Archive | August, 2009

And so Medical School Begins… Day 1

So yesterday I am wearing the T-shirt I got in my orientation week package. I am showing my dad the front, which says “Canada’s Next Top MD”.

My dad responds by unbuttoning the front of his shirt and revealing the T-shirt he has underneath: “So You Think You Can MedSchool”.

Oh, and then he says “Pwned”.

(For those of you who don’t watch much TV, those phrases are parodies of the reality TV shows Canada’s Next Top Model and So You Think You Can Dance)

Anyways, I figured I’d share that tidbit with you, both because I thought it was pretty funny, but also because I feel guilty for not providing the Orientation week reflection I had promised. Orientation week was much more tiring than I thought it would be. I had intended on doing a detailed write up after each day, but I gave up on that idea after realizing how exhausting each day was and how little energy I would have to write up anything decent.

I am writing this as I sit in my new bedroom in downtown Toronto at a place I will be sharing with my brother for the foreseeable future. Although the beginning of university or college is often the big transition for many young people, I feel as if this was the real transition I was waiting for. Although I had lived on residence for a few years at York University, having a new “permanent” home is a completely different feeling.

It also has to do with the transition to medical school. The big difference between medical school and my undergraduate program is that medical school is very focused, and in a way, more obviously relevant – I am learning and training for a specific profession. It’s quite different from studying undergraduate biology where that could lead to numerous different destinations. Whereas I could choose my courses in undergrad, I will be learning the exact same thing as all of my peers over the next few years. In a way, all of this might be a good thing – by having to learn things that I know are directly relevant to what I will be doing long term, I will probably be motivated to take my studies more seriously.

There are ~225 students in my class. That’s a big number, when you realize most other medical schools in Canada tend to have a number in the 100’s. I actually think there is a good chance you could go the entire four years of medical school here without having met every single person at least once – it also doesn’t help that the class will have varying schedules once clerkship starts in 3rd year.

Going to medical school in a way seems like a step backwards, at least school-wise, because it’s like high school all over again. You are part of a small community, and you are all in the same class together (unlike undergrad where you and your friends could easily have very different schedules). While this is good because you can form closer, stronger, relationships right away, it can feel weird sitting in one single lecture hall for eight hours in a day (that’s exactly what I will be doing tomorrow!).

I have only been in class for one day so far, but all I can is that it is long. You don’t get breaks anymore. Most days I am going for 9am to 5pm with a one hour lunch break. Occasionally I will get a Friday afternoon off here and there, but for the most part, the program here at UofT is pretty packed.

Anyways, since I didn’t give a report on orientation week, I feel I at least owe a detailed report of my first day of medical school. I’ll do my best to keep it interesting, but no guarantees – sometimes it’s hard to make class interesting 🙂

UofT Medical School – Day 1

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UofT Meds Orientation Week Day 1

Wow what a tease that title is.

Came home super tired, and unable to type. Will probably end up doing some really long write up at the end of the week, unless I find some odd time during the week when I’m not completely exhausted.

The Transition

Today marks the transition as I begin my journey to becoming a physician. Though I guess you could say that my journey really began years ago when I was fascinated by the surgical operations I saw on TLC. Or maybe it was when I did my first ever major school project on the brain and nervous system. But I guess if we’re being realistic, my journey really began when I decided to actually put my interest onto paper and apply last year. Regardless, the journey doesn’t really become a reality until you make your first step as a medical student, and that’s what I will be doing tomorrow.

To be honest, I love and hate change at the same time. I really felt comfortable at York University, and now I will be starting all over. New peers, new classrooms, new teachers, new campus. Things are so easy once you get into a routine, but I have always found transitions challenging. I think it’s partly because I like to keep a wall up, and there’s no need to hold up that wall when you’re in a daily routine and everything is familiar. I’m not sure why (my guess is a combination of genetics and childhood obviously, but nothing specific) but I feel like I am very cautious around new people, but can be pretty outgoing once I know people really well. For example, I feel like I’m pretty shy when I meet people for the first time at say a summer program (and remain shy-ish throughout), but I become much more talkative the very next time I see them a few months later. And this is all kind of funny because my close friends think I am pretty outgoing and have no problems meeting new people, but from my shoes, the reality is that they only see the more sociable, relaxed side of me because I am comfortable with them. The interesting thing is that I was talking to my brother about this a few days ago, and he says he experiences the same type of wall.

So in a way change makes me uncomfortable, yet at the same time, I feel like I thirst for change, though more so in terms of when it comes to being productive. I have sort of an obsessive personality. When I get really into something, I can go at it tirelessly for days or months on end, but at some point I lose interest and want to move onto something else. For instance, when I first started MedHopeful, I was obsessive about it and tried to post several times a week. I had so many ideas and articles just flowed from my finger tips. Now, even this past summer where I had a lot of free time, I lost motivation and my obsessive personality wanted to find a new obsession. I think this new project that I’m working on that MedHopeful is going to become a part of has brought the obsession back to me, but it’s going to be interesting to see how long that lasts.

Which is why going into medicine kind of worried me. I was worried that I was going to spend the next six to ten years of my life learning about something very focused, only to eventually lose interest and want to move on to something else because of my obsessive personality. But the more I thought about it, there was no other career I could see myself happy doing day in and day out for the next 40 years, or whatever it ends up being. And the neat thing about medicine is that there are so many avenues to explore. Besides the obvious act as being a practicing physician, you can dive into research, teaching, administration, etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up pursing a route that involved teaching and working with the university in some capacity.

In a way my journey to get into medicine is over, but now is where the journey really begins.

I’d like to share this journey with you beginning tomorrow – hopefully I will feel up to writing for a bit when I get home, but not sure how likely that will be. Thanks again to everyone for their support throughout the admissions process, and continued support as I begin a new chapter in my life.

Oh, and of course, I could not end this blog entry without a plug for Inglourious Basterds. I saw this movie last night and it is insanely good – best movie I have seen all summer. This was my first time watching a Quentin Tarantino film in its entirety and I was super impressed. I would usually show the movie trailer here, but after watching the trailers today, the trailers do not do the movie any justice, and one of the trailers actually reveals a bit too much in my opinion. In any case, as long as you’re not sensitive about stuff like war, blood, and gore, go and watch this awesome movie.

Major Change Coming and Pre-Med School Update

I’m sorry for not having written so long, and for my writing being quite sporadic this summer. After writing a ridiculous amount during the three month strike last fall, you’d think that with another three months off I would be churning out a ton more content. As it turns out, I’ve admittedly been quite lazy and unmotivated – I guess summer just does that to you. So I thought I at least owed some sort of update, especially since there have been some exciting new developments with the blog, which means a lot of changes coming.

MedHopeful will be Moving onto Bigger and Better Things

Just to state right off the bat, no, this does not mean I am leaving the blog! I have come into a very exciting opportunity to integrate MedHopeful as part of a bigger and better project, that I think many of you will be very interested in.

I don’t want to give too many details, but the gist is that I will be continuing to blog and write articles (and from this point forward, primarily about medical school admissions and my experience as a medical student), but as part of this new project, there will be many more opportunities and resources for you to become involved.

I’m not sure when all of these changes will come into full effect, but it will be obvious when you come here one day and the design is completely different – I think you will all enjoy the big new things the change will bring to the blog.

500 Days of Summer

While I’m here, I figured I’d do a plug for one of the best movies of the summer. I thought everything was simply awesome except for maybe the last minute, but nonetheless, I highly recommend seeing it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a fantastic actor, and if you like this movie, you should also check out The Lookout.

One Week to Go!

So medical school starts earlier and ends later than most other undergraduate programs, which I guess I can kind of understand. My orientation week starts next Monday, August 24, and my actual medical school classes start on Monday, August, 31. If you’re interested, you can see what my orientation week is going to involve here.

To be honest, I am probably more nervous than excited. I don’t really like change, and I was feeling comfortable at York, and am now basically starting over at UofT. I knew this day was coming, but it’s sort of hard to fathom months ago when I had just gotten accepted and summer was going to start soon. Frankly speaking, I feel like it takes me a while to warm up to people I meet for the first time (maybe some of you can relate) – I tend to be a bit cautious at first, feeling my way through things, so I avoid looking like a jerk or anything. My biggest fear is always just not meeting people that I click with, but I guess the good thing about a large class like UofT’s (~225 students or so) is that there will probably be more people overall that you will enjoy being with.

In any case, I hope to try and document my experience each day during orientation week – I kind of see each day ending late, so I’m not sure if I will have the energy to write before passing out each night, but we’ll see.

The plan for this last week is to spend a few days in Montreal with some friends starting Tuesday, then relax a bit and get ready for the big jump over the weekend.

Hope everyone had an enjoyable summer!

Mastering the University of Toronto Medical School Essay – Part 5: Putting it All Together


The following article was originally written in 2009 for the University of Toronto medical school admissions essay. Although the advice here is still useful for general medical school essays, since 2012, the University of Toronto medical school changed its admissions process to require the applicant write 4 Brief Personal Essays instead. Don’t fret – I have a written a new step-by-step guide to help applicants with these new 4 Brief Personal Essays.

Over the first four parts of this series, we looked at the overall message we wanted to convey through our essay: that we are proven serious about medicine, that the career makes sense for us, and that the reader will be thoroughly convinced to do whatever it takes to help us become a doctor. We also looked at the three guidelines/questions the University of Toronto admissions committee wants addressed in the essay, and what to consider when approaching them.

So now that you have your overall plan, as well as the main content for your essay (i.e. how you will answer those three guidelines), how do you put it all together?

While there is no “correct” way to write the essay, I think there are some important aspects to address, discuss, and debate. I will give you my thoughts on these aspects, as well as insight into how I approached them, not as necessarily guidelines for what you should do, but rather, guidelines about how to consider thinking about formulating your own approach.

First Person Perspective

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Mastering the University of Toronto Medical School Essay – Part 4: How Your Premedical Studies have Prepared You for Medicine


The following article was originally written in 2009 for the University of Toronto medical school admissions essay. Although the advice here is still useful for general medical school essays, since 2012, the University of Toronto medical school changed its admissions process to require the applicant write 4 Brief Personal Essays instead. Don’t fret – I have a written a new step-by-step guide to help applicants with these new 4 Brief Personal Essays.

Of the three idea the University of Toronto medical admissions committee wants you to address in your essay, I think the guideline referring to how your premedical studies have prepared you for medicine is least important. Not saying that you can neglect it (because you shouldn’t), but rather, it’s the one you should spend the least time and effort on compared to the other aspects. It’s also why this will be the shortest article in the series!

So Don’t Worry About It

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