Tag Archives: Medical School

Caribbean Medical Schools

There’s a lot of talk about Caribbean medical schools, but what’s the beef?

A friend of mine has an older sister studying medicine in Grenada who wouldn’t trade it for the world. She said she loves the beach, wildlife, and natural botanical diversity. The weather keeps her happy, and she can study in the most comfortable settings. I volunteered in a hospital in NY state for a summer and 3 of the ER doctors studied medicine outside the US, and they didn’t speak against it. They didn’t argue for it either, though.

The problem with getting your Doctorate of Medicine (MD) in the Caribbean or South America is not that you will never find a job. There is almost always a need for physicians. What is a problem, however, is that statistics show you are very unlikely to get the residency of your choice. Studies have been done to compare the success of getting first-choice residencies for MDs who studied in the US, MDs who got their degree off-shore, and DOs who studied in the US. The results in order of those who get their first choice more often to least often: US MDs, DOs, off-shore MDs.

When one doesn’t get the first or even second residency of his or her choice, that person may become unfulfilled due to pursuing something without passion to back it, or due to working hard in a place or environment that isn’t conducive to that person’s goals or satisfaction. In addition, because it’s much easier to get accepted into Caribbean or off-shore medical schools, a degree from these schools is simply not respected. Many people admire and even prefer DOs over MDs due to the philosophy of holistic care backing the degree. These people don’t mind that DOs generally have slightly lower MCAT scores and GPAs. However, learning that a doctor got his or her degree just outside the US often unsettles patients.

Caribbean Medical School Hitchhiker

Caribbean Medical School Hitchhiker

Going to a medical school in the Caribbean is a last option, but it is an option nonetheless. When you can’t get into any medical schools in America after 2 or 3 MCATs or years of trying, and a graduate degree is not an option for you, hopefully the lax environment in the Caribbean will ease your stress. Not only are they easier to get accepted into, but they are usually cheaper, and that is always a plus! For everyone’s sake, take a different approach to studying for the MCAT and applying to medical schools in the US before settling with those just outside the US. This website is here to help. Be confident! 🙂

For those interested, here is a list of Caribbean medical schools by country.

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.

Book Review: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

[adsense] In Mary Roach’s “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers”, she explores both the history and science of the dead. Yes, this book is about dead bodies. Mary Roach is outrageously humorous, captivating, yet respectful as she enlightens the reader about the “Curious Lives of Human Cadavers” in her New York Times Bestseller. Before reading this book, I had no idea in how many ways cadavers were and are used for science.

Medical School Prep

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Indeed, cadaver’s lives (an oxymoron as that is) are quite peculiar. Each chapter in the book describes a different aspect about medical research on cadavers, or what happens to bodies that were donated to science. I was comfortable reading a chapter and then putting down the book for some other time. Even Mary Roach’s footnotes are enthrallingly fascinating and witty.

Previously, the common view of life after death was that a body goes to heaven, so dissection on corpses was only done on executed murderers; however, when the 1800s came around, anatomy professors had to resort to other means of teaching their students besides using pictures and textbooks. Body snatching from graves became a means of obtaining “subjects” to work and teach with, but today it is common to donate your body to science and medical research.

Have you, however, honestly sat down and done your research? Do you know all the crazy things your body might be used for after you die? How about letting it sit on a farm to decompose into an oozy, smelly, maggot-filled pile for forensic research? Or would you prefer for your body to be tested upon impact in crash and safety research? Would you prefer your body to be cannibalized? These are just a few of the many subjects that Mary Roach addresses in this book. After reading, you may find yourself reconsidering the plans you have had for your body after you pass on. I certainly did.

This is an excellent book to read when preparing for medical school, an interview, or if you are already in medical school. It’s easy to start an attractive conversation when mentioning the lives of human cadavers and what you have learned and laughed at in “Stiff”.

Here’s the Amazon Link: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Hope you all have a great week!

Naomi

MCAT Study Schedule: 75 Days

 

Updated August 2017

Doing well on the MCAT is definitely one of the most challenging tasks in preparing for medical school. Studying for the MCAT was an intense experience for me, but it payed off because I did it right. Proper attitude and planning is required to succeed; you might really want to quit your job to study for this. I spent about 6-8 hours per day studying and doing passages; it was my full-time job. Be confident. This is your dream! This is the schedule I used. Feel free to modify the schedule so it fits your needs. I hope you find this schedule helpful.

You may also like my MCAT study guide109 Tips & Strategies for improving quickly, or the condensed version – How to study for the MCAT.


MCAT Study Materials

I highliy recommend the latest version of Examkrackers (EK) – 10th Edition Examkrackers MCAT Complete Study Package (Examkrackers is king) for all subjects, and The Berkeley Review (TBR) for Physics, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry. I supplemented EK with The Berkeley Review MCAT Home Study Material (TBR). I also purchased Examkrackers MCAT 101 Passages for all subjects to get extra practice. Practice is key. Each 101 passages book contains a plethora of authentic and realistic MCAT questions, a must for any MCAT taker because practice is the key variable in your MCAT equation. EK is succinct while still hitting all key concepts. I also highly recommend using Examkrackers 101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning for all of your verbal needs.

Do verbal passages every day, and don’t be surprised to see your score steadily increase but over a long time period. I recommend using Examkrackers and The Berkeley Review because they worked well for me and for many others. Other MCAT prep books, including Princeton Review MCAT Subject Review Complete Box Set, 2nd Edition, have had great outcomes with other students. There are, however, many testimonies about how well the book setup I used. Most test-takers agree that Examkrackers (EK), Berkeley Review (BR), and The Princeton Review (TPR) prep books prepared them better for the MCAT than did Kaplan MCAT prep books. BR teaches you how to find an answer without finishing a calculation or how to create formulas without plugging in numbers, and BR has practice passages that reflect the actual MCAT very well. EK Verbal 101 gives you endurance and real MCAT verbal passages. See cited materials at the bottom of this page. In addition, if you have the money, you could also get Examkrackers MCAT Audio Osmosis.The CD’s condense many major concepts into a series of compact, conversational lectures, and you can listen to them while driving or working out in the gym.

I have gotten many emails with questions about specific materials, but it really is my humble opinion that if you have enough time, I really recommend using all three sets (10th Edition Examkrackers MCAT Complete Study Package, Princeton Review MCAT Subject Review Complete Box Set, 2nd Edition, and The Berkeley Review MCAT Home Study Material). The AAMC Full-Lengths are also very important, as they enable you to simulate a real MCAT. I know these materials are not cheap, but if you’re careful and sell them right after you are finished, you should be able to get back up to 80%.

The following is a 75-day schedule. Most people score best with anything from 6 to 2.5 months of rigorous preparation, depending on your personal circumstances (job, etc.). The reason this schedule is so valuable is because it will keep you in check as you study. You will be pushed with this schedule, and you will learn a ton. You will learn not only all the material the MCAT expects you to know, but you will also learn fantastic strategies to help you take on difficult and unfamiliar test questions.

Please feel free to give yourself one break day per week. I had to cram a bit, and looking back, I would only change one thing – adding more breaks. Breaks give your brain time to recoup and process everything you have been learning. They also allow you to spend time with friends, and friends are important because they give you the support you need to take on such a huge task.

The Golden Standard: Examkrackers

 

 

Berkeley Review MCAT Study Guide

This is the Berkeley Review Set that I used. There are newer versions available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to do 3-5 verbal passages at the start of each day except break and FL days, as your MCAT test will start with verbal. Also, time your passages and review EVERY answer in both your BR/EK passages and your practice MCATs. Additionally, NEVER retake practice exams.

The recommended timing for each topic is as follows:
BR passages: 6-7 minutes per passage, aim at 6 minutes
EK 30-minute exams
EK 1001, except Bio series: 30 seconds to 1 minute per question
EK Verbal 101: 6-7 minutes per passage, aim at 6 minutes
EK Bio 1001: 6-7 minutes per passage, aim at 6 minutes and 30 seconds to a minute per discrete
AAMC FLs: Use their timing

Here is the 75-day schedule I used. Feel free to mold it to fit your style and preferences, but do push yourself. Take breaks as you need them, and do not try to cram all this into less than 2 months; you will burnout. If you have any questions or comments, just let me know in the comments section below! If your schedule looks different, with different materials and a longer time frame, that’s perfectly fine!

Schedule:
Day 1: BR Physics Chapter #1 + Every other passage of the corresponding passages for this chapter (e/o)
Day 2: BR Gen Chem Chapter #1 + e/o
Day 3: BR O-Chem Chapter #1 + e/o
Day 4: EK Biology Chapter #1 + e/o passage of the corresponding passages in the BR Bio book – you will have to match them up as best as you can.
Day 5: BR Physics Chapter #2 + e/o
Day 6: Re-read ALL of the previous chapters. Additionally, work through corresponding EK 1001 sections for the chapters you worked through. Also, only do every other problem/passage in the EK 1001s. Lastly, complete the in-class exam for EK Bio chapter 1. This day’s work will be abbreviated: “Re-read chapters + EK 1001 + EK Bio In-class exam”
Day 7: BR Gen Chem Chapter #2 + e/o
Day 8: BR O-Chem Chapter #2 + e/o
Day 9: EK Bio Chapter #2 + e/o
Day 10: BR Physics Chapter #3 + e/o
Day 11: BR Gen Chem Chapter #3 + e/o
Day 12: Re-read chapters + EK 1001 + EK Bio In-class exam
Day 13: BR O-Chem Chapter #3 + e/o
Day 14: EK Bio Chapter #3 + e/o
Day 15: BR Physics Chapter #4 + e/o
Day 16: BR Gen Chem Chapter #4 + e/o
Day 17: Break
Day 18: BR O-Chem Chapter #5 + e/o
Day 19: Re-read chapters + EK 1001 + EK Bio In-class exam
Day 20: EK Bio Chapter #4 + e/o
Day 21: BR Physics Chapter #5 + e/o
Day 22: BR Gen Chem Chapter #5 + e/o
Day 23: BR O-Chem Chapter #6 + e/o
Day 24: EK Bio Chapter #5 + e/o
Day 25: Re-read chapters + EK 1001 + EK Bio In-class exam
Day 26: BR Physics Chapter #6 + e/o
Day 27: BR Gen Chem Chapter #6 + e/o
Day 28: BR O-Chem Chapter #7 + e/o
Day 29: EK Bio Chapter #6 + e/o
Day 30: BR Physics Chapter #7 + e/o
Day 31: Re-read chapters + EK 1001 + EK Bio In-class exam
Day 32: BR Gen Chem Chapter #7 + e/o
Day 33: BR O-Chem Chapter #8 + e/o
Day 34: EK Bio Chapter #7 + e/o
Day 35: BR Physics Chapter #8 + e/o
Day 36: BR Gen Chem Chapter #8 + e/o
Day 37: Re-read chapters + EK 1001 + EK Bio In-class exam
Day 38: Break
Day 39: EK Bio Chapter #8 + e/o
Day 40: BR Physics Chapter #9 + e/o
Day 41: BR Gen Chem Chapter #9 + e/o
Day 42: EK Bio Chapter #9 + e/o
Day 43: BR Physics Chapter #10 + e/o
Day 44: BR Gen Chem Chapter #10 + e/o
Day 45: Re-read chapters + EK 1001 + EK Bio In-class exam
Day 46: Catch up! Review flashcards and formulas
Day 47: Break
Day 48: EK Bio Chapter #9 + e/o
Day 49: BR Gen Chem Chapter #10 + e/o
Day 50: Remaining questions (r/qs) in BR passages and 1001 Qs for Chapters 1
Day 51: Remaining questions (r/qs) in BR passages and 1001 Qs for Chapters 2
Day 52: AAMC FL #3
Day 53: Review full-length practice exam (FL) + r/qs Chapters 3
Day 54: Review FL + r/qs Chapters 4
Day 55: Break
Day 56: r/qs Chapters 5
Day 57: r/qs Chapters 6
Day 58: Break
Day 59: AAMC #4
Day 60: Review FL + r/qs Chapters 7
Day 61: Review FL + r/qs Chapters 8
Day 62: AAMC #5
Day 63: Review FL + r/qs Chapters 9
Day 64: Review FL + r/qs Chapters 10
Day 65: Break
Day 66: AAMC FL #6
Day 67: Review FL
Day 68: AAMC #7
Day 69: Review FL
Day 70: AAMC #8
Day 71: Review FL
Day 72: AAMC #9
Day 73: Review FL
Day 74: AAMC #10
Day 75: Review FL

Take a break for a few days.

Day 80: MCAT

Take it one step at a time and be confident. You can do it!
List of cited materials:

Examkrackers 10th Edition MCAT Complete Study Package (EXAMKRACKERS MCAT MANUALS)
Examkrackers 101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning
Examkrackers MCAT 101 Passages: Physics
Examkrackers MCAT 101 Passages: Biology 1 Molecules: Biochemistry
Examkrackers 101 Passages: Biology 2: Systems
Examkrackers 101 Passages: Psychology & Sociology
AAMC Full-Length (FL) Practice MCAT Exams (Exams 3-10)
Examkrackers MCAT Audio Osmosis
Princeton Review MCAT Subject Review Complete Box Set, 2nd Edition
Berkeley Review MCAT Home Study Material
NextStep CAR (Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills)

 

Other guides:

How to study for the MCAT
MCAT Study Guide (108 Tips and Strategies)

*This schedule was partly inspired by SN2ed, the creator of a 3 month MCAT plan.

Book Review: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese


I just finished reading Cutting For Stone, by Abraham Verghese, and it was fantastic! My mom actually read it and recommended it to me, but it turns out that as of March 13, 2011, Cutting for Stone ranks #2 on the New York Times trade paperback fiction list! My mom told me she has come to understand and admire me and my vocation by reading the book; it really shows the reader what a passionate, patient-focused physician thinks like and strives for.

Although it’s written as a fiction book, it’s based on a lot of autobiographical and historical information that is nonfiction. For instance, Dr. Verghese writes in the book how he grew up in Ethiopia with Indian parents and was greatly impacted by the political unrest in Ethiopia. That’s all true, and he uses many real, thrilling, and inspirational experiences in his book. He writes with such style; I was totally absorbed in his book! This novel is written in Marion Praise Stone’s voice as he narrates an impressive story of his birth along with that of his twin brother, of life growing up in the shadow of a missionary hospital in Ethiopia, of gradually increasing political turmoil in the country, and ultimately the life of an migrant American physician.

I don’t want to give away too much, but this novel really gave me a peak into what it might be like as an outsider, a foreigner to the field of medicine in a different country. Cutting for Stone deals with both the personal and professional aspects of Marion’s life; it gives the reader a good idea of what studying and/or actively working physicians deal with as crises arise both in one’s family and workplace. It exposes everyday hospital life to the reader as well as gets into the personal mind of a physician, something very unlikely to accomplish by simply shadowing physicians.

Life is an interesting journey and a breath-taking adventure for those who pursue their dream in the medical profession, and Cutting for Stone does an excellent job of encapsulating that in a page-turning way. This is an excellent read to prepare one for medical school! You can get an inexpensive copy of Cutting for Stone on Amazon.