The Medical School Process: The Good, The Bad and The Downright Depressing

“What are you going to be when you grow up?” was probably the question I heard the most growing up. Not just from my parents, but from their adult friends too. I guess they thought it was a cute question to ask an eight-year-old. Likely because they expected my answer to be “fairy princess” or something along those lines.

They didn’t quite know what to do when I calmly pushed my glasses back onto the bridge of my nose, looked at them with a serious expression on my face and said “I want to be a doctor. Not sure what kind yet.”

Reactions tended to be mixed-some amusement, some surprise, but mostly admiration aimed toward my parents for “raising such a good girl.”

And to a certain extent, they were right. My mother’s a medical professional and my father’s an engineer. To some degree, it could be seen as inevitable that I settled on medicine at such a young age. But it was also inevitable because it was always expected I’d  either be a doctor, a lawyer or a dentist.

In fact, there’s a long-standing joke in Russian culture, which goes along the line of mothers meeting at the park with their toddlers and asking each respective mother how old their future dentist/doctor/lawyer is. Parents laugh at it, but the kids of those parents are then left to deal with those expectations. I am one of those kids.

Before I go any further though, I want to clear up two things: One, I am not in medical school, at least not yet. And two, yes, I genuinely do want to go into medicine.

I point these things out because I am not an authority on the medical school system. Despite that fact,  I am still attempting to establish myself within said system. Consequently, I am directly dealing with what I consider to be a problematic system.

This does not mean that I do not respect the profession of medicine. In fact, I have nothing but the upmost respect for our nation’s doctors, precisely because they’ve made it through the broken system.

My biggest issue with the admissions process is the almost impossible level of standards hopeful applicants need to maintain to be accepted. I say almost, because I do in fact know people who have managed to get into medical school. This is encouraging and part of the good thing about the medical school system-it can be beaten.

And although I do understand the importance of having a high applicant standard for the nation’s future doctors, it sometimes seems to be taken to extremes within the medical school system.

Serious applicants realistically have to (like I did) decide some time early on in highschool that medical school is the goal, in order to take the required courses at the high school level and do well enough in them to place in some appopriate pre-med program in university. They then have to continue to do exceedingly well in university-level pre-med courses in order to maintain their GPAs at a high standard.

Now those two things would be fine, if it was the only thing needed. It makes sense that we want intelligent people to be in medical school classrooms.

On top of that, however, there’s expectations of a large amount of volunteer and work hours in relative areas, extracurricular activities , and of course the dreaded MCAT- which has now been lengthened from 4 to 8 hours (because it wasn’t hard enough before) and tests everything from physics to psychology.

At the core I understand that the point of demanding so much of one person is a way of making sure they’re prepared for the demands of medicine. But do we really think that a future patient is going to care that you played the flute for  a decade? Or that you  managed an A in some general education course you had to take for your degree?

The sheer amount of time, energy and money that goes into making yourself look like the ideal candidate on paper is astronomical. People lose sleep over their insane schedules and their applications every year because any one of the aforementioned things can make or break you. And even if you impress an admissions committee on paper, your interview and/or subsequent acceptance isn’t guaranteed. Interviews are long and stressful and doing well on the interview doesn’t solidly a spot. The entire system is largely a lottery to a certain extent. There are plenty of qualified people who don’t get in every year, often without any rhyme or reason.

It can be incredibly demoralizing to willingly put yourself through this process for years. To apply continuously, knowing you can get rejected for anything under the sun. I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve sat and wallowed in my own self-pity in the middle of the night and how many times I’ve wanted to give up.

But I’m still here. I’m still trying. I want to do this. I have no idea if I will ever get into medical school but it’s an ongoing negotiation and I haven’t thrown in the towel quite yet.Whether or not, others see it that way, it counts for something, and that’s what’s keeping me going.

The medical school system is problematic and stressful and yes, it ideally needs reform. But it’s also currently producing and has produced some of the best doctors I’ve had the honor of knowing, and that’s pretty  amazing.

Maybe I’ll be one of them one day and maybe I won’t, but god knows I’m going to try.

 

 

 

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Feminism: Why It Isn’t My Favorite F Word

I’m about to do something which women have been told is the ultimate betrayal: criticize modern-day feminism. Note that I specify modern-day, because it’s precisely the most recent wave of feminism I have an issue with. Before you gouge my eyes out with your acrylic nails, hear me out.

I am not against feminism as a general concept. I want that clear. But what I also want clear is the original definition of feminism, because I am of the opinion that’s been lost in the recent mass uprising that is the modern feminism movement. To the Oxford-Dictionary-mobile! (I admit, that joke sounded better in my head).

Feminism, as defined by Oxford Dictionary (drumroll, please):

The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of the equality of the sexes

I draw your attention to the part that specifies that it’s supposed to be based on the equality of the sexes. Multiple. Meaning both men and women. Bear with me and tolerate the traditional binary view necessary for this particular conversation. (I could get into the binary gender situation, but we’ve already got the first transgender doll taking care of that for us).

Now, a logical person would see said definition of feminism and say, great. Or at least, I do. At the core of the original feminist movement, all women wanted was for there to be equality for both men and women across anything and everything. Personally, equality is a no-brainier for me. It makes total sense that we should treat everyone the same.

Here’s my first issue. Why are we calling it feminism? And before you look at me like I’m an idiot because women’s rights is in the official definition, what I mean is that we should realistically be calling it humanism. I mean, really, do we need a separate label and ideology which says a common sense thing like treat everyone equally? Did no one teach you to share in kindergarten?

Not to mention that the fact that the name feminism itself excludes men. Which is not the (original) point. It perpetuates this idea that men can’t be just as equally into the idea of equality for every single human on this planet (I’m not sure what the deal is with the 7 new planets NASA found recently, so I’m limiting my scope here).

Issues with the name aside, I am not a fan of what modern-day feminism has become. When the movement started in the 1920s, women were fighting for their right to vote. In the 1960s, they were fighting for basic equality in the workplace. These are all amazing things that I’m on board with. The fact that women had to fight for these  basic rights is ridiculous, but the point is that they did, and did so successfully. Those two monumental shifts were largely due to the first and second wave of feminism. Common sense is alive and well here and I salute the women of the past. They made giant strides in the sphere of women’s rights.

What happened, third wave feminism?

Honestly, please, someone explain this to me.

I feel like modern-day feminism needs to revisit the original definition and remember  that the point was equality for everyone. Not just women at the expense of men and not just for men at the expense of women. So much of modern feminism seems to stem from a deep-seated hatred for men, it’s hard to imagine how anyone even functions. How are you able to preach equality with a clear conscience if you demonize half of the world’s population?

Now, I’m not saying that men aren’t sometimes problematic. I’m not saying that they are entirely blameless for some of the real barriers women face or have faced in the past. But if you’re willing to paint them in such a light, it’s no wonder a certain percentage don’t support this brand of feminism. I wouldn’t either, if the ideology being forced upon me was telling me that I was the worst thing to ever exist.

Feminism was never intended to be synonymous with man-hating. But I fear that’s what it’s become, and I have a hard time rationalizing supporting that ideology.

In fact, it’s gone so far as to blame men for essentially everything and anything. Let’s start with the most common one: the wage gap. Yes, I’m opening this Pandora’s Box.

The wage gap essentially says that women earn 70-80 (exact numbers seem to vary here) cents on the dollar compared to men. Meaning there’s roughly a 20-30 cent gap and women are earning less because they’re women.

Here’s the thing though: that 20-30 cent gap exists when you look at the average earnings of all men and all women in the workplace. The fact that it’s even an average is problematic in and of itself, because averages are defined differently by different people, but let’s assume the mean, for the sake of argument. That means that we’re not accounting for differences in occupation, education level, class or race. We’re just looking at gross income.

This is inherently a bad approach, since all of the aforementioned factors play a huge role in how much money one makes. This should be obvious and yet we continue to use these numbers as common  knowledge.

If you actually control for the proper variables and compare men and women doing the same job, working close to the same amount of hours, with the same amount of experience, the wage gap essentially becomes  non-existent.

Which begs the question of why women still seem to make less money than men overall. I’m going to argue that what society perceives as the wage gap is largely perpetuated by women themselves. There are of course societal factors as well that can’t be ignored, but bear with me.

There is a massive difference in the types of education men and women pursue, as an overall trend. Men are overwhelmingly over-represented in STEM occupations, such as chemistry and engineering, while women are overwhelmingly  over-represented in disciplines such as the humanities and psychology. This fact has economic ramifications.  This logically makes sense. Someone with a psychology degree is likely not going to pursue aerospace engineering.  It then follows that certain occupations make more money than others and that therefore, individuals will make different amounts of money depending on their academic and workplace experience.

Women tend to choose academic directions and occupations that are lower on the pay scale. Many ask for a lower starting salary than a man would at the same job, and many are less likely to ask for a raise or promotion. There are multiple reasons for this, and yes, I could tie it to the patriarchy if I wanted to, but purely from an economic standpoint, women are less likely to get raises and promotion because they’re expensive.

Women are more likely than men to ask for an extended family leave. They’re more likely to thus work less hours. By working less hours, they make less money and hence, their incomes are lower than those of men. It’s basic economics.

The wage gap exists, but only when you examine broad trends of incomes and ignore outside influences (bad science, bad economics, bad logic, would not recommend).

What does this mean for women then? If you want to close the wage gap, aim your education and occupation toward a field that is predominantly male-dominant.The men will likely appreciate having at least a few women around, and women will be on more equal ground as a result. This is great.

What do we do instead? A Day Without a Woman.

A day wherein women show solitary for the socioeconomic inequality faced by women (which as I explained above is largely self-inflicted), by, believe it or not, not working. 

Women are protesting the supposed wage gap by not working, consequently working less hours and getting less pay, translating to lower overall income, and aggravating the wage gap that they believe exists, even further. Search for “counter-productive” in the dictionary,  and guess what pops up.

I’m completely for women empowerment. I think it’s awesome. There’s nothing I love more than seeing my girlfriends empowered. There’s a lot that’s amazing about being a woman. But celebrate that, go kick ass in the workplace, earn your spot and show everyone why you deserve respect… By working. Go do the thing that women in the previous movements were told they couldn’t and make them proud.

One of my biggest issues with modern-day feminism is the undertone of victimization that’s rippling through everything lately. Equality should be empowering, not agonizing. Women aren’t  inherently victims because they’re born women. If anything, women are amazing because they’re born women.

Don’t forget that, modern-day feminists. You’re strong, amazing individuals. Stop looking for scapegoats and do you. Advocate for true equality and get back to the roots of the movement. Please.

Going, Going, Gone: Burning Out and How to Cope

I’ve come to accept that a true fact of my life is that I’m always tired.

I ran into a friend on campus the other day and the first question we asked each other after exchanging a greeting was, “how are you?” We both knew this was an unnecessary question to even voice. We were smack in the middle of the first wave of midterms for the winter semester, both attempting to cram as much information as possible into our brains in a short period of time and functioning on little else other than caffeine and pure adrenaline from lack of sleep. In fact, so was every other student across Toronto at that particular moment.

Nevertheless, we asked each other the question and got the inevitable answer of, “I’m tired.”  We both listlessly nodded in agreement and silent understanding and continued on with our day. I didn’t think much of that conversation until a few days later, when I finally had a minute to myself. We’re all tired all the time. Students in particular, although this problem is far from being exclusive to students.

Society seems to be in a perpetual state of tiredness. Everyone is in a constant state of motion with a seemingly endless to-do list of activities and responsibilities, some more time-consuming than others. I’m convinced people have forgotten how to truly rest.

I’m not saying this because I’m the prime example of a well-balanced and well-rested individual. Far from it. If anything, I’m the poster child for burnout, and it’s my own fault.

I’m guilty of taking on too much: too many classes, too many work responsibilities, too many social commitments. I convince myself that I can handle everything I signed on for and push myself to manage my crazy schedule, even as I feel myself getting closer to the point of no return.  And then I hit The Wall.

I dread this happening, because this translates to me essentially having a breakdown. My body goes into survival mode and I’m incapable of doing much more than sleeping copious amounts while l attempt to deal with my backlog of exhaustion. My immune system is usually shot by this point, meaning that my chances of having a severe cold for weeks skyrockets. It’s a miserable existence. On average, I hit The Wall two to three times in a given academic year, and although I can sense the impending doom, I never do anything about it, the rationale being that I can’t, because there’s so much to do.

It’s ridiculous that I’ve rationalized putting myself through this multiple times a year, and it’s time that I consciously make an effort to at least lessen the speed at which the train approaches the station.

Ignoring the fact that I’m rapidly approaching a burnout as I write this (and am therefore, a slight hypocrite), I’ve made a list of things I do to cope with The Wall, and how to hopefully avoid hitting it at all.

First and foremost, learn to say no. And not the kind of no that can be misinterpreted as a maybe or a yes, but later. If you’re a people-pleaser like me, it’s incredibly difficult to turn someone down, but sometimes you need to. I’m currently reading “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F*ck” by Sarah Knight, and (true to its word), it’s actually changed my life and helped me to learn how to begin saying no to things and people. 10/10 would recommend. Saying yes to things too often is usually what gets people into the position wherein they feel burned out, so if you cut that down, you’re already well on your way.

However, if you’re already knee-deep in the burnout, all you can do is employ damage control. Engage in whatever helps you feel better. I’m not going to put a blanket statement here, because everyone’s got their own grab-bag cure, but do whatever you need-whether that’s sleep, a Netflix binge or human contact (that’s still a thing, right?) to feel like less of a zombie.

If you’re past recovery and swearing up and down that you’ll never let yourself burn out again, you’re lying to yourself. Life will inevitably happen and you likely will run yourself ragged again. But if you make an effort to catch the early signs-constant tiredness, sluggishness and apathy, to name a few-and try to regain a balance by doing whatever made you feel better in the past, perhaps the train will deploy an airbag when you hit the next Wall.

REVIEW: Split

Horror movies are the bane of my existence. Psychological thrillers are my kryptonite. The trailers for Split had me, quite frankly, split.

At first glance, I wrote Split off as a typical modern-day Hollywood horror film and decided to pass. After all, there`s nothing terribly unique about a movie centered around three teenage girls being kidnapped by an unstable man (Taken Trilogy, I`m looking at you). What hooked me was the introduction of Kevin (played by James McAvoy) and his multiple identities, whom the girls are tasked with escaping from. The concept in essence is Orphan Black meets Criminal Minds, maxed out. Enter kryptonite.

The film starts out strong and maintains the pace for the majority of the time, aside from the instances when viewers are forced to interact with Kevin`s psychiatrist, played by Betty Buckley. Although it is evident that Buckley herself is a talented actor, it was a challenge to salvage the character of Dr. Fletcher.  She is oddly naive and unaware of what is going on with her patient and his new playthings, despite a wide array of suspicious behavior. Someone dropped the professionalism ball. Her character largely falls flat but is redeemed by her ability to bring out McAvoy`s excellent acting.

The teenage girls, with the exception of Casey (played by Anya Taylor-Joy)  are also there mostly for the sake of filler; their only activity seems to be standing around terrified in progressively skimpier outfits, while Casey (the only one with any common sense) attempts to understand their captor’s personalities and devise an escape plan. With a little restructuring, the film could have likely been played with a reduced cast consisting of McAvoy, Taylor-Joy and Buckley and some off-screen screams. It can be argued however, that the presence of filler roles is deliberate in order to flesh out McAvoy’s numerous characters as much as possible, making it forgivable.

It’s clear that the real star of the show is McAvoy, who cycles through his multiple personalities with delightful ease and carries the film almost entirely on his own. His ability to transition between the three most dominant personalities-Dennis, Patricia and Hedwing- on a dime is fascinating to watch, and makes me wish we had been able to interact with more than just a handful of the twenty-three personalities we keep hearing about throughout the film.

This is not to say that the film wasn’t good. M. Night Shyamalan teases out questions of self-awareness and normality in a way that does not feel forced or cliché and establishes a gripping storyline early on. Viewers easily get pulled into the bizarre happenings of the film and are willing to ride the story out from start to finish. This fact makes the somewhat lackluster ending a bit of a disappointment. Although the emotional connection is important to the overall tone and message of the film, it felt as if it was cut off prematurely. Fleshing the moment out more would have potentially lead to a more well-rounded ending and perhaps not left viewers with a feeling that something was missing.

However, this sense of wanting more than we get may have been intentional, as talks of a sequel began soon after the film hit the box office. It will be exciting to see the directions this plot line evolves. One can only hope that it will delve deeper into Kevin’s multiple psyches and deliver the punch such a screenplay truly deserves.