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The end of an era and the start of something new

It’s been a great four and a half years blogging here at MedHopeful.

However, as my final year of medical school comes to a close this spring, I feel it is time for me to move on.

As I made my way through undergrad and medical school, I shared a lot of thoughts regarding scholarships, undergrad and medical school. As I enter into a new phase of my life, the truth is these topics aren’t much on my mind anymore, and I don’t have much to add.

I will continue to leave MedHopeful up as a resource for students and applicants to use, but I don’t plan on updating, and as other areas in my life start to fill up, I likely won’t be as active in replying to comments anymore. Of course, this was inevitable.

For those of you interested in following along as I start a new phase in my life, I will be writing on my new personal blog over at I will be sharing my thoughts as I work towards understanding how we can better leverage technology to solve some of the greatest problems in health care.

Thanks again for all your support over the years!

5 Things I Need to do More in 2013

2012 was an interesting year. I completed my first year of doing clinical work full time as a clerk, and am in the midset of preparing for residency (interviews are in late January and early February).

As I look back, on not just this year but the past decade, I realized that I am still on my journey of “finding myself”. As I get smarter, more skilled and more experienced, I am getting closer to figuring out what I really want out of life. Yet in doing so, the more I realize how much more I need to learn and develop in order to get there.

I’ve realized that what I’m trying to achieve is not actually a goal, but rather, a way of life.

Yes, there are milestones I want to achieve (for example, receiving my M.D. this coming spring). However, I use the word milestone intentionally – for me, becoming a physician is not the end goal, but an important part of my path to something much greater. What will that be? I can’t say for certain, but as I said, I’m slowly getting closer to what that might be.

While I don’t know where I end up, I do believe there are 3 key things (more specifically, habits and attitudes) I want to work on to get there.

1. Read more

Continue Reading → – My New Essay Consulting Project

You might have noticed a big change on the MedHopeful homepage today. If you’ve missed it, go back and you’ll see what I mean – you can’t miss it!

Over the past 4 years, I’ve spent many hours writing about applying to scholarships, awards, programs and medical school. I’ve been happy to answer any questions that I could from future applicants.

I have also reviewed essays for many applicants and done my best to try and help them succeed. Many of the applicants I have helped, both with essays and at interviews, have done very well.

A knack for consulting

I really enjoy the consulting process for essays. I believe I have an innate knack for it.

Getting into the heads of admissions committees is something that has just always made sense to me. I would always think deeply about what admissions and awards committees were thinking. Why are they asking me this question? How should that affect the way I answer? This understanding has evolved over the years through my own personal experiences as well as my experiences helping others.

This blog was a natural extension of all those reflections. I think the fact that I have been able to write so much about admissions and applications is a testament to my genuine interest in these processes, and the insight I am able to offer.

Compelled to create “stuff”

I have also come to realize that at my heart and soul I am an entrepreneur. I have always loved starting and growing projects.

When I was a kid, that meant school science projects. In high school, that turned into school clubs and social advocacy groups. Eventually that led to things like Shad Valley and SMARTS. In university, that started to include projects like MedHopeful.

The more I thought about it, the more it became clear to me that nothing drives me more than developing and growing projects. I love identifying a problem, conceptualizing an idea to solve it, and then making that idea a reality. I also love helping other people to succeed with their own projects.

Introducing EssaySensei: 1-on-1 essay help

The result of all of these thoughts is the creation of EssaySenseimy new service to provide 1-on-1 help with essays for medical school, scholarships, awards and programs.

I see it as the perfect platform to combine my interests in essay consulting with my entrepreneurial interests. It is also a perfect extension of the work I am doing here at MedHopeful.

I have been very fortunate that writing effective essays is something that came fairly natural to me. I realize, however, that this is not the case for many applicants, who often are excellent candidates otherwise. If this is you, I want to help you put your best foot forward. I don’t think you, your future patients, and the rest of the health care system should miss out on your talents simply because writing isn’t your forte.

Through EssaySensei, I will be deeply analyzing your essay drafts, and finding opportunities for improvement. I will help you improve the ideas, structure and flow of your essay. I will help you convince the admissions committees that they need to meet you in person for an interview.

Whether or not I end up working 1-on-1 with you, I wish you the best of luck for whatever you are applying to in the next year.

Interested in getting essay advice from me? Visit EssaySensei to learn more.

Hi everyone, it’s MedHopeful. I’m back!

Wow, so this post has been a long time coming. My last post was on January 30, 2012, and well frankly, that wasn’t a real post. And before that, it was a tiny post on August 11, 2011. Probably the last real post I did was on August 6, 2011 which chronicled the life of this blog up until that point.

Well, I guess that post is still pretty accurate, as the life of this blog has been pretty uneventful since then (sad, I know!). Despite the lack of activity of this blog, my life has not slowed down – far from it. In two more months, I will be done my 3rd year of medical school – my first year doing clinical work full time.

In many ways, it was both the best and worst year of medical school – you experience some amazing aspects and joys of clinical medicine, but you also finally understand some of the really crappy aspects of it. I don’t want to be cynical, but I do want to be realistic – in my opinion, medicine is not as glamorous as it sounds and many premeds will have little idea what doctors actually do (myself when I was a premed included). That’s not a knock on premeds – it’s just the reality of a career in medicine. It’s really hard to know what medicine is actually about until you do it. That’s not to say medicine isn’t a rewarding career – for most people, it very much is. You just need to be aware that it has its own problems like any other profession.

So why wasn’t I posting?

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The Evolution of MedHopeful

It’s now been just over 3 years since I first started this blog. It’s amazing not only to see how much this blog has grown and evolved over the years, but also in reflecting, I’m fascinated by how much I have changed as well. I’ve written or thought things several years ago that I do not believe at all anymore. Most of these changes in thought are related to my views on medicine, health care and where I see my future in medicine. It’s funny to look back and see how much I have grown. Perhaps the funnier thing is that as I learn more and more, my views are only going to continue to shift. I wonder where they will settle?

The statistics for this blog suggest that it’s reaching quite a few people (we’re average about 400 unique visitors a day), but the cooler thing to me are the funny stories I hear. One of my friends from undergrad mentioned hearing someone talk about this blog at his McMaster MMI interview. Another undergrad friend of mine recently told me how she was at her UofT interview this year, asked one of the 2nd year med students if they knew me, and another applicant piped up saying “of course, everyone knows Josh!”. Apparently my friend had to explain that she actually knew me in real life. Haha. It’s crazy how access to the Internet has not only revolutionized access to information, but revolutionized the impact we can have on people miles away. If this blog has helped you in any way over the past 3 years, that’s awesome, and I’m really glad.

Now that the 3 year anniversary of MedHopeful has just passed, I thought it would be fun to look at how this blog as evolved. Before I get into these key moments and milestones in our short history, I want to thank you, the readers, for being a part of this experience and journey with us. I hope you continue to stick with us no matter if you are a “medhopeful” or not. It’s been a great ride, let’s keep the fantastic journey going!

The Beginning – July 2008

I started this blog just over 3 years ago because I just felt like I needed a place to write. I wrote random notes on Facebook when I figured I might as well have been blogging instead. I was planning to apply to medical school that fall, so I decided I might as well keep a bit of a journal for myself on my progress. I also had many ideas on undergrad admissions and scholarships that I believe worked for me, and I wanted to share them with other students. I really enjoy teaching, mentoring and sharing what I know. I didn’t really have a plan for this blog, I just said what the heck, let’s try this.

York University Strike – November 2008

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Speaking Engagements!

I really enjoy speaking. A lot. I’m bitten by the bug and I’d love to do more of it.

If you are a student, teacher, conference organizer or event planner interested in hearing me talk and share my experiences, about anything ranging from leadership to volunteerism to medical school, let me know! I’m happy to do anything from keynote talks to panel discussions.

I’ve created a Speaking page which has some more information on what I do, what I’ve done, and how to reach me if you’re interested.

I will also be actively developing presentations for new topics (and modifying old topics to make them better and more exciting) and applying for speaking opportunities beginning this summer. I’m looking forward to sharing new ideas, meeting new people, and improving my speaking skills!

I feel like a juggler

Right now I feel like a juggler, trying to balance so many things in my life. I guess variety is good, but it can feel overwhelming when I think about all of it.

School, residency, research, side projects, relationships, intellectual pursuits, health – and of course, within these, many subdivisions. Needless to say I feel like a juggler with many, many balls in the air.

And of course you have to mix in fun and hobbies – more balls to add into the mix.

Inevitably this leads to some stress. I try to not let stress get to me, and I think I do a pretty good job of that. There is always a base line level of stress, that just sits there at the back of my mind. When I stare at my planning document those feelings become slightly more pronounced. No matter what, I always make sure I am willing to give around to being lazy and just taking it easy sometimes. I think it’s important to take care of yourself and be critical, but not harsh, on your progress.

Anyone else feel like a juggler? What are you balancing in your lives?

Happy New Year from MedHopeful! New years resolutions, anyone?

Today is the last day of my winter break. Tomorrow I start my last semester of preclerkship. After that, I will be working as a clerk full time in the hospital for two years.

I’ve really enjoyed the winter break. I basically got no work done, but that’s fine. It’s Christmas, right? I really needed this break, and I feel very at peace (minus the stress lingering from all the work I didn’t do).

Shelly asked me what my new years resolutions were (happy new year by the way everyone!). At first I said, “Oh I didn’t make any. I set goals all the time, so I didn’t really bother to make any new years resolutions”.

But after thinking about it, I decided to take back my statement. It’s true that we can set goals anytime we want. But there’s something special about making resolutions for the new year. As Shelly put it, it’s like having a “clean slate”. You can mentally forget all of your shortcomings the previous year and tell yourself it’s a brand new year and anything is possible.

So I decided to make a new years resolution after all: to crush all of my goals in 2011.

Pretty vague, right? Basically, I have all these ongoing goals I have set for myself, and I have even make plans for them. However, I have done a pretty mediocre job at executing.

I feel like in general I have a very good grasp of what I want and how I can get it, but historically I have just been extremely lazy and not putting in the time to do it. It’s frustrating to look back on myself and see that I wasn’t able to achieve everything I knew I was capable. It doesn’t matter how good your plan is if you don’t execute. I need to work harder and execute (that includes being more active on Medhopeful and writing more). So that’s what I hope to do better in 2011.

What about you? Any resolutions for the new year?

Best of luck to everyone this semester!

Now that I’m half way through 2nd year of med school, here’s what I’m thinking

When I think back to where I was at this time last year, my world was pretty different. Not just my surroundings, but also inside as well – the thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings in my head. When it comes to medical school and my impending career, it was no different.

Medical education

Last year: I was fresh off finishing my first semester of medical school. That was without a doubt the most challenging semester of my life. Being thrown into anatomy physiology, histology and embryology with no prior knowledge or understanding made for some tough times. I remember going into some exams, and for the first time in my life, feeling that I could actually fail. Now while this feeling is common among medical students (yes, you have to know THAT much for exams here!), that doesn’t mean I enjoy it =).

This year: I have taken three major exams this year, and so far having received two of my exam marks back, I’m doing significantly better than last year. I think this is for a few reasons. One is that I think I much prefer this year’s material (more clinical and medically relevant) to last year’s (more basic anatomy and physiology). Second is that overall in my life I’m trying to work harder and be more productive, and that is rubbing off on my school work as well. Third I think is that I’m just better adjusted to medical school than last year. Overall this year I have felt a lot more confident going into exams. Now I just need to work on getting more sleep the night before the exam…

Medical career

Last year: Before I started medical school I thought I wanted to do neurology. By this time last year I was interested in cardiology. By the spring it was neurology again. Now it’s neither of those. There were also many others thoughts in between. As I watched a bunch of my friends start to make decisions and work towards residency (e.g. start doing research), I feared falling behind and not being a competitive applicant when I decided to apply to residency. I also had concerns about where I saw myself in medicine and I began asking myself lots of questions:

What kind of medicine do I want to practice? Will I be happy there? How much longer do I want to spend in school? What will the job market be like? How is the remuneration? What else do I want in life both inside and outside of medicine? How will the specialty fit in with my personal and career goals? Will I be able to achieve the balance in life I desire?

These are all questions I need to think about and reflect on, and there’s a good chance my answers to these questions will continue to change, and I need to be willing to adapt as my answers surely change. At this point last year, while I knew I needed to start answering these questions, my answers were still unclear. I’m sure this is partially why I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in medicine. I did know that the closer I came to knowing myself and how I wanted to answer those questions, the easier I would be able to think about my future in medicine.

This year: One year later, I have a much firmer grasp on what I want in life and in medicine. I have spent a lot of time reflecting on what makes me happy now and what I think will make me happy years from now. I thought about where I envisioned myself in the future, both career wise and in my personal life. I’ve shared my thoughts, feelings, and ambitions with close friends and reflected on what they had to say. I thought about what makes me happy in medicine and what doesn’t. Over the past year, I have started to lean towards family medicine. My reasons for doing this are beyond the scope of this article (and personal to me), but suffice to say, it’s very much based on answering those questions I posed earlier. Could this change? Of course – I realize things could change, especially as I do my clerkship rotations, and nothing is certain until I actually apply for residency programs and get accepted.

Staying Busy

Last year: In my end of 1st semester reflection last year, I wrote: “I think this is the first Christmas break in a while where I haven’t really felt any stress or guilt whatsoever, and I guess most, if any of the stress, I’ve had previously was due to school.”

This year: Oh how things change! Right now, there is always work to do. I’m not super stressed, and I don’t need to work 24/7, but completely different from last year, there is always work that needs to be done. Of course, this is work that I’ve chosen to take on: research, projects, and so on. All that said, it feels good to be productive. Don’t worry, I will still be enjoying my holidays immensely =)

What is everyone else up to? What thoughts are occupying your mind this winter break? Feel free to share!

No more glasses! My experience with laser eye surgery

NOTE: Just want to make it clear that I am in no way affiliated with anyone or any company that provides laser eye surgery. I am not endorsing it either. I am simply providing my own experience with it for those who are interested in reading it. If you are considering getting laser eye surgery done, I suggest you do your own research / homework on the topic. I am not an expert on the topic, so please don’t ask me for questions or advice on it as if I am. Please consult an ophthalmologist for your questions. Thanks!

I woke up this morning wearing sunglasses and it’s not even summer. Whoa, that’s a bit strange. I guess I’d better back up a little.

Earlier this year I decided to get laser eye surgery. There were a few reasons that led me to doing this. One was that I had worn glasses for about 15 years thus far and there were a lot of situations where I found glasses kind of bothersome. Second, was that laser eye surgery technology is extremely good now and relatively safe. Third, was that being a medical student with the Canadian Federation of Medical Students lets you get a substantial discount at one of the companies that provide laser eye surgery (laser eye surgery is not covered by the public health insurance system, but at least it’s tax free!).

I ended up getting a laser eye surgery assessment done at the end of summer. There two main types of laser eye surgeries down to correct vision include PRK and LASIK – at the assessment, it was determined I was a good candidate for LASIK.

In LASIK, there are two main parts to the procedure. (1) an ophthalmologist uses a precise instrument to create a thin flap of corneal tissue. He then raises the flap to the side, preparing the rest of the cornea for the actual laser to correct the vision. (2) the ophthalmologist then uses an excimer laser to remove some tissue from the middle layer of the cornea, thus reshaping the cornea. The entire procedure is relatively quick, and takes about 20 minutes to do both eyes.

I decided to get an “All-Laser LASIK” procedure done – meaning that both the reshaping of my corneas and the creation of the corneal flap was both done by a laser.


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