Monthly Archives: May 2011

How NOT to Dress at Medical School Interviews

I have had a handful of unconventional experiences and encounters during medical school interviews. I’ve traveled across the country for my interviews; I once even rode a storming-loud, bone-shaking eight passenger airplane to a living room sized airport in Missouri in order to get remotely near a medical school.

While each of these interviewing experiences was both nerve-wracking and unique, I trudged through the interview processes accompanied by memorable, quite interesting interviewees. [adsense] Some people look great on paper. As a medical school admissions member, one must be skilled at accurately inviting interviewees based on the applicant’s self-presentation in his or her AAMCAS/AACOMAS, secondary application, and resume. The admissions board sorts through thousands of applications, about 100 applications per open seat in the class, and chooses who they think is worthy of an interview. It takes a lot to beat 75-90% of the crowd and be invited to interview at a medical college. One time, I tactfully arrived 30 minutes early for my interview, thinking I would be the first interviewee to greet (and hopefully impress) the secretary.

I found myself entering a waiting area where two other interviewees already sat, one of which whose back was facing me. I courtly greeted the two, introducing myself with a nervous smile. As the one’s head turned to face me, I was shocked to find myself dropping my jaw at the most unprofessional, makeup covered girl I have ever seen in my life! It looked like she slapped mascara onto her eyelashes 3 times over, then went to sleep, woke up, forgot to brush or style her hair, and applied another 6 layers of mascara and foundation to her already small and now overcrowded face. She could have starred as the female antagonist in “IT”.

Her pencil skirt had a high slit up the back, and throughout the day she asked the most important people all the wrong questions. She interrupted the Dean as he answered an off-topic question of hers, and she constantly giggled at herself after she spoke. My goodness! I truthfully felt bad for her and now regret not suggesting to her to peel off a few layers of makeup, put her hair back neatly, and remain calm and mature for her next interview. She admitted how nervous she was; apparently she had quite a few interviews but hadn’t gotten accepted anywhere. She probably looked much better on paper.

At another medical school interview, I was surprised to find myself trying to unsuccessfully make conversation with the other interviewees. At my previous interviews, all the interviewees would chat amongst ourselves, casually mentioning some great experiences or jobs we’ve had while freely getting to know our competitors. At this interview, everyone must have been nervous, because I tried to arouse conversation but seemed to only annoy my competitors. They barely talked, and when they did, they didn’t present themselves with confidence. Maybe it was because all ten of us were females, and we know medical schools are usually divided about 50% based on gender.

This gender-, jealousy-based competition was bumped up a notch when the last two interviewees to arrive were dressed in army uniforms; I had no idea those outfits came in skirts and loose-fitting, “bannered” tops (wouldn’t have been my first choice of dress… there’s nothing like forgetting you’re applying to medical school and not military school). These weren’t crisp, clean uniforms; they looked more like colored potato sacks. The whole experience was awkward, except for when I actually interviewed. It was surprisingly one of my best interviewing experiences! There is a general consensus that professional, interview attire includes grey-to-black suit/skirt and shoes with modest coverage of skin, especially for women. At one interview, two other interviewees had low-cut, party shirts on. One girl wore bright purple, alligator-skin high heels, and the other girl was noticeably wearing a strapless, tubetop shirt under her jacket. These might have sported well at their local frat parties on 4/20 or homecoming but not at a medical school interview, the chance of a lifetime.

The way a person dresses doesn’t always dictate what kind of person he or she is; however, when you only have an hour or two to leave an impression at a school you’ve been working 4+ years to get accepted into, you might take the extra time to look professional. I don’t know whether or not these girls got accepted to that school, but I do hope they at least decided to wear button-up shirts for their next interview(s).

Looking good on paper isn’t everything. You may have good grades, life-changing experiences, and a kick-ass personal statement and resume, but unless you follow through and present yourself as a professional, mature candidate at an interview, you might as well just get an online degree. It’s not about looking beautiful, it’s about showing a medical school that you know what professionalism looks like, not just on paper.

Dr. Mark Weinberger: The Doctor From Hell

Dr. Mark Weinberger completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania and attended UCLA for medical school, after which he completed a prestigious fellowship in plastic surgery in Chicago. He dreamed big, and bought bigger. As he opened his own ear, nose, and throat clinic in Chicago, he reeled in a whopping $3 million per year while spamming the Chicago area with legions of billboards and building his empire.

The “Weinberger Sinus Clinic” invested in the finest medical equipment and frequently bought the priciest, most decadent catered lunches in the Chicago area. Mark gladly borrowed $1 million dollars from his father to buy a new CT machine, while his father rested assured in his old age, knowing that his son would care for him “ceaselessly” in the future.

In 2000, Dr. Weinberger married a woman named Michelle in three different extravagant locations – once apparently wasn’t enough. They held hallowed ceremonies twice in Chicago and once in Italy. As Michelle noticed that their income was increasing exponentially, Mark’s obscure behavior heightened without restraint. He insisted in living a lifestyle with private jets, massage therapists, personal trainers and chefs. He also had blackberries, laptops, and ipods in each room so that he wouldn’t have to carry things from room to room.

The “sinus doctor’s” clinic rolled in hundreds of patients and performed tons of surgeries, many of which were completely unneeded. His incorrect diagnoses lead to 350 malpractice lawsuits and even fatalities. Dr. Mark Weinberger was having trouble dealing with any accusations of being less than perfect, and Michelle was so stressed out from malpractice suits that she lost her 5 and a 1/2 month-old fetus in 2004.

Finally, Dr. Weinberger took Michelle, her mother, and 3 friends on a trip to Greece on their private yacht. The couple stayed on the yacht while their loved ones slept off-shore in a hotel. Mark took Michelle diamond shopping, bought her two expensive diamonds, and went for a jog alone the following morning. Mark didn’t return. He left Michelle with her passport, and enough money to fly home by herself, while the yacht’s captain assured her he was in Paris setting her diamonds into earrings for Michelle’s birthday.

Greek customs seized the ship for an unpaid $40,000 in docking fees, and Dr. Weinberg left his wife with a gross $6 million dollars in debt. Michelle discovered Mark’s book, “How to Be Invisible”, and decided her now infamous sinus doctor husband was not coming back. She filed for a divorce, auctioned off the Weinberger Sinus Clinic, and sold the yacht to keep herself from bankruptcy. All of Mark’s assets were seized by mortgage and creditor companies, and the doctor was no where to be found.

Dr. Mark Weinberger, Runaway

Runaway Doctor Dr. Mark Weinberger was found hiding in the Italian Alps in 2009

Altogether, Dr. Mark Weinberger was charged with more than 350 malpractice suits and 22 federal cases of healthcare fraud. In 2009 the runaway doctor was found by Italian police. He was hiding in a tent in the Italian Alps. Dr. Weinberger pleaded guilty for his actions, which included his failure to detect throat cancer in a woman who subsequently died, and missing the tumor on the pituitary gland of a young girl on whom he was performing sinus surgery before her sinuses were completely formed. Mark Weinberger “mutilated people for money”, according to the trial lawyer, Barry Rooth. Mark may have proved his ability to survive for 5 years on Mount Blanc, but he certainly failed to be an accountable physician.


McDonalds Nutrition Health Hazard

Today was an interesting day. During my daily routine of reading up on what’s going on in the world, I stumbled across an article that stated that Don Gorske ate his 25,000th Big Mac. Considering that Don has been eating Big Mac’s for 39 years, this means that he eats roughly two Big Mac’s per day. McDonald’s and nutrition. Facepalm.

If I break Don’s calorie intake down: 25,000 * 590 cal, we see that Don has consumed a total of 14,750,000 calories just from Big Mac’s. What worries me more is that McDonald’s and nutritional content is an oxymoron just like “jumbo shrimp” or “vegetarian meatballs”. Don’s calorie intake should be around 2669 per day. 2 * 590 makes 1,180. Watching the video and considering his obsession with the heart-attack-on-a-plate, I tend to believe that he’s not dishing out the salad at night either. Considering the fact that half of the Big Mac’s calories come from fat (52%), it is almost safe to assume that his body is lacking the most essential vitamins and nutrients.

McDonald’s is the largest hamburger food chain in the world, and they are here to stay. They serve 58 million customers daily. Health care reform needs to address prevention more specifically. We can’t have the McDonald’s and KFC’s of the world next to schools. There is a strong correlation between the amount of fast food chains in a community and that respective community’s obesity rates (sorry for no source). What bothers me is that even though this is old information, people still systematically neglect wellness and the prevention of disease.

Change happens from the inside. While we must eat as organic and local as we can, we must also look out for others. If your local high school is terminating their gym class you simply have to stand up and say “no!” What else can be done? I’d be really interested in hearing your comments!

McDonalds Nutrition

McDonald's arrives in Africa!

Book Review: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Concentration Camp Prisoners

Concentration Camp Prisoners

The original title of this highly relevant autobiography was “Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager”, which translates as, “a Psychologist experiences the concentration camp”. This book was written by Viktor Frankl, an academic who survived Auschwitz. In this captivating book, Frankl describes both his experiences as a concentration camp inmate and also how he developed his psychotherapeutic method of finding reason to live, no matter the circumstances.

The book is devided into two sections, the first one being his account of his arrival and experiences in Auschwitz, and the second one explaining logotherapy, which emphasizes Frankl’s ideas of finding meaning.

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms ñ to chose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” p. 65

You may ask yourself why this book is good for aspiring physicians.

While this book should be of high interest to psychology or psychiatry students because it deals with the psychological and philosophical component of human life, human life needs to be prized in a very special way for physicians. We need to understand how and why any patient faced with wearisome medical burdens or complex anomalies should and can keep their desire to live, or how to create meaning to life, as Frankl would say. I believe it is an excellent book to reference as an answer to the common Medical School Interview Question, “What kind of books have you read lately?” Frankl also “worked” as a doctor in Auschwitz, which, given the poor medical and pharmaceutical resources he had, was an excruciating task. Tears ran down my cheeks several times as I read Frankl’s vivid and detailed descriptions of life in Auschwitz, which was more of a death camp than a concentration camp. People were not only sent to Auschwitz to labor under impossible circumstances, eating thin soup and walking barefoot in the snow – they were sent there to die. Frankl has become a hero to me. His will to live, to encourager others, and to find meaning were purely valorous, brave decisions by a brave man. I must recommend this book. Man’s Search for Meaning is an accurate historic account, a lesson about human cruelty, and a therapeutic encouragement. At times brutal and heart breaking, Frankl’s autobiography describes human dignity even in the most horrible and awful circumstances. Auschwitz was the largest German Nazi Concentration and Exterminationcamp in which an estimated 1.1 million people died, ninety percent Jewish. Among the many books I have read, this is definitely on my top-10 list. Here’s the Amazon Link.

What’s the Difference Between a MD and DO (allopathic vs osteopathic)?

Many people wonder what is different about doctors who have a Doctorate of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) and those who have a Medical Doctor (MD) degree. About 4 out of 5 medical students in the US are training to be MDs. However, osteopathic physicians (DOs) can be any kind of physician they want to be. Doctors can choose any specialty, prescribe medication, and perform surgery with either a DO or a MD.

Notably, highly competitive residencies (neurosurgery, spinal surgery, etc) are harder to get into for DOs. Osteopathic medical colleges often focus on training physicians to fulfill the desperate need of graduating more primary care physicians, but that is not a requirement. I have an acquaintance who went to A.T.Still University College of Osteopathic Medicine and is now completing his anesthesiology residency at a prestigious hospital in Pennsylvania; however, over half of DOs in America today are primary care physicians. Right now, America has approximately 63,000 fully licensed osteopathic physicians practicing the entire scope of modern medicine.

DOs take the COMLEX and MDs take the USMLE. There’s not much difference between the two tests, but 20% of the COMLEX covers Osteopathic Principles and Practice (this includes osteopathic manipulative medicine, a hands-on treatment for somatic dysfunction). Sometimes DOs will take both the COMLEX and the USMLE in order to score well and get into a competitive residency, but it’s not just board scores that will get a physician into a residency of his or her choice; it’s also letters of recommendation, planning and choosing rotation sites, and the medical student’s involvement that will get him or her a choice residency.

Osteopathic schools have lower GPA and MCAT scores, but they are not necessarily any easier than allopathic (MD) schools. Osteopathic schools put more emphasis on patient-centered, hands-on, holistic care – caring for the patient as a whole, really figuring out how they are doing, and being genuinely compassionate towards their needs, but they are still trained in everything their allopathic get trained in (pharmocology, physiology, systems, etc.). The main difference between the two degrees is that DOs are certified in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM). The curriculum varies little between osteopathic and allopathic schools. DOs take all the same coursework as MDs, plus an additional ~200 hours in musculoskeletal manipulation.

Being an MD gives one international recognition as a medical doctor. Some countries place restrictions on DOs as medical doctors. The number of DOs in the US is, however, rising. In 2010, the number of new MDs per 100,000 people fell from 7.5 to 5.6, while the number of new DOs per 100,000 rose from 0.4 to 0.8.

As far as grades go, average MCAT scores for students accepted to osteopathic schools are ~26 with a 3.5cGPA/3.4sGPA; average for allopathic is ~30 with a 3.7cGPA/3.6sGPA. (Check out the “College” tab to learn more about requirements for medical school admission.) A lot of people choose osteopathic schools because of their philosophy and love for people. Other people choose allopathic schools because of their name, success, and/or popularity. I would choose the school that fits best to you, your mission and values.