Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Accepted! :)

Congratulations!  You’ve been accepted.  Now that you’ve had time to spread the word (your mom, dad, grandma, grandma’s neighbour, grandma’s dog all know and have appropriately rejoiced), it’s time to prepare for the big day, the first day of your medical career.  I’m here to reflect upon my first year and give you a few random thoughts on your new beginning. 
  1. The first week of school was pretty nuts.  There was loads of activities, parties and free food.  I somehow convinced myself that I had to attend every single event or I would not only fail med school but would become a social pariah and outcast whom other medical students would make fun of and throw their dirty latex post-anatomy gloves at.  Being an introvert, I became exhausted by the constant partying and stayed home a lot towards the end of the week, my poor psyche aching for a little peace and quiet.  As it turns out, I am still in medical school and no one has thrown a glove yet.  So if you love to party, this is your time to shine, folks.  But if you are an ancient twenty seven year old loves-to-knit-by-the-fireplace type like me, don’t be afraid to go easy on yourself.  It is a big transition, after all. 
  2. Towards the beginning, I asked or was asked, ‘where are you from?’ or ‘what did you do your undergrad in?’ an astronomical amount of times so much so that I bored myself to tears and finally took to saying strange things to new people just to break up the monotony.  My advice is not to freak other students out (unless you dig that) but don’t feel obligated to have the same old small talk that you’ll forget the second the person you’re talking to leaves your sight. 
  3. Everybody in medical school thinks that they are the dumbest person in medical school.  If you meet someone who does not think they are the dumbest, you have probably just met the dumbest person. 
  4. But seriously, if you are anything like me (that is, a normal human being), you will feel insecure about yourself, convince yourself that you are in the presence of the demi gods of science, that these seats you fill are occupied by the upper echelons of intelligence and that you, a mere mortal, are unworthy to study amongst them. 
  5. Okay I’m being hyperbolic here.  But the truth is, I do feel like the dumbest person in med school most of the time anyway.  The solution to this is to (cliché alert) believe in yourself.  Keep up a steady stream of positive self reinforcement at all times.  A kickass dress and mighty pair of heels helps too.  Or dudes, you should get yourself some awesome socks.  Awesome socks hold the power of all self-confidence.
  6. Lastly, in the words of my own family doctor, medical school is a lot of fun and it goes by fast. 
  7. So soak up all the moments – the good and the bad – that you can get your hands on because your first naked patient, your first DRE and even your first failed exam might be a chapter in your future tell-all autobiography.


...or Rejected :(

Applying to medicine is like sleeping around: an acceptance letter feels like you just had the lay of your life; rejection is more like contracting herpes – type 1 and type 2 – and not just any minor outbreak, I’m talking about the type of oral and genital pustulating lesions that just won’t quit.

What I’m saying is that you’re not alone, rejection is the pits, period.  The bottom line is that no one enjoys receiving bad news: the cup isn’t half empty and it isn’t half full; the cup is shattered on the floor.  For any serious applicant the only positive experience is the sense of relief and closure gained from having a few friends to help clean up the broken pieces.  This means it is perfectly acceptable to feel angry, annoyed, defeated, deprived, discouraged, empty, frustrated, heartbroken, helpless, irritated, resentment, sad, trapped, upset, worn out, and/or anything else in between!

Face reality as it comes, and plan for tomorrow the best you can.  If you’re smart you will already have a contingency plan, and over the past year you would have already been beefing up that resume for this fall’s application cycle. (A good physician is proactive, not reactive.)

Is your backup plan to pursue grad studies? Better dust off that sweater-vest grandma knitted you. Unless you find research simply titillating, you could make more money as a Wal-Mart greeter, and still have various med admissions committees equally rate both positions.  …But I digress.

In the meantime, do anything you can to ease the pain from your recent heartbreak (or herpes outbreak).  Here is a list of suggested things to subdue the initial blow:
  • Beer with your closest friends is a must.
  • Buy something awesome, and don’t be frugal!!!  …Fiscal limits are for Greeks. (Seriously, my stocks are swirling the drain.)
  • Put in extra hours at work and/or extracurriculars – keep doing what you enjoy.
  • Go on a trip – but you can’t with your closest friends or girl/boyfriend, because they’ve likely dumped you for med school. …Or they’re just avoiding you because you’re highly infectious.
  • Maybe look into filling that prescription for acyclovir?

By the time you are back from your trip, some schools will have released personal application scores and reference statistics. This is the easy bit: single out the area(s) where you have the potential to most improve (i.e. make the biggest impact on your application) and get crackin’!  Even if you won’t be able to complete these goals before the approaching application cycle, you’ll be ready for future applications.  Remember, medicine is a dynamic, life-long practice; thus, anyone who is unmotivated to follow through with medium- to long-term goals, even if perceived to be external towards a desired career path, is likely not a good fit for medicine.

If medicine is what you truly want, you’ll get there eventually; it just won’t be this year.  Hang in there.


Friday, 17 February 2012


Good day,

Over the course of the next month wanna.b.md will post three feature articles from Qasim, MD, and myself (one article each), on the interview process and the waiting game.

We already have our first two posts up, so check those out! In the meantime, before our official third post, here are links to further information on the interview day from all of our Canadian medical schools.

The wanna.b.md team.

Canadian Medical School Interview Information & Example Questions

Some schools have very little information posted; does someone feel their interview process is too secret to share? Otherwise, I assume they share that information with selected interviewees only. (Greedy people.)





McMaster (M. G. DeGroote)





Western (Schulich)



Monday, 6 February 2012


Good day,

Over the course of the next month wanna.b.md will post three feature articles from Qasim, MD, and myself (one article each), on the interview process and the waiting game.

Here is our second post.

The wanna.b.md team.

...Suit Up!

It’s interview time! Good luck to everyone! Here’s a few pieces of advice to think about as you journey towards the big day.
- It all begins with the Perfect Suit. Without the Perfect Suit, it is harder to feel confident, comfortable and professional the Day Of. I brought my mom shopping with me and we did not rest until we had found an attractive, classy, mom-approved suit that made me feel like I could stomp it out on the interview runway. By “attractive,” I mean that it was modest, fashionable and fit well. The Perfect Suit is not a short skirt and a cleavage baring top; nor is it hemmed too short and paired with your father’s paisley tie from 1972. By all means, show your personality but above all, be professional and you will be confident! 
- It is so important to be a proficient communicator. I recommend running through pretend scenarios in your mind the weeks before the interview. Practice your responses in front of the mirror. Note the way you look when you speak. Do you maintain adequate eye contact? Do you smile? Is your voice the appropriate volume and tone? Do you hum and haw a lot? Is your response well structured? Is it easy to follow? Do you explain your thought process and rationale clearly?
- At the beginning of the interview, I began to feel quite unwell. And then I got the oddest sense of vertigo. I felt like I might fall down and start writhing in pain before I had even begun! But I pushed through and got accepted even though I felt, physically, miserable. So expect the unexpected the Day Of but don’t let that shatter your confidence.
- You will be nervous. That is normal. Make sure you do your deep breathing and drink water. I also recommend a suit jacket to hide the pit stains of agony which will slowly blossom to the size of dinner plates through the course of your interview.
- I became most nervous when I first encountered the other potential applicants, a sea of black suits. It may be intimidating but do not be afraid. They are just as nervous as you. Many of them may be your potential classmates. Think of them as your future friends, not your competition.
- Talk to the students who go to the school. They will probably be nice and chatting with them may set you at ease.
- Be professional even when you are not being directly interviewed. People are still watching you. Professionalism is key in medicine.
- I have the urge to finish this post by telling you to “have fun” and “be yourself” – both of which are very true. But basically, I think the best piece of advice I could give you is to know yourself and to allow others (especially the people interviewing you!) to know you. Be transparent, be easy, be comfortable.
Let me know how it goes!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012


Good day,

Over the course of the next month wanna.b.md will post three feature articles from Qasim, MD, and myself (one article each), on the interview process and the waiting game.

Here is our first post.

Qasim, MD, and me!

“The waiting is the hardest part…”

I borrowed the title of this post from a 1981 single by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Coincidentally, it was in high rotation on my iPod around this time last year, and I feel that it is quite appropriate at this stage in the admissions process. For some of you, the deadlines for applications have long passed, and that feeling of “YES! I got all of my documents and applications in on time” is starting to wear off. Now, you might be asking yourself, “When do I finally hear about interviews? What should I do while I am waiting? How can I prepare if I suddenly get an interview offer?”

I don’t have a firm answer for the first question, but I believe that it varies by school and by year. When I went through the application cycle, a friend of mine in his first-year of medical school told me I would hear about interview offers pretty much as soon as I started my Winter semester in January; instead, however, I heard back from schools from the last week of January until mid-February. Needless to say, I worried all throughout January, wondering if I had accidentally not submitted my applications or documents, or if there were other delays in my applications being received and/or processed. In hindsight, all I can say to you is: Relax. Don’t worry! If you got a confirmation e-mail of some kind when you pressed ‘Submit’ on your applications, you will likely hear back soon. When the time is right.

Now, what should you do while you’re waiting? One thing I highly recommend is to start getting some training or advice on medical interviews. At the U of A, I was lucky in that our campus career centre offered a mock MMI (multiple mini-interview) session, which I will tell you more about in a subsequent post. If your campus offers a mock medical interview session, I highly recommend signing up for it, even if you don’t know whether you have been offered an interview yet. The experience is priceless! If your campus or local area does not offer a similar service, you might be able to contact some friends who are in medicine who can offer you advice or perhaps even run through some standard practice questions with you. If you like reading, you could also look into getting some how-to books for the interview. However, be careful! Some books are targeted more towards medical schools in the US, and others tell you more about one particular format of interview (usually the panel-style interview, which is quite different from the MMI). If possible, try to find books that are geared toward the format of the interviews of the school(s) you applied to.

While you’re waiting for interview offers, you can also look into working on other aspects of your application. For instance, if you weren’t sure whether your MCAT scores were high enough, you could look into rewriting your MCAT in the meantime. I must stress, however, that since you already submitted your MCAT scores, your newly rewritten scores would not be considered for your current applications. That being said, if you don’t get accepted this time around and yet you score higher on your MCAT rewrite, it’s one less thing for you to do in the summer and you might have a better chance of getting in next year! You can instead spend more time and energy then on your summer research project, volunteering abroad, or even taking that much-needed holiday with your loved one(s). You could also beef up the extracurricular part of your application by engaging in more volunteer work, or even giving piano lessons. The sky is the limit, really.

And don’t worry, it might seem like suddenly you have an interview offer in your inbox, but usually the schools give you about a month before the interview, so you’ll have enough time to work out your transportation and accommodation arrangements, to get a nice haircut, and to practice your interview skills. Most interviews take place from about the end of February through to early April, so it might be a good idea to keep this time period free of extensive holidays or other commitments, depending on how many schools you applied to.

Yes, the waiting is the hardest part, but remember, it’s always darkest before dawn.

Good luck, I hope you all had a Merry Christmas!


Sunday, 1 January 2012

Introductions "Squared"

Hey readers,
This is my get-to-know-me post full of random and not-so-random facts. I’m happy to join the wanna be md blog team. For your convenience, I will use bullet points in no particular order.

· The initials of my first and last name are and have always been M.D. People said it was a sign. If I graduate from medical school as I’m supposed to in approximately 2.5 years, I will be MD MD. Or MD^2.

· When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a clown. Maybe I will be like Patch Adams?

· My educational background is a twisted maze. I was determined to be a doctor from 2001 to 2007 through high school and my first bachelors in health sciences. When I failed to get accepted (or even interviewed!) in 2007, I sulked, unemployed and depressed, for an entire summer before sucking it up and getting a job and becoming a useful member of society. I started taking creative writing classes and went on to get another bachelors and then a Masters in the subject. I was lucky enough to be accepted to a med school that encourages diversity and inter disciplinary work. I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in because of my arts background, but my school really fosters and supports the creative side.

· Now I’m in first year and I like talking to standardized patients and real patients whenever I get the chance. And learning about rheumatism and colonoscopies and other exciting things. Sadly, I still do not enjoy exams and would rather write a twenty page essay than a three hour exam.

· I took this online questionnaire (http://www.med-ed.virginia.edu/specialties/) and it said my top choice of residency would be Dermatology. Before med school started I took it and it said Plastic Surgery. Try it out and see for yourself.

· In my spare time, I like to write stories and poems. I am currently going through a very earnest Jane Eyre phase.

· The best part of the whole process of getting into med school was the interview. Because even though it was scary and I got the vertigo, having an eight minute venue to expound upon your views of the world is just fun! Plus meeting all the new people and the excitement of meeting your potential school – it’s a blast!

Greetings blog readers!

Please allow me to introduce myself! My name is Qasim and I am one of the new writers for the Wanna B MD blog. I started my undergraduate education by studying for a Bachelor of Science in Immunology & Infection. I completed my degree in 2010 and then spent a year in the wilderness (actually, not really… more like Open Studies) while applying for medical schools around Canada. Finally, this past summer, I was accepted, and I am now a first-year medical student. 

So, why am I writing for this blog? It’s simple: I want to share my views of the ‘pre-medical’ and medical experiences with you, and, if this is a career you really want to pursue, I would like for you to experience the same exhilarating thrill(s) of success that I did (and maybe sidestep the embarrassing mishaps and mistakes that I made here and there). Over the years, I have heard a lot of misconceptions and lies about the application process; I often wished that I had a friendly resource to go to in order to get balanced, truthful information about what it was like to go through the various processes in applying for med school (like writing the MCAT, getting reference letters, preparing for interviews, etc.). I made it through with the help of a few trusted mentors, and now I hope to fulfill the same function for you! 

Along with MD, I will be writing periodically on various aspects of the application/admissions process based on my experiences. However, if you have any additional questions about the process that we haven’t addressed in our posts, please feel free to contact us. We would be more than happy to help!