The following post is a question/answer session with one of my best friends in the blogging world: Ryan Nguyen. He is a second year med student in California and currently blogs at the excellent site: WhiteCoatDo. His writing has been featured extensively in other outlets across the web. One of my personal favorite posts by him is 5 Tips for Surviving Gross Anatomy which is absolutely spot on. He also interviewed me earlier this school year. Read his responses to my 6 questions after the jump.
Why did you decide to start blogging about medical school?
I originally started blogging as a premed right before I applied to medical school. My first site, PracticalPremed, details all the tips and tricks I used during the application process. After starting at WesternU COMP, I started WhiteCoatDO to document my journey through medical school and beyond. My blog covers study strategies, health care policy updates, and reviews of popular board prep services.
As you attend a school of osteopathic medicine, could you explain the difference between an MD and DO degree for the readers?
The US has two types of licesned physicians, MD's (medical doctors) and DO's (doctors of osteopathic medicine). Both types of doctors undergo virtually similar medical education, go through the same residencies, and practice side-by-side in the same hospitals. According to the American Osteopathic Association, what differentiates DO's is that "Osteopathic physicians understand how all the body’s systems are interconnected and how each one affects the others. They receive special training in the musculoskeletal system so that they better understand how that system influences the condition of all other body systems. In addition, DOs are trained to identify and correct structural problems, which can assist your body's natural tendency toward health and self-healing." As a future DO, I plan on using the training I've received in Osteopathic Manipulative Theory (OMT) as an added modality to help the body's innate ability to heal itself.
Are you leaning towards any specialty yet, and if so, why is that?
As a Foundation Scholar for the California Academy of Family Practice, I'm definitely interested in the opportunities for family medicine in the future. I've shadowed a few physicians in outpatient environments and really enjoyed the continuity of care aspect. I'm planning my third-year rotation tracks right now, so perhaps my answer will be different in a few months!
What is the best and the worst part about medical school?
Best: Meeting other people who were as crazy as me to sign up for this. I'm only slightly joking, but I am constantly amazed by my classmates. Some of them had their own careers before coming to medical school, some went straight from undergrad like me, and most fall right in between. This mix makes for a interesting group of people who bring their life experiences to the table and makes working and studying with them that much more enjoyable.
Worst: Pre-exams weekends drain a little bit of my soul. Exams fall on Mondays at WesternU COMP, which makes for very long weekends. While most days I have enough time to take care of things like groceries and laundry, most of my life gets put on hold right before an exam as I'm studying at least 10-12 hours a day. Thankfully, I only have one more year of that before moving onto clinical rotations (which I've heard can be tiring in their own way as well, but also much more rewarding than a letter grade).
How do you balance school/studying/having a life and staying sane?
This is a great question and one of the skill sets that I recommend premeds develop before coming to medical school. I juggle quite a few different responsibilities while in medical school (CAFP Foundation Scholar, Doximity Medical Student Ambassador, Personal Blog, AlmostDocs Writer, and various student clubs), so keeping a well-organized calender with clear deadlines is a must. I've also been very selective to choose responsibilities with flexible schedules so that I can fit in work around my studying, which remains my first priority. This allows me to "bunch" my non-school workload on non-exam weeks and focus entirely on school during exam weeks.
In terms of staying sane, I make it a point to make sure I'm de-stressing a few times a week through basketball, movies, pool, video-games, or any thing else to take my mind off school. These help me let off the steam from a long day of studying and remind me that life exists outside of medicine.
What is your best piece of advice for all the pre-meds out there?
Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and do something different than the tens of thousands of other premeds. The admissions game pits your application against thousands of people who have the same or better GPA/MCAT scores than you do, so what is so special about your application? For me, it was going out on a limb and starting my own website with no previous experience- it was a great experience to learn from other premeds and became a key talking point on my interviews.