Monday, June 28, 2010
Every year US News and World Reports ranks medical schools based on a complicated process of assigning varying values to different criteria. For instance, how much research is performed at a given institute is put on a scale of 1-10. Quite frankly, this is a very asinine way of going about things.
What they really did was determine what schools would be considered the consensus top 5 schools based upon reputation alone (Harvard, Hopkins etc.) and then devised a system where these schools ended up on top and the rest of the medical schools fell into place somewhere behind.
Does anyone look at these from year to year? Oh look! Harvard is back in first this year! Hopkins sure had a good run going! How ridiculous! But they can do one better!
Now the braintrust over at US News has created a ranking system even more backwards. Did your 2 years of advanced chemistry during undergrad foster an interest in Geriatrics? Better find the best school for preparing you for your future career! Never mind that 99.999% of students either change what specialty they were interested in or seriously consider other options.
And how would you rank medical schools for how they prepare you for a career in geriatrics. Do some medical schools have especially old cadavers? Is the average age of the faculty >65?
Here are my thoughts: talk to medical students, talk to doctors--evaluate the advice they give you and see if it applies to you. At the end of the day it really doesn't matter where you end up. Got into Hopkins, Penn or Harvard. Congratulations! Now whenever you introduce yourself people are going to think that you are either grandpa gave a sizable donation to build a new library, or that you sold yourself as some oppressed Eskimo-Latino who grew up as the son of toilet assembler only to survive mean streets of Malibu and USC.
In other words, you are probably better off going where you know nothing is going to be handed to you. Newsflash: in California they won't know the difference between Wright State and Wayne State, so you better spend your time in med school wisely, e.g. study hard for Step 1 and get some research done during your four years.
A Funny thing Happened on the Way to the Cadaver Lab: An Open Thread of Interesting Hospital Occurrences
I've mentioned a few stories that have stood out to me in my four years of medical school. Now it's your turn--through the years hopefully we'll come up with some good ones. Other health-care workers feel free to share your funny stories.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
In medical school one is given large loan "disbursements" at two times every year. Because very few people have any other source of income, you can minimize the amount of debt that you end up with by following several rules. I'll list them from most-to-least insightful:
1. Invest Extra Loan Money
At every disbursement, transfer 50% or so of the money into a brokerage account. This helps in many ways. First, since the money is no longer in your bank account, there will be a psychological effect of thinking that there is less money for you to spend. In effect, even if you aren't one to make a paper budget, we all still spend with an idea of how far we need to stretch out our money.
The second benefit is that many of these brokerages, such as TD Ameritrade (which I use), will give you 5 free trades. What this means is that you can transfer your money into a short term CD, safe stocks, or a mutual fund without paying $10 to put your money in and take it out.
Of course, they hope that you fashion yourself Gordon Gekko and move your money in and out of different stocks, thereby making 6+ trades and giving them money. You are smarter than that. Additionally, if all you do is move 50% of your money into the account at the start of the year, you will get close to 1% in interest, which is better than you would get from a bank's savings account.
In short, if you can put the money into a CD or mutual fund you may even be making money on the loans (depending on the interest rate), which is much better than losing 4-6% as the interest piles up in a checking account.
Feel free to compare TD Ameritrade to other sites, I like them and they are not giving me anything to push their site over any other.
Not a good idea with loan money:
2. Make a "Per Day" Budget
Take all of your monthly expenses: rent, car payments, gasoline, groceries, cell phone bills, etc. and put them in an excel spreadsheet. Then divide them by 4.3 (or whatever Google tells you is the number of weeks in a month) to show how much each thing costs per week. Then break that down into per-day expenditures.
Not only will this give you a rough idea of how much discretionary money you have on a day-to-day basis, but it may also give you insight into areas where you can save. For instance, my wife and I found that we could save close to $3,000 if we were able to pay off our car loan early.
You may find that you are saving more, if only to see the amount that you could be saving per day increase. In other words, it can become a game where you are rewarded for saving, by picturing what you could do with that money, e.g. spring break trip or new bike.
Hope these are helpful, they have both helped me tremendously, feel free to post other tips in the comments section.
Friday, June 25, 2010
I thought I'd make an open thread for prospective medical students to ask questions and I'll do my best to answer them a-la Dear Abby. Feel free to post other experiences/frustrations you have had in trying to get into medical school.