Monday, March 31, 2008

David presents 5 Guys You Don't Want to Be

As two-plus quarters of medical school have conclusively proven, the perfect complement to learning about baby-saving is complaining to random people you don't know who happened upon your blog because they shadily typed in "crazy hot" during a Google search. To continue this worthy pursuit, I present the following list (Kevin's to follow soon):

5 Guys You* Don't Want to Be**:

5) Bad Birthday Present-Giving Guy

Not everyone can give amazing birthday presents (like a giant gift-wrapped box that contains progressively smaller boxes, until all that's left is a lot of boxes, discarded wrapping paper, and no actual gift (or maybe a really nice card!) - Classic!), but some gifts really should have been reconsidered. If you're buying a present and thoughts like "Teehee, this'll be really funny because it's sexual!" or "Here's a novelty T-shirt no one in good conscience would ever wear" cross your mind, it might be time to move on to the next item.

4) Self-Righteous About Obvious Or Long-Ago-Resolved Causes Guy

"You know who I hate? Racists! How can they discriminate against people on the basis of something as superficial as skin color or ethnic heritage!!?" We've all met this guy once or twice and, despite his good intentions, it's a bit tiring to listen to him tear down prejudices or viewpoints no reasonable person you know actually supports.

Yes, SRAOOLARC Guy, we also believe that kicking puppies is bad and that that thing that happened decades ago that everyone back then agreed was wrong is still wrong today. Thanks for yelling.

(If SRAOOLARCG had a cousin, he'd probably complain about people who don't let him into their lane on the freeway and make jokes about how they should make the entire plane out of the black box.)

3) Jesse


2) Cliche Tattoo Guy

Barbed wire may be good for keeping people off your fence, but the time for inking it into your arm has passed. And if you decide an Asian character is a must, make sure what you think means 'serenity' doesnt actually mean 'face.'

1) Picky About Ubiquitous Food Ingredients Guy

This guy, for whatever gastronomical, idiosyncratic reasons (not because of allergies or anything medical), refuses to eat foods with ingredients that are so common that it precludes a shockingly wide variety of options when you go out for a group dinner. I don't even know what cilantro is, are you really sure you can't eat it?


*In the interests of fairness, you don't want to be these girls either.

**It might also be said that the guy you really, really don't want to be is the one who spends his time creating lists of guys you dont want to be. But that will not be said here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Kevin is convinced all white people love white meat

In my 23 years on this good Earth, I’ve come to know quite a few white people, almost more than I can count on my two hands. And while they may all be unique in their education, religion, and politics, there is one unifying trait that is universal: they love white meat. I’m not sure what it is about the breast but white people can’t get enough of it. Today I conducted an informal poll among 8 white people in my vicinity and the results were clear, 100% of gringos love breast meat. This seems to be a distinctly Caucasian preference because all my Asian friends shun the white meat for their dark, succulent brethren. So why do white people love white meat so much? This is truly perplexing. There are several aspects of meat in general that we can examine as possible reasons.

1. You get more meat when you opt for white
I suppose that could be true but I’ve noticed that many white people will choose white meat regardless of quantity provided. This is apparent in buffet situations where the supply is infinite so it only falls upon personal preference.

2. White meat is healthier
This is undeniably true since the deliciousness of dark meat is mostly derived from this fatty goodness. But roast chicken is already pretty unhealthy, or fried chicken. So when your chosen food is already so unhealthy, might as well go with what you like. By this logic, when people choose white meat, its for taste reasons and not health.

So that leave taste, which is a personal thing. I think the reason I love dark meat is the reason people hate it. I love the juicy, fatty, succulent deliciousness of a drumstick. Oddly enough, whenever someone said they opt for white meat, they always explain by saying they hate the taste of dark meat, rather than providing evidence of white meat’s supposed goodness. Truly odd indeed.

Do you prefer white meat or dark meat

View Results
Free poll from Free Web Polls

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

David discusses the 15-15-1 Theory

In my glorious two-plus decades on this planet, I have been many things: scholar, playwright and, most recently, emo-blogger extraordinaire. Today, I add intellectual revolutionary to that storied list as I unveil a strategy that will forever alter the landscape of medical school admissions.

Just kidding. The following is more of a thought experiment. Nonetheless, ladies, gentleman, our #1 fan (that’s you, Julia), maybe even Kevin (but probably not Kevin), I present to you the 15-15-1 Theory:

As many of you know, the journey to medical school is filled with hurdles. One must do well in school and have a decent complement of extracurricular activities and/or research experiences to make the cut at many schools. On top of all that is the MCAT, perhaps the greatest, most-feared obstacle of all. The MCAT, in a nutshell, is comprised of three main multiple-choice sections – Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Verbal Reasoning – each scored on a 15-point scale. There is also a short essay section that students generally believe carries less weight in admissions decisions. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), the group that administers the exam, the national average for applicants in 2007 was 27.8, while the average for matriculating students was 30.8.

According to conventional wisdom, a strong applicant has both a high MCAT score and a reasonably even distribution of scores among each subsection. A student with a 9-9-9 breakdown, ceteris paribus, is probably more desirable than one with a 15-6-6, as the former score may indicate a more well-rounded student. This rationale makes perfect sense; a strong medical student should be less a genius in only one subject and more a jack-of-all trades who is competent across the board. We’re not doing hardcore physics or PhD-level biochem here.

Yet how would you choose between a 15-15-1 and 10-10-11, again assuming all other primary characteristics are roughly the same? Here, the choice may not be so clear-cut. Let’s assume for a moment the school has no minimum subsection requirement – which may be highly unlikely, but potentially true in extreme circumstances such as this – and thus does not immediately exclude the 15-15-1. In this scenario, which student is likely to become the more competent physician?

Well, the lopsided genius (LG) is probably a lot more intellectually gifted than the jack of all trades (JT). Two perfect scores indicate LG is very bright and most likely hard-working, both desirable traits for a medical student. JT did fine in each section, but a 31, as evidenced above, is objectively average. Since the margin for error diminishes disproportionately as one approaches the higher scores, the difference between 15 and 11 on any given section is actually quite significant,. So, at least for those two subsections, LG is a world ahead.

But what about the third? Is LG a science whiz who struggles mightily in verbal? (That would be bad, since the VR section correlates most strongly with future clinical performance because it best approximates one’s ability to synthesize new, foreign information and make analytical choices without the benefit of tomes of background information and months of fact-cramming. It’s an extremely loose simulation of any clinical situation, sure, but the critical thinking it demands is a crucial asset for any physician.) Well, maybe LG is or isn’t, but looking at that score breakdown, my guess would be he/she was the victim of some unfortunate twist of fate. Perhaps LG mis-bubbled one of the earliest answers and thoroughly messed up the scantron. Maybe there was a scoring error that wasn’t corrected or some other inaccuracy that was no fault of LG’s. Contingent probability would suggest it’s extremely unlikely that someone capable of a 30 in two sections could possibly score 1 on the third. In fact, I imagine it improbable that LG would even get below a 10 if capable of such dual-section wizardry on the previous two.

What if we assume LG is not even capable of half of his typical brilliance, grant him the slight benefit of the doubt that something strange happened during his exam, and give him a 7. Now his conservative 37 is out of shouting distance from JT’s 31. And since these two candidates are more or less equally qualified in other respects, where does that leave them? At the very least, LG would deserve an interview and a chance to explain what happened, whereas JT might not even make that cut.

Admittedly, this is a unique, rather improbable scenario. To the extent that this would ever occur, the solution would likely be for the admissions committee to recommend LG take the test again to confirm his/her brilliance in all three subjects, reapply the next year, and then choose among the top med schools. But that’s just plain boring.

I’ve discussed this randomly with a number of people, most of whom would favor JT. I’m not so sure. As an extension, if it is completely inconceivable that someone with a 1 in any subsection could ever warrant admission, what if you had to choose, right now, who you’d prefer as your doctor in 10 years? That 1 might be a dealbreaker for acceptance, but who is more likely to pan out in the end?

Clearly, the only way to resolve this amazingly profound debate is for me to drop out, change my name to Lopsided Genius, retake the MCAT and get a 15-15-1, and see what happens. Might be unfair though – that name alone is probably worth an interview.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

David is sad that young Dave was an idiot

Back after an extended hiatus, I have a fresh rant that is arguably less meaningful and more inane than any I have produced so far.

Over the past week, we have been on Spring Break. Since I had some time to relax and the weather was dreary, I made the fateful decision that I would find something to read besides my favorite book, Magazine. Ultimately, I ended up picking one of my sister’s many Narnia books. I remembered reading and thoroughly enjoying them when I was a kid – talking lions, heavy-handed Christian allegory, what’s not to love? – so I figured an hour or so reading one of the series might be worthwhile. Yet where I expected to find a dream world of magic, I instead met nearly unreadable prose. Sure, the words weren't too long, but after a few minutes it was so bad I just couldn’t continue.

Later on, I stumbled upon an old Saved By the Bell rerun. Surely, I thought, this would be an entertainment gold mine. Zach Morris, Kelly Kapowski, Screech, that really tall girl who took all those caffeine pills in the episode when they were making that awesome music video – good times all around. Everyone and their brother loved this show growing up. All teenage misadventures, no annoying angst. Alas, it was not to be; SBTB was more vapid and god-awful than I could possibly imagine.

You guys used to be so cool. Sigh...

All of this led me to the saddening realization that I was an idiot when I was 11 years old. I may have been the Tiger Woods of block-stacking, but apparently I was a bit dim when choosing my entertainment. Seriously, young Dave would’ve bet you six cookies and his entire collection of Ken Griffey Jr. baseball cards that SBTB would stand the eternal test of time as the greatest artistic masterpiece ever created. Now? I could barely stand to watch five minutes before changing the channel (although Zach was still up to his old tricks. What a rascal!).

On the bright side, I am much smarter now. I’d bet six cookies that Friday Night Lights will last forever and be the greatest TV show ever created…

Now this is ground-breakingly original programming (and promotional advertising)!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Kevin debunks 2 myths about medical school

1. Medical students are really smart

There seems to be some kind of general assumption that you have to be really smart to do medicine. Not true. Medical schools come in all shapes and sizes and with that, different entrance requirements. While the kids over at WashU are probably phenomenal test-takers and would be considered “smart”, the average med school is quite different. People come from all walks of life and while we’re certainly not dumb, most of us really aren’t that smart. The majority of medical students would not hack it in physics, mathematics, even engineering. Hell, looking at averaged VR MCAT scores, most of us are bad at reading as well. Unlike some other fields, medicine doesn’t require its applicants to be the sharpest knife the drawer, only the eagerest. Those who have academic deficits can more than make up for in volunteer work, perhaps save a few African babies. So what people lack in intelligence, they make up for in good ol’ fashion gumption. This isn’t really a bad thing. Medicine is ultimately a service industry and intelligence alone isn’t always enough (unless you’re a neurosurgeon, then it’s probably good enough). But regular people out there: your doctor may be smarter than the average Joe, but that doesn’t mean he’s a genius.

2. Medical school is difficult

The materials covered in medical school are not difficult. Everything is mostly memorization and regurgitation. Rarely do you have to take what you know and apply it to a truly novel situation. Perhaps this will change in second year but so far, it’s been pretty mundane. That’s not to say classes are not time consuming. Memorizing a lot of random facts takes a decent amount of work, but then again so is laying bricks and neither is really that challenging. A lot of my non-medicine friends really believe medical school is the pinnacle of academic rigor and honestly I don’t have the heart to tell them otherwise. Instead, I play into their assumption and pretend I’m just busy all the time with work. Sometimes I’ll tussle my hair up a little bit before approaching some non-medical friends so I look a bit more frazzled (ok not really but I’m willing to go this far if they catch wind of my ruse).

Monday, March 3, 2008

David advises pre-meds against Biology

It probably seems counterintuitive that anyone would seek my advice about anything. Yet, believe it or not, I often get asked for words of wisdom about navigating the pre-med and med school application process. For any current or prospective pre-meds, here is perhaps the best advice I have: unless you absolutely love biology, enjoy it on a profound and fundamental level that resonates within your pre-med soul, do not major in Biology*. (And if you do love it that much, I’d also argue you should eschew medicine entirely, get a PhD, and cure cancer instead of learning how to treat it. But that is a rant for another day.)

Why? I’m glad you asked. Not majoring in Bio*

1) will help you decide if medicine is really for you.

I know every 4th freshman in college has felt some burning, innate desire to become a doctor and save the world. They played with stethoscopes as toddlers, volunteered at the local children’s hospital during high school, and have told every teacher, relative, and college admissions officer that they’re going to become a whatever-ologist because they really want to help people. Yet despite that medical love-fest, most people have no clue what being a doctor really means. They’ve settled on the ideal of making a difference and saving lives, but haven’t necessarily explored alternative career paths or taken the time to really understand what a physician does on a day-to-day basis.

In high school, everyone takes more or less the same classes and meets roughly the same requirements. College is the best chance to learn new stuff and explore new opportunities. Why pigeon-hole yourself if you don’t have to? The path to physician-hood is a ridiculously long process that requires a lot of personal and financial sacrifice. Pre-meds too often do a disservice to themselves by not exploring other options. So delve into a new subject, not just on a superficial level or even to get that minor you think med schools will care about, but all the way into upper-division classes that really show what the field has to offer. At the same time, do all the shadowing/pre-med club stuff too. The point is to see what’s out there and what you like the best, rather than mindlessly following the rest of the sheep without a second thought.

Finally, what if you major in Bio* and decide medicine is not for you. That's better than entering med school and hating it, but you're still looking at an uphill battle. Unfortunately, a successful career in research is going to demand a hell of a lot more than your BS, and non-science employers won't be that impressed that you know about cells. Again, if you just love the natural sciences and want to pursue the next step in education, this isn't a problem, but if you're banking on med school and it doesn't pan out, things don't look as bright.

2) will teach you something new and valuable.

Ok, so you KNOW you want to become a doctor. There’s no point in even exploring another field, the ingrained instinct to save the children is that strong. If for some unknown reason you couldn’t get that coveted MD, you’d be so distraught that you’d forsake the professional world, tie up a hobo sack, and ride the rails. Well, that’s awesome, congrats on the choice. Now go find something besides bio to learn about for four years.

Contrary to popular belief, biology, chemistry, biochemistry, etc. do not equal Medicine in College. Sure, your O-chem prof might spice up his lectures by talking about the structure of taxol or have you make god-awfully impure aspirin in the lab, but you don’t get to play doctor until MS-1. And once you reach med school, you’ll have two intense years of science and a whole lifetime of literature to satisfy your urges for knowledge. Why not take the chance to put another shot in your bag while you have the time? Major in English and learn about rhetoric. There will be exactly one gazillion times in your life where being a good, persuasive writer will help you. Major in Economics, Finance, Accounting, etc., so you’ll be better able to invest in the future, understand financial markets, and read The Wall Street Journal while holding your glasses loosely with one hand so that the tip of one earpiece is touching the edge of your mouth (then bust out terms like ‘basis point’ and ‘expansionary’ and watch all hell break loose). All of eternity awaits for that medicine-only focus. Learn something cool that you can use later on and you’ll never regret missing that extra bio class on the mechanisms of something the cell does that no one cares about.

3) will HELP your chances of getting in to med school.

Even though I don’t advocate going the non-bio route purely as a way to game the system, I still find it exceedingly obvious that being a non-science major is an effective way to stand out from the crowd.

Sad though it may be, your 3.9/35 (or whatever strong combination you offer) from Look How Awesome I Am University doesn’t impress anyone on any admissions committee at any med school. They’ve seen you and a million more just like you come down the application pipeline over the years. Sure, there are amazing kids every so often that probably get in by virtue of their academic accomplishments alone, but that isn’t a feasible option for the average student. A History major, however, is relatively unique. Assuming you’ve done well in your science courses, the fact that you would bolster the intellectual diversity of an incoming class can only help. People reading your file are probably thinking “Wow, this kid did something cool and unique that will add to our student body,” not “Uh-oh, not enough science, he/she won’t cut it.” And in your interview, you’ll have the rare ability to talk about something you know more about than the interviewer. Who is Prof. Blah going to remember better, the mechanical engineer who worked on the solar car team or that other kid who did that one experiment with those flies?

4) will NOT hurt you once you reach the Promised Land.

“OK, David,” you say. “Sure, I can learn cool non-medical stuff and maybe even get a boost in the application process, but what about once I get accepted? It’s going to be all science, all the time, and my crappy Math degree is going to come back to bite me in the ass.”

Not so! There’s a reason med schools demand all those prerequisite courses in bio, chem, and physics. Those classes test your ability to work hard, internalize large amounts of information, and apply all the concepts you’ve memorized in new, unfamiliar situations. They also give you the necessary knowledge base to succeed in med school. Med schools aren’t in the business of accepting people who lack the requisite scientific background to keep up in class. Assuming you did well in your pre-reqs and got a good MCAT score, you definitely won’t be behind. If you can’t already tell, I was a non-science major in college, and I guarantee a PhD in biochem would not have had an appreciable influence on my experience in biochemistry so far as a med student.


So, there you go, several reasons not to major in Biology*. Take ‘em or leave ‘em. Hopefully the former, since I knew from my earliest moments that all I wanted to do is help people…

*This extends to Bio, Biochem, and any hybrid pre-health major that pre-meds gravitate toward just because they think it’s relevant or helps their application

Saturday, March 1, 2008

David discusses the neurosurgery interest group

All medical schools have a wealth of student interest groups in a variety of medical specialties such as psychiatry, OB-GYN, IM, family med, surgery, etc. These groups can be extremely helpful; they provide students with information about the specialty, the associated lifestyle, potential practical workshops, networking opportunities, and some useful guidance about how to strengthen a residency application for that field. Still, I find it a bit curious that our school has a neurosurgery interest group.

As many people know, neurosurgery is not one of those fields someone just wakes up and decides to enter. It is one of, if not the most competitive specialties, and demands a kick-ass application with top board scores, clinical evaluations, recommendations, and probably some strong research too. Those qualifications – and I know it is nearly forbidden to say people can’t do something if they really, really, really try – are realistically beyond the average, above-average, and maybe even the near-excellent student. If I devoted my life to becoming a neurosurgeon, there’s a ridiculously strong chance I just wouldn’t cut it no matter how much I wanted it. Out of the 20,000 or so med school grads that match each year, only ~150 are able to do so in neurosurgery. That’s more or less one spot per med school in the entire country, meaning one has to be, on average, the top pre-NSG student in one's school to snag a spot. Even Best Medical School has a snowball’s chance in hell of sending more than a couple in a given year. So while learning about future career options is extremely valuable, and no one should ever be discouraged from dreams/ambitions, all of this seems similar to having a Fortune 500 CEO interest group in B-school or NFL player interest group in a DIII football program.

OK, enough musing. I’m running late for my plastics interest group meeting…