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.

 

Prepare and Dare

Do you remember how 2018 was? It was so good to you but it was also heartbreaking in some ways. You won and you lost. So many things happened right? There were a lot of surprises, some where good and some were bad but what matters is you learned.

You learned that gratitude is essential.

Every day there is still something to be grateful for. You might be in too much pain, but the sun still rose, your dad cooked breakfast for you, you have family who unconditionally looks out for you. Isn’t it amazing how everything seems orchestrated? There are people who truly care for you. You can make a list of those amazing humans and also the circumstances which brought you to where you are right now.

Love is found in the mundane.

Our princess mentality taught us that love should be in a form of a knight in shining armor or grand romantic expressions. But in 2018, maybe you saw and realized that it’s actually carved in the simple, repetitive actions. It’s when your bestfriend checks up on you, or when your friend tags you in a meme. It’s when someone listens to your rants or eats lunch with you. Love is when your little brother hugs you or when your cousin plays with you. It is actually everywhere, sometimes we’re just too clouded with pain and anger to notice it. I hope you learn to look for it, even in in the most difficult situations.

Accept. Accept. Accept.

Whatever it is, accept. Whether it’s good or bad accept. This Earth is not a paradise. Maybe you got lucky and got a fair share of wealth or maybe it’s the opposite. You may be slaying your goals or not getting the results you want. Nevertheless, you must still learn to accept what is. Because only with a heart that acknowledges what the present moment offers, can you operate from a genuine place. Learn how to be okay with what you have.

Try your best to see with compassion.

This is really hard to do especially when someone is just rude to you for some reason, and you don’t understand what you did wrong for that person to hate you. Even if the other person is just too mean, you have to do your best to look at the person and situation with compassion. Their behavior is not about you, it’s about their pain. They are just projecting that to you. Probably because you are a reflection of who they can’t be or unresolved childhood issues that has nothing to do with you.

At the end of the day, only yourself can save you.

You should be your own best friend and cheer leader. Stop relying on others. You are allowed to ask for help but you must not put your life on someone else’s hands. Be the captain of your own ship. Discover who you are, your dreams and passions and relentlessly follow it. More importantly, take responsibility for everything that happens in your life. You have no one to blame but yourself. Be mature enough. Respect other people’s time. Save yourself, don’t wait for others to do it for you.

Fake it till you make it.

No one has everything figured out, even the so called geniuses still has knowledge gaps. Sometimes you just have to pretend that you know what you’re doing even if you really don’t. Prepare and dare. Claim success like it’s your birthright. Who knows, you might just wake up living the dreams you never thought you could have.

We still have a lot to learn. This thought makes this new year even more exciting. I hope you do better this year, but if you don’t, know that it’s okay to fall short, what matters is you did the best that you could with what you have. 💕

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.

Love is

Love is your sister cooking breakfast for you everyday.

Love is your dad checking up on you if you’re okay.

Love is your friend or lover asking you, “How was your day?”

Love is that stranger you saw last night giving a few pennies to the quiet kid near the subway.

Love is the sun shining everyday.

Love is when someone really listens to what you have to say.

Love is saying no even when the other person gets hurt.

Love is simple. Love is.

Love is your friend going with you to the scary doctor’s appointment.

Love is when you’re laughing with your med school friends who are all thinking, “What the fuck are we doing now?”

Love is your parents giving you your weekly allowance.

Love is when your family helps you out.

Love is in that stranger who gave you that scholarship.

Love is in the silence in between long distance friendships, we just know that it’s there.

Love is when your girlfriends call you because of that douche bag.

Love is when someone asks you, “Are you alright? I’m here you can talk to me. I’ll be there in a heartbeat.”

Love is when someone doesn’t want you to leave.

Love is when someone lets you go because he or she knows that it is best.

Love is when when someone shares their french fries.

Love is when someone gets water for you when you eat out.

Love is in that friend who keeps on cracking jokes.

Love is when your dog jumps in happiness when she sees you.

Love is being okay with the simple and mundane.

Love is in the highs and lows, the blanks and in-between.

Love is in the passion you have for your greatest dream.

Love is when someone waits for you, whatever the reason is.

Love is when someone looks for you, when you’ve suddenly disconnected.

Love is in that person who says: You can do it.

Love is there even when a person dies.

Love is manifested in so many things.

It can be a smile, a hug, or an ocean of tears.

Love that is given is never gone.

Love circumvents, it floats, it’s like air.

You breathe it in and you let it out.

To the Men in My Life

You are the first man who taught me about love.

What I know about this four letter word and how it should look like is because of you

You are far from perfect, there were times that I hated you

But for giving me life, for protecting and guiding me, Papa, the worth that I see in myself I owe it to you.

You are an authoritative figure.

I remember being scared when you get mad.

But time passed and now I always look forward to our grown-up conversations.

For giving me golden advice and the eloquence to speak my thoughts,

Thank you Lolo, a part of my wisdom, I owe it to you.

You guys showed me that not all men are pigs.

You amazed me with how smart and talented you are.

You were my source of laughter, drinking and study buddies.

You were a big part of who I’ve become.

Oh how I miss our laughs and intellectual banters,

College bros, thank you for showing me what fun is, my smiles in my teenage years, I owe it to you.

To the first guy I fell in love with, oh boy, I can’t even say

You made me laugh until I snort, you made me cry until I thought I would never see the beginning of another day.

Heartbreak is too painful but you made me realize,

I am worthy of love and I deserved better,

So much better than how you treated me.

My first tears out of love, I owe it to you.

To the last guy I loved, it sucks that it didn’t work out.

You got me and I got you, it was a magic that  is rarely found.

Too afraid or too young? I don’t know which one it is.

As the cliche goes, “I’m happy for you, even if it’s not with me.”

You’re my “Maybe one day” or maybe you’re a lesson learned, but it’s okay.

My clarity for the next person I’ll love, I owe it to you.

To my two guy best friends who I’m in med school with,

Who saves me when I drown,

Who laughs and drinks with me and hugs me when I weep,

You both are puzzling and funny, too smart sometimes  to your own demise.

I hope as we journey med school, our friendship goes strong,

For your company, I’m grateful,

My smiles and comfort in med school, I owe it to you.

Sometimes we spend so much time hating on the wrong ones,

We often forget that we have good hearts around us.

And so to the person reading this, think of the good men out there.

Focus on them, love them, and be with them.

 

 

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.

Freedom

Wind beneath my hair

Sunlight on my skin

Coffee on the bench

Grass under my feet

I never felt this peace

Or so I thought I’d never feel it again.

 

You are my sanctuary

My oasis in the desert

The calm in my storm

The warmth of my favorite blanket

The softness of my pillow.

 

The bittersweet dark chocolate

The wine I sip before lying in bed.

My home and my clutter,

I guess you are my light, amidst the cold and dark,

Your love doesn’t make me shiver

 

My heart is full, with you I rest

I will always come back to you, my love, my home, my ethereal happiness.

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.

Jump and Fall

I am a risk taker. Period.

When I say I take risks, it’s not the do or die extreme sports stuff that I’m talking about. I take risks, life-changing, mind-boggling, and disturbing risks to the people around me.

I almost always say go for it.

I won a lot of times when I just say, fuck it, let’s go. Than when I shy away from opportunities and go back to my safe haven.

I took a plane and went abroad, alone. I got lost many times in that foreign country, alone. I applied for a job that I had no experience whatsoever and just said, yeah, let’s do this. I have confessed to a guy, got rejected, and looked like a fool. I wanted to sing with a live audience and so I did. I gave my heart to someone who didn’t feel the same. I took loads of risks. Hence I can say, who I am today, is a result of thousands of choices, good and bad. I worked hard to be better and I still am working to be a better version of my yesterday self.

Do I regret taking risks?

Hell no.

Well, I could’ve done better but here’s the thing, I learned because of tons of mistakes on my part. I became wiser because I put myself out there and allowed the universe to interact with my everyday actions. I chose to happen to things, and things happened to me.

But isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?

They tell us to play it safe, to stick to the status quo, to numb our hearts and forget about emotions. They said we should always have a thick wall that no one can ever penetrate.  They said we should not trust people. They said we should do whatever it takes to distance our vulnerable self from people.

But honey, what kind of life is that?

A life of no risks, of not jumping the cliff because of the fear of the unknown, a boring, mundane existence. No. I can’t fathom living like that.

I’d rather be bruised and wounded than stay unscathed but without stories to tell and lives touched. You can’t make me live in that fortress.

I know that by taking risks, there is a a big chance for you to get hurt. But by doing so, you live. You love, and you learn. Experience and mistakes teaches you more than any theory out there. When you go the arena, and play, you get to have the chance to bask in life.

There are no guarantees of happy endings. Because happiness after all, is a temporary feeling. But why don’t we fill each day with those tiny moments of happiness? Live in the moment. Take risks. Jump and fall and learn.

The Minute I Saw You

Was it your crooked teeth or your unruly hair?

Was it how lonely you were and the way you stare?

The minute I saw you, you were dark and brokenhearted.

All I knew was I started feeling gloomy and my gut urged me to help you somehow.

Was it when we talked and sparked a conversation?

Was it when you kissed me in a dark room? I had no clue of your intention.

Was it because I was taken aback by your mystery and all of your frustrations?

Was it when you hugged me one night, I felt safe, out of the norm, overwhelmed with elation?

I don’t know when it all changed, but the minute I saw you it wasn’t there.

You grew on me in a way that I never thought possible.

I became my problem fixer self and saw you as a project, a puzzle I needed to solve, a code I wanted to crack.

But recently I realized you are not meant for me and I am not for you.

You’re a hard person to love, a scattered jigsaw puzzle I’m never going to figure out.

I hate unsolved problems, unanswered questions and vague conversations.

I hate promises unkept, mixed signals, and unclear intentions.

I hate being led on to something that I know won’t last.

The minute I saw you, you were sad and alone.

The minute I reached out to you, you gave in, and suddenly held back.

The minute you stopped and thought about me twice,

That’s the minute I let go of any possibility of us that I once saw in your eyes.