Of dreams coming true

I still don’t have a concrete reason as to why I chose this field. I just know deep in my heart that I am exactly where I am meant to be. To you, who’s reading this: Dreams do come true. As Oprah Winfrey once said, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” I believe that every tiny step, bump on the road, curve ball and chaos that has happened in the past, has led to this moment.

A week ago, I just graduated medical school. Yes, finally, after four years of sleepless nights, unlimited exams, a global pandemic, here we are. Med school is now over and done. Hooray! I have been patting myself in the back for God knows how long because (if you have been following this blog since its early days) I really never thought that this day would be possible.

To be honest, I don’t know what to feel. I am happy, grateful and relieved. I am happy because, at least the bulk of studying is temporarily over. I am grateful because of all the people, who made this caveat possible. I am also relieved because, it is now less exhausting, at least senior internship will not require me to go on duty for 36 hours.

Junior internship was exhausting albeit life changing overall. If there is a word that is more extreme than that, please tell me because as far as I know, I reached my limit in terms of overall exhaustion. Medical school was hard. Medical school stole so much time that I could have spent with the important people in my life, but aah why is this still so fulfilling.

This brings me back to one of the toxic shifts in the medical ward wherein I had an epiphany. When I was still in my undergraduate days in UP, I used to love watching Marvel movies. I would download and watch every character’s movie, Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, etc. To be honest, I do not understand why I loved those movies, but for some unknown reason, I revel in watching Superheroes. 

Maybe because they give hope in impossible situations. They have principles that they try their best to live up to. They use their intelligence in thinking of the best strategies to combat the bad guy or to solve a problem that could lead to the annihilation of human race. I know it’s quite romanticized, but I hope you understand what I am trying to say. They try their best even if it means giving their lives in the pursuit of the greater good. I love those storylines. 

Is that related to me wanting to be a doctor? Is that why no matter how hard it gets, I’d still do this anyway? I am not a superhero with special powers. I know for a fact that I am just a simple human being who’s trying to help out sick people. I’m just a random human who loves Science, and gets a high in making strategies that solve health issues of people. As compared to those fictional superheroes, I am boring.

I still don’t have a concrete reason as to why I chose this field. I just know deep in my heart that I am exactly where I am meant to be. To you, who’s reading this: Dreams do come true. As Oprah Winfrey once said, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” I believe that every tiny step, bump on the road, curve ball and chaos that has happened in the past, has led to this moment.

What is the best premed course?

One of my struggles when I was still in high school was choosing a course in university. Just like the usual sixteen year-old, I didn’t know what degree should I take. No one helped me make these big decisions and since I am a soon-to-be first generation doctor in the family, there was no one that I could ask. So I sought the help of Google, which at 2009, doesn’t have that much doctors talking about how to get into med school. So kids, you are so lucky because, you can now get the help you need online. I asked the opinions of awesome soon-to-be doctors who have different premed courses from me. I do hope you find the help that you need and if you still have questions, please feel free to put them down on the comments section.

BS MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY

PROS: The advantage of being a med tech student is you have months of exposure in the hospital and you will meet people who have been in this industry for a long time. You will have an overview of the ups and downs of working in healthcare. You will also learn about how things work in the laboratory, so let’s say you are interested in pathology, you will understand why some lab results can’t be processed immediately even if it’s a stat request. Another advantage is you will feel that you played a part in the diagnosis of the patient even though you aren’t technically the one handling them. Another plus is, the lab is air conditioned since the machines can’t overheat, hence, you still look fresh (lol). It’s also fun to culture bacteria because of the colors, and it’s interesting to see actual specimens in the microscope.

CONS: The disadvantage that I see is since almost everything is automated, it can get boring, and this might lead you into forgetting the principles behind the procedures, which is bad if you are planning to take up medicine. Also, since you are inside the lab, the only time that you get to face the patient is during blood extraction. It’s the nurse’s job to meet the patient face-to-face. Another thing is, urine and feces will be a part of your life so when you go to med, you won’t be disgusted with these specimens anymore.

Irene, RMT


PROS: Medtech students are proficient in using the microscope for histopath, hence it will be a big advantage since you’ll be using it for your histology and pathology subjects. You will also gain the very useful skill of blood extraction which will come in handy in medschool. You will learn the practical and theoretical side of lab diagnostics which is a must in being a medical doctor plus, you will have subjects that will be useful when you enter medschool such as hematology, immunology and serology, and analysis of urine and body fluids. It will be easier for you to understand the concepts because of your prior knowledge and experience in this field. In addition to this, during your undergrad internship and work, you will have hospital and patient exposure hence, all those nervousness around patients and doing procedures will be off of your list of fears.

CONS: For the disadvantage, even if you have all these knowledge and experience, there will still be tons of concepts and skills that you do not know and it can be really frustrating. However, that’s the point of going into medschool, you will need to learn and learn and learn.

– Ton, RMT


PROS: One of the major advantages of medtech as a premed course are the subjects. Clinical chemistry, microbiology, endocrinology and toxicology are very useful subjects that will help you understand and make clinical correlations especially in internal medicine. We also had pathology, and learned how to do slide preparation and be proficient in using the microscope. We were also given clinical cases weekly, and were trained to determine the laboratory approach needed for a certain case, interpretation of results, and final diagnosis. We also have basic knowledge in pharmacology and experience in doing quantitative research. Overall we have a good foundation in pathophysiology, basic pathology, laboratory work and diagnostics, and clinical correlations.

CONS: Since medtech is an undergrad course, the diseases are more focused on the criteria related to clinical aspects, and not much on the deeper concepts and specific treatment protocols. These things still need to be learned in medschool. We still have a lot to study such as doing physical examination, and calculating drug dosages. There are still so many things that we do not know but we learn as we go through with our medical education.

Josh, RMT

BS PHARMACY

PROS: Pharmacists have an edge in pharmacology. Learning about the mechanisms of drugs and their corresponding physiology is an advantage for us in medschool. And this is such an important knowledge base because basically doctors prescribe drugs. Pharmacology is said to be one of the monsters of pre-clinical years so this foundation will be put in good use not just in medschool but all the more in your practice. You will also have an idea about drugs and their administration which is an important aspect since there are tons of drugs that you have to learn. I guess pharmacy teaches you the skill to analyze a lot which is much needed in the field of medicine.

CONS: The disadvantage for me is pharmacy is such a beautiful and exciting field and it’s hard to let go of your love and passion for it. Somehow, it was easier for me to love pharmacy than medschool. Also there are limited subjects that we know about which are also in medschool unlike medical technology. I also think anatomy is not our strong suit or maybe it’s just me.

Andrea, RPh


PROS: Pharmacy is a good fallback because there are many job opportunities. You can work in public or private drugstores, in a hospital, in the pharmaceutical industry as a quality control officer, in the academe or in research. As a medical student, a big advantage is you will be familiar with the therapeutic category and mechanism of action of drugs, their generic and brand names. You will also know how to calculate the doses of medication, know what medicines, and what dose or stock keeping units (SKUs) are available in the market. You will also know how to counsel patients, and be familiar with drugs’ side effects and drug interactions. You can advise patients about what to avoid and expect when taking a particular medicine. You will also have knowledge about what alternative medicine can be given in case the specific medicine that a patient needs is not available. You will also have a good background in biochemistry, though I forgot a lot about it since that was a long time ago.

CONS: The disadvantage is the clinical skills are not yet there like handling and managing patients. Our background in histology is poor and we have litte knowledge in anatomy.

– Anonymous, RPh

BS BIOLOGY

PROS: Bio graduates are often coined as premeds who know a little bit of everything but is a master of none in terms of clinical skills. One advantage that I can think of is we are trained in doing scientific research. We also have a strong foundation about the cell. We had a taste of anatomy, physiology, histology, molecular biology, genetics, and microbiology, hence, some of the terms are not too jargon when we we studied medicine. We are trained to understand microscopic and macroscopic scientific phenomenon including connecting and correlating ideas. We also have good microscope skills and since we often present scientific papers, we also know how to teach. Above all this, the biggest advantage that being a biologist has is the innate curiosity, the inner scientist, that has helped me open one more page of a book, even when I don’t feel like studying. I get so happy by knowing and learning more and more everyday

CONS: The obvious disadvantages are more on hospital exposure and clinical skills. Being a medtech, pharmacist, or a nurse will expose you in the healthcare industry. I barely knew drugs, I don’t know the protocols for handling patients and I had zero clinical skills and poor knowledge about diseases. How I wish someone could have explained to me that Biology won’t help in these important clinical aspects but still I have no regrets because Biology was so much fun. It compensated for my fatigue in medschool.

– Katey

BS CHEMISTRY

PROS: In Chemistry your edge is you really know and understand how things work in a molecular level, which is the basis of pharmacology. Understanding the pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics of drugs and their reactions would be easier. Your skill in being keen to details will be a great advantage in understanding complex concepts such as cardiac and renal physiology. Since we are also used to reading books filled with graphs instead of pictures, we can power through reading the most boring books (which are a lot) even in medicine. We are also trained in self-studying and analyzing complex problems, which is must-have skill in medicine because most of the time you will be learning on your own. I believe the greatest edge that a Chemistry student has is their attitude and discipline, and their training to be analytical and rational in every decision they make. They are extremely careful, for one tiny mistake can cause a catastrophic effect. They are agents of change and research that is not only important for changing the field of medicine but also in producing a five-star Filipino Scientist and Physician, whom not only accepts what is given but also questions what is presented. 

CONS: Our disadvantage is we lack anatomy, microbiology, pathology and other major subjects that other premed courses have. But you will be able to surpass this because chemists have that fire within them to learn and relearn. This is my edge overall, because as a future doctor by profession, to become one is indeed a lifelong journey of learning on its own. 

-Jessa Jhen, RCh

BS PSYCHOLOGY

PROS: Majoring in Psychology is one of the best decisions I have made in my life. As a psych graduate, you’ll have a better grasp of your mental wellness. Your extensive understanding of the self also allows you to recognize when you are becoming toxic, so you can step back and take a breather. You can manage your human interactions. The psych personality you develop will keep you out of most trouble and in good graces with most of your peers. You can provide some support to your classmates who are emotionally struggling. You also have a mastery of the art of questioning. You get to use it in your daily interactions as well as in history taking. You learn how to effectively extract information in a way that is less intimidating to the patient or the relatives. Your Basic Attending Skills and Psychological First Aid will come in handy in the emergency room, given that you don’t panic when you meet a hysterical patient or relative. You’re trained to detach yourself from your unconducive emotions. Psychology will train you how to be empathetic and detached at the same time. That way, you are able to let patients feel that you care, but you keep yourself at a distance so as to not become drowned in the negative emotions of all the people you encounter.

CONS: On the flip side, you don’t learn much about the medical side of health. You might have to do a lot more catching up than those from other courses. You don’t get many opportunities to practice your profession and you’ll learn of your classmates taking part-time jobs in labs or in pharmacies. If you do manage to get a side hustle, it contributes nothing to your academic performance. Nurses, pharmacists, and med techs get to refine their knowledge when they work. If you do manage to find a job as a Psych major, the knowledge you refine has nothing to do with the field of medicine. Being a Psych grad can also be exhausting. You will always have a classmate coming to you for help, and you want to help them, of course. But it can become too often, or they can come one after another, and you sometimes even set aside your own issues so you can deal with theirs.

BS NURSING

PROS: You will definitely have the biggest chunk of hospital experience among your classmates.You know and understand the inner workings in the healthcare industry hence you’ll have less adjustment time. You will also have clinical experience and a clinical eye way before med school. Nursing students are also proficient in history taking and physical exam which will be an advantage for you to excel in medschool. You will have good clinical skills such IV and catheter insertion, or maintaining tracheostomy. I think the biggest advantage is we have prior knowledge and have actually seen patients with the disease process, and also management. The sweetest part of nursing as a premed course is you are basically trained to understand and read every situation, every move and doctor’s order, and what the physician and the patients are saying. I guess one of the best things I learned in nursing is empathy, and the way of connecting to people. I became more emotionally sensitive compared to my past self, but of course patients are not allowed to see that. You also have a good perspective and focus on anatomy and physiology, bioethics and pharmacology, because you need to be able to explain this to the patient. Nursing is overall a good and holistic premed course.

CONS: For the disadvantages, being a nurse is exhausting but I guess you already know that. If before medicine, you experienced working in a hospital you know that this job can drain you as a human being. In terms of academics, somehow the nursing subjects overpowered the basic sciences needed in medicine such as biochemistry, because your main focus in nursing are the skills and theories. There are also things that happen inside the hospital that can break you. The smell of death, the worst feeling of having to tell the family that the patient is deteriorating, the way that the family gets angry, or humiliates the healthcare worker. I somehow think you’ll enter med as a broken person if you took nursing as premed. The good feelings overpower the bad, that’s why nurses are still here, and so we keep on going. But overall, you will be prepared for life inside the hospital because, you have already lived it.

-Lyris, RN



So have you chosen your premed course? I hope this article helped you gain more insight before you enter the world of medicine.

100 Things to Expect Before you Enter Medschool Pilipinas Edition

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PARA ALAM NIYO KUNG ANONG PINAPASOK NIYO.

It’s true what they say, taking the first step is easy but staying is the hardest part. Now I’m writing this because I know that there are people who are patient enough to read my long posts on dreams, tips, and tricks on this roller coaster that we all are trying to figure out. So yeah one year, a year of Guyton, Junqueirra, Lippincott, Gray’s, and etc. To the incoming first year medical student or anyone who’s thinking about becoming a medical doctor, here’s what to expect and a lot more:

1. You’ll realize that there’s just a lot to do. Five hours of sleep is gold. Goodluck!
2. You will learn the art of setting ten or more alarms or else you’re doomed.
3. You will probably sit on your bed after a long day and be surprised to find out that it’s already the next day. The nap turned into a full blast sleep.
4. You’ll develop your own way of coping with stress.
5. You will hit pause on some of your hobbies.
6. Your college textbooks will seem basic. Yup, you can now devour alien medical jargon better. Congratulations, you’re not as clueless.
7. You’ll thank yourself for having friends from higher years. They’re angels.
8. You’ll probably establish a routine.
9. Family will start asking you about medical concerns. They think you’re a doctor already. (No no no, sobrang layo pa po).
10. You will ask yourself why did you even think of punishing your 20s. Believe me it’s normal.
11. You will panic and end up studying anyway.
12. You will transform into a tita. Your bag will have tissues, katinko, ibuprofen, hair tie, sanitizer, crackers and all other stuff cause you just need ’em.
13. You will stain your white uniform once or twice.
14. You will switch to comfy although less stylish shoes.
15. You’ll have your go-to coffee that keeps you alert enough to understand everything. (Caramel Macchiato hello).
16. You will regret not doing your laundry or ironing on time.
17. Your room will turn into a jungle on exam week.
18. You’ll learn how to choose your battles when things don’t go your way. There are some things you let slide so you’ll have energy for what’s important.
19. You will learn how to run away from negativity. You just don’t need that.
20. Hopefully, you’ll have a stronger faith. (Sometimes nadadaan mo ang exam sa tiwala lang. 😂). Paano?
21. You’ll accept that your time is limited. There are birthdays you can’t come to and graduations you can’t attend. 😭
22. You will forget most of what you learned.
23. But hopefully remember what you need.
24. You’ll learn how to take on more responsibility than you could ever imagine.
25. You’ll feel guilt from time to time cause unlike your friends who are productive members of the society, you’re still studying.
26. Your family will be supportive and extremely proud. They will introduce you as the child or sibling na “nagdodoctor.” (At nakakapressure siya.)
27. You’ll be really grateful for your family. Without them you can’t face this.
28. You’ll have better leadership and management skills.
29. You’ll have better communication skills.
30. You’ll probably have better note-taking strategies.
31. You’ll learn how to extract blood (if you’re not a medtech).
32. You’ll learn how to take a blood pressure (if your premed is not clinical.)
33. You’ll learn how to take a patient history way better than when you entered medschool.
34. Your classmates will teach you a lot of medical stuff. This will be useful for nonmed premeds. 
35. You’ll have a destressing activity. (Roaming around bookstores. 😍).
36. You’ll have your favorite stress relief drink ( Biggs’ MANGO GRAHAM).
37. You’ll know where the best coffee shops are hiding.
38. You’ll know when your best study time is.
39. You are probably following a YouTube channel that teaches you tricks and helps keep you sane. (Med Insider, Aura Azarcon, Cathy Gonzaga).
40. You’ll have destressing buddies.
41. You’ll have study buddies.
42. You’ll have your favorite spot in school.
43. You will handle overwhelm better.
44. You’ll be more accepting about people’s shortcomings because you have a lot too.
45. You’ll learn how to work with a team.
46. You’ll learn how to be productive even in mini breaks.
47. You’ll learn how to adjust to abrupt schedule changes.
48. You’ll probably be more persistent than you used to be (because you don’t have a choice!).
49. You understand people more. Community immersion will teach you where people are coming from.
50. You will probably rant on Twitter .
51. Sometimes memes will be your only source of happiness.
52. You will look for motivation posts.
53. If you were previously working, you will miss earning money.
54. If you used to travel you will miss it, a lot. But treating this as a new adventure will do the trick.
55. You will doubt yourself 99% of the time but you’ll still push through anyway. Giving up is not an option.
56. You’ll feel like a badass when you can finally understand a concept by heart.
57. You’ll probably have a clue what specialties you MIGHT like.
58. Or might still not have a clue, and it’s okay.
59. You will feel like you gave your all but it still wasn’t enough.
60. You’ll be proud of yourself for trying.
61. You’ll thank God for the gift of friends who are always there during your breakdowns.
62. You’ll have great friends.
63. You’ll be a better teacher. 
64. You’ll give time for family even if it’s just a quick chat.
65. You will learn how to establish boundaries so that your safe space and sanity are still intact.
66. You will learn to celebrate your wins and work hard so that you won’t repeat your losses.
67. You’ll thank your past self for loving science. Because when you’re still curious, you’ll keep on wanting to learn.
68. You’ll learn that consistency is key, not motivation or inspiration.
69. You’ll meet amazing Doctors and ask yourself if you’ll ever be like them.
70. You will accept that medicine is your life and what’s worth having never comes easy.
71. You will still procrastinate even if you don’t want to.
72. You will know what kind of learner you are. (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or mixed).
73. You won’t entertain toxic people because guess what, you don’t even have the time. Lol.
74. You will discover new friendships, and see how amazing your classmates are (even if you’ve seen each other’s toxic side haha). Because yeah we’re humans and that’s what we do. We try to be better.
75. You will need your best friend.
76. You will probably got the hang of how your school gives tests.
77. Sometimes your brain will shut down because it needs rest. Let it.
78. You’ll learn how to be kind to yourself especially when you are coming short of your goals.
79. You’ll know that you can’t study everything but at least you tried your best.
80. You will be humbled by how much you do not know.
81. You will be grateful for the chance to learn more.
82. You will learn how to maximize any opportunity for sleeping. (Yung tipong makadikit lang ulo mo sa pader, tulog ka na.)
83. You will thrive in some subjects and be astounded by how dumb you can be in other areas. 😂 But it’s okay.
84. You’ll learn the value of commitment. It’s hard to commit to this profession but if you love what you do nothing will stop you from hustling.
85. You will make a lot of mistakes. Sometimes you’ll feel like a walking mistake hahaha. But that’s how we learn, and you’ll learn to accept that.
86. You’ll get jealous. Because your friends are getting married and having babies. But, you’ll realize that everybody has their own story. And this is yours, it may be different but it is yours.
87. Discomfort will be your comfort.
88. Anxiety will always be there. But you’ll know that you are bigger than the negative whispers in your head.
89. You will say a lot of sorry’s for flaking out on appointments because you are just too tired to go out.
90. You will feel how much your friends love you because they will understand.
91. You will meet your idols. (Doc Gia and Doc Fortun yieee thank you Anatomy Teaching Learning and Academic Society!)
92. You will learn way more than you thought you ever could. What you study in undergrad for a semester, you’ll study for a week. Surprise!
93. Music will be your best friend.
94. You’ll have developed tricks to keep you awake when studying. Even something as weird as speaking in a British accent while memorizing cranial nerves.
95. You will attract people who are like you.
96. You will be braver and stronger than you ever thought. You’ll realize that medschool will not care about your personal problems, you will still take exams no matter how shitty you feel.
97. You will be extremely grateful for every person cheering you on.
98. Your cats and dogs will be your sanctuary. You will miss them a lot. Hays.
99. You will get sick but you’ll handle it aka superhuman ka. Haha.
100. Once you’re done with first year, it will probably be more clear for you if this is the life you want for yourself.

It is an eternity of studying. If you’re one of the fools, you know that it still is. ❤️

Feel free to add more in the comments so we can guide future MDs.😊

Dear Mediocre Med Student

Do you ever think that you are not enough? The feeling of inadequacy is something that crosses your mind on a constant basis. Will you ever be a doctor who’s good enough?  Maybe you asked yourself, “Why can’t I be just like my classmates? They are doing better, adjusting way better.” You don’t know why you feel paralyzed.

This is for you, the medical student with low self esteem. I know you are always outside of your comfort zone and it sucks. You don’t adjust quickly. That is just who you are.  But remember what you are training for. You are learning how to save lives. You are trying to be your future patient’s best hope and chance to live.

I hope you remember now more than ever how important this dream of yours is. Remember how organized you were as a kid? It was just like yesterday when you opened a biology book with a penguin cover and started reading, and loving it.

Always remember the joy in learning. You are here because of your curiosity. Let it be bigger than your worries. I know you always doubt yourself but isn’t learning all these things amazing?

I know you  wish to be like your past self. Where did all the motivation go? Maybe you should just keep on moving even if you are feeling shitty. Maybe that is just all the burnout talking. I know you don’t have a clue when the spark will come back but what I know is that you should still feel grateful that each morning you wake up, you still get the fighting chance to live, express yourself, and be free.

Be free sweet child. Live the life you dedicated yourself to. Bad days? Suck it up. It’s just the yin and yang of life. Have fun along the way. I know it’s all too much. But you know that you’re the type of girl who can handle ANYTHING. Go amazing girl, shine.

 

NMAT for Dummies

Do you have to be super smart to pass the NMAT? NO. Being smart helps, but hard work is still the best technique.

Hello soon-to-be MDs! To be a medical doctor in the Philippines, step one is studying premed, next is taking the NMAT. What is it anyway?

NMAT is a mandatory exam for aspiring medical students in the Philippines.  This exam will be the basis for your med school application. Medical schools would require an NMAT score to gauge your capacity to be trained as doctors.

For a little bit of a backstory, I took the NMAT twice. One was in 2014 when I was still in college and the latest was in March 2018, I was then a very busy corporate slave. To be honest, I really wasn’t able to study that much because I was in the middle of writing our undergrad manuscript when I took it in 2014. In 2018, I was very busy in my job as a customer service executive for a bank. So, if you’re freaking out because you don’t have enough time to study, breathe in, breathe out. Believe me, it is possible to get a high score, but this doesn’t mean that you have to procrastinate. You will fare better if you study. I swear.

Here are some steps that I highly recommend for a stress-free NMAT:

Create a Plan.

Are you familiar with the Four P’s concept? Prior Planning Prevents Poor outcome. You have to plan based on your schedule. If you’re still a student, your advantage is the concepts of Math, Chemistry, Physics, Biology and  Social Sciences are still fresh to you. So you don’t really need to study that much as compared to someone who has been working for a couple of years. Make a plan based on your schedule. For tough days, it’s okay not to study, just make sure that you compensate with the hours lost in your next study session.

Hoard Reviewers

I highly suggest printing the practice test given by CEM (Center for Educational Measurement). Take the exam with the allotted time for each subject and check your weakest points. Then make a plan and put in more hours for your weakest subjects.

You can also buy MSA reviewers or borrow from friends. The advantage of MSA Reviewers is it is really high yield. Using this would make your brain ready for difficult questions. It’s actually harder than the exam itself however, there’s no harm in over reviewing.

You can also ask for handouts from your classmates or friends who attended review centers. Just make sure that you focus on the practice test provided by CEM. Always rationalize your answers. Google and Merriam will be your best friends.

If you can afford enrolling in a review center, you can also attend one too. For me though, shelling out five digits is not worth it and also not possible. (I was a financially struggling student and also a breadwinner so it’s a big no.)

Block time for studying.

For undergrads, at least an hour a day would be okay. For dummies like me, I really need a longer time time frame to review so even twenty to thirty minutes progress per day in a span of two to three months really helped. Just make sure that you are making progress even if it’s just three questions, it works.

For working folks, create a timeline and really devote at least an hour or more for reviewing. When my schedule is quite free, I wake up extra early in the morning to clock a few hours of studying. If I really can’t wake up early I go to coffee shops and stay there for three to four hours to make up for the lost study time. I do this two to three times a week.

Exercise

Maybe you’d think, “I don’t even have time for studying, how can you even ask me to exercise?” Believe me when I say, this did wonders to my discipline and energy level. I devoted an hour of exercise after work. This released happy hormones which I really needed in stressful workdays and also improved my focus with the limited study time that I have. Just do it and you’ll see.

Social Media Detox

If you really want to be a medical doctor, you have to eliminate distractions, and that includes good old social media. Yep. Uninstall everything. You would be surprised with how much you can accomplish without notifications bothering you everyday. I did one month of social media detox, and I credit my NMAT score to this mini sacrifice.

Know when your brain is productive.

If you are a morning person, do it before everybody else wakes up. If you are more of a night owl, then study in the evening. Just don’t force yourself to study when your brain is tired because it is counterproductive. Your brain needs rest. Listen to what it needs. Adjust your study schedule depending on your brain’s capacity.

Tell your friends and family about your exam.

They will cheer you on and they will keep you accountable. My best friend and sisters would always chat me to ask how I am and also remind me that I should be studying. (Conscience haha). Support is essential in your path to becoming a medical doctor. It is going to be a tough ride, and it starts with the NMAT.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Do you have to be super smart to pass the NMAT? NO. Being smart helps, but hard work is still the best technique. You can’t control what you’ve got from the IQ genetic lottery but you can keep on putting in the work to achieve your goals. I scored lower in Math on my first take, but I just kept on practicing and voila on my second take, who got a high score in Math? This girl. Work hard my dear future MD. Your future self will thank you for it.

Begin with the end in mind.

Ask yourself why are you gong to take this exam. It is to have the opportunity to be trained to SAVE LIVES. You might not be in medical school yet but if you want that MD so bad, start acting like one now. When you can visualize yourself as a doctor you will be pulled towards that dream. The Universe, God, destiny, or whatever you believe in will not plant this dream if you don’t have what it takes. This is for you. Now go kick some ass.

How to Rock Your Med School Interview

I am writing this in hopes of helping soon-to-be doctors out there in there upcoming med school interview. I had a good NMAT score, but it wasn’t as high as I wanted it to, but much to my surprise, I got the top spot in the second batch of applicants in my med school. So probably, there was something  I did right in my interview to have been the top choice. I know how much anxiety interviews could bring, but no worries, I got your back.

  1. Read about the school and the curriculum.

Make sure that the school of your choice is the right fit for you. Med schools have different teaching methods. Some would use traditional teaching while others are using the PBL or problem-based learning. You have to do your homework because knowing the curriculum is crucial to your studies. Don’t ever apply to a med school if you haven’t checked their teaching method because it might not work for you. Also, the panel will ask you about these things.

2. Review your undergraduate thesis.

The panel will ask you about this. So, make sure that you really know it by heart. The gist, significance, and how you did the study. They are probably looking for clues on how you performed academically, aside from what’s indicated in your transcript. You must know how to do academic research, I think this is a test of how you explain technical information as well.

3. Ask your friends in that med school for tips.

Every school has a different set of rules and questions for an interview, and it would help if you ask your ate’s and kuya’s for golden advice. Like, what are the questions that they’ve been asked. By doing this, you can anticipate the questions and you’d be more relaxed to answer the panel.

4. Pray.

If you believe in God, the Universe, or any higher being, this is the time to ask for guidance. If not, it’s okay. Having a relaxed heart and mind is vital in these make it or break it moments. Knowing that you are guided helps a lot.

5. Relax.

Try breathing exercises. Thinking happy thoughts would also help. This is not the time for you to imagine the worst case scenarios. Whatever activity or ritual you do to relax yourself, do them. Because if your brain is in chaos, you might not be able to think of your most authentic answers. So dude, relax.

6. Talk to your family and friends before your interview.

This is the time for the much needed ego boost. You have to believe that you can do this and that this is for you. Who are the best cheerleaders? It’s your family and friends. Tell them about your upcoming interview and for sure they will spew all the encouraging words that you need.

7. Always stick to your why.

I remember being asked, “Why medicine?” And what I answered was, “Why not?” I absolutely can’t find any reason why I shouldn’t take this path. I genuinely answered all the questions, sticking to my reason  that everything that happened to me led me to this moment. I think they saw that. Remembering your why would keep your answers coherent. This is the foundation of everything that you will say in that interview.

8. Be honest.

I know a couple of people who answered with the mindset that, “I must say what the panel wants me to say.” Contrary to that technique, I would advise you to be honest. You will know if it’s for you if they accept your most honest answer. Why am I saying this? I just don’t want you to fall into the trap of doing something just because it looks good. “Being a doctor looks good for my parents, or it has a good pay.”  You have to want it with a deeper reason. I actually did not rehearse my answers or have a list of questions printed. I just told them that, “I want this, and that I am not any better than the other applicants. All of us want this badly. But I think, this opportunity would not present itself at the perfect time in my life, if this is not for me. ”

 

So aspiring med students, do the things mentioned above and you’d probably have an edge. Remember that medicine is a rewarding job. You got this.

10 Things I Learned in One Semester of Medschool

“This is madness. Why did I do this to myself again?” I never thought I would ask these questions because I know how much I want this. I have a poster pinned on my wall way back in college that writes, “Doctor Katey.” But the “how”, oh my God, you can never underestimate it. Here are ten things that I learned so far aside from biochemistry, physiology, histology, embryology, and all those hardcore sciences.

  1. People have different learning strategies. You do you.

Your method in undergrad could still work in medschool. However, with the bulk of information, active learning is the key. You won’t have the time to repeat a material over and over again so you must practice the skill of choosing the important parts and using it to your advantage. Honestly, I am not a fast reader when it comes to technical material, so I learned that there are books which are easier for me to digest. I start with them and then I watch lecture videos, listen to the professors and reporters and try to integrate what I learn. The key here is, do what works for you and throw away what doesn’t.

2. Learn together.

Someone once said that no man is an island. Let me rephrase it, try to be an island in medschool and you’ll die. What do I mean by this? There are gunners everywhere especially in high school or even college. They work their way to the top by crushing anyone who’s in the way and by being selfish with information that can help others. I’m telling you, you can’t be like this. Learning should be collaborative. Some of your classmates are chemists, who are so good in biochemistry, which you will need all the time. There are pharmacists who are amazing in pharmacology, medical technologists who knows a lot about diagnostics, and the nurses who can orient you with clinical skills. You will need them. And they will need you. So practice mutualism. Help them and they’ll help you. Medicine will be so much easier this way.

3. Priority one: YOURSELF

I used to be really active before I studied med. But, the overwhelming workload surprised me. So please try your best to have a good mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical life. Yes, those readings are important but you can’t be an excellent doctor if you don’t take care of yourself. So, meditate, stretch, run, listen to music, and party from time to time. Sleep. Believe me when I say that sacrificing your sleep will backfire on you. I scored higher on tests wherein I got more sleep and I almost failed when I pulled out an all nighter. Prioritize YOU.

4. Saying no is a requirement.

You only have 24 hours in a day. If you say yes to everything and everyone, you will find yourself exhausted and not primed to learn. When you decided to be a medical doctor you should have said goodbye or hit pause to other activities that you regularly do. For example, I used to have gigs before medschool, but I can’t stay up late so now, I don’t. I still sing sometimes, but it’s not my priority anymore. I only have a fixed time for my hobbies. I still do them but, I just can’t afford to sacrifice my rest because I need to learn so that I’ll be an excellent doctor. So, say NO. You don’t have to join all organizations because of peer pressure. Join them because you really want to and don’t overestimate your energy. Always think before saying yes.

5. Spending wisely.

For someone who has worked for four years prior to studying med, this was really hard. I just don’t know how to spend like a student. Think before you order that Starbucks Caramel Macchiato. That can cover for one day of your allowance. I can’t shop like I used to or eat whatever I want whenever I want. Have friends who are also financially conscious. So what we do is after our exams, we eat out and watch a movie. For the rest of the week, we spend like students. Remember that life is hard, and we shouldn’t make it harder for our parents or our relatives financing our studies.

6. It’s okay to have mental breakdowns. Call a friend.

This is normal. I hate it when this happens, but I am telling you, it will. Here’s where you need mental toughness, family, and friends. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people when you can’t take it anymore. Believe me, someone will help you. I had a health scare a week before my final exams. But because I have this strong support system, I managed to stay sane amidst all those dreadful moments. Studying is hard, all the more if you have other matters to think about. You need friends. Ask for help.

7. Adapting to  your pace.

Unlike most of my classmates who are fresh from undergrad, I’m not as mentally quick as I used to. I got really pressured at first because who likes being the dumb one? However, it dawned on me that pressuring myself doesn’t work. I had to be kind to myself and work at my pace. You must do this too. There are topics that others are more adept to, instead of being pressured, work harder. Read more and ask them to explain a concept to you. You’ll be amazed by how it’s easier to learn just by asking. Be kind to yourself even if your brain is like a turtle at first. Believe me, you’re not alone. You can’t be excellent always, but you can try to be the best version of yourself, and work your hardest everyday.

8. Always think about your future patient.

Your resilience will be tested. If you only have two to three hours of sleep, exams, projects, and reports you might be prompted to give up and question yourself. But basically, I just think ahead and imagine myself in ten years. If I have a patient who’s dying, does he or she deserve a crappy doctor? NO. I won’t be that doctor. I may not be the best but at least I know that I did my best. The thought of my future patients is enough to put me out of a slump. I just rest my mind and hustle again. It’s hard but it’s worth it.

9. Screw competition, aim to learn.

Being overly competitive doesn’t work in medschool. Always aim to learn. Listen to the lectures because you might need that information someday. Go to class because learning will make you a better doctor. If your aim is to shine, then this is not the right place for you. You will burn out eventually if you’re excelling because of recognition. Dig deeper. Learn deeper.

10. Going back to your why.

Your why must be clear to you. If it’s not, then you’re on a shaky path. In one semester of medschool I realized that this is not for the weak or faint hearted. Everyday, you will be humbled by how much you do not know. If you’re looking for a place that will cradle your emotions, this is not it. You will make a lot of mistakes and look dumb 99% of the time. You are like a child who’s trying to walk for the first time. That’s basically how I feel everyday. Always go back to your reason. What pulled you to be here? If that is strong enough, I think you will love it.

 

I still love it. I’m tired but I’m happy. If you love what you’re doing, you’ll never get tired. You will be exhausted, but you’ll just hit pause but you’ll never stop.

When the Heartaches Make Sense

Once upon a time, a girl dreamed of healing people. She wanted it so bad and did everything she can with whatever she has to make that dream happen.

Sadly, life happened and the dream of attaching two letters at the end of her surname sounded impossible. She accepted that if it’s for her, it will happen. Though at that moment, everything around her sent one message, “No, this isn’t for you.”

She listened to the signs and messages. She accepted that she was probably one of those people who had a dream carved in her heart, did everything to make it come true, but ended up doing what was needed of her instead of what her heart desired. She said, “Alright fate, it hurts that the one thing that pulled me to wake up in the morning is not happening.”

She surrendered.

I was an atheist. I could probably be one of the most pragmatic person you will ever meet a year ago. One could even say, “Katey, please grow a heart.” I never believed in fate or whatsoever external force that guides you to your path. Oh please, not me.

I used to think that hard-work is the sole key to success. If I work hard enough and give it my 101% things would work out according to how I want it to happen. The world was my oyster, and I was there to play the field. I was a beast, determined to wrestle with challenges and smack it on the face, and say, “Bring it on because this girl can do it all.”

And the world really gave its all. Until I found myself picking up the pieces of my so-called armor of courage, or of arrogance the way I see it now. I was broken. I became so afraid of what viand is going to be served again. Can I still handle it?

No, not anymore. I couldn’t take any more of it. I give up.

“I give up.” Those three words that I never thought I would utter, but I did, repeatedly. I beat myself up for being a failure, for always coming short of what I expected of myself, for being a coward. It was all a bluff. I wasn’t brave after all. I was the worst. I look at the mirror and all I saw was someone who was weak. I’m not even worth an ounce of love.

I felt that, longer than I should have.

But, slowly, I crawled out of that hell hole. It wasn’t easy though. Especially when you’re all alone in a foreign land. It’s scary to fight your demons when you decide to move to another country with people who barely speaks your language. I had to learn how to find my way without losing the little sanity that I still had.

I started with saying “Thank you,” the moment I wake up. I began running again, going out with friends, and writing. Sometimes too much human interaction still overwhelmed me, those days I still hid from the world. I didn’t know the exact day when I felt totally okay. I just realized one day, that I was smiling again, the kind of smile that stayed. It wasn’t an all for show smile. I was happy.

It’s okay that I will not be Dr. Katey anymore. I am fine with who I was and looking forward to the person that I was going to become. When I was okay, I decided to go back home and do the work that I was set to do, whatever mission that was.

I started working in the BPO industry. I applied because originally, I planned on taking a master’s degree in environmental science. I would need a day job that would put food on the plate and finance my youngest sibling’s studies. I needed also a job that unlike teaching, would not require so much mental energy when I get home since I was going to apply to graduate school.

When you have a plan, it’s funny how one phone call can change your life.

I was about to prepare for work when my dad called me. It was the usual dad jokes and checking up on me phone call. But then, he called because someone volunteered to pay for my medical school tuition fee.

“Papa, is this a joke?” I mockingly said.

“No, this is real. Do you still want to do it?”

Without a second of doubt, “Hell yeah!”

Sometimes I still pinch myself. Is this fucking real? I even get scared when I’m reviewing for NMAT. What if this gets taken away from me? But even if I’m scared, I’ll still move forward.

I believed that someday, my dream for my myself and my country will come true. I gave up the MD dream. A week before the news, my good friend L asked me, “So Katey what’s the plan?”

“To tell you the truth L, I don’t know anymore. I would probably go to Law School or push through with master’s. I’ll just go with the flow. But if someone would give me a million pesos, it would still be medschool.”

A week after that conversation, I didn’t actually get a million, but I got so much more.

To you reader, don’t give up on your dreams. You never know what’s ahead.

Love,

Katey (Future MD)

P.S. I will be posting more about the MD Journey from now on.