Ask Me Anything Highlights

Here are some highlights from my recent Ask Me Anything Post on the Reddit Pre-Med Community.

You can read the full thread Here
Q: What was the single piece of information you wish you'd known most heading into medical school?

Your first two years don't matter. All you have to do is learn enough to do fantastic on step 1. The "pre-clinical" information you learn, with a few exceptions, is almost completely useless as a practicing physician. Don't stress, and get pulled into all the drama of other pre-clinical students. Have fun, learn as much as you can, and get ready to focus during 3rd and 4th year when it really counts. Also take a badass vacation before med school because getting the time off to travel is going to be tough for the next like... 7 years.

Q: Why did you choose emergency?

EM is a very broad specialty which appeals to me. Specialty selection is a very personal choice. Also I hate being on call. I absolutely despise it. When I'm off, I can do WHATEVER I want with no fear of getting pulled back into the hospital. Also in terms of dollars per hour its fantastic.

Q: What are the dollars per hour like?

For a new grad you can expect 130-230/hr depending on the part of the country you are practicing, and how your reimbursement is structured.

Q: Is this hourly rate after malpractice? Can you generally pick up as many hours as you want? What's the average number of hours per week?

Malpractice is typically paid for by the contract management group. This is pretty standard for EM. In my current situation I could take as many hours as I wanted and people [...]

By |March 22nd, 2015|Medical School, Pre-Med|0 Comments

Why Med School Average USMLE Scores Are Meaningless

With the number of med students increasing faster than the number of residency positions, students are becoming more and more concerned about their USMLE Step scores to increase their odds of getting into a comparative specialty or residency program. I quite frequently hear requests from pre-med students asking about the average USMLE scores at different universities, with the idea that this can be used to compare the quality of each schools pre-clinical education. I have always cautioned against using this metric, and now I finally have at least some proof.

Study investigators from McMaster university (Yes, its a Canadian study) decided to see if their interview process was able to select students who could score higher on their board exams the MCCQE (which is similar to our USMLE step 1). From their group of 1071 students they were able to identify students that passed their Multiple-Mini-Interview system. They then followed these students and tracked their board scores at different universities. Overall they found that people who passed the MMI interview did statistically significantly better than students that didn't. They also found that it didn't matter what school these higher achieving students went to.

Although this was not the direct outcome of the study it does offer some evidence that points towards what I always thought. Competitive high achieving students are going to score highly no matter where they go, and less competitive students will probably do worse, no matter what great school they go too.

Keep this in mind next time someone tries to argue that one school is "better" than another because their average step scores are higher. Your ability to score highly on step 1 is much more dependent on your own study habits, work ethic [...]

By |March 9th, 2015|Pre-Med|0 Comments

Med School Multiple Mini-Interviews

Most pre-medical students preparing for the interview trail are now familiar with the multiple mini-interivew (MMI) format for med school admission interviews. However, these are actually a fairly recent development. I was lucky enough to not be subjected to these during my interview experiences. With med school applicants up, and there being a surplus of qualified candidates with great scores, schools are looking for more objective ways of picking the best applicants. The multiple mini-interview format offers an appealing way of taking the most subjective of evaluations and assigning a numerical value.

For those not familiar with the multiple mini-interview format, it is one in which applicants are given many different shorter "interviews" instead of the traditional 2-3 longer ones. These interviews are not the open ended "So tell me about yourself" style of questions used in the past. They are often very direct, specific questions. There is usually less conversation, and the format almost parallels the process of an oral exam. There have been numerous studies showing that this method of interviewing can actually predict a candidates performance in medical school and even their changes of passing their licensing exam. Some evidence shows that a properly administered MMI is even more predictive than an applicants GPA score.

A recent article published in the annals of emergency medicine takes another twist on this format. Although the format makes it much easier for schools to select the most qualified applicants, how do the applicants feel about it? I know I personally wouldn't be happy with this format. When it comes to selecting a medical school there is a certain degree of intangible "fit" that needs to be evaluated by both the applicant and the interviewer. This [...]

By |October 21st, 2014|Pre-Med|0 Comments

The Importance of Minimizing Student Loan Debt

Attending Medical School is easily the most expensive decision a young adult could make. Cost of attendance can easily double the mortgage of a nice house. Student loans are nearly impossible to default on, and will follow medical students for decades to come. Minimizing student loan debt can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars over the repayment of the loan

The financial departments of most medical schools make taking out loans far too easy. They are willing to hand over hundreds of thousands of dollars to students with no income and typically a negative net worth. Never again will money be so easy to acquire, and so hard to pay back. At a time of historically low interest rates federal student loans still charge an absurdly high interest rate of 6.8%.

Compound interest is an incredibly powerful concept, that you need to understand before signing your promissory notes. Lets take two examples. Student A takes out a loan to cover $30,000 in yearly tuition plus $2000 dollars a month in living expenses. Student B decides to spend $2500. Over the course of 4 years, student B will owe $24,000 more than student A. But this is just the start. Assuming both students defer payment during a 4 year residency, Student A will owe a total of $283,000. Student B will owe $315,000 at graduation. If they use a 10 year repayment plan, student B will pay an additional $13,000 dollars in interest over the life of the loan

In summary, an additional cost of $6000 dollars a year will add around $37,000 dollars to the total amount repaid. If student A invests the difference of $37,000 after 20 years it will grow to close to $85,0000.

Keep this in mind when you are choosing between [...]

By |September 15th, 2014|Pre-Med|0 Comments

How To Become a Doctor

My first infographic about how to become a doctor.

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By |March 29th, 2014|Pre-Med|0 Comments
  • The MCAT Planner

The MCAT Planner – Review

The MCAT is often thought of as the gatekeeper to becoming a physician.  The MCAT is a main factor in the amount of stress and anxiety that most students experience during their pre-med years.  It doesn’t have to be this way! There are many tools out there to help students prepare for the MCAT.

The StudyBypass team recently had the opportunity to review “The MCAT Planner” 2013 edition by Future Doctor Isaac Dodd.

This reference is 833 pages of organizational greatness.

Planning for this massive test is an absolute necessity. Few highly motivated students have the discipline to set a study schedule and stick to it.

This will not provide you with information you need to know to do well, it’s a system that you can use with any other references that will help you score as high as you possibly can.

Sections include preparation for the test, study strategies, planning and scheduling, and even an exam day checklist.  Set weekly goals and monitor them. Record and trend your MCAT practice scores. Identify areas of strength and area of improvement.

This is a highly valuable resource for students who desire an organizational framework to help the face the MCAT.

Remember having a plan takes away a considerable amount of anxiety !Learn more about The MCAT Planner here!

By |October 11th, 2013|Pre-Med|0 Comments

How To Improve Your GPA Using Community College

There are many tactics out there to help students improve their GPA. Let me show you how to improve your GPA using community college.

Let's face it, a highly motivated premed can get an A in almost any community college course with minimal effort. Some courses offer a ridiculous number of credit hours for fairly little effort. You can even take classes online that only require a few hours of work each week.

Remember that AMCAS will report your science GPA and your overall GPA. Taking easy science courses at a community college may increase your GPA, but could create some red flags. Your overall GPA can easily be bumped with 12 credit hours of things that you may consider hobbies. You would be shocked what you can get credit for.
Explore your local community college for classes that interest you and you can pick up some extra A's to pad your GPA with.

Many premed's are often interested in getting their EMT certification and some community colleges will offer this certification. This is a great way to add another 12-16 credits of 4.0 to your GPA. Which can make a huge difference!

By |May 25th, 2013|Pre-Med|1 Comment
  • Are Doctors Happy

Are Doctors Happy? Physican Job Satisfaction

Just how happy are doctors?
As pre-med students begin to shadow and gain more real world experience, eventually they come in contact with a physician who isn't exactly satisfied with his job. Quite frequently these doctors go out of their way to warn prospective students about their career choice. They typically start with, "If I could do it all again, I would have been something else". Often they could rant for hours ,if given the chance, about the myriad of reasons that it's not a good idea to be a doctor in today's society. But just how common is this?

Medscape recently performed a survey which touched upon physician job satisfaction and came up with some interesting results. Only 51% of doctors said they would choose another career in medicine. Only 42% said they would pick the same specialty. Surprisingly, only 19% said they would choose the same practice settings. About 48% of physicians  surveyed feel they are unfairly compensated financially for their services.

So really, it's about a 50/50 chance! When asked about aspects of their job that physicians found rewarding, the number 1 response was "Being very good at what they do". Job satisfaction is a very interesting subject with lots of legitimate research and data behind it. For pre-med students who find this data alarming I highly recommend reading "So Good They Can't Ignore You" by Cal Newport. This is an excellent read that touches upon satisfaction and career choices and has a lot to offer for any pre-med who is still on the fence.

You can Purchase it here!

For the full Medscape survey results click here

By |May 11th, 2013|Pre-Med|0 Comments
  • Physician Salary

Physician Salary – How Much Money Do Doctors Really Make?

Students frequently ask me about the average physician salary. With the current discussion about our expensive healthcare system, physician salaries can be somewhat of a controversial issue. This is an important aspect of any career, and all students considering medical school should have a somewhat realistic idea of how much money they can expect to make.

This is overall a very difficult question to answer. Physician salaries vary greatly depending upon the specialty, the physician's experience level, business acumen and overall goals. Medscape recently released their physician compensation report for 2013. This is one of the more comprehensive reports on how much money doctors make.

Across all specialties, one third had an average income of over $300,000 annually. The current top three earning specialties are orthopedics, cardiology and radiology. Average salaries ranged from $170,000-$400,000, depending on specialty. Across-the-board, average salary for specialties tended to increase over last year.

One important consideration that is not included in this study is the number of hours worked per week and the relationship to salary. This is something that students need to consider carefully. Although dermatology had a median salary of $306,000, it is important to consider that they work significantly less hours than the average general surgeon with a median salary of $279,000. I personally think dollars per hour is a more realistic way to look at your future physician earning potential. About half of the doctors surveyed said they felt as if they were fairly compensated.

Business acumen also plays a strong factor in your future financial success. There are family medicine physicians who have built multimillion dollar practices and there are orthopedic surgeons filing for bankruptcy. It is also very important to factor in student debt, although this is an [...]

By |May 2nd, 2013|Pre-Med|1 Comment
  • Personal Statement Advice Panda

Personal Statement Advice from Panda Bear MD

Some of you may still remember Panda Bear, MD.

He was a legendary medical blogger with a unique sense of humor, and a brutally honest critic of our current health system and the process of medical training. Sadly, for personal reasons years ago he gave up his blog. It still exists as a ghost of its former self, hacked and displaying advertisements for medical supplies.

Scattered amidst the advertisements still stands excellent advice. Below is possibly one of the most useful articles about personal statement development ever written. Panda Bear, if you are still out there somewhere let us know...

(As those of you applying to medical school know, the personal statement on the AMCAS application is, at least by conventional wisdom, one of the most important parts of your application. It doesn’t seem fair when you think about it, that all of your effort to get good grades and to position yourself with extracurricular activities can be undone by a few lines of prose, but that’s just how it is. Here are some general rules that might help you get started.-PB)

You Are Not Applying For A Position In Management

Every generation has its peculiar bureaucratic vernacular. In the nineteen-fifties it was the breezy patter of the Madison Avenue ad men. In the sixties it was vacuous leftist duckspeak. Today it is the stilted jargon of the diversity Mafia with which the timid writer protects himself from the one true sin of diversity, that is, to have an original idea. In fact, if you can’t write a decent-sized page without mentioning “diversity,” “inclusiveness,” “open-mindedness,” or any of the other shibboleths of the ossified Pharisees who protect the academic temple from blasphemy, you’re not trying hard enough to [...]

By |May 1st, 2013|Pre-Med|0 Comments