Second MCAT (6:30am + Advice)

So I wrote the MCAT at 6:30am. It was a chaotic 3 months leading up to the exam 🤧 I was able to improve on every section, except for C+P (a coincidence that the section I bombed was the first section at 6:30am?!! I think not). Nonetheless, I wanted to share some study and exam prep advice that helped me improve my mark! Note that I used AAMC, Princeton Review, UWorld, JackWestin, and Khan Academy to study.

Chemistry and Physics

Funny thing is that I actually scored higher on my first MCAT in C+P (97%!). I found the AAMC material for both sections the MOST helpful. They were the closest to the level of difficulty on the actual exam. But if you have bad luck like me, sometimes you get dealt with some of the more difficult C+P passages (I confirmed with a very reliable source: Reddit). The Princeton Review and UWorld C+P materials went in-depth for various topics, sometimes more than necessary- for example, overemphasizing low-yield subjects. It doesn’t hurt to learn more things but don’t drown yourself in the more difficult, low-yield questions. That’s my word of caution.

CARS

I spent 3 months preparing for my second MCAT, where I did about two passages per day…In the end, I was only able to improve my CARS by 1 mark…No, I don’t think I cracked the CARS secret code. I tried reading the passages first before attempting the questions, then I tried reading the questions first, AND THEN I went back to reading the passages first. It also became difficult to find good passages near the end. I exhausted my supply from AAMC, Princeton, UWorld, Khan Academy, and had to resort to JackWestin passages. I think JackWestin passages are the least representative of the actual exam compared to other platforms. However, practicing CARS everyday did help me build my CARS endurance so I highly recommend doing daily passages.

Biology + Biochemistry

Wow, this section is so much easier if you have just finished two semesters of third year biochemistry, which was my case. The first time I took the MCAT I didn’t even memorize glycolysis, Kreb’s cycle, or any of the metabolic pathways; they all conveniently show up in third year bchm. This section is ALL about memorization and application of knowledge, which is a lot easier if you have them memorized by heart. I highly recommend taking extra time to memorize metabolic pathways (or at least the important steps of each), amino acids (ALL), and biological terminologies and cycles. I found AAMC and UWorld quite helpful in both bio and bchm. UWorld was especially great at grilling you on the details. If you think about it, the details are worth memorizing because they might be the questions that help you achieve a higher percentile.

Psychology + Sociology

I must have been blessed with an easy P+S section because I scored a 98%! I found the JackWestin P+S outline and UWorld quite helpful. UWorld was especially helpful with reinforcing the nitty gritty. They often provide answer choices that all sound plausible. Being able to identify the correct answer demonstrates how well you truly UNDERSTAND the materials.

OVERALL what I did better on my second MCAT compared to my first attempt:

  • DON’T RELY on third-party materials. My first time taking the exam, I solely relied on TPR and AAMC (AAMC was an angel). Little did I know that TPR left out a lot of low-yield content. It’s good to be aware of low-yield topics because there is still a chance they might show up on the actual exam. It’s best to review content from various resources, making sure you don’t miss out!
  • Refer to the official MCAT outline. How do you expect yourself to score good if you don’t even know what is being tested? Plus it’s free!
  • Join FB MCAT study groups and stalk the MCAT Reddit forum. The virtual MCAT communities are truly angelic. Everyone is so kind- sharing notes and offering genuine advice for improvements. I highly recommend if you want to feel all the love ~

My sole regret: taking a 6:30am exam. I regret choosing this time because I am not a fully functional human-being at this time of day. I also had to suffer from my decision to halt coffee consumption in fear of excessive bathroom breaks. It is all the wiser to pick a time that you KNOW favours optimal performance. Or at least prepare yourself earlier. Get used to waking up at a certain time and stimulate exam conditions. (Another lesson is not to simultaneously take on a full-time job that forces you to stay up late)

Best of luck to everyone writing the exam! Just remember this is only a minor hurdle in your med journey- for I have never heard of anyone who could not continue med because of a low MCAT score. Afterall, we each have 7 MCAT attempts in our lifetime (unless you reincarnate into another premed student).

Hope you enjoyed the coffee graphic 🤩 I decided to try a different style, and I think it turned out pretty good. It’s a(n appropriate) vibe…Best of luck! Bye for now.

Premed response to systemic racism in Canadian healthcare

When premed students are asked why they want to be a physician, I assume the answer is always along the lines of having a desire to help out those in need and to make a difference in the community. In light of the recent cases of police brutality on black people and the ongoing protests, we should also ask ourselves if the field we aspire to engage in also faces systemic racism.

“Systemic Racism includes the policies and practices entrenched in established institutions, which result in the exclusion or promotion of designated groups. It differs from overt discrimination in that no individual intent is necessary.” -ACLRC

http://www.aclrc.com/forms-of-racism

And sure enough, medicine and healthcare is not impervious to racism. If our reason to become a physician is to help those in need and to make a difference in the community, are we really achieving such if we perpetuate systemic racism in healthcare?

Faiza Amin has several great articles in Toronto CityNews discussing marginalization that the Canadian black community faces in the healthcare system (1, 2, 3). The recount of John River’s story about unreasonable delay in medical treatment, which was nearly life-threatening, only emphasizes the extent of this issue. Amin shows that besides suffering from medical illness and pain, many black patients also have to worry about the way they present themselves to healthcare workers. Something as simple as dressing a certain way can be seen to change the way healthcare workers interact and treat patients.

Other marginalized groups in Canada, such as Indigenous peoples, share similar experiences with the healthcare system. The death of Brian Sinclair is one tragic case where ER healthcare workers failed to even acknowledge the treatable suffering of this man. There is no doubt discrimination and systemic racism played a role in this tragedy. A paper discussing inequalities in healthcare for Aboriginal people in Vancouver shows a pressing need for healthcare workers and policy makers to even acknowledge racial discrimination. 

The Social Accountability Working Group formed by The College of Family Physicians of Canada seems like a promising movement towards bringing more justice into Canadian healthcare. Their goal is to establish greater social accountability amongst physicians.

There is no doubt stigmatization and discrimination exists in healthcare. This reality is undeniable and deeply saddening. Institutional change in response to these types of systemic racism is extremely difficult to initiate and implement. However, as premeds, we can start by educating ourselves and addressing these inequalities. We should strive to bring greater awareness and reflections on behaviours that perpetuate systemic racism. The morals of our generation build the foundation for fundamental changes in our institutions. 

I will continue to educate myself on these topics, and so should you 🤓 Here are some other interesting reads: Healing racism in Canadian health care, by Yvonne Boyer; Colour Coded Health Care: The impact of race and racism on Canadians’ Health

That is all. Bye for now ✊🏿 ✊🏾 ✊🏽 ✊🏼 ✊🏻

Tangent: Cetaphil

I recently ran out of my holy grail cleanser Tatcha Deep Cleanse, and I was forced to use my mom’s Cetaphil cleanser. This only brought back all the things I despise about this cleanser. If you have oily skin (really oily like me), this cleanser does absolutely nothing. I still feel a layer of oil sitting on top of my skin even after using the facewash 3x times in a row. I started to question if the cleanser even has any active ingredients. Are they just trolling us? Selling us thickened water?

Many dermatologists apparently promote the use of Cetaphil. Okay, so why do so many professionals promote this? Well, maybe the fact that this cleanser does nothing is why they like Cetaphil. A lot of times topical medications are very harsh on the skin, so the last thing they want is a cleanser that further deteriorates the skin’s integrity.

I tried to find other people’s thoughts about this useless cleanser, and there are people that go as far as saying Cetaphil is the “devil”…Okay, I know my distaste for Cetaphil is a bit harsh but surely Cetaphil isn’t demonic? And hence begins the nosedive into Cetaphil: WHAT INGREDIENTS EVEN MAKE THIS QUALIFY AS A CLEANSER and IS IT SECRETLY EVIL?

Cetaphil_

Cetaphil Sensitive Skin Cleanser has 8 ingredients (pictured above).

  1. Water
  2. Cetyl alcohol
    • Fun fact: was first isolated from sperm whales.
    • Acts as thickening/binding agent, emollient (moisturizer), and emulsifier (remove oil) [1]
  3. Propylene glycerol
    • Humectant (retain moisture) [2]
  4. Sodium lauryl sulfate
    • Emulsifier (remove oil)
    • Surfactant that is also found in cleaning products.
    • Absorbs into the bloodstream. HOWEVER, CIR and other reviews found no evidence of SLS accumulating in organs to toxic levels [3]
  5. Stearyl alcohol
    • Emulsifier (remove oil), also prevents foaming [4]
  6. Methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben
    • Parabens act as a preservative that prevents growth of harmful microbes.
    • There are studies that link parabens and development of cancer or tumours. [5] HOWEVER, association is not always causation.
    • CIR does report low order of toxicities in paraben levels used in cosmetics [5]. While this may cause some people to squeal in fear, have you ever considered other sources of parabens? You might even consume parabens elsewhere, like in pickles or beer. Trust me, you aren’t going to get cancer if you ever used Cetaphil, nor if you decide to finish that tube of Maybelline mascara.

In conclusion, cetaphil is not EVIL.

I am not here to argue with advocates of natural cosmetics either because at the end of the day, I still despise this cleanser. From my deduction, this cleanser is lacking an exfoliant. For a gal with more oily complexion, this cleanser is one that does not accomplish the one thing that it sets out to do. If you are concerned about parabens, find another cleanser! There are so many out there, like Tatcha, that use alternatives.

This might be one of the most random posts I’ll ever make. Or it might be the start of something new because lately my stream of thoughts takes me on deep nosedives. Hope you enjoyed reading about all the random information I have collected. I encourage everyone to look for reliable information before making a judgement. For example, actually doing research instead of relying on words of lifestyle bloggers. (hmm, I wonder why all these blogs think Cetaphil is evil). Research may not always be easy, thus I think it is crucial to seek information from multiple platforms that offer diverse perspectives on a certain topic.

🤡 Keep learning and talk to you all later! 🤡

 

My sources (in a not-so-formal format):

  1. https://www.chemicalsafetyfacts.org/cetyl-alcohol/
  2. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=1120&tid=240; https://cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredient/propylene-glycol
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4651417/
  4. https://cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredient/stearyl-alcohol
  5. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/should-people-be-concerned-about-parabens-in-beauty-products/; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19101832

My MCAT Experience and Advice

Hi everybody,

I wanted to share my experience self-studying and writing the MCAT in the summer of 2019. I heard the MCAT has been shortened this year…(Almost makes me wish I took the exam this year). Nonetheless, I want to share some MCAT advice from my experience.

  1. Plan ahead:
    • I set myself 3 months to study for the MCAT. And let me tell you first hand you will not be using all of that time. The first month will fly by with a blink of an eye. The second month might be filled with unexpected surprises. And the last moth is where things get serious. In fact, the last 2 weeks will make you stressed like no other situations.
    • From my experience, you need at least 3 months. 2 months to ease yourself into ALL the material, but the last month is when the real studying gets done.
  2. Plan less:
    • I had a part-time job on the weekends (so I can still fund my coffees and doughnuts). However, I do not recommend taking up anything more than ONE job or ONE volunteer or ONE summer course. People weren’t kidding when they said studying for the MCAT is a full-time job!!
    • One thing that helped me balance a social life and study grind was to make a checklist. Set yourself a study goal everyday. For example, “On monday, I am going to review all the metabolic cycles and review physics. On Tuesday, I will memorize all the amino acids and review psychology.”
  3. Have a study spot:
    • This is a given. Everyone has that one place where they are the most productive. For me, it was a library at UBC. And sure it took me more than A HOUR just to bus there, but I knew that my time there was the most productive. With regards to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are now limited to our homes. During the past finals session, I found myself most productive when I designated an area at home just for studying.
  4. Take a freaking break:
    • No one can study all day, everyday (okay, maybe some of us can…kudos to those folks because most of us can’t). Take a break! There’s no better way to refresh the mind and return to studying in a better mood.
  5. Face it, you might never feel “ready” but you will be READY
    • This last reminder is for the week/day before the exam. I was on the verge of tears the day before my exam. Partly because I was preparing myself for the biggest fail of my life. I felt so unprepared. My mock exam marks were in the low 70s. CARS was more terrifying than ghosts or an episode of Black Mirror. Even AFTER the exam, I told myself to take a L. Time is up. You weren’t meant for this path. And to my surprise, I got a decent mark (90 percentile)! That just goes to show that you are more ready than you think you are. Trust me.

Other information that might be helpful:

  • My study material:
    • 90% Princeton review
    • And a bunch of random books from Amazon that didn’t really help
  • Courses to take that helps with MCAT:
    • Psyc 100*** (if possible take it the class right before you start studying for MCAT and you will likely breeze through this section like it’s a review)
    • Biochem 200-300 level **
  • Course you don’t need to take: sociology!!! 🙅🏻‍♀️
  • Biochem and orgo: memorize the amino acids but you don’t need to memorize all the metabolic pathways.
  • Physics, chem, and bio: don’t spend too much time fussing about physics because it accounts for such a tiny portion of the exams.
  • Psyc and sociology: know your terms inside out.
  • CARS: This is the section that absolutely stumped me to the Mariana Trench. I studied the whole summer, and my mark did NOT improve AT ALL. Definitely seek out other people’s advice on CARS because I could not figure it out for the life of me. If I decide to rewrite the MCAT in the future, this section is definitely something I would emphasize the most.

Good luck to everyone writing the exam! For someone who didn’t think it would be possible to self-study all of this, I guess I proved my past self wrong. You can do it too 💪 and you are one step closer to your goal 🤩

Now what?

     The last two months flew by so fast. It challenged all of us to adapt to a new way of living and to accept the new reality, as peculiar as it is. Self isolation is no piece of cake. The challenges we face at home are more emotional and psychological. Communication with friends and teachers seem odd and unfamiliar. Phrases like “these trying times” and “hope you are staying safe” appear in every email. Anxiety arises as your toilet paper supply diminishes exponentially. And why is everyone is making Dalgona coffee? And let’s be honest, staying home with family 24/7 is bound to ignite petty and hefty arguments.

dim sum
Doodle I did on the plane pre-social distancing.

     In these trying times (iykyk), it’s a great opportunity to return to those hobbies we neglected during “normal” times. Maybe even pick up new hobbies. It’s also nice to follow a routine and relish in whatever “normal” we can reintegrate into our everyday life. You have all the time in the world (or so we are told), but at the end of the day if all you want to do is lounge on the couch and plays Sims, that is okay too. And don’t forget to check up on friends and family!

     I have finally completed my third year of undergraduate studies at Queen’s 🥳! There are lots of things lined up for the summer. I will be back with random art projects here and there, and I will also be starting a new series documenting my experience applying to medical school (in Canada) amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay tuned if you want to see how I attempt to face the taunting thing that is med school applications. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, check out the WHO’s website for their insight and advice regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.

Stay home and stay safe! Take care.

what you love

This is something I whipped up for my mom’s birthday. Just a reminder to do what you love because she told me her new years wish is for me to be more happy. I thought I was already very happy 😂 so maybe she meant for me to maintain this state of mind for 2020. And right back at her! She is always so selfless so I thought she needed a reminder to be mindful of her own happiness too. Love you Mom!

What’s your favourite edit? 🤔

Procreate. iPad. Jan 2020.

Happy new years everyone. Enjoy your 2020 vision while it lasts 😎