Monday, March 27, 2017

Dreams That Won't Die

Those pesky Tampa Bay Lightning.  Season started off with very high (think Lord Stanley sitting in FL getting a nice tan) expectations.  Even with Ryan Callahan expected out until Nov, the team was expecting to compete at the end for the cup.

That shiny silver thing... brought out for Marty St. Louis' number retirement back in January.

Then, however, Stammer got hurt.  Eventually, nine of the team were called up from the AHL and the joke became, we were not the Tampa Bay Lightning but the Tampa Bay LightCuse (Syracuse is the AHL team for Tampa).  Erne, Peca, Vermin, Witkowski, Dotchin... the list of AHL'ers playing with the Bolt was lengthy.

As was the losing streak.

Cally came back before he was healed from labrum surgery to try and help.

Boyle.  Ah yes, #11... stepped up... did everything expected... asked of... then... was traded.

After almost two months of being asked if I was going to renew for next year, the team leadership held a town hall.  Season ticket members not having renewed, and apparently fairly vocal about concerns, were asked to attend.

I was one of them.  I'd been vocal before Boyle was traded about my concerns with him being an unrestricted free agent and what the team was going to to do with him.  I felt, still do, that Boyle needs to retire a Bolt.

While much was said and most of it things I won't repeat here, I will say there is a reason the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Jeff Vinik himself, are lauded as the #1 team and person in the sports industry.

Bar none.  We were treated to inside information (as much as could be discussed without signed NDA's in place), we were treated like we mattered.

Questions were asked and answered... even a 9 year old girl's question regarding the trade of Bishop (whom everyone expected last summer).

It was something I've never seen another organization do.  CARE about the people who pay for the seats... who pay, stay, and cheer for a team (I'm often hoarse!).

What made the night even better was this:

Chicago's fans are known for being vocal, voracious, if not arrogant in their expectations of beating other teams.

But those pesky Bolts' players had other ideas.

Teams expect to beat us, to knock us out of the playoffs despite still missing our top two players, having traded our number one goalie, and the fan favorite Boyle...

Teams and their fans expect us to fold.

But this team... they have a dream.

A dream to prove the naysayers wrong.

They are still the Bolts... and I'm lucky enough, for another 5 home games, to be their Thunder.

BTW - Chicago 4, Bolts 5 in overtime!

Dreams don't have to die even when faced with seemingly unsurmountable odds.

I can relate to that feeling.

Monday, March 20, 2017

For Steph

A few years ago, back in Minnesota for a project there was a great dane who slipped out of her collar while being turned over to her new adopters.  The great dane rescue sent out messages asking for help to look for the girl in the suburb where she'd slipped away.

I'd known Steph from group meetings every fall for the annual picnic.  We'd all get together with the rescue Danes or, the not-so-rescued Danes (purchased from show homes).  That's where the last picture of Storm was taken (his story is on the left hand side panel).

Steph and I bonded over looking for the girl.  Hours in mosquito infested streams, back lots of soccer/baseball fields (hey! no snakes!!!), bike trails and back yards of homeowners who'd called to say they'd seen her.

Eventually, the poor old great dane girl was found alive.  Fed, medicated, and loved up she got her forever home.

Time passed, I moved away.  

Two years ago or so, Steph wrote about her car accident on the way to FL.  Great danes in tow, then into the ambulance, then to FL... she got home to a message saying to call her doc to discuss the X-rays from the accident.

This past February, I took Steph to the Wild vs. Bolts game.  It was not a trip I could well afford but in asking her if her husband would want to go if I could not make it up there, her response said everything:

"It was more about spending time with you, than the game."

I went to St. Paul and watched the Bolts lose in overtime to the Wild.  That was okay.

Steph cheered, clapped, and smiled for 3+ hours - mostly for her team, but some of it at me (I'm a little loud when cheering for the Bolts and Boyle - but I won't digress here on that player!)

Wherever the conversation went, I followed.  She led, I responded.  She talked about her treatment plans, and options; she told me her bucket list (one of the things was seeing a Wild game - thankfully, I got seats in lower level behind the Bolts' bench).

She talked about wanting to get to Hawaii, and onto a cruise.  She talked about watching her grandkids then yet to be born grow up and become toddlers.

The only time her voice caught - reality setting in - was when she talked about the 8 months it took for her hair to grow out after chemo and that the idiot who cut it off didn't realize it might never... and then her voice cracked.


Advanced Stage IV ovarian cancer diagnosed two years ago.

The Wild won, she drove me back to the hotel and we talked some more.  Treatment options if the current regiment wasn't working.  Last chemo in Feb, PET scan to follow 3 weeks later.

My heart is heavy.  Tonight, I leave this for Steph.  

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Visual Cues - Helpful Memory Tricks

Was asked how I do posters for my office at home in prep for the MCAT physics, gen chem, orgo and biochem pieces.

Below is what I wrote on the Post-It Note, poster sized sheets in my office.

It's not like "memorizing" as it is seeing it daily just lets it all sink it.

From Amazon, I ordered this:

Here's the link to Amazon (cheaper here and I got 2 packs because ... well, because!)

Side note: if you do not currently support an organization via Amazon, please consider the Ryan Callahan Foundation which directly supports childhood cancer.  He is a Tampa Bay Lightning player, currently on injured reserve, and he donates a lot of, if not all of, his time to fundraising for the kids.

To do this, just click the link when it asks  you for a charity.  It costs you NOTHING! But Amazon donates :)  Win-Win...

Okay, so, you've got the stick-it poster page, and now what?


That's not my complete list but it is part of it.  Any formula that I routinely miss something, or units that I'm unsure of went on these sheets.  It will get better organized in the next month or so and consolidated down to a shorter list.

Also have the same thing for gen chem and orgo.

For biochem, I draw in a sketch book like this:

For biochem, I have all AA's along with the 3 and 1 letter abbreviations and associated charges at physiological pH, all metabolic pathways as listed in the AAMC MCAT guide (the 87 page thing).

Any questions, please drop me a comment.  Here to help!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Retaking + Reapplying = Gut Check

If you've arrived here it's due to meta data tags for retaking MCAT guidance, advice, how-to's or you're reapplying this upcoming cycle is most likely June 6, 2017 though no official date appears on the site or their calendars or their Twitter account.  I base that date on prior years' submission dates.

That said, in early May 2017 the AMCAS application will be OPEN for inputting of your information if you have not already applied in another cycle.  Kudos to the AAMC, they don't make you retype the entire application if you've applied in prior years, you have to update the information if necessary (address, courses taken, etc.).

Here's is a good timeline for the AMCAS application:

1.  NOW! Obtain your transcripts from every school to which you've ever attended.  ALL of them. Even if you attended, dropped out, got several F's, you need to obtain the transcript.  The National Clearing House will be used to validate the transcripts you submit and verify all schools associated with your name on the application are complete and accurate.  So, if you have bad/terrible/horrific grades (like me from decades ago), don't try to skirt the process.

You will be found, and your career in medicine is very likely over before it began if you cheat.

2.  When it opens, create your account and start entering the information from your life and those transcripts you have in your hand or folder or wherever.

If you are reapplying, this information is already in the application (Thank you, AAMC!).

The transcripts you have in hand or not valid for the AMCAS itself.  You have to order those and have submitted to AMCAS.  Once you fill in all the courses from each school, you will be asked if you want to generate a transcript request for the schools you list.

Answer yes to the question of transcript ordering.  Please know - some schools don't require the form but once you click on the link, it sends you to another site where you order the transcripts from there. Easy/peezy.

Get them ordered when the AMCAS application opens.  Don't delay.  Trust me on this!

Why?  Because the AAMC will have your transcripts in hand when June 6, 2017 rolls around and be able to verify and process your application immediately.

There is an individual on a certain premed forum who did this last year. Submitted on day 1, hour 1 and was verified in less than 30 minutes.  30 minutes!

What difference does that make?

Every school to which that individual applied received his primary application the same day.  Think about that for a second.

In the 100s if not 1000s of applications that admissions committees will see, many do not get seen at all.  I was once told that the school that received over 2000 applications simply took every 10th or 15th application and reviewed it. If that occurs, it's a crap shoot whether or not your application even gets seen by the committees or primary reviewers.

BUT if yours is literally first, or first day?

They were alerted someone's application was processed and verified.

1.  That's incredibly organized (+)
2.  The decision to become incredibly organizes is solid (+)

Also, it allowed that individual to get the secondaries and have them submitted before many/most ever got their primary application verified.

Talk about standing head and shoulders above the competition!

Retaking The MCAT

This sucks, doesn't it?  Maybe you got a score you didn't like, maybe you took the test and voided it at the end (like someone else I know).  

If you are retaking after just receiving your score, this section might not really apply to you.  It's more for the rest of us who took some time away to consider, "Do I really want to go to medical school?" and have arrived at a resounding "Yes!"

The question oft asked is where to start because the materials from AAMC are not exactly new though this is true for those of us who only tested on the new test.

Here's my plan and though some AAMC materials might be repeated from prior test prep, it's still going to be useful in honing the strategy.

1.  Buy the AAMC complete bundle pack including the flashcards.  Flashcards from the AAMC might seem like stupidity but I find them to reinforce concepts that I already know by asking the questions in a weird way OR they pinpoint concepts/theories I'm not as familiar with (hello there sociology!).

2.  Buy the EK FLs 3 & 4, skipping 1, 2 and 5.  There is a large spreadsheet "out there" that has the tabulated all prep companies and AAMC tests along with break out scores for the AAMC along with final MCAT score received.  Of course, n - 1 because the spreadsheet only contains data for those who've entered it.  Remember that - many/most do not enter their data, especially those who did poorly (thank you to those that do!).

By and large, EK FL 3 & 4 are giving high ratings by users as most like the real MCAT and most beneficial to understanding how to take the test.

Kaplan, TPR are known to be the worst at full lengths being too detailed, too underscaled and therefore, soul-crushing.  They are, however, good for understanding content knowledge.  Just remember, the MCAT doesn't test content knowledge so much as it tests thinking.

3.  Coursera offers a course called Physiology and it is taught by Duke University professors both of whom teach at the medical school.  This course is FREE unless you want a certificate that says you passed all requirements.  I'm taking it for free.

That said, I'm also doing all the work as if I were in a real classroom; all notes, all PowerPoints are printed out, written on; all questions asked/answered are written down; all exams are printed out and completed before turning it.

I don't expect the course to be equal to the real class onsite at Duke, but am finding the information provided to be significant enough to help with anything systems related.  So far, it's been excellent.

Next up is scheduling.

4.  Every week, take a full length exam on accommodated/untimed mode.  For each question that is wrong, I will be writing my topic down on a sheet of paper to review after the full test is complete, on the next day.  These will be done on the weekends so that during the week when time is more scarce, I can use those days for content review.

5.  Every day, I will do CARS passages from Khan Academy starting with 3 per day and ramping up to 7 per day by early April. I test on April 28.

6.  Every night before I turn out the lights, I will go through the AAMC flashcards and the 100 page psych/soc doc floating out there.  In addition, I have a spreadsheet that I go through that has various theories, hormone types, etc.

My goal score is 516+ because my 30 year old grades are... horrific.  While my current grades are pretty solid, I want/need to make sure that any admission officer that sees the old stuff, sees a great MCAT score.

Will see how it goes!

Last, if you are looking for alternative online videos related to premed/MCAT prep, I 100% endorse this guy and his site.

To me, they are much better than Khan Academy, though I do like KA as well.

Best of luck!