medschool

Profile of a First Year Med Student

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How Not to Get into Medical School

You want to go to medical school but are concerned that you might not do well on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). What should you do? a. Study hard b. Take a test prep course c. Concoct an elaborate plan to transmit real-time photos of the exam questions to a confederate who has duped three medical students into thinking they are auditioning for jobs as MCAT prep tutors. Have the confederate supply you with the consensus answers that the tutors come up with via a phone link. Do not worry that the tutors might become suspicious because the images of the questions are fuzzy, they are allowed to discuss the questions, and your friend has to periodically leave the room to call you with the suggested answers.   As difficult as it is to believe, someone chose “c” and was caught when the tutors reported their suspicions to university security. When the non-test taking accomplice left the room, the med students looked at his computer and saw that MCAT tests were being given all over the world that day and that sites describing how to use a pinhole camera had been recently viewed. This episode raises a few questions. What sort of proctoring was taking place in the examination room? Apparently, no one noticed the camera, the transmitter or the phone being used by the examinee. What did the cheaters expect...

Stuff I See on Charts that Drives Me Crazy

As I exist on the brink of extreme crankiness every day, it doesn’t take much to push me over the edge. Here are some things that do. Why do history and physical write-up sound like transcriptions of interrogations? Specifically, why to doctors write, “Patient denies alcohol use”? It’s as if the patient has been accused of using alcohol and when she says she doesn’t drink, we say she “denies” it. In my experience, the vast majority of patients tell the truth during H&P interviews. There’s a difference between saying, “Patient doesn’t drink alcohol” and “The patient denies alcohol use.” In reference to the examination of the head, eyes, ears, nose and throat, who is teaching medical students to write things like this? “HEENT: normocephalic, atraumatic.” With the exception of Joseph Merrick, known as “The Elephant Man,” just about every person I have ever seen is normocephalic. And other than those who have suffered an injury, the heads of most patients show no trauma. It is important for a physician to know how to write a coherent sentence and spell words correctly. Poor spelling and grammar reflect either ignorance or sloppiness. Take the word “guaiac” for example. It refers to a reagent used less frequently now for the testing of the stool for blood. It is not spelled “guiac” or “guaic.” If you can’t spell it, use the word “heme”...

The One Major Mistake That Medical Schools Are Making

As I prepare to matriculate in medical school in August, I have had some time to reflect back on this past year which I have spent at The “Almost” Doctor’s Channel. As I witness other friends happily celebrating their acceptances, while others struggle to make alternative plans due to not-as-happy outcomes, I can’t help but wonder, “why did they choose me?” I had a decent/good MCAT score (depending who you ask). I went to a good undergraduate school and had a good/decent GPA. I was in an a cappella group because I love to sing, played on a few intramural sports teams because I loved to play sports and held a position on the board of my sorority because…well, I like having a voice within a large group. That about ends the list of extra-curricular activities that I participated in because of my own desires and interests. As pre-meds, medical students, and residents, we train from a young age to be the physicians we hope to one day be. We go to “DNA Camp” in high school (uh, was that only me?) and finagle together a sad excuse for a Siemens or Intel paper (again…any others out there who did this?), and then when we finally get into our dream college, the cycle starts all over again. We hound heads of labs in the hope of being a (unpaid)...

5 Crucial Lessons I Learned From Working at a Hospital

I took a year off before going to medical school. It was less of a decision than I would have liked it to be, considering I was rejected from medical school my first time applying, but all’s well that ends well. In the meantime, I got a job working as a nurse assistant on a medical/surgical floor, and the experience provided me a very in depth look at a field I had only imagined myself getting involved in – a career I had only seen in episodes of Scrubs and Greys Anatomy as well as random, superficial stints in the hospital via volunteering and shadowing. What I would quickly come to find is that I really didn’t know what I was getting into. Here are some of the things I found most surprising.   1. Medicine is at best a dirty science. For all the davincis, google glasses, and cutting edge research that people love to think about when they think of medicine, at the end of the day there needs to be someone to wipe off the poop. For every one patient that is helped by a davinci, there are hundreds that require their bowels disimpacted, straight catheterizations, or wound and bed sore treatment.  It is smelly, dirty, and wholly underappreciated, but constitutes the bulk of what it takes to treat a patient every day.   2. Being...

Morgue Mistakingly Sends Body to Einstein for Dissection

Overworked and multitasking morgue workers made a grave mistake this week in the Bronx. According to NBC News, Aura Ballesteros died in her sleep at the age of 85 on May 16th, 2014 due to long-term heart problems and dementia. Her body was taken from the Kings Harbor Nursing Home to a morgue in the Bronx, where morgue workers told Aura’s family they would keep the body until the planned funeral on June 16th. But on June 3rd, Aura’s son, Hector, received a phone call that his mother’s body was no longer in their possession – that it had been sent to Albert Einstein College of Medicine for use by their students in anatomy lab. According to the morgue policy, if a body is not claimed within 2 weeks of death, it is discharged for medical teaching use. When Hector called the school, he was told he would need to wait 2 days before he could claim the body. Though the body had not been dissected, it had been embalmed. “The office’s chief of staff, Barbara Butcher, said that a staffer at an office in Manhattan called the morgue in the Bronx to tell them about the arrangements, but the person on the other end of the line didn’t make a note of it.” Aura’s family plans to file an emotional stress lawsuit against New York...

5 Ways We Can Reduce “The July Effect”

July is just around the corner and with it, freshly minted med school grads are flooding internship programs. Many are familiar with the old adage about not getting sick in July because of new interns. But the truth is that new interns start this week! Yet, you don’t hear much about the “late June effect.”  So is the July effect overblown or true? Well, there have been many studies – so many so that there was a recent systematic review co-authored by one of my own co-interns a long time ago. While I am sure it was hard to synthesize the studies of often sub-par quality, the review does state “studies with higher-quality designs and larger sample sizes more often showed increased mortality and decreased efficiency at time of changeover.” The study I recall best examined over 25 years worth of death records and found a pattern. Of the 240,000 deaths due to medication errors, mortality rates were higher in July, especially in counties with teaching hospitals. I’m not sure death certificates are an accurate way of diagnosing cause of death…but that’s another story. The question, thus, becomes: what can be done to ensure July is as safe as possible? While it’s not possible for patients to time their illnesses, there may be other ways to do so. Though there is scant literature on this topic, over the last several years, I have had...