NIH Research Programs!!!

I’ve had several inquiries from premeds saying they don’t know what to do for a Postbac program or that they need a more robust research experience. I personally did the Medical Research Scholars Program in medical school and it was a year long enrichment experience that solidified my CV and helped since I didn’t have honors in my rotations. I matched my first choice program and I attribute it partially to this year at the NIH. I saw the process in a way I didn’t know existed.

Medical students: here is the link. This program can really set you apart in the difficult to match specialties.

Premeds: there’s good news! There’s the corollary program for premeds that lasts 2-3 years and gives superlative research and clinical exposure. Find the link describing the requirements here.

Don’t underestimate the power of the National Institutes of Health on your CV. I published 3 papers 2-3 years later and it has helped my career trajectory. I’m not academic but do have research in my background and this is a boost.

All the best premeds and medical students!

Residents: they have programs for you too once you graduate!

Candice Williams MD

Premed Consultants

It’s About Time

Hello All,

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written. In all honesty, I’ve been contemplating what to write about, and what would helpful to students. I’ve been spending time concentrating on being a good physician, wife, mother and adjusting to life changes.

During the early part of my blogging, I moved and transitioned my family back to our original home. It took a lot of sacrifices and required me to not only quit my job, but to decide to leave a less than ideal situation in order to do so. Things appeared not quite right early on, but I stayed in order to keep the peace for my family’s sake. Eventually, the toxic environment took a toll on my health and well being, and I would argue that of my family as well. This year, I decided it was about time to put myself and my family first.

This meant that I had to have the courage to leave a seemingly cush, coveted job that was “comfortable” with guaranteed salary and choose one in which I was paid only when I worked. I gave up benefits, pensions and loads of “stability”. What I traded it for was my sanity and my freedom. I needed an environment where I was free to be creative in other pursuits and where I was not tolerated, but celebrated. This was not without sacrifice. I gave up so much, and I had to re-immerse myself in my core specialty of anesthesiology. I was practicing pain medicine for the prior 2-3 years, and yes, this is a different specialty entirely. It involves clinic, continuity of care and procedures that you need specialized training to do. I enjoyed this work and the training, but the environment just wasn’t right for me.

After I left, I joined a group that provides intra-operative anesthesia services. I hadn’t worked in this capacity for a couple of years and jumping over this hurdle seemed like I was scaling Mt. Everest! With a supportive boss and fantastic colleagues, I was able to bridge this seemingly unsurmountable gap and become an OR anesthesiologist once again. It never left, but truly it was like riding a bike.

I did this for myself, my sanity, and my family. We needed to move back home and my job environment was truly toxic for me. I had to choose life and choose myself. This took grit and sacrifice, but so far it has been well worth it. I tell this story from the perspective of what it is like to be a physician and the realities. Even as an attending physician, you still have to find your place and the right fit for your career and interests.

What are the takeaways from my story? There are several –

  1. Don’t be afraid to choose yourself. Your profession will be there, but if you aren’t ok, you won’t be. Make decisions based on your core beliefs and those that serve your needs. When you are in training, this can be difficult to do. Don’t forget to seek help and especially mental health services.
  2. Training in a subspecialty gives flexibility. In anesthesiology, pain medicine gives the option for work in the procedure suite, the clinic, or in the operating room as well. Research is also another way to add dimension to your specialty and to your work. There are academic positions, private practice opportunities and jobs at large conglomerates. Do your research and consider what environment is best for you.
  3. Whenever there is transition or change, there is sacrifice involved. Sometimes this requires courage, doing some things that are uncomfortable and there is definitely a period of transition. Give yourself grace to adjust.
  4. If something is wrong, admit it. Don’t simply stay in a job because you need to pay your bills or because you have to. Save up, prepare yourself and make plans to transition. You owe it to yourself to be happy, healthy and whole.

I hope sharing my story helps some of you out there realize that there is light at the end of the tunnel. One day, you will be able to make these types of decisions. Being a physician gives you the freedom to choose and to change. I can be an independent contractor, own a business, be a consultant and do many things that feed my soul. Don’t listen to those who say it doesn’t get better than medical school or residency. It does get better. When you have the chance to make career decisions, make sure you choose for yourself and get informed about your options. It’s important to choose for yourself and your own wellness.

Enjoy your family and friends in this holiday season,

Candice Williams, MD. DBA

Premed Consultants

 

Raising the Bar

Hello Premeds,

I hope your day is going well. Mine is. I’m spending it with my family and contemplating what I’d want to know if I were in your shoes. I was there once and felt that getting into medical school was impossible. I felt as if no matter how high my scores were or my grades, I could never measure up.

The fact is the medical school admissions process is getting more stringent. That’s right – its getting harder. Now more than ever before. some schools are requiring higher GPAs – 3.4 and above and high MCAT scores (> 85th percentile). This is higher than previous times and makes it much harder for students to qualify. Not all schools have adopted these criterion – so don’t fret. All is not lost. I just want you all to be apprised to what is required, so you can improve your grades and scores accordingly.

If I were in your shoes, I’d take longer to do my post bac or retake coursework and I’d study longer for the MCAT with a prep course to ensure I make these scores. The average MCAT score for African American applicants  is near 496 and average MCAT for African American matriculants is 504 which is 61st percentile.     Latino applicants have average GPA 3.4 and average MCAT of 499. Latino matriculants have average GPA 3.6 and average MCAT score of 505.

Source: https://www.aamc.org/download/321498/data/factstablea18.pdf

Having an score of 85th percentile on the MCAT is near 512, which may prove difficult to achieve for students underrepresented in medicine.The reasons are multifactorial. including not having money for a prep course, having to work in order to support oneself and other matters. My concern is that with having these criterion, certain schools will become less diverse in terms of ethnicity and be robbed of a perspective that comes with having a diverse student body.

So premeds, please be advised some schools have these higher criterion. At a minimum in my opinion, to apply to medical school, you need at least a 3.2 GPA and MCAT score of 75% percentile. This seems low, but for some students who are disadvantaged and don’t have the same resources as others, I’d say these are absolute minimum numbers and you MUST apply to many schools (25-30).

Please feel free to contact me with any questions. Just trying to give you all a heads up.

I hope I’m not the bearer of bad news, but I do believe its better to know now vs. not preparing well.

Candice Williams MD, D.ABA

Premed Consultants

Interview Season is Upon Us….

Hello Premeds and Medical Students:

Interview Season is here! It’s such an exciting time. It’s the time to show the medical school or residency program of your choice that YOU belong there. You landed the interview, they’ve seen your file, your writing, your motivation for medicine. So now you get the chance to sell it! But how do you do this? First- let me share some of my experiences with you.

When I was a premed student like many of you, I doubted myself and my ability to be a physician, let alone a good one. I didn’t feel I belonged in my undergrad science courses at UC Berkeley, let alone in medical school. So – how did I go about mustering up the courage to stare Dean’s of admissions in the face and tell them – I’m the one you want, I belong here and I can contribute something to your class? The honest answer is I’m not entirely sure, but I know that I wanted it so badly. I came so far, I invested so much and I was not going to let anything stop me from achieving my goal, including fear.

I employed a number of strategies that I found worked for me, and I want to share them with you. These also apply to residency interviews as well, so medical students, don’t check out. 🙂

1. I prepared for my first interview well as a template for the rest of my interviews.

What does this mean? I looked up the Dean of Admission and Assistant Dean, their specialties and major research areas in the medical school. I rehearsed speaking out loud at a mirror stating why I wanted to pursue medicine and what it is about the school in particular that made me want to study there. I took care to wear a black, conservative suit and pearls. I did everything I could think of. I arrived, and I can pretty much say my interview day was anything but successful. I remember being asked why I wanted to attend there, why would I come there, and when I gave answers, I was simply grilled further. I was asked to design a research study on the fly. This threw me for a loop as I hadn’t given thought about this before. I tried my best but I knew I was floundering in both my interviews. Finally, the one of the Deans of Admission used a term that I interpreted as harkening to the Old South and slavery. For me, this was the last straw.  I instantly knew this place was not for me, no matter how badly I wanted to attend medical school.

So what was that? A failure? A flop? No. It was practice. Yes, I used this first interview to get the kinks out, to learn how to think on the fly and to answer unanticipated questions to the best of my ability. I realized that if an interviewer was hell bent to seeing me in a negative light, all I can do is present my best self – that is all. So in each subsequent interview, I did just that. I learned from the first one, devised a sample research study based on my prior work, knew my research projects inside out and was able to discuss them in detail and shored up those weak areas so that I shined on subsequent interviews.

2. I want to say that I rested well, took care of myself and all those things. It’s just not true. I was a tragedy mess on my medical school and residency interview trail. I was on flights, in and out of airports and walked in New York once so far in high heels I had a blood blister on my foot the whole interview day. I’m confessing this because I don’t want you to do this. Don’t walk through New York crying because you didn’t bring the right shoes. Wear tennis shoes with your suit and change a block away. Bring a purse big enough to house said shoes. Bring a nice portfolio with you to carry around with you. Bring extra deodorant, mints, pins for your hair etc. Believe it or not, these simple things can help allay the stress and anxiety that comes from preparing for one of the biggest days that determines your admissions status to medical school or residency. If you are rested, calm and collected, that goes a long way. I also must stress to SMILE even if you are not a people person. Smile at the staff, greet the front desk people, shake hands, look them in the eye. DON’T look down at your phone continually. Be a human being and be polite to everyone. This helps believe it or not. The admission staff have very much pull in this process. If you are rude to them over the phone or in person, especially on interview day, this could ruin your chances of admission or matching.

3. I made sure to let my first choice institution know that I would go there above any and all schools. Interestingly I don’t remember my medical school interview at UCLA. I do remember my residency one, and I embarrassingly messed up on a question I knew the answer to with a faculty member I knew. I was scared. It happens. I tried my best to recover. I another interview with the Chair of Anesthesiology, I asked her how she trailblazed as a woman to be Chair and what advice she would give an up and coming student who wants to pursue academic medicine. This changed the tide of our interview and the tone. It was not going in a good direction as she was questioning my involvement in a minority based program and implying I was excluding those who were not of color. I told her, on the contrary, the organization I worked with was national and appealed to all students and those who had a passion for serving underserved populations. Just as I felt that this was not going well, I  asked this when she asked – Do you have any questions for me?

This is key. You MUST come prepared with questions.This is paramount. I did this and it saved my residency interview. I also recommend that after you finish the interview, send a thank you letter by email or snail mail or both. In this letter to UCLA during my medical school application process, I stated unequivocally that UCLA was my first choice. Further, after I was waitlisted to the school, I emailed the Dean of Admissions in a last ditch effort plea to let him know that UCLA was where I felt I belonged and could contribute a diverse perspective to their student body as a woman of color that is from Los Angeles and who desires to serve the patient population locally. I didn’t think this would work and I don’t necessarily recommend that everyone try this approach as it is a real gamble. I did however a few weeks later, receive acceptance from UCLA off the waitlist. It was my first choice and I was elated.

I hope these tips help you in your interview season and beyond. Hit me up with questions via email or in the Forums. What questions do you have about the application process to medical school or residency?

Candice Williams, MD, D. ABA

Premed Consultants