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

Premed Myths 3

Hello everyone!

It’s been awhile and I’ve been working hard in both my personal and professional life. I’ve been doing research, talking to students, mentoring premeds and medical students. I am dedicating this post to some premed myths about admissions.

Premed Myths:

1. If I don’t have a perfect MCAT score or GPA then I won’t get into medical school. Similarly, if others don’t they don’t deserve to be there either.

This is patently false with a caveat. You need a strong GPA, whether in college, post bac (formal or informal) in upper division biological or hard sciences. This establishes ability to complete the rigors of science education in medical school. You also need a strong MCAT score: at least 70th percentile or above to get in the door. But we must remember you are more than just a score! Your preparation, your years of researching, volunteering, shadowing, community service etc. that demonstrate YOUR why for medicine are the things that give context to the store. The ad coms do not look at these numbers without the context of who you are, your story and your motivation. If those things are weak, numbers won’t help you. But- if you have a strong motivation for medicine that is demonstrated clearly through experiences and your grades and MCATs meet certain thresholds, then you could get the chance to convince the committee that you are a great candidate by gaining an interview.

As for others worthiness of being there – each person has a unique story. Don’t judge or look down on your fellow premeds. They will become your colleagues. You may need them one day.

2. Certain ethnicities or underrepresented minority groups have lower scores and unfairly get in to medical school.

I had to touch on this eventually because I clearly recall dealing with this as a premed on SDN (Student Doctor Network). I felt as if being African American, Latino or other minority was considered dirty, you were a cheater and you had to have a low GPA. You were seen as keeping all the worthy White and Asian students from getting into school. Some people said as much directly. This is patently false as well. If you have questions- I can attach the AAMC admissions numbers by race. The sad reality for African American students is that only about 1,500 got in 2017-2018. This is vs. 10,000 of majority students.

https://www.aamc.org/download/321474/data/factstablea9.pdf

So it’s easy to blame the minority students for the fact hat some majority students didn’t get in- but the reality is that it couldn’t be. There’s just not that many getting in, and those that are have the scores. I know because I’ve seen it and have been on both sides as an applicant and as an attending physician. I make this argument because I want ALL students to know they are needed, wanted and worthy of this profession. In spite of current events and the state of our world, health care involves a diverse array of patients, who need a diverse array of physicians. Everyone is needed. Race and gender do not determine whether someone can achieve excellence. It’s sad I have to say these things in 2018 but it bears repeating. All of us can and will succeed if we put our minds to our goals. Instead of thinking of things as a zero sum game: you win, I lose – think more inclusive and synergistic. You can learn so much and a different perspective from working along side people different from you. I encourage all of us in this community to bounce ideas off each other and to use this as a safe space to be ourselves and to learn.

 

I hope these premed myths have been helpful. Next time, I’ll touch on some aspects of medical practice and what it’s like being on your own.

Cheers,

Candice Williams MD

Premed Consultants

What’s it like to be a Doctor?

I’ve been asked this more than a few times. The other question I get a lot is – “How did you become a doctor”? The answer to both questions is – It’s a lot of hard work! I know, I know – that’s not the answer you wanted or were even looking for. I know you wanted to hear some scintillating stories about how I save lives and then meet the love of my life and have a steamy romance and then go to the bar afterwards… oh – wait that was Grey’s Anatomy.  The reality is that being a doctors isn’t fun or sexy the way they make it look on TV. It is however, gratifying in the way that something is when you’ve prepared your whole life it seems and then you are there to help someone in their time of need.
I’ve had a long journey in medicine and believe it or not the learning continues as long as you continue to practice medicine.
A little about me. I started my education at UC Berkeley as a premed student, bright eyed and bushy tailed. I was from South LA and had no doctors in my family, but I was determined to be one. I was sickly as a child and had my fair share of time spent in hospitals. I noticed that while my pediatrician was nice and I wanted to be like her, I didn’t see any physicians that looked like me. I wondered many times could I do it or could I make it?
At UC Berkeley I participated in Biology Scholars Program which was a program that helped underserved students and those who demonstrated need for extra support in the sciences. I was thrilled to have a community of students striving just like me to learn more and give back to their communities. The support that I received there was immense and I owe them a huge debt of gratitude. They had extra study sessions, seminars and just moral support which I desperately needed as a lonely premed student. I had a good number of friends and we spurred each other on, studying day and night for the MCAT and taking it on PAPER !!!!! (OMG)
Amazingly we made it together and pulled through. I attended medical school at UCLA and then residency in anesthesiology as well. These training experiences were tough, long hours, no sleep, taking care of patients into the wee hours. It instilled the ability to push aside my needs for someone else who couldn’t fend for themselves and to give them outstanding care day or night. It hurt, but the training I received at UCLA was again priceless. All these experiences, including my fellowship training, prepared me to make autonomous decisions regarding patient’s care. It taught me to study the evidence, read research articles, discuss with colleagues and formulate my own opinion with evidence to back it up. My training helped instill confidence that I can make the appropriate decisions I need to for a patient’s wellbeing.
Now, being an attending, I am still constantly updating my skills, learning new things, attending workshops, doing continuing medical education (which is required) and making sure I am equipped to keep doing what is best for patient care. This is the focus of medicine.
So, as a premed, how do you know if medicine is right for you? One clue is if you consider that you are asking to make decisions that affect patients’ lives, does that make you cringe? Does it make you a little scared? I think it should to some degree. But if it makes you run away…then maybe this isn’t right for you. Having a healthy fear and respect for what we do I think is key to being successful. As an anesthesiologist, I am dealing with life and death decisions often. I have to have a healthy respect for this aspect of what I do. I have to check, double check, triple check, plan and anticipate. It is no passive sport. All fields of medicine aren’t the same as this, but in general, what differentiates a physician is being someone who makes decisions and takes ownership and responsibility.
So – do you still want to do it?? I thought so. Keep up the hard work. Fight the good fight. Keep studying, keep going. You will be a doctor yet.