ABCs of the Medical School Application

January 30, 2012

Below is information on the 3 major parts of the medical school application process. For those just starting out, it is important to know what process entails. I pray you find this helpful and enlightening .

 ~KeAndrea “Kiki” Titer

A ~ Awesome MCAT

MCAT Basics-

The MCAT is given from January to September.  It is best to take it in June or July. Try not to take it later than August. The MCAT is broken down into the following sections with score ranges as follows:

  • Physical Sciences (G. Chem and Physic)- 1-15
  • Verbal Reasoning- 1-15
  • Biological Sciences (Biology and O. Chem)-1-15
  • Writing Sample- J(low)-T(high)

The MCAT is a 4 hour and 20 min test. There are 10 min breaks available between each section. There are 52 multiple-choice questions in the Physical Sciences and Biological Sciences section. Most of the questions are “passage-based,” meaning they refer to short passages of text formatted like scientific journal articles, research reports, data analysis or scientific editorials.The Verbal Reasoning section is similar to the Reading Comprehension sections on the SAT and GRE, but the passages selected for the MCAT are little denser.  There are 40 questions which test your ability to recognize main ideas, identify the author’s tone, draw conclusions, break down arguments and apply information from the text to new hypothetical situations. The Writing Sample consists of two half-hour essays in response to two short prompts. The Writing Sample Tests your ability to formulate and communicate an argument in standard written English and to support your argument using logical and relevant examples. It is VERY important that you do many practice question and sample full length tests in order to get comfortable in taking the test.


B~ Beastly AMCAS

The American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®) is a non-profit, centralized application processing service that is provided for those seeking entrance into a U.S. medical schools. Most medical schools use AMCAS as the primary application method.

Sections of the AMCAS

  1. Beginning the Application The first three sections of the application are Identifying Information, Schools Attended, and Biographic Information. In these sections, you’ll supply information about who you are, where you went to school, where you live, and how you can be contacted.
  2. Entering your Course Work The Course Work section is often reported as the most difficult section to complete. You should start by requesting a personal copy of your official transcript from each school you attended after high school. You’ll then use those transcripts to enter detailed information regarding every course in which you enrolled at any post-secondary institution.
  3. Work/Activities The Work/Activities section gives you the opportunity to enter up to 15 experiences (work, extracurricular activities, awards, honors, publications, etc…). You’ll be asked to supply the date of the experience, hours per week, a contact, the location, and a description of the experience.
  4. Letters of Evaluation The Letters of Evaluation section is where you will enter information regarding each letter of evaluation being sent to AMCAS. Up to 10 letter entries may be created. Letter entries may continuously be added throughout the application process; however, after submission of your application, letter entries cannot be edited or deleted. (Tip: Tell you teachers about the LOE NOW!! Send them you academic info, AMCAS’ generated LOE ID and Password, and submission deadline) Give a deadline at least 1-2 weeks before you actually plan submitting your AMCAS.

5.      Medical Schools– The Medical Schools section is where you will select the schools to which you will apply.

6.      Essays– The Essay(s) section is where you will compose your personal statement explaining any pertinent information not included elsewhere in the application.

7.      Standardized Tests-The Standardized Tests section is used to enter or edit future MCAT test dates, as well as review previous MCAT scores, and enter any additional test information, such as GRE scores.

8.      Submitting your Application– Before submitting your application, we strongly recommend using the “Print Application” button on the Main Menu for proofreading purposes – very few changes are permitted after submission. Payment is due at this time as well.


C ~ Charming


 Interview Preparation Advice

1)      Research the details of the schools programs.

2)      Write down any questions or concerns you have about the school. And take notes as the interviewer answers your questions.

3)      Write down all the things you like about the school.

4)      Reassess why you are you good candidate for the school and write them down.

5)      Think about five positive things about yourself.

6)      Go over your application because anything you have on your there is fair game in the interview.

7)      For ladies you may want to bring some flats because you will be doing some walking during the tour of the school.

8)      Make sure you have a portfolio to take notes as you go on the tour of the medical school.

9)      Review potential interview questions, however do not memorize scripted answers.

10)  Relax! Getting the interview is half the battle won, all they want to do now is see your personality and make sure you’re not crazy.

Physician Profile : Dr. Zaria Murrell

January 24, 2012

In recent years there has been increased awareness of the impending need for more primary care physicians in the workforce, but there is also the need for surgical specialists and primary care subspecialists.   In the coming weeks, we will feature some of our alumni and friends of Oakwood University who are currently pursuing careers in various subspecialties where there is a greater need for an African American presence.

Dr. Zaria Murrell was born in Brooklyn NY, and is the eldest of five children.  She was raised in Queens, NY, before attending college at Howard University.  She completed her medical education at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Although she herself, is not a graduate of Oakwood University, 2 of her siblings and her husband – Michael are, and she served the Huntsville area for several years as a general and bariatric surgeon before going back into the trenches for fellowship.  She is the proud mother of two children and enjoys running long distances, studying God’s word, travelling to foreign countries with her family,  and participating in medical missionary work.  She is currently a pediatric surgery fellow at the University of Louisville.

HealthOU: What are some of the factors that influenced your decision to pursue a career in surgery?
I have always loved fixing things… a career in surgery is rewarding in that I know I have helped correct something that is wrong and is causing pain to the patients: whether it is repairing an hernia, treating a baby born with gastroschisis (intestines protruding through a hole in the abdominal wall) with a silo followed by a gradual return of the intestines to the abdominal cavity with closure of the abdominal wall defect, or an appendectomy for acute appendicitis, I am always excited about being used as an instrument to bring healing to a variety of patients with surgical issues.

HealthOU: As I understand it, you worked as a general surgeon for several years, but later decided to pursue training in several different areas,  what motivated that decision? 
I have always loved the discipline of pediatric surgery and as a younger surgery resident, I had every intention to enter into the field.  However, I was also interested in the new technologies in surgery in the areas of laparoscopic and robotic surgery as I advanced through residency.  So when the time came to make a decision, I chose a fellowship in mininally invasive (laparoscopic) surgery.  When I completed my fellowship, I was married with an infant and my husband wanted to return to college to study theology at Oakwood College.  We moved to Huntsville and I worked as a laparoscopic and bariatric surgeon for 7 years there.  But after being in practice for 5 years and working with a pediatric surgeon that had moved to Huntsville, my heartstrings were pulling me back to pediatric surgery and in the Fall of 2008 I decided to enter the pediatric surgery match.  Realizing that I was not a competitive applicant when I didn’t match in Spring of 2009,  God provided me the opportunity to become the Fetal Surgery Fellow and then the Pediatric Vascular Anomalies Fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) from Fall 2009-June 2011.  However, I still needed to complete an accredited pediatric surgery fellowship program.  Once again God provided!!  Two weeks after completing my Vascular Anomalies Fellowship, in mid-July of 2011, I was working on fetal research projects at CCHMC and I received an email about a sudden opening of an accredited pediatric surgery fellowship position in Louisville, KY. Within hours, I submitted my application, the next day I arrived in Louisville for an interview and by the time I arrived home, I had an email saying I got the job!!! WOW!!  So now I am the pediatric surgery fellow at University of Louisville since August 2011 (its a 2 year fellowship).  God Rocks!!!

HealthOU: Who were / are some of your professional mentors thus far? 
My former surgical partner when I first moved to Huntsville – Dr. Frederick Cason (who is now the chief of surgery at the VA hospital in Cleveland, OH) and of course the spirit-filled pediatric surgeon who felt impressed to come to Huntsville and encouraged me to return to a pediatric surgery fellowship  – Dr. James Gilbert!  I also have several mentors from my surgical residency at State University of  New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn: Drs. Francesca Velcek, Brian Gilchrist and John Kral who also encouraged me to return to pediatric surgery fellowship if that’s where my heart led me.

HealthOU: What’s your biggest motivation?
Jesus…. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

HealthOU: What are some steps a current premed student can take if they’re interested in going into  a general surgery or a surgical subspecialty?
If you really enjoy human anatomy, surgery might be the field for you.  Try to shadow a surgeon for a day or two to see if you like the environment.  Surgery is physically demanding with long days, lots of standing, but is very rewarding!

HealthOU: What are some steps a current medical student can take if they’re interested in going into general surgery or a surgical specialty?
Of course, get good grades in the first two years of medical school.
Be yourself first of all… Search deep inside and ask yourself while on your rotation on surgery, do I really love this and can I live like this?  Communicate well with your interns, residents, fellows and attendings.  Read about your surgical cases before going to the OR: i.e. know the differential diagnosis for right lower or upper quadrant pain. Don’t be afraid to ask thoughtful questions.

HealthOU: What information/advice do you wish you had known when you were an undergraduate?                                                                                                                                                                                                                             I had good study habits, was very disciplined in college and had opportunities to work at the local hospital which was a great experience.
College is a great time to make lasting friendships and to enjoy ‘growing up,’  but study habits formed in college will have an impact on you in medical school, so choose wisely!
Take an MCAT review course or study as many questions as you can get your hands on:  a good MCAT score can make all the difference in obtaining scholarships!

HealthOU: What do you think are some of the reasons that there are so few minorities in surgical specialties?
There are few minorities in medicine but considering that only about 10-15% of each medical school class goes into the discpline of surgery it makes for a small number.
But there are more than you think:  the Society of Black Academic Surgeons provides mentors in surgery. Check out their website.

HealthOU: What does a typical day for you entail?
As a pediatric surgery fellow, I typical arrive at work at 05:45 to round on babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), then do surgery rounds with the residents from 06:30-07:30; NICU teaching rounds from 07:30-08:00, then, depending on what cases I have assigned myself and the residents to, we are in the operating room from 08:00- 16:00.  In between all the operative cases, we are seeing new consults in the emergency room or NICU, discharging patients that need to go home, etc.  It’s quite busy but the day goes by fast!

HealthOU: What advice / insight do you have to offer to a women who are interested in pursuing a career in surgery, and further specializing as you have?
As I said before, choose wisely!!  Pray hard and ask God for guidance, realizing that you have to really love surgery to choose such a demanding lifestyle.  If you have a husband before entering your chosen discipline, ask him how the long hours away from home affect him.

HealthOU: What advice would you offer to yourself  10 years ago?
Just do it!!! I was slightly intimidated by the competitiveness of getting a pediatric surgery fellowship when I was younger but the truth be told… I wouldn’t change a thing!  I love the path I have followed and I have  prayed every step of the way. God knew what was best for me!

HealthOU: How do you balance your demanding work schedule and a family?
It’s tough now that I am a fellow again: but spending quality time with the kids on the nights I am home – reading, cooking, doing their homework, and having worship with them, especially now that they are older (my son is 10 and my daughter 8) has been a joy! They have distinctly different personalities and gifts.  Also, my kids know that they can call me anytime and if I’m not operating, I will chat with them. My husband is a Godsend made just for me!  We’ve been married for 11 years and I am still learning more things about him that make me love him more each day!

Trust His Heart

January 17, 2012

“I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”                                                   Jeremiah 29:14

The title of today’s post may seem more like a devotional.  I promise that the content is medically related.  However, the beauty of writing for a health blog geared towards Christians actively pursuing health careers is that I can showcase how the two are intimately related.

That being said, I have a testimony.

Today’s post is going to lengthy, so please bear with me.

In 2007, I finished a Master’s program in Biomedical Sciences.  At this time, I began looking into some of the top tiered international medical schools for U.S students.  I chose and applied to the top two international medical schools based on their stats and success rates.

I did a pros/cons list for both, and read student opinions for both on forums.   I was accepted to both, and made the decision to attend the school I thought at the time to be  more competitive, but three times more expensive.  I figured to the price would be worth the experience.

The added bonus of my chosen school was that they had recently implemented a “global scholars” program.  This program was geared for students who desired to practice medicine internationally in underserved countries for part of their career.  They would be required to matriculate the first year of medical school in England, where they would receive a special certification, which would help make that dream a reality.

It was as if this program was tailor made for me!

I definitely plan on dedicating part of my time each year to the medical mission, and have always been interested in international health (as this is where the greatest need is, in my opinion).  Second, I have ALWAYS desired studying abroad (and I wish I had taken advantage of this in college, but there really is no room for studying abroad as a Biology major).  Finally, I freakin’ LOVE Europe.  How can I say no to such an amazing opportunity?!?

Anyways, at this point, the decision was quite simple and clear! Or so I thought.  I knew God wouldn’t be so cruel as to dangle the desires of my heart in front of me if it wasn’t His plan.

Although the decision was clear, the execution wasn’t.  I was faced with several speed bumps.  By the time I boarded my plane to England, all but one speed bump was resolved!

I had my acceptance into the program, I had my flight, and I had my UK Student Visa.

I was good to go.

Except for one thing.

Although the school was recognized my the Department of Education and provides Federal Student Loans, the global program into which I was accepted was so new (I was only the 2nd class to start the program), that for the first year, the program would not be funded by the Department of Education, and we would need to apply for private loans.

This was the only downside to this program.  Up to this point, I have never applied for private loans because of their outrageous interest rate and need for a co-signer, which I never wanted to use.  I have always wanted to assume complete responsibility for my finances.   However, at this point, I figured I had no choice.  This is an investment, I justified.

I applied for several private loans, on faith that I would be approved.  I was scheduled to leave for England before I heard anything back for the loans.  Again, I figured if God opened to the doors, He would provide.  Surely I will get approved while in England and all will be well.

Fast-forward a week in England, and the end result was: I was NOT approved for any of the loans!  What devastation!! My dreams came crashing down into a million little pieces.  I was beyond distraught.

I had purchased a one-way ticket to England (couldn’t afford a round-trip), and now I had to leave!  The testimonies regarding how I got my flight out of England is for another post.  However, I left England with no plan in sight.  It was during these moments that I got closer to God, for sure.

Long story short, not being in school for the first time in my life since I was 3 years old afforded me the opportunity to travel to Korea and work as a missionary/English teacher only a month after I was “exiled” from medical school in England due to lack of funds.

I truly felt as though the life I was meant to live began the day I left for Korea.  The two years I spent in Korea (and all the countries I had the opportunity to visit) were some of the most life changing years of my life.   I have never been the same.

If I had started medical school in 2007, I would have never experienced Korea, for surely I would have gone straight from med school into residency, and the rest would be history.  But Korea was necessary for my growth.

While in Korea, I reapplied to the medical school that I didn’t choose the first time around.  Even in another continent, the process was much smoother and everything went very well.  I started medical school in 2010 on my birthday.

The beauty of my program is that I am able to do part or all of my core clinical rotations in England if I choose.  My desire to study abroad had not been assuaged by the “great disappointment” of 2007.  I still wanted this opportunity.  But first, I would have to pass USMLE STEP 1.

This year, the day before my birthday, I received the result that I have passed STEP 1.  God is great!

So now, almost five years after I shamefully left England because it wasn’t my time, I am returning to England to complete my core clinical rotations.  This time, with more wisdom and God’s approval in tow.

“ I will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile,” declares the Lord.

God has a plan for us all.  He will close doors we thought were held wide open for our benefit, but it’s because He has a plans that far exceeds what we could have imagined for ourselves.

The road to medical/dental/allied health will be: expensive, mentally exhausting, physically tiring, and thankless.  Don’t lose heart!

This is why we create blogs such as these, to help you stay on course and not let your discouragement derail your hopes and dreams.

Stay focused! God has a plan.

The title of the post is also the title of a song written by Babbie Mason that has helped me a lot during the dark moments where I didn’t know what God was doing in my life.

It is also my hope that, when you don’t understand, when you can’t see His plan, when you can’t trace His hand, you will TRUST HIS HEART.

Have you had any experiences during your medical career journey where God closed a door you really desired, only to hold ajar a door better suited for His plan for you? Please share.


Link to song with lyrics below:

Trust His Heart

In it for the money? Think again!

January 16, 2012

I read this post a few months back but thought I would share it with you.  Take a look at the numbers and the life you’re signing up for, while you still have a chance to pursue something else 🙂  Happy MLK Day. 

Don’t waste the day off!  Work on your MCAT schedule if you haven’t finished it yet; fit some studying in; prep for those last few interviews, or start looking up alternate careers in healthcare, if after reading this, you decide its not worth it 🙂  either way; make today count towards your future!!!

Happy New Year!

January 11, 2012

Happy New Year from HealthOU !!!!!

We’re excited that you plan to continue utilizing this resource in the upcoming year.    The last half of 2011 was an exciting one for us!  We successfully launched on August 31 with our inaugural post Why So Few Blacks in Medicine,  and since then have posted over 22 entries featuring information relevant to pre-health students navigating the process to professional school.

Some other highlights include:

1.  Installation of two medical student bloggers, KeAndrea a first year and NaTacha a 3rd year.

2.  Reached our 1000 view mark in less than 3 months.

3.  Remembered World Aids Day with Oakwood alum and current SNMA president, Michael Knight.

2011 was not only exciting for us, but also for the Oakwood Biology Department who had tremendous success at the 2011 ABRCMS conference, where they secured 9 awards; saw their largest graduating class ever, and received multiple acceptances to professional school.

In the coming months, we hope to continue to provide relevant information, motivation, and inspiration to you; our readers. We will talk about finding love and balancing relationships during professional school, discuss the importance of mentorship, feature some of our “medical families”, and continue to hear the personal experiences of our student bloggers Tacha and KiKi as they finish up 3rd and 1st year.

We are excited about what 2012 has to offer and hope that you will continue to utilize the resources we provide throughout this year.  If there is any topic or feature, that you would like to know more about, or question you may have to help you successfully enter the next phase of your career, do not hesitate to contact us at or on our facebook page.  Be sure to spread the word to your colleagues if you find our content to be valuable.

Blessings to you in the upcoming year,