Removing the dust that settled a month ago

Hello everybody! It has been almost what, a month since I’ve updated this blog. This month definitely felt a lot longer, and I’m sure the dust that accumulates in this blog is almost a year’s worth. Regardless, this one month has been a hell of a ride for me in my journey as a student and an applicant for my Medicine studies!

Previously, I was shortlisted for Southampton’s Medicine and Birmingham’s Medicine and I was jumping around in joy! Finally, 2 opportunities for me to showcase my passions and qualities that I have to become a doctor!

However, those firmed dates that fell on my Anatomy and Physiology II Common Assessment worth 40% of my grades (Birmingham’s interview) and one week worth of school (Southampton’s interview) meant that I would need to make decisions. To make the right choice and find a balance between skipping school (without affecting my grades) and grabbing onto those opportunities.

With my end goal of Medicine in mind, I applied for leave from the school and seek approval. Approval was tough to get because I had to go through a few rounds of consultation with my module coordinators as well as the school’s curriculum professor for discussion. Thankfully, the leave was approved. But, the 40% worth of grades for my Anatomy’s exam would be awarded a nice fat zero.

Nonetheless, I went for Birmingham’s interview.

Prior that, I had bought air tickets over to the UK (for Southampton) and paid for my accommodation as well. It wasn’t until a few days later that Queen Belfast sent me a shortlisting email. Since the interview for Queen’s is located in Singapore, and that I will not be missing important lessons (which are tied to several consequences), I decided to cancel my flight to the UK. I know, silly me, maybe that was not a good decision, or maybe it was. Whoever that took over my slot for Southampton, I sincerely hope you would get it! 

Belfast’s interview came first and it was an MMI format. First station definitely gave me the confident boost I needed. However, when I was at the 2nd station, I felt completely trashed. By the time I was at my third (and last station), I felt terrible. As I was looking at the theme of station’s 3 question, I was elated! I knew I could slay the last station and make up for the loss I faced in station 2. Guess what?

Station 3 completely slew me. I ended up stumbling my words and thought process, which cost me my “average” grading to a “below average” for one of the marking component. Sigh. This interview definitely made me reconsider a lot of factors and boy was I glad that I went through Belfast interview. Without this, I would not have developed the resolution to further train and prepare myself for Birmingham’s interview.

2 weeks later, on my time slot for my Birmingham’s interview, I was hoping that standardized questions such as “Why do you want to study medicine” and all did not become the main heading for the interview. When I was escorted into the preparation room, two sheets of case study greeted me.

I WAS SO DAMN THANKFUL THAT THEY WERE CASE STUDIES, AND THEY DEFINITELY HELPED ME TO PREPARE MY ANSWERS A LOT MORE, AND BETTER.

By the end of the interview, excitement was filling in quickly than quicksand swallowing a struggling animal. I hopped my way back to my rented apartment, cheering myself and letting that excitement and sense of fulfillment pour out.

33.gif

Subconsciously, I knew I did well.

Less than a month later…

LOA.JPG

OH MY GOD! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!

22.gif

I DID IT! Finally, my first offer to study Medicine!

Currently, I am still waiting for the school to send in their official offer via snail mail as well as UCAS. Hopefully, I should be hearing back from them soon!

Good news aside, this is also the crucial period for NUS Medicine. Their interviews are held on the 30, 31st March and the first week of April. However, even up to today, I have not heard back from the school.

Despite my friends trying to help me, or my writing in to the Prime Minister’s Office, I heard nothing. I really do hope I can hear back from the school soon! 3 years of rejection definitely has not made things any easier.

Otherwise, I might spend one whole day crying for the loss of this wonderful opportunity to study in NUS Medicine. Nonetheless, Birmingham is one school that I really really want to go! Still, so long as the official letter does not reach me, there is a chance that my application might not turn out to be as expected.

Still keeping my hopes up! Otherwise, I am going to spam the school with my questions should my acceptance for Birmingham doesn’t reach me. *cross fingers*

Throughout this one month, what I have really learned when it comes to Medicine interview is that:

  • Always prepare yourself for the interviews (Be it standardized questions or thinking questions).
  • Reaching early and giving yourself 5 minutes to calm down and be confident.
  • Talk to the other candidates or staff if possible, it helps to relax you down and be more confident when you are tackling the questions posed.
  • Always THINK through what you wanted to say. I remembered blurting out “why is this question being asked” instead of “can I ask what is the rationale being this question”. I guess I got kind of marked down for that.
  • Subconsciously, our minds know how we fare. Generally, the feeling you experience post-interview tells you about your performance. (I am not sure how true is this, but for me, I guess that’s true).

These are pretty cliche tips, but are very useful! For those who have been through interviews and have more tips to share, feel free to comment them here!

Moving away from my interviews and medicine status, school has been hectic for me since I came back. Examinations take place week after week (and I have one more skill assessment to go this coming Friday) and every day is like a study day.

Regardless, I felt that I had done well for my Pathophysiology and Pharmacology module and I did (Grade: A)! But today’s skill assessment was horrendous.

I was supposed to interview and conduct a physical assessment on my standardized patient with burning abdominal pain. For those who have the prior knowledge, the first thing you would be more likely to suspect is gastric related (because burning sensation tends to link with gastric juice problems). Instead, such an important clue got thrown to the depths of the Forgotten abyss in my mind and I started performing examinations related to intestinal obstruction or infection of the GI system. Oh god. Why.

33.gif

Worse still, I was made known that the patient had not been eating and that could be an obvious cause of his gastric pain. A link so obvious that I was oblivious to. 

Also, I have been so task oriented that I left out the feelings of my patient. Oh well.

I guess this is a good learning opportunity that I should keep in mind. Always engage with the patients and use my brain properly (and not missed out on any important clues).

With one more skill assessment to go this Friday, I hope whatever I have learned from today will be brought into great use.

With that, I shall end my update here and start indulging myself in the new books that I’ve bought on impulse from the cheap book sales! Otherwise, the number of new books would pile up into a Mountain taller than Everest (just kidding).

Hopefully, I would be able to hear good news from myself on Friday, as well as from NUS (soon) and receive my official letter from Birmingham too!

 

First day in school!

Exactly a week before school officially starts, I was able to log in into one of the NUS’s learning educational portal where our modules were listed. In the sub-content of the modules, our tutorial grouping was displayed. A click on the number ‘2’ brings out a window of a list of the students in the group. I did not take much notice of the names until several days later.

A few days before school starts, I decided to take the initiative to email my new tutorial group mates and set up a Whatsapp chat. Slowly, as the other members started replying, our group grew larger. Of course, trying to know them and then getting to school together is part and parcel of why I set the group up. I tried to initiate the introductory phase by introducing myself. The response was traumatizingly forlorn. None of them introduced themselves – substantiating reasons with the pretext of being busy – until one of them replied at night. C rekindled the introduction and soon after, the others followed suit. Honestly, I felt like a sore baby back then. But C’s response gave me so much happiness and took away the resentment I had built over within the short span of time.

Our tutorial group was not too big, 15 people in the team. Among the 15 of us, K and I were the only guys. Despite that, I clicked pretty well with most students and surprisingly, I found a handful of students who were interested in switching over to Medicine, or have the thought crossed their minds before. At least I know there are people like me, with similar goals. That became a common ground and enabled us to forge a bond different than the rest.

Day 1 of school and I met quite a few fellas from my groups, but even up till today, I still have not met at least 3 of them.

Day 2 of school was when we had a lecture, or rather a history, about Silent Mentors (i.e. the cadavers). That lecture was interesting as it gave us insights to how important cadavers were and why we should respect them. We also learnt about problems faced previously due to increased difficulties with getting them. Throughout that lecture, besides paying attention, I felt that I was in the wrong class. I was not supposed to be in the Nursing class, rather, the Medicine class.

This session made my determination grew even stronger – to get to medical school.

Just like how Digoxin has a very narrow therapeutic index, or how the nuance difference in the x-axis of an exponential graph can have a tremendous increase on the y-axis, my determination for Medicine basically exploded past my threshold when I stepped foot into the anatomy lab.

The first thing I saw were 12 bagged up bodies on the cold metal trays, arranged in a 6 by 2 setting, in the middle of the anatomy lab! I was so excited! What I saw next made me even more enthusiastic! There were plenty of anatomical specimens in transparent tanks around the lab with different partially/degree of dissection to showcase the different anatomical regions! Can you imagine how hard I have to restrain the excitement before it spews all over me?

Sadly, I had limited time to admire the specimens for most of the class were waiting for us to do the pledge taking. After the oath taking ceremony, part of the tradition to show respect and be thankful for our silent mentor’s contribution, I stayed back and let my eyes ogle.

Anyway, before the pledge taking, a group of 12-14 students stood around the anatomical table with the body still in the bag, waiting for further instructions. When the professor told us to unzip the bag and open it, I saw everybody from the table jumping back. Shocked? Definitely, I did not expect them to stifle at the sight of our silent mentor. Nonetheless, my enthusiasm got the better of me and I unzipped the bag, revealing the cadaver that was lying inside.

The cadaver has its skin and fats removed, so what we saw were the muscles. When we were told to placed our gloved left hand on the cadaver, you can see most student placing their fingers on part of the cadaver. The sight was pretty funny, considering that they were pretty timid. I cannot blame them, neither should I make judgements about it. Throughout the oath taking ceremony as well as the periods where the body was exposed to the air, I looked through the features – the arteries, nerves, cuts on the sternum and anything my eyes could feast on. From that short session, I learnt quite a bit of anatomy, or rather, recapped the different features I knew from the back of my head.

Following that session, I bonded with even more of my tutorial mates over lunch before we proceeded for more lectures.

Generally, my friends are really nice people and I appreciate their presence! I think if I were to leave the course now for Medicine, I would be hugging them and crying. However, over the days, I realised how badly I still want to be in Medicine. From the course notes supplied online, they do provide a good platform, especially the communication skills modules, on how to approach patients. But, there is a lot of limitation in which nurses play a role in the decision making of patients – something which I really want to do (which doctors have a higher responsibility for).

I guess at this juncture, I have to ace this semester first, apply for transfer, get shortlisted for UK Medical schools and prolly fly off next year to the UK, or hope to YLLSoM for MBBS.

Whichever the case is, I hope I make the right choices if University of Tasmania decided to give me an offer to study Medicine next year February.

Medicine at this Juncture

12636940_10205096780852499_112585039_o.jpg

The photo above shows where I am currently, as depicted on the left, and where I would want to be, on the right side of the cliff. The only obstacle segregating me and my career is getting into Medicine.

Before I plunge straight into the endless abyss standing between my career and me, I have several layers of safety net. The first being my Newcastle’s Medicine at Malaysia.

Currently, I am still falling into the abyss, waiting to hit the first trampoline net that will send me to the other side of the cliff. Regardless of the outcome, the first test for my trampoline is on its way.

Whether the first trampoline will give way or not depends on two factors. My housemanship placing, and the recognition of the certificate.

According to the acceptance letter, this certificate would be accepted and recognized in Singapore because I would receive the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery from Newcastle University upon Tyne, UK.

Calllpture.JPG

Still, I needed further reassurances and have dropped the Singapore Medical Council’s Senior Member of the Statutory Board in charge of Accreditation for assistance. Hopefully, my email is able to wriggle its way towards his knowledge. Otherwise, I would need to drop other board members an email.

Secondly, my housemanship placement is crucial if I would want to work in Singapore. With regards to this, I had dropped multiple emails to the various government hospitals, seeking permission for a housemanship placing following my 5-year studies.

Should any of these factors fail, I would be plunging in deeper into the second layer of elastic trampoline.

The second layer is pretty straightforward, and this is the easiest of all in terms of administrations. However, another dilemma I face is if I can attend the interviews should I be called up for one.

The trend for the previous years has shown interviews to be conducted in the last few weeks of April. However, if my intelligence course in Taiwan overlaps into the last two weeks, I would not be able to attend the interview – risking my second trampoline’s success.

There are several alternatives and the best I can hope for is to receive an interview offer, propose to go for a later date, and knowing that my intelligence course in Taiwan will be pushed forward. Otherwise, the worst case scenario will be to fork out my own money to pay for my flight back to Singapore, and attend the interviews.

In summary, my success factors for 2nd safety net are as follows:

  • Early notification of being shortlisted for interviews
  • Dates for intelligence course pushed forward by a week
  • Dates for interviews falls at the last week of April
  • Sufficient time prior interviews to prepare

If this fails, I still have a second mechanism in my second safety net to save me – to sign on in the army as a Medical Officer.

Noticed that my third layer is the iSAT schools? After giving it a thought, I decided to go for UMAT schools instead. I agree iSAT test is a lot easier than UMAT. However, the iSAT resources are rather limited. And do not be foolish like me to pay AUS16 for their trial papers consisting of only 45 questions without explanations.

Unlike the iSAT, UMAT has plenty of resources I could tap into to help me ace the UMAT. Besides, there are several good videos to help you dissect the non-verbal reasoning parts.

If undergraduate medicine schools fail me, then I would be left with no choice but to work hard for graduate medical schools. Duke-NUS is one school I can look forward to, and it is the only local graduate school. Still, there is the inevitable MCAT I need to sit in order to secure the placing. At the same time, I could use my MCAT for the graduate overseas schools in Australia.

Should all levels of safety fails, I guess that would mean me plunging into death. Not literally, but it holds true for my Medicine dream.

If my Medicine dream gets crushed, I really really have no idea what I would want to do in life anymore.

-Sigh-