Saturday, August 1, 2015

Amino Acids - 101

Below is a picture of the amino acid drawing I learned in biochem a few years ago.  By using this method, and repeating the drawing until I could do from memory, biochem became easy.

Notice the purple outline indicates what changed between the molecules.  For the most part after Leucine, CH2 is a part of every amino acid so the backbone becomes the one with the CH2.



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Physics, Work (Not related to Joule's) & A's

Applications for MD (allopathic medical schools) opened up in early June.  I had mine ready to go but had just gotten my first exam back in physics.

Less than stellar is how I'd look at it.  Not bad but not a solid "A" ... having not had geometry in almost 30 years, the displacement around a circle was a guestimation exercise.

There were many times throughout the first 8 weeks of the semester of physics (8 weeks being the full semester, by the way) that I was going to give up.  Throw in the towel (yet again), walk away, say, "I AM too old" or "I am not worthy" or "the naysayers are right, I should not look at medical school as the makeawish foundation for old aged dreams" (sorry, Goro - that will stick with me for life).

After the 2nd test, it took my son - who is in the class - to keep me in it.

"Don't give up, Mom.  You can't.  Here's what we're gonna do" to help me from imploding.

See, on the 2nd exam there was a missing variable in the problem and because I'm accommodated, I did not get the variable and then went from missing one variable to thinking I should quit school.

That's the coupling between severe ADHD (99%) and performance anxiety.

BUT ... and this was critical for me.

I did not give up on the test and walk out. I finished it.  A small win for most but huge for me.  I did not give up.

I failed the thing to be sure but I did not give up.

And then I learned a new studying technique from the professor.  Take every problem and write what I learned from it no matter how minor.

I did that.

Then I drew links between problems.

Then I drew derivatives of problems and links to other problems...

And yesterday?

I got an "A" on the final.  

Well, the pre-final.  But an "A" and now?

I sit with a 94% in physics overall.

Message to those who think they should give up?

DO NOT QUIT.

Dig in.  Figure out why you are not getting the information.  Figure out what to do differently.

And listen to this = which I heard long before it was popular (and it is my mantra for I do believe!)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

PS - Why Medicine

Most of us on this path starting thinking about science and math before we considered learning cursive (I'm old), or learning the alphabet, or how to read.  For some of us, science just made sense and math made sense of science (equations, calculations of whatever).

The AdComs, however, those fine folks having to sift through hundreds and probably thousands of hoping-for-the-love-of-all-things-holy personal statements, don't want to read that we've wanted to be a doctor since we were five, or six, or pick your favorite elementary school age.

Therein, lies the trick.  In my case, I have wanted to be a doctor since I was 5.  My great aunt, Claudia, was the surgical nurse for Dr. Mayo.  Yeah.  "That" Dr. Mayo... I was born at the Methodist hospital, given all my shots at Mayo, and learned to despise the place (needle thing, mind you)... until my aunt gave me a gift.

She'd retired.  The party given in her honor was attended and thrown by ... yes, that Dr. Mayo though I don't recall him or even her really (I'm embarrassed by both of those inadequacies).  There was a book signed by everyone in attendance and it now is enshrined behind glass at the Mayo museum.  Other memorabilia of hers is there too.  Except for one little thing.

Her surgical kit. Minus the sharps.  I have that.  Black, weathered, worn (it is almost 80 years old!!!). I used it to fill with Pez toys and the "pills" that filled it.  Tapes, bandaids, and gauze were in it too.  Some girls played house, I played the innocent doctor... fixing boo-boos, tending to "broken" bones and dispensing "pills" - those flavored candies from Pez.

My interest in medicine probably started before that.  It's in my genes.  How else does one get to be "le gasp" 50 and have the same passion for becoming a doctor - so much so that at 50 instead of planning out my AARP usage, I'm planning out the library conference room reservations to ace physics (my last pre-reqs).

BTW, I am hoping that whatever med school accepts me (praying one does, that is) ... AARP has some sort of senior discount on books, microscopes, scrubs and shoes... :D  gotta love it :)

Okay, back to where I was.  For at least 45 years, I've wanted to be a doc.  I've pursued the sciences and math unabashedly through elementary school, junior high, high school (including being a part of medical explorers, getting FA certified, watching live childbirth, attending the ER -- all before I was 18)... and then we had college.

The question then is:

I have 5300 characters to fit in WHY MEDICINE and for me, as all non-trade, why now!??!?!

1)  I worked forwards.  Actually, I started with the story of a phoenix.  One only needs to sift through this blog to find the full story of the hell I survived - I'm not talking about the death of my son... I'm talking about the death of a heart and soul.

2)  Then I told the story, albeit briefly, about my aunt leaving out Mayo.  Why?  Mayo is snobby.  Putting that in my PS would make me seem arrogant (which I'm not) and there is no added value adding it, just extra characters for which there is no purpose.  Win-win: that's my mantra.  

3)  After that short vignette, I told the story of my 4th grade hero: Garry Ranthum.  That man has saved more countless childrens' lives just by being all that a teacher should be... sadly, in his death due to leukemia, I learned more about science and medicine.

4)  From there it got easier: skipping high school - seriously - I'm sure if the adcoms are still reading, their eyes are shortly going to glaze over, fall backwards over their chairs or just use my PS as a paper airplane to see how fast it can hit the fire place ... wheeee - zip ---- ash.

5)  Enter the deceased son.  Short - less than 10 words on Austin.  Why?  Because I'm not going to use my PS to explain why my 30 year old grades are abysmal and use my son - my beloved blue eyed, blond haired little shaver as an excuse.  *I* made bad decisions and *I* got bad grades.  I'd probably have had bad grades if I didn't have him and he didn't die... so, leaving any morbid, sad story about my son out of this.  Mentioned, yes!  Elaborated on?  no.  Absolutely not.

6)  Now the meat of the PS.  WHY MEDICINE/ WHY NOW?!?!?!?!?!

Weaving science, math, hope, diagnostics, strategy, compassion, leadership does not come from any other discipline.

NP, PA, DNP - my God what would the world do without them?!  They take on so much care and a great lot of what was just mentioned BUT not to the extent that doctors do.  And in the end, the MD/DO still is the leader.

7)  At the end, I wove in the story of an accident scene where I was the only one not involved.  And in staying with the very wounded individual, came to realize that just perhaps, I'd matured enough to handle pre-reqs.  I'd come to acknowledge that the shortcomings of my youth were no longer in me.  And that the phoenix who had survived so much - ash, devastation, loss - had risen again.

Just in time for med school applications and MCAT.

After all that work, I was told the PS are barely read.  Skimmed to get the gist of things and then a "yes" or a "no" pile.

I hope I get at least, "Maybe"... at the end, I just want to be doing this:


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Kaplan MCAT Prep v. DIY

On various forums, the question seems to get asked a lot about why paying $2,000 to Kaplan vs. just simply buying the books has any value.

** DISCLAIMER**

I am NOT a Kaplan instructor nor am I employed by Kaplan.  Last, Kaplan is not my client.

**END DISCLAIMER**

Okay, so all that said, why did I pay $2k for Kaplan and what have I found out?

Back in August 2014, a little quick kick in the butt from my cousin got me thinking about the MCAT. That dreaded "B" in biochem had killed my dream and sucked the wind out of my sails.  I gave up.  No gas in the tank so to speak.

The cousin.  More like a sister I never had; I respect her opinion greatly.

Take the MCAT, she said.  Screw that "B" ... damn premeds she uttered under her breath :)

The only way I would do well on the MCAT was a prep course.  I had the EK books ... and over the years had perused them to no great use.

Choking on the cost of Kaplan, they made it easy.  Three payments of $600 or so.  Monthly.  I could do that.  Checking the little box, I enrolled.

Then came that diagnostic.  Everyone who has ever taken the diagnostic for any of the prep companies or AAMC groans loudly.  The diagnostics are hard.  REALLY hard and deflating if you think that way... OR

They are really good at pointing out flaws in the skill sets and knowledge.  Areas to work on.  I liked that.

First session for the old MCAT was interesting.  I was motivated, engaged and raring to go.  Let's get this MCAT party started (with Pink in my head).

Then I found flex sessions that focused more intently on areas that Kaplan had found were useful for pre-meds going into the MCAT... the sessions provided greater in-depth understanding of the concepts tested in prior years on the MCAT.

I loved them.  Class?  Not so much.  There was only so much I could handle from pre-meds who don't do the work asking, "How does velocity relate to acceleration?"  or "why do we care about bond angles" (we do as do the megagazillion pharma industry peeps).

Anyway... I did not sit for my 1/20/15 MCAT.  Between Thanksgiving and Christmas and work and ... I canceled my seat.  And asked Kaplan to use the guarantee to put me into a class for the 2015 MCAT.

The class is slightly different but still very helpful.  For purposes of NOT getting sued by Kaplan I won't say why the classes are so helpful but I will say this:

a common theme in our on-line classes is that non-prep course taking premeds will likely get tripped up on some things in the actual exam that Kaplan (and presumably Princeton) take great pride in helping the paying students avoid.

And I will say this - without fear of retribution from Kaplan - we do very little content review.  It's expected you have read the books and done the homework before class (just like in school).  The class is all about applying the knowledge.

So, if you bought the books thinking that you're getting the same materials and learning components for $175 that I did for $2k, you are not.

Time will tell if the extra $1800 paid off or not but at this point, with the questions I see on various forums, I can say that I feel more and more confident that Kaplan's classes and instructors will have prepared me far better than I could have on my own.

Plus, by the time any pays for the AAMC practice tests and packages and TBR and everything else, the only difference is about $300 ...

Good luck to everyone taking the MCAT and applying this cycle.  I hope to see many/all of us on the "ADMIT MS 1 Class 2020" in a few months.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Proud To Be An American

Where at least I know I'm free
And I won't forget the men who died
Who gave that right to me ...
~ Lee Greenwood

No video but I challenge you to add the American, the US Flag to your FB, LI and other social media.  No matter our difficulties the US is still the greatest country in the world.