Medical School Orientation: New scrubs, new white coat…still the same me?

So I just finished my first two days of orientation at McMaster University. Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly), I’ve been having a blast. Our school really tries to foster a sense of community, tradition, innovation, independence, teamwork and compassion. Coming to Hamilton, Ontario, I really didn’t know what to expect. It’s on the east coast, completely opposite to everything I’ve ever known or experienced. Growing up on the west coast, I’ve always taken temperate summers and winters for granted. Lo and behold, I’m now on the opposite side of the country, preparing to hibernate during the notoriously cold winter.

Anywho, back to orientation.

On the first day, we started with breakfast catered by Bread Bar, which included potatoes, eggs, fruit and all you can drink coffee (they clearly speak my language). We had been split into groups by the administration, with each group containing about 20-30 people. We had about 200 students in the room, including the Hamilton, Niagara and Waterloo campuses. This actually really helped streamline the rest of the day, as we rotated through stations in the afternoon in our small groups.

Then, we sat through talks from the Dean, Vice Dean etc. etc. All that stuff that you expect from your first day at a new school. What I loved though, was their effort to make us all feel welcome and relaxed. They made jokes, showed hilarious memes and really tried to relate to us – knowing that first year medical students are young, nervous, excited and ready to embark on the next leg of their long journey.

In the afternoon we rotated through the stations: trying on scrubs, buying stethoscopes, trying on our white coat, “finance fair” (which was really just a chance to get free chocolate/sugar), BADGES (this was really exciting for me even though my hair was flat by this point) and Q & A station by a current MacMed student.

I met a lot of people yesterday, and it really was quite exhausting trying to meet 200 students. Of course, we all survived and made new friends in the process.

That night, we had pub night, meaning about 100 of us went to Gown and Gavel, a local pub in Hess Village to mingle, drink and bond. The second years were surprisingly involved and enthusiastic, and many of them showed up to meet us.

MY REFLECTIONS: I’ve always heard that medical school can be scary, daunting, intense, and full of hard-core studying. Imagine my surprise when the faculty and staff keep telling us to make the most of medical school, have fun, meet new friends and try not to stress out too much. We have a problem based learning curriculum, through which we have small group tutorials. In these small group tutorials, we learn from each other and try and solve cases that are provided to us by McMaster. We also have professional competency sessions in which we learn about ethics, communications, handling stress, diversity, physician-patient confidentiality, and a wealth of other important and pertinent things that will help us become physician-leaders of tomorrow.

I’m actually really really looking forward to starting class. As weird as it sounds, I’m excited to start learning again, to ask difficult questions, to meet patients and visit the local hospitals. It’s one thing to learn from textbooks and boring lectures, it’s a complete other thing to learn from real life experience. As I tiptoe on this precipice between young ignorance and adult responsibility, I feel confident that I made the right choice coming to McMaster. Through the amazing, warm, and supportive staff; through the intelligent, talented and caring faculty, and more so through the incredible people that I’ve met so far, I know that this environment will help me flourish and thrive in the medical field.

More about O-week coming!


Applying to Medical School: Why it’s Important to Have Balance

There’s a few weeks left until Orientation Week at McMaster University School of Medicine. Our start date may be August 24th, but preparation starts well before then. Since June, I’ve been filling out my health clearance forms, getting my vaccinations and TB tests completed, getting my background check, finishing pre-medical school modules….and the list goes on.

Four years later, I’ve graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Public Health. It’s been a roller coaster journey, but I can truly say I (mostly) enjoyed every moment of the ride. Despite late nights in Doe and Moffitt Libraries, downing countless energy drinks to stay awake, rushing to get on Telebears to enrol into the classes I needed, and constantly comparing myself to others to ensure I stacked up to the thousands of pre-meds that populated my alma mater, my life at Cal was pretty much perfect.

I say my life was perfect not because I never struggled – I definitely spent hours crying over my physics midterms and hours upon hours alone, studying for the MCAT. It was a struggle, but it was a balanced struggle. During my four years, I made sure to party, travel and socialize enough to keep my sanity.

Getting into medical school is just the beginning of a long journey. In undergrad, you fret over your grades in classes, striving to keep above that 3.7 GPA benchmark. You worry about your CV, your extracurriculars, your research, your ability to stand out from tens of thousands of other applicants. It seems like the odds are stacked against you, considering less than half of medical school applicants actually get in each year. 

And yet, I’m so glad that I understood studying had limits. I understood that you only go through college once. I understood that life is not just about getting to the next step, but rather enjoying and learning from the journey.

There are definitely nights where I planned to study, but ended up going to a party (or two). There are days that I should’ve spent holed up inside, but instead chose to go to a rave with my friends. There are midterms I could’ve been better prepared for, but people who were much more valuable to me than an A. In college, I traveled to over 20 countries, missed quite a bit of school because of it, and even more when I traveled for interviews. I had the privilege of volunteering in Peru, studying abroad in England at the London School of Economics and going to EDC Las Vegas, Beyond Wonderland, POP etc. etc. My experience in college was diverse, rewarding and absolutely unforgettable.

Maybe if I had studied harder I would’ve graduated with a higher GPA. Maybe if I had spent more time in lab I would have more publications. Maybe if I had worked more I would have saved up more money for medical school. But would I have regrets? Definitely.

Having applied to both Canadian and American schools, I can say without a doubt that the process sucks. From inception in college, when all the pre-meds are forced to compete with each other, to trying to check off all those boxes (leadership, volunteering, research etc), to taking the MCAT, to writing wayyyy too many secondaries to count. Sometimes you just have to forget about being perfect and live your life the way it was meant to be lived. You’ll still get to that coveted destination, I promise!

I feel so blessed to have gotten into one of my top choices for medical school BUT I feel ever luckier to have had one of the most amazing, unforgettable and exciting college experiences possible. My life has been so rich, from my friends, my family, and the risks I took.

All this being said, have fun in college. Get too drunk at a party, stay out too late, say yes when your friends want to go for late night cheesecake during exam week. Be yourself and find activities that you actually enjoy! I found my passion for healthcare-technology in college, and a desire to combine that passion with a deep interest in public health.

I look forward to my next adventure in medical school, I have full confidence that my next 3 years will be just as amazing as my 4 years at Cal!

If you’d like advice on medical school applications, or want to know more about applying to two systems simultaneously, feel free to contact me via email: or via Twitter: a_gu77

UBC: Just finished my first MMI!

I can’t believe my first MMI is over! It seems like just yesterday I was booking my date and looking into airplane tickets (interview invitations were sent out on December 3rd for the early applicants). It was a little nerve-wracking, but I’m really glad I chose the 11:00 am slot. There were 3 slots each day, on Feb 7th, Feb 8th and Feb 21st and Feb 22nd. In total, I think about 600 people were interviewed based on how many people were there during my slot.

In my interview group, most people were from Canada (except me of course), there were people from Calgary, Toronto and UBC. It seemed that most people were a year out of college and had taken this past year to prepare their application and work. I would say it was about 40/60 (university seniors v. graduates). There was also a student who had already completed his masters in my group.

In terms of the actual stations, there were 11 in total and 1 rest station. We were told to go register between 40-25 minutes before our interview slot, but when I arrived there at 10 am, half of my group had already checked in . The medical school students who were helping out that day were really nice and friendly, and willing to answer any questions we might’ve had about the medical school. They couldn’t tell me too much about the new curriculum however, since they’re still on the old one, but currently, UBC has a systems based learning approach, where the first and second years are devoted to basic sciences, and the third and fourth are clinical.

At 10:40am, we were brought into the auditorium for a debrief and to calm our nerves. Then, at 11am, we were ushered into the area where we would go from station to station for an hour and forty minutes. I actually really enjoyed all the stations, you can find examples of what they might ask online (you sign a confidentiality agreement before you interview). There’s acting, addressing different scenarios, logic, ethics and more “fun” questions. The time went by quickly, and we were directed where to go after each station by the medical school student volunteers. You can tell when each station is over by the little bell that goes off in each room. It’s pretty subtle so for the first station, my interview and I just looked at each other to see if we had imagined it.

At 12:40, all the stations were complete and we were shuttled outside for a 14 minute break. This was time to use the bathroom, drink some water etc. Then, we entered another auditorium for the writing component, which was 30 minutes. You have do some analysis and demonstrate that you’re able to write at a college level. Nothing too difficult, it’s a lot like the English Provincial that everyone has to write in grade 12.

After the writing station, which was over at 1:37pm, we had the optional site preference presentation, and following that was the medical school tour. All in all, the interview takes about 4 hours with the interview, writing component and optional parts.

I actually had a great experience, everyone was friendly and helpful, and I didn’t feel confused at any point in the process. Good luck to anyone else who’s interviewing here, let me know if you have any questions!

Healthcare Inequity: Why Does It Exist and How Can We Fix It?

ImageIn a world, it is shocking that in some countries, deaths from preventable diseases are rising and life expectancies are dropping. In many countries, this is due to a phenomenon termed “brain drain” that leaves a huge lack of trained, quality healthcare workers in developing countries and more remote areas.

For example, Africa represents twenty-five percent of the global disease burden but only three percent of healthcare workers. Many of the professionals in local healthcare systems immigrate to other developed countries such as the US, leaving a demand that wholly overwhelms the supply; patients with even the most basic diseases have no access to care. All across Africa, many patients with HIV/AIDS cannot be treated immediately and are often left on their own for days before given medical attention.

Effective sexual health care and prevention cannot be achieved without having an adequate healthcare structure and sustainable system of care. There must be an ample supply of health practitioners as well as clinics, equipment, hygiene and preventative resources. It is also important that these systems have the support of the local governments; in many developing countries, foreign aid is also crucial to serving the local population.

In order to create more efficient and accessible service in these developing countries, such as areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, it is important for developed countries to offer “packages of care” so that following an HIV or STI test, people are simultaneously able to receive educational material, contraceptives and other resources. Through a preventative strategy, new cases of HIV can be avoided and health literacy can be increased to improve long-term outcomes. 

In addition to supporting local health workers, I also believe it is the responsibility of developed nations to address issues of global poverty and healthcare inequity from the roots. This is why I strongly support the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that require all rich countries to contribute to eight global goals through financial and human resource support. In 2000, 189 nations within the United Nations signed the Millennium Declaration, which aims to end global poverty by 2015, among other goals. The goals are as follows:

MDG 1: reduce by half (compared to 1990) the number of people living on less than a dollar a day and who suffer from hunger.

MDG 2: ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling.

MDG 3: eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005 and at all education levels by 2015.

MDG 4: reduce by two thirds (compared to 1990) the mortality rate among children under five.

MDG 5: reduce by three quarters (compared to 1990) the maternal mortality rate.

MDG 6: halt the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB.

MDG 7: reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.

MDG 8: ensure that rich countries lift trade barriers to poor countries, lighten their debt burden, provide access to affordable medicines and make more financial aid available.

After reading these Millennium Development Goals, here’s some questions I’ll leave you with. Do you think it is actually possible to eliminate global poverty by 2015? Which of these goals do you think is most feasible, and which are the most difficult issues to tackle? How do you view the United Nation’s stand on global health and socioeconomic inequity?


ASUC-EAVP Office Update: February 5th, 2013

National Affairs Department Update

Chief Deputy: Nicholas Kitchel 

  • Coordinated with UC Federal Caucus working group (Student Regent’s office, UCM graduate student leader, and UC Berkeley student leaders) on next steps of action

Legislative Liaison: Henry Grunzweig

  • Drafting proposal for UC Federal Caucus to be presented to Members of Congress who represent UC campuses

Campus Organizing Director: Ian Deck

  • · Applying for grants to fund USSA Legislative Conference
  • · Drafted description of USSA Legislative Conference to be included in press release

Campus Organizing Director: Douglas Taylor

  • · Applying for grants to fund USSA Legislative Conference
  • · Applied for Student Opportunity Fund grant to fund USSA Legislative Conference 
  • · Drafted application for USSA Legislative Conference, to be opened to public on Sunday, February 10

State Affairs Department Update 

**Chief Deputy: Morgan Prentice

  • NOTE: Please welcome our NEW Chief Deputy of State Affairs
  • Attended February UCSA Board meeting at UC Santa Barbara  
  • Assisted in planning for the Student Lobby Conference

Legislative Liaison: Tanay Kothari 

  • Participated in Student Lobby Conference planning conference calls 

Campus Organizing Director: Devonte Jackson

  • Attended February UCSA Board meeting at UC Santa Barbara
  • Facilitated a conference call with campus organizing directors from different UC campuses to organize a week of action

Advocacy Director (DOE/LOC Designate): Alex Silva

  • Gathering a list of possible speakers for a forum with a current legislature 

Local Affairs Department Updates

Chief Deputy: Aparna Bhattacharya

Safety: Stephanie Petrillo

  • Working with the Office of the President to incorporate the Safety aspect into the current ASUC app

Sustainability Director: Kristen Klein/Mashail Arif**

  • Working on publicizing Sustainability Tips (ASUC Facebook/Twitter and possibly Res Hall Newsletters)

Telegraph Business Development Director: Kelly Lester

  • Served on TBID committee to represent student interests in Telegraph business development
  • Currently working on Telegraph Happenings website
  • Currently working on Business Sustainability App

Business Incubator Director: Erica Lee/Arushi Saxena**

  • Set up umbrella organization for different entrepreneurial groups on campus
  • Working on reaching out to different student groups on campus to get advice on how to set up final structure for organization 

City Council Liaisons: Stein Beals/Nils Gilbertson

  • Working on settling parking permits
  • Drafted letter to City Council regarding Automatically Renewing Leases to increase renter visibility
  • Increasing City Commission outreach

Transportation Director: Angela Alexanian/Andrew Hsu

  • Working on Class Pass and Bear Transit negotiations

Redistricting Director: Noah Efron

  • Planning a Student Forum for early April
  • Trying to get ASUC to endorse our district map proposal (to be finalized on February 13) 

Berkeley Cribs Director: Allison Hall

  • Website is intended to be up and running by March
  • Currently working on resolving technical issues on the website

At-Large Department Update 

Chief Deputy: Ada Gu

  • Developing Spring 2013 Project Plans with Directors At-Large
  • Spring 2013: working on institutionalizing Voteco
  • Housing Commission task allocation

SWANA Campaign Director: Christina Mehranbod

  • Communicating with minority-centric student groups at other UC campuses
  • Researching on how to present and pass bill at UCSA conference in Spring 2013
  • Passing out SWANA campaign material packages to other campuses to raise awareness about bill 

Mental Health Analyst: Rui Xu

  • Planning a mental health panel and blog as an outlet for student mental health issues
  • Planning to centralize mental health resources into one convenient location

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