May 30, 2007

So, you wanna be a Caribbean med student?

If you want to read about my adventures in New England, scroll down. With limited access to high speed (my precioussss), I'm doing chain blog posts.

I'm supplying tidbits of what I think would be useful information to incoming medical students because being shipped off to the middle of nowhere is scary when you have no idea what to expect.

Your first stop should be ValueMD, which is one of the most useful places for SGU information that you can find. Remember to do a search and remember that "What are my chances and here are my stats posts" don't tend to be appreciated by the membership, even if they are so VERY tempting. I probably did one myself.

Here is my info for those who don't feel like scrolling back through med school finals panicking, pleading for episodes of House before iTunes FINALLY decided to pick it up, and my drive across the USA in winter to try to find out relevant SGU info...

I began at St George's University School of Medicine (SGUSOM) in January of 2007. I've finished all courses except biochemistry, the final for which I have to take in August because I'm an idiot (you can scroll back for that story). I graduated with a B.S. from UC Davis in March of 2004 with high honors and a 3.54 GPA. I took the MCAT twice, which in retrospect was incredibly stupid, and scored a 29O the first time and a 27T the second time (D'oh!).

Common convention, *especially* if you are applying to American medical schools, dictates that you should NOT retake the MCAT unless there is some stellar reason things went wrong on the first one and you think you can do much better. Retaking and getting a lower score is a big old red flag to admissions committees.

I was a resident of California, which along with New York and Canada, are exquisitely difficult places to get into med school, even if you are sporting far better stats than mine (for US schools, my GPA/MCAT would be considered on the low end of competitive, and moreso because of the lower second MCAT score).

SGU's averages, which I'm too lazy to look up, are posted on the web sites. It also gives the international breakdown of its membership.

I initially applied for the August 2006 class, finalizing all my application materials, I believe if I recall correctly, in April. SGU is becoming increasingly competitive and its stats are raising, so apply as early as possible since, like most American schools (can't speak for Canada), the school is on rolling admissions.

I heard that I was approved for an interview relatively quickly after everything was finalized, but after the interview, it took me 8-9 weeks to hear back. UNLIKE US schools, if you are put on the waitlist for SGU and do not make it, you will (if things are the same), be offered a spot in the next class.

On the interview... formats differ. Some people are told not to dress up (do so anyway) and meet their interviewers for a 20 minute interview at Starbuck's, 10 minutes of which is taken up by the mandatory writing sample you do while there.

My interview took place at a conference room at the Kaiser hospital where my interviewer worked. They tend to use SGU grads and will try to find the ones closest to your area, which in my cases, was about a 3 hour drive away. My interview was fairly formal, but concluded with my interviewer essentially telling me all the things that were horrible about Grenada. Hmm...

I also attended two open houses, which are not necessary, but are fun if you're in the area, tend to allow you to meet a member of the faculty, talk to current 3rd/4th years or residents, and see nice pictures. Hey, and free notepads.

I heard back on my interview largely by harassing my admissions counselor via the phone. After your interview, I'd recommend giving it about four weeks, and then call once a week to check up. I heard via mail long after I heard via phone, and in some cases, your "acceptance" will be in the form of receiving a financial aid packet out of nowhere, but in my case, the financial aid packet took forever to come, and when it did, was via email. Shrug.

On financial aid, I can only tell you what applies to US residents, since I am one and all... You can take out two types of Stafford loans, subsidized and unsubsidized, for a grand total of 18500 a year, which is nowhere near the amount you need, but is not credit-based unless you've defaulted on student loans. SGU is divided into 5 "years", which is still 4 years, so stop asking; it's a loan thing.

You have several options for the rest of your loans. Ever since the GradPlus loans became available, it would seem that most US students go through those. There are credit requirements with the GradPlus loans, but tend to require no open derogatory accounts, and nothing bad in the last two years, and I don't *believe* go on the 650 credit score required by other lenders, but I could be wrong. For credit problems, start EARLY and go to CreditBoards. Read the newbie forums first. Depending on your credit issue, do-it-yourself credit repair seems to take an average of about a year and requires quite a bit of work, but it's worth it in the end. I dragged my score up by 100 points, personally.

That isn't an advertisement by the way. It's a free website that helped me a LOT and doesn't offer credit suicide suggestions like consolidation. The FCRA is your friend. Most collection services really like violating it with impunity, which is good news for you if you know what to do with it, and death for you if you think they're entitled to break federal laws because you're a bad horrible person who incurred debt and deserve whatever fate spins for you.

They give a credit seminar at SGU once you're a student, btw, which I found to be full of false information and a few somewhat insulting assumptions. I wouldn't *advise* anyone to skip what is supposed to be a mandatory event... never. I'd just strongly imply it.

Once you get your acceptance, you'll also be sent medical and housing forms. I don't know what the housing options are now, since I don't think Grand Anse is being offered to first termers anymore, and I'm not sure if they're going to re-close it for good, since they were offering singles to upper termers at truly unreasonable high cost for next term. Chances are, you'll wind up sharing a double in one of the superdorms at True Blue. I'll link the pictures inn the next blog.

On the medical forms, it's a good idea to fill them out as much as possible and get whatever you can done, but in *my* experience, and don't hold me to this, things like completion of the Hep B series etc are not *necessary* for first term registration, but are a good idea to get out of the way. Also, be prepared for the school to lose your medical paperwork (and transcripts, and in my case, MCAT scores) so have backup copies of everything.

To be continued with travel to Grenada (which I'm looking forward to being MUCH more difficult in August), life in Grenada/at SGU, and first term classes. Ciao!


Anonymous said...

DJ SIVA thinks you are faking your insomia because you just wanted to concentrate on anatomy and histology. DJ SIVA has no respect for you.

Anonymous said...

This is DJ SIVA's post. But I think he's sore because he flunked out of SGU.

Good luck and I hope you do well in Biochemistry. Also get some rest, have some fun, and spend time with your family

Anonymous said...

16 May 2007
"The Doctor"
Tonight, they were showing the movie, "The Doctor" on campus (for class) so I went and saw it. It was an interesting movie about a surgeon who gets cancer of the larynx, and thus gets a taste of his own medicine, in terms of how he used to treat patients.

It was pretty interesting, and basically it seems that most of the stereotypes are actually quite accurate! Even the stereotypes about med students are pretty accurate too, which is pretty interesting! Basically, most have some sort of depression and a lot of pent-up stress/aggression. I guess it's too much for the hypothalamus to handle! On the other hand, if you have an easy going personality, it is just like anything else, and it isn't a big deal at all.

Anyways, I really like SGU. Man, this school is like a resort! I actually read that the Chancellor attended Medical School in Spain for 1 year and then dropped out and went to Law School, and then started SGU when he was 29 years old! It's pretty crazy!

One thing, though, about med school that I did not know about was how much it relies on standardized multiple-choice (MCQ) exams. Basically, if you prefer MCQ exams over Essay exams or Oral exams, then you will be like 99% of medical students and be in the clear. However, if you prefer and excel in Essay exams or Oral exams as opposed to MCQ exams, and find a large discrepancy between your MCAT score and your GPA, then consider yourself fore-warned!!! This is for those of you who did not take standardized MCQ's on a regular basis in your undergrad classes. Most people here are used to it, so it's considered common knowledge, but it isn't common knowledge to everyone, particularly those who went to top-notch Liberal Arts universities or had Liberal Arts or Economics backgrounds.

In addition, if you are a good extemporaneous public speaker, also be happy but realize that the skills may be better for 3rd and 4th year, from what I've been told.

Anyways, it's all about the standardized tests. At the same time, there are a ton of other factors too, which account for the pass rate of the middle 65% of the class. These include old exams (1-2%), secret DES session tips (96%), and faking illnesses (1-2%) to take completion exams three months after the course is completed! The reason why this is something that is a big deal is because most of the time you expect to be taught well by the Teacher and the Teacher's materials. After all, this is the bulk of what you are paying for, financially speaking. However, for many courses it's all about having the proper book or having attended the right DES sessions to have things spoonfed to you in a particular slant. Medical education is all about spoon-feeding. The "Best Parasit Slides Ever" on the MacDaddy is clear testament to this! In addition, "Physiology" by Costanzo is a must, and if you don't have it for Midterms or Finals, you are taking a great risk of failing the class.

So, medical school is really cool because it a) teaches how well you take standardized multiple-choice tests, and b) tests how networked you are in terms of academics! Have you ever heard the phrase, it's who you know, not what you know? It's kind of like that. However, shady practices can get you by, but can't sustain, so due to the rise in Medical Malpractice and increased attention on the profession, the true test of what people know in medicine will come to light. Anyways, for Term 2 remember to buy the Physiology book by Costanzo. It's like $25 or something!

Tom said...

It's important that every potential student does the research on the institutions BEFORE enrolling, and then puts in the work once they are admitted. If they do that, they'll come away with a positive experience. If they do not, they'll have a bad one - just like in the US.

T. Hagen
AUA - Caribbean Medical Schools Liason

Norma said...

You have great advice for medical school caribbean. I just applied to UMHS St. Kitts for next year. This advice will definitely help me to prepare for my own experiences in a Caribbean Medical School. When I visited UMHS, I was really impressed with their campus, as well as all they offer.

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