Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Science of Healthy Living for Success

It is not astonishing that some of the brightest minds in our world's history have researched the human body to some extent. Complex beyond belief, mankind has been studied by millions who have compiled literature on healthy habits, proper body function and medicinal remedies to heal the broken body. This type of knowledge relates to the field of health science, which applies scientific study to improving healthcare and the treatment of the body.

Physical Exam
In preparation for matriculation, I had my physical exam this week. I was fascinated by the numerous 'tests' used to assess for optimal health. From head to toe, the body is put through rigorous strain which can be expressed by various ailments and yet history has discovered ways to unmask some those that may be hidden from first glance.

I have yet to hear of anyone who is excited about hernial, prostate, rectal, or other intrusive exams. Nonetheless, it is amazing that we have learned the bodies reactions to abnormalities and can thus identify problems through simple tests. Need an exam? My recommendation is to find someone you know well to conduct your physical exam. They are much more likely to use prudent judgment when it comes to the nitty-gritty.

The physician that performed my exam is a good friend that I work with on a regular basis. He reminisced about the days when he was in school learning the techniques himself. We laughed as he explained that neighboring classmates were used to practice techniques pertinent to the eye, ear, mouth and other exams. It was great until the dreaded time came to practice the more personal exams. All he could think was, "how will I ever face my classmates for the next three years after doing those?!" Fortunately, the school hired individuals to participate where the students probably should not. Despite the trepidation that may arise, it is exciting to know I too will one day have the skills needed to adequately assess physical health.

Can you remember when you received that shot for Hepatitis A? How about the measles? I certainly can not recall them with certitude. If we are going to heal the sick, we have a really good chance of contracting various illnesses if not properly protected. Medical schools, similar to entering high school or an undergraduate university, require vaccinations and their documentation. As I do not have a copy of all my immunizations, I had to rely on other sources to obtain the necessary information. Each of the suggestions listed below will send you a copy for a couple dollars if not for free.

  1. Contact your current and former county health departments. Use a search option to find 'local health department' or 'county health department' to find the contact information.
  2. Contact your high school.
  3. Contact your college or university.
  4. Some employers such as health providing institutions will offer immunizations. Be sure to contact them for applicable information.
Physical and Mental Health
Whatever it takes to keep your head on your shoulders is worth doing. Life is going to get crazy really fast in medical school. New terms, people, activities and routines are just the beginning. Maintaining healthy habits are crucial. Every aspect is vital to scholastic success; nutrition, exercise, and leisure are just as important as the long hours studying bio-molecular pathways. A healthy balance will invigorate the mind and keep your physical state up to speed with the demands on your mental state of being. Currently, I am on vacation as there is no homework, test or quiz in the immediate future. Does that mean I am in a vegetative state...perhaps, but I am convinced it is good for my physical and mental health.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Touro University - College of Osteopathic Medicine

With the successful withdrawal of my medical school tuition deposit and my second transcript sent, I am not only poor, but I have been added to the class roster of 2012 (At least it is something worth being poor for)! When I share the good news with friends and family, they have often never heard of the campus, the school, or its programs. Encouraged by those who are curious and those who will be applying, I have compiled some information about the osteopathic program at Touro in one blog.

Certainly this is not the comprehensive tell-all, but a way to paint the picture from my current perspective and experience.

On the outskirts of sparkling Las Vegas, Nevada in the suburb of Henderson not far from Lake Mead. (Map) Touro University's Nevada campus is housed in a modified warehouse that has the basic necessities of any medical school (anatomy lab, fitness equipment, lecture halls, electronic library, etc).

The Big Picture
Touro University Nevada is a sister school to the Mare Island, California campus of which Touro College in New York City is the parent. These institutions are Jewish sponsored and welcome students of all religious denominations.

Touro is a private institution "educating caring professionals to serve, to lead, and to teach." All school purchased foods are kosher although nutritional choices are left to the student. The Nevada campus educates the following professionals: Doctor of Osteopathy, Physician Assistant, Nurse, Occupational Therapist, and others within the School of Education.

Approximately 300 medical students are instructed among a student body of nearly 600. The average age of entering students is 27 years and all students have a baccalaureate degree. MCAT scores are 23 or higher and GPA starts at a minimum of 3.0. The admissions committee has accepted students below these numbers on a case by case basis. Contact the admissions office for current details.

Mission Statement/ Accreditation
Prospective and current students at Touro are expected to embody strengths that enrich their education through Judaic commitments. The school became accredited in 2004 and will therefore be celebrating the graduation of its first class in 2008.

The first place to start is AACOMAS, the generalized application form for Osteopathic medical schools. Candidates will have a baccalaureate degree, MCAT scores not older than 3 years, and prerequisite course grades of "C" or better. If minimum requirements are met, applicants are invited to submit a secondary application at a cost of $100. A large portion of applicants who submit their secondary are invited to interview through the end of April. It is in your best interest to have shadowed an osteopathic physician well in advance to provide them with ample time to write a letter of recommendation.

Although it is variable, the reported 2007-2008 cost for tuition and fees was approximately $37,000. This does not include the estimated equipment ($4000), personal ($4000), transportation ($6000), and room/board ($18,500) expenses. The grand total is nearly $69,000 of which Stafford and Grad PLUS loans will cover if eligible.

Interview Day
This can be one of the most difficult experiences in the whole process. With an interview, you have the opportunity to prove in person who you are, and without it you will go nowhere. To be honest, I thought I performed horribly in the interview and was happily surprised to be accepted. It is common for interviewers to give the impression that they are not interested or that they do not agree with your responses. Whatever you do, stick to your story, be honest and be you. A great resource for past questions can be found at the Student Doctor Network.

Applicants will arrive and sit in the lobby until the day begins. Get to know the other candidates (it will help ease some tension later), dress professionally, do not chew gum, and use good manners. When the day begins, they take you to a conference room and explain the process. While some applicants take a tour of the facility, the other applicants are interviewed by two members of the staff. I say staff because I had a librarian and a professor. Once your half hour interview is finished and the tour complete, a kosher lunch is served before going home.

The Wait
Probably the best part of the process is when the interview is over and the wait begins. Those who are interviewed, and accepted, receive an email to that extent one week later (unless the director of admissions is asked by the applicant to send the committee's decision). It takes a few days to receive the official letter after the initial one week wait. The letter contains one of three possibilities: 1. Accept 2. Wait List 3. Denied. Two weeks are given to submit the letter of intent and initial deposit.

The brochure that is provided at college fairs contains a general overview of the school, similar to the information provided here. Their 2008 supplemental application may vary, but will likely be similar in future years. This is the TUNCOM portion of the Osteopathic Medical College Information Book that provides a general overview of the school.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Late Nights and Long Shifts

The day this picture was taken at 3 in the morning, the local trauma room was quiet. It certainly doesn't take much for it to become the most active place in the hospital in a matter of minutes. Just this past week, this room alone was used to stabilize, save and improve the life of dozens of individuals. The occasional and emotional loss of life occurs inevitably, but you had better believe the room is usually in shambles as a result of all the effort put forth to overcome another expiration.

I love my job. As an Emergency Department Technician we may do a lot of the so called "dirty" work, but it has its perks. Watching people get better usually ranks among the better ones. If we aren't doing CPR, starting intravenous (IV) access, drawing blood, collecting urine or stool samples, then we are probably transporting patients to radiology, their longterm rooms, monitoring their vital signs or preparing for the next ambulance to arrive. Usually working long 12 hour shifts, the work-week commonly only requires three shifts, translating to four days off.

With an understanding that medical school will be quite expensive simply for the education itself - not to mention housing, car and other expenses - paying off any existing debt now will certainly help down the road. I commonly pick up extra shifts to help buffer the onslaught of bills and rising prices in all markets. Being at the bottom of the totem poll though, means that I work the graveyard shifts quite frequently in addition to some of the other unwanted shifts. Not always the most pleasant of circumstances, but at least it pays to have the experience in preparation for long hours as a physician.

There is something great to be said about working hard and earning money for your own efforts. I've always enjoyed working and earning, but I have always had a hard time spending. Usually looking for ways to save or invest my income, I find it difficult to incur so much debt at this point in my life. As a rule of thumb, I make it a point to invest 10% and save 30% of my net earnings, leaving 60% to go towards bills and other expenses. Now I know this will likely have to be modified as the income stops and the payments start, but in the meantime I have the plan to keep me on track. For some other tips and ideas, you might want to head over to the Poor MD blog.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Financial Woes Before Matriculation

With a letter of acceptance in my hands and only two weeks from the date of its arrival, I had to decide whether Touro was the school for me. One week passed and the deadline continued to approach ever so quickly. I faxed my letter of intent to the office of admissions; confirming my decision to attend TUCOM in the fall.

If only it was that simple. Just when I thought I was done, in order to show them proof of my desire to attend, I had to make a sort of down payment, that would "reserve" my seat. That wouldn't have been so bad if it were pocket change; it cost $2000. Lucky for me I had enough in my savings account to meet the demand and still eat my peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch! Can you see me smiling? You know the big cheesy grin that says, 'I can't believe I just spent so much money and to think this is only a fraction of the cost.' At least this goes towards my tuition.

A couple days later, still eating PB&J for lunch and loving every moment of it, I received more letters of felicitation emailed to my inbox. They were well received until I realized it was time to get back to work. My "To Do" list just quadrupled in size... literally. I had just paid $2000 to find out it was time to spend more money.

  1. New this year, Touro is requiring all first year students to have a laptop. So if you own one, that's not really a problem. Unfortunately, I don't fall into that category. Now I'm on the hunt for a new way to spend another $2K, this time in the form of a mechanical box that is smarter than me. I am considering a tablet PC as it may offer functions more suitable to the classroom. (I could just write my notes on slides rather than type my own set in an outline) The appeal of a regular laptop is that I already know the major functions and could work efficiently from the start.
  2. All students are required to have medical insurance. This isn't really something new, just that it means I have to look for insurance again as I will be leaving my current employer. They mentioned that there is an allotment of $2000 which I assume can be included in the cost of my loan to cover this expense. That is unless my wife has a job that comes with the proper benefits.
  3. Speaking of loans, in my mind this translates to debt. The school pointed me in the direction of an online loan counseling session. It is a program that defines the main points of loans, important definitions and some of the consequences if I fail to repay the borrowed money.
    • Certainly, the first place to start is with the FAFSA once your taxes are finished.
    • Next, look for independent scholarships to help reduce overall costs at FastWeb.
    • Specific to Touro and many other institutions is the online loan counseling.
    • It is recommended that you verify your credit report FREE for any inconsistencies.
  4. Before matriculation, I have to prove my health in the form of a physical. An immunization and medical history, if I can gather all that paperwork, is needed too.
  5. Perhaps only requested by Touro, one more copy of my undergraduate transcript showing that I really did attend college and meet the prerequisite requirements.
They informed me that I was placed on the mailing list for my graduating class of 2012. That should be really nice for study groups and other activities, should we ever have the time for a BBQ or something. After a little searching, I found my class had a group on Facebook and a forum at the Student Doctor Network. It's good to know I have a way to contact other students before even attending the school.

Now that I've officially declared my future full of debt, it's time to look at housing. To buy or not to buy... condo, townhouse, single family home. What lender is going to want me -- pretty soon I won't even own half of the assets I use!

Subscribe to Life as a Medical Student