When Striving Towards Your Goal Feels Like a Marathon

There is no doubt that medical school sometimes feels like a marathon. There are moments of high energy and exhilaration. There are also moments when we feel like we are running out of fuel. The pace is fast, intense and requires consistent focus. If there is anything I am learning, it is absolutely necessary to take moments to slow down, reflect and catch our breath. Why are we doing this in the first place? Do we still have our eyes on the finish line? Are we taking time to enjoy the scenery as we run the race?

This week I felt exhausted from all the demands of medical school and family life. I woke up this morning feeling mentally and emotionally tired. I went before God in prayer asking for strength that only He can give. As I opened my Bible, I came across verses that immediately encouraged me and reminded me that it’s ok to feel weak sometimes. It’s ok to fall on our knees, hang our head and call out for some help. In that moment, we just need to take stock of the attitudes permeating our hearts and minds, and lift our head back up to keep our eyes fixed firmly on our prize. We will get to the end of the race and reach our goals in due time!

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I press on towards the goal…” Philippians 3:14

Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Photo credit: http://www.towpathmarathon.net/

The First Semester of Medical School is Done!

My first semester of medical school is officially done! It has been even better than I imagined. There is no doubt that medical school is tough and demanding. However, the opportunity to work with passionate physicians, professors, students and patients has challenged me and kept me motivated.

Highlights of the first semester of medical school:

  1. Fascinating material: So far we have covered 3 blocks: Public Health, Respiration and Circulation. I really enjoyed the diagnostic aspects of these blocks such as interpreting chest X-rays and ECGs, as well as the anatomy and histology labs. I also enjoyed the various clinical scenarios where we had to come up with a diagnosis.
  2. Family Medicine shadowing: I have been enjoying the Longitudinal Family Medicine Experience where we get to shadow a family doctor in their practice two to three times a month. It has been so interesting to see what we learned in class reinforced in the clinical setting.
  3. Surgery shadowing: I had the wonderful opportunity to shadow an OBGYN endoscopic surgeon in the OR. It was an incredible experience!

Study Tips:

As the months have progressed, I have been refining my study methods and trying out new techniques:

  1. Keep up with the material: In medical school, it is critical to keep up with the lectures on a daily basis otherwise the amount of material becomes unmanageable.
  2. Be strategic: Learn to identify what material is “high yield” and focus on that. It is almost impossible to memorize every single detail presented and you may burn out trying to do so.
  3. Test yourself: I have found it very helpful to test myself often, either using online quizzes or building my own quizzes using key material from the lectures. My strategy is to write out 15 to 20 questions in an excel sheet following each lecture, upload the questions into an app called cram.com, then regularly test myself.
  4. Explain it: Try to explain a difficult topic to a classmate (or in my case, usually my husband) to see whether you have really understood it. This will help to solidify the material and you will recall it more easily.
  5. Remember the ultimate goal: Remember that the purpose of your learning is to become the best doctor you can be for your patients. Try to learn the material in a way that you can remember it in the long-term, rather than just short-term cramming in order to pass an exam.

How is balancing medical school with a family going? Generally, it is going well. I try to get the bulk of my studying done during the day and during the week so that I reserve my evenings and most of the weekends for family-time. I also try to multi-task listening to recorded lectures while commuting, cooking, cleaning or exercising. I don’t always succeed in finding a balance but I keep trying!

How to handle the heavy workload? If possible, it is important have a support network in place. I am very thankful to my husband for his help with our children and around the house, as well as my friends who have upheld me in prayer. Also, I try to reserve some time for my music hobby, devotional time and to exercise. This keeps my physical, emotional and spiritual life healthy. Planning my week also helps with getting things done in the most efficient way. Things don’t always go perfectly and I do feel overwhelmed sometimes. But developing a plan, being organized and reaching out for help when you need it can help you get through those particularly difficult moments.

Overall,  I am very happy with how the first semester of medical school has gone. I feel incredibly privileged to be pursuing a career in medicine. If you have a dream, don’t ever give up on it. Keep persevering, keep your head up high and surge forward with all your strength. You can do it!

img_2280
Getting ready for the OR!
img_1952
Enjoying the last of Fall before the snow finally came!
mummy-and-kids-christmas-2016
Getting ready for Christmas!

Reflections on Family and Medical School

There are less than 3 weeks to go until the start of medical school! The countdown is on and we are so excited as a family. I have been spending as much time as possible with the kids before school starts and I am treasuring the simple yet special moments I have with them, like a visit to the zoo, the beach or making chocolate chip cookies together. Or simply having them envelop me in a hug and say, “Mummy, we love you…and we’ll always love you.”

I am so grateful to have had almost 3 uninterrupted years at home with my two children. It has been a gift and a refreshing break from my research work in the pharmaceutical industry. When my husband and I revisited the idea of me going back to school to pursue medicine, I had pangs of guilt about being away from the children. I wondered if they would understand why mummy is away for such long hours at school or the hospital. I know the guilt is something I may struggle with throughout my training and career. But I also know that the kids are very much loved and my husband and I have a game plan to maximize quality time with them. I hope that we can be a good example for them.

To my beautiful children, I have witnessed your first steps, your first words, your first falls, your first tears and your first laughs (and yes, changing more diapers than I ever thought were possible!). You have shown me a new side of myself and given me the gift of allowing me to nurture you.

Although the next few months will be a transition phase, I feel at peace that we are heading in the right direction as a family. Today, I was excited by the simple act of buying stationery for both myself starting medical school and my son starting kindergarten (my husband laughed at me enthusiastically showing him my stash from the dollar store: highlighters, stickies, pens, to name a few!).

I am also happy to announce that my very independent daughter decided to potty train herself in the month of June. I had been really hoping to get it done before the start of med school and was aiming to start potty training in July. She beat us to it telling us proudly, “I don’t want diapers any more mummy, I’m a big girl!”…….Well alright then! You go girl!

My husband and I have also been having some interesting discussions about what medical specialty to go into. I have been talking to several doctors in different fields and reading up as much as I can. So far, my interests are quite diverse: family medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, surgery and pathology. I am going to remain open-minded throughout my learning and enjoy the process. I know there will be many challenges ahead but I am absolutely thrilled to be finally doing this after so many years of planning!

Thank you for staying with me on this journey! I am excited to share it with you!

IMG_0446
Her first visit to the Ecomuseum
IMG_0484
Relaxing on the beach
IMG_0377
Brother-sister love!
DSC02484
Getting ready to bake some delicious  cookies!

 

Five Benefits of Venturing Outside Your Comfort Zone

It’s rarely easy doing something that we are not accustomed to. It can make us feel uncomfortable and unsure of ourselves. This week I was reminded that venturing outside our comfort zone is actually good for us. It can increase our confidence and help us achieve things we would never have thought we were capable of.

This past week, I had the pleasure of being part of a great team that led over 60 kids aged between 4 and 12 during our church annual summer camp. The theme for this year was ‘Cave Quest’ and many of the activities dealt with geology concepts such as stalactites, stalagmites, snottites and geodes. I was tasked with the role of running the “Imagination (Science) Station” during which I would run various experiments with the children.

Now I have to say that prior to the camp I felt rather intimidated by the sheer number of kids that we would be looking after as well as the fact that I had never done a summer camp before nor did I have much knowledge about geology. I would have felt much more at ease talking about biology or chemistry. But geology? I simply felt clueless. The fact that my team and the kids were depending on me forced me to do my research and come up with some inventive ways to demonstrate the experiments.

Through the course of the week, I went through a myriad of emotions from exhaustion to frustration to amazement to appreciation to gratitude! It was difficult to do something outside of my comfort zone and there were times when I felt I was not doing a good job. But each day, the excited faces of the children with their energy, curiosity and thirst for knowledge, made me feel so privileged to be part of the team doing sports, sharing about the wonders of science as well as the love of Jesus.

This week surely reminded me of the importance of stepping outside of our comfort zone from time to time. The benefits are many:

  1. Growth and perseverance: doing something you are not familiar with stretches you and forces you to use your mind and body in ways that you’re not used to. The result is a stronger, more resilient person who can take on even greater challenges.
  2. Builds relationships: having been in the trenches with the kids and other leaders for five full days in a row, I got to know more about them and to build some amazing friendships.
  3. Expands your horizons: I remember somewhat grumbling to myself when I saw what the theme for the summer camp was….geology? Boring! I don’t know anything about that! But having researched and then explained the concepts to the kids, I learned some truly fascinating things!
  4. Builds your confidence: Having successfully managed to “survive” the summer camp, I feel much more confident to take on  new things and not to be intimidated by my lack of knowledge on a subject. There are so many resources to learn new things!
  5. Meets a need: No matter how uncomfortable or incompetent you may feel at something, if you give it your best and put in the required effort, you will make a difference in someone’s life, maybe even leave a permanent mark on their hearts and minds.

Don’t be afraid to try something new! Don’t let discomfort hold you back! There is a learning curve for everything and with time and effort, you will eventually succeed!

Accepted! I’m Going to Medical School!

On behalf of the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University, I am delighted to offer you a position in the Fall 2016 MDCM…program. Congratulations!

On behalf of the Admissions Committee, allow me to compliment you on your impressive candidacy. We are confident that your unique experiences and perspectives as a Non-Traditional Pathway student will enrich the McGill learning community and we look forward to your favourable response.

Yours sincerely,
Assistant Dean of Admissions

Words cannot express my joy when I received my offer of admission to medical school yesterday! This is a dream come true for me and after years of effort, three attempts at the MCAT, and my second attempt at applying to medical school, I have finally made it!

Yesterday and today have been  a whirlwind of events as I have spoken to many friends and family members. I have received an outpouring of beautiful messages from all over the world. At my women’s bible study this morning, I was smothered in hugs, smiles, laughter and happy tears as well as presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. A celebration party is already in the works courtesy of my friends who are as excited as I am.

Countless friends and family have been upholding me in prayer this whole journey and particularly after I received the difficult news on Friday that I had been put on the waiting list. My support network never gave up hope and continued to encourage me, support me and pray for me. I have never felt so much overwhelming love around me. My husband came home from work with tears running down his cheeks as we embraced for a long time and the kids were jumping up and down in excitement.

I feel that I have not been walking this journey alone. So many have been walking with me, picking me up when I fell down, motivating me when I felt exhausted, encouraging me when I felt like giving up.

This whole experience, both the highlights and valleys, has made me grow in so many ways and has strengthened my faith in such a mighty way. I am so grateful to all of you who believed in me and encouraged me. I will never forget the night in my kitchen when I announced to my husband that I was giving up on medicine and we talked for 2 straight hours about how that was not an option and we needed to talk through what my concerns were.

Through it all, my husband never wavered and continued to assure me he would walk with me through this journey. I owe so much to my family and friends, and in particular one of my big brothers and mentor who has been inspiring me since we were children, and who consistently told me how much potential  I have. I could not have done this without my Heavenly Father who gave me so much strength through my weak moments, and who guided me when I felt lost.

As I continue to absorb this exciting news, I think of my amazing late father who set a wonderful example of inspiration and dedication in his career as a surgeon. Taken from us to soon, daddy, but I follow this path in honor of you!

I want to encourage everyone out there who is on a difficult path, particularly those trying to get into medicine. It is very competitive, tough and sometimes disheartening to go through the application process, but persistence pays off. Keep trying, don’t give up! Whatever you set your mind to, keep your eyes above the waves and focused on your prize. You will get there at the right time!

Thank you so much to all my readers for taking the time to read my blog and encourage me. You don’t know how much it has meant to me and helped me along the way!! I know that the journey is only really just beginning and I still have a long way to go but I am just so excited to be starting medical school in the Fall!! Please continue to walk with me. It would be my delight to share my experiences with you!

This verse encouraged me multiple times during my journey:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11

A new chapter of my life begins…I’m going to be a doctor!

IMG_6557 (2)
My beautiful family that I’m so blessed to have!

 

 

 

The Admissions Decision…Working Through Disappointment

This is a difficult post for me to write. I received the medical school admissions decision on Friday and found out that I was put on the waiting list. So close to getting in, but did not quite make the cut. I felt utterly disappointed when I first found out the news. I had been put on the waiting list the first time I applied to medical school in 2012. It was like déjà vu and I just felt crushed by the news.

I had applied in a very competitive category (the non-traditional pathway) for applicants who have been out of university for several years and whose science prerequisites have “expired” (more than 8 years old). There were 127 applicants, 17 interviewed and 3 spots available in this category. I was so happy to have made it to the group of 17 who were interviewed. If I made it to the waiting list, it means I am probably in the top 4 to 6 applicants.

Processing this news has been difficult because I felt that I got so close to my goal. It is there looking me in the face but just out of my grasp. It was hard to share the news with my friends and family who were eagerly waiting to know what the decision was. They have been so amazingly supportive and positive.

There is of course a chance that I will make it off the waiting list if one of the three accepted students does not take their spot. The waiting list remains active until the first day of classes in August so I have possibly another 3 months of waiting.

Because I am a person who tends to keep my struggles to myself, I am looking at this as an opportunity to learn to lean on others for support and to not stifle my emotions. I am going to “grieve” this news and allow myself to sort through the feelings of disappointment. I am not going to allow myself to feel like a failure because I know I gave it my all and there were circumstances beyond my control.

In all of this, I have to remind myself that God has a plan, the best plan for me. Right now I don’t understand this outcome. I don’t understand what the bigger picture is. But I have to trust that God sees that bigger picture and he is working behind the scenes to bring about something wonderful.

In the next few weeks as my husband and I figure out what to do next, I will try to remain focused on the great things in my life, like my beautiful children and awesome husband, my wonderful mother and big brothers…and all the amazing friends and family who continue to uphold me and encourage me.

Now is not the time for embarrassment, self-deprecation or negativity, but a time for reflection, a time to go back to God for more direction and a time to heal from this immense hurt that I feel.

 

A Step Closer…An Interview Invitation to Medical School

For the past several years, it has been my hope to pursue a career in medicine. Although there have been setbacks, delays and disappointments, I am happy to announce that I received an invitation to interview at my top-choice medical school!

January had been a tough month for me with multiple refusals from several medical schools. When I received one “no” after the other, I was tempted to lose hope. But I knew there was still one university pending and my prayer was that the best outcome for my family and I would prevail.

As I waited for the interview decisions to come out yesterday, my emotions fluctuated between hope, excitement, dread and fear. So many friends and family were waiting for the news and I did not want to disappoint them. My husband and I decided that we would wait for him to get home from work before checking online for the status of my application. The level of suspense was high and at one point in the day, I folded my arms on the dining room table, let a few tears fall down my face and said, “God, I did my best, whatever happens today, may your will be done!

Looking back at the months of waiting and the moments of disappointment, I can say that things are working out for the best because this particular university that I received an invitation to is one of the top universities in Canada, it is the closest one to where we live and also happens to be my alma mater.  I am truly blown away and humbled that I was chosen to interview because the competition was stiff.

Through all of this, I am just grateful to have made it a step further in my dream of becoming a doctor. The last hurdle will be to get through the interview and make it to the final cut. It is a huge challenge but if I’ve made it this far, there is still hope and I am going to give it my very best shot!

So the next few weeks will be spent ramping up my interview practice in preparation for my multiple-mini-interview (MMI) on May 2nd. I am thrilled, excited and so very hopeful that things will work out for the best! No matter what happens, I am so happy to have made it this far and for the incredible support I have received from those around me.

Never give up on your dreams. The mountain may seem insurmountable but there is always a way to get to the top! We just have to keep going!