MCAT update

I’m happy to announce that MCAT studying is going well. So well in fact that I have decided to reschedule the exam from January 10th to October 25th (which was my original exam date, ha!).
I am managing to get in some good studying during the kids’ nap times and some evenings. I have reviewed all the material and am now focusing on practice questions. I am still finding verbal reasoning a challenge but I have a practice book with 14 full length verbal tests so I am aiming to do 3 or 4 verbal tests a week before the actual exam. I will also do some full length practice MCAT exams. I will likely have to do these as soon as the kids are in bed (and stay up till midnight or so) as the baby is not quite at the stage of going that long without breast milk (except at night). Speaking of which, I will have to start stocking up on freezer supplies of breast milk for hubby to feed the baby when I’m actually sitting the exam. At least she has a great appetite for solids so I’m not too worried about this.
So…I’m pumped! I’m motivated!! I’m ready to ace this exam!!

Slowing Down

Today I was reminded of the beauty of slowing things way down and just enjoying the little things. I woke up and decided that I was going to get better at living a less harried life and just taking things one day at a time. Aside from the critical things in life that need some form of planning, it would be nice to live each day as if there was no tomorrow. I think we would enjoy each day so much more, even with life’s challenges. The bible says that we need not worry about tomorrow and that if God can take care of the birds, how much more so will he take care of us. So even though today consisted of our son throwing up for most of the day, our baby resisting her morning nap, and a poop explosion that ended up all over baby and mummy, I decided not to get frazzled about it. And I chose not to be anxious that I couldn’t be studying for the MCAT, since my kids needed me most of the day. I decided instead to focus on the simple, special moments, like my son’s amazement at a beautiful spider navigating its web, “Wow! Look! God made it!” he shouted. Or my daughter trying to crawl across the living room floor on her bum, with a sense of accomplishment. Or simply the glistening smiles that radiate from both kids when mummy or daddy walk into the room, never mind that they have seen us just 5 minutes before. Each day is meaningful in some way. As my studies for the MCAT get into full swing, I will simply do my best and remind myself that gaining acceptance to med school will not make me or break me. I have so much to be grateful for already. Getting into medical school would just be an added blessing to my already very blessed life.

 

Mercy and Grace

This week, I have been reminded about the concepts of mercy and grace. For instance, my husband and I graciously accepting the fact that our toddler woke up at 5:30am the one morning that the baby decided to sleep in till 7:30am (conspiracy anyone?). Or having mercy on the cat the night my husband leisurely walked into a puddle of cat pee during a midnight bathroom break. But on a serious note, I have been reading an interesting book on grace and how God loves us no matter what we do (or what we don’t do!). In other words, there’s no impressing God! He loves us automatically, no questions asked. It hit me that I often try to do things to be right with God. Did I read my bible for long enough today? Did I pray in the correct format? Did I sing the most appropriate songs? Was I kind to somebody today? Was I generous? These are all great things of course, but I realized that these should come naturally from having a close relationship with God as his Spirit works in me. They shouldn’t be things that I force myself to do or that I have to check off on a list. I realize just how much mercy and grace he extends to us each day and how free I am to then do the right things because he has given me that choice. My priority then is simply to rest in him so that I may get to know him and learn to depend on him. When you love someone, don’t you try your very best to spend time with that person and get to know them? In the same way, if I love God, I need to spend time with him. I am to love him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. There is no strict rule about how I need to spend time with God. He is everywhere so I just need to be conscious of his presence. I often feel guilty for messing up and it dawned on me that we can never really measure up. It’s only because of God’s mercy and grace that he continues to put up with our failings, a love so unconditional, nothing can contain it. So the next time I groan at the pitter patter of little feet into my bedroom at 5:30am or I get mad at the cat for peeing on the bathroom floor yet again, let me be reminded to have a little mercy and grace, just as God does towards me, each and every day.

Blessed

On those days when I wonder whether I can really make it into medical school, I reflect on how far God has brought me and I gain reassurance that if this is His will for me, it will all work out accordingly. I got my driver’s license later in life (in my late 20s) and I remember feeling overwhelmed as I was taking my driving lessons, thinking how could I ever master a moving vehicle? But three driving tests later, I finally got my license and driving has become as easy as riding a bike (although I still cringe when I have to parallel park!). Then there was the time when my husband and I were trying to start a family and I wondered if I would ever be able to have a baby since I had endometriosis and had miscarried once already. But here we are with two adorable children who I sometimes just stare at in amazement, contemplating how blessed I am to have received these beautiful gifts from God. So in my mind, getting into medical school may seem like an insurmountable task (like my driving and having a baby) but if God can get me through other seemingly difficult situations, I know he can do it again!

MCAT Quandary

It’s official! I’m registered for the MCAT! I plan to sit it in January 2015. This will be my third (and hopefully final!) attempt. I had initially registered to sit it in October 2014 but somehow my kids kept me busier than I thought they would so my studying went to the wayside for a while. I then found myself in a quandary about whether to sit the old or the new MCAT version (given that I’m not entirely sure exactly what year I will reapply to med school). Since I am still on maternity leave and my daughter will be transitioning to daycare for an hour or two each week starting in September, I figure that sitting the MCAT before I return to work in January 2015 would be ideal! I have my study desk all set up in the basement so come September I will be hitting the books again. I got a 28 on my last attempt of the MCAT. This time I am aiming for at least a 34 with 12s in bio and physical sciences and a 10 in verbal reasoning. I plan to stick these target scores right on the wall near my study desk so I can visualize MCAT victory!!

Why Medicine?

I wasn’t born with an interest in medicine. In fact I remember dismissing it when somebody suggested it to me in my early teen years thinking I would go into veterinary medicine instead. But I always had a keen interest and enthusiasm for the sciences and could be easily classified under the taxonomy Homo nerdus. Remember those chemistry sets of the early 90s, with all those “dangerous” powders that have probably been banned since? That chemistry set was one of my favourite Christmas gifts and I’ll never forget the notorious experiments I set up with my brother. Thankfully we did not burn the house down or create any explosions! I always had a fascination for anatomy and biology and would bring home all sorts of creatures for my mum’s enjoyment (or perhaps more for my mum’s disgust!). I remember my biology teacher in high school (mid-90s) being impressed with my dissection skills and commenting “those are the hands of a doctor”. And that was about the end of any discussion about medicine until 2005 when a friend commented, “you know I think you’d make a great doctor”. She was very enthusiastic about it and I thought to myself, I should give this a shot! So, after I graduated from university with a BSc in biochemistry, I sat the MCAT that year (way back when it was still the paper version and lasted goodness knows how many hours!). I did well on the science sections and writing sample but the verbal reasoning hammered me! I figured I ought to resit the exam to improve my verbal reasoning score but got slightly side tracked by life, getting married and my new job in the pharmaceutical industry.

I decided to resit the MCAT in 2008 (the new shorter digital version, hallelujah!) and did slightly better but was not thrilled with that elusive verbal reasoning score! At this point, my research career was taking off and hubby and I decided to focus on starting a family. Our first pregnancy ended in a devastating miscarriage in 2010 at which point I decided that I wanted to specialize as an OBGYN. I thought if I could not have babies, I would help others to have babies! Fortunately, our second attempt went smoothly and we welcomed our boisterous little boy into the world in 2011. During mat leave, I repeated a couple of med school prereqs that were out of date (despite having gotten As in them the first time round). That was actually fun and I enjoyed refreshing the material.

In 2012, I decided to do a dry-run application to one local medical school and believe it or not, I got an interview! I still remember the excitement I felt when I saw the notification in my student account. I was at work and called hubby on the double to tell him the good news! We spent the next few weeks doing simulations for the interview. We had a blast doing this and by the end of it, I felt confident facing the interview. The interview was not quite what I expected. There was a lot more role-playing than I had anticipated which was fun but I was not totally in my element. I felt much more comfortable at interview stations where I could just be “me”, if that makes sense. Despite the challenges of the interview, I really enjoyed the experience, particularly meeting like-minded, passionate people. I felt so privileged to be there! I’ll never forget that warm feeling when I saw my husband and then 1.5 year old son coming to pick me up after the interview. I felt such a sense of support!

After a month of anxiously checking my account, I discovered I had been put on the waiting list. I felt quite disappointed but also proud for having made it to the interview stage. It made me feel that I actually stood a chance even having been out of school for so long (I was a “non-trad”). In the meantime, hubby and I were pleasantly surprised to discover I was pregnant with our second child and our precious daughter was born in 2014. I didn’t end up getting off the waiting list but realized that God had shut that door at a good time since I was pregnant and wanted to focus on the kids.

So why medicine though? Surely I did not decide to embark on this journey based on one person’s suggestion? Well, no! My friend had planted the seed and then life experiences along the way watered that seed and allowed it to grow into a dream! I come from a family of physicians. My beloved father was a surgeon and performed the first kidney transplant in East Africa. His untimely death when I was just 5 years old was a devastating blow to our family but he left behind a great legacy for his children, one deep-rooted in respect, gentleness and compassion for others. To add to the family tradition of doctors, my eldest brother and cousin became cardiothoracic surgeons and then one of my other brothers went to medical school later in life with a family. My extended family has provided me with wonderful mentors and inspiration!

I love the idea of life-long learning, of building relationships with people one-on-one, of being the person who can alleviate health problems, and who can advocate for preventative medicine through appropriate lifestyle choices. Having grown up in a developing country, I also have a heart to give back to poor nations, particularly where I come from, and to assist medically where resources are scarce. Having seen first-hand the healthcare system here in Canada that brought my two babies into the world safely, that nursed me back to health after the harrowing miscarriage, I really want to be in a position to create that same reassuring environment for people in rural or poor areas. The Canadian healthcare system is by no means perfect but I certainly reap the benefits of this system and feel a strong desire to feedback into the system.

So here we are again contemplating med school and wondering where to go from here? Well at this stage, my 2008 MCAT is out of date so that means resitting it a third time, yup! A third time!! Not to mention that I have been having some anxieties about the amount of time I would need to be away from my kids during residency. But I feel certain that med is the path I should take. The key question is when to reapply?

A Sense of Direction

After many months of prayer and conversations with key friends and family, I finally feel like I know what my purpose is. Apparently one can never be too old to find this out (I’m 33 years old as I write this!). I have a sense of direction and God is continually answering my prayers. Truly God freely gives us His wisdom if we just ask for it!

I have been deliberating for years (9 years as we speak!) whether I should go to medical school or not. I have flip flopped about this decision a lot, with me doubting my abilities to succeed and being afraid of being away from family too much. I have had countless conversations with my husband about this and he has been very patient with my musings. He is behind me 100% in whatever path I choose. He has been my rock and I feel truly blessed to have him in my life.

I really feel God calling me to medicine, as I have for a long time. It scares the heck out of me, especially possibly relocating my family and all the hours I would be away from them if I embarked on this med school journey. But I have to trust that if this is what God wants me to do, He will give us the grace as a family to endure those challenging times.

So after many years of pondering (and many years working as a scientist in the pharmaceutical industry), I finally feel certain that a career change is in the works. I just still need some clarity on when this will be. In the meantime, I am scouring the internet and books, reading about other people`s experiences and learning from their challenges and successes. My husband is excited!! I am excited!! And I would like to share this unfolding journey with you! Stay tuned!

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