Saturday, February 2, 2008

Oh the Fickleness

Oh the fickleness. Is it possible to go from almost-completely mentally/emotionally/physically drained, to something akin to clinically depression, to a "bring it on" attitude in the span of a few days? Well, apparently it happens to me. Somewhat frequently.

I had been so drained and exhausted the last week or so, because everything keeps piling up over each other and it doesn't relent till next weekend. On top of that, the mini-course I'm teaching with JW-M started on Monday (yay! It went really well actually) and we had to prepare lots for it. Why I'll never be a full-time teacher/professor. Which is kind of ironic, as you'll soon see.

I'm also a genetics study group facilitator. It's kind of like tutoring, except you're helping the students teach each other the material (in this case, genetics). So you're phrasing questions and deflecting questions in such a way to help them learn from themselves and each other on this material. The problem is, the genetics program - for whatever ungodly reason - keeps changing from semester to semester. And this'll be my 4th semester doing this job. So every semester I've had to do something very different. This semester's the most difficult because the professors are trying a new interactive way of learning, instead of the standard lectures. Also, they students have weekly quizzes from problems taken from their homework. So they come into the study group, and all they want to do is go over the answers to the homework sets. But they're just numerical problems, it doesn't help them learn the concepts. And when I tried going over the vocab with them - basic stuff - they couldn't tell me what a lot of it meant, or it took them a long time. And I feel so bad.

A part of me feels like I've been letting them down, that I should've prepared more for each study group session. Honestly, I should've, but I don't even know what to do with this new learning system and with these homework sets. The students in the group are like hellbent on doing these problem sets and then leaving. But that's not the point of the study group - if they wanted to just check answers, they don't need to come. It's almost a waste of their time to use this valuable learning/studying time to check homework and how to do problems without understanding the concepts.

And I do care and sincerely want them to learn. I want them to know the material. I want them to be able to see its usefulness in the biological field. But this semester, I just don't know how to get that across to them without being brutally blunt. There are some facilitators that just sit there and gather the money, but I don't do this for the money. Heck, I barely notice that I make money at all. I do this to help others.

Yesterday, I had a meeting with the PI of my lab to discuss my failing project. I'm glad my research was sitting there with me, otherwise the sheer intelligence aura my PI (and verily, all PIs) give off would intimidate me to such a degree that would preclude me from speaking coherently. Thankfully, she's really really nice. And also really really helpful. She gave us lots of ideas on what to do, what we could do, what to check. She was motivating too, and that's good. Too bad this also means I'm going to be spendings lots of time in the lab for the next 2-3 weeks.

And I called the med school I interviewed at last Wednesday. It was the one I had the best shot of getting in. And I'm on the "alternate list," which is effectively a waitlist. Well, that was depressing (quite literally). To top it off, I was talking to my parents later that evening. And they took that wonderful "opportunity" to tell me that, on the one hand I shouldn't lose hope of getting in, but on the other hand to consider alternatives and worst case scenarios.

While I completely agree 100% with them, that was NOT the day to be talking to me about it. They should've waited a week or something before bringing that subject up. They suggest that I should find some entry-level job with my biology B.S. at a pharmaceutics company, and work there for a year before reapplying. I, however, have my own Plan B, C, and D (and now E as well). Still, it was depressing that I actually had to consider this possibility of not getting into med school. I proceeded to gorge myself on hot wings, cheese bread, and pizza that evening. JW-M also partook in the gorging and the drowning of woes.

Anyway, I'm actively enacting Plan B (and maybe Plan E soon thereafter). I was depressed when I started it last night, but now I've reattained my "bring it on" attitude. So what is Plan B?

Public health. I began to apply to my university's school of public health. Fortunately, they accept MCAT scores instead of GRE scores if you've taken the MCAT but not the GRE. I'm applying to 2 separate programs.

The first is "hospital and molecular epidemiology." I believe this could be very interesting work, where I could perhaps work on opportunistic infections in hospitals (i.e. MRSA). This could greatly complement all the research I've done, as well as give me exposure to hospital settings and hospital administration/politics. The second is "international health." With that, I would go to China and research public health issues surrounding major diseases such as malaria, avian flu, and/or HIV/AIDS. With my fluency in Mandarin and my HIV/AIDS mini-course for freshmen, I feel this is a good match and will make me an excellent candidate.

Both MPH programs are 2 years. So in my second year I'd reapply to med schools, while I'm still within that 3-year window during which my MCAT scores are still valid. I feel I'd be very interested in both programs, could get a lot out of them, and would make me a very strong re-applicant to med schools.

I have this inkling of a feeling that my parents won't be too pleased with my choice to pursue public health rather than other things, like dentistry, as my backup. They don't see it as a very good career choice that pays well. Well, whatever. I'm doing it for several reasons. One, it would be something I'd be interested in doing, even if I failed to get into med school a second time. Two, it would make me an amazing re-applicant to med schools. Three, it's a 2-year program, so I'd still be in the 3-year window for valid MCAT scores. And four, this was my Plan B all along anyway, and I'm choosing to enact this path.

So, bring it on.

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