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Nov 24 / WSU Pre-Health

In response to the rapidly changing landscape of health care, increasing numbers of medical schools are offering dual degree programs, and increasing numbers of students are entering those programs. Although combining another degree with your medical degree is certainly not a decision to be taken lightly as it represents a significant time and monetary commitment, it can be a very smart choice for students who have interests in addition to medicine and/or have their sights set on a particular career. I have compiled a list of some common dual programs, potential careers for which they would be useful, the time commitment involved, and the program structure below:

M.D./Ph.D. or MD/MSTP (Medical Scientist Training Program)

Potential careers: researcher at a university or private biomedical company, professor at a teaching hospital
Time Commitment: 2-4 years + 4 years of medical school = 6-8 years total
Structure of program: students typically complete the first two years of medical school, work on their research, then complete the third and fourth years of medical school
Note: students often receive full tuition coverage, living expenses, and a stipend

MD/JD (Juris Doctor)

Potential careers: law and medical school faculty, leader of medical and legal organizations, medical malpractice attorney, health care policy, health care administration
Time commitment: 2-3 years + 4 years of medical school = 6-7 years total
Required exams: MCAT and LSAT
Structure of program: varies; students often complete the first two years of medical school, then complete their law degree, then complete the third and fourth years of medical school

MD/DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine)

Potential careers: maxillofacial surgeon, oral surgeon
Time commitment: 5 years total
Required exams: DAT and MCAT
Structure of program: dental classes are often integrated into the MD program

MD/MPH (Master of Public Health)

Potential careers: public health (ex. CDC, Doctors without Borders, Red Cross), government, epidemiology, biostatistics, consulting
Time commitment: 1-2 years + 4 years of medical school = 5-6 years total
Required exams: MCAT and possibly the GRE
Structure of program: the MPH may be completed before, during (usually between the second and third years of medical school), or after medical school

MD/MBA (Master of Business Administration)

Potential careers: serve on the executive team at a hospital or health-care facility, high-level executive in the health-care industry, consulting, manage a private practice, other health care administration
Time commitment: 1 year + 4 years of medical school = 5 years total
Required exams: MCAT and GMAT or GRE
Structure of program: the MBA may be completed before, during (usually between the second and third years of medical school), or after medical school

MD/MA (Master of Arts)

Potential careers: bioethics, medical humanities
Time commitment: 1-2 years + 4 years of medical school = 5-6 years total
Required exams: MCAT and possibly the GRE
Structure of program: the MA may be completed before, during (usually between the second and third years of medical school), or after medical school

MD/MS (Master of Science)

Potential careers: researcher
Time commitment: 1-2 years + 4 years of medical school = 5-6 years total
Required exams: MCAT and possibly the GRE
Structure of program: the MS may be completed before, during (usually between the second and third years of medical school), or after medical school

MD/MPP (Master of Public Policy)

Potential careers: public health (ex. CDC, Doctors without Borders, Red Cross), government, consulting
Time commitment: 1-2 years + 4 years of medical school = 5-6 years total
Required exams: MCAT and possibly the GRE
Structure of program: the MPP may be completed before, during (usually between the second and third years of medical school), or after medical school

*Note that program structure, exam requirements, and time commitments may vary by school – if there is a particular program in which you are interested, be sure to check that program’s specific requirements.

Happy Monday!


Nov 21 / WSU Pre-Health

The Humanity of My Patients: Volunteering and the Vietnam War

Volunteering is a beautiful act. But because of my need to impress medical schools, it became an act done for the sake of the hours accumulated. I began dehumanizing the patients, as I would just think of helping them as my job. As my passion shifted more towards my work, the connection I made with my patients drifted away very quickly – but there are some instances that jerk me back into emotional spaces. It is through these experiences that I have pulled myself out of the shallow thing that volunteering can become, and I have begun to see the process as an exposition of the heart; teh heart of the patients at the hospitals. Every patient in the hospital has a story to tell. All I needed to do was hear it – this was a very important step for me as a pre-med student, as it is a crucial skill to possess as a doctor. I know from my shadowing experiences that treating patients just as dehumanized cases is something that many doctors struggle with. To counter that, whenever I listen to my patients’ stories, I write them down so that I will remember and appreciate the humanity of the patients in all of its beauty and faults. Here is a story from one of my patients this weekend:

Doing my hospital volunteer rounds running a magazine cart, I never expected to see wounds. But today, I saw the wounds of the Vietnam War, emotional scars more than 4 decades old.

He was a frail old man, sitting all alone in a room that reeked of bleach, like most things in a hospital. Me and my partner, Noelle, offered him something to read off of our magazine cart. He blinked at us for a few good seconds, and a feared he couldn’t hear, but slowly he took the Time Magazine and New York Times from Noelle’s hands. Afterward, the grabbed the Robin Cook book and the Douglas Preston horror novel that I offered.

Patients rarely take the books and magazines we offer off of our cart, so I gave him one of my rare smiles and began to wheel the cart out.

“I served in the Vietnam War.” The old man stopped me with his voice. My smile dropped, and my eyes met his blue eyes; eyes that resembled a glass pane glazed with a cold frost. “I served in it. And I have to prove to everyone that I can still think, that I can think for myself. This is what these books are for… No one is nice to me. But I guess they are nice to me here.” He gestured towards the hospital staff. “And you both are very, very nice for doing this service, for giving me these books.”

We thanked him and somberly walked out.

I leaned over to Noelle and whispered, “You are Vietnamese.” What a dumb thing to say, but I was only thinking of her mom, who had almost drowned and died helping her family to escape the Vietnam war.

“I know,” she replied. Without meeting my eyes, she briskly walked ahead.

At that moment, one man behind me was trying to prove that he wasn’t a robot for the government, while a girl in front of me was trying to move from the past that the old man’s actions had helped to create. Those magazines she had just given him were like kindling tinder of forgiveness to melt the glaze from his eyes.


Nov 19 / WSU Pre-Health

Ugh, Do I Really Have to Do Research?

As a pre-health student going into the world of medicine and the like, research is no doubt a huge part of it. I get it; you want to be a physician or pharmacist, not a research scientist. So why do so many students take part in undergraduate research? What do I benefit from doing research as a pre-health student? First of all, we are at an amazing research university where the opportunities are countless. It would be a waste not to utilize our great resources since research has the ability to enrich your undergraduate pre-health experience. You’re put in a position to have responsibility, but not so much as to where you become accountable; so the important thing is that you’re still learning, and it is acceptable to make mistakes. Sometimes school takes away our love for learning by drowning us in work and stressing us out with exams, and we forget what it feels like to learn for the sake of learning. Research can rekindle that love for learning and become curious. A research environment also makes you appreciate academia and, as an undergraduate, being able to work with brilliant and talented individuals can be inspiring.

Research also benefits a student when they are applying to graduate schools. It is shown that medical school admissions elevate an applicant who has shown experience with research. To admission committees, applicants with research prove that they have valuable qualities like being able to interpret data, willingness to learn, curiosity, and the inclination to gain a better understanding – which are qualities all key to progressing medicine. When you can talk about a research project you have worked on and maybe even published, it shows your diligence and dedication to working hard outside of your classes and challenging yourself. So when paired with a decent GPA & MCAT/PCAT/DAT/GRE score, research can really make an applicant stand out and give an added boost an application.

After researching for almost three years as a pre-med student, I have found that research improved my overall lab skills and grades for both chemistry and biology labs. Aside from helping with course work, research also gives your the opportunity to travel and present at various conferences which, in return, increases your public speaking skills and gives you access to a larger academic network. I have presented at five different conferences, and have even been funded by Wayne State to present nationally at the University of Kentucky. I am not someone who generally likes speaking to large crowds, but forcing myself to present my research helped me break out of my shell. Wayne State has an entire program devoted to undergraduate research. The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) gives a variety of resources to help undergrads with their research – including scholarships! They give out about 60 to 70 scholarships throughout the school year to aid with academic research. On top of that, UROP also hosts the Undergraduate Research Conference at Wayne State every Fall, and if you apply to present at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research that takes place in the Spring, UROP will fund your travel and staying expenses. There really are multiple opportunities that Wayne State provides for their students when it comes to research.

So how exactly are you supposed to get started with research? The UROP website has a new research faculty finder so you can see departments and topics that you might be interested in. Another good way is to ask students who are in research right now if they know any faculty willing to take undergraduates. The Fall 2014 Undergraduate Research conference took place on November 14th, so I suggest that if you are ready to commit to taking on an undergraduate research position in the future, that you talk to faculty face to face and even the students that presented. That way, you are aware of labs that are currently working with undergraduates, and you can express your interest. Find out students who are about to graduate and, if you’re still and underclassmen, it’d be perfect for you to fill in their spots. Most labs will require an informal interview and will tell you about their time commitments (most of the time you will find that they are flexible to work around your schedule).

Research can be intimidating at first, but once you get started you will find that it opens new doors for you and benefits you as a student. You might not think research is for you, but you don’t know until you try. As a pre-health student, you should at least give research a chance as it will give you an appreciation for all the work that goes on behind the scenes. Take advantage of the opportunities Wayne State offers before it’s too late!


Nov 17 / WSU Pre-Health

Medical School: The Beginning

I am now into my third month of medical school and it still feels a little surreal that I am there. Granted, the hours I have put in studying or the exhaustion I feel is all too real, but it is still hard to fathom that I am officially on my way to becoming a doctor. The past three months have been a crash course into what the next four years will be: long hours, hard work, and lots of new experiences. Some of these experiences will be exciting such as meeting with patients or volunteering at clinics, but others will be more intimidating.

My first day in anatomy lab was just that – a little nerve wrecking. I remember being nervous about having to encounter, touch, and dissect an actual human body. Thankfully, we were able to keep the face covered which allowed me to further distance myself from the fact that it was an actual person we were cutting open. I know that sounds bad but I think it’s necessary. If I don’t, I don’t think I would be able to learn from the cadaver as much as I could. Each new lab allows me to fully appreciate the intricacies of the human body, and also how miraculous it is that we are actually alive and functional.

This is what the next four years will be about: how to appreciate and care for the human body in the best possible manner. I know it will take a lot of hard work, but I am ready for the challenge. However, I don’t think I can do it alone; thankfully, I have my family and friends to help support me. Both of these groups of people are really important because they help me make a semblance of balance in my life. At home, with my family, I can relax and take some much needed time off to do something besides study. As school, with my friends, I can complain – which helps me de-stress – and study with them; which makes the whole process a lot more fun. I mean, in the end, medical school should be fun – or at least I hope so…


Apr 21 / WSU Pre-Health

Need a Productivity Boost?

It’s time for another edition of my productivity posts!

Have you tried the Pomodoro Technique but still saw yourself drifting off into the vast depths of the internet?You may want to try a site blocker. If the thought of it gives you memories of when your parents limited your internet access, then give yourself a pat on the back. It’s exactly what it looks like. Although restrictive (and very irritating) at first, I felt myself become more productive during the times I couldn’t access the time-sinking sites I frequently use. Here are some site blockers to try:

Morphine for Google Chrome: I featured this in my Pomodoro article, but it’s a great extension to mention again. This extension is a great alternative to Strict Workflow when paired with any of the first three timers. Morphine gives you free time on the internet if you stay off distracting sites for a given amount of minutes. The extension also has a site blocker as well to help you resist the urge to browse. On Morphine’s settings page, set your intervals to be every 25 minutes and your charge size to be +5 so you save minutes for your big break and still take your small 5 minute breaks.

LeechBlock for Firefox: This is your standard site blocker. Just enter in the sites you want blocked for which times of the day, restart your browser, and Leechblock will start to block those sites. To discourage your from attempting to bypass it, I recommend you to go into LeechBlock’s options, click on the “Access Control” tab, and checking both boxes off. This will prevent you from changing LeechBlock’s settings during times when it is blocking sites, and prevents you from using Firefox without add-ons.

Nanny for Google Chrome: As this extension is based off of Leechblock, I like to imagine the nanny to be a human-sized leech wearing Mary Poppin’s outfit. Humor aside, it really is Google Chrome’s version of LeechBlock. There’s even an option to have it enabled when in Incognito mode to prevent being tempted to use a loophole around the siteblocker. The only difference Nanny has is that it is capable of hiding its options like LeechBlock, so Nanny can be disabled very easily.

Productivity Owl for Google Chrome: I hate this extension. And when I mean I hate it, I mean it is a very effective site blocker. The owl is a fickle bird to deal with. Like LeechBlock and Nanny, you can create a schedule, which sites to block, all of that jazz. The twist is that if you linger on any site or sites for too long, the Owl swoops across your browser, closing all current tabs and bringing you back to your home page. Rude, right? Luckily, there’s a whitelist so you can put all of your school-related sites there (Blackboard, WebAssign, etc.), but for all other sites you have a limited amount of time, so you better grab the information you need and get out. The Owl gives you sass when you attempt to access blocked sites or try to get around it by disabling it. The more you use Productivity Owl and stick to your schedule, the Owl will be more lenient with the time it gives for browsing. Respect the bossy Owl overlord.

StayFocusd for Google Chrome: If you don’t want an Owl telling you to stop aimlessly browsing the internet, try StayFocusd! Its setup is similar to Chrome Nanny, what sets this apart is this beautiful thing called the Nuclear Option. This option will block all sites on your blacklist, regardless of whether the site is allowed, and there’s no way to cancel the block once the Nuclear Option is activated.

Cold Turkey: A downloadable site blocker that affects all browsers on your computer. You select which hours to block on which days on a spreadsheet-esque grid, and being a visual person, I really liked seeing my block hours that way. For a program similar to this for Mac users, try Selfcontrol. As I am not a Mac user I can’t give you my opinion on it, but since the creators of Cold Turkey recommend it, it should be just as effective.

Freedom: Have to study for an exam in 8 hours and you’re still aimlessly browsing the internet? Use Freedom. Freedom is (and should be) a last resort. Only use Freedom when you are in dire need of help from you internet procrastination. Just set how many hours you want Freedom to block your internet access, and then start it. Upon activation the only way to turn off Freedom before the time block is finished is to completely shut down your computer and boot it back up again, and restarts don’t count. This is so it discourages the user to not attempt to procrastinate further, and I can say that is has worked for me.

I personally use Freedom in studying for my Microbiology exams. I already had all of the powerpoints downloaded, so what was the point of keeping a browser open? Despite blocking all internet access, services such as Spotify and Skype still work. As I use Spotify nearly every day, I was very pleased with this. When you first download Freedom, you are given a trial version, and to get unlimited uses you have to pay $10. For me, it was definitely worth the price.

I have a lot of sites that eat up a lot of my time, and I wanted to turn those hours of internet drifting into something more productive. I’m a person who is prone to finding their way around a site blocker, so Cold Turkey and Freedom worked the best for me. If you’re not as susceptible to being carried away by internet distractions, Productivity Owl is great for maintaining that habit.

If you try any of the apps or extensions listed, please leave a comment with your results and reviews! Just pick one and try it for a week. If it works, great! If not, try another one and see how it goes.

As I have now covered ways to keep you productive and distraction-free as finals are about to roll in, next time I’ll review ways to keep track of all of the things you have to do in your busy college life!