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Radio Silence


Have you ever had a period in life where you had to be quiet about something? I’ve recently had one of those times where I’ve gone silent due to life, life, life and more life. This picture is of me when I was practicing medicine. Since my last post the following things have occurred:

・I stopped practicing operating room anesthesiology

・I started writing music and embraced my passions as a songwriter and musician

・I became a mom who drops kids off to school and deals with a screaming toddler 24/7

・I became FREE in all senses of the word

This is a departure from what the status quo in medicine and in life. We are taught to be born, grow up, work, work, work and more work to pay our debts and then die. We are to run around, stay in traffic, not see our family and we expect to be happy. We expect that the money we are getting should be enough, but often end our days feeling that something is missing.

My decision to leave the operating room was one of being honest with myself and my needs. I have a specialty in Pain management and much prefer practicing in this capacity. I thought this was why I needed to go, and while certainly this was part of it, something else was bothering me. I’ve always had a longing to write music and impact the world through the healing power of music. Once I pursued medicine however, I suppressed my desires and passions. I figured after I trained, I could pick it back up. Then I pushed that to after Boards were finished. Finally, my dreams were relegated to retirement.

In my pursuit of making money and “taking care of business”, I threw my dreams away. I looked up one day and 20 years passed. I didn’t make progress in the thing I loved, but I did accomplish some amazing things including dual Board certification and being good at my career. When I took inventory, I realized I was dying inside and not fulfilled with my role in the OR.

So, against conventional wisdom, I started working on my passion, writing songs, playing music, singing, producing- all things I convinced myself I couldn’t do, or that I wasn’t good enough to do. I don’t have a “safety net” and most people are like- “are you crazy?”, but I have to do what I know is the best move for me. My family life is alive and thriving, I’m better overall, especially mentally, and I’m doing another thing that I feel that I’m put on this earth for.

People ask if I feel I wasted my training. This makes me shake my head a little. I don’t believe anything is wasted. All experiences inform us in some way. I still very much have my training, experience and 7 years of practice. Nothing is ever wasted and yes I still have opportunities to practice medicine. Currently my focus is shifting to prioritize my other callings in life outside of medicine.

My message is simple and is this: Don’t throw away who you are to be a doctor. Become a doctor with ALL that you are. If you love to dance- please keep dancing. Even in residency, make sure you warm up and find classes you can attend. Yes, you may sacrifice the day to day practicing of what gives you joy while you are in training, but it is VITAL that you don’t STOP doing it all together.

I gave half-baked effort to music my whole career while I gave 1000% to medicine. Ironically, music is what I always loved deep down. Now it’s my turn to give myself to making music and to improving my musicianship. I couldn’t be happier with where I am. I believe we are multidimensional and that we are breathing to accomplish certain goals. Some people are suited for one career, while others accomplish multiple pursuits. It’s all good and vital and needed.

So premeds and trainees: PLEASE BE YOU to the fullest. You can’t do everything at the same time, but please keep your passions alive. Make time for them. Medicine will make room for them eventually and depending on how important they are in your life, you will find a way to make room. I had to stop practicing a specialty I didn’t love in order to practice another specialty in a way that accommodates music. My choices now prioritize what I truly love and it feels awesome. Remember, YOU practice medicine and make sure it doesn’t practice YOU.

I am here to provide guidance through the medical school application process and beyond. As a former admission committee member and graduate of the UC system, I know first hand what it takes to make it to and through training and beyond. I am passionate about helping students like you to navigate this process.

If you want access to a course and materials that guide you through the medical school application process, email me at premedconsultants@gmail.com.

Remember, BE YOU!

Candice Williams, MD

Premed Consultants

Featured

School is Starting! Ready? Tips for Success!

Ready for your upcoming year?

School is starting, summer is ending and the kids are going back to school. If you are premed, you are likely preparing for your next school year or in the midst of applying to medical school. Being organized and having a plan is key for pretty much anything we do in life, including school and application season. Below are some tips to get you started on the right foot for next year!

1. Make a plan: Seems obvious but write down your vision and plans for the year. It’s important to have a long term vision and a shorter term vision. This way you can make progress towards your goal.

When I was a premed student and a college student in general, I wasn’t very organized. I just registered for classes, put on sweats (i.e. pajamas) and showed up. I didn’t understand the effects of that “early class” or being late or which professor was easier to pass a certain class etc. I ended up with a lot of C’s which I had to plan later to retake or do more upper division courses to correct. If I had a better plan, I likely would have avoided some of these pitfalls. This leads me to #2.

2.Organize a friendly class schedule: Do not take Biochemistry and Calculus with English and other classes simultaneously. Spread out your Pre Med prerequisites wisely. 


Yes- I didn’t do this. I was young and thought I could conquer it all and I was going to get into med school faster! Nope. I walked away with a B- or C and was frustrated. I was so fed up in fact that I left premed for taking the music placement exam in my junior year and tried to ditch premed to be a music major. I could sing and play for grades. I loved music. I saw another student with an O-Chem book in our music course and felt like a failure. She was a double major. I thought wow, I gave up just because things were hard and because of a few setbacks. I honestly thought I wasn’t good enough or smart enough. Couple that with being the only African American student in many of my classes or one of the few, this had a psychological effect on me. The University of California, Berkeley was a place full of opportunity, but it was large, and often an intimidating place to be. When I met with the music dean, I found out it was too late to graduate with a music degree from my school. I went back to premed, but never lost my passion for music. (More on this in a later blog post). These course corrections caused me to graduate later than desired, but fortunately I took my sweet time to apply to medical school AFTER I corrected my grades and had a decent MCAT score.


3.Space out your work schedule: Be careful to space out your hours at the lab or in your job so it accommodates your study time for classes and/or the MCAT. If you work too much, you may not be able to study effectively, thereby defeating your efforts.

I worked in all kinds of places as a premed student. I worked in a soil chemistry lab that I hated and people treated me terribly. I beat rocks for a living. It was horrible. They treated me like I was stupid and basically like I didn’t belong. It was clear it wasn’t going to work out. I tried another lab and it wasn’t a fit either. None of the labs I was interested in would accept me and I was frustrated. I worked instead in the school of Law and Society and one semester in Genentech. The School of Law was flexible and helped me survive financially. It was the perfect job to balance coursework with. Genentech was cool, but a disaster. I had to drive a long way, work as a lab tech and then tried to take Biochem and Calculus at the same time. I had to drop these courses. It was just too much. Learn from my mistakes and really consider your financial needs vs. taking coursework. Find a job that is flexible and not necessarily a “premed” job. You can get experiences later in formal research programs or other pursuits. This is what I did eventually to build up my experiences.

4.Plan out your application strategy: For those of you ready to apply (i.e. fixed grades, MCAT score > 75th percentile but preferably > 80th percentile, 1-2 years of medically based experiences (where you touch people) AND research with a clear motivation to apply!!!) you MUST have a game plan.

Here are some tips.

  1. First, KNOW YOUR MCAT SCORE BEFORE APPLYING.
  2. Then, APPLY EARLY! I mean if AMCAS opens in June, then start putting in data. Submit in June/July.
  3. Have a game plan for writing essays. You will need it. Write about a difficult experience and how you overcame it. You will be glad you did. Expand on your most important volunteer or life experiences so you have these ideas written already.
  4. Save cash for secondaries and have good credit for AMCAS. The application fee alone is $170 processing fee and $40 each school for 2020 application. The FEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM is key to apply for is you have financial hardship and can save you lots of money. Secondaries cost usually $100 each. Apply widely to schools that fit your criterion using MSAR and it’s ok to have a few “reach” schools, but bear in mind that each school has an additional fee to add to AMCAS. Use MSAR to plan out your application strategy and depending on your situation you should aim to apply to 25 schools or more.
  5. Plan financially for how you will afford interviews, flights and travel. Do your best to coordinate trips to states together or closely to save money. Stay with friends or family in other states if you can.

I know this is a lot of information, but these are things I WISH I knew when applying and as a college student. As a former premed student, med student, resident etc. I intimately understand the process of applying to medical school and navigating the training process to become a practicing, board certified physician.I know first hand the University of California educational system and how many students are intimidated and discouraged from pursuing premed as a field due to the rigor and competitiveness. As a former admissions committee member, I also have seen poorly planned applications and the difference between students who had polished applications vs. those who were not adequately prepared.

I hope this advice helps you prepare for your upcoming school year. Continue to visit our blog for more tips and insights. If you are interested in Premed Consulting and Coaching, contact me at premedconsultants@gmail.com to set up a discovery call.

Candice Williams, MD

Premed Consultants

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

Uncertainty: How do you deal with it?

Hello all,

Summer is upon us and for many, this means you are starting the application cycle, filling out applications, taking the MCAT or starting residency. Things are new, you are embarking on a new journey and not sure how things will pan out. How do I know? I’ve been there and oddly enough, I’m there now.

You see, just because you become an attending, it doesn’t mean that is the end of life changing and needing to shift. Sadly, I have to break it to you that things can and will change and it’s normal to feel unsure or uncertain. I’d like to share with you my situation and how I’m coping with uncertainty as a working anesthesiologist, spouse and mom.

Long ago in the dark ages of residency, I was trying to envision a future where I kept my passions alive (music, family) AND working as an anesthesiologist. It seemed impossible as I was barely keeping my head above water with working and being a new mom. I just saw a dark future and really had to visualize better times to make it through. Along the way I had many jobs, bounced around and experienced many disappointments with my working situations and environments. I didn’t anticipate ever having to quit, change jobs or move anywhere. In residency and as a medical student, I thought you just get a job and stay there and everything is perfect and happily ever after. I came to find out that instead, I was experimenting and finding what is the best fit for me and my family.

Recently I’ve once again realized it’s time to shift and return to my specialty of pain management as I’ve been practicing OR anesthesia in a great group for the past year. I’ve had such a challenge finding the right environment to practice in while staying in the place I want to live. Many have suggested – just open a practice – as if it’s that easy. I will write more on this later as the current landscape in medicine requires so much of independent physicians that its designed to make it hard to survive. I’ve doggedly insisted on not moving and on not having a practice because of the work, money, time and commitment involved. I wanted to pursue locum tenens (temporary work) but this didn’t pan out either.

So now I’m left in an uncertain place. I know I need to move on and practice in my specialty, but there’s no opportunities that fit my needs or that fit my practice style. So- I’m continuing to pray, soul search and open myself to more opportunities. I’m exploring more practices in other locations and I’m simultaneously drawing up plans for a solo practice.

I’m writing mission statements and really envisioning what an ideal Pain practice would be. I am passionate about being part of the solution of the opioid crisis and I am a believer in non opioid adjunctive pain medications, interventional pain procedures, physical therapy, occupational therapy, mental health strategies, exercise, regenerative medicine and other strategies that emphasize a multimodal approach to pain management. I’m in a place with a lot of competition and I am currently assessing the landscape I’m in and feasibility of opening a practice that will thrive and serve patients well.

So, I’m right in the thick of it. I don’t have an answer today, but trust me I know what it’s like to be uncertain and not knowing the future. I trust that God knows what is best and that I will find my way. I am trusting that for all of you as well.

Stay strong, keep pushing, studying and striving to be your personal best no matter what stage you are in. It can and WILL get better.

Email me at premedconsultants@gmail.com or reply to this post about your uncertainty and where you are right now. This is a safe space and we should be able to share with each other. I’m here for a listening ear and to answer any questions you have about the path to becoming a physician.

All the best in your endeavors,

Candice Williams, MD D. ABA
Premed Consultants

Retake Courses vs. Post Bacc? What is right for me?

Hello there premeds!
I get this question all the time and I want to give you the short answer. If you are a non science major or have major work to do in terms of fixing your GPA, look into post bacc programs. They cost money and sometimes you have to travel, but it’s worth the time and investment IF you commit to doing your absolute best (A’s and B’s but mostly A’s.) Some of these programs have conditional admission upon completion of the program. Others are considered Special Master’s Programs and they may have a conditional admission provision if you do well in the program.

Please note if you retake a course, AMCAS averages the retake score with the original grade. It doesn’t replace it. Here is the source:

https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/…/section-4-course-work/

You should retake courses if the following apply:

  1. You did poorly in premed prerequisite courses
  2. You don’t plan to do a postbacc program
  3. You don’t have many upper division science courses

The AMCAS GPA provides the medical schools with a standard way to compare each applicant’s background. The BCPM GPA is comprised of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics courses. All other coursework will be calculated in the AO (All Other) GPA. (see source above)

I generally recommend retaking courses such as calculus, physics, organic chemistry or chemistry if you’ve done poorly to demonstrate that you can do the work. It doesn’t really change the BCPM GPA BUT taking further upper division courses at a state university or extension can help in this effort.

Best wishes in preparing for medical school and crafting your best application,

Candice Williams MD

Premed Consultants

*Post any question in our forums http://www.premedconsultant.com/forums

Are taking courses at a Junior College OK?

Hey there Premeds!

This is a sensitive subject as many students cannot afford a state university or extension courses in order to fulfill medical school prerequisites. These courses entail

  • One year of Biology with lab.
  • One year of General Chemistry with lab.
  • One year of Organic Chemistry with lab.
  • One semester of Biochemistry.
  • One year of Physics with lab.
  • One year of English.

These apply at most schools. Some also require Statistics. Please refer to Medical School Admissions Requirements for more information on what each school requires.

See link below:

https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/applying-medical-school-process/deciding-where-apply/medical-school-admission-requirements/

As for whether it’s ok to take these courses at a junior college, it depends on your situation. If you went to a junior college prior to university and took most courses there, then do not fret. If you did well, there is no reason to retake these for any reason. However, if you are in the position of most students, they need to correct a grade or two. This means coursework with C or below. If you are in the position where you have to retake courses, I think this is acceptable if the goal is simply to demonstrate that you can do the coursework. You must get an A or a B at least.

As an overall strategy, if you need to increase a science GPA, I recommend taking the other coursework at a university, extension or post bacc program. Other coursework that helps your science GPA or those that are upper division courses in Biology, Biochemistry, or other sciences such as advanced organic chemistry or physics. Most students focus on additional courses such as physiology, microbiology and genetics. These types of courses help raise a BCPM GPA if taken outside of a formal program after graduation. If they are taken as part of a graduate program, it is listed as a separate GPA.

What questions do you have on how to raise your science GPA?

Post them at our forum http://www.premedconsultant.com/forums

Happy Premeding!

Candice Williams, MD

Premed Consultants

Hurry up and wait…..

Hey there premeds, medical students and residents,

I thought of you today as I waited an hour to start my cases. Sure, I was able to eat some oatmeal and drink tea – it’s rare in private practice to eat these days so that was welcome. However, it can be painful to rush to work in a car for an hour, run inside sweating, see your patient, set up and get ready…all to know you won’t start for an hour and you will be rushed as soon as the surgeon arrives. Such is the life of an anesthesiologist I guess.

But life is this way for all of us right? We hurry to be 10 when we are 5. We hurry to be grown and out of the house. We rush to get to college, then medical school, residency. We say – “I can’t wait until X happens, then life will be great then.” We also say the evil phrase “I should have done ____ by now.”

Let’s be careful not to get caught up in rushing. The next thing we know, our lives will be over. So while we have the chance, while we are waiting, lets enjoy the ride. So what does that mean for you?

As a premed, enjoy learning biology, microbiology, pharmacology or biochemistry. Soak in the learning. Enjoy your time being able to schedule the day away and study on your own. It’s lonely yes, but you can meet up with friends and have dinner. Most of you won’t have children and a family at this point in your lives. It’s nice to relish in relative freedom.

In medical school you are sooooo rushing to be a resident. You are like – I am getting the hang of this and want to be a doctor already. I want to get through this and have so many years ahead. Let’s go! Well, enjoy not having all the responsibility or being blamed for something. At least it’s not ultimately your fault, whatever happens. I’m not saying enjoy being called heymedstudent (all one word), or being berated. No, that isn’t fun. But the learning and adventure of learning from others is kind of cool.

In residency, you sooooo soooo want out of the pain, sleep deprivation and just all out terribleness of being a resident. When you are on your own, you call the shots, you make the choice. It will be great and best of all, you will be rich finally!!!

Hahahaaa, says the salty attending writing this piece. As an attending, guess what? You get to hurry up and wait. Hurry to work, see patients and ultimately there is no one to look back to in order to make decisions. Each step you took from premed, to med student to resident helped make the physician you are today. And rich? If you planned well and have no debt, more power to you. Most of us are swimming in all kinds of debt.

So in the waiting to be whatever you are pursuing – what to do?

Smell the roses, enjoy the good things, don’t despair. If you are working to get in med school, be sure to eat right, get fit and take care to keep your hobbies. As a matter a fact, do these at every stage. Then if you are an old crusty attending like me, you work on being efficient in your waiting time. You work on projects, build businesses, play music (my personal passion) and help premeds and students like you.

Time has had its way of giving me perspective. When I turned 40, I realized I shouldn’t have wished all that time away, crying, lamenting, complaining. It didn’t help and still doesn’t help. Instead, use the time you are waiting to get to where you want to be in order to build yourself in some way. Learn something new, build yourself spiritually, mentally and physically. One day – you will make it “there”. Don’t put off enjoying your life until tomorrow. Live it fully today.

Till next time,

Candice Williams, MD

Premed Consultants

Premed Myths Part 1

Hello PREMEDS!!!! Application season is upon us. I saw a family friend and they asked me a series of questions that let me know many myths exist about being premed. I’m working to dispel a few. This is the purpose of this blog.

I will start with a few myths that are important to debunk.

 

1. You have to attend a college with a medical school to have a better chance at admission.

This is patently false. Admissions to medical school is competitive no matter where you attend for undergrad. Perhaps by some associations and premed societies you could meet medical school admissions staff and form connections. With some effort, this can be done regardless of your college of choice. I recommend attending a college that matches your interest and will give you the greatest number of options to explore not only sciences, but other subjects as well. There are combined colleges and medical school programs and these are limited and only few exist in the country. I recommend that a student really do their homework with shadowing physicians, being mentored and being certain of their career choice prior to embarking on something like this. Burnout is a reality and it takes a lot to commit to a path so early. For some though, these programs do prove to be the best choice.

https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/medical-schools-offering-combined-undergraduatemd-/

2. If you have a high GPA as a high school student, this means you will get into medical school.

Achievement at the high school level sadly doesn’t always translate to the college level. Suddenly you go from the best in your class to the middle of the pack. Don’t despair. This is a normal phenomenon of college life. It takes perseverance and hard work to adjust to university life. It takes even more to pursue the path to medicine. You won’t be a shoe in because you have a 4.5 GPA now as a high school senior. It takes more than just grades to be ready for medical education and it takes a body of work, achievement and a demonstration that you’ve done your homework to know you really want this path.

Admissions committees see many applications. What will make yours stand out? How are you unique? These questions are important to consider when planning the activities you participate in, your shadowing or volunteer experiences and pursuing your passions and hobbies. All of these facets including the MCAT and your ability to effectively communicate these things in writing have an influence on your application.

These are just two myths that I’ve heard as of lately that I thought it important to address. In part two, I will address if you need to be a “premed” major to get into medical school and other myths about this process. My goal is to lay things out for you so you don’t have to sift through so much information out there. Please ask any questions you like, either here or in the forum.

Keep striving towards your goals!

Candice Williams MD

Premed Consultants