Saturday, December 26, 2015

Genetics Final Grade: A-

Meh.  Bah.  Humbug.  Was told this professor is excellent (he is), was told it's a difficult course (it was), was told that I could easily get an A (probably had I done things differently).

It's that last piece that I'll try to help here.

Where to start.  Probability.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Genetics - Epigenetics - Molecular Biochem

A few years ago, 3.5 to be exact, I sat in my all time favorite professor's class, Biochem.  The posts from both of his classes are embedded on here, somewhere.  I stumbled into his 1010 class and was not prepared for him.  Meaning, the professor who had stalked me to my home in the middle of the night had set the bar pretty low.

But this man - every accolade available at the school - has been given to him.  There are awards that can only be awarded 1x per lifetime.  The students petitioned to have the rule broken, just for him.

Three years ago.  I was embarrassed to ask if I could take his class (long story).  He said he was honored that I'd ask.

On that first test, I had to draw all 20 amino acids along with the three and one letter abbreviations but also had to know how to link them via peptide bonds and what the end charges would be.  That was all worth 10 points on a 100 point test.

I got the 10 points, plus all the rest + the extra credit for a 125 points.  It's weird how setting that semester up for success turned into a difficult, soul sucking search for understanding of this path.

Between my contract ending shortly after the 1st midterm, to my parents own financial collapse due to my inability to take care of them anymore, and then ... I got a B.  He was clearly disappointed.  It was worse for me.

I quit being a premed.  Headed to the Galapagos on a field research trip I'd signed up for though the biology department with my biology professor, and 13 other students.  Sitting in a Pizza Hut in Guayaquil, Ecuador I'd told my bio prof I was quitting school, headed back to the corporate world, and moving 1600 miles to FL.

Stunned, he said nothing.  Looked off into space.  Sometime later, he muttered, "what a waste."

I came home from the Galapagos, packed the house, and moved to FL.  Left the premed path behind, focused on finding a job in FL and never really looked back.  Really.

Well, actually, I lived life in reverse.  I hated quitting but I hated worse, disappointing that biochem professor.

Over last summer, I took physics and nailed the beast. Actually, it's not really a beast.  It's more like a wild doberman with a mind of it's own that needs to consistent and earnest training. It needs love and attention every day.  Got an A+ (they actually give that here).

Using that good mojo, I asked to get into genetics.  See, that old biochem prof once told us that if we did well in his class, we'd do well in genetics.  And cell bio, he said.

After two weeks into the semester that old friend "Doubt" started kicking me in the shin again.  My contract was ending despite having been assured I was golden until January, my dad had a heart attack (see the pattern???), and someone else died.  I did not study for that first exam.  Got a B.

Second exam was looming, contract was for sure ending, was able to focus a little bit, got a B.

Before the 3rd exam, I stopped in to see my genetics professor.  He is also well liked by students.  On the wall was a newspaper page, full page at that, of the video he produced in 2008.

I'd seen it.  In 2010 with my biochem professor.  And again in 2012 with the same biochem professor.  I asked Dr. E if he produced that video and he kind of shyly said, "Um.  Yes?"  I think he was afraid I was going to say something ... I don't know, odd?

I laughed and said I'd been forced to watch it twice by my biochem professor.  He smiled broadly, "Really??  Oh man, that makes my day.  Do you still talk to him?"

"Yeah, all the time.  He's one of my letter writers."

"Please tell him thanks!  Really makes my day!"

Yea, I bet.  Even more so when that same student (me), nails his last midterm with an A+ which should make me solid for an A if I nail the final.

Its interesting to me, how small the world is.  Connected by two great professors who have made learning fun and damn hard (!!!), but how the one class taught me to stick with it and not give up.

The mantra for anyone midway through this path: don't stop, don't give up, give it one more step.

Now to write the biochem guy and tell him the news.  He'll probably smile a little, shake his head and think, "Not bad, not bad at all."

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Kaplan MCAT Prep & Teachers :)

Yes, I know some of the instructors read here; Google Analytics does a great job of tracking people's footprints in the bytes and I'm pretty good at using GA.  Win-win.

Actually, Win-Win is the Kaplan course instructors.  (No, I'm not employed by the company nor am I sponsored in any manner.)

During the summer of 2014, my butt got kicked again to take the MCAT and apply to med school.  I'd given up on becoming a physician and thought I'd just work, retire someday, and be satisfied.  My cousin, an adcom at a med school somewhere in the US, suggested otherwise.

The story is buried elsewhere in here, so I won't belabor how I got back to taking the MCAT and going forward into the 2016 app cycle.

Getting to that point has been with the guidance, assistance, and support of my online Kaplan instructors (and a few others along the way - namely my son, and my genetic's class peers).

During the fall of 2014, my onsite class had an undergrad teaching the course who got mixed up in the physics details.  He then got mixed up on basic gen chem and I switched to online, live classes.  Worried as I'd never taken anything online, my apprehension was quickly put to rest.

Amit was that instructor.  The old MCAT prep was very content detailed, very equational and mathematical.  Amit did everything to prep us, to make sure we knew the tricks to getting to the right answer without having to use a TI-85 graphing calculator with LED screen.  He used funny quips and examples to enhance the ideology behind the material.  He made fun of himself; made fun of the ambulances that often screamed by his house during class; made fun of his midwestern roots often saying an answer choice is "hinky"; that was solely his, though, I'm from the midwest and I've never heard the word.

However, now I see an answer choice on the new MCAT prep and think, "HINKY" ...  Amit also could read my concern in the private Q&A.  As bold and confident as people think I am, underneath I worry what people think (a little) and really worry when I tick off people in the admissions world.  I've been told throughout my life that I'm very polite, very understated, and very kind.  But, I'd irked some adcoms online and thought, "I'm doomed."

Amit's comments were: "Eh, no."  then laughed and said, "No."  Followed up by some sage wisdom and email.  I never looked back.  (Coincidentally, that adcom is now a supporter of mine, and I can see how my first post back then could come across as arrogant; which was certainly not my intent).

Did not sit for the 1/15/15 exam. It was the last date for the old MCAT.  In April 2015, the new MCAT was administered.  Less physics, more biochem = win.  In prep for that, I re-enrolled in Kaplan and got #TeamEli.

Make no mistake, he is the best that there is.  Make no mistake, he knows his stuff and so well, he can integrate other aspects of the MCAT areas into a question and make you think.  I had him for the online class and then with Kaplan there are MCAT channel sessions which are specific focus areas.  So, I don't get into trouble with the company, I'll only say that the areas are the most commonly tested on the MCAT.  And very detailed, comprehensive and complete.  Eli taught those, off and on, as well.

Through those channel sessions, I got to see the other instructors: John, Tami, and N.  They are talented, engaging, funny, using anecdotal quips to reinforce concepts.  Throughout all of the courses and sessions I've taken, each one of them has contributed to many of us as we prep for the beast known as the MCAT.

On 1/23/16, I will slay the beast and be thankful I got the best in the business from Kaplan.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Last Days - Moving On

My contract came to a close a few weeks ago.  Sixteen months after I started, 16 months after it was inferred that I was a hooker or a prostitute, 16 months after ... I am done.  For the record, I'm neither a hooker or a prostitute!  I will be always thankful for the executives that hired and retained me for without them, their support, I could not have continued on this path.  Med school would be all but dead.  I'm not sure, but Lazarus only got resurrected once!

In the midst of closing out the contract, looking for a new opportunity, and resigning up for Kaplan's MCAT course, I had a genetics test.

Genetics is my worst subject.  I still am fuzzy on some aspects of it but am eeking out an A right now (seriously, how does one do that?).  Eeking is the appropriate word.  What I'm finding in preparing for the genetics tests is this:

1)  preparing for the tests is a lot like the MCAT prep I do
2)  the stress I encounter is managed by tips and tricks that I have worked on over the past summer
3)  I have learned a s@#$-ton this semester

So, let's start in how I study for genetics and how that is similar to the MCAT

The AAMC has an official guide that is about 65 pages long.  Within the guide, is every single topic listing of what COULD be on the MCAT in some form.

That guide is here:  MCAT Topics Listing

I downloaded the document, printed it out, 3-hole punched it, put it into my binder called MCAT Prep.  In one section, I have it.  In another section, I have my Kaplan online course screen shots (things like the kidney, liver, parasympathetic, sympathetic systems, nerves, optics, electrostatics, etc).

In the final section, I have my notes from each practice test or section I take.

With each question that I get wrong, I write it down.  What did I get wrong?  Why?  Then after the entire section or test is done, I go back to review those areas.  Doing this, I shore up where I'm weak and only review my strengths every few weeks.

My hope is that come 1/23 I will be more than prepared.

With Genetics, I do the same thing.  Our lectures are .ppt based so the fill in the blank on the decks, is done in class.  After class, I rewrite the notes that are salient, leaving out the easier topics and details.

Then, I do the homework problems to see if I can answer without the answer guide.  If I can, nothing gets written down.  If I can't, or my details are not enough, then I write what the guide has.

Finally, I take the quizzes and do them the same way.

It's only an A- at this time.  (Dad's heart attack, death in the family, contract ending the first time, + lawsuit loss - another story = did not care about 1st two exams).

However, I do believe by the time the end of the semester rolls around that minus sign will be gone.  And by the time, the MCAT test rolls around, I will do well.

Very well.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Austin, Old Boyfriends, Regret

Kate Hudson had tears in a photo taken after listening to the new Adele song, "Hello."

29 years ago, my little guy passed away.  Austin's story is embedded on here in places, parts and pieces; some longer, some shorter.

The day after he died, a set of my friends came to the hotel where I was staying.  I never went back to the apartment; never faced the horrors I'd found that morning when he died.

Anyway, the trio of three guys came to the hotel including the one whom I'd met through the other two.

We'd met in the spring after Austin was born but before I'd decided to keep him, before my friends had a chance to tell him, before ... John never met Austin.  But he'd met me and I presumed when I never heard from him he didn't want to be with a girl who had a baby.

This was the mid 80's.  Even liberals were conservative back then.

Anyway, John came with the other friends.  Asked me to go for a walk along the large lake that I'd grown up on.  Sitting on the bench, he held my hand and never said a word.  Tears streaming down my face, shame in my heart, he was the calm in my storm.

A few days later, he came to the funeral for a baby he never met and a girl he hardly knew.

Everyone has one, the one regret, the one that got away, the one.  Johns' my one.  He's always been my one.

We dated for many months, albeit long distance as I'd moved away after the funeral and burial, back home to my parents.

At 21, I was unsure what I was supposed to do.  Widows can talk about their deceased husbands, and vice verse; grandchildren can talk about grandparents, and kids can talk about deceased parents.

But a parent mourning the death of a child?  No.  Everyone shies away from that.  Except John.

He did not shy away from me, the now dead child, the mess of my life, the shattered dreams.

But I was a mess.  Emotionally, mentally.  Totaled.  He hung on as best as he could; I pushed hard because fear of losing something else near and dear to me was too painful.  Don't fall, just push away.

Like moths to a flame, we could not be anywhere with each other.  The love ... palpable to everyone that knew us and even those who didn't.

But like all good romantic stories, we did not end up with each other.  I had a child with another man, he married and had two kids of his own.

Last time I saw him, we were at Target at the top of the hill in the town that I grew up in.  In sweat pants and t-shirt, I stood there, embarrassed I looked like hell, Gman in the infant seat of the cart.

John asked if he could pick him up.  I nodded yes.  John lifted him gently out of the cart, nuzzled him against his chest, looked into my infant's eyes, and quietly cooed, "Please take care of your mom for me, okay?"  Then he put Gman back into the cart seat, gave me a hug and said he was happy for me.  I knew he was engaged and said the same.

I also knew I was a mess.  He deserved better than me.  He deserved to have the stability he craved and that which I could not give him.  Though I was damned determined to try back then.

If just for him.  If just to prove... he was the one.

26 years passed and a few months ago someone posted the Ulay Oh.  My eyes watered up.  The tenderness of the two individuals palpable through the video.

It's here, if you haven't seen it.

Over the years, I'd creeped FB to see if John were on it.  He was not.  I'm still friends with his friends but I never ask; it feels too intrusive and there's a part of me that does not want to know he's happy and has forgotten all about me.  There's the other part of me that hopes he IS very happy and HAS forgotten all about me... and my mess.

And then, after the Ulay Oh video - FB new friends popped up and there was John.  And instantly, I was 24 again.

Worse, or better, Adele came out with "Hello" yesterday.  In that song, he's moved on, she never did.  It's close enough to my reality.  As I sat in the library with my Kaplan Orgo book, genetics class materials, my eyes watered.  For all the hurt I caused him, me; for all the regret.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Post Genetics Exam - Kaplan Advanced Starting

Genetics is pretty straight forward and the math is pretty simple.  I love it.  However, there's one aspect of it that I'm not liking.


Seriously.  Didn't read a question right - skimmed it would be more appropriate - and that is the difference between an A and an A- ... I know, whoopeee doo.  Suffice to say, that when one chronically posts a picture of an old crone depicting me:

One must be prepared to smack the other peers, who look like this:

upside the head in the grade book.

It's my fault, my responsibility.  I shirked even reviewing the posted quizzes until late the night before; then just skimmed my notes.


I'm bored.  I love the class but I'm bored.  Now we're getting into biochem of genetics and I can only imagine how much worse this is going to get.  Given I can draw all the ... and yeah, just bored.

Which brings me to the MCAT prep course from Kaplan and being bored.

I can't afford to be bored with the MCAT.  I can't afford to be lazy when it comes to making sure I've crossed off every topic on the MCAT official guide, understood every concept and detail as listed by the AAMC.

And yet the thought of doing this again?

Okay, buckling down.  Chem and physics are up tomorrow night.  I have to do well.

Maybe then, in med school, I won't be bored.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Genetics - Exam Two

I'm writing a pilot line for Hollywood and going to call it:

"How To Get Away With DNA"  lol.  No, really.

My genetics class is taught be a very highly revered professor; his rate-my-professor scores are almost a perfect 5 (1-5 scale) and accurate.  Funny, irreverent, a slight British accent and pronunciation (Zed vs zero) all add to the class.  He gives anecdotal information that add to the lessons and generally, are pretty funny.

Because I'm older (hence the non-trad header), I can often pick my professors and do so based almost entirely on their scores.  I read the reviews to make sure it's not some angry student who bashes a prof because the student themselves failed to do the work.  By and large, reading through the reviews, I also glean information on how to get an "A".

See.  My secret?  I still don't know if I'm smart enough!  Seriously.  I still inwardly wonder.

The 2nd exam is this coming week.

How have I prepared?  Much like I do every other class:

1)  attend all lectures
2)  type all notes from lecture while there into the PowerPoint (if provided)
3)  write the notes from lecture on a thick/heavy colored paper
4)  do all suggested problems and annotate any lectures notes with information that helps enforce the lesson
5)  do all provided quizzes at least twice (first time: looking up answers and annotating the quiz; 2nd time without notes/books/etc)
6)  draw ... yes, I know... I draw everything... I also get straight A's.  Go figure.  :)
7)  do the problems again

Genetics is a lot of math.  OR at least my class is.  I do those many times to make sure I know.

And last?

BRS Genetics review for USMLE Step 1 book notes and questions.  Yes, I use that now.

And praying that in December when grades are posted, I will have yet another A to put on my 2016 AMCAS application!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Ping Golf Clubs, Rhapsody

Yes, I know.  You loved France, the wine, churches and bridges.  And yes, now you know I know you know.

Alliteration at its assured finest.

Nothing but the best.  It doesn't live there anymore, it is here.  Where the sun always shines on my face, the waters are warm and soft.

AAMC Q-Packs

Many ask about using the AAMC materials, specifically the question packs and/or full length exam.

This is what I do:

1)  I take the q-packs as "accommodated" and select show me answer.  This allows the individual (me) to answer the question and then check to see if I'm correct.  If I am, I move on unless (!!) I was semi-guessing, or narrowed it down to two choices and then guessed the correct answer.

If I am wrong or semi-guessing, I make a note of the topic, what I got wrong, why I got it wrong

Though the time says 3 hours and 3 minutes, painstakingly going through every question take me about 5-6 hours.  I am thorough and complete.

2)  After each section test is complete, I review it to make my list from #1 is complete.

3)  After checking the list, I start going through each and every topic and making notes on the subject.  No matter how silly, or easy it seemed, I make a note of it.

More on full lengths later.  Below is what materials are available directly from the AAMC for a price, or included with your Kaplan course.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

AJ - Baby Cakes

March - Sept, 1986

SIDS is insidious.  Altered my life in ways I could never have imagined.  To the thoughtless, careless people who wonder and ask me if the pain ever goes away:

No.  Never.  It eases.  It softens.  It propels one forward but it never goes away.  Nor should it.

If you are the family or friend of the parent of a deceased child, don't worry that in asking how they're doing it might make them sad, or make them depressed. It won't.

It'll make them happy that someone remembered.

Trust me.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Genetics - Test 1

Started genetics this semester.  Wanted to keep the science mind going while I await the MCAT test in January (more on that in later post).

Much of molecular genetics I got in my biochem class a few years ago.  We had to know the shape of the purines, pyrimidines; what is different between RNA and DNA; how that is impacted by various amino acids, etc.

So far this semester, the class has covered the history of genetics way back to Aristotle and the many ways different philosophers to scientists tried to explain heredity.  Fascinating factoids.  We even covered eugenics.

My professor is well acclaimed and for good reason.  He makes the class funny, interesting; tells stories of the impact of not understanding the underlying genes in his home village.  Provided several links to sites we can explore.

I sit tonight kind of bored, to be honest. I wish that meant I feel solid about an A on the midterm but I think it just means I'm bored.  The material is interesting but it "feels" like I've covered this multiple times.

When he speaks of probabilities, I'm doing the math in my head; experimental results and whether they can be relied upon (null hypothesis using chi square), forked lines, etc... all in my head.

Anyway, here's some cool sites to use:

Learn Genetics

Speaking of probabilities related to genetics (AND, OR rules):

Friday, September 11, 2015

Voided MCAT Exam Specifics

Annual Remembrance

No need for words.  Thank you for all that served, all that will serve and all those who gave their lives that horrifically evil day in 2001.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Heart Attacks, Women & Mrs. Zimmerman

Two weeks ago, Dad had a heart attack rendering him unconscious but alive.  He survived, left the hospital, signed a DNR because he has no life in MN.  He sits alone while my mom runs around doing whatever it is she does while he sits, alone, almost blind and mostly deaf.

No wonder he signed the DNR.  I would too.  As much as I hate it, I get it.  Depending on my own circumstances in the next few days, he will likely come to live with me primarily and go home to be with his wife on occasion.  Here he has a life - little things to do, pets to let out, he loves to putter and there are lots of puttering things to do here.  As he pleases.  No list, no harried pace to get things done.

Make no doubt, my mother loves him.  She does.  No doubt she's also terrified of what is coming.

Me too.

Nothing made that more clear than 3 days after my dad was released from the hospital when I got a voice mail, voice quivering, "PJ, call home."  It was 3:30 AM.

No good decisions come at that time of day, no good news comes then either.

In June 2010, a man whom was like a 2nd father to me, passed away peacefully after a lengthy demise due to Alzheimer's disease.

You can read that story here:

And the follow-up here:

Back in 1986, after signing the termination of parental rights agreement, trying to decide on my son's family, and deciding within the appropriate time period to keep my son, I never let my parents know.  They'd already disowned me once and I was terrified they'd do it again.  The financial part wasn't worrying me, it was never speaking to my dad again.

I'm a daddy's girl and proud of it!  My nickname, PJ, is from him.  IF I get to have fancy initials on my name, my first name on any badge will be PJ.

Anyway, I kept my son, went to classes at the university, took him with me per my professors' suggestion, walked between classes if I had a babysitter to hand him off and called my dad.  From a payphone back in the day of collect calls, he'd never know.

Or so I thought.  Dad always knew.

That August of 1986, my parents were on their way to the Zim's cabin in rural WI.  Wanted to stop by and say hello, see how my apartment was, see how I was doing.

Terrified, I asked a friend of mine to take my little guy for the day so I could "hide" that I'd kept him. And, I left a note on the door explaining why I wasn't there, why my son was kept, what his name was (middle name after my dad) and hoped someday they'd forgive me for disappointing them.

A few hours later, I came home to find my dad sitting on my door stoop, my mom in the car crying and giving me the crazy stink eye.

We talked for a long time, Dad gave me $20 and said to give her time.  He also said he'd fly back when he could to visit me and meet his grandson.

They left for the cabin and I truly never expected to see them again.

There was a bigger power though.  Mr. and Mrs. Zimmerman.

At 14, my parents had signed a will that if something should ever happen to them, and they both passed at the same time, the Zimmerman family would be mine.  They'd adopt me and raise me as their own.  In many ways, they already had.

At the cabin, my parents told the Zims about my pregnancy, the failure of me to adopt out my son, probably my failure in keeping him, and that they'd just found out.  I do not know what else transpired there, I do know that very devout Catholic family looked at my mother and said her place was with me, supporting me, not with them whining at the cabin.

That much has been confirmed many times.

My parents showed up three days later.

Back in June of this year, my son and I flew to see my dad on his 85th birthday.  We also got a phone call while sitting there from Mrs. Zim, and of course, I wanted her to come to dinner with us.  We all did.

We all laughed at stories of the cabin, talked about Mr. Zim, talked about her and her health.  Her eyes had been declining.  Mac degeneration.

I laughed and asked if there was a can of Franco - American Spaghetti in her cupboard (not spaghettios, spaghetti).  She laughed, her eyes lit up and said, "Always.  Just for you.  Do you really still eat that stuff?"  Laughing, yes, I really do.  It's my comfort food.

We talked about coming up in August for a long week at the cabin.  A summer solstice, a calming retreat of fond memories, a ...

She passed away this week.  I have a hard time writing that.  My head still can't really wrap around the fact that she's gone.  And I don't know if I can get to MN for her funeral.  To say goodbye to the woman who was most like a real mom to me.

Apparently, the night she passed away she'd been talking to her daughter and said she had bad gas.  The daughter kept telling her to call the hospital.  Mrs. Zim refused saying she was just going to rest.


My guess is she had a massive heart attack or an aortic dissection.  Women's heart attacks don't manifest themselves like men's.

If you are a female, please learn the symptoms of a heart attack.  Please visit the American Heart Association site and read:

As the family grieves the loss of their mom, I grieve their loss as well.  Mrs. Zim lived a great life, raised amazing kids, loved her grandkids, and loved her friends.  All of us.  And we loved her right back.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Old Professors

In 1985, I was 21, pregnant, alone.  My parents had disowned me, pushed me aside for their country club set and stopped talking to me.  The supportive friends from my sorority and classes stepped in and helped me figure life out.

When my son was born, he was put up for adoption.  Back then, the parent did not get to meet the parents or have any contact with them. The best one could hope for was a semi-open adoption with yearly updates redacted by social services for any personally identifiable information.  However, the parent could choose the parents by reviewing their files (also redacted) and making a decision.

The first part of the process is to terminate the parental rights.  It's a legal document stating the understanding the parent has that terminating the rights is final.  It is done in court, in front of a judge without counsel.  Or at least, it was back then.

On April 16, 1986, my son was 30 days old, in foster care when I signed away my rights.  At 21, I'd been pressured by my parents to give him up... the courts, however, also require a 10-business day reprieve after signing the termination agreement to allow the parent to change the decision.

Starting April 17, 1986 I started reviewing family files the social services department had given to me, trying to decide who would raise my son.  Narrowed it down to two families and went to have dinner with a lifelong friend.

It was April 23rd or so.  The clock was ticking.  On April 30th, my rights would be terminated.  I had to choose the family.

At dinner that night, talking about the two families, my friend asked me a question, "Why are you doing this?"

I responded that I was too young (despite having had 16 year olds in my labor classes), and she quickly said, "I don't believe you.  I think you're doing this because of your mom.  This is not a puppy you're rehoming but your flesh and blood; you'd better think long and hard about this."

To which the discussion changed to, "How can I do this alone?  without help without anything while in college?"  (and failing, I might add).

Enter my psychology professor.  The one who taught me Piaget, and Erickson and the others.  The one who let me cry when I'd terminated my rights.  The one who now sat with me as I asked her, "What am I missing?  I've got a place to live, funding for school, daycare for the baby.  I have 5 days left to decide."

Dr. Jane Maddy spent probably 3 hours with  me as we mapped out everything.  Diapers, housing, food, clothing, healthcare, AFDC, school, and my life.  She supported me every step of the way through my decision ...

I kept my son.  Named him Austin.

Of course, life always throw me a curve ball.  Diagnosed with CF that summer, Austin passed away in the fall of that year.

Dr. Jane Maddy was there for that as well.  She tried to help me understand that it was not my fault, that I'd saved another family who could not have a child the horror of losing an adopted child that they'd waited so long for, that this family that I was going to choose had indeed adopted and loved their child.

Today, in trying to find old syllabai from those old schools, I found out she'd passed away 4 years ago.  My heart sunk.  In reading her obit, I was absolutely astounded at what she'd been involved with.  Way back when.

Below is her obituary.  RIP Dr. Maddy... will think of you for the rest of my life.  And by the way, THIS is how you enact change!

Dr. Jane Ellen Maddy, 79, passed away in her sleep on Tuesday, May 3, 2011.

Jane Ellen Turner was born July 19, 1931, in Centerville, Iowa, to Merle and Beatrice (Brown) Turner. She was raised in southern Iowa, graduating from Chariton High School in 1949, as valedictorian, she noted. She then attended Iowa State College, now ISU, where she graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in 1953. While there, she met the love of her life, Clarence Maddy. They were married in Chariton, Iowa, on Jan. 11, 1953, after Lieutenant Maddy returned from service in Korea.
Following brief stays in Columbia, Mo., and Fridley, Minn., the growing family moved to Duluth in 1960. Despite the joys of raising four sons, Jane was involved in several community activities such as WADSO, Congdon Park PTA and the Newcomer's Club, which she chaired for two years.
The next chapter of Jane's life was to return to her love of education. She completed her Master of Arts degree in educational psychology from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 1968, where she then began teaching in the psychology department. She continued her own studies and received her doctorate from Walden University in 1987, with her thesis "A Study of the Impact of Social Change on the Development of Mid-life Women". She officially retired from UMD as an associate professor in the department of psychology and mental health in 1996, although was frequently asked to come back and teach some of her specialty classes such as abnormal psychology, psychology of adulthood and aging, and her favorite, the changing roles of women. She last taught college classes in 2009, at the age of 77, having literally taught thousands.
While at UMD, Jane was twice recognized for her outstanding teaching, first with the University wide Horace Morse Award for Outstanding undergraduate teaching and the Jean Blehart Award for excellence in teaching at UMD. She established the first women's studies course at UMD, later working to establish it as its own department. She served as the first chair of the UMD Women's Commission. Much of this was the result of her efforts as part of the Rajender decision which addressed the issue of employment discrimination on the basis of gender in the university system. She was the only woman on the faculty union negotiating team for the first three contracts. For these efforts, she was recognized as the UMD Woman of the Year in 2006 by the UMD Commission on Women.
Jane was also very active in the community. She was a long time member of American Association of University Women, including being the state president. She was on the board of the Women's Health Center for 10 years, and the board of the Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse. She was involved with the Human Development Center where she was past chair and still active on the HDC Foundation. Jane was an initial supporter of University Nursery School. She traveled to Peking for the International Woman's Conference as an emissary for the University. She served on the Duluth Human Rights Commission which she also chaired. In her retirement, she was instrumental in the development of the University for Seniors program at UMD, where she had continued to teach until this year. In honor of all of these efforts, she was recognized by the YWCA as a Woman of Distinction in 2010. She was a leader in the struggle for women's rights. In the 1960s and 1970s, she worked with the Greater Minnesota Women's Alliance to pass the ERA.
Even with all of these responsibilities, she was always to be found in her snowmobile suit and pack boots on the snow bank of a local hockey rink or on the sidelines or in the stands supporting her sons and then her 10 grandchildren in their many school and athletic activities. She and her wonderful group of friends were constantly at local theater and symphony events and she was a member of Chapter BY, PEO. Let's not forget being a Bulldog Hockey fan forever, or being home with her grandchildren baking and sharing recipes.
In lieu of flowers, Jane has requested that memorials be sent to the Jane Maddy Scholarship at UMD, the Jane Maddy research grant at AAUW, the Human Development Center, or University for Seniors at UMD.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

AAMC Q-Pack Biology 1

More on this later.  Posting just for my work product of plodding through the questions.

Monday, August 17, 2015

To My Friends & Their Pets

Life sucks sometimes.  Really sucks.  We get a puppy, love it, teach it, and watch it grow old.  Well, hopefully, we get to watch the puppy grow to teenager to adulthood and then old age.

Recently, friends of mine have lost their dogs.  To many, hopefully not too many, a dog is a dog is a dog.  To the rest of us, the dogs are as much a part of our family as our human children.  For me, there were days where I think I DID love my dogs ... well, no, I've always loved my son more than anything else on earth.  There were just days where it was easier to love my dogs than him.

Over the past few days, my friends have lost their show dogs to weird circumstances.  I weep with one of them for it was his dog through whom we met.  I weep for the other friend because she's had so much loss in her life these past few months - mother, sister, and now her canine love as well.

A few years ago, I stumbled across this and I keep it ready to send to people.  Am posting it here.

Dogs never die.  They sleep.  Forever in our hearts.
Some of you, particularly those who think they have recently lost a dog to “death”, don’t really understand this. I’ve had no desire to explain, but won’t be around forever and must. 

Dogs never die. They don’t know how to. They get tired, and very old, and their bones hurt. Of course they don’t die. If they did they would not want to always go for a walk, even long after their old bones say:” No, no, not a good idea. Let’s not go for a walk.” Nope, dogs always want to go for a walk. They might get one step before their aging tendons collapse them into a heap on the floor, but that’s what dogs are. They walk. 

It’s not that they dislike your company. On the contrary, a walk with you is all there is. Their boss, and the cacaphonic symphony of odor that the world is. Cat poop, another dog’s mark, a rotting chicken bone ( exultation), and you. That’s what makes their world perfect, and in a perfect world death has no place. 

However, dogs get very very sleepy. That’s the thing, you see. They don’t teach you that at the fancy university where they explain about quarks, gluons, and Keynesian economics. They know so much they forget that dogs never die. It’s a shame, really. Dogs have so much to offer and people just talk a lot. 

When you think your dog has died, it has just fallen asleep in your heart. And by the way, it is wagging it’s tail madly, you see, and that’s why your chest hurts so much and you cry all the time. Who would not cry with a happy dog wagging its tail in their chest. Ouch! Wap wap wap wap wap, that hurts. But they only wag when they wake up. That’s when they say: “Thanks Boss! Thanks for a warm place to sleep and always next to your heart, the best place.” 

When they first fall asleep, they wake up all the time, and that’s why, of course, you cry all the time. Wap, wap, wap. After a while they sleep more. (remember, a dog while is not a human while. You take your dog for walk, it’s a day full of adventure in an hour. Then you come home and it’s a week, well one of your days, but a week, really, before the dog gets another walk. No WONDER they love walks.) 

Anyway, like I was saying, they fall asleep in your heart, and when they wake up, they wag their tail. After a few dog years, they sleep for longer naps, and you would too. They were a GOOD DOG all their life, and you both know it. It gets tiring being a good dog all the time, particularly when you get old and your bones hurt and you fall on your face and don’t want to go outside to pee when it is raining but do anyway, because you are a good dog. So understand, after they have been sleeping in your heart, they will sleep longer and longer. 

But don’t get fooled. They are not “dead.” There’s no such thing, really. They are sleeping in your heart, and they will wake up, usually when you’re not expecting it. It’s just who they are. 

I feel sorry for people who don’t have dogs sleeping in their heart. You’ve missed so much. Excuse me, I have to go cry now.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

1st Year Anniversary - Robin Williams & WoW

Many years ago, actually, the day the game came out, I bought the collector's edition (it had a cool pet!!) and started playing, leaving the world of EQ behind.  Video games have always been fun, an escapism.

As the years came, I started traveling overseas but still played to keep in touch with my son.  We would log on (he at 4 PM in the afternoon, me a 5AM in the morning, generally in the Philippines).  He and I could chat about the day, talk about homework and my parents who nannied for me.

In 2007, I told my very public company to restate their financial reports to the SEC because as the VP of Internal Audit, that was my obligation to investors and to the other company stakeholders.  It was not a decision I arrived at easily.

Quarters before I arrived, the company had made some very poor investment decisions, and then worsened them by putting people in place without the skill set to manage a new IPO and a new acquisition under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.  They'd had to tell the Street that they had a material weakness.

What they didn't tell the street is that had several according to their Auditors, PWC, but decided to hide them under an overarching umbrella called, "not enough people and resources to adequately fulfill the requirements" and called it a day.

I started fully aware of the material weakness.  In my past roles, I'd been the one in charge of fixing those for clients of mine who were pre-IPO or pre-divestiture.

Anyway, after telling my CFO that I thought between two plausible options in the face of the latest debacle in accounting, the right thing to do was restate.

Prior to that, I'd been the top of the crop.  People asked to join my team, the team I'd built across the planet in this country and in others.  People asked for me to take interns to teach them how to lead and how to manage.

After talking to the CFO, I was fired.  And my life eroded.  The rest of the story about that time of my life is buried in the blog, one only needs to go back to 2008 or 2009 or 2010.  The despair and agony was horrific.

I still played WoW. I still paid my $15 a month to play, to escape, to laugh, to fish and to cry.  In the solace of my home, I could escape the realities of what was transpiring.

One particular night, trade chat - home of the best trolls in the world - was in full force.  Acerbic, if not hilarious; pointed, and also true.  On that one solitary night ... a human priest named Jett started picking on me, unknowing that I was sitting under my desk in terror as flashlights went around my house, peered into windows.

Terrorized.  And this human priest started in on me.

In private, I wrote him and asked him to stop.  He kept on for a few seconds until I finally told him, I was in tears and terrified of what was transpiring in my life.

The tone changed.  He asked what he could do.  Said he had people who could help, that he himself was wealthy and would do what he could; even if that meant saving my home.  I declined but thanked him.  In game we always hear stories about how someone is the this-or-that of some big company and can help a guild mate out with this-or-that and largely, they are lies.

As I type this now, my eyes are welling up.  Because I know that most of you who read this will think it's untrue, but those who know me in RL, also know I don't lie.

Jett and I talked for probably an hour.  I asked him how he liked LA, told him I had friends out there associated with Columbia (my friend was the former EVP Legal of Sony) and the stories went on.  Terrified to laughter and I'd made an in-game friend for life.

Every time he logged on, he'd say hi; we'd talk about my life and his.  He would talk about his kids and we'd share stories of having teenagers.  I never really knew what he did for a living, we never talked about that.  We talked about places we'd been, cultures, movies and music.  Normal things.

Eventually, my life turned around.  I got a job.  Stopped living with centipedes crawling on me and moved to FL.

Last summer, a year ago yesterday, those conversations stopped forever.

To many he was the beloved character they knew from the movies, and the TV shows.  Mork, Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, and the list goes on and on and on... and who can forget Patch.

Robin played Jett.  I did not know that until last year and never knew it was him.  The rumors of course swirled that many celebrities played on our server but Robin?  Yeah.  Never dawned on me.

Robin probably saved me all those years ago.  Talked to me in the darkest of nights when I did not know how I would wake in the morning to face the day.  Robin made me laugh in private chats and in public trade.  He'd poke fun at me - gently - and encourage me to pursue my dream.

I don't really remember the last time we talked, I wish I could.  I wish I could tell him what he did for me in 2009 and 2010.  I wish I could tell him how much ... we all miss him in /2 and in life.

Yesterday, I did the only thing I could.  Pay tribute to him in game and say a quiet thank you.

RIP My Captain, Our Jett, The World's Robin

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

That Point Where MCAT Prep = Confidence

Because no matter how confident I am becoming (still in progress), having someone say I can do this > all.

Thank you, E!  You are one of the best :)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Panic Set In

Might have had something to do with the brazen thunderstorms that moved through our area last night.  While rain is common here, generally the storms are of the splash-n-dash variety, not the clinger ons of the northern states.

I woke up terrified.  My dream was about the MCAT and that I showed up and forgot that I knew anything (a common theme among the pre-MCATers).  In lying there, my head starting going through all the physics I know, all the general chemistry I've learned and anything else related to MCAT.

Eventually, slumber found me.

Until the next bolt of lightning and screaming thunder claps!

At 9:30, rolling out of bed, it did cross my mind: IS THIS WORTH IT?!?!?

Quickly followed by a, "HELL yeah!"

Whoever might be reading this: we did not come this far to stop now, despite that we might not know every single minutiae detail, molecule, equation, or passage type and answers.  We did not come this far to stop.

I didn't. You didn't.

So, MCAT?  You're mine.  All mine.  And if I should forget:

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.

PLEASE NOTE: As of 8/23/15, this HAS been updated for the extra CH2 off the backbone.

If you're wondering WHY draw?  From the best biochem professor ever:

One other site to check out:

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?


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.


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


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.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Well, that's a new one.

Things I've been called in my life:



Wicked smart.




But never, ever have I been called obnoxious and never has this blog been said to be bloated and obnoxious.

Things that continue to astound me... this would be one of them.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Physician Meeting - MCAT Accommodations

My $$$ is worth something apparently.  Because for 15 minutes spent over 2 days, I paid $300 to be told...

well, wait:

And then there's this which apparently, I must remember:

Oh yeah.  I got asked in no particular order:

Do you know how much it is to go to medical school and get through residency?  (yes)

And you have the money to pay for that? (yes, and then briefly explained)

And you think that somehow your age, what will you be, 52 when you start?  and most likely older as you won't get accepted first round so 53 or 54?   so you think you'll somehow get accepted at your age?  (yes, I think I'm well qualified and those schools who are known to not be amenable to older candidates are not on my list)

So, you think that the schools won't let you in? (yes, I believe there are some schools that will not lend themselves to my package and therefore, are not on my list of potential schools)

You brought up panic attacks.  You think it's okay that when you're having a patient in cardiac arrest to panic?  (that does not happen, it was situational on one gen chem exam which is when I was diagnosed)

What's your backup plan?  (what do you mean exactly)

What do you plan to do when you don't get into medical school because frankly, I don't think you will. (I think my odds and total package are solid and I believe I will get in; somewhere, the adcoms will overlook my age and look at everything else; which is very competitive.)

Really.  You have talked to people who matter about this? (you mean like adcom members, deans of medical schools, professors, medical personnel, those types of people?  then yes, I have.  Not one has dissuaded me from the pursuit.)

Good luck to you - I don't think you'll get in.

For that, I paid $300 and none of that had to do with my MCAT accommodations which is what I asked him for help with... which he said LAST week, he would do.

All I can do is say he has prepared me for the questions I surely will get in an interview.  I'll be ready.

That, or I'll be singing funny old people med school songs on a stage with a guitar and piano :)

Friday, April 17, 2015

MCAT Accommodations Part Two

If you've bounced here by Googling "MCAT Accommodations" then I hope this helps you.

I recently received my response from the AAMC and while my request was NOT denied, it surely puts a damper on me trying to take the exam in June and have my application validated in July after my MCAT score posts.

Meaning... I will be a late app no matter what but the request from AAMC for more documentation definitely pushes me to a probable August MCAT date and Sept validation.

Can we say ICK?!

What happened, what you should know.

I submitted my entire MCAT accommodations package with the following:

1)  cover letter indicating current impact ADHD has on my life - work, home, school
2)  every accommodation letter received from my university for my premed pre-reqs
3)  my transcript in all it's ugliness
4)  a copy of the receipt for my ACT score showing I paid for the archival request and that it probably will NOT be obtainable given I took the ACT in 1982
5)  the entire ADHD document of testing done by a licensed psychologist who specializes in adult ADHD dated 2-12-2012
6)  a letter from my current physician who prescribes the medication

The request was for CURRENT impact assessment from licensed evaluator given my evaluation was 1 MONTH too old. In other words, had I submitted the package in late January, I would have been fine and my evaluation - that cost $2,000 to obtain - would have been "current" ...

With respect to my ACT score, the request from AAMC is this:

"Have you ever taken a standardized exam: ACT, SAT, GMAT, GRE, Other" and if so, please attach the score from that exam and any accommodations granted.

So, on that particular question I can either lie (never took the ACT ) and remember what organization I would be lying to (AAMC) OR I could tell the truth that I did in fact take it in 1982.

I did take the exam.  My score is no longer available and no accommodations were granted for standardized tests as ADA laws were not enacted yet so the best I could do was show that I tried to get the score.

AAMC has hogtied me to either lying to them or ... I don't know.  My score is simply not available as ACT will no longer keep scores prior to 2005 or something like that.

What can you do to avoid this nonsense?

Cover letter - keep to one page, summarize what the impact is of your disability on your ACADEMIC career and how accommodations have currently been leveling the playing field for you in school (aka: obtaining accommodations through your current courses)

Make the request: I request X-y-ZZ  - make the "ask" clear.

Sign it, Sincerely... that is proper, polite, and appropriate.

Obtain all accommodation letters from your schools (elementary through college if need be).  ALL of them.  Attach them to your MAO file.

Attach all diagnoses relevant to your disability and make sure they are CURRENT (less than 3 years - learn from my mistake).

Request letters of support how the disability was accommodated at work.  Attach them.  For ADHD, it does not affect me solely at school - it affects me at work, and at home.  Concerta helps the focus but the distractions and noise are still too much at times (so I have a private office or conference room at work).  At home, I've hired people to mow the lawn, clean the house, walk the dogs, and help with every other aspect of personal life because if I don't:

1/2 my lawn gets mowed
dishes stack up in a sink of running water with water ending up on the floor
laundry gets washed but not dried and end up with mildew

And remember: patience.  I figure - this is just my guess - the AAMC wants to make sure that those requesting the accommodations REALLY need it and those who do, will be patient and persistent enough to continue through the myriad of questions, requests, and further questions from AAMC.

Good luck!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Multiple Myeloma

I hope not.

I'll just keep thinking to myself: "Lab error"  :)

Normal Na+, K+, high Cl-, high CO2 = low anion gap

#1 cause is lab error
#2 cause is hypoabluminemia (low albumin)
#3 cause is multiple myeloma (although very rare)

My albumin stats are normal.  In fact everything was normal (immunoglobs were not tested) except for Cl- and CO2.

I am outside the parameters for typical multiple myeloma patients: age, race, and environmental factors.

I also do not fit the models for symptoms in any area.

The test was given 4 years ago.  Given the statistical prognosis for longevity, IF I had multiple myeloma back then, I would think I would be symptomatic now... or deceased.

I am not :)

It has to be lab error and while I will go Monday and have the work up redone, for a brief few hours (and overnight), I was semi-freaked out.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

MCAT Accommodations

They're not easy to get and also, much like the application for medical school itself, not easy to figure out HOW to apply for accommodations.

But I have.

Parts of the MAO that are critical:

1)  your past history of being accommodated in school (elementary through college) AND at work

I submitted all of my accommodations letters for all semesters of my premed pre-reqs AND my formal request for accommodations (a private office ;) ) at work

2)  documentation from a psychologist or other licensed healthcare practitioner who is qualified to assess whatever disability you might have which might allow you to have accommodations from AAMC

My diagnosis for ADHD was done over a span of 8 hours of testing while NOT on Concerta.  IT was ugly, and my brain hurt.  But I did get a 40 page diagnosis that substantiates my ADHD and need for private room for testing (and extended time).

3) transcripts... 

Mine arrived today... forgot how utterly FUGLY they were ... F, D, W, C-, A (Topics in Sex no less), A (band) and more W's, D's, C's sprinkled a few B's and finally I graduated... in 1989.

But what shows how my disability affects me is this:

premed prereqs are?


Same university, different courses, on Concerta, in a private room with extended time and wallah... 3.97.

Some people say it's unfair.  Some people say it gives me an advantage they don't have.

I disagree.

Accommodations level the playing field so that I can show what and how well I know what I know (and what I don't!!).  Accommodations simply give me a fair chance.

AND, AAMC is NOT - emphasize that point NOT - known for granting accommodations; so I also prepare as if I won't get them...

4)  cover letter which is different than a personal statement used for the actual medical school application... 

In keeping with the limitation on the personal statement, I kept my cover letter to the same length.  Given I'm 50, I have 45 years of history of academic trouble, behavior patterns of being disruptive to show and then, post diagnosis and on medication, solid grade, no behavior trouble, and yeah.  Life is good.

I submit the whole accommodations application on Monday, April 6, 2015.

And hope I hear by May.  I'll let you know.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Childhood Memories &The Characters That Shaped Our Lives

That old Motorola TV on four little wooden pegs for legs and black and white screen replete with rabbit ears on the backside and speakers in the front provided a necessary and pleasant after school show for me.  I was hooked from the first episode.

Many girls my age played with dolls and learned to sew; I learned to use test tube, explored addition of vinegar with baking soda, bleach with amonia and watched Star Trek.

My Barbie dolls were renamed Uhura and Spock; I even painted ears on the one.  My dad created a ship for the Enterprise; and both of us wept when in the movie, Enterprise was blown up.

From the Trouble with Tribbles to Wrath of Khan, Spock was always my favorite.  The science guy, the nerdy one, the unemotional external facade fully aware of the internal raging emotions of the Vulcan race.

Today, I weep again.  My childhood hero passed.  The science officer on the Enterprise went into the last frontier and sadly...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Biochem Is NOT Hard

Unless you have a truly sucky professor (I did not - I had the greatest biochem prof ever!!)

In less than 5 minutes I can draw all of them which sounds daunting until you try it:

start with the two carbon backbone

off the left side draw an N, with both Hs (yes, both - it makes sense when you start combining amino acids in a string which then form alpha helices, etc)

off the right side draw the carbonyl off the 2nd carbon and the OH group

There, you have the start for 19 amino acids... all except proline.

Glycine is boringly blank - nothing but an H off the primary carbon...

Alanine is almost as boring but has a methyl group...

Then throw in another carbon off the alanine and you have valine...

Eventually, you get this:

I left off the two acids because you simply replace the NH2 with COOH and you get the acids.

There you have it.

How will that help in biochem?

Well, if you know that the reactions of the amino acids combine via peptide bonds, disulfide bonds, H bonds, etc ... and know the pka of the acids, you can start to configure the quaternary structures and figure out:

if the pocket on a substrate has a basic inside, what can fit inside of it?

HINT:  WON'T BE GLYCINE, et al ...

When it comes to the chymotrypsin reaction, knowing that histidine has a 5 member ring with two N in it, help remember the conformational change during the two cycle reaction...

Or when you get into creating urine, or why asparagus stinks in the urine ;)

Anyway, 5 minutes to do all that above ... taught to me by the greatest biochem prof ever !

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Interesting Sites - ID

I am going to sit for the MCAT.  My confidence grows.

I will get into medical school.  My resolve is growing as well.

I will be a doctor, and change my last name (I've kept my anonymity for such a long time, I'll continue to on here!)

So, as I shadowed the doctor on Monday, I started wanting to prep for his lecture on Mondays at noon.

And found this site:

From THIS site!

Holy awesome!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Let's Talk Shoes ...


What do female physicians, residents, student, premed wear on their feet?!?!

I wore my favorite Sperry Top Siders for rounding yesterday and I had leg cramps last night.  Crocs are not appropriate for shadowing so...

Thoughts?  PLEASE?!

I'm looking at Sanita footwear... is that professional enough?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Way Cool Shadowing

Lecture with resident and fellows for an hour.  Diseases that I did not know existed, forms of diseases that I did not know exist.

And who eats FROGS?!?!?!  UNcooked?!?!?  Ask me, go ahead, ask me what's so bad about sushi?

Okay, 5 hours on my feet and I'm paying for it but holy fun, shadowing was awesome.

Patients I won't discuss but suffice to say the population replicated that which I saw in the rural family setting.  And some patients were hard to see.  That circle of life thing always resonates.

But mostly?  Holy awesome!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

"That" Diagnostic Score You Received

is bunk.  If you let it bug you, you'll turn into a mini-me; procrastinating, FUD settling in, questioning the path... don't do it.

I took my first diagnostic about 8 months ago and clicked and pointed and clicked and pointed some more and then guessed.

My score showed it.

A few months into the prep course and I knew taking the exam in late January of this year was a no-go.  Thanksgiving hit, then Christmas back home with my dad and then ... a few weeks of blowing off studying and there I sat.

I gave up my seat for the exam.  Which was the absolute right thing to do.  Take it once, do very, very well on it and never look back is the common theme.

I agree.

Then came the 2nd diagnostic.  Of the new MCAT.  More biochem, less physics I said.  Win!  I exclaimed.  Diagram, I did while the test timer clicked down.

I still skimmed, still clicked and paused and guessed a few.  And realized I was not ready for the MCAT (good thing I canceled my seat!!!).

So, how to use the diagnostic:

Evaluate where weakness lies.

And then develop a plan accordingly.

I work full-time plus (over 45 hours a week).  Studying every day for 8 hours is not workable unless the PowerBall ticket I bought actually pays out the $317M on Weds.

Studying more efficiently for shorter periods will be the only way for me... then longer periods on the weekends.

Over lunch read the iPad app, or flashcards during breaks; writing equations while eating dinner.  Then, use the weekend extensively for intensive prep work; note card making, diagram creation, systems drawing, amino acids repetition...

Because honestly?  Using the diagnostic as anything but a pointer aka study guide is dumb.

And anyone pursuing med school is not dumb.  :)