Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Decision Points & Paths

Many of my contacts now know I'm heading back to school. Some look at me with a sense of "Seriously?" and others are merely astounded that at my age (I am 44!!) I'm heading back to try and get into med school.

"Mid life, eh?" I got asked with a look of utter disbelief.

"No," I smiled, "more like real life and real dreams."

Seems then people want to know if I'm serious, if the "right opportunity came your way, would you quit this path?"

"No."

Which makes this day sort of weird. I know I need to follow the calling and have no doubts about why, how, when, and where I'm following it. Feels to me though, life is throwing up decision points that make me ponder "what am I thinking" when I could be doing this over there for that much money.

So often I took the easy way out of chasing the dream, making up a plethora of excuses not to. Life took me on a course leading me to public company audits, IPO, and other related roles. I'm good at deciphering public company issues, strategically thinking and planning a course of corrective action, hiring the team to implement, and managing the changes. But I've always found the work somewhat... boring. Start talking derivative instruments and I'm going to sag in my chair and count sheep. Prattle on about treasury sales of s/t investment strategy and the back side of my eyelids are going to become internal explorations.

Yet, when I sit down with my chemistry book and biology diagrams, I love it. Biosphere, populations, organisms, tissue oh my! Mitochondrial transport. ATP. I can hardly wait!

Just need to make sure to surround myself with like thinking people, who are at a minimum supportive, and encouraging. This road is not easy and it shouldn't be. The path to an M.D. at the end of one's name deserves all the recognition and prestige.

Monday, December 15, 2008

And Then There is Reality

For a few months now, I've been researching, poring over any little nuance related to pre-med and medical school itself continually asking myself, "Seriously!?" To which the tiny, low voice says, "OH YEAH!"

This journey that I'm on is full of trepidation with Dad's questions still swirling around in my head, I "do" wonder how will I pay for all of this? How will I keep a roof over my head and the heat on? How can I focus on the sciences when the bills come in, unemployment is rising, the economy is faltering, and I read another 4,000 people are being asked to take buy-outs? It IS scary!

Those that know me off these forums say I'm fearless, and one of the most resourceful people they've ever known. If only they knew, deep inside I'm a little nervous. This dream of mine is almost tangible. This "need" to give back as a doctor so entrenched in who I am, I cannot think of doing anything else now. And that fear of failure is likewise, just as tangible.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Degree Seeking Candidate

There are no words to describe when one chases a dream, takes tiny steps towards it, and how much those steps mean.

Yesterday, it was confirmed what I've wanted for 20+ years:

I'm a degree seeking candidate from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, BA Physiology.

It's a tiny step, it's a tiny little door opening but the thrill is anything but.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Medical Gadgets

Last spring I'd been hearing about the latest/greatest innovative medical technologies. Apparently, a website tracks some of the latest to be publicized.

The latest post shows screws that indicate when it's fully tightened so no over-tightening occurs. Hate to think of that happening on a hip replacement, or Harrington rods in the back! (Loose screws = pain?)

Currently, the technology is available only to the construction industry but ortho and neuro surgeons are remarking on the possibility in the operating room. I could also see dentistry picking this up - replacement teeth, bridge repair work, jaw structure alignment, gum disease repair?

Here's a link to the site:

http://www.medgadget.com/


Lest I forget, it's official. I'm registered at the U for my first few steps into the new direction of pre-med. Biology and Chemistry and Math, oh my!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Placement Exams - 101

Spent the better part of today at the U talking to the admissions office for the college that houses the physiology department. At the physiology advisor's suggestion, I'm taking placement exams in both chemistry and math.

The last chemistry class I had was in 1983 and the last formalized math course was taken in 1982. Mind you, that's when typewriters - IBM Selectronics - were the "in", cool thing to have, gas was about $.35/gallon, and the only computers that existed were used by the DoD replete with punch cards. These exams should be interesting!

One thing I found amusing and almost comforting was the review of old course exams and answer sheets. Before taking the placement tests, it was suggested I study and do the old chem tests, figure out the ones I got wrong, or come in and ask for help.

So tonight, with a large smile on my face, I'm redoing old chem tests and so far, I think, by George, I've got it! Or at least, I'm getting close.

It'll be interesting to see how well I do and also, how my confidence level comes up just a tad; just enough to keep me saying, "This is soooo worth it."

And it is! One step at a time...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Medicine, The Calling

Last week, I finally told my dad about my plans for school; told him I was nervous to fill him in because I'd taken such a circuitous route in life and was worried I'd get the rolling of his eyes, or a blank stare. At the tender age of 44, this is no small undertaking.

He listened, as he always has.

When I was done talking, he asked his questions that appear normal: what do you want to specialize in, where do you want to go, what classes do you need to take to apply, when will you apply, are you going to work while going through pre-reqs, how are you going to pay for all of this, and finally, how can we help?

He knows all too well my desire to travel internationally has been well met. In the Philippines, I saw poverty that is beyond describable. Trying to articulate the sites and smells, and yet the utter happiness of the Filipinos is rudimentary and difficult at best.

Dad also has known my interest in helping the poorest of the poor often commenting on how I'd always talked about being a doc in Africa if only for a month or two.

He knows I've wandered through villages in "real" Mexico, worked in impoverished areas of my own Minnesota which sadly, are more akin to 3rd world countries than US.

So, as we talked, I wondered what it took to be a part of the DWB group. Fearless, confident, brilliant, and understanding, these physicians undertake a sometimes dangerous and heart-wrenching tour of duty to help those who otherwise, might never see a ray of hope, or a dawning of a new day.

In the end of my discussion with Dad, he asked me if the "burning bush" had finally wrapped it's branches around me. I smiled and said, "You know? I read somewhere on a forum that medicine is a calling. I'm finally answering, "Yes!"'

http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Continuing The Journey

A few weeks have passed since my decision was made, I've let my closest friends know and have been amazed at their support. I've yet to tell anyone in my family except for my 16 year old son who simply said, "I always wondered why you didn't try."

With bated breath, I waited for their rolling eyes, sighs, and any other outward signs of disbelief and received none. The comments ranged from, "It's about time!" to "take it one class at a time, one quarter at a time and you'll make it. You know that."

I think it's that last comment that is so critical for me to remember:


So often I've focused on the end result rather than enjoying and focusing on the present, especially when related to school. As an incoming freshman to the U of MN, I had my entire 4-year program mapped out, scheduled, teachers selected, etc by the first day of my first semester... What I forgot to do was focus on the present and instead got wrapped up into the what-could-I-do and took 7 years to graduate.

Focusing on one day, one class, one semester will keep me grounded in the "now" and when I reach the "end" (matriculation), I will start the process all over again.

December 5, 2008 is a big day - registration day for returning students at the U. One more little step toward realizing a dream and going for it, one more little step towards getting out of a career that has taken good care of my son and I, but always left me yearning for something greater.

Someday, I will join this -

http://www.amsa.org

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Links For MDs & Those Pre-Med

Seminar Registration

http://www.pesihealthcare.com/index.asp

For Registered Physicians Only (peeking behind the curtain!)

http://www.sermo.com/

Medical School Admissions Information

http://medschoolready.com/app/default.asp

Student Doctor

http://www.studentdoctor.net/


Chemistry Prep Tests Online

http://antoine.frostburg.edu/chem/senese/101/index.shtml

Organic Chemistry Prep

http://www.chemhelper.com/practicetests.html


Match Statistics

http://www.oldpremeds.org/fusionbb/fbbuploads/1206897324-advancedatatables2008.pdf
------------------
The SERMO site was shown to me some months ago by a registered, and practicing, physician.

I'd love to know what has been updated on the site including new technologies (voice activated paging, and other handy tools of the trade that have come out in the past year); also interesting, would be the propensity for the site to allow med school students access.

Chemistry tests online gave me some decent reference test questions. In reviewing the questions, it helped to understand what types of questions are asked, what might I expect to see myself on paper exams, and additionally, what types of resources are out there for those times when the TA or professor is not readily handy.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Med Links

As promised, here are links found:

Older Pre Meds

http://www.oldpremeds.org/fusionbb/portal/index.php?

Medical Magazine Subscriptions - One Place

http://www.acclaimsubscriptions.com/usa/catalog/showCategoryMagazines/?id=103177

Clearing For Med School Applications

http://www.aamc.org/students/amcas/

Listing of all med schools accredited in US and Canada
(does not include Caribbean schools)

http://services.aamc.org/memberlistings/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.search&search_type=MS&wildcard_criteria=&state_criteria=CNT%3AUSA&image=Search

After reviewing the list of each state's medical schools, I selected seven of them (three are shown), printed out their specific pre-med guidelines, mapped those requirements into an Excel spreadsheet with the first column containing the courses, and the top row containing the school names. This allows me to double check that classes I take now, will be potentially agreeable to the other schools I app, and if there is a disparate course, I know I'm only taking it for one specific school.

SCHOOL U OF MN WVSOM WAKE FOREST



COURSE






Biology 4 4 4



Chemistry 8 8 8



Genetics 4





Zoology
4 4



Botany






Parasitology






Biochemistry 3 3




Organic Chemistry 8 8 8



Physics 8 8 8



Cell & Molecular Biololgy
3




Math






Saturday, November 1, 2008

Step One - Breathe

Some 39 years ago I remember playing house down the street with my friends, I was five. While my friends played mom and sister, with my little red bucket of bandages and tape, I played doctor and dreams were born.

Sometime in the beginning of the 4th grade my teacher told me I was not a problem child but bored and then put me on a schedule to get me energized and tracked. I finished 4th grade math and science sometime around Dec. My teacher, Garry Ranthum, was diagnosed around the same time with leukemia. Curiosity getting the better of me, I started doing research on that word at the local library. I was still only 10 years old but I was hungry for more info.

Garry did great things for all of his students gifted or not, mediocre or over-achievers. I ran into old classmates of mine in the 80's and all of us thought we should have a reunion to honor him. For sadly, as we were then beginning 7th grade, he passed away.

All of my papers throughout elementary, junior and senior high revolved around oncology. I became a medical explorer in Bismarck, ND, watched childbirth, rode in ambulances, and "knew" I was headed to medical school in the future.

In 1982 I started my undergraduate work some 500 miles away from my parents. Newly minted with the stamp called "Freedom" I lived the life of the "Animal House" party girl. Med school became a distant reality for me. The hunger to become a doc was still there, the drive was not.

Mid-1993 and one of the most honorable people I've ever had the pleasure and good fortune to know, Dr Robert Heller, told me he had this "thing" in his throat but I was not to worry. He was sure it would go away, he was sure it was nothing. I'm not sure how long he lived between that and his passing. Oncology a word that I researched and hated risen up from the past to hit me again.

Through the next 15 years I've meandered in and out of wondering, "Could I" and, "What if I tried" to "What am I thinking?"

So here is my first post on a blog about trying at the age of 44 to get pre-reqs done, show that I'm capable of getting the grades I need, and hopefully, an acceptance letter for matriculation in 2011. Along the way I'll link other forums, things I find, and post my thoughts. Wandering around the University of Minnesota campus today I remembered why I love school - and then I had to remember:

Step One, breathe!