#Westcoastbestcoast – highlights from the most beautiful (and expensive) city in the world [Vancouver]

I’ve always been a west coast girl at heart. Maybe it’s the proximity to the ocean, the ability to go skiing on a moment’s notice, beautiful 200 year old forests basically in my backyard or the struggle of deciding which world class restaurant to eat at. Even after living in California for four amazing years, and now Ontario, it’s still the place I call home.

Seriously, Vancouver is lit.

It’s definitely changed a lot since I was a kid. There are more skyscrapers now, more expensive luxury apartments, more hustle and bustle, way more Mandarin (like there are Chinese people EVERYWHERE), but a few things haven’t changed. The food, the water, the mountains and the shopping (I mean, Vancouver gave us Oak + Fort, Aritzia, Lululemon etc etc) are still wholly unforgettable. It’s hard to not fall in love with a city that has everything, as long as you don’t mind a little rain.

Some fun facts when your preceptors ask you why you’re here:

  • Vancouver was recently ranked as the third most “livable place in the world” for its high standard of living and quality of life (caveat: if you can afford it) 
  • Vancouver has the 4th largest cruise ship terminal in the world (ummm ok, I guess that’s great for people in retirement) 
  • Home to Canada’s longest pool. Measuring 137.5 meters (451 feet), it is nearly the size of three Olympic pools.  This outdoor, saltwater pool is a major tourist attraction and is open year round
  • Vancouver has the highest real estate prices in Canada. In 2011, the average price of a detached home was a staggering $1,204,587. Some say this is close to rivaling New York City and London (See point 1, would 10/10 recommend becoming a billionaire first before moving here, a million bucks won’t get you very far)
  • Vancouver is the largest film production center in North America after Los Angeles and New York City (if anyone is a fan of Riverdale (ME) it was actually filmed at my high school, Point Grey – also, Twilight was filmed at Churchill, but RIVERDALE)
  • Stanley Park, an urban oasis, is 10% larger than New York City’s Central Park. It is a staggering 1001 acres (if you don’t have any friends, you should find one and go tandem biking here)
  • The Vancouver Aquarium ranks in the top 5 worldwide (Ok)
  • Vancouver has the mildest climate in Canada. Although, it receives on average, 1,589mm of rain per year (which is why Vancouverites had no idea what to do this year, 1 foot of snow in this city = apocalypse)
  • Greenpeace, one of the world’s oldest and most successful environmental groups was established in Vancouver

MAP OF VANCOUVER (very accurate)

Now that you know a little bit about this city, and are super impressed and want to do a post-CaRMS elective here, here’re some suggestions for things to do and see in this amazing city:

FOOD (note: list is limited to places I’ve tried or that come highly recommended)

Vancouver is literally a mecca for good food. From Japanese to Indian to dim sum, to brunch, there’s no shortage of great places to try. Also, Yelpers appear to be quite active here, so I recommend going on one of my favourite apps if you hate my list and want to listen to strangers instead.

Dim sum

  • Kirin Seafood Restaurant
  • Shanghai River
  • Shiang Garden Restaurant
  • Neptune Seafood Restaurant
  • Shanghai Morning Restaurant
  • Grand Crystal Seafood Restaurant

Japanese

  • Miku
  • Tojo’s
  • Guu with Garlic
  • Westcoast Poke
  • Kingyo

Indian

Dinner (other than the categories listed above)

  • Hawksworth
  • Yew St. Restaurant (in the Four Seasons)
  • Cactus Club Cafe
  • Nuba Gastown
  • L’Abbatoir
  • Blue Water Cafe
  • La Belle Patate
  • Kessel&March
  • Rodney’s Oyster House

Brunch:

  • Fable
  • Jam Cafe on Beatty
  • Medina Cafe
  • Twisted Fork
  • Forage
  • Nomad
  • The Flying Pig
  • Breka Bakery & Cafe
  • The Acorn

Dessert:

  • Beta5 Chocolates
  • French Made Baking
  • Rain or Shine Ice Cream
  • PappaRoti
  • Thierry Chocolate Patisserie Cafe
  • Bakery State
  • Nero Belgian Waffle Bar
  • Cheesecake Etc
  • Trafiq Cafe & Bakery
  • Transylvanian Traditions Bakery (get their chimney cake on a cold day, SO yummy freshly made)
  • Breka Bakery & Cafe
  • Granville Island Public Market
  • Purebread
  • Beard Papa’s (they’re everywhere, but cream puffs, especially the matcha ice cream ones are 11/10)
  • Earnest Ice Cream
  • Mink – Chocolate Cafe
  • Cartems Donuterie
  • Mister

Also, you have to try bubble tea here (I guess some people call it boba). Can basically get any type of boba your heart desires, anywhere in the city.

TOURISTY THINGS:

  1. Stanley Park:
  2. Capilano Suspension Bridge:
  3. Granville Island
  4. Science World
  5. Vancouver Aquarium
  6. Cyprus, Grouse and Seymour
  7. Whistler
  8. Kitsilano Beach
  9. Gastown
  10. Canada Place
  11. Chinatown –
  12. English Bay
  13. Robson Street
  14. Richmond
  15. Yaletown
  16. Vancouver Art Gallery

CLUBS AND BARS:

Some people say Vancouver is kind of sleepy. Depending on the weekend, I may or may not agree with them. A lot of EDM big names come here, and there’re lots of concerts every week and festivals in the spring and summer (again, ABGs flock here). Also, can attest to the fact that raves are 10 times cheaper in Canada than the US (another reason to move here other than the obvious one, Drumpf).

Bars:

  1. Alibi Room:
  2. Chill Winston’s
  3. Lamplighter
  4. Long Table Distillery
  5. Prohibition:
  6. Tuc Craft Kitchen
  7. The Refinery
  8. Brix & Mortar
  9. Salt Tasting Room
  10. Bin 941

Clubs (so fair warning, a lot of these are populated by the Vancouver underage population, but can still be fun if you want to dance for free – usually women are free before 11-12)

  1. Fortune Sound Club
  2. The Roxy
  3. Venue
  4. Celebrities
  5. XY
  6. Vinyl
  7. Republic
  8. The Bourbon
  9. Au Bar

TRANSPORTATION: 

So I recently discovered Car2Go (thanks C). Literally changed my life, not that I actually downloaded it because I’m trash and Uber exists where I go to school. It’s carsharing, but apparently there are now parking spots EVERYWHERE. Vancouver is notorious for scarce parking, especially around downtown and all the places you actually want to go. This is a great solution, since most destination spots will have places reserved for Car2Go’s, and you can just park your car there for the next person to rent out. The app also tells you where the nearest parking spots are and whether they’re occupied. All in all, a pretty 100 app.

Otherwise, the skytrain is also super easy to take and navigate. If you’re here for a while, would recommend getting a Compass card. It’s a reloadable fair card that gives you small discounts each time you swipe. Worth it for the $6 deposit if you’re going to be using public transport a lot. The skytrain goes everywhere and each line comes pretty frequently. There’re the Millenium, Expo and Canada lines, Millenium and Expo have similar routes, Canada line goes along Cambie from Richmond to downtown. Seriously though, probably my favourite train that actually travels in the sky.

Finally, there’re always buses and cabs. Cabs are outrageously expensive, but sometimes your only option if you’re out late at night. Not to fear though, if you really don’t want to spend the money on a cab, the streets are fairly safe at night as long as you stay away from East Hastings.

HOW TO DATE IN VANCOUVER:

If you’re single and looking to mingle, here’s some verified info on the types of girls and boys that populate this city:

AND:

You may have also heard of this show about ultra rich Asian people, literally called “Ultra Rich Asian Girls.”Some fun brain-numbing reality TV, reminiscent of the Kardashians, but with smaller butts and more Louis Vuitton: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VR9Xu878pkE

Finally, some parting tips:

  1. Go on Groupon for some great deals on food, cooking classes and other attractions! Eg. Dark Table, interesting experience but terrible food

 

 

 

 

It all started with a bag of apples…

So literally, as per the title, I’ll be talking about my late night apple escapade (less an escapade, more a desperate race to use 20 apples before 11:59pm on Sunday night) and some fun revelations I made while painting my kitchen with various sugary ingredients.

Fun revelation #1: when the recipe tells you to use 3/4 cups of flour for a dozen cookies, they’re lying. That’s way too much flour, and then you have to make up for its doughy consistency by mixing in a tub of peanut butter. On the bright side, now you have oatmeal, peanut butter, apple cookies (… ok ….).

Fun revelation #2: People really like when you bring baked goods to the hospital. But don’t bring sh*tty a** baked goods because people (like all the important people in your life – doctors, nurses, nurses, nurses, nurses) will judge you, and then hate you because they were expecting chewy yet lightly crispy desserts, with a hint of cinnamon (not pieces of dough flavoured with sugar). That being said, if you can fix said cookies with peanut butter, that demonstrates creative thinking. Right? RIGHT? No but in all seriousness, bring cookies and other baked goods to work – even if the staff just look at them in disdain, students are ALWAYS hungry.

Fun revelation #3: wow, I must really love urology, so excited to wake up at 5:30am tomorrow, just sitting here thinking about how excited I am, whoooo so excited. Seriously though (because all sarcasm should be taken with a grain of salt), I’m so grateful to have finally found a specialty I love. Since this is a premed/med blog at heart, I really should talk a little more about this (and I will). But I’m sleepy, a little delirious and a little hungry, which makes for prime rambling. Anywho, it’s true that when you like something, time goes by quickly. It’s just like sleep – I like it. It goes by quickly.

Fun revelation #4: I was reflecting on my life today, and I realized I’m happy. Like REALLY happy. Life can be stressful (like REALLY stressful), and people get into fights, and sometimes you feel sad when you’re studying at Starbucks and you see other people your age chilling with sangria on the patio…. BUT I think it really hit me today that these are all the things that make life interesting. Working hard makes having fun that much more fun, and sad times are necessary for good times. Life is all about balance – the PSL has single origin, artisanal single roast coffee, Mac has U of T (kidding), chocolate cake has peppers (ok maybe I’m biased, but peppers are probably the single type of vegetable I can’t bring myself to love).

Fun revelation #5: As I was swiping through Tinder today, it kind of hit me that there are a lot of single people. Like everywhere. How is it that (and considering Tinder tends to appeal to a 20-30’s crowd) there are just SO MANY people to swipe through? Like hundreds upon thousands of people to swipe through within a 20-mile radius. If no one’s ever thought about this, clearly you have better things to do with your time, but I kind of wish we could go back to the days when Tinder wasn’t a thing. You know, when people actually asked people out v. “hey, Netflix and chill?”

Fun revelation #6: So I was talking to my high school friends today about general stuff you talk to your friends about, and my friend sent me a picture of really really cheap hard alcohol being sold in CVS (a convenience store chain in the US). Of course, this raised a lot of nostalgia and reminded me of the fact that I’m in Canada now, and the fact that if I stopped drinking for a year, I’d probably have enough saved up to buy a house in Vancouver. But my friend’s birthday is coming up, and as I calculated in my head how much it would cost to get her really really inebriated, I came up with the following calculation:

  • Canada: $35 bottle of tequila (whoo $1 off)  + 4 shots at the bar * $8 + buy a homeless man a meal on the way to the club * $15 (because late night meals aren’t cheap) + Uber * $17 because when you’re really drunk you tend to type in the wrong destination = a lot of money
  • United States: $5 bottle of local on-sale vodka from CVS, Trader Joe’s or Walgreens that’s only consumable if mixed in jungle juice + 4 shots at the bar* $0 because if we were celebrating in the US we’d be in Vegas, and for some reason it’s always easy to find free alcohol in Vegas + people don’t really stop for homeless people in the states so.. + Uber * something ridiculously cheap, like $3 for an hour (see my Chicago post for more fun Uber details) = why did I ever leave…

Fun revelation #7: Some people really hate on Buzzfeed. But I really love Buzzfeed because of profound articles like this one: 21 Things No One Tells You About Being A Human. It really speaks to me, #9, #19, omg #20.

Fun revelation #8: I think I found some inner peace this weekend when I realized I don’t have to go out every weekend. Yes, I’m in my early 20’s but it doesn’t mean I have anything to prove, and theoretically, I still have at least a couple good years of partying in me. Now that I know what it feels like to spend Saturday night at home slothing away in my bowl chair, I think I may need to buy some more onesies…

Fun revelation #9: You start to feel really old when a new class comes in. It doesn’t matter if it’s in high school, college or medical school. But when you’re no longer the wide eyed bambi, you feel like you’re supposed to have some wisdom and be able to give at least a few (albeit small, and often subjective) pieces of advice. And yet, the older I get, the more I realize I DON’T know. It’s like that super famous quote that everyone loves to quote:

There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.

Thanks Donald Rumsfeld. That really makes me feel so much better. As someone who’s expected to know everything, it can be really frustrating to know that there are more things we don’t know we don’t know than we’ll ever know we know. As someone who’s inclined to make life as easy as possible for herself, I’ll just accept the idea that if I don’t know what I don’t know, then either a) everyone else also doesn’t know I don’t know what I don’t know or b) they know what I don’t know and they’ll let me know. Either way, it’s all about perspective.

Fun revelation #10: Since I’m writing this at 11:32pm on a Sunday night and the title is literally about apples, I’m pretty sure no one is going to read this. That’s probably a good thing since I feel like my fun revelations were just fun for me, and everyone else probably thinks I need to sleep more.

THUS as I conclude my fun revelations, I’m actually looking forward to waking up tomorrow at 5:30am and deciding if my doughy cookies can pass as “healthy, vegan, gluten-free” cookies, which just happen to taste a little too hipster.

 

 

 

10 Reasons why my best friend is brilliant (and you should check out her new project)

I like to think that I’ve gained some wisdom in my 23 years on this planet. Not enough to tell you the meaning of life, or write a book, or start my own reality TV show, but enough to know that relationships are incredibly important. They (“they” being really smart scientists who have done RCTs on this) say that friendships are necessary for health, happiness and success, and I can honestly say, my best friend has been such a necessary inspiration, support and overall constant in my life for the last 18 years.

To think that we started in elementary school competing for “leadership” positions in traffic guard, to today, where the only thing we compete for is who can be the better friend, it’s been a long, sometimes bumpy, but overall amazing road.

Which brings me to my point.

My incredibly gifted, intelligent, funny and sassy friend, CJ McGillivray, has started the creative project –  Still Water: The Short Film, and is launching her funding campaign for the STORYHIVE Female Director’s Edition. Basically, her team is campaigning to be awared a $10,000 grant to make it happen. If you look at any of her past pieces, you’ll see the passion and dedication she puts into her work, and her love for what she does. We may have ended up on two completely different paths – medicine v. arts, but (as cheesy as it sounds), her artistic voice completes me in such an awesome way. This story is raw and personal, and delves into a variety of emotions – fear, excitement, happiness and grief, and is a “writing process that reflects her own struggles and understanding of sobriety.”

So please please please check out the page Still Water: The Short Film, and support her cause, or just check out all the amazing things she does. She inspires me everyday, and I hope she’ll inspire you too ❤

But I promised 10 reasons why my best friend is brilliant and here they are:

  1. She watches really really crap movies with me even though she’s an amazing director, playwright, actor and musician (think bad “horror” cheerleader movies)
  2. She really loves Japanese food (WE really love Japanese food)
  3. Her family is like my family
  4. She takes me to really cool festivals and shows because duh, who else would she take
  5. She’s already been featured in a bunch of festivals (2012 Vancouver Amnesty International Film Festival, 2016 Vancouver Fringe Festival) and won a bunch of competitions (IGNITE! Playwriting Competition, Arts Club Theatre Scholarship)
  6. She struggles, like everyone else, but she’s honest, open, brave and incredibly compassionate toward other people – she’s like a flame for all us moths
  7. She’ll always be there when I need her – even when she’s dead tired at 10pm at night, she’ll come halfway across the city because I spend very little time in Vancouver nowadays
  8. She wrote me a letter/poem once in high school that I still have tacked onto my wall, because she taught me the power of words
  9. She’s really really smart but she never makes other people feel dumb – she shares the accomplishments of her friends and families and encourages them to be the best they can be
  10. We already know we’re going to be each others’ Maid of Honours one day

I love you girl – I’m so proud of everything you’ve accomplished and I can’t wait to see your new film.

 

 

2 months into medical school: It only gets better (I promise)

I have an exam tomorrow morning on cardiology, but being exhausted from a day of classes, an ENT horizontal elective and research and mentorship meetings, I feel like I deserve to procrastinate (if only for a little while to write this).

I can’t believe it’s already been 2 months! Between classes, interest group meetings, volunteering, finding research opportunities and spending time with friends, it seems as if I started just yesterday. After getting our white coats last week, medical school really seems more “real.” I guess with that white coat comes a sense of responsibility and privilege. Walking across that stage, you realize both how truly lucky you are to be a medical student, and also the immense, daunting responsibility that you’ll take on once you graduate in 3-4 years.

I feel so fortunate to be able to attend McMaster. We’ve finished respirology and we’re almost done cardiology. In the next few months, we’ll also be learning about hematology, GI and Nutrition, Endocrine and Metabolism. There really does seem to be an overwhelming amount of information to know, but since we’re finally learning things that are practical, it seems like much less of a burden than say, physics or general chemistry. Once again, I have to be an advocate for our problem based learning. I love reading cases each week, setting objectives with my tutorial group, and discussing difficult topics and puzzles. At least for me, it’s much more effective than simply didactic lecture-based learning.

UPDATE: I started this a few weeks ago, so now we’re into our hematology unit!

The leaves are changing colours, and it seems like in the blink of an eye, it’s almost winter break! I’m so excited to see my friends again on the west coast, but these last few months of medical school have been a dream. Like the type-A that I am, I’ve thrown myself into two research projects (fingers crossed that one of them will be published by 2016!), the surgery interest group, horizontal electives and of course, making sure my social life doesn’t suffer horribly. Now I’m just rambling, so to end this post I’ll give a bit of practical advice for the interview season and maintaining your sanity 🙂

  1. Be the best possible version of yourself. Everyone knows to dress appropriately, smile, make eye contact, be confident etc., but instead of being yourself, show them why YOU deserve to be at their school. There’s no sense in treating your interviewer like a friend or colleague, because they’re not. They’re there to evaluate you and to see how you’ll fit into their program.
  2. THAT BEING SAID, remember that YOU’RE also there to evaluate THEM. The school has invited you to their hallowed grounds because they’re interested in getting to know you in addition to making sure you choose them when the time comes. Most people (who are accepted to medical school) are accepted to multiple medical schools, so make sure you choose one where you’ll be happy. Culture really is important, especially if your school is in the middle of nowhere.
  3. READ!!!!! Can’t stress this enough, don’t think that simply bringing yourself is enough. Read books on medical ethics, read literature on the school you’re interviewing at, read “Doing Right” (EVERYONE reads this book).
  4. NETWORK! If you know someone at the school you’re interviewing at, make sure to contact them to ask for insider’s information! They might have a gold mine, but you won’t have access to any of it if you don’t reach out to them.
  5. BOOK YOUR INTERVIEWS/FLIGHTS EARLY. Seriously though, tickets get really really really expensive the later you book them. Also, slots for interviews get booked up really quickly, so you don’t want to miss out and be bumped months later.
  6. GO A FEW DAYS EARLY to take in the neighbourhood, meet up with students who go to the school, go to events hosted by the medical students and ultimately, get a sense of whether or not you can see yourself in that city/town for the next 4 years.T
  7. TRY AND BOOK INTERVIEWS NEAR EACH OTHER IN ONE TRIP. This will save you time and money, especially if you’re applying directly and won’t have any time off. This saved me from failing physics in my senior year (which would have been pretty devastating post-medical school acceptance)
  8. CONTACT SCHOOLS AND SAY “YOU’RE IN THE AREA.” Let’s say you’re flying from New York to California for an interview at UCSF. Chances are, UCSD, UCD etc. are going to want to interview you too! Just send them a polite email telling them you’re going to be in the area and see if they have any slots open. Doesn’t hurt to ask as long as a) you’re not annoying and b) you’re not lying.
  9. BE OPEN TO EVERY SCHOOL. Don’t write off a school because it’s ranked far lower than the other medical schools you’re interviewing at. Maybe you’ll find that it’s a better fit for you in the long run, or that they have programs other schools don’t have, or just that it’s in a city you absolutely love. Go into everything with an open mind, because that’s how you’ll find the best school for you.
  10. HAVE FUN! I think I talk about this a lot. But that’s because it’s IMPORTANT. In medical school, you will have a life. You’ll have friends, fun, traveling, sun, and if you have good time management, you’ll also have more than enough sleep. That being said, if you don’t love what you do and you’re terrified of 3-4 years of hard work, dedication and constant studying FOLLOWED by 2-5 exhausting (but rewarding) years of residency, maybe medicine isn’t for you.

That’s all for today. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns or feedback that you have! I LOVED this process, and I promise it’s hard and somewhat terrifying, but also immensely rewarding.

First week of school reflections: I guess they were wrong, medicine really IS fun

keep calmWe’ve survived our first week of school at McMaster and now we’re halfway through our second. How do I feel? Great actually. Surprisingly, medical school has been an awesome, educational and eye-opening experience. At McMaster, the curriculum is fairly self-directed, we have two 3-hour tutorials a week led by a physician tutor, one 3-hour clinical skills session in which we practice communicating and interacting with patients, one 3-hour professional competency class in which we learn about ethics, professionalism, social media, cultural competency, and develop other skills needed to be an effective and compassionate physician. Finally, we have 1.5 hours of anatomy and anatomy lab each week, and 3-5 hours of large group lectures in the main hall. Overall, that’s only about 15 hours of “in-class” learning a week.

After this past week, I’ve really grown to appreciate problem based learning. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love preparing materials and studying by yourself at home, then discussing the 2-3 cases we’re assigned each week. Having set objectives for the case each previous week, the learning process is dynamic and interactive. We discuss concepts related the cases; for example, the past two weeks have been cases on respiratory diseases and concepts. I’ve learned about the anatomy of the lung in anatomy, the physiology of normal and abnormal respiration (elevation, exercise, respiratory disease), diseases of respiration, the physiology of normal and abnormal cardiovascular systems, exercise measurements, standard fitness parameters etc. etc. etc. Needless to say, in the last week and a half I’ve really learned a lot, and unlike in college, I’m retaining all the information.

Problem based learning is like having really focused study groups – if you miss a fact or a concept, there will always be someone there to help you understand. If you need something explained in a different way, the 6 or 7 other people in your group are more than willing to assist you. This is how I’ve always enjoyed learning, and I would really encourage people who are independent self-directed learners, love study groups, who enjoy discussing concepts and ideas, and enjoy working with others to consider a school that teaches using problem based learning.

What’s interesting about Mac is that our exams “don’t really count.” What I mean is if you perform on an average level, you are “good.” At Mac, we don’t have grades or rankings, we only have evaluations from our tutors and preceptors. This means that if you’re looking for a letter of rec, it’s not how you do on your exams that influence this, but rather how you interact with your groups and your group leaders. We do have a few “exams” or rather, measures of personal progress. We have a PPI coming up, which stands for Personal Progress Index in October. Not too sure what this description means: it’s an “evaluation device that provides feedback to you, the student, and your advisor, that can be used to assist you in judging your progress in the acquisition of a fund of knowledge.” It’s 180 M/C questions drawn from the “entire domain of medical knowledge.” It sounds pretty daunting, but since you can’t fail on your first one, I’m hoping it will be a good stepping stone and learning lesson in my overall medical education.

We also have CAEs, which are Concept Application Exercises. These evaluate how well you know certain concepts and how well you can apply them to real life situations. We have our first CAEs at the end of September, so I expect I’ll be studying way more starting in the next couple of weeks.

On another note, we just had our McMaster Medical Student Council (MMSC) elections! I ran. No matter what happens tomorrow, it was a great experience and I’m positive everyone who ran would do a great job in their respective positions. This is also the week that a lot of interest groups (student council sponsored and funded groups at McMaster Medical School) are meeting, so I expect my schedule will be a little hectic as I try and figure out which interest groups I’m actually interested in joining. Combine that with trying to find research and volunteer positions, I can already see that this will be a busy but exciting year.

I think I’ve decided that I really am interested in reconstructive plastic surgery. Because we have a 3 year program, I do feel some pressure to decide my specialty already. We start our horizontal electives pretty soon, and I would love to hit the ground running. It would be great to get some experience in primary care first, and maybe do some more horizontal electives as we get closer to our block elective time. But ANYWAYS I still have some time to think about all this.

Right now, I’m really enjoying school, making so many new friends and meeting incredible people. I love the familial feel of Mac, and how the administration goes out of their way to make you feel supported. I’m looking forward to this week of school, and also this weekend! Sounds like there are a lot of events happening around Hamilton. I guess the longer I’m here, the more I realize I really was supposed to end up here, and I’m sure that no matter what medical school you choose, you’ll find that it was the right one for you.

YAY FOR MMI’s (They’re 99% painless, I promise)

**NOTE: THIS IS AN OLD POST, BUT IT MIGHT BE HELPFUL FOR ALL YOU CURRENT APPLICANTS**

Sometimes I wonder what medical schools are thinking. How on earth did I get an interview at the Michael G. DeGroote McMaster University School of Medicine?

The way they determine if you get an interview is fairly unique, at least so far as I’ve encountered during my application process. Your interview candidacy is determined by the following formula: 32% GPA, 32% Casper score and 32% your MCAT verbal score. If you’ve attained a Masters or PhD, you get an extra 1-4% bonus (so I guess the rest is out of 96%).

I remember my Casper test pretty vividly, since it was the same morning as the Nike Women’s Half Marathon back in October. You can schedule your exam on the morning that you want; there were two choices when I signed up, Sunday October 19th and Wednesday, October 22nd. Since Wednesdays really aren’t that convenient, I chose the Sunday morning at 9am (I’m a morning person) slot. The format of the Casper is interesting. There are three paragraph answer spaces on each page and a topic, question or situation that you need to answer or address through the three paragraph questions. This was actually quite fun, it’s 90 minutes in total, no breaks in between, and you can do it in your pajamas, which is great! Click here if you’d like to learn more about the Casper.

I guess I did ok on the Casper? I was just notified of my interview offer this morning (Wednesday, January 21st). My GPA isn’t great, 3.7 overall, 3.6 sGPA. Too many years at UC Berkeley has resulted in a less than stellar academic record. This seems to be earlier than the other Ontario schools and U of Calgary, who stated that interviewees would be contacted in February. For McMaster’s there’s only 1 interview date on Saturday, March 21st (I think that’s spring break weekend, so I guess I can go crazy after :)).

After the interview, your acceptance is based primarily on your MMI (you can read more about this in my other post). It’s 72% MMI, and around 15% each for GPA and MCAT. Therefore, make sure you practice! I’m reading Doing Right, by Philip C. Hebert right now and it’s a pretty interesting read on medical ethics and controversial topics!

Knowing that flight prices go up the closer you are to flying, I booked my flight today from San Francisco. However, it was still a little over 600 dollars. I’m flying into YYZ, which I highly recommend (Toronto Pearson International Airport). Hamilton’s airport is much smaller and it’s a few hundred dollars more to fly directly in. Also, there are more housing options in Toronto (via AirBnB, hostels etc.). I mapped it and it’s only a 48 minute, 32 mile drive from Toronto proper to Hamilton, ON.

Anywho, I’m pretty excited, and I’m glad I get two shots at the MMI! The first is UBC’s in Vancouver, BC on February 7th, so it’s coming up quite soon! The only thing is, I’m missing quite a bit of school in the next few weeks due to a pre-medical fraternity trip to Lake Tahoe, Vegas trip for my friend’s birthday, interviews at St. Louis Medical School in Missouri, UBC and McMasters, as well as Greek Christian Conference in Indiana for Valentine’s Day Weekend (I’m not religious, but I think it’s important to keep an open mind when it comes to religion!). I will definitely update on how the interviews go when I come back!

I love questions so please feel free to contact me if you have any questions on the Canadian or American medical school application process!

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: gua1@mcmaster.ca 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?