Last Summer

Theresa here! Before I start this post, I just want to say CONGRATS to anyone reading this who started (or will start) med/pharm/dental/nursing/PA/etc. school this year! Good luck on your first year of what I am sure is going to be a wild and exciting journey! 

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If you’re considering going to medical school, but haven’t heard the phrase “Last Summer”, it’s probably about time you put it on the list of “Things Medical Students Won’t Stop Talking About” right next to Step 1 and how unfair the last exam was. For those of you who don’t know, “Last Summer” is the slightly inauspicious term for the more disheartening reality that the time between 1st and 2nd year of med school will literally be your last “free” summer. After 2nd year, you get thrown right into 3rd year, almost without getting a chance to take a breath from the drowning that is studying for a taking Step 1. Sayonara to your summers until you retire from being a doctor!

OK. I’m realizing that this post is kinda on the grim side, so I’ll try and lighten up a bit. (Might be because I just took an exam on GI pathology, but who knows…)

 Puppies are always a good cure for post-exam blues, right?

Even though during your “Last Summer”you technically don’t have to do anything, there’s a unwritten rule that you still should be doing something. Why you may ask? The answer to most reasons why you do anything in med school: landing a residency. When applying, residency programs will often look at what you did during your first and second years, especially in highly competitive programs/specialties like optho or ENT. Likewise, certain programs value some “summer activities” higher than others (e.g. academic residency programs LOVE research). But this doesn’t mean that you must do research if you want to get into a competitive program. Although “Last Summer” activities are important, residencies weigh Step 1, class grades and letters of recommendation much higher. Plus, med school is a long four years — there’s plenty of time to squeeze in some research for those top tier programs if you manage your time well. In any event, there are SO MANY different things you can do in those precious few months between first and second year, so here’s a quick and dirty list of some of the things me and my classmates did this summer!

  1. Research. I’ll get this one out of the way now. Probably by far the most popular “Last Summer” thing to do. Most students either do clinical or basic science (“bench”) research. If you’re looking to get a publication/paper out of a project, clinical research is probably the easiest and best way to go. Bench research is notorious for being “slow” in the sense that experiments can take awhile to complete and the data needed to be gathered can be large. So unless you jump on a project right before they decide to submit a paper, it’s unlikely that a couple of months doing bench research will award you a first-author paper. However, having a background in basic science research is a invaluable skill, especially if you go on to do clinical research later. Another plus for research is that there are quite a few programs that offer stipends so you won’t have to eat Ramen every day trying to save money until your loans come in at the beginning of second year. I ended up doing a research program through my school called the “Student Summer Research Program” (I know, super creative title, right?) in which I conducted molecular biology research in a basic science lab. Going through the program was wonderful since we were able to present posters and submit an abstract at the end of the summer (it’s not a paper in Nature, but hey, I got my name on something!). I was also lucky enough to work with a great group of lab mates which made being in the lab (almost) every day of my last summer worthwhile!
  2. Travel. Probably the second most common thing to do. A lot of kids in my class did some kind of medical mission trip to an under-served country and also used the time as a vacation too (the affectionate term being “volun-tourism”). It’s for sure a great way to do some community service, practice your rudimentary medical skills and learn about a different culture at the same time. It can get a bit pricey though, especially depending on what country you want to go to. However, always check with your school to see if they offer scholarships or grants for students who wish to volunteer over the summer. The alumni association at my school would give students anywhere from $500-$1000 to fund their trip. It might not be much, but it’s at least a plane ticket. But traveling for the entire summer to go on a mission trip is not the only travel you can (or should) do! If you take anything away from this post, please hear this: take time to go somewhere while you still can. This is your time you’ll have so much free time. It doesn’t have to be as big as going transcontinental. Take a few days and do a small road trip. Set aside a week at some point and just go.
  3. Shadowing. Many students, especially those who don’t have any idea what specialty they want to go into, will use the summer to explore the medical field a bit more and spend more time with patients. If you can set it up and have good connections, it can be easy to shadow a doc for a couple months. Sometimes, you can technically work for the doctor’s practice and get a stipend or some form of compensation for spending time there!
  4. Tutoring/Teaching. Many schools have summer academic programs for undergraduates or high school kids in their community where med students can sign up to teach classes, most likely science. It’s a great way to stay sharp with a lot of the knowledge you learned during first year, plus it’s hard to find something more rewarding than teaching kids, especially if you can encourage them to pursue a career in medicine! Again, if you find yourself a tutoring program, most will have a form of compensation and/or housing stipend to get you through the summer. You can also tutor for companies, such as Kaplan, in which you can help kids with the MCAT or SAT.
  5. Working. Sometimes you just want to make a few bucks to save up for second year expenses. You don’t even have to have a job in the medical field. Just showing that you’re out and doing something is still better than nothing!

I don’t want to make this post too long, so I’ll end it here with what I think are the top 5 “Last Summer” activities. If you’re just starting med school, don’t worry about this for another couple months and try and focus on getting yourself settled in med school. One thing you MUST do during your last summer is take time for yourself. It takes a lot to get through year 1 and year 2 won’t be any less stressful, so take time to RELAX. Visit friends, go hiking, sit at home and binge-watch Stranger Things (which I totally recommend, btw). It’s your time to do whatever you want, so you do you during you last summer for a very looooooooong time.

Until next time!

❤ Theresa

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Pharmacy School Applicant Do’s and Dont’s

Howdy everyone!

Just a few short days ago, PharmCAS released the 2016-2017 Pharmacy School Application! I remember filling out that same application 2 whole years ago, but wow, it feels like the time since then has flown by.

The application itself is long and intimidating, and it’s a school’s first “glance” at who you are. This application and all the information you put on it will be the reason a school extends an invitation to interview, or not. For me, it was practically the most important application I’ve ever filled out in my life, and I wanted to make sure that I made the best impression I possibly could via a series of electronic forms. I wanted to compile a small list of application “Do’s” and “Dont’s” for all the pharmacy school applicants this year and in the future. I’m hoping that this can help someone to get through that vicious application, and score an interview at their dream school!

Don’t leave anything off of your application.

When filling out the “resume” portion of the application, feel free to be yourself here. Are you a member of the local dodgeball team? Put it down. Do you spend time learning how to tap dance? Put it. Do you volunteer at the community’s Little League concession stand? Put it!! None of your accomplishments or extracurricular activities are insignificant. Anything goes here, just as long as it is something you legitimately do. Don’t make anything up here just to make yourself sound interesting. But, I do encourage you to share interesting hobbies and activities here . It makes you a more interesting applicant to the Admissions’ Committee, and it also gives proof that you are as well-rounded of an applicant as they are looking for.

Do think hard about submitting your application as an “Early Decision”.

Early Decision is a serious matter. There might be that dream school out there that you are applying to, and you tell yourself that you will absolutely accept their offer of admission if they choose to give it to you. That is a fine choice for some people, if they are dead set on attending a particular school. I advise you not to cut off all other options, though. If you don’t get selected as an Early Admit for your dream school, you need to have back up options. You are only allowed to pick one school as an Early Decision. You don’t even have to choose an Early Decision school if you don’t want to. Pharmacy school admissions is competitive, and you need to make sure all of your bases are covered. Also worthy of mentioning is, if you do apply for Early Admit, and the school offers you admission, you are bound to attend that school. There is no changing your mind at this point in the game. If, for whatever reason, you apply for Early Decision, the school offers you admission, and you decline it, you are not allowed to apply for any other Pharm D. programs during the current admission cycle – you must wait again until the next year. Take this decision seriously.

Don’t wait until a school’s deadline to submit your full application.

As a matter of fact, try to submit your materials as soon as possible. Sometimes, it takes a while for your transcripts to be processed by PharmCAS. It also may take a while for your references to submit their letters of recommendation. Plus, the earlier you submit your application, the faster you will receive offers to interview.

Do realize that most schools only give you 2 weeks to accept their offer.

After you attend a school’s interview, the waiting begins. It could take anywhere between 1 day to 1 month to hear back from the school. In any case, the majority of schools will only give you a 2 week time frame, starting from the day they accept you, to accept their offer. This can obviously be a huge problem. You may still have a ton of interviews lined up that you haven’t been to yet once you receive an offer of admission. You may feel slightly anxious that no other schools that you interview at will accept you, and that you might as well accept the school that has. Make the best decision you possibly can. If you feel confident enough to keep going, I advise that you do that. You don’t want to accept an offer of admission to a school that your heart isn’t set on. You won’t end up happy with that decision. I turned down schools left and right after they admitted me, mostly because they weren’t good fits for me regardless, but I’m glad I waited for the right place to come along.

Good luck to all of the pharmacy school applicants this year! I know you will do well!

:)Lauren

 

 

 

Common Pharmacy Myths – Debunked

The Princesses of Professional School Blog (1)

Hi all!

Today, I wanted to write about some of the most common pharmacy-related myths that I’ve heard. With some of these myths, you may already know the truth, but for others, maybe you might learn something new!

“All a pharmacist does is count pills all day.”

False, false, false, and more false. You may often only see a pharmacist counting pills day in and day out, but that is certainly not the extent of their daily duties. Especially now. Health care is changing at a very rapid rate, and the pharmacists’ role is changing and expanding with it. Pharmacists today must receive prescriptions over the phone from the doctor, verify every single prescription after it is filled before it is handed off to the patient, spend hours each day on the phone with various insurance companies, counsel patients on new medications, offer over-the-counter recommendations for patients who seek their help, give immunizations, preform blood pressure checks and other various physical assessments, and on top of all that, do anything and everything else that the other pharmacy staff is not able to do.

 “Brand name medications work better than their generic form.”

Actually, generic medications work just as well as the brand name ones do. Some medications do not have a generic form, and therefore, the brand name must be dispensed. Some patients request the brand name medication, even if there is a cheaper, generic form available. This is due to a variety of reasons, but largely due to the misconception that brand name drugs provide a better response. Before a generic drug is even allowed to appear on the market, the FDA must prove that the medication is identical in chemical identity, strength, quality, potency, and purity to the brand name counterpart. I have heard the complaint that some generic drugs produce some unwanted side effects, while the brand name doesn’t. This is not due in part to anything about the active drug – this could have something to do with one of the inactive drug components or fillers present in the medication.

“Vitamins and other natural supplements are safe to take.”

The majority of the products in the vitamin and supplement aisle are actually not approved by the FDA, nor do they have to be. Some brands of products opt to participate in a voluntary quality assurance program by the USP (United States Pharmacopeia), where the supplements undergo very rigorous testing standards. Brands that do participate in this program are NatureMade, Kirkland Signature (Costco brand), TruNature, and others. With this verification, the USP has concluded that the product inside the bottle is what the label says it is – the correct amount of supplement in each tablet or capsule and has been manufactured under safe and sanitary conditions. Look for the USP verified mark on the bottle, which looks like THIS.

It is also important to mention that vitamins and supplements have the potential to interact with the prescription medications that you take. It is important to inform your doctor or pharmacist of the natural products that you regularly take, in order to prevent any harmful effects.

“It’s okay to share my prescription medication with a loved one if they have the same condition or symptoms as I do.”

This is never okay. Doctors prescribe specific medications at specific strengths, personalized for your specific condition or illness. Although someone may have the same symptoms as you do – you may even have 100% certainty that you know what ails them – giving them a prescription medication that was meant for you may have a negative impact on them. The other person may have a medication allergy that you don’t know about. They may be taking a medication or supplement that has a serious interaction with the drug you are offering to share with them. So, just don’t give someone else your prescriptions. It can do more harm than good.

“I don’t feel any different when I take my medication, therefore it’s not important for me to take it every day.”

Surprisingly, this is something that patients often say. Not all medications will make you feel differently, but that does not mean that they are not working. Always take your medication as instructed, unless your doctor tells you otherwise. For example, it is important to always take your blood pressure or cholesterol medication so that those conditions do not get any worse – but you more than likely will not notice any changes in the way you feel while taking them.

“The bathroom cabinet is the safest place for my medication to be stored.”

We’ve all seen the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. We think this is the safest place to keep medications away from small children or pets. We think this is the most convenient place to store them, because it’s easier to remember to take them when they are in the room where we begin and end our days. In reality, the bathroom storage cabinet may not be safe at all. Hot steam from the shower can actually decrease your medication’s efficacy, meaning they may not work the way they are supposed to if they are not kept in the correct temperature conditions. Instead, keep medication in a kitchen pantry or cabinet, or maybe on a night table.

“Taking birth control pills and antibiotics together will reduce the birth control’s efficacy.”

Common misconception. There is only one antibiotic that renders the pill to be less effective, and this is rifampin.

“Everyone who works in a pharmacy is qualified to answer my questions.”

There are many different employees that work behind a pharmacy counter – pharmacy interns who are in pharmacy school, pharmacy technicians who have completed a certification program to work in a pharmacy, and of course the pharmacist. I would advise against asking just anyone behind the pharmacy counter about your medication questions. The most trusted source is the pharmacist, for all questions. I have personally seen some pharmacy technicians trying to answer questions way out of their realm of knowledge, and sending patients away with false information and wrong recommendations. This is not to say that all pharmacy technicians don’t know what they are talking about – this isn’t true at all. Just be wary of who you are getting information from, and if you need further information or clarification, don’t hesitate to ask the pharmacist. It is your health, or your loved one’s health we are talking about here!

Thanks for reading! I hope I was able to pass some useful information along to our readers!

Until next time,

:)Lauren

 

Professional Fraternities – Do I Join?

Hi everyone!

Today, I wanted to touch on the subject of professional fraternities and what they’re all about. I was presented with the opportunity to join a professional pharmaceutical fraternity in my second semester of my P1 year. It actually was a real challenge for me, deciding on whether I should pledge one of our fraternities or not. I wanted the friends, I wanted the networking opportunities, and I wanted the chance to make a difference in the fraternity’s chosen philanthropy. On the negative side, I didn’t know what pledging actually entailed, I didn’t want a boatload of extra work, I didn’t want my bid to be rejected for my chosen fraternity, and I certainly didn’t want to be hazed. What was a girl to do?! All of these decisions and all this stress on top of everything else I had going on with school…

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Long story short, I did end up pledging a fraternity, and became a full fledged member before the semester was over. The honest truth? The meetings and the extra work were definitely time consuming, some of the pledging requirements were difficult to complete, it was expensive, and of course the process start to finish was filled with anxiety-ridden moments that I can’t even share with you due to the nature of the fraternity.

All in all, though, pledging a professional fraternity is a good idea in my opinion.

If you are wondering if this is the right extracurricular to get involved in, I encourage you to think about a few things – Does the fraternity have a philanthropy that you care about? Do you have the money to pledge right now? Do you plan on being active for the following years of schooling or was this just a temporary venture to put on your CV? Are the people in the fraternity people you don’t mind spending a lot of time around? Will you take advantage of everything that the fraternity has to offer, such as regional conferences, volunteering events, leadership workshops, and career networking opportunities?

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When deciding between fraternities, or just deciding to pledge a fraternity in general, think about those things. Once you pledge one fraternity, you can’t pledge another professional one. Take the decision seriously. Do your research before you make any big decisions. Take the time to talk to fraternity members to get a feel of what the culture is like once you make it in. You don’t want to devote all of your time, money, and efforts getting into a fraternity, and finding out it’s not what you expected or wanted it to be. This is not only a chance to make new friends, it is also a chance to grow professionally.

Till next time,

:)Lauren

 

 

May: American Stroke Month

Someone in the US has a stroke about once every 40 seconds.

– American Heart Association

Strokes. One of the most devastating, yet mystifying conditions out there. With strokes being so common, it’s shocking how little concrete information we have on its causes, its treatment, and its prevention.  Although we know more about strokes than ever, there is still a lot to learn.

May is American Stroke Month. Being in pharmacy school, you learn about strokes all the time. But, seeing it affect someone you love opens your eyes to the hurt it brings the victim and their families. Some strokes have no identifiable cause. We find that more young people than ever are falling victim to this condition. Some strokes cause simply cause memory loss, while others cause life-long disabilities or even death.

Strokes can affect anyone, anywhere. The American Heart Association has done a great job providing statistics and educational information online. The sad thing is, we probably don’t frequent their website, unless it’s too late.

If I can pass any bit of information on to you that is worth remembering, it is the F.A.S.T. acronym of stroke symptoms.

F-Facial Drooping

A-Arm Weakness

S-Slurred Speech

T-Take Action, Call 911

Other symptoms of stroke include a severe headache, sudden confusion or vision problems, trouble with walking or balance, and one sided weakness or numbness.

Time is everything when it comes to strokes. If you suspect you or a loved one are experiencing the symptoms of a stroke, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. The faster you are able to receive medical care, the more likely your symptoms are to be less debilitating.

Click HERE to read more about the different kinds of stroke, prevention strategies, and support for life after a stroke.

Thanks for reading!

:)Lauren

For all the Indecisive Students out there…

There are two types of regrets in this world: things that you do and things that you don’t do. The best way to live life is to only regret the things you’ve done.“– an obviously very exhausted Radiation Oncology physician who wanted to say something profound to a room full of 1st year med students

Hey guys, Theresa here! It’s been awhile, I know, but I thought I’d blog about something that’s been on my mind a lot lately: choosing a specialty. I think this topic isn’t just something that medical students have to deal with, but literally everyone has the dilemma of deciding on a career. It’s a lot of pressure to choose something that you’ll end up doing for the rest of your life.

You’d think that going into professional school, you basically know what you want to do for the rest of your life. And truth be told, some do. When I started medical school less than a year ago, I was 100% sure that I wanted to become an orthopedic surgeon. That didn’t last long, however. As the year has gone on and I’ve had more exposure to other specialties, I can say that I do not know what specialty I’ll apply for in my 4th year. Honestly, I feel like it was easier to decide to become a physician than figure out which kind of physician I want to be.

Deciding on a specialty would be much easier if Ryan Gosling was pressuring you into choosing.

At the same time, as a rising second year, it’s still early enough in my medical education that it’s fine that I haven’t chosen my specialty yet. In fact, many of upperclassmen and residents I have talked to did not make a decision until the end of their first year after they had rotated through the different clerkships and taken some elective rotations. This makes the most sense — deciding only when you have had real exposure to the different specialties out there. And trust me, they are all completely different! I mean, would you want your dermatologist fixing a valve in your heart? Probably not. But both of these specialists all took the same classes in medical school, yet their respective careers and lifestyles are vastly different.

This all being said, there still is a lot of pressure to choose your specialty early, especially if you want to go into some of the more competitive ones like ENT or ophthalmology. Applicants are for these residencies are so competitive that students even remotely interested are encouraged to engage in research and shadowing as early as possible (like 1st year early) in order to have a fighting change of matching.

One of the great things that my school provides for us indecisive students is a program called Careers in Medicine (CiM). The directors of CiM put together programs like “Residency Speed Dating” in addition to specialists panels that correspond to the organ system block we are studying at the moment (for example, for our pulmonary block, the panel consisted of pulmonolgists, critical care internists, anesthesiologists and thoracic surgeons). These programs are wonderful because the physicians don’t try to sugar-coat anything. They will tell you the absolute worst things about their field. Sometimes it can seem harsh to hear things like a doc chose emergency medicine so that he wouldn’t have to deal with a patient for a long time, but it’s something that we need to know as medical students trying to figure out what is best for us and will make us the happiest in the long run. You want to choose a specialty that fits your interest as well as your personality and lifestyle.

I’ll end with this: it’s okay not knowing what you want to do. Go out and explore different things and don’t settle for anything less than what’s best for you. As a physician once said to me, “If you can imagine doing the worst part of your job everyday for a week straight, then that’s the right job for you.”

That’s all for now guys! I’ll probably be MIA for a little bit since I have T-minus 25 days left of school with two quizzes, two tests, an OSCE and a shelf exam all crammed in there. But when I’m all finished up, I’ll post a recap of my first year along with what I’m doing with my “Last Summer” as well as what’s ahead for year two. Until then, thanks for reading!

❤ Theresa

What They Don’t Tell You About Pharmacy School: Semester 2

Howdy guys!

I can’t believe it, but I actually made it (almost!) through my first year of pharmacy school! I only have 4 more finals this week and then I can officially say that I am a P2!

So, on to the good stuff –what are some things to expect while in your second semester of pharmacy school?

  1. You start to come to the realization that there are more facets to pharmacy than just your usual retail setting. We were exposed to the world of personalized medicine/pharmacogenomics, job opportunities in specialty pharmacy, the art of modern compounding, and the very sterile world of IV/infusion pharmaceuticals.
  2. Prepare to have your blood pressure taken by your classmates an unhealthy amount of times. I’ve had my blood pressure taken approximately 1.2 million times this past year, and I am confident in saying that some of my classmates still need to learn how to do it. My limp arm can’t stand to be the guinea pig any longer.
  3. The alarming amount of paranoia you begin to feel after taking pathophysiology courses. After every lesson, no matter what it’s concerning, you start to feel as if you immediately are having symptoms of whatever disease state you just learned about. We learned about pulmonary embolisms one day, and accordingly, I started having unsettling pains while I was breathing (turns out it was probably just a panic attack…or really bad acid reflux). You learn about intestinal parasites, and all of a sudden you can’t stop itching all night and have severe diarrhea for the duration of the lessons. You see my point.
  4. Not only did I get to compound my first capsule and mix my own cream, I also got to make my own natural remedy for insect bites. Ah, the wonders of natural medicine!
  5. Suddenly, you realize that pharmacy school isn’t as hard as it was when you first started. You start to remember more things. Old lessons from last semester are coming back to haunt you … I mean, coming back in greater detail so you can build on your knowledge. You actually start to learn about how medicines work. You are actually starting to learn what you came here to do!

Stay strong! If I can make it, so can you!

:)Lauren