Scams in Cam(bodia)

So I am writing this post in the lounge floor of the One Stop Hostel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It’s almost 4 PM, but as my day started early around 0630, I figured now would be a good time to get my affairs in orders and send a few updates. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to post about this trip or not, especially as this year’s trip has nothing to do with medicine whatsoever (i.e. GapMedics). However, I was reminded yet again that this is my personal blog and therefore can choose whatever topics I would like to talk about.

Today began with an early start due to this wonderful guide (, which gave me wonderful directions to seven different places. Since you can definitely walk around Phnom Pehn (though, would I call it walker-friendly? – you definitely need to not be afraid of walking on roads and/or around rubbish), it was great to simply tour the city on my own two feet. However, what took the most out of me was not the amount of walking or the heat or the price of admission to these various places (which were steep). It was the non-stop calling from tuk tuk and moto drivers alike asking if I needed a ride. At first, being so naïve, I thought they were genuinely caring for my well-being, as a 20-something old-young woman roaming the streets of Phnom Pehn by herself. But when the tuk tuk drivers began following me asking where I was from and how long I was staying here, that’s when my suspicions began to rise. My one bit of advice to anyone traveling to a foreign county – spend a day researching anything and everything about the places you’re going to. It may “seem” like a waste, but it’s better to go into a country well-informed than become a pawn in the large scamming scale.

So when, on my way to the Royal Palace, a tuk tuk driver came up to me and told me that the Royal Palace was “specially closed” this morning and pointed to a few monks leaving, I knew I was being scammed instantly. Rather than letting him take me to another destination “until the Royal Palace opened” I told him no thanks and that I would rather get pictures of what I can outside. Lo and behold, the palace was open. And although I KNEW this guy was scamming me and I had one-upped him, I still couldn’t help feeling irked. I mean really, I’ve been to so many other places and in those cities, none of the tuk tuk drivers ever harassed you to the point where you were sick of going out. I was so read to cave at the end and just pay a $1 to get a ride home so that I can avoid the constant “lady, tuk tuk?”, “miss, where are you going today”.




Future Me

I was in class the other day listening to lecture and taking notes here and there, when my professor – a quirky individual himself – called me out and asked me why I was taking notes at all.

It was as if I had committed some crime like sneaking cookies!

I never like being put on the spot, so I simply stuttered, strung a few words together, and proceeded to pause as if I had halted my note-taking all together. That was the beginning of the semester, and while my professor is just as quirky as ever, I had an epiphany the other day. Sure, writing down equations that you can simply get off of slides is fine. But when I take down notes, it is not for “present me”, but rather for “future me”. Whether those notes will be used when we have a pop quiz or to study off of prior to an exam, those notes are a present from me, to me. Similarly, I have to realize that all my current actions will affect “future A” in some way. Again, this may be a silly realization – perhaps everyone already knew this. But this sentiment didn’t dawn on me until now. What I do in the present will affect my future. So I should really help my #1 homegirl out – whether that’s in education, health, wellness, etc.



I may or may not have mentioned this already, but I have been working as an ER Scribe for the past few months now at a nearby hospital. I was actually hired on by the company back in October, but I had to go through an arduous training period until I was finally “recommended” to begin solo shifts. The length of training was understandable given that scribes work directly with physicians and ensure that these physicians are billed adequately for their time. One mistake could cost the ER doctor a lot of money, or worse, a lawsuit. But some of the delay was partly due to administration and miscommunication, so I couldn’t become a “full-fledged scribe” until earlier this year.

Before I go on, for those of you who do not know what the job entails, which is totally okay because up until a year ago, I knew very little myself, as a scribe, I help write up charts for patients who come into the ER, allowing the physician to spend more 1-on-1 time with the patient.

23 year old female presents to the ED with complaint of insomnia onset three days ago. Patient complains of back pain and weakness, but denies vomiting, nausea, or any other symptoms.

Scribing is becoming increasingly popular as hospitals shift from paper to electronic medical records. And why pay extra for an educated individual, when you have boatloads of pre-meds who would jump at the chance of working with physicians directly! Thus, I am the physician’s shadow, listening in when a patient explains their symptoms and medical history and typing away furiously when the physician dictates to me findings from a physical exam. Is it overwhelming? Most definitely. But is it interesting? Hell yes! I have seen so many exquisite cases in just my few months at the hospital so far. And if there is one thing I have taken away from my experience it’s that during a shift, a physician may be presented with 100 patients with abdominal pain as their chief complaint. However, it takes a keen observer to distinguish that one patient who might have a unique and possibly life-threatening diagnosis. No matter the time or how tired you may be, you cannot afford to careless when it comes to a person’s life.

It is astonishing how invested I am in this job, when initially, I had only applied to silence my mother who was badgering me about finding a “real job” for my résumé. I’m sure there is a crafty way to present ‘babysitting’ on your résumé, but it just didn’t seem like something that would impress future schools or employers. Don’t get me wrong, babysitting has been, and still is, a great way to make cash. I still babysit on the side now because I do make 2x, sometimes even 3x, the amount I make as a scribe. But the experience that I have gained as a scribe, is just unparalleled. I have learned more field-related information in the past few months than I did in the last 23 years of my life!

There is definitely a steep learning curve associated to this job. During my first few weeks of training, I had over 600 abbreviations and terms thrown at me, some so foreign-sounding that I questioned what I was getting myself into.

when I found out that HA stood for headache -.-

To be honest, I am still learning, and will probably continue to learn until my last day as a scribe, but that’s something I should be used to if I want to become a physician. Just the other day, I was working with an older physician who was unsure if a patient’s diagnosis should be paraphimosis or phimosis. She had me do a Google search (which revealed some interesting images in the ER that I’m sure would be labeled NSFW) and then proceeded to devise a mnemonic to remember the difference between the two terms.

As I mentioned above, I work 8+ hour shifts, most of those shifts are devoid of breaks, and 95% of the time, I am on my feet. I come home mentally and physically exhausted. But, I have worked many jobs in the past and I can honestly say that this is the first job that I am so involved in what I am doing, that time simply flies by. There are the occasional glances at the clock – I’m only human after all – but for the most part, I am constantly entertained with charts or looking up bits of information online, or engaging with the physicians, that before I know it, my shift is over and I leave with a sense of fulfillment. It just validates the sentiment that when you are doing what you love, you’re never really “working”.


<3 A.



Helping Hand

One thing that I have been working on during my “gap year” is letting go of some of my fears and inhibitions. One in particular is the fear of asking for help. Growing up as a more independent individual, I have had trouble admitting that I was in need of assistance. Regardless of the situation, I often found myself burrowing into a deeper hole rather than reaching out for help. I was afraid to raise my hand in class and ask for clarification, afraid to reveal my worries to another, and afraid to simply say “I can’t do this alone”. I pretended that I had everything under control and maintained a pleasant facade to a point where no one could reach out to me.

“I push so hard that nobody pulls”

But you know what? It is okay to ask for help. There is no shame in asking multiple questions in class or going to office hours or even asking strangers for advice on applying to medical school. I would always shy away from this in fear of annoying someone or taking up someone’s time. But if there is someone who is placed in front of you as a resource, whether it be a professor or an advisor, there is absolutely no reason to apologize for asking for help. You just have to be willing to accept that helping hand.

For pre-meds: this Tuesday, April 29th, is holding a special webinar called “Create a Compelling AMCAS Application“. I don’t know about you, but regardless of all the research I have found and the advice I have been given, I am still wary of filing my application when May 1st comes rolling in. The session is only an hour long and you can listen to these tips in the comfort of your own home – how can you not benefit? So if you’re interested, register now and sign up for a spot – I’ve registered so you can best believe that I’ll be listening in as well!


Hope that helps,


Smart Advising

One point that is constantly relayed over advice articles and blogs is that a pre-health advisor can provide guidance and support during a student’s academic career.

But what if your school lacks a specific pre-health advisory committee? What if you do not have any doctors in the family to turn to or anyone close to you whom you can candidly speak with? And more so, what if those general career center counselors end up being a source of discouragement?

Flashback to my third year of college: I had finally decided to make a trip to the daunting Career Center as I was struggling with what I wanted to do and where I was heading at the time. Armed with a few of my residents (I mean, the center was located off of the main campus next to the police station, so it wasn’t super approachable, y’know?), I went in to meet with a counselor for my scheduled appointment. Somehow, even though there were maybe 5 students in the room, I was skipped over and forgotten. The second time I went in, the counselors ended up not having enough time to get to me. The third and final time I walked into that building, I finally was able to speak to counselor. I opened my heart and spoke of my dreams and setbacks and everything else going through my mind as frankly as possible as I wanted her optimal advice. Her response – I was “too far behind at this point and had no hope for medical school”. That was it. She told me to look into some other fields like education, gave me some links to the CBEST, and told me my time was up. I kid you not. It was absolutely disheartening.

Looking back, the problem wasn’t simply that my counselor was inadequate. Sure, there are some problems with that career center in general that I hope are being ironed out. But more so, my counselor lacked the necessary knowledge needed to be a useful resource to me. If there aren’t going to be advisors dedicated to pre-health students specifically, then I think it is a necessity for general career counselors to do a bit of homework and learn all they can about the career fields out there. I was reading this article the other day and it resonates a similar sentiment:

“I have often seen students in premed advising be told they must take both biology and chemistry their freshman year. But given that the transition from high school to college can be a major adaptation, students may not want to register for two hard science courses with labs the first semester of college.”

It seems like the advisors themselves need to “smarten up” and realize that regardless of the technologically advanced era we live in today, more and more students come to counselors and advisors for both academic and emotional support. Students are multi-dimensional, and advisors need to consider their social, psychological, emotional, and physical well-being along with their academic record.

Personally, I just needed one. One person to sit down, hear my story, and guide me out of the hole I was digging myself into. Maybe that was too much to ask for at the time? But things may have turned out differently if I had just one person – one person explain to me that the road to medical school and beyond is a marathon, not a sprint.

– A.

What Now

It’s been a while since I have updated this blog. Or at least, it feels like a while – although in my defense, I’ve been sick for a good two weeks now! Being an aspiring physician, I know it is sinful to admit that I usually avoid getting the flu vaccine. But when you’re hit with a strong bout of the flu for the first time in years shortly after agreeing to take the flu shot, you do begin to wonder. Anyway, enough of that tangent. My first round of midterms are coming up and I figured that as long as I am procrastinating memorizing all those bone diagrams for my anatomy exam tomorrow, I might as well churn out another post!

Where can I begin? To be honest, as soon as the MCAT was over, weeks began to blend together and before I knew it, we were in mid-March. It’s all one big blur of laughter, tears, and food. I did get my score back and initially, I wasn’t too happy with it given that I had a goal score in mind. However, after a few days of processing, as well as a few emails from medical schools encouraging me to apply, I have come to appreciate my score. Will I take the MCAT again? Maybe? It’s all up in the air right now, but since a new format of the MCAT is taking over next year, there are PLENTY of dates (like three in August!) left, if I decide to commit to an endless hour study marathon again. For now, I am content.


As you might be able to tell from above, I also started/finished watching Happy Endings. I totally recommend it if you’re looking for a 30-minute “pick me up/study break” sort of TV show. Sadly, it only lasted for three seasons – more of a reason to check out this cult favorite!

Recently on Twitter, I’ve noticed numerous schools trending as high school students have been getting their acceptance letters (and I guess for the NCAA bracket). This past Friday, #UCLAbound began trending, putting me in a major flashback friday. It was just five years ago that I was in a similar position. I was a nervous wreck, but not because I was awaiting to hear from my “dream school” – more so because I just wanted to get into the schools I applied to. There was no real reasoning behind why I applied to the schools that I ended up applying to – some were from recommendations from others, some were from some internet browsing, and some were simply television-influenced (like Yale and Gilmore Girls). And when I decided to ultimately submit my ‘SIR’ to UCLA it was more for my family than anything else. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it is an amazing school; but I certainly didn’t decide to go there because of the athletics, or the Psychology department, or the food …. well, maybe a little bit because of the food, haha.

although we never had anything as fancy as this
although we never had anything as fancy as this

This is all coming back to me now, not only because it has been half a decade since, but come this summer, I’ll be going through another major application cycle once more. Sure, I sort of went through that process last year with graduate schools, but I had no idea what I was doing and my plan was haphazardly thrown together – sort of like when I was applying to undergraduate schools come to think of it. This time though, I know what I want, but even more so, I know what kind of environment I can thrive in.

I am currently taking classes at a community college for the first time. And not to offend anyone who has attended community college, but I was a little hesitant diving in given some of the horror stories I had heard. However, not only was it easier to sign up for classes than it was at a university, but these classes are SMALL. Compared to my Life Science courses ranging from 300 to 400 students, there are about 30-35 students in one of my biology classes. Amazing. My professors knew my name by week two and there was not a moment when I felt lost in a crowd.

As I begin to narrow down my MD/DO options for this upcoming cycle, I realize that the schools that I decide on must provide me the same sort of feeling that I have been relishing in community college. Regardless of school status or “fame”, the schools I choose must be on the smaller end when it comes to class sizes. Now I know that might be more harmful than helpful given that there are less spots to compete for – but at the end of the day, if I know I’ll end up drowning in a 500-person class setting, why place myself in one? Along with small class sizes, I also want to consider affordability and residency placement. Though I am a Southern California-bred gal, I don’t think temperature should keep me from applying – I think that’s more of a consideration when I (hopefully) am accepted and (possibly) narrowing down schools.

So what now? Well, at this point, I would love to hear if any of you have any pieces of wisdom regarding school selection or recommendations. All of the blogs that I am following have been incredibly helpful already and I am sincerely grateful, but if you find that you have anything to add, I would love to hear it. Until then, I’ll continue to work on my personal statement and relish this in-between year!

<3 A.

“What Now” – Rihanna

Sharks and Buoyancy

“What I Gathered from that 150-minute MCAT Class” Pt. 1

When an object is submerged under a fluid, there are two densities at work. The density of the fluid surrounding the object and the density of the object itself. Now if the object’s density is equal to the fluid density, then the buoyancy force (that’s pulling the object up) is equal to the force of gravity pulling the object down. Therefore, these two forces cancel out leaving a net force of zero which means the object is simply “suspended” in the water.

Some fish have an trait called swim bladders that allow them to achieve this suspension despite the varying depths of the ocean. This organ can expand or deflate allowing a fish to stay at a current water depth and conserve energy rather than trying to swim in order to keep from sinking or floating. Which is what evolution is all about – characteristics that allow a species to thrive without expending too many resources.

Now sharks, on the other hand, are much denser and are not equipped with swim bladders. So, as a result, they automatically sink to the floor. To avoid this, sharks are equipped with fins that are used to stay afloat. Which is probably why they are predators – because they need all of that extra energy to move their fins and “just keep swimming”. In some countries, shark fins are highly sought after commodities. However, the rest of the shark is not as profitable, so rather than heaving this giant shark body to shore (and thus, wasting more resources), these “shark finners” skin sharks alive and toss them back in the ocean, fin-less.

Well, because the density of a shark’s body is much greater than the density of the surrounding fluid, the shark ends up sinking to the bottom of the ocean floor. So this great, tremendous predator of the ocean waters is now reduced to nothing more than a loaf of bread, without any means of survival. In the end, these sharks are eaten by other fish or die due to suffocation.

How horrible is that? If I was a shark, I would elect to be taken completely when my fins are removed, rather than being thrown back into the water as a helpless organism. That is not how the great “food chain” works. I think it is absolutely horrible that, out of laziness, we cause another predator – who can easily hunt us down – to be stripped down to nothing. I know it’s a “dog eat dog world” out there, but this isn’t the case. This is, “dog steals another dog’s evolutionary means of survival” and runs away without a second look.

Physics can really get your mind going. What do you think?

– A.