Dealing with pressure

By merely typing the word “pressure” on the keyboard, I feel a little bit of it already. In Physics, pressure is defined as the amount of force per unit area. In terms of life in general, I guess all of us have felt it, a certain amount of force strikes us, often unexpectedly. Some of us are good at handling it. Some would feel immensely overwhelmed and would freeze. Some would sadly, do drastic things, either good or bad, when the pressure is on. In my current situation as a medical student, and in my experiences in this ever dynamic life, I am constantly seeking and practicing ways to relieve the pressure and handle it better especially when things don’t go my way. Again, I am not perfect. In fact I just had a mini meltdown last night. I still have a lot to learn but so far here are the tools which worked for me.

1. Humility
Oftentimes the pressure comes from having a certain level of success in the past. To be honest, sometimes I do feel like I have to be excellent because I have the constant need to exceed the level of achievement that I previously had. However, I realized that this mindset is not serving me. Realizing that those past accolades aren’t me took so much weight off my shoulders. When I read Elizabeth Gibert’s book, Big Magic, she wrote about being a vessel and not the source. I felt so much humility and much lighter because it gave me the permission to just do my best knowing that I am not the genius. That girl who wrote that piece of poetry, or who aced her exam, or won an award, wasn’t me. I am just the vessel, and not the source. The genius moves within me and when it decides to leave, I am totally okay with that. I let it go and thank it for moving through me. I cannot do excellent work all the time, but what I can do is work and trust. Please repeat this whenever there’s too much pressure, “I am just a vessel and not the source.These are not me, it comes from something, bigger than the little me.”

2. Hardwork
Laziness is the perfect ingredient for overwhelm. I am saying this because I was really lazy before especially when I was younger. When you know that you can do a certain task for a short time, you tend to procrastinate. You watch movies, spend hours on social media, or do irrelevant tasks instead of facing the problem at hand. Then, the tasks pile up, other responsibilities will pull you from all directions, and suddenly you are the human representation of a walking backlog and you end up not doing the important stuff that is essential to your life’s mission. Then you feel pressured, overwhelmed, and then you start to become so hard on yourself. You know how you can avoid this? Get off the couch and do something. Put your gadgets on focus mode. Work hard and work smart. Align with your body’s energy levels, work productively, and rest when you must. In that way there is less probability of overwhelm. There will be less pressure because you are on top of things. There’s no hack or easier way than working your buns off.

3. Gratitude
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I love writing about gratitude. That is because it works. Maybe you might think I’m just saying this because I haven’t been through a lot and trust me, or do a backread in this blog, and you’ll see that my rock bottom almost made me give up on life. You don’t need to feel better in an instant. I just want you to grab a notebook and write even just one thing that you are grateful for when you wake up. This doesn’t mean that you will be a ray of toxic positivity. You will just state one thing, not ten, not twenty, even just one. You’ll soon see that despite any challenge, there’s still something to be thankful for. It doesn’t have to be grand. It can be as simple as the air you breathe or your morning coffee. This attitude of gratitude builds momentum, and soon enough you’ll be able to reframe your thoughts. It might take days, or years, but just do it consistently and you’ll realize that even if there’s too much pressure, it somehow gets lighter as you acknowledge the good things in life.

4. Prayers
Disclaimer: I am not practicing any religion. But I am a firm believer that there is a bigger Being out there, that is too big to be even imagined by the human brain. I have this faith that God, The Universe, Being, Eternal Loving Presence, or whatever you want to call it is trying to manifest something, and that all of us has a part for this creation to come into fruiton. And so, I have made a conscious effort to pray that whatever I do is in alignment with my purpose. To be honest, I don’t even know clearly what that purpose is, but if you have faith, somehow the universe shows you the way. So pray that God shows you the way. Surrender and be willing to walk through the path that is for you. When you have this belief that, every experience is part of your purpose, it takes the pressure off, because it’s not just you who has to make things happen. You are co-creating with the universe.

5. Look for peace and it will come to you.
If you think about problems all the time, believe me there are a million ways to do that, in fact you just need to scroll on your newsfeed and be sucked into the youtube vortex and you’ll find millions of negative content that can feed your mind. These will catch your attention and make you an unproductive and anxious human being. But what if you decide to take the reigns and declare that peace is what you seek? What if you start unfollowing people and pages that make you feel like your efforts are not good enough, that no matter what you do, it won’t make a difference? Believe me, your life will change. Unfollow people or even friends that you tend to compare yourself to, that make you jealous, or afraid that you are missing out. Try focusing on your breath, on the task at hand, on the process. Just try doing things and appreciate them whether it’s good or bad. There is more peace within you and outside of you. Just don’t be lazy in looking for it. Make finding and generating peace a lifelong commitment and you’ll soon notice that when you are overwhelmed, you can always go back to that sacred place within you that hugs and tells you that everything is going to be okay.

You’ll be okay, love.

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.

What I had to sacrifice for my dream

Think about the sacrifices you had to make for your dream. Are they really that harsh or maybe you just need a new set of perspective lenses? Remember that you are the captain of your ship and the master of your game. If you see your journey as a punishment, then it will be. But if you appreciate it and create a fun-filled and spiritually conscious life around it, it will still be a wonderful and exhilirating experience.

For dreams to come true, you have to work hard, stay focused, and be willing to make sacrifices. We all know these things, but being on the journey itself has taught me a lot of lessons that how I wish someone would have told me earlier so that I would have been at least mentally prepared for the challenges that came along with it. I know that nothing could have prevented the huge blow but I would have appreciated a guardian angel that could have softened the experience for me. Here are the top things that I had to sacrifice during this MD journey:

1. Sleep
We need seven to eight hours of sleep in order to optimally function as a human being. However, no matter how hard we try to be as healthy as possible, sadly, the medical education world, is not designed for that. We have a very fast paced program so you really need to read and review because you will have tons of exams. For instance in our school, we have exams scheduled every Monday. Just imagine how our weekend looks. To be honest I flunked some exams because sometimes my body couldn’t adapt to a no rest weekend and if I don’t sleep, I’ll get sick and that will be worse. It’s a constant battle between passing exams or getting sleep. How I wish the education system isn’t this toxic but we have to adjust to the current situation in order to survive. You will definitely lose sleep because there’s just tons to do. It’s kind of ironic because we are advocating for health but we barely practice this lifestyle in medschool. Since health is one of my top five priorities, I decided to not join any college-based organizations so that I can at least have five hours of sleep on a typical school day. It helped me have a better mood and concentration. It’s better if you know this now so that when you’re in medical school you will just say yes to commitments which are a priority for you.


2. Time with Family
This is actually the hardest thing to sacrifice. As an Asian, family is a big deal. This is also my priority because you can have a lot of achievements in life but nothing can take back the time you lost with your family. It is difficult to balance time with family and academics. This is actually the reason why I chose to study in a medical school in our province. I want to have more time with my family. However, since I can’t focus on studying when I’m at home, I need to stay in my dorm whenever there are major exams. Having a planner and scheduling everything is the key to med life balance, though perfect balance is a myth anyway. I still carve time for my family inspite of the busyness because, they give me the extra motivation and inspiration that I need to keep on studying. I am still not good at this but I try to be as present as I can because I want to live a life without regrets even if I value my dream of becoming a doctor. Being really clear and conscious about how I spend my time and making sure that my family is a priority gave me the opportunity to spend one last year with my father before he passed away. I therefore have no regrets at all.

3. Freedom
Since I need to study a lot, freedom, at least compared to how I used to live my life is relatively gone. Friday night drinks shifted to catching up with sleep. Social events are not a priority, rest is. There’s a concert that you really want to watch, but you will have to choose studying for exams. You can’t meet people as much as you want to. You won’t live a life that is the same with majority of people in their twenties. That is the reality of it, no sugar coating added. You will get jealous with people in your age group because they are getting married, traveling, or having babies. But you know what? It’s okay. I will not trade this life with anybody else’s. There are moments that I feel really down because I just want to progress quickly in my career but, all of us just have one life. I will not spend it blaming myself for not chasing my dreams just because I wasn’t patient enough. To others, my life may seem miserable, but to me, it isn’t. I have something to look forward to every single day. I am learning how to save a life. Not everyone gets to have a chance to do that. I value freedom, but maybe this is my own definition of it. It’s about working so hard for a vision that I can clearly see. It’s about not giving up when the going gets tough. It’s about getting through challenges and growing along with it. This is my freedom and my way of being proud of myself.


4. Money
I missed this part a lot. In fact, this is one of the reasons why I couldn’t go to medschool right after college. I like money. I like earning it. I like having a lot of it. But when you’re a student, you can’t spend money same as when you were still working. I had to say goodbye to my cashflow. You can have a side hustle or a business but if it will take a huge chunk of your time, then this is not the perfect timing for that. You have to set your priorities, unless you’re one of the select few geniuses who can multitask and learn medical concepts easily. As an average person intellectually, I had to set my priorities straight and just focus on medschool for now. I am really lucky to have a family and generous people who support my financial needs. I am also the type of person who is not motivated because of money. I want to be rich because money is a very useful tool to create the future that you are dreaming of. But for now, there’s a pause and it’s totally okay. As long as your worth isn’t connected to how much money you have in your bank account, you’re good to go.

5. Adventure
Gone were the days when you can just be a weekend warrior and book a trip or go on hiking. As an adventure junkie, this was painful because I know that my physical strength in my twenties will not be the same in the years to come. I love travel but my nomad alter ego is now on hiatus. You can still go for short side trips but it won’t be the same as the backpacking days that you used to embark on. This was hard for me but you can use the perfect tool for this dilemma which is, perspective management. Instead of thinking that you’re missing out on a lot of travels, why not look at your life as the ultimate adventure? I may have said goodbye to island hopping but this journey is still exciting for me. I shifted to discovering every coffee shop in my city and studying there. I jog in different places. When my boyfriend picks me up from school we choose to drive at the more scenic route. We take photos when the view is just surreal. My medschool friends and I eat at restaurants and try the different flavors of souffle. We watch free concerts on a friday night. The list is endless. I have found a way to be adventurous even without booking trips. I guess that’s the sense of it. You have to bring the adventure wherever you go and you have to look at life as the one big adventure. This makes my heart so warm and happy.

So now think about the sacrifices you had to make for your dream. Are they really that harsh or maybe you just need a new set of perspective lenses? Remember that you are the captain of your ship and the master of your game. If you see your journey as a punishment, then it will be. But if you appreciate it and create a fun-filled and spiritually conscious life around it, it will still be a wonderful and exhilirating experience. I mean, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How to be certain that medschool is for you

Envision yourself ten years from now. Will you be okay with not becoming a medical doctor? Can you see a career path that resonates more with your soul?

Career paths are tricky. When we are young, it feels like we are being pulled from a million different directions. There’s the expectation of your parents, the unsolicited advice from the extended family, and sometimes we forget the very subtle whisper. What do I mean by the whisper? I heard this ever since I was young. It is that voice that makes you want to do something that to others may not make sense but to you, it intuitively does. I can’t even find words to articulate this whisper, but I guess it’s a result of being in tune with one’s soul.

That is so far, the best description that I could construct about my reason as to why I chose medicine, and why I’ll keep choosing it even if it can be excruciatingly hard. One major purpose behind this blog is, as a kid, I needed a person who could have guided and told me about the medical world. In my brain, I knew that it was hard, but what I didn’t know was the depth of sacrifices and the waves of uncertainties that comes along with learning how to save someone’s life. So please allow me to be your guru for a few minutes, if you’re contemplating about becoming a medical student. Here are questions that you must take time to ponder on.

1. Do you love learning?
You’ll be reading tons of books. Your college books are nothing compared to medical books. You must have a genuine love and thirst for learning if you want to become a doctor. Education isn’t even over when you graduate medschool my dear. You will still learn new information since science and medicine are rapidly evolving disciplines. If you are the type of person who devours learning, then you’ll have the stamina to digest extremely technical scientific information. Being a bookworm and science nerd is a good indicator that you will last in this game.

2. Do you love helping people?

Helping is the nature of the job. Your goal is to ease people from sufferring. If you are on the more selfish spectrum, this career might not become fulfilling for you. If your motivation is money, don’t go to medschool, there are tons of easier ways to do that. Remember that you will be handling patients from all walks of life and your sworn duty is to help them inspite of whoever they are, so you should have a sense of altruism. It doesn’t matter if your patient is a philantrophist or a criminal. If a human needs medical attention, you must help. It must be innate in your heart so that treating patients will be in line with your personality. Plus, patients will feel it if you are genuine.

3. Are you willing to compromise?

You will see your friends moving forward in their careers and travelling but you will be stuck with your books for the next five years of your life. Time with family, friends, and your partner will be significantly reduced. If deep within your heart, you have this knowing that the sacrifices will be all worth it, then that’s great. It means that you can withstand the long years of studying. But let me tell you in advance that, there are many birthdays that you can’t come to, weddings or anniversaries that you can’t attend, and concerts that you won’t be able to watch. Financial freedom will be put on the side. Date nights will get cancelled. Know what you are getting yourself into.

4. Are you willing to fail?

Getting in medical school is a caveat by itself. You will get accepted because you’re a diamond in the rough. The admission committee saw that you can survive and thrive even in adverse situations. They know that you are smart and resilient enough for this path. However, you cannot be a jack of all trades. Unless you’re one of the select few geniuses who won the IQ genetic lottery, you will most probably fail exams. Plus, life’s challenges won’t stop just because you’re a medical student. Your parents might get sick, sometimes there will be death in the family, your mental and physical health might plummet, or financial meltdowns might occur. You have to remember in these moments that, no matter how many times you stumble, you will definitely rise. If you are okay with setbacks and failures, and if you have a fast move-on rate, then this path could really be for you.


5. Can you imagine doing anything else?

Envision yourself ten years from now. Will you be okay with not becoming a medical doctor? Can you see a career path that resonates more with your soul? If you can, then try that first. I did that because I wasn’t that sure when I was younger. However, I was faced with a fork in the road. I couldn’t unhear the whisper. I can’t imagine living a life of what-ifs ten years from when I was 23. If you can’t think of a reason as to why you must not study medicine, well, at least give it a try then. Go for it, if you can’t imagine doing anything else. And if you end up not liking this path, well at least you gave it a shot. You chose to be brave and that’s something to be proud of.

Again, I would love to hear your thoughts on this whether you’re a premed, med student, or a practicing medical doctor. Let us help each other out so that there will be more doctors who are in it because they consciously chose this path.

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.

 

Tulak

Takbo. Habol. Lipad.

Sabi nila kailangan ko daw matutong huwag tumigil,

kahit pagod na, ang huminga ng saglit ay bawal,

kung tagumpay ang hangarin.

 

Ngiti. Halakhak. Labas ang ngipin.

Ang sarap tumawa, sana’y walang katapusan,

kung sumaya ay ganon kadali,

bakit kayhirap gawin,

tila marami ang malungkot sa atin?

 

Hinga. Pahingi ng pahinga.

Ito ang sigaw ng katawan kong tulog ay kaytagal nang inaasam.

Ngunit seryoso, kailan kaya kita mababawi?

Pwede pa ba? May oras pa ba?

Biro lang, may pagsusulit pa bukas.

Ginusto mo yan, wag kang magsisi.

 

Problema. Masakit. Madilim.

Kaya ko pa bang harapin ang bukas?

Kaya ko pa bang magsimula ulit?

Sa ilalim ng makulimlim na ulapat bugso ng ulan,

bakit parang ayaw na niyang tumigil?

Ate. Kapatid. Pamilya.

Kayo ang pumupuno sa akin.

Salamat dahil nariyan kayo, ang makikipot at paliko-likong daan,

matapang kong tinatahak, sapagkat kayo’y sumisigaw,

naniniwalang ang tagumpay ay nasa akin.

 

Lipunan. Magulo. Pabagsak.

May pag-asa pa kaya?

Kung ako’y tumigil, ano na ang kapalaran ng henerasyon na susunod sa akin?

 

Utak. Puso. Pag-ibig.

Mahirap pumili ng susundin,

ngunit kailangan, dahil kung hindi,

tila’y ligaw na damo, walang susundan, kung saan-saan mapapadpad,

oo, kayo ang bumubulong sa akin.

 

Kape. Alak. Tubig.

Aah, sa bawat tulo, napapawi ang pagod, kaya mo pa,

isang lagok pa, iyong matatapos ang inaaral,

magiging bihasa balang araw, sa larangang pinili.

 

Pluma. Papel. Laptop. 

Sila ang aking karamay.

Kaya. Kaya. Kaya.

Pwedeng magpahinga Juana, pero hinding-hindi titigil.

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.