Monthly Archives: February 2012

Weekend Inquiry: Studying Abroad in Undergrad


Dear Naomi,
I am a high school senior, have been accepted to where I want to go* and want to plan all four years of college because I hate not having a plan, I want to know exactly what I am going to take, when and why.
I am completely confused on whether or not a study abroad program would fit in with my undergraduate requirements for medical school. I have read on google that the AMCAS only records grades from study abroad programs as pass/fail, but I have also read that some programs will be excepted as normal grades. i have always wanted to do study abroad and thought it would even help my application if I could do some hospital volunteering in the country I end up in, which at the moment would be England.
I would greatly appreciate any thoughts you may have on the matter.

* I have been accepted to Florida Atlantic University and decided on this school because it is close to my home and I have a full-ride there.
*The study abroad program I was looking at was at NYU, I am going to put the web page below-please read the small passage on the top right just under the “apply now” button.


Sorry for such a large amount of crap but I would really appreciate some help here 🙂
I know what you are thinking… freshmen these days.. lol

Hey Joanne,
I can feel your excitement and ambition through the text: it’s great! I think a study abroad option is always a good thing. It boosts your resume for medical schools big time, and it is a great life experience. You don’t need to be worried too much about the grades you get there, especially if AMCAS only looks at it as pass/fail; I think the reason medical schools aren’t too concerned about what grades you get abroad is because they look at the program as an experience. I know there are plenty of study abroad programs in England where grades do transfer over though, so be sure to put in your best in class, as well.

England obviously isn’t a third-world country, which are often the places where students can make a big difference when studying abroad, so make sure you connect with some organization in England. Try and find a non-profit medically related program or a hospital you can volunteer in regularly (weekly) while you’re there. Medical schools will love that, and so will you! Don’t forget to keep track of your hours and write down any really touching or obscure experiences – they may make it into your personal statement or be topic for discussion at your medical school interview a few years from now!

Congrats on getting a full-ride to Florida Atlantic University! Make sure to keep that scholarship, if possible, because that’s an awesome resume booster. The program at NYU looks excellent. You could call them to ask how transferable their program credits are and whether or not they know if medical school applications see individual grades. It looks like you could do a year or just one semester, so keep in mind that pre-med requisites in undergrad usually build on themselves and may only be offered sequentially and in just the Fall or just the Spring (e.g. Organic Chemistry 2 is taken after 1 and may only be offered in the Spring). You’d have to choose the right semester to do this program, but I definitely encourage applying at the least.

Best of luck,

High-Fructose Corn Syrup – The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

If you’ve seen Food Inc., you’re well aware that corn products are dominating our grocery shelves. Don’t get me wrong, I love salty, buttered Jersey sweet-corn, but the fact that much of modified corn-products (like high-fructose corn syrup) is in so many of our foods and snacks is extremely worrisome.

If you haven’t seen Food Inc. yet i highly recommend it. It reminded me of Supersize Me (full-length) but was more in-depth and scientific. I know that some of us will not care about the effects of fast food or high-fructose corn syrup one bit, because the bite into a crispy Mc Chicken is just too tempting.

Anyway, the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) increased > 1000% between 1970 and 1990, far exceeding the changes in intake of any other food or food group – which mirrors the rapid increase in obesity in the United States.

A super recent study compared a soda beverage (Dr. Pepper) that contained sugar with the same beverage that contained high-fructose corn syrup. The study is called Effects of high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose on the pharmacokinetics of fructose and acute metabolic and hemodynamic responses in healthy subjects, and concluded:

Changes in postprandial concentrations of serum uric acid, and systolic blood pressure maximum levels were higher when HFCS-sweetened beverages were consumed as compared with sucrose-sweetened beverages. Compared with sucrose, HFCS leads to greater fructose systemic exposure and significantly different acute metabolic effects.

This study is one of the first to strongly suggest that HFCS is worse than sugar.


Vaccines & Autism

Before I state my opinion I would like to say that this is a very emotional topic because autism is a very emotional issue. It is emotional because the parents and families suffering because a child of theirs has autism can be great. Generally, it is good to be cautious even with vaccines, but it is also important to debunk some of the lies that have been spread by some populists.

Even after 14 years since the publication of Wakefield’s 1998 article in The Lancet linking autism to the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, many people are still skeptical of getting vaccines. It’s time to address this and move on with our falsely-driven fears.

Vaccination & AutismAndrew Wakefield, a research scientist who is no longer licensed due to gross scientific misconduct and fraudulent actions, hypothesized that the MMR vaccine caused inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. He stated that the injurious inflammatory cells entered the central nervous system and were cause for autism – a far stretch for those of us who have taken any immunology/pathology courses. This was simply scientifically false; there is no link between autism and vaccines.

What got people questioning the validity of Wakefield’s statements instead of just dismissing them was that the MMR vaccine is given around 3-10 years of age, and that is the age children start developing the disease. However, it’s coincidental, and thousands of dollars have been spent on short-term and longitudinal studies just to prove that point. This poorly-spent money could have been used for research on HIV, cystic fibrosis, or a plethora of other debilitating diseases.

Here are two of the many studies published on the topic:
The American Journal of Preventative Medicine (2003) published a study comparing the incidence of autism in those who were vaccinated with thimerosol in the vaccine, to those who were vaccinated without the thimerosol compound. (Thimerosol was a compound in question; the study was from 1992-2003.) The results showed no difference in autism incidence.
Pediatrics (2004) published a longitudinal study from 1996 to 2004 comparing the rate of autism in children who had the MMR vaccine and those who did not. There was no difference in incidence.

The Lancet retracted the article, and Andrew Wakefield was tried and found guilty for scientific misconduct. Wakefield’s lies decreased the number of MMR and other routinely given vaccinations significantly in the UK and Ireland and thus increased the incidence of these not yet eradicated diseases. If this is new news to you, do us all a favor and spread the word: vaccines save lives.