Normally, medical students think of the Caribbean as community college for medical schools. He admits himself:
"Like most people I tried to get into medicine in the states and was rejected for perfectly good reasons. Chief among them were:
2) poor scholastic performance in spite of the tools to excel
3) horrible recommendations from teachers aware of points 1 and 2."
The fact that Christopher was able to go from there, to contributing to First Aid Step 1 (the Bible of the first part of the medical boards exam), and is now in a competitive residency is a testament to his tenacity and intelligence. His writing skills are way above par. It's wonderful to have re-stumbled upon his blog and see that he has recently had much hard-won success. For anyone amidst medical school or thinking of applying, this is well worth a read.
"I took two months to study for the USMLE Step 1, a test that covers the first two years of medical school, and while in Cambodia on my 6 week tour of Southeast Asia, I found out that I scored a 240/99 (the goal I set for myself). [Ed. note: this ~82 percentile!] While studying for this test, I began editing a review book (First Aid for the USMLE) just for fun and submitting my corrections and suggestions to the authors. They contacted me and asked for my CV, and now I am working for them and credited as an author on the 2008 Edition of the book. During this time, I applied for transfer to several medical schools in the US. Drexel University in Philadelphia invited me for an interview. What follows is the story of that interview and the outcome."Another excerpt from the entry Pancakes Every Morning:
Looking at it now, I’m tempted to start the passive bragging of impossible odds. “You have no idea how hard it is,” I’d say. “Medical school is like trying to take a drink from a fire hose,” I’d brag.
And that’s total bullshit.
Medical school is like trying to eat five pancakes every morning for breakfast.
You know you can do it. A Premed advisory committee endorsed you saying, “He has the stomach for it. He’s committed.” And you prove them all right. Every day you show up with your first-year optimism and your annoying hunger for learning and you clean that plate (just kidding, it’s adorable). But you begin to notice that those pancakes are slowing you down a little each day and the sugar highs and lows are screwing with your sleep. Smart person that you are, you decide to pass on the flapjacks one day. You think to yourself, “Self, I’m going to eat ten pancakes tomorrow so that I don’t have to eat any today.”
But it never stops. Turns out that “self” isn’t the most responsible lender, and before you know it there are 40 pancakes in front of you and your plate needs to be clean by tomorrow. So yeah, at this point it looks impossible. But really, it’s your fault.
In the future, as I like to imagine it, I’ll be in charge of all medical school admissions. The process will be six weeks long and will consist of nothing more than showing up each morning to eat five pancakes, at which point you can then go about whatever you were going to do that day. At the end of the five weeks a few jaded, newly diabetic hopefuls will come to my office and, mixed with both pride and resignation say, “I did it. I finished those goddamn pancakes.”
“Wow,” I’ll say. “That’s very impressive. You must be very proud, and your parents must be very proud. Just one more thing.” They’ll reflexively clutch their stomachs, shifting their girth from one hip onto the next and groan, “What’s that?”
Another final excerpt on how to write the perfect thank you letter, from the post entitled Embarrassment of Riches:
And with that, she asked if I had any questions. The night before, I had prepared six questions that sounded specific but were in fact broad and I figured this would cover me, but I ended up not using them. Instead, I asked about very practical things like, “Do Drexel students take advantage of international rotations?” I knew the answer to this, but asked anyway to bring up the fact that I understand the importance of being bilingual and have plans to do a rotation in Ecuador (with Aunt Lucy and Uncle Fred) and that I have already traveled and have stories to tell you that will kill some time and make you think that I am well-rounded and interesting.
I told her about Laos and how much I loved the people. I told her about filthy, filthy Cambodia and the Killing Fields. I told her about the motorcycle trip in Vietnam with Kelly’s heroics, our first stitches, and the pictures that I’d show her if only she’d accept me. The interview ended with her telling me that they would decide later that day (or possibly on Thursday) who would be accepted and that I would know either Thursday or Friday.
So the interview was split very much in two and while I handled myself as well as I could have in the first half, I think we both enjoyed the second half much more. After this, my day was over. I then went down to the bookstore, bought Drexel stationary, and wrote her the following letter.
"Dear Mrs. XXX,
As a writer, I depend on stories. There is something extra and hidden between the lines of a good story that would be harder to see if stated simply. You can imagine a much more interesting version of “he went to medical school,” for example. As an applicant, I notice when others have higher scores and I worry that someone might not see my stories tucked between my A’s and B’s. I wanted to thank you for inviting me to interview; it was my chance to show you some of the extra and hidden parts of my life that otherwise might have been missed on paper.
For Drexel, I hope to become a great story.
I would have mailed it, but as I said, the decision was being made later that day. I left the envelope with her secretary and caught the train back.
Voilá. That folks, is writing.