Monthly Archives: November 2011

A Quick Look at the Affordable Care Act: “Obamacare”

Currently, the supreme court is reviewing The Affordable Care Act “Obamacare” at a very close scope, specifically the constitutionality of one of the very controversial aspects, the individual mandate.

The individual mandate would, as the name implies – mandate all citizens to buy health insurance. This would work in the same way as car insurance does; it is required and must be purchased by all who drive a car. Some people believe that mandating health insurance goes against the constitution and American principles. I wonder if these people are also against the mandate of car insurance.

An important fact

One of the reasons why it is so expensive is that not everyone is insured. This forces insurance premiums and reimbursements up because most sick and elderly people have health insurance. While it is never wise to not purchase health insurance, it does benefit those who do not get into an accident, develop a chronic disease, and by chance go through many years unharmed. On average the United States is arguably not providing the best health care in the world, however it is certainly the most expensive.

Some may argue that the cost is due to America having the best health care system in the world, yet the USA ranks 34th in infant mortality rate out of the near 200 countries that exist in the world. The average life expectancy has not increased in a decade and does not even rank within the top 5, despite our innovative, scientific approach to health care. Another reason why health care is so expensive here is because lawyers dictate policy. Doctors use excessive and often unnecessary tests, scans, and procedures because they need to steer clear of the malpractice lawsuits that America has become infamous for.

Health Care Cost by Country

Total Health Expenditure per Capita, U.S. and Selected Countries, 2008

Source: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (2010), “OECD Health Data”

 

The Bottom Line
If the individual mandate gets struck down, it would have an overall very negative impact on the necessary health care reform. The more people that buy health insurance, the cheaper it becomes for everyone. Making health insurance more affordable by making it mandatory should be an essential part of health care reform. Personally, I am comfortable with people critiquing the Affordable Care Act, but I do not agree with striking down the individual mandate. Without the individual mandate, health care reform will fall short and lose its air like a balloon – or shrink like a snowman in April.

 

MCAT Prep Experts | A Simple Plan, Motivation, & Passion 35Q

My first encounter with the torturous monster that is the MCAT was during the summer of my second year of college. I decided to attempt it before having taken Organic II and Physics II, and I did alright with a 32 (BS 13, PS 10, VR 9). This first attempt was a practice run, as it provided me with an opportunity to devise a personalized strategy for the retake which ended up being a 35Q (BS 14, PS 11, VR 10).

I recommend beginning verbal practice months in advance because it requires the honing of a skill less quickly learned than the science sections. Biochemistry is also a very useful class if it is possible to take it before the MCAT. The review materials I used were the The Princeton Review MCAT Materials for general review, the Examkrackers test books for practice, and the AAMC practice tests for the most realistic simulation of the exam. Studying for the sciences began 6 weeks before the test date. I had many friends who had study schedules spread out over several months leading up to the test day, but I saw a fundamental flaw: It only matters what you know on the day and time of your actual exam. I knew that equations I reviewed four months ago would not still be in the forefront of my memory making them of little use to me.

 

My study schedule was extremely simple:
week one: general chemistry
week two: biology
week three: organic chemistry
week four: physics
weeks five and six: AAMC practice exams and focus on weak spots.

In order to maintain optimum focus during this 6 week study period, it was imperative that I maintain my sanity. My preferred method of stress relief and use of breaks was physical activity. Physical activity and taking frequent breaks helps maintain the focus required to get through the tremendous amount of material and aids in retention. The reason I decided on the subject order was that organic chemistry and physics require far more memorization than general chemistry and biology. The entire time going through the subjects and taking practice tests, I made note of areas of weakness which were strengthened during the last two weeks. All practice questions and practice exams should be done with a time constraint. None of the questions on the MCAT are hard. Most people would get nearly all of them correct if given enough time. The difficulty comes in the time constraint of the test, something which can be overcome through practice.

As for strategy on the actual test day, this is again simple. Though none of the questions are particularly hard, many are tricky. It is immensely helpful to approach each question with the mindset that it is a trick question. Scrutinize very carefully the information you are given and what the question is actually asking. As previously mentioned, keep in mind that good management of the time factor is imperative for a good score. I completely ignored the time remaining on each section of the exam and gauged the length of each question and complexity of each passage before answering it. If it required deliberation or long calculations, it was skipped. If it had a short quick answer or short passage, it was answered on the spot. In the BS section of my retake, I actually ended up running out of time because the second passage was incredibly long and contained a complex feedback loop. I initially skipped the passage and came back to it with 12 minutes remaining. I was forced to make educated guesses on the last three questions just as time was running out and still got a 14 on the section – likely because many other people got tripped up by the passage early on and were unable to finish the quick and easy questions toward the end. I also have a problem with hypoglycemia, so I made sure to eat something during each of the breaks in order to avoid low blood sugar from interfering with my mental processes.

If you want my personal advice, give yourself personal incentive to do well and get through the exam. The day after mine, I went straight from the exam to an ice cream shop. Chunky monkey does wonders for a mind battered by the MCAT. From the ice cream shop, I went straight home and took a 4 hour nap. From there I went out for a night on the town with friends. Give yourself every opportunity to succeed, prepare yourself adequately, and you will be fine. Find the fire of a motivation to pursue your passion deep within your chest fueled by every time someone told you that you would never make it, and you will do far more than just ‘be fine’.

Good luck.

MCAT Study Guides:

MCAT Study Guide | 109 Tips & Strategies
MCAT Study Schedule | 75 Days
How to study for the MCAT | Condensed Version

Book Review: Anatomy of a Kidnapping: A Doctor’s Story

Imagine doing some homework in your apartment on a Sunday afternoon, working like a good medical or pre-medical student on a strenuous assignment, until you suddenly feel the cold steel of a shotgun barrel pressed against the back of your head. This is exactly what happened to Dr. Berk in Amarillo, Texas.

Across a lifespan, a human being has the potential to experience many different things. Things that are beautiful, normal, or terrible. While we all experience birth and death, few of us ever experience a kidnapping.

Anatomy of a Kidnapping: A Doctor's Story

Anatomy of a Kidnapping: A Doctor's Story

Dr. Berk is one of those who did. Being a physician, Dr. Berk’s case is particularly interesting because his kidnapping is even more rare than usual. The author – Dr. Berk himself, offers a unique perspective and spectacular insight on the many aspects of his life that surround his kidnapping and his desire to live and protect his family.

His account is both detailed and philosophical. This non-fiction book is interesting for all people, not only people from a medical background. Dr. Berk allows the reader to slip into his mind, the mind of a clinician who has learned and strives to be both reasonable and calm under all circumstances. He calls this ability “aequanimitas” in reference to Sir William Osler the founder of Johns Hopkins University:

On Aequanimtas: Imperturbability means coolness and presence of mind under all circumstances, calmness amid storm, and clearness of judgment in moments of great peril, immobility, impassiveness. p. 86

 

Anatomy of a Kidnapping is a stunning autobiography that centers not only around the kidnapping of Dr. Berk. The author explores his own life intensely; going through medical school, medical residency, becoming the dean of a medical student, getting married and becoming a father. It seems as if all these milestones and experiences have shaped and prepared him for his biggest challenge yet.

Anatomy of a Kidnapping: A Doctor’s Story is a book that feels utterly complete because it switches between events in the past and his kidnapping in the presence, as it was happening right now. This keeps the reader interested and puts everything into perspective.

The plan was to get him money so he would let me go. But now he wants me to take him back to my house. I begin to panic at the thoughts of taking him anywhere near my family again. A gold sweat overcomes me. I plead with him to let me go. I have one episode of dry heave. p. 55

The Kidnapper

The Kidnapper is a methamphetamine addict, a drug generally linked to violence, homicide, and suicide. As the story unfolds, the reader learns that the kidnapper is on a criminal rampage that will not end voluntarily. He is as unpredictable as ruthless and extremely cautious, he seems utterly desperate.

From the conversations during the kidnapping, the reader gets to know the kidnapper intimately. He learns about his past transgressions and errors, the death of the kidnapper’s wife, and time in prison. It seemed as if Dr. Berk’s carefully crafted life could shatter into a million pieces at any point. This book is truly multi-perspective and covers ethical and legal aspects.

What I enjoyed the most

Dr. Steven Berk

Dr. Steven Berk

What I loved most was the medical lens of this book. Dr. Berk describes his failures and victories which have all helped shape him during medical school, residency, and while being a physician. Later he heads medical schools as faculty and even dean. For example, when he writes about the joys and challenges of doing residency at a Native American reservation in Arizona, he writes about diagnosing a case of diphtheria, an extremely rare but dangerous and contagious disease. In a different case he wrestles an armed homeless person to the ground. Many of these anecdotes are funny and often sad. They are a sneak-peak into the life of a physician.

I highly recommend Anatomy of a Kidnapping: A Doctor’s Story. The book is really suited for anyone, everything is understandable and precise, without any jargon or required previous knowledge about medicine. The kidnapping parts of the book read like a thriller and kept me turning pages. See for yourself how intriguing a doctor’s story can really be.

200 Days Old

Hello Everyone!

I just wanted to give you a brief update on what’s going on with my blog. Get Into Medical School is now just over 200 days old and growing each day. Thank you for all of your support! When I originally planned and made this website/blog I thought about horrible academic advisers, expensive books and spammy forums. It was and is my aim to serve aspiring physicians by providing them with the best premedical information there is, 100% free!

During the last 200 days I wrote a lot of rants and reviews on various current topics, and also finished the MCAT Study Guide (109 Tips & Strategies), MCAT Study Schedule (a 75 Day Schedule) and a brief and condensed version of the guides in how to study for the MCAT (Light Version). These pages have become our flagships and received a lot of attention in addition to news feeds and weekly rants.

I just kicked off a very awesome series that features other students with outlier scores and their experience with the MCAT. It’s called “MCAT Prep Experts“. I am extremely excited for this series and already have several articles ready to be published.

In the near future, I want to start a series with detailed and specific medical school reviews by students who reflect on the pros/cons and uniqueness of their medical school.

We have some great things in the making, so stay tuned if you like what we do!

MCAT Prep Experts | How I conquered the MCAT 37Q

mcat prep experts

mcat prep experts

I will never forget how it felt to be over and done with this test.  For better or worse, I made a committed effort and came away more aware of my potential to be self-disciplined and ambitious.  I was mentally drained and apprehensive, but nonetheless on a cloud of relief.  The MCAT quickly fell from my everyday concerns until a month later – judgment day.  My score was 37Q (14P, 11V, 12B).  I hope my story may advise your own preparation with the understanding that everyone is different.  You will have to identify your own strengths and weaknesses as I have.   But I promise you this: the satisfaction of hard work paid off is worth every shred of agony along the way.

I studied for eight weeks in the summer after my second year of undergraduate study in the life sciences.  At first, I was anything but inclined to put down the beer and fishing rod for that tedious road of preparing for another exam.  But as I grew aware that the MCAT is as much a personal challenge as it is competitive, my early diligence became addictive.  I was working two jobs upward of 50 hours per week and had neither the time nor money for a prep course.  But with my own self-disciplined routine, I remained consistently focused, motivated, and ultimately successful.

I spent my first two weeks of preparation with a near-full content review, refreshing major concepts and dusting off old skills.  Initially, I studied two to four hours each day and wrote my first practice test after this period of review.  In retrospect, doing a practice exam before anything else would have allowed me more time to learn the MCAT language.  Over the next three to four weeks, I engaged in a detailed study of the entire content, gradually increasing my time commitment.  I was then in a position to do another brief content review and grind out my weaknesses.  I wrote practice exams after weeks four, five, and six, and then three more, for a total of seven, on alternating days during a far more relaxed final week.

Most of my time was spent on the biological and physical sciences, which can be neatly divided to conquer.  I relied on the Examkrackers review books as a primary resource for these subjects and kept a reserve of secondary resources borrowed from friends and the public library, mainly for extra practice questions and more difficult topics.  I strongly recommend the Examkrackers series for its efficient detail and concise, holistic presentation.

My main course of preparation included a thorough study of a new lecture each day, annotating and highlighting key points, followed by a lighter review and the Examkrackers chapter exam the next day.  Overlapping chapters in this fashion, I focused on one subject at a time.  I became absorbed in each and tailored my approach accordingly.  For instance, my physics block was focused on practicing until perfect, whereas biology was more detail and concept-oriented.  Understand that you will not succeed with a superficial understanding.  The MCAT is too broad in scope to require that you to recall many specific details.  If you are studying the cardiovascular system, keep going until you can close your eyes and imagine yourself giving a whole lecture about it, picture a disease that might afflict it, or consider it from a physicist’s point of view.  Then you can decide if you are finished.

Verbal reasoning is a real pain for some people and a snap for others.  Either way, this is a 60-minute section that will take you 60 minutes.  I did look through things like the Kaplan method, but I ended up following my own straightforward read-and-respond approach and studied solely by practicing.  My first and last scores were both 11.  My average score was probably 11 too.  I don’t know if I could have improved with a more strategic approach, but I was able to intersperse my practice and focus most of my time on the sciences.  That’s not to say it never caused me aggravation; occasionally, I would let my focus down and scramble short of a 10.  How do you prevent this from happening on test day?  My advice is to practice extensively, time yourself strictly, and condition whatever approach you choose with clockwork consistency.

I began my writing practice a few weeks before test day.  I chose a few strategies and wrote practice essays periodically, about eight in total. Another good exercise is to construct quick, five-minute essay plans for a series of prompts. There is no time for writer’s block on the MCAT.  Nobody expects you to be F. Scott Fitzgerald here, but it would be a shame to have the bulk of your effort pay off with high scores while bombing your essays out of neglect.  I have seen it happen.  I found my own essays rushed and wanting compared to many that I wrote in practice; fortunately, a correct format and clear response to the instructions are far more important than velvety-smooth prose.  Just make sure you will be able to handle the pressure and stress of test day.

What more I could offer you are the tricks I picked up along the way.  Instead, I will just as well tell you to keep your eyes peeled and inviting for them as you go along.  Learn to enjoy the long, concentrated study sessions as you would a good novel.  Medical schools want to know if you are capable – whether you have a strong enough foundation for the lessons ahead.  So go show them, and good luck.

Written by Justin Kozak

MCAT Study Guides:

How to study for the MCAT
MCAT Study Guide | 109 Tips & Strategies
MCAT Study Schedule | 75 Days