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Over and over again in my life, I have been asked to tutor premed students for various reasons. (Premed = Even before they get into medical school)
So for my own convenience, I’ve arranged a pack of useful resources so I can stop repeating myself and all this completely free, as free as the internet.
There are really a lot of things to do in the world and you must choose one of the hardest to get in. Why?
There are really a lot of easier ways to make money, and I think if I quit medicine today, I would earn more money. So why you want to do medicine, why?
There are a million ways to help people more than a doctor can, like the dude who made aeroplanes or cars, I’m sure they helped a lot of people. And in medicine, sometimes I don’t feel like I’m helping anyone more than I’m helping myself, so why?
There must be a personal story, a reason, that is your story we want to know. Not your mother’s story, not someone else’s story, not the story you watch from Gray’s Anatomy or any other doctor show on TV. (None of them are realistic, the realistic ones are not going to be on TV as 99% of the work we do are quite routine and mundane: you will fall asleep watching it) I’m not interested to hear all those stories that are not yours.
So if you do not have a compelling reason or story or hunch or calling, please step aside and give your space to someone else. If you really really want this space, perhaps you can continue reading.
Again, as above, I’ve read a hundred million of “Ah, I woke up today wanting to do medicine to save people”. Yes, I know that might be true, but why? Tell me, convince me with a burning desire.
Trying to get an attachment
I do not believe in attachments. I believe in fate and hard work. If you want to just sit on the wall like a fly in my clinics, please do not come to me or my colleagues. All premed students who actually reached my door and gone through me has put in hard work. (What kind of hard work you may ask? You have to save me time, if not why would I want to waste my time on you?)
[alert type=”danger” icon-size=”normal”]Proof it. Proof your worth in salt with blood, sweat and tears.[/alert]
Preparing for interviews
Very very tough. In Singapore, you are probably accepted before your interviews or doomed before your interviews, unfortunately. If I’m not wrong, academics, tests and your CV still plays a big part in it. But don’t despair, we will never pass on the opportunity to take someone who has a big potential to be a safe doctor just because his/her grades are subpar. (Conversely, we will not hesitate to not take someone who “smells” suspicious or mildly unsafe even with perfect scores) Overseas interviews however, tend to be more friendly and you tend to have a good chance, especially since they love Singapore students. (is it true?)
There are ton of good books out there teaching you how to prepare for an interview, so I will not waste time with it. But rather I will cover the unique points of a medical interview. (I might not be an authority on this, so well read and believe me at your own risk)
The most important question really is: Why do you want to do medicine? So please make sure you have a ready answer for it. We are very very sick of canned answers, I mean, how many times can we hear a generic answer in a day before we go mad? But a unique, genuine, touching and enthralling story will keep us connected and interested for a long long time.
So please, give us a good, coherent, real story. I believe most of us are quite kind, but lie to us at your own risk. Our daily work involves trying to figure out which patient is telling us the truth when they say they are not smoking or they swear they are taking their medications. So sniffing out a fake will not be very far off from our daily work.
There are a collection of tough questions that I have in my head which are not so convenient to share, lest the interview board chances upon this and invent harder questions, so I will only tell you in person.
Nothing nourishes the brain like books. I love to read. Frankly most of us can sniff out a reader from a non reader from miles away, and guess who we will accept to be one of our colleagues? (The only other way to circumvent reading a lot is to talk to someone who reads a lot, but not everyone is so lucky)
Albom, M. (2002) Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson. 10 Anv Rep edition. New York: Broadway Books.
Great read about how it helps us “put things in perspective”.
Frankl, V.E., Winslade, W.J. and Kushner, H.S. (2006) Man’s Search for Meaning. 1 edition. Boston: Beacon Press.
Another one of my favourite.
selzer, R. (1790) Letters to a Young Doctor by Richard selzer. Simon & Schuster.
Really interesting book, try to read between the lines about how the author describe the nuances in human interactions.
Gawande, A. (2017) Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. Reprint edition. Picador.
My favourite medical writer. I’ve read all his books, all very good read and inspiring.
Yalom, I.D. (2012) Love’s Executioner: & Other Tales of Psychotherapy. 2 edition. Basic Books.
Good introduction book into therapy, I’m really a huge fan of his style of psychotherapy, really very effective. But for premed students, read it to broaden your perspective.
Great lecture, we will forever mourn the passing of a great teacher like him.
Gray, R. (2017) The Premed Playbook Guide to the Medical School Interview: Be Prepared, Perform Well, Get Accepted. Morgan James Publishing.
Not sure the value of these books, anyone can comment please?
Other books which are recommended on the internet
Sorry I’ve not read these books, could be great books as well. Can someone read them and tell me if they are good for premed students?
Heller, T. (2009) On Becoming a Doctor: Everything You Need to Know about Medical School, Residency, Specialization, and Practice. 16155th edition. Naperville, Ill: Sourcebooks.
Belkin, L. (1994) First, Do No Harm: The Dramatic Story of Real Doctors and Patients Making Impossible Choices at a Big-City Hospital. 1 edition. New York: Fawcett.
Kalanithi, P. and Verghese, A. (2016) When Breath Becomes Air. 1 edition. New York: Random House.
Collins, D.M.J. (2006) Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon’s First Years. Reprint edition. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.
Ziegler, E. (2004) Emergency Doctor. Reprint edition. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.
Groopman, J.E. (2006) The Soul of a Doctor: Harvard Medical Students Face Life and Death. 1 edition. Edited by S. Pories, S.H. Jain, and G. Harper. Chapel Hill, N.C: Algonquin Books.
I’ve read these, but I don’t think they will be useful for premed students
You could read this books for fun, they are good books, but in a time squeeze like right before an interview, perhaps try the above books first.
Sacks, O. (1998) The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales. New York, NY: Touchstone.
Shem, S. and Updike, J. (2010) The House of God. Reissue edition. New York: Berkley.
Marion, R. (2001) The Intern Blues: The Timeless Classic About the Making of a Doctor. 2 Reprint edition. New York: William Morrow Paperbacks.
Actually if you really really have time, ie you have a few years to go before your medical interview. (And you actually found this page and read all the way down here)
You deserve a treat. You really should read widely and broadly. I find the books which are most useful for my practice are actually books that are on “polar” opposites of medical books. Like literature and “random” fun books.
Medicine is a career that is portrayed to be very intellectual and very demanding in terms of knowledge. But honestly, that is just the beginning. What keeps us in the field and really enjoy the field is the human connection and the relationships.
So please, go out there and enjoy your day, enjoy your hobbies, have fun! In fact, I find it so stupid that we do not take “Arts students” into medical school. Actually the hard science parts are quite tough but, if you put things in perspective, they form such a small part of the beginning of a long medical career. In the end, I tend to notice that the most fulfilled doctors out there are not the smartest nor are they the top scorers, but rather the most “well rounded” doctor. Someone who has a good foundation in a broad number of fields will do well. Someone with a open mind, as wide as the ocean, who can learn every day and every second, from our most important teacher: the patient.
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