11: The Gift of Sharing Positivity after an Acceptance

Session 11

When being a premed is a struggle and there are times you don’t think you are going to make it, remember you can do it. Humor and hustle will get us by.

[01:15] Caller of the Week:

“Just a little foreword to this rant because being a premed sucks and lot of it sucks and it’s hard and it’s so lonely. I just want to express some sincere gratitude to both Drs. Gray for all the efforts in making this whole premed experience a little bit more bearable – humble, grateful, excited that this might just spread a little bit of positivity.

Initial Interest in Biomedical Engineering

When I went to college, I wanted to be a biomedical engineer. I didn’t really know what they did but it was probably cool, right? Prosthetics or drugs or whatever nanotubes… I was 17, I just thought I could be part of that. I could graduate in four years, get a job, maybe a Master’s but probably not. No big deal – but not medicine.

I didn’t have anyone in my family in science or medicine but I saw their type. They always talk about grades, how easy everything was. They always documented how many hours they were in the library or Instagram and I wasn’t about that “gunner” stuff. Anyway, I dropped out of engineering after about two weeks. It turned out I’m not good at math and I don’t like it at all. Not my thing.

Thinking Through What to Take

But going into the whole chemistry, PhD, the big pharma was a good second bet. Sure it was a bit more school but at least PhD programs in my area, they were funded. I didn’t have to worry about loans. I don’t really have financial support from my folks. Nothing against them but it’s just not my scenario. It was kind of big topic in me choosing these things. But orgo was my favorite class, biochemistry was a close second. I even tolerated PChem pretty well. It was still math but it was about something. It wasn’t just numbers on a page and I like that. So I did the thing people do. I got a lab tech job that would help me pay rent. My PI was making these peptide drugs that would convince to cure cancer or Alzheimer’s or dengue fever or whatever. I did more blocks and more PCRs than I could count…

“I was part of the team… but the whole time, I had this feeling that something was missing here.”

I was just grateful to be there. I was part of the team… but the whole time, I had this feeling that something was missing here. It wasn’t cutthroat. But the part of the work that I enjoyed the most was this prospect of making a therapy that could save someone. But I got sad, maybe it was selfish, knowing that I’d never meet this person. I would just be at the vent where I couldn’t take their hand or high five their kids…but that was the road I was convinced that I was supposed to go on – get a job, settle down, have family, have my 2.5 kids in a white picket fence – the American Dream.

Going Labless and Jobless

Fast-forward to the week before my Junior year began, I keep doing the chemistry lab nerds thing and then I got an email from my PI that essentially says someone who worked before you came back from being abroad. She started this project so we got to let you go. Now, I’m labless, I’m jobless, I’m pissed off. How am I going to pay rent?

I go on a run. I come home. I sing all my feelings out in the shower. And I emailed many chemistry professors as possible to add to my CV and get a job and get into a good grad school. But little did I know that I was going to be premed buddy that day.

From Jobless to Having a Job on the Same Day!

That afternoon, I got a call from my dad about my mom… I visited them. It wasn’t anything serious, probably heartburn. But she’s okay. The doc and ED was the second nonprimary care doctor I’ve ever met. The first was a cardiothoracic surgeon who gave my dad a bypass. But I’ve never seen a doctor like him before. He was chatting with families between rooms. He was high fiving patients in the hall. I think he’s a total rockstar in the midst of all this chaos. I just remember thinking it was pretty different from what I thought those kids tearing textbook pages so other people couldn’t have it. It was pretty different from that image in my hear that I thought they were like.

Then there’s this guy with a computer following the doctor around. So I asked him and the doctor said to me it was his scribe who writes his notes so he can spend his time seeing patients, what he was trained to do, instead of sitting behind the computer. For him, it was like paid shadowing and he’s going to medical school next year.

Me, not really caring about medical school or not, I just thought this was a job and since I was jobless six hours ago, I asked if they needed more scribes. So I got a job but I really didn’t know much about shadowing but looks like I could get paid and I could learn at the same time…ultimately, it was a pretty good ending to my otherwise pretty rough day.

An Interest in Premed

At that point, I totally caught this medicine bug that all my premed friends couldn’t shut up about. This was the stuff that I was missing from lab… at the end of the day, I could see an immediate positive impact that these doctors have with others and I was inspired by that.

Caring someone of an ailment is super dope, but at the very least, the physician can empathize, they can educate these people. To me, it  was this perfect marriage of continued education and expertise and just being a human being and I like that.

So I kept scribing and I ended up in my premed office… but I still didn’t have my MCAT or done some shadowing or volunteering. But I told her I’ve been a scribe for two weeks. In retrospect, I wasn’t prepared and I wasn’t expecting someone to tell me I’d get into an Ivy League school. I just wanted some direction. I didn’t have any family who had done this before.

“I didn’t really have a template to go forward but I didn’t get any encouragement or direction from this lady. She just said pretty quickly, ‘you’re not going to get in.'”

“You’re not that bright,” she said. “Physicians are good in biology and you’re not. I recommend sales or finance.” She then went off-tangent… and then she forgot who I was and just moved on to the next person.

Finding His Own Encouragement and Getting into Medical School

I guess I just had to find my own encouragement. So like I did when I lost my lab job, I went on a run. And some of my friends were talking about podcasting and that’s how I stumbled upon this, the Medical School HQ Podcast. And it’s just very nice to have that weekly dose of positivity, hearing these stories of a 40 something single parent of four who went against all odds and got into medical school. And I thought that at least one person who had a story at least somewhat similar to mine, let alone all these people who had so many more challenges that I had.

“If one person was able to do it, then there’s no reason that I couldn’t as well.”

So I joined that pretty cutthroat premed crowd but I still had this mantra of collaboration, not competition. That was still the goal. I kept scribing my junior and senior year. I joined a master’s program. I moved to Manhattan. I did some quality work. I joined a second lab, I hated it, I left after six months. I got married. I joined the third lab. I love the third lab. There now, published a couple of things, you shake a couple hands, you shadow a bit, volunteer for a bit… and got into an MD school last week.

The first thing that went through my mind other than sobbing to my wife, been calling everyone who had picked up in the middle of the day during the week, was just to stick it to that random one advisor that I had met five years ago. And I just wanted to tell her that if I get 25 rejections today doesn’t matter. I got in and you were wrong. But I didn’t do that. Instead, I wanted to spread the thing that got me this far in the first place, spreading a little bit of positivity in the light of “oh, look at this small amount of adversity that I’ve come around and look who came from it.” Instead of sticking it to the advisor.

I know Dr. Gray has been digesting a lot of Gary Vee, he’s this entrepreneur. Something he always says is “happiness is the ROI, the return on investment of life.” And this constant negativity from this three-letter forum that shall not be named or these classmates who are stealing textbooks, just the cutthroat nature of this field makes this process so challenging but it doesn’t have to be that way. So I hope I can just spread a little encouragement to you all who maybe just got a D on a test or your peer just called it super easy and they didn’t study for it and they got an A. Or if you’re planning a wedding. That’s challenging. If you lost a family member, if you have a kid or three, or you’re taking your unplanned gap year, if you have to apply more than once, or if you just had some jaded premed advisor tell you that you should go and become a used car salesman. Keep hustling because it does improve gratitude. Be thankful for the opportunity you have and you all got this!

[14:45] Congratulations!

This caller has a very good sense of humor and it’s infectious. Congratulations on your admission to medical school! Who could blame you for wanting to stick it to your advisor. It’s just sad when you think about how somebody like you, if you had listened to that premed advisor and gone in finance. You could have regretted not pursuing this the whole rest of your life. And what a shame that would have been!

You obviously got a lot of hustle and hearing how you picked yourself off after having hurdles and things thrown against you and get right back onto the next thing. You have so much drive and ambition. Clearly, that is why you’re where you are now.

I love how you go for a run, how you sing in the shower… those are great coping strategies. You have an incredible story from losing your job, going for a run, singing in the shower, and this whole series of things happening with your mother in the emergency room, and six hours later, you had a new job which propelled you to end up going to medical school. That is an incredible story! It just goes to show that with that loss of a job, you could’ve just decided that maybe work and go into finance. Or you might have just completely changed course and decide to leave science.

[17:05] Collaboration, Not Competition

It’s also cool how you were inspired by that emergency room doc. Yes, not all premeds are that gunner type. It’s miserable to be around people who all they want to talk about is their grades, how many hours they were in the library, and making other people feel uncomfortable. It’s not who we are, it’s not who we want to be, it’s not who we should be. As you pointed out in your entry, Ryan who is the host of The Premed Years podcast always talks about collaboration, not competition. And that’s exactly what the premed community should be.

“Collaboration, not competition — and that’s exactly what the premed community should be.”

Unfortunately, not everybody is like that. But it’s great that you got the opportunity to be in the emergency room. Obviously, it wasn’t a good reason you were there because your mom was not feeling well. But the fact you got to see this ER doc high-fiving patients inspired you and made you realize that not all premed students are like that.

[19:00] Making a Difference as a Physician

It’s true. Once you get the medicine bug, you can’t get rid of it. It’s neat that you got that bug and just stuck with it.

It’s also amazing how you said about the way in which physicians can be there. Even if they can’t cure a person, they can always have a positive impact. I think that’s why many of us want to be physicians.

“You can make a positive impact even if, at the end of the day, you can’t cure anyone.”

As a neurologist, I am unable to cure a lot of people. But I feel very strongly that my job is not to cure people. That’s not why I became a doctor, but I became a doctor to make a difference. You can absolutely make a difference in whatever field of medicine you choose

[23:17] Spreading Some Positivity

Whether you’re having a terrible day or struggling through all sorts of things, we help one another by being there and supporting one another and by being grateful. It’s hard not to feel just the weight of the amount of negativity that can come from other people. So anytime there is some positivity, it’s wonderful that you spread it around.

“Grades don’t define an applicant by any means.”

Certainly, you don’t tell a person what their chances are getting into medical school. If any of you have had similar unfortunate experiences with an advisor, listen to our caller’s wise words and just keep on pushing, keep hustling, and don’t let that drag you down. Don’t let that make it impossible for you to see yourself as a physician and to keep on a path you’re fighting.

[26:15] Feedback on Episode 10

“I was actually going to call myself to make an entry about this because it’s been in my mind a lot. Keeping it short, I am a 31-year-old who is applying for medical school now. I’m married and not a day goes by without me thinking about it. And it’s nice to know that I’m not alone in this and I do agree that being a woman does carry a different perspective into what having kids in the next few years is going to be like. My husband is very supportive too but I know that some things will have to be done by me and not him. So I worry about that a lot and I did get a lot of comments when I decided to.

I’m a career changer too and I got a lot of comments and I started to share that I was going to apply for medical school from family just them worrying asking when we’re going to have kids if I’m going back to school now. I guess I just learned to listen to them and not take it to heart. What I realized, and I’ve been on the premed track for the last four years, I actually went back to doing another undergrad to get better marks that are more competitive.

And so for the last four years, I have just been thinking about this and working towards being a competitive applicant and what I realized is that I want to be a mom just as bad as I want to be a doctor. It just happened that they’re going to have to happen at the same time because of my age. I pretty much have the next ten years to do both. And so I just learned to accept that. What I did start to do, and I would have some suggestions for the caller. I just started to go try seeing other moms who were doctors. I just thought that seeing women who are doing this on a daily basis, using social media to that purpose, and so I started following a lot of doctor moms on Instagram. There is #mamasinmedicine on Instagram and you can find just amazing posts of women who are doing those. I just figured that if I see it enough, my brain would just get the message that it’s possible.

“Everybody has a different journey that they figured it out in the end.”

There’s also another blog called Mothers in Medicine. The blog features a lot of women who are in different stages of medicine where they all share their journey. There’s also YouTuber called Jenny Le and she is a mother of a two-year-old now and she was applying for residency when she was pregnant.

This has just been my coping medicine of soaking these energies in and reading about how they make it happen so that I am ready to just be confident in myself and my husband and I’s capacity to make it work and just going for it.

It’s really nice to know that I’m not alone in this and to hear the caller just telling her story is so much of what goes through my head everyday. So know that you’re not alone either. If she feels like that it is something she wants badly as she wants to be a mom, just go for it as I’m going for it. I try to also think of that picture and think of 20 years from now when this is all over and our kids are teenagers and we’re doctors and we’re going to look back and just see that we’re proud of ourselves then our kids will be so proud of us. And we’ll set as an example. I don’t want to a job that I’m not excited about. I realized that’s not what I want that’s why I’m going into medicine and to make a difference in people’s lives. I feel that’show my life is going to have meaning. So I’m going for it and I hope that she does too.”

“20 years from now, I’m going to thank me for making this decision and it’s all I can hope for. As I said, I want to be a mom as badly as I want to be a doctor.”

[36:05] Be a Part of this Community!

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PMD 10: The Worry of Being an Older Premed Who Wants Kids

The Premed Years Podcast

MedEd Media Network

Follow #mamasinmedicine on Instagram

Mothers in Medicine

Jenny Le’s YouTube channel

10: The Worry of Being an Older Premed Who Wants Kids

Session 10

Today, our premed student is changing her career because she wants to change the scope of her practice. But she’s conflicted because she’s struggling with things concerning her age and wanting to have kids. Is it possible to have kids during medical school?

[01:20] Caller of the Week:

“Ever since I dove into this premed journey and stumbled upon all of the different things that are offered by Ryan Gray like the Premed Diaries and all premed podcasts. Both Dr. Ryan Gray and Dr. Allison Gray have just been… felt really supported by this online community and all the information that’s out there. Anyway, the journey about myself that I wanted to share and the questions that I have for Allison and anybody else who’s in a similar situation. It’s related to just the challenge about my age…

I’m 29 and had kind of a different journey. I was a traditional student with a degree in Biology. I graduated at 22. And I’ve always been tempted to go to med school. I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. But I felt like when I was in my early 30s, I just lacked a lot of confidence. I never even took the MCAT despite doing most of the prereqs because I never really felt like I could do it. And I think I never really wanted to put myself out there to find out. So instead, I actually completed a second undergrad – dietitian. I’ve been working clinically in a care setting as a dietitian for almost five years now. And I absolutely love my job. I work with a really unique population… the people I work with is a tribal population in a really remote part of the United States. I work in a hospital and over the past five years, I feel like I’ve grown so much life experience and so much confidence. I work with great health care institutions that always supported me and told me really I could do anything… I have been able to grow my role out of the hospital into our outpatient oncology palliative care clinic.

Through this process, I’ve felt myself as feeling really confined by my scope of practice as a dietitian. I’m so interested and curious about medicine and about the unique cancers that my patients are struggling with and just find myself wanting to learn more and to know more. And to be able to go beyond nutrition to help my patient… I’m completing – the last prereqs that I needed was Physics class… so I’m just taking that last class and I’m scheduled to take the MCAT in March of this year and apply to medical schools in June.

Really, the reason that I’m feeling conflicted and scared and worried is because I’m 29 years old. I’m about to commit to another goal beyond four years at school and the time you consider medical school and the residency. And I want to have kids. I’ve grown up in this great environment both growing up and worked where being a woman has never been the reason not to do anything at all. And I think this might be one of the first times that I’ve ever felt this burden of being a female… I don’t want to take anything away from men who are doctors or medical students who have a huge burden on their shoulders with supporting family or a wife who’s considering pregnancy. But it just comes along with a whole extra complexity when you’re the one who will be going to medical school.

When I told my mom who’s a physician and was actually the first female medical director of one of our local hospitals that I wanted to go to medical school and be a doctor, she said, that’s great. And her second comment was, so you’ve decided to forgo having kids then, which stressed totally threw me… Luckily I’ve worked with a lot of really supportive physicians and the people that I have chosen to share my plans with have told me – you can do it. It’s possible. Everybody has stories about somebody they knew who had kids in medical school but I’m just so worried about it… get through medical school, get through a residency and be 36, 37 at best and I could find myself unable to get pregnant. And I’m worried about in the future, regret that I’ll have. I have this career that I love that has a lot of promise as a dietitian… but I just know that I would love being a doctor and then I could do so much good of this population and provide so much continuity of care in our region and for all of our rural patients.

I feel really torn given my age, I’m turning 30 next month. The other important thing to mention, the other part of this equation is my very supportive husband… really only been seriously deciding to take the plunge into applying to medical school since about August of this year. And when he brought it up, he supported me 100%. We’ve talked a lot about the question of kids because we both want kids – when do we have, when do we try, when is the best time, when should you have kids in medical school, should we wait… what’s going to happen if we wait a few years until so I would be in medical school or even wait until I graduated from my residency to try or if he’s going to hold it against me if I can’t get pregnant. He said he won’t but I just can’t help but have that worry…”

[09:55] Being a Mom and a Woman

“As a mom, there’s no greater gift than be able to have children and be a mom.”

I love what I do as a physician, but I think it’s in our biology in terms of our desire to be parents. Although not everyone feels this way, but for many of us, it’s a very powerful, important thing we want to do.

It’s definitely different as a woman vs a man. There are certain additional complexities that we have as women going through medical school, residency, and trying to juggle getting pregnant and all of the things that go along with that, plus having children. When you’re parenting, just the mere pregnancy itself is unique to women.

[11:20] Working as a Dietitian and Getting Family Support

You talked about regret and do you think you would regret staying in what you’re doing now forever? Otherwise, you would always potentially wonder and would have what ifs. This being said, I wonder if you’d regret not applying.

Additionally, it’s wonderful that your husband supports you. It’s so important to have that support from day one.

It would also be fantastic to be able to bring your skills as a physician back to the same population you’re caring for. Being able to do more sounds really fantastic.

[12:35] How to Do It All

“Nobody really has their act together.”

As a child, teenager, and young adult, you’d think you can handle xyz when you’re at this certain age. But then you realize that nobody really has their stuff together. And we’re all just coursing through. So adding children, which is a huge part of that equation, is that there’s never necessarily a right time. In fact, I don’t think there’s ever a right time, so to speak. There will be times it will be more challenging in which to have children. If you have a kid and starting third year of medical school, that is a challenging time. If you’re starting your internship and you’re about to have a kid, then you’d have to postpone your start date. Definitely, there are more challenging times on the path of medical school and residency, at which time having children would be harder. But as to whether there’s a perfect time, probably not.

[13:50] You Can Have Both: Kids and Medical School

It’s clear how much you want to have children and I would very disrespectfully disagree with your mom. I think you can have both. There are several people in their group who had kids in medical school.

And the rest of us who did not have children yet would look at them wondering how they’re able to do that. But they would usually figure out different ways of getting things done.

It’s not the same when you have children. You have to heavily prioritize what you’re doing and really make things consistent and be very clear about what’s happening when. So their ability to succeed in medical school just rested on the fact they had to make that work for their kids. They had to find those times when they could study. They have to find the time so they can be there for their kids.

Is it possible to do it? Absolutely. It’s just a question of making it work and figuring out who’s going to do what – bath time, bedtime, study time, etc. And if one of you is in medical school instead of both of you, it’s probably much easier than if you’re both in school and trying to have kids.

[15:57] The Pieces to the Puzzle

First, this is very much something people do. It’s just a question of figuring out how. If you can get through medical school. It’s just a matter of making all the pieces altogether. Parenting is a lot of just feeling your way through life and knowing that your priority is your kid.

Perfection and raising children, they do not go together… Perfection is something we strive for but certainly something that is not a reality.

[17:20] Going to Med School at 30

Being 29 or 30 is different than starting med school when you’re 20 or 22. However, I have kids and colleagues who had kids when they were 20. But you never know. Nobody can tell you what your fertility journey is going to look like until you’re at that point. You might go and have one kid when you’re 36.

[18:40] Figure It Out with Your Husband

When does it feel right for you to have kids? If having children sooner is something you really want to do, then do that sooner. Moreover, it is such a personal journal and a personal question for everybody. For me, I felt too stressed out about just the process of being a med student. I felt like I needed to grow some more.

I was also too worried that if I had kids during residency that the stress would just be out of control. The kind of residency program I had trained was incredibly rigorous. And that was what scared me into not feeling I could.

But that’s just me. I know there are others who did really both. I remember one of our junior residents had a baby during the most challenging part of our residency. We were on call every fourth night for the entire year. And she had a baby!

Any of these things are possible. It’s just a question of how do you feel? If you’re really in it and your husband, then it’s really just a matter of when you both feel this is what you want to do and you will figure the rest out. If you wait just for the sake of it, it may not be the right time. So it’s more a question of looking at how you feel and where you’re going to medical school.

Another thing to consider is to think about the support you have nearby. One of the things that help families going through medical school or residency is having support from an extended family nearby. No matter what stage you’re at, it’s huge to have that kind of support.

[22:25] Final Thoughts

I hear you. I appreciate the decision you’re faced with as well as the concern and worry you have. Keep in mind that you have a very supportive husband and a very bright future in front of you as you’ve done very well so far. You know what you want. So it’s just a matter of making it work. At the end of the day, push forward. Apply to medical school. Don’t live with regret and see where it goes. Hopefully, you’re able to get additional family support in that area. Otherwise, you’re going to make that work too.

In terms of fertility concern, when you feel you’re ready to become a mom then make that happen too. You may find it’s really hard to juggle, but you will make it work! The journey that you will take as a med student, as a resident – you’ll have stressors throughout that period. But you will make it work.

“Just go with your gut. Use your resources, the people around you and just keep your head up and you will get through it.”


MedEd Media Network

9: The Frustration of Balance as a Nontraditional Premed

Session 09

Today, we’re hearing from a premed who’s struggling with balancing time management and finances. It is hard to be a premed, but it is even more difficult when you have a full-time job a family to support, and your classes are not offered at convenient times.

[01:14] Caller of the Week

“I’m a little frustrated with the whole college experience. I am an older premed student. I’m 28 years old. I have a family. I’m getting married. I spent a lot of time at the community college, not really knowing what I wanted to do and thinking I was never smart enough to be a doctor even though I always wanted to. I never had the grades in high school. I was an average student. But then I started taking the courses at my community college. I started doing really well. I was getting 4.0’s in the sciences and the math. I was doing really well. So I’m like, why not give the premed life a shot?

And I did really well. I busted my butt to get out of this community college and transfer to a local four year and I picked this particular school because I thought that it would be more adult friendly. At a community college, it’s right next door to another community college that they accept a lot of transfer students from. I think 60-65% of their students are transfer students and adults, older students. So I thought it would be a more working and adult friendly, more friendly towards students and families. But I’m finding more and more that that’s not the case and I’m getting really, really frustrated with having to take these courses and take time off of work to do them. All of the sciences are early morning classes, three, four days a week and I just can’t take that time off of work and be able to support my family.

So I’m really struggling with the time management and the finances. I don’t have a way to keep going to school and work to support myself and my daughter. I’m really at a loss here. What to do? I don’t know if I should go back to the community college and take the courses there and they’ll take courses that the university and at least try to show to med schools that I’m not taking these courses at a community college because they’re “easier.” I’m taking them because I don’t have a choice. I’m doing what I have to do. I don’t know if it’s worth the risk to do that. And it may be a red flag on my application even if I keep doing relatively well. Or on the other hand, is it worth quitting my job and putting that full load on my wife to pick up the slack and make her breadwinner and I’ll be bringing home nothing. I really don’t know what to do – get a part-time job, working at a hospital or something. But even then, I don’t know if that’s enough to make ends meet. The cost of living is pretty high where I live. So I’m not really sure at all what to do. If anyone has any experience with this kind of thing or making this kind of decisions. Or if any of the Doctors Gray have an input, it would be great to hear from you. Thank you very much.”

[04:35] A Tough Decision and Every Situation is Unique

Anybody in your shoes would feel that way. It’s a tough decision what you’re facing. It sounds like you did great at a community college and then transferring to a four-year university because a lot of people say med schools won’t look fondly on community college courses. Now, it’s hard because it’s not working with your schedule and it sounds like you’re doing so much working a 50-hour week, providing for your daughter, and taking classes full-time on the premed track. That’s a lot!

“In general, in this life, do what works.”

Every situation is unique. Some medical schools may look more negatively upon a student who has just community course credit. However, it’s a statement that doesn’t take anything else into account. While you are dealing with a very complex situation. You are caring for your daughter and working more than full-time to provide for her while also working as a premed. So your situation is different than anyone else’s because it’s a unique situation. Hence, it’s not fair to anyone saying that community classes are not that hard.

[07:08] Back to Community College

If you have the opportunity in your medical school application to talk about how you were trying to do what works to provide for your family and to also be successful on the premed track, I think many admissions officers would understand that decision. They would understand the decision if you went back to a community college. If

I were in your shoes, I would probably go back to the community college and take more of your courses there because you want to do what’s going to work for you. If it doesn’t work for your family and it doesn’t work for your schedule and for you to be able to make ends meet and to be taking these early morning classes at the university and there aren’t a lot of other options out there, then do what works.

Are there other four year schools that offer classes at other times? But that would mean transferring which is a huge deal. Realistically speaking, if you looked at all the options and you’re at this school where the only offer classes in the morning, it’s hard to argue that you should stay there. To be able to provide for your family and also be able to do the work you do, it makes a lot of sense to take a lot of those classes at a community college.

[09:09] Splitting Your Classes

One option is maybe there’s a class that you can take at a university instead of taking all of them at a community college. But at the end of the day, you want to do what works because you don’t want to be so stressed out, burned out, and miserable in this process. That alone will make it harder for you as an applicant and it will be harder not to burn out.

“Having to work and go to school at the same time, in and of itself, nevermind having a family, is really, really challenging.”

[10:27] It’s Not Just About Grades, It’s About You

And just because you’re going to a community college doesn’t mean you’ll be receiving letters of rejections from medical schools. You will have an opportunity to talk about why you took a lot of your classes in community college. You have been successful and getting fantastic grades in your classes and that is huge. Ultimately, don’t forget that your application will be unique. It’s not just about your grades and the name of the school you went to. It’s you! And you will have the opportunity to shoe the best version of yourself and explain why you made the choices you did.

“Being able to provide for your family is a very basic thing.”

Remember that you will have the opportunity to talk about why you made the choices you did and go back to those community classes and do well. Again, if you do, keep one class at the university if possible. But if you can’t then that’s fine too.

[12:50] Talking About Finances

There are always options and financial advisors in medical schools can provide you help. A lot of you are struggling, especially nontrads, when it comes to finances. And the price tag on medical school can really be daunting. There are loans and many of us have them. There are other types of things you can do as well. You can sign up for rural-based scholarships or programs that have you work for a certain place for a while and in exchange, you won’t have to pay as high a fee. There are a lot of options out there.

Many premeds don’t consider looking at the cost of living as a medical student. And that will change from where you are now unless you’re planning to apply to schools around where you now live.

[14:25] Go with Your Gut

None of these decisions are easy and you have to go with your gut. It sounds like you’re leaning forward to going back to that community college so don’t beat yourself up. You’re a caring individual and trying to make things work. So have faith in yourself as you’ve gone this far already. Your daughter will look up to you so much for having made a success of this and going through this process. Sometimes, it can feel you don’t have a lifeline but you’re strong and resilient. Again, go with your gut. If you think you have to take some of those classes elsewhere then just do it.

“Admissions officers are not just going to completely discount you if your classes are all at a community college.”

[16:00] Listen to The Premed Years Podcast

In Ryan’s podcast, he talks all the time about how we, as premeds, are not a number. You’re not a grade. You’re not an MCAT score. You’re everything put together and everybody’s story is unique. He has a lot of insights in his podcast to share so please take a listen to it.

[17:30] Leave Us a Message

I would love to hear from you every week! Whether you’re having your high moments as well as your low times, if you just want to vent about anything, we’re here to listen to you. Call 1-833-MYDIARY and hit 1 to leave a message for Premed Diaries. You can leave a diary entry up to 30 minutes. Press 5 if you want to leave some feedback to any of our diary entries.


The Premed Years Podcast

8: The Waiting Game Of the Application Cycle

Session 08

Today, we hear from a premed who is struggling with the waiting period after submitting her app, feeling like the waiting itself is like a daily rejection.

[01:16] Caller of the Week:

“I have always wanted to be a physician and dedicated especially these last few years to making myself the best person and the best applicant that I could be. So when it was time to actually submit an application and get to show admissions committees who I am and why I want to do this, I was really excited.

I submitted my application really early and after that, you get all the waves or one big wave of secondary applications… after all of that is done, for the first time in this whole premed journey – silence.

Before all of this, you get to work really hard on your grades and then you work really hard on your MCAT, your extracurriculars, your volunteering, your clinical experiences – and all these things. Sure, you continue some of those after your applications are in. But it is completely out of your hands. And that has been really hard for me. I was expecting a little bit of relief but honestly, I have been just so anxious. I ended up getting one interview invite in August which was awesome. And I’m very fortunate to have that. But since then, I have had just complete silence and one rejection yesterday from a school that I really wanted to go to.

I just wanted to share that even if you feel like you put your all into this, there’s still a process. And it’s really hard to wait and to feel like it’s a personal rejection when you either get rejected or have to wait another day, check your email, and still hear nothing. It’s just been really hard and I thought that other people might be feeling the same way. Not everyone is the people on Facebook or anywhere on the internet that has 7 interviews and 2 acceptances already, and deciding what school to go to. I’m so happy for those people but some of us are still in this waiting game. And it’s certainly not over yet. It is only October but that doesn’t necessarily lessen the anxiety that comes with the day to day drag of hoping to hear back.

I really just wanted to share that in a community of people who probably understand the struggle and have been through it or are going through it right now. I tell my parents, family, and friends and my significant other. And they’re all awesome and so supportive. Say how confident they are that I will get in or it’s not the end of the world. There’s always next year – which is all true and all very encouraging. But it just feels like no one quite understands that day to day pressure.

I really wanted to call and be vulnerable about that and let people know that there are lots of us who are still waiting and there’s lots of time still. But thank you guys for making this podcast and giving a place for premeds to come together and share in a lot of the struggles…”

[05:45] A Place to Be Vulnerable

It’s a gift to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. What a compassionate and a giving person you are.

Struggling with the application cycle waiting period is so understandable. It’s such a hard process with so many steps in it. As a premed student you’re very used to putting your all into something and working hard. You have a lot of control to a certain extent in those challenges to be able to do the very best you can in each of those.

However, once you submit your application, there’s nothing more you can do. You have zero control. Once your application has been submitted, the only other time you can make a point of how great you are and sell yourself is during the interview. So also, make sure you prepare yourself well for that.

“You’re going from a situation where you have a lot of control and you’re putting so much hard work into something and then you have zero control.”

[08:28] Be Positive!

Whatever you can do to keep yourself focused and having a positive mindset that you will get in will help you. Being anxious is normal but to allow it to grow too much can quickly become consuming. It can become negative and it can drag you down.

[09:08] Understanding Your Journey and Getting Through Anxiety

Having the support of family and friends is indeed crucial. But it’s true that it’s hard for other people to understand your world or your journey. It’s a very unique path and it’s one that is hard for other people outside of it to really fully understand.

They’re right that if it doesn’t work out this year then there’s next year. But that doesn’t take away the anguish of not getting in and how hard you’ve worked and how you might have to do it all over again.

Anxiety is something which can become consuming. Talk to people, exercise, or do something that is just about fun. Just doing something to take your mind off of things for a while and keep you happy is really important.

“There are moments throughout this path in which you have to wait and the anxiety can be crippling at times.”

When you feel anxious, take a look and reflect back on how much you’ve done and be proud of yourself. Be proud of what you’ve done! Taking the MCAT, volunteering, and getting through all the premed classes, and getting good shadowing experience are all huge milestones you’ve already done.

“When you’re feeling down, think back just on how far you’ve already come.”

[12:05] Should You Need to Apply Again

You’ve already taken the MCAT and done what you’ve done. So this won’t be a matter of doing it all over again. But it’s a matter of course-correcting and figuring out what you could do better the next time.

[12:50] Applying to Medical School vs. Residency

It’s actually so different when you’re applying to either. When applying to medical school, you’re just hoping and praying that one school will accept you. But applying to residency is so much different. You’ll enjoy it so much more. It’s like a “wine and dine” experience. And it’s more of a two-way street as they will try to get you interested in them as much as you’re getting them interested in you.

“The residency programs are as eager to get you interested in them as you are interested in having them be interested in you.”

[14:00] Don’t Give Up!

It’s still early and there’s still loads of time, Some acceptances even come through April. So hang in there. Keep talking to other people about this – your family and friends included. And don’t listen to those getting multiple acceptances. Who knows if it’s all true, anyway. There are other people in this community who share with your experience.

Getting a rejection is indeed heartbreaking. But we can be so focused on what we don’t have that we lost sight of other opportunities and other great possibilities out there. So just keep yourself focused. Hang in there!

[16:45] Share Your Thoughts and Feelings with Us!

Call 1-833-MYDIARY and press 5 if you want to leave feedback. If you want to leave a diary entry, press 1. Share with us where you’re at in this journey and tell us about your highs and lows!

7: The Challenges of Working With People Who Don’t Support You

Session 07

You’re excited to be inching towards your goal of getting into medical school, yet someone you work with is being negative. How do you handle that?

[01:17] Caller of the Day:

“I work in an emergency department… and recently, I’ve had a few of my coworkers come to me saying just how there have been complaints from one nurse in particular about me sharing my successes. And it’s not like I’m lagging. It’s always a nurse would ask.

So when my coworker came to me and told me how this one nurse, in particular, has been saying some really nasty things behind my back about my road to med school and just how I’m not going to make it and she’s tired of hearing about it. It kind of sucks because I’m sitting here and I don’t go out of my way to tell you these things. I thought you genuinely asked. It really hurt. And the crazy part is this is a person who is not even in my age group. This person is old enough to be my grandmother and I’m getting negativity from her. It’s even more concerning because as an African-American, there’s not a lot of us. And this person saying the negative comments about me is also African-American. Why are women are so quick to put each other down? And just coming to work has been so hard and training is stressful. Am I going to be met with these comments again? Am I going to be met with another individual who’s asking about school and do they really care?

Just trying to focus on getting through undergrad… I’m a nontraditional student. I graduated high school in 2010, however, I had to take some time off. I had to leave school, family issues, and get back in school. I’m married. I’m older. It’s not easy going to school full-time and then working full-time and having to be a full-time wife, and just trying to balance all these things… it’s this one person has nothing but negative things to say. I’m really not understanding.

But with that though when it’s just as crazy in the ED and patients keep coming on both sides. meaning the ambulance is bringing in the patients and then you have patients walking in through the front door, and our ER is not so big. So you can see everyone as quickly as a timely manner as they would like. I always get one patient that constantly be that one reminder that this is why I’m doing this. I am human. I have feelings.

For instance, we had a patient come in and they weren’t looking too good. Their breathing wasn’t normal. And EMS had told us how, due to his blood volume, they had to put in the IO to get the patient’s fluids. But that wasn’t working. The pressure was really low. Nothing was going right… By the end of that, the patient was talking. One of the nurses on the case was saying how she’s had a patient before and she didn’t even know that the patient could speak. That, though, was really, really good.

As someone who works in the ER, you’re going to have those days where you do have to see a patient die. Not saying the cases are easy but some cases are easier to deal with than others. But as someone who has been working in an emergency room for three years, there are some cases where I’ve never dealt with.

I’m so glad you guys are doing this and you have this podcast where we can just talk and vent and just get it all off our chest because it really sucks. It really shocked my husband. He’s like, “You’ve seen someone die in front of you? You say it so nonchalantly.” “I’m not trying to be callous or heartless but it’s just something that comes with the job.” And he said, “how many have you seen?” And I say, “Honestly, I don’t count because if I count, I’d have to think about it and if I have to think about it, it’s not something I want to focus on and then my day is ruined.”

But that side of medicine that we don’t think about is the aftereffect. What happens when everyone leaves the room? What happens when you really have a sick patient and what happens to the ones that you want to save but we can’t? How do you treat those? And on those days, I have moments when I’m just like if this was all I had to deal with everyday, would I still want to be a physician? And I love that I can honestly say yes. Because we’re trying to save them. Our hearts are pure in wanting the best care, wanting the best service for our patients.

It sucks that at times… by thoughts of other individuals who have their own feelings and their own thought on what your life should be or they just have something negative going on in their life…”

[10:10] Thanks for Sharing With Us!

Thank you for calling in! You were just so authentic in your description of your feelings about the highs and the lows of what you’re dealing with. It’s such a great thing to be able to do that.

[10:33] Being Around Negative People

It really stinks to be around people who are just negative. There really are people who just want to see us fail. And it’s even harder if you’re working with them and especially if it feels like it’s a personal attack. I wonder if this person is just jealous because she’s older than you. I wonder if she regrets that she didn’t pursue the path that you did. And because she’s jealous, she’s trying to tear you down.

As a woman and as a physician, I’ve seen people too where you’d expect other women to support you and lift you up. But there are definitely interesting relationships which can exist between physicians and med students and nurses. Many of us encounter this. We want to view our team as a team all working together. But I’ve had experiences where I’ve not gotten along well with other people on my team.

“There is sometimes bad blood between female nurses and female physicians or female medical students.”

Sometimes, nurses get frustrated by medical students that come in and think they know what’s going on. And the nurses have worked there for a very long time. Then the medical students come in and act like they’re the boss. That’s very frustrating for nurses.

This is even the case with female students who have become physicians. I’ve seen nurses and women physicians have strife between them. As women, we would all like to see each other succeed because we know it’s been a male-dominated environment for a long time and that’s changed. But there’s still a lot of feeling about how women are oppressed and there’s a huge gender pay gap which still exists.

Remember that there are going to be people always along the path of life, and the premed journey, and your medical journey who don’t want you to succeed. And not you personally, but just in general. There are going to be negative people out there.

“It’s so frustrating especially if you only have good intentions and you just want to help people.”

What you need to do probably is keep this kind of people at a distance. And if she asks questions just tell them you’d rather talk about work or just shift the conversation so that she won’t have anything in her basket to give you a hard time about.

[15:22] Don’t Let Negative People Get in the Way

You have so much to deal with on your plate, plus the stress you’re having in your environment. Keep her at a distance. Well, you have to work with her. But remember that she can’t have any power over you. She can’t change the outcome of your premed journey. She may make it hard for you. But you’re a very resilient person. You have way more to offer than she can so don’t let her get in your way and don’t let her ruin your day.

“When we have someone who’s so negative at work, it can really interfere with the actual work we’re trying to do because it makes us feel bad.”

Eventually, they will get bored and they will leave you alone. And the saddest thing at the end of the day is she’s going to live with herself and you don’t. She has to live with the negative person that she is.

[17:30] Celebrating the Wins

Write these stories down no matter how busy you are, even just two lines. Just to remind you in the future. And this might even come up in an interview someday for medical school. This might also be something that can give you inspiration for your personal statement. This is a great thing to read when you’re feeling crappy and you need an inspiration of why you’re doing this. This also includes studying for the MCAT when you’re overloaded with information and you’re bored with everything you’re studying. These types of experiences that you can recall can lift you up so much and keep you grounded. This will help keep you focused so that you don’t get sick of studying.

“Write down just a couple of lines these stories that really move you and that will stay with you.”

[19:40] Seeing People Die

It’s amazing how there’s no time allocated to really talk, process and digest these incredibly momentous things we see and we’re a part of. For instance, pronouncing someone was something I experienced and there wasn’t even anybody standing outside the door asking me how I feel. There are hospitals that do the huddle though, where people just talk about the experience and share their feelings. But in large part, I don’t think this is a standard thing.

“There is not a standardized way that has become mainstream that allows med students and health care teams to process these very challenging experiences.”

And it’s a big deal to watch another person die. However, sometimes, we don’t treat it that way because it is a part of the job. And we have to be able to move on. I don’t mean move on and forget but move on to the next person who needs our help. If we all didn’t have the capacity to pick ourselves up and move on to the next person who needed our help then it wouldn’t work. We would not be able to function.

Indeed, watching people die is momentous. But we also have to find a way to be able to pick ourselves up and move on to the next thing. And for people who don’t work in health care, this is even something they can’t imagine to watch someone die and just move on. It’s something you have to take on when you become a physician that you’re going to be able to digest and move on to the next thing because we have to.

“It’s so important to process this kind of stuff and we just have not figured out a way in the medical world to create a space or a place or time for people to just talk and process what they have seen and how it makes them feel.”

If you too are experiencing any of these, feel free to share it with us here on the podcast. Don’t just bury these things as this can be a disservice to yourself. Make sure you have a place to be able to process these very heavy situations. Practice this as a premed as this will definitely help you down the line.

[29:15] Keep Calling In!

Share your highs and lows with us by calling 1-833-MYDIARY. Press 1 to leave a diary entry and press 5 to give a feedback and let us know what episode you’re calling about.



6: The Transition From a Community College to a 4-year School

Session 06

What happens when you leave a comfortable school that fits you and feels like home, and transition to a large school where the premed culture is toxic?

Meanwhile, check all our other podcasts on MedEd Media Network for more premed resources!

[01:20] Caller of the Week:

“I am premed, who studied at a community college. English is my second language and being in community college felt like home. There was not many premeds, no competition, cutthroat, or any of struggles that we go through for going to big university like where I am right now. At community college, I then struggled with comparing myself with others. I have a couple of premed friends. We always work together, help each other, and it felt like home. Right now, I transferred to a university and it’s one of the biggest universities in the U.S. I started my first semester, this semester on campus. And it’s been a great self-transition. As a Junior premed, there were many students compared to my community college. One of the biggest struggles is studying with other premeds and hearing them discussing their scores on exams, who got A and did not study as much, or those students who ask questions at lecturers and like, “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” It’s been very tough. I know everyone struggles with different things but being surrounded by students who always get As, not really struggling, or at least, not showing that they’re struggling. I spend hours on studying and trying to understand what’s going on, especially as Englis is my second language. Sometimes, it’s just hard to memorize a bunch of stuff in English. And sometimes, they need double the time that regular students who have been here and English is their first language, being easier on them but not me. I guess, I’m just trying to not compare myself to others. But being in this environment, it’s much harder. Today, after my exams, I decided not to stick around and just go to my car. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, neither before or after the exam. I didn’t want to hear students saying I got an A’s, I did not study. Oh this test was easy or that I wasn’t ready.

I didn’t want to compare myself to them because I have my own struggles. I’m trying to overcome them. So I guess it’s the premed world. Many people just say yeah, it’s easy. But it’s not really easy, especially if you’re jumping from community college to a university. And it’s a totally different environment. Almost everyone in my class is a premed. I know some of my classmates are struggling like me, while others find it easy. I don’t know what else to do other than just walk away from those people or try to focus on me, my self-care, and trying to do my best. Because I know, probably the hours I’m spending learning this information, I’m actually learning for the long-term, not only for the test. And learning, from each struggle, something. Whether it’s like how to study for a test or I should not leave all this stuff for the night before the test, or just learning from those trials and improving myself, while other people are not really learning from their struggle. I guess that’s what’s going on today.”

“Thank you so much for providing this collaborative environment. I listened to the first episode and it helped me a lot because I always feel stressed out and many of my family and friends are not really understanding what’s going on, especially with the transition. It’s not as easy as people might think. People shouldn’t say that community college is much easier than a university. It’s not. I study at a community college as well but I didn’t really struggle with comparing myself to others. I struggled more on trying to understand and study the new material and new language and new environment.”

[07:17] Community College vs. Universities

Switching from a community college to a university is really a hard transition. And when you feel like you have a family and you’re comfortable and if you feel have friends and then you have to change to a big system where it feels scary and you don’t have that collaboration anymore. It’s really hard!

It’s nice to have that feeling of having a family in that community college as opposed to a cutthroat environment in large universities. Unfortunately, there’s still that likelihood of competition.

Don’t care about people talking about how much they’ve studied and them sharing their grades. That can be bothersome. It just makes other people feel bad. Maybe people like to sit around and share about their grades because it gives them some kind of feeling of boosting themselves up. But it’s a disservice to everyone. And who knows if people doing that are really honest. They might just be saying that, but the truth is they’re insecure and they want to make themselves better than other people. So they say things that are not even true.

“Sitting around and comparing your grades is just so not helpful. It makes everyone around just feel nervous and feel anxiety.”

In fact, we call these people “goners” because they tend to just talk about how easy it is and how great their scores are and the rest of us feel like we’re wanting. So do whatever you can to just put blinders on or headphones. Do what you need to. Going to your car after the exams is a great idea because it keeps you focused on your path.

[11:03] Don’t Compare Yourself with Others

It’s so easy to get scared and bogged down. It’s easy to compare yourself to other people. It’s so human. But at the end of the day, just focus on what you need to do and you will be your best guide in terms of what you need. Then you can course-correct along the way.

“Compare and compete with yourself. Don’t worry about other people.”

Everyone has a different way of learning. Because we learn information from different pieces and we have different tools, what works for one person could be completely different from what works for another individual. That’s why sharing your grades and how you studied would only breed competition and feelings of anxiety for everyone.

[12:52] Thriving in a Competitive Environment

It’s really challenging to be going from a nurturing environment to one that does not. In this case, try to look for 1-2 classmates who share in your philosophy, who want to collaborate and not compete. See if you can have a study group. You don’t have to necessarily study with them, but maybe just be able to sit across from one another. So each one is studying his or her own way and at their own pace, but just to have the company is great.

It can be lonely to study for hours and hours and hours by yourself and to feel that isolation. So if you can find a friend or someone else who is on the same page as you. But it doesn’t mean being with those talking about their scores and how they studied, as they’re more into comparing than collaborating.

[14:46] Community College is Hard!

Just tune all that stuff out with regard to people saying community college is easy. People will just make statements about anything and everything. It’s really, really hard to put blinders on all the time and just focus on what we need to do.

“As human beings and as premeds. It’s so hard to not get bogged down in other people’s judgments and statements. Just try to tune it out as much as you can.”

Go to your car or do something nice for yourself that works for you. Keep listening to this podcast as well. Please do call in. The more of you that call in, the more people out there will feel that they have support.

[16:25] Feedback on the First Caller

Our caller today gave feedback on our first caller and she mentioned how other people in your life aren’t just getting it. And so this is the avenue for all of you to be here for one another. And we are here to support you in whatever way possible.

“If you’re in the process, you really do get how very hard it is and how hard it is for other people outside the process to really understand at a deep level what you’re going through.”

Hopefully, this community continues to serve you in this way. We’re here to listen and support all of you!

Call in your successes and failures with us, whatever that might be. Just call 1-833-MYDIARY. Leave a message for premed diaries by pressing 1. You have up to 30 minutes and if the call drops, just call us back and let us know. And if you’d like to leave feedback on a previous episode, just press 5 and let us know which episode you’re calling in about.


MedEd Media Network

5: The Fear of Burnout Due to the Burden of So Many Patients

Session 05

In this episode, we hear from a premed who feels overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients needing help. She is working in the emergency department and feels overwhelmed by the number of sick patients coming to them who need care. How can you make sure you stay in the moment?

[01:15] Poster of the Week

“I’m a premed that works as a tech in the ER. I’m still learning so there’s a lot that I don’t know yet. I just got my first foley the other day and it was pretty exciting for me. Lately, I’ve been having a really hard time with the premed path though. Getting into the hospital and seeing the way staffing can be sometimes and seeing how many sick people have to be taken care of all the time. It just seems too momentous sometimes but there’s just so many patients of such a high acuity and it’s just hard. I can just see why everyone’s getting burned out. I just didn’t know if anybody had any advice for once you get there, what’s the ratios and things look like as a physician.”

[02:30] Being Overwhelmed by the Number of Sick Patients

First off, congratulations on getting your first foley catheter and that’s a big accomplishment. It takes a lot to get that done so that’s a big deal! On another note, it’s good you’re already noticing the reason burnout happens even at this stage.

Being overwhelmed by the number of sick patients needing care all the time never stops. It probably only differs in terms of where you’re practicing medicine. In an ER department, it’s a very busy place. There’s a lot going on and a lot of people need care all the time. But if you think about a primary care outpatient office or a urology office, this can feel completely different.

It also makes a big difference geography-wise. Being out in a rural community where there are a few people is a lot different from a very busy urban center. It’s going to vary in an academic center as well.

“There’s such a huge spectrum in the world of practicing medicine in terms of what the level of acuity is, how many patients are being seen, the kind of care being offered.”

If you find that you’re more attracted to really busy environments as a premed and med student, this is something to take notice of. You’d want to gravitate to things that would keep you happy as a physician. That’s part of how we avoid burnout.

But if you find that you don’t like the busyness and the craze of being in an environment with tons of patients all the time, which emergency departments might be, then this may shift your interest over time. You may want to practice in an environment that has a different dynamic in terms of the number of patients.

[05:12] There Will Always Be Patients

All this being said, there being so many sick patients needing care all the time is something you find anywhere you go. By nature, you will always need physicians on this planet to help take care of people when they get sick. Even with electronics and technology, or artificial intelligence, you will always need human beings.

I don’t think a computer could ever replace both a human mind in terms of its capacity for knowledge and being able to practice medicine. That said, there will always be patients and there will always be physicians to care for them and this in and of itself can be overwhelming.

“There will always be patients and there will always be a need for physicians to take care for them.”

Over time, during my internship, I would find that patients seem to always come back. Initially, I found this to be incredibly frustrating. You would try to work so hard to get someone all the things they needed. But we’re people and people get sick so they could always come back. So a mindset change was necessary over this whole thing. You have to recognize this is not the end. The goal is not to see them well and they’re never going to come back and they’re well for the rest of their lives. Because people are going to get sick again and they’re going to need help again. Obviously, they’re going to come back to the hospital that knows them. Once you’re able to shift this mentality, chances are this could lessen your burnout. It helps, plus the fact that you have continuity of care with them and their family.

“It’s just the nature of it. They’re going to come back over and over again but it doesn’t mean that you can’t make a difference each time that they come.”

[08:52] Medicine vs. Architecture

Medicine is so different from architecture. In architecture, your goal is to build a building and hopefully, it doesn’t keep breaking, otherwise, you’re probably not a very good one. However, in medicine, human beings are going to keep breaking. So we’re fighting against this constant push of disease and accidents and mother nature and trying to get people well and get them healed. It’s a very insurmountable barrier because you’ll never heal everyone. You’ll never fix everybody. You’ll never fix them forever. But you can get them better, at least for a day, a week, ten years, however long it may be.

“Buildings are going to stand tall. Human beings will continue to break down over and over again and need help.”

[10:13] Ratios

Thinking about the numbers can sometimes help you to not worry as much about what you’re going to be faced with. As an intern, I had 10 patients. But duty hours have changed since I was in training.

So I pulled out the University of Washington and looked at their residency program. And most, if not all, have admission caps, which means there are caps on the number of people that you can admit and the number of people that you can take care of. And this must be the standard since the ACGME – the governing body for residency programs –  makes things pretty much the same all across the board.

So the school doesn’t allow a first-year resident or intern to admit more than five new patients per admitting day. You can’t be assigned more than 8 patients in a 48-hour period. You can’t be responsible for the ongoing care of more than 10 patients. This hasn’t really changed much when I was still an intern, as well my husband, Ryan.

When you get to that stage as an intern and go to medical school and applied yourself during rotation and have done a sub-internship, you’ll be prepared to take that on. If you’re interested in learning more about ratios, go online to know what it looks like in the future. If you’re feeling burned out, overwhelmed, and scared about what’s in the future, it can help you to have some numbers and just to think about.

[13:05] The Inpatient Realm: Making a Priority List

If you think about inpatient care, there are lots of very sick patients. One of the things that help is focusing on prioritizing. This is something they will teach you when you go through internship. Your mentors and your program directors will teach you about this, as well as your junior and senior residents.

By prioritizing things, it helps you through your day. You’re able to figure out what you need to do for all these patients and where to start. You can’t do everything for all of them all at once. And all of them are going to have different needs.

“You literally make a priority list and knock them down one after another.”

When you’re in the thick of it, it can be really stressful. So having a system where you really learn to prioritize is what will guide you through that very overwhelming sea of very sick people you have to take care of.

I remember my program director saying he was always nervous if he didn’t see an intern carrying a list. So all of us would have lists of our patients and list of things we needed to do. And you will have that as well.

As an attending physician, it’s just me. So I have a list of patients who I’m consulting on. Again, as to who to see first is a matter of priority. I’m going to see the sickest patients first or rush out to see an acute case. Sometimes in residency, you’d have three acute strokes at one point and you would have to figure out who do you see first. But usually, there would be a team of people to help you.

[15:45] The Outpatient Realm: Thanks to EMRs!

In an outpatient setting, you’d have hundreds, even thousands of patients you’re taking care of. That’s a huge number of people you’re responsible for. Good thing, many electronic medical records (EMRs) are designed to help you, which have built-in tools to help you keep track of things. It could be a source of burnout itself, but having the HR sending you labs and results and messages enables a system in place that prioritizes things for you. And you can also create your own systems for them along with your staff.

Like anything in life, if you create systems for yourself, if you create priorities, that will help you so that it doesn’t feel like this overwhelming ocean of sickness and things you need to do that you can’t do all at once.

“As your responsibilities grow, your systems will grow with them.”

[18:00] The Star Thrower

Loren Eiseley wrote a story called The Star Thrower. And some quotes from that book can hopefully inspire you with regards to dealing with patients.

Once on ancient Earth, there was a human boy walking along a beach. There had just been a storm and starfish had been scattered along with sand. The boy knew the fish would die so he began to fling the fish to the sea. But every time he threw a starfish, another would wash ashore.

An old earth man happened along and saw what the child was doing. He called out, “Boy, what are you doing?” “Saving a starfish,” replied the boy.  “But your attempts are useless child. Every time you save one, another one returns. Often, the same one. You can’t save them all. So why bother trying? Why does it matter anyway?” called the old man.

The boy thought about this for a while, a starfish on his hand, and he answered, “Well, it matters to this one.” And then he flung the starfish into the welcoming sea.

[19:57] It Matters to Your Patient

Patients are like fishes on the sand that need to be thrown back into the sea. They need our help but we can’t help them all at once. That’s an impossible goal. We cannot help everybody all the time. That’s why we have teams, shifts, our whole staff work for us. But it matters to each and every single patient that you help.

Finally, I would encourage you that when you are with a patient, your focus is them and that’s what matters. What you do for them, whatever that may be, you are making a difference to that human being. And there’s no greater thing in this world.

So even if you can’t help all patients, at least you can help the person you’re seeing that day. It can be so easy to get overwhelmed by the number of sick patients but just be in the moment.

“Just in the moment, focus on the person who’s in front of you because you will not even appreciate probably how much difference you make to that individual.”

[22:33] Share Your Story with Us!

Please share with us what’s going on in your life! Whether you’re having a great moment  or not, call 1-833-MYDIARY. Press 1 to leave a message or diary entry. Press 5 to leave feedback on a previous episode, and please let us know which episode you’re referring to.


The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley

4: The Sacrifices Finally Pay Off When You Get Your Acceptance

Session 04

Our caller today is sharing with us her triumph after getting into medical school.

She actually dropped two posts. She called back after realizing she wasn’t coherent with her first message. But we dearly loved it so we’re playing both.

Share your highs and lows with us! Please call in and share your experience. Call 1-833-MYDIARY. Press 1 if you want to leave an entry and 5 if you want to leave your feedback on a previous episode (make sure to tell us which episode you’re calling about).

Meanwhile, if you’re in need of other premed resources, please check out all podcasts on MedEd Media Network to help you along this premed journey!

[01:40] Poster of the Week:

I am going to medical school. I’m a nontraditional student who has been working at this for a couple of years. I guess I’m not that nontraditional, but I realized I wanted to be a physician super late. And I had to empty my savings account so that I could go to medical school.

I’d have to take on four jobs. I’ve had to sacrifice so much. I was engaged and had my fiance break up with me during the middle of Biochemistry while studying for the MCAT. And I still did it. I still kicked butt. I still got everything I needed to. I interviewed a couple of weeks ago and I just received an acceptance call today. Honestly, I’m too happy… but I received my acceptance call today while I was at the dry cleaners and started crying hysterically because I’ve just been working on this for so long. And it’s just been such a hard time.

I just wanted to tell people, especially nontraditional students that you can do it and everything is worth this feeling. Everything is worth knowing that what you’ve been working for years has paid off and you’re going to be a physician one day.

[03:33] Congratulations!

Congratulations! You don’t have to be coherent. Obviously, you’re so excited and overcome with joy. You’ve worked so hard to get to where you are and you’ve gotten acceptance to medical school. So enjoy that feeling!

[04:42] Making It Through Hard Times

It’s so great how encouraging she is telling all of you that you can do it, nontrads especially. It’s amazing, too, when she listed all the different things she’s had to do to get that acceptance and how hard she’s worked. It just goes to show the importance of keeping focused despite all the setbacks that are thrown your way during this process.

She emptied her savings account, she talked about having four different jobs, and her fiance broke up with her during Biochemistry while studying for the MCAT. It’s just really miserable.

[06:00] An Unforgettable Feeling of Elation

You will never forget that feeling. You will always have that memory of where you were being at the dry cleaners and getting that call about getting accepted to med school and crying hysterically.

This is also something you might tell your kids. And others may find the same experience when you work so hard to get that acceptance, and when you do, that moment is just pure elation.

Based on personal experience, I was studying at my parent’s house and had been living there for the year. I was sitting upstairs to study and had no idea I might get acceptance through email. I thought it was a phone call or something in the snail mail. So the acceptance just popped into my email and I just started screaming. I was so happy that I started crying. The rest of my family were downstairs and they got so scared they thought something terrible had happened. As I came running down the stairs and told them about the news, we were all crying.

“This is one of the first memories I have of truly having tears of joy.”

Indeed, getting accepted to medical school gives you a feeling of elation so keep that memory forever.

[09:00] We Want to Hear From You, Highs or Lows!

It’s great to hear happy news. This podcast is really here to help you avoid and deal with burnout. We want you to call in and talk about the lowest lows – the hard, frustrating times that make you angry and upset. This place is intended to be a place for you to unload and just anonymously share that.

On the other hand, this is also a place for you to be able to talk about the excitement and the wonderful moments. Don’t feel like you have to wait to call in to talk about an acceptance. You can call in and talk about the excitement you feel when you have had a wonderful encounter with a patient when you’re shadowing or when you got that first interview. Or maybe you had that great interview and you just want to share about that.

Those moments are beautiful and wonderful. You should feel free to call. We would love to hear from you at any high or low points along this journey. Hopefully, this example will encourage all of you out there to also share whatever it is you want to share here.

“This is what the diary is all about. It’s not just to share all the sad things, it’s there for you to share the good and the bad.”

[10:50] Give Us a Call

No new feedback for today. But we encourage you all to send some feedback. Call 1-833-MYDIARY and hit 5 if you want to give feedback to previous episodes. And if you’re out there and you would want to share your diary entry, please go ahead and share with us. We are here to support you in the premed journey!

It’s a vulnerable thing to do to call in and talk to an answering machine. So I hope that my comments here are a way of having somebody else talk to you. Again, call in the number and hit 1 to leave a message for premed diaries.

[12:38] The Second Time Our Caller Left a Message

I called earlier and I wasn’t even coherent enough to tell my story. But I just received news that I have been accepted to medical school. And not just any medical school but my dream medical school.

It is a feeling that I’ve never had before. I’m so happy and so excited which is why I’m not really coherent and can’t speak English really well right now. But I’m a nontraditional student. I was on track to be a physical therapist when I decided that wasn’t what I wanted. So I emptied my savings account and took on an extra job so that I could afford to pay for Organic Chemistry. And I’d finished up Organic I and II and Biochemistry and all that fun stuff.

During that, I was engaged and my fiance broke up with me several weeks before I took the MCAT and several weeks before I had a Biochemistry class. That was one of the worst times of my life, if not the worst in my life. I even considered ending my life because I never thought I was going to make it. I never thought that I was going to be a physician. I thought I’d screw up my life totally. I was inside physical therapy school, I had this track going. I thought I was going to fail and that I was now alone without the love of my life.

It’s about one year since all of that was happening. It was all worth it to be here right now, to be in a place where I know I’m going to be a physician. And everything that I did, every hardship I had to face, all that was worth it because I’m going to be a physician. That’s beyond what I put into words how happy I am, how surreal it feels. But all that was worth it. I hope that my story is something that could encourage somebody else out there who’s going through so much harder. This is worth everything!


MedEd Media Network

3: The Constant Struggle of Comparing Myself to Others

Session 03

When you’re struggling with anything in life, premed related or not, it’s very easy to look at them and think they have it easy. We need to stop comparing.

Share your highs and lows with us! Please call in and share your experience. Call 1-833-MYDIARY. Press 1 if you want to leave an entry and 5 if you want to leave a feedback (make sure to tell us which episode you’re calling about).

[01:12] Poster of the Week:

“I’m studying for the MCAT… it’s a very humbling experience, I could say that for sure. But it seems that I’m struggling with comparing myself to the ones around me. Well, I work so hard and I’m trying my best to get a really good MCAT score. People around me seems to easily get a 510+. And what I need to tell myself is I need to stop comparing myself to people around me and that other people’s success is not my failure. I’m not hating on them. I wish everybody the best. But it seems that the past few days, I’ve just been struggling with this concept of… in looking at others, I keep feeling like there’s something wrong with me or I’m not doing enough or I’m not giving it enough, which I am. I’m really working a lot.

I’m fully dedicated to MCAT studying. It’s like a 9-5 job for me every single day. I have to figure out how I can not compare myself because everybody does differently and it’s okay if I failed. And it’s okay for me to take it again. I just have to accept that. If someone else is going through this too, know that you’re not in this alone. Well, I’m assuming I’m not in this alone so that helps me get through this and realize that it’s okay to not score as well on your full-lengths in the beginning. So I still have a way to go. But it’s okay.

One of my greatest weaknesses right now is accepting. And it’s okay to mess up and make mistakes because right now I can learn from them. And I need to stop comparing myself to premeds around me who are getting 510s and 518s. I need to enjoy this journey. I feel I’m just stressing out and the anxiety is causing me to not do well. So I need to learn how to enjoy this journey. So that’s another thing I’m working on. I hope that this helps someone out there too. I’m not alone.”

[04:22] A Humbling and Frustrating Experience

Studying for the MCAT as both humbling and frustrating are very common among premeds, as well as the difficulty in not comparing yourself to other people. MCAT is a very hated exam and it can be very humbling for many people. You can study and study and still not get the score that you feel you need.

“The MCAT is probably the most hated exam out there among premed students and among people studying science.”

If you listened to Dr. Ryan Gray’s The Premed Years Podcast, he’d tell you that you don’t need a specific score to get into medical school. And he has so much great information to people about the MCAT as well as The MCAT Podcast.

Getting frustrated about the MCAT is a common feeling so don’t beat yourself up about that. You know what you’re doing since you’re working really hard. And that’s exactly what you need to do to get through it. So just stick with it.

[05:50] Comparing Yourself to Other People

Comparing yourself to other people is a common thing humans do, whether you’re a premed or not. We do it as children and even as adults. We just don’t show it or being as obvious as when we were children.

“It’s a very human characteristic to compare yourself to other people.”

It’s also human to almost want other people to be having a hard time as well and to not be doing well on the MCAT because there’s that saying, misery loves company. And that’s a human thing. Humans don’t want to go through difficult things by themselves. It’s human to experience the tough things in life with a partner or somebody you can be with so that you’re not alone. So when you see other people succeed and you’re working hard and feeling like you’re failing, it can make you feel like you’re doing something wrong. And it can be very isolating.

However, at the end of the day, you need to remember that you really don’t know how easy it is for those other people. Who knows? You’re not with them all the time. They could also be studying all day and night, losing sleep. Every human being’s journey is really different.

Interestingly, you look on social media and see people always putting their best selves forward. You don’t see them crying, arguments, or bad grades. People are not going to post about things like that. They don’t tell you how bad life is and putting forward their failures because it’s not something we’re taught to do.

We’re not taught to make a big deal about failing. We’re taught to make a big deal about a good grade and be the best in anything. We get rewarded as human beings for being the best, not for our failures.

So your peers might seem like they’re doing really well but who really knows? Hence, take whatever your peers are telling you with a grain of salt. What you want to do is focus on your journey.

[09:05] It’s Okay to Fail and Enjoy the Journey

It’s okay to make mistakes. Failure is one of your best teachers. In the same way, you need to learn how to enjoy the journey. But it’s hard to live in the moment when you’re so focused on your goal of getting into medical school. And it’s really challenging to study for something which is just a stepping stone to getting to that goal.

“Failure is one of the best teachers out there.”

I suggest you find the most interesting thing in what you’re studying for that day. Then hang onto that. Or find other things in life right now that can give you a break and enjoy. Studying for the MCAT 9-5 can be incredibly monotonous so it’s important to really find kernels of things you’re really interested in, in what you’re studying. And also balance that with things outside of it that can give you some respite and relief.

[11:40] People Study in Different Ways

When you get to medical school, you’re going to be surrounded by several other students who are taking the exact same test as you and focusing on the exactly the same material day in and day out. People study the same thing but they have different ways of studying. And that goes back to this concept that everybody has a different journey. So don’t worry about what other people are doing since they have zero bearing on you. You maybe on the same path to medical school, but totally different footprints.

“Figure out what works for you. Figure out what you need to do to get whatever score you have as your goal.”

Essentially, you need to embrace your own self-worth. Embrace your own path and what is unique about you that makes you, you.

[14:00] Some Inspiring Quotes for You

“Never compare yourself to others, you have no idea what they’ve been through.”

“If you continuously compete with others, you become bitter. If you continuously compete with yourself, you become better.”

Therefore, try as much as you can to put blinders on with other people. If it bothers you to be with other people, go find a quiet place to study. Do what you need to do to succeed. And this will serve you when you get to medical school.

[15:50] Feedback for Episode 1

Feedback #1: Our listener wishes to thank the poster for the inspiration. She was still feeling overwhelmed and hearing there is someone working out, made a difference in her day.

Feedback #2: The listener is a nontrad student and mom with a fulltime job plus her parttime job. And she sympathizes with not having enough time and not being able to feel like she’s on top of everything. She feels like she’s always one step behind or she’s missing something. She finds it nice to know that there are other people that have the same feeling and are also going through it. It helps to not feel so lonely.

Thank you for calling in and giving your feedback. Please call in and share your experience. Call 1-833-MYDIARY. Press 1 if you want to leave an entry and 5 if you want to leave a feedback (make sure to tell us which episode you’re calling about).


The Premed Years Podcast

The MCAT Podcast

Premed Diaries Episode 01: The Pressure to Be a Perfect Premed

2: The Financial Pressures of a Premed Parent

Session 02

Today, we hear from a premed parent who has been accepted to medical school and is now worried about the financial ramifications and what to do next. Listen in as I share my thoughts as well as some possible options you can take if this is also something you’re going through.

[01:16] Poster of the Week: Dealing with Financial Stress & Having Fear of the Unknown

“I’m a premed student, have three kids. I’m married. I work full time, my wife works full time, so there’s been a lot of stress. I graduated five years ago from undergrad. It’s been a little while. I’m doing some postbac, work, and everything. But it’s really stressful right now because we have three kids and they’re all in daycare. We have to pay for it and we’re trying to do bills, budgeting, debts. We’re barely in the black in the idea of going to medical school and how to pay for everything.

I got accepted to one medical school so I guess this is a trick to be a little bit of both – overwhelmed for everything but at the same time, being excited and having that security that I’m accepted somewhere.

I don’t know where to go as far as the financial things go. I’m not really sure what the best move is going to be. I’m still interviewing for other schools. I got accepted to one school so I’m really excited about that. But just trying to figure out the finances behind everything. What’s going to be the best for my family to be able to put food on the table for at least just the four years of med school and residency beyond that. There are plans for my wife to work while in school but making sure there’s going to be enough for everything.

I’ve heard advice from other people on federal loans and if it can’t take enough to cover everything then just do private loans. I’m at a loss as to where to even begin or what I should be doing right now. I’ve made some poor financial decisions in the past but we’re beyond that. I think it’s just a little overwhelming. It takes away some of the excitement of finally getting an acceptance and still being excited about interviewing at other schools that are away from where we live right now.

Just a lot of my mind trying to make sure that I keep everything together with my kids and spend time with my wife and we can actually still have our relationship. I know that med school is even going to be even harder than what the journey was to get to this point.”

[04:00] It’s Tough Stuff!

This is tough stuff. This is not easy-peasy. This is the really hard stuff of life. When you’re working toward becoming a physician and also trying to put food on the table for your family, the stress and anxiety that come with that are huge.

But first of all, congratulations on getting that acceptance. That is huge. After all, you only need one acceptance to become a physician. Many of us had one acceptance and that’s where we went. If that ends up being your only acceptance then that’s all you need and you’ll make it work.

“You only need one acceptance after all to become a physician.”

[05:08] Where to Begin

Financially, it’s hard. So I’m directing you to my husband, Ryan’s podcast on MedEd Media Network in terms of where to start.

Check out some of his episodes on The Premed Years Podcast such as Session 94, where he talks with Ryan Michler who runs WealthAnatomy.com. In Session 223, he talked with Dr. Dahle, the publisher of WhiteCoatInvestor.com. These can somehow give you ideas and thoughts about where to begin.

Moreover, once you really know where you’re going to medical school, there are great financial advisors at a lot of medical schools. Now that you have an acceptance, you’re already in the door. So you can call the school, tell them you got accepted and that you really need some help figuring out how you’re going to pay for this.

“Just even talking to another person who knows the space may give you some peace of mind and some ideas. And that’s always a great place to start.”

[07:35] Putting Food on the Table

Ryan, my husband, is also a physician, and over the years, we have talked about our kids (we have two now). I remember our conversation before we even had children and he made some comment about how kids weren’t expensive. And he has definitely changed his mind since that conversation.

“Kids are very expensive.”

So having three kids, as this poster has, is very overwhelming, even just in and of itself. For any parent, that is overwhelming. Raising humans is the hardest job on the planet and I say that as a physician who works. So I feel for you with your kids.

As you move forward, your kids are going to just be in awe of you. You’re going to show them over and over again just how powerful you can be and you are because of how much you’ve already accomplished and how much you’re going to accomplish down the road. You’re going to show them just how much you can do in the face of fear and the face of the unknown.

[09:50] Dealing with Debt

We all have fears in life. But even wealth people have probably made a poor financial decision in their life. It’s hard to be human and not make a poor financial decision at some point. The great thing is you have obviously learned from them and you are making it work.

Also, you have awareness of the fact that you don’t want to be in that situation down the road. So the whole fact you’re planning for this, you’re aware of it, you’re already a leg up. It’s a huge part of all of it.

[11:15] More Acceptances, More Options

Hopefully, you’ll have more acceptances as this will give you even more options. Reach out to these other financial advisors at these other schools you’re interviewing along the way. They may be able to give you other tidbits in terms of how to pay for this whole thing. There were so many of us in medical school who took out loans and there are a lot of loans and ways to do this. There are federal loans, private loans, as well as rural programs where you can go and agree that you’re going to work for a specific time commitment. That way, you have a great deal of money saved because of that option.

“If you want to be a doctor, you will find a way to pay for it. I know you will!”

So many nontrads are in a very scary situation thinking about how to pay for this very expensive schooling. You already have jobs and mortgages and car payments. And you’ll make it work. Because this is a calling. It’s not just a job, it’s a calling. And if you want it bad enough, you will make it work regardless of what you have to do and what you have to go through.

[13:10] Strengthening Relationships

And your wife who will also work can help. Leaning on a spouse during a time like this is important and so having that partnership with your spouse is huge. And that relationship will only strengthen during medical school. It’s a very stressful time. But if you go in with a very strong relationship, to begin with, it’s going to be fine.

I’ve seen relationships break up back in medical school, but they’re girlfriend/boyfriend and going different directions in life. But as a spouse, you’ve already committed to another individual and they’re on this journey with you so it’s a different deal.

It’s a matter of how you’re going to make it work and get that time you need to have your relationship still take a priority. No matter what you’re doing, whether in medical school or resident or an attending, you want to prioritize your marriage. How to make that work is different for everybody, but it’s an important thing you want to prioritize.

No matter what you’re doing whether, in medical school or resident or an attending, you want to prioritize your marriage.”

Again, you will make it work! In fact, those with families had a leg up than the rest of us back in medical school, because it’s so important to get home and spend time with their kids. And when they were to study, they were super focused.

Even though it seems scary and daunting –  finances, children, relationship with wife – I guarantee that you’re even going to be more focused as someone studying than others. I believe that having children demands that you focus your time in a different way because you just don’t have the option. It gives you a different frame of mind.

Many people out there go to medical school and residency with children already and they make it work. So you will too!

[17:10] More Schools, More Options

Lastly, try to get into more schools not because you need to but because it will give you more options. As humans, we feel trapped when we don’t have options and it feels even that much scarier. So the more acceptances you get, the more options you have. So you can have different thoughts about where you can live. And maybe even if you don’t have family in those other areas, you might have friends, Friends can really help with kids as well as relatives. So there might be other options you may not be even aware of.

[18:00] Fear of the Unknown

Sometimes, the unknown can be a good thing, There are things you don’t know that are wonderful and are coming down the road. Your commitment and dedication to this whole calling of being a physician will guide you and it will keep you centered and grounded.

Any thoughts? Call 833-MYDIARY and just let us know what episode you’re referencing. And I will play your response so we can have a dialogue going.


MedEd Media Network

The Premed Years Podcast

PMY 94: Securing Your Financial Future as  Premed and Medical Student

PMY 223: Setting Yourself Up for Financial Success, Starting Now