Monthly Archives: October 2011

Examkrackers Audio Osmosis

Two people have recently asked me how good of a product Examkrackers MCAT Audio Osmosis really is. Listening to Jordan and Jon is another learning modality for the MCAT in order to really understand and internalize the different concepts that you need to know. The comprehensive and thorough audio lectures come on several CD’s. Studying with paper and pencil is of course more important, but listening to the CD’s while you are running or driving can help you stay productive and engage your brain differently. Thus, the lectures will help reinforcing materials. The concepts are presented very well, but be warned, they are compact and thorough. This is not a science course that you can take for fun, it’s preparation for the MCAT. Be prepared to take notes and write down any questions. The CD’s are divided into compact, conversational lectures; they easily fit into any already existing MCAT study schedule. If you do decide to get them, make sure you use them only as a supplement.

Some tips when listening:

  • Take notes the first time you listen to the lectures.
  • Write down remaining questions and seek answers online.
  • Come up with your own questions and answer them.
  • There are some errors (almost every extensive science publication has some). Here are the corrections.

Cons
Inevitably, there are some cons. For $70 – $150, Examkrackers MCAT Audio Osmosis isn’t among the cheapest MCAT materials. Nonetheless, if you decide to go the home-study route (highly recommended) vs taking an expensive course, you’ll still save a couple thousand dollars. Plus, you can resell them on ebay or Amazon for 60-90% of what you bought them for. Some of the sound effects are slightly annoying. If you don’t dig a Long Island accent, stay away. Personally, I think Southern accents can be way more distracting (no offense), but people’s preferences are of course different.

Conclusion:
This is a great extra source to thoroughly integrate the important concepts for the MCAT. If you are easily thrown off by sound-effects, you might not want to buy this. Otherwise, it’s a great tool to broaden your foundational knowledge of the MCAT, especially if you are a visual or active learner. (ADD anyone?) If you have a long commute or you work out a lot, definitely get them – they are worth the money. As all good MCAT materials, they don’t lessen in value, so pick the right materials :). Start with Audio Osmosis, for example.
Amazon Link: Examkrackers MCAT Audio Osmosis.

Related Topics:
MCAT Study Guide | 109 Tips & Strategies
How to Study for the MCAT | Light Version
MCAT Study Schedule | a 75 Day Schedule

Dr. Watson by IBM

IBM has been working on a new computer to aid physicians in diagnosing and managing patient’s illnesses. Not only can Watson diagnose, but it can also effectively manage a patients medical history and make predictions accordingly. Depending on the individual, it can take a long time for a physician to understand his or her medical history.

Thus, Watson has diagnostic and therapeutic qualities. Some go as far to say that Watson will eventually replace physicians. Given the nature of medicine – which traces back the unimaginable complexity and wonder of our human bodies, I can really see Watson become an aid and even assistant in medicine.

However, I can’t wrap my mind around the idea of a computer like Watson actually becoming a physician, at least not within the next 200 years. Could a computer detect changes in intonation or emotion, scan facial expressions and reactions? These skills are often vital for an accurate diagnosis. This whole concept of computers eventually outsmarting and replacing us is extremely old, and goes back to Star Trek or 2001: A Space Odyssey.

It’s way past 2001, and computers have become an integral part of our lives. In fact, many of the technological “miracles” in Star Trek have become reality. For example the wireless communication devices or tabloids, or doors that detect movement and slide open are now reality. When Star Trek came out, these things seemed bizarre and unrealistic. Because of people like Steve Jobs, our phones are now smarter (pun), our laptops slimmer, and our newspapers tabloid. Computers are going to evolve, but I think it’s going to take another millennium until they are anything close to resembling a human. Until then they will be burdened with trivial and menial tasks, which are nonetheless important. Sorry Watson!

Is Medical School Still Worth It?

Recently I have been reading a lot about physician’s salaries, a very heated and controversial topic, indeed. The central questions are, “How much money should a physician make?” or, “is medical school still worth it?” Answers vary widely – from frustrated medical students or starting physicians to soothing individuals who are trying to calm people down, appealing to people’s passion and compassion.

It is important to note that in a free market, payment is neither dependent on overall value/functionality for society nor an individual’s commitment or workload. Hollywood actors’ or NFL players’ value and functionality for society could be debated, for example, yet these individuals belong to the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans because of the demand for entertainment. Payment depends on supply and demand. Supply / demand = $. In the case of the doctor, one could say, individuals qualified / individuals demanded = $. However, the field is also greatly controlled by regulations from the government, such as medicare and medicaid. These programs are necessary to give poor or retired people coverage, but they do not offer as great of reimbursement rates as private insurance companies, which also cost more. The discrepancy between what specialists earn is huge. Generalists, like primary care or family medicine doctors, make half of what specialized doctors make and only a fifth of what neurosurgeons earn.

The Facts on Medical School Debt

Medical students go through a lot of financial stress to say the least. In addition to academic stress, tuition needs to be paid. Average medical school tuition in 2011 was about $40,000 per year, depending on the medical school. It could also be much higher. A friend of mine at Yale medical school had to have $500,000 in an escrow account prior to being fully admitted. If you’re not married or have a partner that can provide, you will also have to pay for living costs, so that will be an extra $10-20k per year. In any case, you have to pay for medical equipment (stethoscope, otoscope, sphygmomanometer, etc. – expensive!) and books each semester, which can add another $4,000 per year. The answer to all of this is student loans.

While average medical student debt is 200,000, it is not uncommon for medical students to be in debt for up $400,000 – 500,000 after medical school, depending on how lousy the interest rates are (private debt). Some students also still carry their undergraduate debt with them. It is understandable that doctors demand a fair and rewarding compensation for the risk they took.
Educational Debt

The great risk of studying Medicine

Needless to say, accumulated medical school debt can be a big let-down for aspiring physicians. Understandably, there needs to be enough compensation for all the hard work, sacrifice, and investment. Let’s not forget that if something goes wrong, a medical student’s life can be ruined. Certain diseases or disorders like multiple sclerosis often hit people in their twenties. Thus, with costs of living going up, as well as tuition rising, some students are considering other options like chemical engineering, law, etc. The outlook of medicine is not what it used to be.

To remain credible, I have to admit that I am a first-year medical student. Thus, I cannot speak of the sacrifices of professional doctors in the same way that an experienced and distinguished physician could. Currently, I am going to class 8 hours, attending a lab/meeting for an hour, and then studying at home for another 5 hours. That’s 14 hours of strenuous concentration and work.

Most of the doctors that I know personally work 12-hour-days, and some more than that. There are some who work less, on more manageable schedules, and there are some doctors who work even more. This commitment to a continually rigorous performance is often accepted only under one circumstance – if the price is right.

Conclusion

It’s important to look at the exact salaries, by specialty. CRNA salaries sometime surpass those of primary care doctors. This certainly is unfair and worrisome, and has something to do with the discrepancy between generalists and specialists. Specialists earn up to double the salary that generalists like primary care and family medicine physicians do. Thus, primary care physicians’ salaries could indeed be considered too low.

While the decline of primary care physicians being a direct result of our broken health care system, it is an issue of its own – and I find it relevant to this discussion. My conclusion is that depending on the specialty, salaries currently could be too low considering the great investment, at least for the primary care field.

One might complain, “If I don’t get to go to any of my sons baseball games, no longer have any social life, and have to go deeply into debt, then I need to be paid darn well!”. However, let’s not forget that people in other professions are missing their sons baseball games, too. This includes the average Joe that is slaving away at McDonalds AND Walmart, just to pay a $400,000 mortgage on a house that is now worth $100,000, or to pay his/her child’s medical bills.

Let’s all hope that the discrepancies of generalists & specialists will be addressed soon. Either way, I believe people should not choose a career or specialty because of money. Of course, one shouldn’t be unrealistic about the accumulating debt of medical school, but in order to be a thriving, effective, and relational doctor one should always follow the heart and see what “makes you come alive”. And let’s not hide the fact that job security for physicians is is one of the highest (if not the highest) – and compensation is still very good.

MCAT Studying

You?

MCAT Season – it’s October 3rd, so a lot of you have either just finished interviewing or are getting ready to prepare for the MCAT. If you’ve browsed this site, you’ve seen my two basic guides, but I recently made a short version for people who don’t want to read through a long, detailed guide on how to study for the mcat.

It’s the state-of-the-art approach, featuring the three best publishers: Examkrackers, The Berkeley Review, and The Princeton Review. My MCAT experience was intense but good. The MCAT can make or break you, which is why it’s wise to plan carefully and invest in the best materials. What I hope the most, however, is that you will have fun studying for the MCAT. You can make it a fun experience by working in advance, taking breaks, staying creative, and by keeping your goal in mind.

If you wait until you only have two months left, you will certainly be stressed out, and studying for the MCAT could end up being a miserable experience. The difference between distress and eustress lies within our perception of the demands that we face. While distress is unhealthy and crippling, eustress is a process of exploring potential gains, growing personally, and adapting positive coping mechanisms.

Here are the three different guides that I came up with, through fundamental research and my own experiences:

 

MCAT Study Guide | 109 Tips & Strategies
How to Study for the MCAT | Light Version
MCAT Study Schedule | a 75 Day Schedule