the-health-scout

The Health Scout, "Almost" MD

Dalya Ferguson (The Health Scout) is a PGY2 General Surgery resident at the University of Texas at Houston who is passionate about improving medical education, healthcare quality, and health literacy. Before medical school, she earned a BA in Literary Studies with a minor in Philosophy and worked at a healthcare consulting company for over 2 years. When she's not working, she is usually spending time with her husband and family, studying, reading, drawing cartoons, or tweeting.

http://www.thehealthscout.blogspot.com

How To Get To Your Residency Interviews

This post is all about getting ready for residency interviews. I essentially just began interviewing, so much of the information in my next two posts will be based on advice from countless friends, blogs, and attendings, in addition to my personal experience. I’ll follow these up with a post at the end of interview season to add anything I wish I had known beforehand. The very first step in preparing for interviews is setting up your 4th year schedule. This is based completely on personal preference and the requirements of your specialty. I took Step 2 in late June because about 30% of General Surgery programs require a Step 2 score for an interview. I chose an easy rotation in October, so that I could check my email constantly, and I am taking November and December off for interviews. Like I said, this is personal preference. Air travel stresses me out, so trying to arrange flights around an active rotation would drive me insane. I’d rather just have a rotation in April while the rest of my friends are on a beach somewhere. But the beach might be really important to you, so you’ll figure out how to make it work. As for the items below, you should start this process in September, before you actually get invited to any interviews (or even earlier if you have busy rotations in...

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Step 2

First of all, you know how everyone says Step 2 is much easier than Step 1? They are correct. If you were conscious during your 3rd year clerkships and you spend a reasonable amount of time studying, you will be able to get a better score than you did on Step 1. Many people have asked me how I studied for Step 2, so I decided to write a quick blog about. (Disclaimer: If you’re applying to Ortho, Neurosurg, Derm, or Ophtho, none of this applies to you. You just need to talk to one of your people.) I chose not to take any time off to prepare for Step 2 because I had a six-week Psychiatry rotation at the end of 3rd year.  This rotation is lovingly referred to as “Psych-cation” because the hours are pretty amazing (usually 8:30-ish to lunchtime). In other words, I knew I would have time to study. So I scheduled Step 2 for June 29th, which was three days after my Psych shelf, and two days before the first day of 4th year.  (Yay! One day of vacation!) I ordered First Aid for Step 2 CK and Step 2 Secrets. (I didn’t use the latter very much, although it is a good resource and has great derm pictures.) Because I had used UWorld for my 3rd year clerkships, I reset the Qbank and started over. The Step 2 Qbank has ~2,200 questions...

How To Dress For Your Medical School Interviews

Need help finding the right dress or suit for your interviews? Don’t show up in a lab coat (unless you have to). Here are the best ways to dress for your medical school interviews. Suit Don’t be cheap. You’ll keep this suit forever (or until your weight changes significantly), so don’t worry about the price tag. Buy a conservative suit that fits you perfectly (or get it tailored to fit perfectly). Check out this article for a lengthier discussion on interview attire. Women: the skirt versus pants debate rages on. (Especially for surgeons.) I personally opted for pants because I feel more comfortable in them, which translates into more confidence in my interviews. Plus I just can’t see myself at a program where I am expected to wear a skirt. With that being said, if I were equally comfortable in both I would actually opt for a skirt, as a skirt is technically more formal. Of course, make sure your skirt is long enough, especially when sitting down. Men: I would save the 3-piece suit for another day. It’s a bit much. (This is just my opinion, but I’ve also heard some residents and attendings make similar comments.) I would also avoid bow ties, unless you’ve seen the program director or department chair in one. Bow ties just bring up very strong feelings and you don’t want your interviewer secretly judging you for something so...

How To Get Recommendation Letters

Letters of recommendation are fairly specialty dependent, so I won’t get into how to select your letter-writers. Instead, you should just ask your mentor who you need letters from, then introduce yourself to those people and and spend as much time with them as possible. Let them know right away that you’re interested in getting a letter from them—they will pay closer attention to you and have much more to say in your letter. When you formally ask for letters make sure you have proper etiquette. 1) Set up a meeting as far in advance as possible. Many of the people that you will need letters from probably have assistants, so you should set up this meeting through their assistant. Call or email the assistant, explaining that you will be asking for a letter and that the attending should be expecting this meeting. You can also attach your CV and supporting documents to this email, although you don’t have to if they’re not up to snuff yet. Try to meet toward the end of a rotation with the attending, so they have already had a chance to get to know you but you are still fresh in their memory. 2) Add them as a letter writer on ERAS before the meeting, making sure you have their correct name, degree(s), and title. Then print their unique LOR information sheet and bring it to...

The Reasons Why Sleep Matters

My personal experience has taught me that consistently getting decent sleep is THE most important factor in my overall well-being—more than relationships, exercise, diet, money, or anything else. Let me list the reasons why sleep matters. Obviously I don’t currently, and likely never will (except maybe during research sabbatical), get 8 hours of sleep 7 days per week. But I always get as much sleep as possible. This means that sleep almost always comes before my husband, family, friends, studying, drinking, TV, and whatever else keeps me away from my bed.  (Of course there are exceptions.) A mentor once told me, “Whenever you say ‘yes’ to something, you’re saying ‘no’ to something else.” Sometimes saying ‘yes’ to sleep means my life appears pretty boring from the outside. For example, when I was a 4th year med student on my surgery sub-internship, I woke up at 4:00am every day and usually didn’t get home until 7pm or later. When I got home, I ate dinner while I talked to my husband, showered, and then got in bed around 8:00pm. This was also in July, so I was actually in bed before the sun set every night. This sounds like a really pathetic existence, but I swear I was happy. Giving up some time with my husband after work in favor of getting enough sleep was worth it because I wasn’t...

How To Be More Confident In The Medical Field

The most important task for every premed and medical student is learning how to appear confident. If we want the privilege of cutting people open and prescribing potentially lethal drugs, we need steady hands. But confidence is something I’ve always struggled with, particularly in my academic life. The common theme in my feedback from faculty, bosses, and attendings has been: be more confident. This is a great problem to have. Presumably they all see a reason for me to be confident (who would tell an incompetent person to have confidence?). But it is a problem. Here’s what happens: a faculty member tells me to be more confident, and my first thought is always, Yeah, but… Yeah, but I’m not sure that what I’m saying is right. Yeah, but there’s more than one answer. Yeah, but I don’t feel confident. But what really prompts me to think, “Yeah, but”? Stephen Hawking famously said, “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” And it’s quite pleasant and intelligent-sounding to argue that my resistance stems from my internalization of the imperative to question one’s own knowledge. But that’s BS. In truth, my feelings stem from a much less pleasant reality, which became impossible to ignore when I was studying for Step 1: I don’t trust myself. And no situation better exemplifies this lack of trust than...

How Do You Find A Mentor?

One of the greatest moments of third year is when you figure out (or confirm) what you want to do with your life. (I know this doesn’t happen for everyone, and I’ll address that topic in a future post.) Okay, so you know what you want to be when you grow up. What now? You need to find a mentor. If you’ve read my blog before, you probably know how strongly I feel about mentorship. (My very first post was on this very topic.) But what is the purpose of this particular mentor? A mentor is an experienced and trusted adviser. Right now you need someone within your specialty to help you choose letter-writers, decide which programs to apply to, and prepare for interviews. You need someone to bolster your confidence when you get anxious about this process. You also need someone who will tell you things you don’t want to hear, so that you can match into the best possible program within your chosen specialty and not end up scrambling (or whatever they call it now). So what should you look for in a mentor? I recommend choosing someone who has expressed confidence in you, whose career you admire, and whose personality is somewhat similar to yours. Also look for someone well-versed in resident selection in your specialty or someone who has been through residency fairly recently. It’s...

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