Don’t Let Your Christmas Break Go To Waste

December 20, 2011

One of the things I loved while I was student at Oakwood was the 3 – 4 week Christmas vacation.  I remember, I always seemed to start the spring semester at least a week later than my friends who attended other colleges and universities.

While three to four weeks of vacation is lovely, and may be well deserved after a long, hard semester; there’s still work to be done.  Your goal of becoming a successful medical professional takes sacrifice and delay of gratification , that started the day you decided this was the path God had chosen for you.  So, in between the holiday cheer, time with family and friends, and just relaxing, take some time to do something for your future, because before you know it, those 4 weeks will be over and the reality of being a pre-professional student and all that comes along with it will set in.


I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but the MCAT  is looming, and if you haven’t started studying for the April / May test yet, then you’re a tad behind.  Experts recommend 3 solid months of study for the MCAT, and since no premed student truly has three solid months to devote to the first of many tests they will take in their professional career, they recommend 5 – 6 months. Don’t panic.  If you get a good game plan in place NOW, it’s doable.

1. Do some research and decide what materials you’re going to use.  Kaplan vs Princeton Review, books vs private tutoring?

2. Devise a SPECIFIC study plan from now until test date . Be specific, how many hours a day, what topics.  Build in some catch up time.  If you have specific goals for each day, it will be more doable and less overwhelming.


4.  Free up your weekends, consider not working or doing any activity that will take up too much of  your time.  It’s only for a few months, for one of the most important tests of your life.

5.  Whatever you do, make sure that you do TONS of practice questions and at least 4 practice tests are factored into your schedule.

We can’t forget about those students taking the DAT , PCAT, and GRE.  The benefit of the DAT and GRE are that they are offered more often than the MCAT.  I would hope anyone planning to take the January PCAT has gotten their study plan underway, so…


NOW (actually a month or two ago) is the time to decide your summer plans.  Before you know it, spring semester will be over and the summer will be upon you.  Summer vacation is the perfect time for research, volunteer opportunities, and a chance to increase medical exposure; which makes up a significant part of the application to professional school.

Listed below are several sites with links to summer opportunities and just simple google search for “summer premedical opportunities” will provide you with more links than you could have time to check out. One of my  favorite summer programs is the SMDEP program.


2. Minority





Congratulations!  You got your secondary applications in, and now you’re sitting pretty on a few med school / dental school / pharmacy school interview invitations.  After you take some time to celebrate being one step closer to your dream with your family, take some time to prepare for your interviews.

1.  Familiarize yourself with the interview format of the school / programs you are interviewing. More and more schools are changing their interview format in an effort to get a more “well rounded” applicants.  At the University of Cincinnati, they’ve implemented MMI, which are basically 5 – 6 8 minute sessions where the applicant does a series of activities and scenarios that test an applicant’s problem solving, decision making skills when faced with ethical dilemmas, and teamwork.  You can read more about the MMI format of interviewing below.

2.  Practice, practice, practice.  The internet is full of practice interview questions.  Spend some time going over a series of questions and preparing an articulate and succinct answer to some of the basic 0nes. Those family members who are so excited that you’re one step closer to your dream, they’ll be more than happy to ask you your interview questions and perfect your answers. Then, if time allows, go a step further and have a professor, advisor or medical professional conduct a quick mock interview with you.   Anything to get some of the nerves out.

3.  One last thing: As you’re familiarizing yourself with the list of questions they will ask you, be SURE to familiarize yourself with a list of potential questions to ask them. They will ask you if you have any questions, and you want to have a few.  It shows interest and that you’re engaged during your interview and not just THERE.  Sometimes it can be hard to come up with questions because you feel like you’ve already scoured their website and learned all you need to learn, well check online and see what are some potential questions you could ask.  Here’s a list below:

1. 35 Questions I Wish I Had Asked

2. Common Medical School Interview Questions

3.  Common Dental School Questions  – not that different from medical school interview questions, but here are list for you future dentists.

4.  CommonPharmacySchoolInterview Questions –

Take some time to enjoy your vacation, but be sure to check out the links above that are relevant to where you are.

Good luck and happy holidays

Celebrate Small Victories!!

December 12, 2011

“Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! …”

Psalm 150:1-6 ESV

I bring greetings from the other side of the most gruesome academic challenge I’ve had to date (and hopefully ever): STEP 1.

 Best. Feeling. Ever.

I am proud to announce that after 3 months of poring over review books, and thousands of practice questions later, I have finally taken this darn test.

Some say, and I agree, that this is perhaps the most important test of our medical career.  Sure, some would argue the MCAT is more important, because if you don’t do well on the MCAT, then your career won’t even begin.

Well, they are both right up there.  However, what puts the STEP above the MCAT, in my opinion, is the simple fact that the STEP is pass/fail.

At the end of the day, you want to get the highest possible score for both exams; however, you can’t really fail the MCAT.  If you got a few points lower than expected, it’s not the end of the world, if your overall presentation compensates.  However, if you fail the STEP 1 even once, then the chances of a residency you truly want diminish dramatically.

Therefore, students frequently retake the MCAT to get a HIGHER score, and some schools consider an improvement a positive, and look only at the HIGHER score.

However, if you pass the STEP with the lowest score, that’s it.  You’re not allowed to retake it to improve your score.  And if you fail…then, oh boy.  I don’t even want to think about it.

There’s always more anxiety for a pass/fail test, in my opinion…especially one that costs close to $900.

I digress.

The purpose of this today’s blog, post STEP 1, is to introduce the need to celebrate victories.

It’s common sense, I suppose, yet not one that medical students do efficiently.

Most med students work hard to party play hard.

Balance is essential.  So, while it is crucial to celebrate large victories, such as taking and passing STEP 1, one must remember to celebrate the little victories along the way or you’ll burn out quicker!

Little victories are as varied as the people who celebrate them.  Anything can be a little victory.  But of course, balance is key.

Examples of such could be: after every few hours of diligent study, you’ll watch 20 minutes of your favorite show.

Another example would be: after a week of studying, you’d take a whole day off! Thank God that plan is already included in the Seventh-Day Adventist fundamental beliefs!  (My friends used to envy the fact that I’d take Saturday off).

Another example: After taking block exams every few weeks, you’ll treat yourself to a massage (loved this treat for myself), or dinner/movie/trip to the beach with friends.

Another example: After passing the semester, you’ll travel to an exotic locale internationally (my personal favorite).

As you can see, I started out with the smallest of victories, and progressed to larger and larger ones.

These have always helped served as motivational tools to fight the good fight when every cell of my being wanted to throw in the towel.

The fear of failure didn’t hurt as a motivation tool either. 😉

After the STEP 1, I frantically searched “Groupon Now” for a nice meal and a nice massage, walking around downtown Chicago, in the frigid cold for more than four hours.  It was my favorite night in Chicago…because for the first time ever, I had guilt-free fun. No more: OMG, I should be studying!  Not for awhile, at least.

So, I want to encourage you, in whatever step you are in your journey to fulfilling your dreams, make room to celebrate victories.  Visualize your victories and how you’ll celebrate them before they come.  The mind is a powerful motivator as well.

For those of you who do make it a habit to celebrate large and small victories in your academic journey, what sort of things do you do?  I’m sure some other readers, myself included, would love to get great ideas for future celebra-shi-ons.

Happy Holidays to All and God Bless on your Journeys!


Motivation Through Music

December 5, 2011

As finals week gets underway, you may have to put in some long hours and late nights to ensure that all assignments are taken care of and that you are prepared to ace your finals. Like you, I”ve been there, and during my toughest days, one of the things that helped me get by was music.

Music is one of the most powerful agents  in the world.  It has the power to evoke intense emotions, both positive or negative. During medical school, music definitely came in handy in lifting my mood, especially during late night study sessions. I can’t remember studying for a pathology or pharmacology test without getting a little bit of a boost from Yolanda Adam’s : Victory, blasting from the laptop of one of  my three study partners.  He would always seem to put that song on at the right time too – like at 2:30 am when I couldn’t bear to memorize  one more drug card or look another slide. The words of that song  “I’ve got / got the victory/ I’ve got the sweet sweet victory in Jesus /, would remind me that God would see my through.   Then on test day, as I drove in to campus, Mary Mary’s : “I just Can’t Give Up Now”  would resonate in my head for my 20 minute commute.  During our Match Day ceremony, when your name is called to come down and find out where you’re doing your residency, they play a little snippett of a song as you walk down.  People often choose something funny, or pick out a song with lyrics that represent them. My snippett came from  It Ain’t Over by Maurette Brown Clark, as a testimony to the God’s leading in my journey to that point.

I encourage you to have  mental  / actual playlist of motivational tunes for tough days, when you feel like your strength is spent and you just can’t make it.   Music is in no way a replacement for the promises in God’s word, but simply a reminder that points us back to God and His abiliy to specialize in things impossible.

What are your favorite songs for when your academic spirit needs a little boost?   Check out three of my personal favorites below.


HealthOU > AIDS

December 1, 2011

In recognition of World AIDS Day, we had the privilege of talking to Michael Knight, fourth year medical student, Oakwood alum, and current President of the Student National Medical Association about SNMA’s Greater than AIDS campaign.  

HealthOU:  Is the Greater than AIDS campaign an SNMA initiative, or is it a nationwide project that SNMA is now a part of?

MK: The SNMA>AIDS Campaign represents the community empowerment component of this year’s national programmatic agenda for the SNMA. It builds upon our well established Sexual Health Awareness Protocol, in a unique partnership with the Greater Than AIDS Campaign: a movement responding to the AIDS crisis in the United States, and the severe and disproportionate epidemic in the minority community. Under the direction of the Kaiser Family Foundation and Black AIDS Institute, and in support of Act Against AIDS, a multi-year effort by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Greater Than AIDS seeks to increase knowledge and confront the stigma surrounding the disease.

HealthOU: What specific activities and events does SNMA have planned  in honor of World AIDS Day?

MK: SNMA chapters across the United States and Caribbean have been encouraged to plan HIV/AIDS awareness related community outreach programs, or incorporate HIV/AIDS education into existing community programs throughout the year. Many have chosen to implement HIV/AIDS awareness events around World AIDS day. These events include community HIV testing, the distribution of educational materials, community meetings, and educational talks to inform and empower the minority community.

HealthOU: Today is World AIDS Day, but people live with the disease 365 days a year.  What can we do as young professionals to demonstrate that we are greater than AIDs and assist in fighting against and increasing awarenessabout the disease?

 MK: As young professionals, especially in the minority community, we first must realize that this is our issue. This disease is no longer uniquely effecting remote and homogenous communities; HIV/AIDS is at our front door. We must take the initiative to educate ourselves first, and then share this information with our colleagues, friends, and families. Let’s start the conversation! That is the first step in decreasing the stigma surrounding the disease, and opening the door to open communication in our communities.

HealthOU:  What was the driving force behind collaborating with this project specifically, that targets HIV and AIDS ?

MK:  For over 47 years, the Student National Medical Association has worked to address the needs of underserved communities. The HIV/AIDS epidemic is affecting these communities in such a disproportionate way that we cannot be silent in this area. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, blacks make up just 13% of the total U.S. population, yet represent almost half of those living with HIV and about half of those with AIDS who die each year. This disparity is also present in other ethnic minority groups such as Hispanics, who have new HIV infection rates two and four times higher than whites for men and women, respectively. By partnering with the Greater Than AIDS campaign, our members, future minority physicians, will work to become the leaders and change agents that our patients, neighbors and families can depend on to address this vital issue.