Medicine, Marriage, Family

I remember when I was considering applying to medical school being terrified that becoming a doctor meant I’d never be able to have a family. Every Google search led to horror stories about divorce, blogs berating physicians that chose to have children, and forums full of miserable doctors. I almost chose a different career path purely out of fear.

As I’ve mentioned before I strive to make this blog a balance of medicine and other things – particularly family. I want my blog to serve as a place for pre-meds and medical students with these worries to find a positive story.

I love blogging about medical training and education, but the goal of Mind On Medicine has always been to create a place to write what we might sit down and talk about over a cup of coffee…and I can guarantee right now there would be lots of talk about mothering multiples, being a working mom, breastfeeding twins, returning to work, sleeping in 2 hour chunks, etc.

So, in order to continue in my endeavor to have work-life balance on this blog, I’m going to be starting what we will oh-so-creatively refer to as “Twin Tuesday.” On Tuesdays I’ll share anecdotes about adorable babies (obviously), but I also hope to delve into some of the challenges and excitements of being a mother in medicine.

I hope if you stumbled on this blog and you’re worried about medicine and family life and marriage that you will stick around! It’s not easy, but it is possible…it’s an adventure that I’m so glad I have chosen to embark on. And, while I still have a ways to go, knowing what I know now I’d still choose to do it this way!

Also, if you’re considering throwing your dreams of medicine out the window because you think you have to choose one or the other, I hope you’ll email me first so we can chat. I’ve been in your shoes!

What Is This “Match” Thing, Anyway?

First off – I’m back from blogging maternity leave – celebration dances may commence! Oh, you thought you got rid of me because I birthed two babies at one time? Oh no, friends, it won’t be nearly that easy to get rid of me.

Now, for our regularly scheduled post of insightful information.

If I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me “hey you did all those interviews (while ridiculously huge and pregnant), did you get a job yet?” I’d probably have 14 pesos by now. Nobody outside of medicine understands how this works…and quite honestly, I can’t imagine why they would want to…but I’m going to try to break it down into simple bullets as well as I can. This is an extremely basic overview.

Applying To Residency – The Basics

  • Medical school is four years long.
  • Sometime during the third year most people choose a specialty. I chose Ob/Gyn.
  • In the Fall semester of your fourth year residency applications are due.
  • Some specialties have different application processes, this blog discusses the most common.

Interviewing For Residency Positions

  • After applications are in programs offer interviews.
  • Interview season is generally from September – January of fourth year.
  • People do an average of 10 interviews, depending on competitiveness.

Applicants Make A “Rank List”

  • After all interviews are completed we rank each place we interviewed based on how badly we would like to go there. I interviewed 10 places and ranked 7 – you’re allowed to leave any places you don’t think you’d want to go off your list and this guarantees you won’t end up there.
  •  Rank lists this year were due February 20, 2013. (yesterday! eek!!)

Programs Make A “Rank List”

  • Programs rank applicants who interviewed according to how badly they want them to join their program. Like applicants, programs are allowed to choose not to rank a certain person if they really don’t think they’re a good fit for the program.
The Match
  • A very large, Alien-manned computer located somewhere between here and Venus uses a mysterious, Big Bang Theory-type algorithm to calculate where an applicant will “match.”
  • This pairing goes in favor of the applicant – so applicants get matched to the highest place on their list that also ranked them.
  • The idea is to put the largest number of applicants possible at the programs they really liked. This is the extent of my understanding. If you’d like the nitty gritty on how the actual algorithm works you can read about it here.
  • The Monday before Match Day applicants find out if they matched. Applicants who don’t match enter into the Supplemental Offer Acceptance Program (SOAP), that’s a whole blog post in itself.

Match Day – March 15, 2013

  • MATCH DAY! Friday you gather with your classmates for a big, fancy ceremony and celebration. At our school we have an exciting morning filled with friends and food. Everyone gets an envelope with their name on the outside and destiny on the inside. At 11am we all open them together to find out where we will be spending the next 3-7 years. Obviously, everyone hopes for their #1 choice, but most people are happy with any of their top 3 or 4.

So, no I haven’t technically gotten a job from all those interviews I did…yet! I will find out on Monday, March 11 IF I got a job and Friday, March 15 WHERE I got a job.

Residency is your first real job as a doctor, we will all technically receive our MD in May. However, residency is continued supervised training. So, while we are doctors and we do get paid (instead of paying tuition, finally), we are just baby doctors. The average resident physician pay is about $45,000/year and the work weeks are typically 80 hours long. That comes out to $notverymuch/hr for someone with a doctorate level education, but it makes sense – we’re still learning how to be really great doctors and someone has to make sure we are doing a good job!

There, clear as mud…now how should I spend all these pesos?

Reflections on Third Year

The past year has been one of unexpected and broad personal discovery, involving aspects of heartbreaking disappointment and sheer, unsurpassable joy.

Since July of last year, when I started third year, I’ve met amazing people, learned incredible things (including learning how much I don’t know) and been afforded unique opportunities.

I can confidently say that the third year of medical school was one of the most life-changing years of my life. Not only did I (finally) figure out what I want to be when I grow up, but I experienced breathtaking highs, gut-wrenching lows, unexpected humor, and a back door glimpse into a mysterious side of life…and death…that many never see.

Overall, I feel like this year, both personally and professionally, I’ve truly experienced an overwhelming breadth of humanity…and honestly, I never saw it coming.

I just wanted to thank y’all for making this journey with me. I have received so much advice, support, encouragement, and love from Mind On Med readers and through Twitter. I am continually thankful that I choose to share my experiences here – not only to give others a glimpse into this life, but so I can look back someday and remember how pivotal these years were in helping me become the physician I will eventually be.

I’m expecting that the next year will be an adventure in itself – two new babies (!!) who will hopefully keep cooking until December (oh, did you miss that – yah we aren’t getting another dog – no my friend, we met our four-legged & furry quota long ago), residency applications and interviews, Match Day in March, and all kinds of fourth year fun (hopefully involving significantly more DIY projects than third year). Thanks for sticking with me through the craziness!

Ok, I do believe that is enough mushiness for one year.

Here’s a few of the most viewed posts on Mind On Med from the past year:

Image: | Ambro

Five Reasons Mind On Med (and @daniellenjones) Won’t Disappear For Interviews

As Match Day for the Class of 2012 quickly fades into the background and residency applications for my class begin to appear on the (horrendously terrifying, Wizard of Oz tornado-esque) horizon, I find my classmates starting to disappear (or discuss disappearing) from Facebook and other socially-oriented websites.

“Are you taking your blog down for application and interview season?” someone innocently asked, “I mean, some program directors just may not appreciate the ‘social media’ involvement as much as you do.”

The question, while valid by many accounts, irked me a bit – of course I’m not taking down Mind On Medicine for residency applications. 

Why? Let me give you a few reasons.

1. I have nothing to hide.

If I were to take down my blog for residency applications and interviews it would imply I have written something here that I need to hide from my “higher-ups.” I don’t write about patient specifics, in fact I can think of only one time I’ve even written vaguely of a patient interaction, and I don’t write negatively about classmates or residents or attendings. I just write. About medical school, about my life, about funny stuff, about serious stuff…I just write. This is my hobby and I enjoy it, why would I hide that from anyone?

2. It seems a bit dishonest.

If I did take it down what would happen when I started residency? I’d put Mind On Medicine back up and eventually someone would ask why it conspicuously disappeared for the period of time I was applying and interviewing? Awkward turtle. 

3. It’s sort of on my CV.

Not explicitly, but in a round-a-bout kind of way. I was recently published in one of my school’s magazines and the article mentioned this blog. So, if someone were to read my lone “publication” and attempt to visit Mind On Med from that reference only to find I had deleted it…well, that’d be a little weird. I’ve also received some opportunities from this blog that are included on my CV – being a founding medical student of Health Tap University, working with Doximity, a job writing reviews for iMedicalApps, attending and participating as a panel member at an upcoming Doximity Leadership Summit – and I’m sure at some point in my interviews it will come up how I stumbled upon at least one of these awesome, non-traditional opportunities. These are seriously amazing things I’ve had the chance to be a part of all from being involved in social media…I really just want to paste it everywhere so people can see the benefit, not hide it like a red-headed step-child*.

4. I’m proud of my writing & involvement.

I consider my involvement in social media more than just a haphazard manner of sharing what I had for breakfast (although, I do occasionally share what I have for breakfast…especially when it’s cookies…or vending machine crap…), it’s a way for me to learn. I have gained so much from being involved in social media, more than just cool opportunities. Not only do the people I’ve met teach me as much as the people I interact with “in real life,” they’re helping me network, expand my career and, maybe most importantly, open my mind to ideas, lifestyles, & beliefs I wasn’t previously familiar with. There are so many people on Twitter who have taught me how to be a better physician in the future and I am so grateful – these opportunities have been overwhelmingly valuable to me.

5. What a freakin’ hassle!

Umm…I’m not entirely sure what all would go into making this blog disappear for a certain amount of time, but I am confident I do not want to deal with that! I worked too hard creating a blog, moving it to WordPress, designing a Header, organizing, changing, adding, subtracting and editing to make this thing disappear. It’s a work of art (notably included in the “my-3-year-old-could’ve-finger-painted-that-what’s-it-doing-in-the-Smithsonian” genre).


A while back my internet friend (oh, – reason #6 – if I hide my internet existence it knocks me down to 2 friends total…and one is married to me…so I really can’t afford delete myself at this point) and Mind On Med guest blogger, Allison from MD2B, wrote a post called “My Social Media Manifesto” in which she, much more gracefully and intelligently than I, described some fabulous reasons for keeping her internet presence around during application and interview season. Hop on over and give it looksy…good stuff.

So, there you have it – the 5 reasons I am not using the Abracadabra dust to make me internet-invisible come September.

Agree? Disagree? What are your reasons for keeping (or Control-Alt-Deleting) your online presence for application season?


Image: graur codrin |

*No offense meant to red headed step-children. I myself am a step-child…and am currently sporting hair in a shade of red. I did not take offense to that statement, so neither should you. If you did I need you to evaluate your life and discover what your evil step-mother did with your sense of humor. It’s likely locked in the cold, dark basement she kept you in when you weren’t mopping floors.


Interviewing for Medical School


  As a member of the admission’s committee at our school and as someone who recently(ish) went through the application and interview process (twice), I get asked a lot if I have any advice for those in the midst of attempting to get into medical school. I’m a bit long winded
(I know, you’re shocked), so I thought I’d write out my typical answers here to avoid pushing my Tweet count any higher than it already is.

  Since it’s currently interview season for hopeful medical students this post will focus on interviewing, next semester I’ll work on putting one together about applications in general. If you ever have questions about anything related to getting into medical school please feel free to ask.

Interviewer Perspective

  • Be normal. As an interviewer I run very laid back, get-to-know-you interviews. The person I’m interviewing has been deemed by powers higher than I to have the intellectual ability to function well and survive medical school, therefore my goal is to determine how they interact with people and how well they will fit in at our school. So, from the perspective of an interviewer, my advice is to do your best to be a normal human. Don’t be cocky or rude or obscene, don’t take over the interview and ask me questions before I clarify everything in your app I had questions about. Just sit up straight, look put-together, act professional and be yourself…as long as your self isn’t cocky, rude and obscene.

The Week Before

  • Anticipate the questions. Print this list of common interview questions out then go through and hand write an answer to each of them. Yes, really. Print it out. On real paper. With ink. On your iPad? Nope. In Microsoft Word? Nope. Using Evernote? No. Get it yet? Print it out. On real life, honest-to-God, made from trees (or recycled compost hippie stuff) paper and use an actual writing utensil to hand write your answers. Why? This is more of an exercise in getting to know yourself than it is in deciding what specific answers you’d give to questions. I have a tendency to blank when I’m very nervous and this practice helped me not memorize answers, but to be well-versed in quickly coming up with subject matter to discuss before I was under pressure to do so in an interview. If you think you’d be tempted to memorize and recite these answers, this practice is not for you.

The Day Before

  • Iron your suit. Yes, you should wear a suit. I don’t care if your best friend Earl is wearing slacks and a button up, you should wear a suit. Why? Because 90% of the other people there will have suits on and you don’t want to feel inadequate the moment you set foot into your future school. Whether you buy into or not, you are how you look. People are going to judge you based on what you’re wearing no matter how much you hate it. So, look the part. You don’t need a $2000 Gucci suit (would a Gucci suit cost more than that? does Gucci even make suits? not gonna lie, I’ve never been in a Gucci store and I think my $15 purse and budget-obsessed brain would melt into a babbling puddle of tears if I even passed one from the interstate), you just need to look nice enough to feel confident. In the end this suggestion is less about what you’re wearing and more about how you feel in it. I don’t remember what anyone I’ve interviewed was wearing, but I do remember how what I wore to my interviews affected my confidence. And I do remember thanking God I wasn’t that girl who showed up in grey slacks and a teal blouse.
  • Look over your application. While you should already be 100% sure that everything in your app is truthful, you need to make sure you remember exactly what’s in those 20 pages of information that’s supposed to give some AdCom an idea of your competency as a future physician. This is particularly important if the school you’re interviewing at had secondary applications that you filled out, because the questions may have varied between schools.

The Night Before

  • Go to bed early. You need to get a good night’s rest, you don’t want to be that guy who showed up for his interview with bags under his eyes from partying too hard before his interviews. Or that guy who showed up late. Your brain works best and you feel most confident when you are well-rested, so get off this blog (mark my words I will never tell anyone to get off my blog ever again. swear.) and Facebook and Twitter and go to sleep.

The Day Of

  • Set your alarm early. Get up in time to go for a run, do some yoga or move your body in some way before you get ready for the day. It doesn’t have to be long or intense, just move around a bit and wake your brain up.
  • Eat something. Make sure you have breakfast even if that’s not typically on your schedule. Lunch times are occasionally unpredictable at interviews and you don’t want to be starving during that 10am financial aid informational or in the middle of an interview.
  • Relax and assess the school. At this point you’ve done your work – you kicked butt in OChem (or maybe not, either way), you applied (hopefully early), you got an interview and you prepared adequately using some really awesome tips from a blogging 3rd year in Texas. Now, your job is to figure out if you like the school. You are not there simply to be judged by a bunch of AdComs, you need to decide what you like and dislike about the school. Ask questions, get information and take a step back to evaluate what you think of the place.
  • Make a list. Write down your pros and cons throughout the day. It seems silly and trivial in the midst of your interview day, because you think it should be easy to remember everything, but it’s not. Just keep a list so when you’re coming up with your ranking list or choosing which of your 8 offers to accept you’ll be basing it off your actual thoughts and feelings from interview day and not what you think you remember.

A Few Days Later

  • Say thanks. Email your interviewers and thank them for taking the time to talk to you. In all honesty, they’ve likely already evaluated you and this won’t have any bearing on your likelihood of acceptance, but it’s common courtesy. Interviewing and evaluating applicants is a time-consuming, mentally taxing process, so make sure your interviewer knows you appreciate their taking time out from a busy schedule to talk to you.



*Note: This advice is simply what worked for me when I was interviewing for medical school, it may or may not be the best way for you to prepare. Please use whatever method you feel is best.

Image: Ambro |

Foreign MD Training: Vita-Salute San Raffaele

    A lot of my classmates have always known what they wanted to be when they grew up – some have been doctors for Halloween every October since they were 5, others took their first steps right through the middle of an OR without touching so much as a single sterile field. I, on the other hand, have been petrified of anything with a needle point or stethoscope since the precise moment when some evil being in a white coat held me by my ankles, slapped my newborn baby booty and shouted “It’s a GIRL!” at my parents.

I didn’t decide until well into college that medical school was what I wanted to do next, so to say I was unprepared when I applied at the same time as my fellow pre-meds would be an understatement. I got one interview that year, followed closely by one rejection and a large dose of reality that left me wondering what to do next.

I briefly considered throwing in the towel, tossed around the idea of improving my application and reapplying, and seriously explored the world of foreign medical schools. While I would highly encourage anyone desiring to work as a doctor in the US to apply to medical school state side multiple times before going out of the country, I did find that some foreign schools had a lot to offer – especially to students who may have decided a little later in the game that medical school was their ultimate goal.

When a representative of Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan, Italy contacted me requesting my help in spreading the word about their International MD program I was a little hesitant. However, after learning about their program and curriculum, I am confident that this could be a good alternative for some of my readers, so I wanted to share the information with y’all. The program is fully integrated with US licensing exams and you can apply to US residencies upon completing the training. 

Vita-Salute San Raffaele 
International MD Program

Vita-Salute San Raffaele University is part of the San Raffaele Foundation which includes Hospitals, Research Centers and the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University.

San Raffaele is well known worldwide for its excellence: it is a highly specialized center for molecular medicine, diabetes and metabolic diseases, as well as biotechnology and bio-imaging. 
The Hospital channels many of its resources into cancer treatment, cardiovascular diseases and numerous acute and chronic-degenerative diseases and a very efficient Emergency Department that serves a vast area. 

The International MD Program builds on the institution’s solid presence on the international scene: San Raffaele healthcare centers can be found in many countries of the world, including Brazil, India, Uganda, Poland, Chile, Israel, Mozambique and Algeria.

This degree course provides medical-scientific education at the highest level, allowing students to improve their skills and to upgrade their knowledge. It also provides clinical and laboratory research opportunities and additional education in humanities and cultural sciences: philosophy, communication skills, cognitive neurosciences and psychology, which are the building blocks of human society, regardless of social status, race, or creed.

The International MD Program is designed to train a new kind of doctor; someone who possesses the necessary human, cultural and professional abilities to actively participate in healthcare and share ideas in today’s globalized world. Unlike other Medical Programs in Italy where clinical courses are held in Italian, the International MD Program is fully in English, including classes, lectures, practicals and all clinical activities.

Students enrolled in the San Raffaele International MD Program have access to all the facilities of the Vita-Salute San Raffaele Institute and the San Raffaele Scientific Institute, including skills labs for practical training, a library with more than 20,000 books and several thousand scientific e-publications and resources, as well as to the clinical and research laboratories of the San Raffaele Scientific Institute, the largest private research institute in Italy, that further expanded with the inauguration of DIBIT, a scientific facility for basic, translational and clinical research. DIBIT is part of the largest biomedical science park in Italy, which includes the San Raffaele Hospital, Science Park Raf, created to support the foundation’s development, and the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University. 

Applicants who wish to enroll in the Internation MD program are required to take an Admission Test prior to applying. 

It will take place on April 28, 2011 in the following locations:

Milan, Italy
New York, USA
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Candidates interested in sitting for the exam can find more information here.

64 places are available for Academic Year 2011-2012:

32 for EU citizens
32 for Non-EU Citizens. 

The deadline to register is April 20th, 2011.
Click Here for guidelines on the admission process for A.Y. 2011-2012.

This post was sponsored by Vita-Salute San Raffaele.
Photo Credit: Student Life Photo Gallery

Studying In Med School – Find Your Study Style

Being in medical school means I often find myself spending the entire day alone at a coffee shop table meant for 6 people with four books, my laptop, a barrage of notes, a white erase board and occasionally a strange teaching tool like “Big Tim.” It also means I sometimes have a powerpoint open in public and don’t realize that I have inadvertently exposed an unsuspecting Comm major to the world of Syphilis and Intestinal Worms while I went to pee. (Actually I just leave disturbing images pulled up on my computer so people won’t steal my laptop while I’m gone ordering my 14th espresso shot.)

It also means that in the midst of all that studying, sometimes I get really, extremely bored. When I’m sick of looking at power point notes…

Power Point Notes on Colitis.

I will occasionally move on to studying like this:

White Board Depiction of Renal Physiology.

When you start med school all the more seasoned med students tell you “Find your study style and stick to it.” Well, I thought I knew my study style – I mean, I made it through undergrad, right? Wrong.* I did okay in my first 3 blocks using my undergrad study method (go to class, skim book, cram 3 days before the test), but it was not until our Microbiology block that I figured out how to actually do well in Medical School classes.

Intestinal and Urogenital Protozoa Flow Chart.

My study style is visual and flow-charty. I had no idea. I had never studied like this in my life. I started making flow charts for everything last year. 

They almost all have pictures. And when I feel like I cannot draw one. more. flow chart. I draw really fun, slightly scary, pictures to help me remember stuff. 

Holy Grail of Gram (+) Bugs.
I am a med student, not an artist.
Don’t judge my stick figures.

And the craziest thing happened, when the test came around I could redraw these charts in my head. And, if I couldn’t remember something I could at least cross off a few answers by thinking about where on the chart page they were located. I also stopped going to class all together. A lot of people scoff when they hear that, but it works for me. I listen to our audio recordings, I can pause, rewind, look something up, etc. and not get behind. I can also listen on 1.5x or 2x speed if I’m getting distracted due to slow speaking. My grades went up a lot when I stopped attending classes. I’m too easily distracted when I sit in the lecture hall.

A lot of our interviewees ask me “What should I do before I start med school?” and they want to hear things like “Memorize Netter’s. Befriend Dr. Goljan and siphon his Pathology knowledge. Read Costanzo Phys 14 times. Sleep with Micro Made Ridiculously Simple for the entire summer before you start.” but I think all of those things would be a huge waste of time.

I wrote this blog in hopes that I can encourage any pre-meds who are reading this to start investigating their study style. Don’t study for med school before you’re here. Med school is not harder than undergrad – it’s just a larger volume of material in a smaller time span. Start looking into what you can do to improve your study efficiency while you’re in undergrad, that way when you get to med school you’ll already have it down pat. I promise you will be so much happier if you don’t do what I did and have to struggle to keep your head above water for the first three blocks while you’re figuring out how to study. 

Also, when you get to medical school don’t let anyone criticize or change your study method. I have a (really awesome, gorgeous, ridiculously smart**) friend that makes a note card for everything. She seriously has enough notecards to fill up a bathtub. I tried making notecards first year and it did not work for me. It was very time consuming and I got behind and frustrated way too easily. She also attends every. single. class. It works for her. She is extremely smart and makes wonderful grades, but when I used those methods I was not doing so hot in my classes. So, now I stay home and make millions of flow charts. Don’t ever let people, whether it’s friends, classmates or parents, make you feel guilty for doing what works for you!

*Err – Right I made it through undergrad. Wrong because I did not, in fact, know my study style. I knew a study style and it worked for undergrad, but it was not efficient enough for medical school. 

**She might be reading this, so I had to throw in something to embarrass her a little. 🙂