Memorizing Muscle Facts (Again)

Although I planned to take a break from school this year and instead, work more hours to pay for the ridiculous amount of debt I have accrued from applications thus far, my three-month summer break left me craving for some educational stimulation. So, I signed up for a Human Prosection class series that will begin this Fall and finish up at the end of Spring semester next year. It’s actually a pretty awesome class so far – and it’s amazing that a class like this is offered through a community college. What is Prosection, you ask? It is a class where a cadaver is dissected with the intent of using it to teach and demonstrate anatomical structures. In short, this cadaver will be a teaching tool for years to come and cannot be dissected without regard. But yes, that means that I, a pre-medical student, have the opportunity to dissect a full cadaver from beginning to the end with four other students. There are medical schools in the US that offer fewer opportunities for their students as they move forward towards “Virtual Anatomy”.

But I digress. While the experience has been enriching so far, one item that I am not looking forward to, is teaching muscle facts to students in the lower level Anatomy classes in two weeks. When I was in their position, I went for a straight memorization method and was able to muddle through the muscle unit of Anatomy. However, teaching is an entirely different game as students will be asking me questions that will challenge my understanding of the entire body. So this week, I will not only have to memorize the muscles, insertions, origins, and actions again, but I will have to do it in a way where I can verbally recall them without faltering in front of my students.

giphy1

This linked post from Action Potential has some great tips that I am going to attempt this week. However, if anyone else has any other tricks up their sleeves – or any teaching pointers to seem more confident in front of your fellow peers – please send them my way!

— A.

Source: How to memorize origins and insertions

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.

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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

Inspire and Expire

“Breathe in, and breathe out”. That’s what I told myself 40 hours, 20 hours, 10 hours leading up to the MCAT and all throughout it. And now (at least for the time being), I’m done.

Done. Done. Done. I’m done. I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that it’s over. In fact, it took about two days for the thought to settle in before I decided to blog about it.

On one hand, I physically felt a weight lift off my shoulders as I walked out of the testing center. On the other hand though, it’s strange to have this singular mission that completely consumed your entire being for six straight months, be extinguished so quickly – dare I say, rather unceremoniously.

Not to say that I would want to go through the studying, signing up process, and entire MCAT circus again. But I did learn a lot more than I expected to throughout the process. For example,  you really learn who your true friends are when you have such an enormous exam looming over your head. You have those who respect your wishes and hold no hard feelings for the missed social gatherings. You have those who send you emails and texts of support and love. And then you have the latter who simply do not understand that the MCAT is symbolic of what you want to achieve in life. Yes, it’s just an exam, but it’s also part of that ticket to launch your life’s dream and profession.

Last Thursday, two days before the MCAT, marked the end of my fourteen-week Princeton Review MCAT Prep course. Surprisingly, I felt a twinge in my heart when I left, and proceeded to draft this up:

An Ode to the End of MCAT Class

Today marks the final day of MCAT classes. At such a declaration, one would expect a response full of jubilation and relief. However, I find myself oddly saddened that the end is here. Who would have expected that when I signed up for these classes three months ago, I would come out with a greater appreciation for learning and science? Given the horrible experience I had with my SAT classes six years ago, I predicted the same, if not worse, from this experience.

And yet, as the days turned into weeks, I found myself looking forward to the next class. My instructors were genuine, good-natured people, full of humor and advice. They enjoyed what they taught and likewise, instilled a thrill in learning that I had long forgotten about. Subjects such as physics and chemistry that made me cringe in college, were relayed in such a fashion, that I felt as if I was just being introduced. Every day, I am not ashamed to say, I learned something NEW. And I realized, that I actually have the capability to learn and love science. Gone were the days of believing I was unworthy or unintelligent because transcription and translation were unappealing subjects.

Along with these amazing instructors, my fellow students were not the cut-throat sort of pre-medical students that I had the misfortune of meeting my freshman year in college. Though they were voracious when it came to recalling concepts and studying, they were just as helpful and sweet. In fact, students would bring in little treats from time to time, for no other reason, but to relay the notion that we really were all in this together.

Having gone through this course, I now believe that I have what it takes to thrive in medical school. However, I understand that in order to have the best experience, I need an environment just as fruitful. If medical school turns out to be this – a small group of students who help each other and instructors who are passionate about what they teach, I think I could find some happiness in medical school.

So what now? I’ll wait (somewhat on edge) until I get my results before planning those next steps. I’ve signed up to take a few science classes at the local community college, and now that I know what I’m capable of, I’m a little more excited to go “back to school”. I should also try to take a whack at some of those resolutions I made twenty-seven days ago.

Nothing more to say, but I will leave you with this song that not only got me through some late-night studying, but was my personal anthem as I walked into the prometric testing center last Saturday. Who says EDM can’t be just as rejuvenating as classical music?

Best,

A.

High 5

My blog turns five today! Yay!

I feel like this elicits a celebration of some sorts. Or even a well-worded speech. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately), I have to cut this post short as the MCAT is – not four, not three, but – TWO weeks aways. That’s fourteen days. That’s like, winter break in high school – and we all know how that flew by ever so quickly. I should stop now – I’m starting to hyperventilate.

My head

My head

In all seriousness though, it feels surreal. The MCAT has forever been a huge daunting tale that I never imagined I would one day actually meet in person. I know that there are still a lot more hoops to jump through before I become a doctor, let alone actually getting into medical school. But taking the MCAT is a huge first step in my books. So prayers, positive thoughts, all and everything are appreciated as I go into this for the first, and hopefully, last time. You will have my eternal gratitude and if I ever meet you in person, I’ll be sure to give you a high five.

<3 A.

“This Is The New Year” (almost)

I know it’s an overdone thought – to make resolutions by the 1st of the year. And while I do agree that resolution-making can happen any time, what I like most about my New Year’s resolutions, is that I can look back and see where my head was at this time last year. Let’s take a look at my 13 resolutions made on December 31, 2012:
1.) Get accepted into a Child Life Masters Program

  • [  ] Not only did I switch from Chid Life to Developmental Psychology, but as we all know, I ended up deferring my acceptance.

2.) Keep tabs on UCLA Happenings and attend more events – it’s my senior year!

  • [~] While I did not really keep tabs, I did attend more events and ended my year with an event in Royce Hall.

3.) Have two more successful quarters for CEC and leave behind a positive legacy

  • [X] It depends on what you define as “positive legacy”, but personally, I gave CEC my all and looking back, I’m proud of what I accomplished.

4.) Learn how to play “Stop This Train” on guitar

  • [~] I took some steps towards this goal. I enrolled in guitar lessons and have learned a few songs including “Stay” by Rihanna.

5.) Take advantage of megabus’s $1 offer and take a semi-spontaneous trip to San Francisco

  • [X] I did ride the Megabus, but to Vegas, not SF. It was definitely not spontaneous, not did it cost me a mere $1. More like that + 40 more smackaroos. And to be honest, it wasn’t as great as I was hoping it would be. (*Sidenote: But I DID take a spontaneous trip to Davis via the Amtrak and while it wasn’t cheap, it was an amazing trip with one of my best friends*)

6.) Take a trip to Las Vegas, post-21

  • [X] Yessir and it was quite an experience.

7.) Exercise at least twice a week and slowly expand that to every day

  • [~] This didn’t really kick in until the latter half of the year, but better late than never!

8.) Follow a healthier eating regimen – take multiple trips to Ralphs and be conscious of all foods

  • [~] Still working on this, but I have definitely made changes in the houeshold. Now to get my mother to use brown rice instead of white.

9.) As always, go to at least one concert

  • [X] Not only did I go to multiple concerts, but I attended the CONCERT of concerts – Coachella. Check and mate.

10.) Attempt to do better in school – whether this means, procrastinate less, prioritize/focus more, or simply, thrive in new setting

  • [  ] I’m still working on this. Study smart, procrastinate less, concentration endurance – tips are welcome!

11.) Write consistently in this blog, every day, for the entire year

  • [  ] Oh, I wrote this with the intention of having a separate 2013 blog that represented blogging for 365 days. But by Day 22 I realized that I didn’t have the time, nor that interesting of a life, to fulfill this.

12.) Finally close that “7-year” chapter and do what I need to do to move on.

  • [X] Done and done.

13.) Never lose faith. Everything happens for a reason, so keep powering through.

  • [X] Losing faith in life is like losing the will to live. With everything thrown at me this year, I think I’ve managed to say afloat, no?

6/13 done properly. 4/13 done so so. And 3 that were just not completed – but I wouldn’t count them as failures. 2013 will always be significant to me as this was the year I graduated UCLA and came out as a recipient of a Bachelor’s Degree.

This time last year, I was trying to rebuild an image that had been demolished by certain events. I wanted to keep moving forward despite all the signs telling me to slow down. This year, I’m hoping to discover myself  and really focus on my emotional, physical, and psychological well-being, while keeping in mind of my friends and family who have been with me through thick and thin. Here’s to hoping that 2014 not only brings me one step closer to an acceptance to medical school, but an awareness of who I am .

One key lesson for the year:

Value yourself. The more you ­elevate your self-worth, the more you will ­attract what you desire.

And with that I leave you with my 2014 resolutions and my sincere wishes for a wonderful new year. Cheers!
Au revoir, 2013.

Au revoir, 2013.

Happy New Year,

A.

Self-Awareness

It has now been a month since I have whole-heartedly committed to studying for the MCAT. While there is a tremendous amount of content, it is not as horrifying once you actually sit down and begin the process. That being said, I am beyond thankful that I signed up for a preparatory course. I’ll admit it, on record now, that I have absolutely no self-discipline when it comes to studying. That, and I forgot almost everything science-related that I learned in college, so it’s nice to have a little review. And it’s not as if my review course is torturous or boot camp-like (flashback to those 9-hour Saturday sessions for SAT) – on the contrary, I have been loving everything that I have been learning re-learning. My instructors are thoughtful and eager to help us succeed. The only unsettling factor that has been nagging at me for the past four weeks, is that my Verbal Reasoning instructor is – in all honesty – Sarah Michelle Gellar‘s doppelgänger. Yes, Buffy is teaching my class and brings the same “kickass, no bullshit” attitude. So you definitely do not want to argue with her when she’s telling you that it is necessary to skip a passage on the real VR section. She also has a tongue piercing which is hard to not stare at during the two and a half hour-long class. 

We do not joke about the VR section.

We do not joke about the VR section.

I know, it’s ridiculous, but don’t think that will stop me from inquiring one day whether she realizes that she could be the Vampire Slayer’s twin.

So am I living, breathing, consuming MCAT material yet? Nope. Maybe ask me again when I hit the two month mark in a week? But for now, I am still on a somewhat lax schedule where I include time to gym, work, watch an episode (or two), and read. You would think after scrapping both Facebook and Tumblr out of my life, I would find less to do online. Wrong. Discard those two platforms, and I have now turned to NPR, blogging, and somewhat surprisingly – Yahoo! Answers. No, I am not kidding – I think I may have a new addiction and this is answering questions on Yahoo! Answers. How? I have no clue. Perhaps it’s my rebound as I fill this void that Facebook has left. Haha, but really, there are so many trolls on the internet nowadays, that I think people are genuinely grateful when you can pause and explain an answer thoroughly to them. Personally, I know how frustrating it is to be working on a problem late at night or early in the morning and turning to the internet to seek help that you cannot get from friends, parents, teachers, or tutors. So one day, I just casually went on the Education & Reference section and began to answer a few homework questions in depth. That’s when the “Best Answers” began to hit and before I knew it, I was playing a game, trying to raise my percentage and get to the next level. Which, let me tell you, is such a high! And a total self-esteem boost when you’re battling with the MCAT. And look, now I have a nifty little crown!

Screen Shot 2013-11-11 at 5.41.45 PM

Comic relief in the form of a lookalike and Yahoo! Answers. What else is getting me through this long and daunting process? Driving. New York might have four seasons, but along with being ridiculously cold, it thrives on public transportation. Which is great for the environment and all, but what I have discovered is that driving, on my own, is therapeutic for me. Throw in some songs from John Mayer or The Civil Wars, and I can handle a long commute to work or driving home from class. What about traffic? As much as I despised the 405, traffic isn’t horrible. Especially if I’m not competing with time. And that’s just another lovely commodity from my gap year. For once, in my life, I am not competing neck-in-neck with time or finances. Work is on my time and studying is on my time. I dictate when it’s go time and when it’s time for a break. In a way, I am getting to know myself better as I form these boundaries in sync with no one else’s schedule but mine. And living at home might have its drawbacks, but to not have to worry about money for rent, food, clothes, and utilities is bliss. And to be safe, secure, and surrounded by my support system of best friends and family, I can finally focus on my self-respect (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs ring a bell?).

That is one of the most valuable tidbits I have learned so far from the past three months. They say college is where you find out who you truly are. But in my opinion, it’s when you fail, withdraw yourself, become attuned to your needs – that’s when you start to create your identity. For most of my life, I saw myself as others tended to view me. I am just now realizing that there is so much more to me that even I have not yet figured out. An example? I have been told since I was six years old that I was extremely mature and “mom-like” for my age. But the more I learn about myself, the more I realize that this, in actuality, was not true. It is my lack of maturity that has brought me to this point in life.

This is not just about becoming a physician. This is about leading a life towards self-actualization. Hopefully the two will coincide as I continue on my path towards my own aspirations and desires.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”
          – F. Scott Fitzgerald

<3 A.

It’s a Journey

Following my grand gesture a little more than a month ago, when I voluntarily decided to opt out of graduate school, I made a promise to myself that I would use this “time off” wisely. I try to stray away from the words “vacation” or “break”, because in my mind, this year off is just as crucial to my applicant status as the years at UCLA were. So I need to be productive. Not busy, but productive. And likewise, I can’t indulge in this new-founded free time. I’m not saying that I have never had free time to myself when I was at UCLA. Realistically, I have so much time to spare that I finished seven seasons of 7th Heaven in a month during the summer, along with taking classes. But at the same time, I never had time to myself to be productive. I’m gluttonous when it comes to free time. I tend to soak it in – which means sitting in bed in my pajamas watching TV and being a couch potato. That’s what I have always done when I  have wanted a mental break from school, home, work, and life.

But this “time off” is not a mental break. It’s more mental preparation for what is to come. Especially now that I have decided that I am really, truly, whole-heartedly going to dive into this doctor thing. In the past month, I have started shadowing doctors to gain a better understanding of what to expect. Per my primary care physician’s recommendation, I have looked into osteopathic, along with allopathic careers. Three months ago, if you had asked me what the difference between a DO and MD were, I would have looked at you with complete and utter bewilderment. Fast forward to now, and I am shocked at how little I really knew of the medical field. Maggie Gyllenhaal once commented that her Columbia education taught her to

“acknowledge that I really know nothing”

Well, you can say that this time spent researching and shadowing has done just the same in my case. I have wanted to a pediatrician since kindergarten. Why a pediatrician? I liked children. I liked being surrounded by fresh faces and young minds. Great personal statement for what motivates me to be a doctor, right? So as much as I am drawn to pediatrics, I have decided to look at other specialities via shadowing. Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, OB/GYN, to name a few. And so far, every occupation I’ve looked into has strengthened my resounding want to become a health professional. It is not about one speciality, it is about the whole package. And being a doctor is not just a “job”. It is a lifelong journey that I need to be emotionally, mentally, and physically ready to take on.

“You’re too lax”

This was told to me in 10th grade by a girl who was extremely gifted. When I first heard her utter these words, I was in complete and utter shock. I, of all people, lax? Are you kidding me? I have never been as tightly wounded as I was back in high school. So I took in those words and promised myself that I would some day meet up with her again and be able to throw them back in her face. Petty? Extremely – especially now that I realize that she wasn’t completely wrong. I may have been a “tight-ass” in high school, but at the same time, I had such idealistic/naïve views of the medical field. They told me it was going to be hard. They told me that I would meet thousands of crazy pre-med students in the same scenario. But I sort of half-listened as I charmed my way out of high school, not really knowing how to study, and optimistically thinking that becoming a doctor meant taking a test and getting into a school.

Thankfully, I have been given the time to really discover how being/becoming a doctor is multi-faceted. And through this knowledge, comes acceptance and understanding of what I must overcome – not only in this year or next year, but for years to come. It’s a bit hilarious really, thinking of how, a month ago, I cringed at the thought of disappointing so many people by not carrying out a false dream of mine. Now I cringe thinking of all I might have lost if I decided to blindly follow my mind.

Sometimes it pays to consult your heart. As corny as that may sound, I really think regrets stem from solely following either your brain or heart and not allowing a dialogue between the two. Sure, I don’t have the hustle and bustle of a city. I can’t call myself a graduate student or revel in the immensity of Columbia University. But I do wake up every day at 7 or 8 AM. I learn more about this field that I am dedicating my life to and I get to read often. I have become a regular at Planet Fitness with my two best friends. I have fallen in love with the guitar. I get to find the beauty and importance in the little things. Sure, it’s not New York, but I have never been healthier or happier.

And with that, I leave you with this hilarious comic:

My personal favorites are Pediatrics and Radiology [:

My personal favorites are Pediatrics and Radiology [:

<3 A.