Featured

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

Should I give up premed?

Hello all,

I know this post will strike a chord with some as you are in a crossroads. From students I mentor to those on Twitter and social media, every day I see students leave premed. They become a myriad of things: Pre pharmacy, public health, PA school, RN and any other allied health profession. Many of them really have soul searched and found the path that was best for them. This is not what I’m writing about today. In fact, I encourage this! Please do your due diligence in evaluating whether Medicine is for you! For some, the sacrifices you make to get in, make it through and practice medicine may outweigh benefits and motivations if they aren’t not true and pure motives. For instance: money alone won’t make missing your kids first steps or family events worth it. You have to have a deeper why.

No, I want to speak to those who have a clear motivation, purpose and deep call/passion to be a physician and have tried to improve grades, MCAT scores etc, but to no avail. You’ve taken necessary steps and years pass by and you feel it’s past your time. I have three simple words: don’t give up.

Why? Because you’ll never be satisfied with another route and sometimes a bit of reworking your strategy is all it takes to take you from premed to med student. For many students, a general strategy of retaking courses of C and below or B- and below that are basic and upper div sciences along with more upper division biological sciences will help bring up a science GPA. The key is to take the courses at places where you’re likely to get an A because that’s what’s needed to really bring up a GPA. For others, a more targeted and nuanced approach is needed.

Another huge hurdle is the MCAT and that requires dedicated study over months or possibly a year. Take it in spring to know your score PRIOR to applying. My prior MCAT course post that is a sticky has good information for those who are on a budget. AdaptPrep MCAT is a good resource and affordable too.

Sometimes these improvements need a boost with a national level research experience like the National Institutes of Health or CDC. Longitudinal Research for more than 1 year with a mentor that will vouch for you can help greatly in strengthening an application. If you improve your numbers then you are left to explain you WHY and passion. This will take you a long way.

FYI if you are above 25 it does not mean you are too old!!!

Bottom line: if it is for you, it is for YOU. DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS!!!!!

Candice Williams MD

Premed Consultants

Featured

MCAT!!!!!

Recently I’ve released a survey for premeds on their wants, needs and pain points. I genuinely want to know how I can help.

Here is the link to my survey, please take it so I can understand how to help you! https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TT5RGR6

A sticking point keeps coming up- that huge elephant in the room: THE MCAT!

I find this to be a HUGE barrier as preparing for the test and scoring a needed score (> 75th percentile or more ideally >85 th for some schools) proves to be difficult for many to afford and accomplish.

Traditionally I recommend prep courses because they helped me and many others score a solid score for admission. Being with other people with a common competitive goal and having face to face accountability help you achieve faster in my opinion. These days, things are so competitive and expensive that for some, having course books and online resources may be a preferred route since the test is in a digital format. However I still emphasize that you retain more if you take pen to paper, listen and/or recite at the same time. Use all your senses to help and utilize question banks that simulate the testing environment.

Khan academy has free resources and the AAMC has free testing resources too. This area has lots of resources including exam content outline (which is key to know what is on the exam!)

MCAT Exam Content

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems Section
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems Section
  • Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior Section
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Section

The AAMC MCAT Official Prep Hub button is where you can access practice exams. Sign in with your AAMC account information and go to Free Resources section. Select Practice with Exam Features Tool.

I’ve recently come upon another online platform for MCAT prep called AdaptPrep MCAT. It lets you identify your strengths and weaknesses on the exam and has 4,000 simulated test questions in a bank format. It gives the ability to asses your difficulty level of questions you can handle as well as flexibility and dynamic practice questions. The writers recommend that you have an “Earned Level” of 7/10 on a 0-10 scale before you are MCAT ready. Their website can be found here. There is also a free three day trial that can be found here.

I know full well how daunting this step is. I remember taking this test in a room full of people near UCBerkeley and my friend and I were the only African Americans in the room. It was intimidating to say the least, but we are now both practicing doctors and moms. I think back and remember the times studying alone, in groups, with friends and using a whole Saturday to take and scored full length exams. I would then adapt my studying based on what I consistently scored poorly on. I knew physics was a weakness and I concentrated on this. It helped- I scored higher on that section than others. Hard work does pay off!!

Best and hope these resources help inform your study process and plan!

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

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

Medical Schools that prepare well for Anesthesiology

Read this article featuring Medical Schools providing strong preparation for aspiring anesthesiologists that offer a third-year anesthesia rotation. I’m in agreement that UCLA did an extraordinary job on my third year rotation and especially sub internship with helping me get involved and understand that anesthesiology was my specialty of choice. Look for large teaching institutions that offer a wide variety of specialties and experiences including research. You never know what you will end up doing. I did not go into medical school planning to be an anesthesiologist, and I didn’t know I was headed in this direction. I am fortunate to have scored decently on Step 1 and to have met with the program directors and my sub internships to let them see what I knew and my interest and commitment to matriculating at UCLA for residency. These are some of the tactics I suggest for medical students.

For premeds, you don’t have to go to the same medical school as your residency. You could drastically change your mind a few times as I did. It’s generally a good idea though to have a variety of large institutions you apply to. If not, all you need to do is perform your personal best and do audition rotations where you’d like to go for residency or summer research. Seek out mentors at the places you are interested in. Research helps open the door for some, or a strong performance in audition rotations. Try your best to plan ahead medical students. Matching is becoming more competitive. Good luck everyone and check out the article.

Candics Williams MD

Premed Consultants

https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/top-medical-schools/articles/2018-05-24/how-to-find-top-anesthesiology-med-school-programs