water dwellers), the reptiles(sole land dwellers), birds, then mammals.

Yet another compelling theory is that of Natural Selection. The only reason a disease such as sickle cell still exists today(as opposed to all carriers dying off to prevent transmission of such a chronic disease to their offspring) is because carriers of the S hemoglobin have been selected for over time. The maintenance of this potentially problematic S-hemoglobin in the gene pool was advantageous because it offered some kind of resistance to malaria-a disease which is very prevalent in areas where most of the carriers descended from.

I did not delve into some kind of thesis research to get info for this post because I didn't want it to sound any more like a boring science article than it already does, but these are the points that stand out for me in trying to unite these two schools of thought. I also tried to avoid mainstream technicalities like CREATIONISM,etc, we don't all have to fit in a category do we? I feel the need to figure out what exactly I believe in because simply put,
- I don't enjoy teaching people things I don't believe
- There is significant evidence supporting each side of this argument and trying to hold on to a belief system without using it to explain practical things in life is of no use to me.

So I guess the whole point of this hoobla is: Think logically and open-mindedly for a second, step out of your cosy belief system and if you can, tell me what you believe about this? Do you think the evolution of life could have been initiated on its own, without any higher power's intervention? Or do you think all the evidence aside, scientists just make these things up? No don't google anything, no research just your raw thoughts...