Monthly Archives: March 2014
When I tell friends that I’m an Integrative Physiology major, one of the first questions that usually follows is, “Are you going to medical school?” Well, to be honest, I’m not sure yet. I would absolutely love to go into some sort of post-graduate schooling, whether that is Physician’s Assistant (PA) school, Physical Therapy (PT) school, or Chiropractic school. I think it is essential to have post graduate schooling in addition to an Integrative Physiology degree. With these ambitions I have a lot of questions about the process that need to be answered not by an academic advisor, but by someone who endured the trials and tribulations of post graduate school and came out victorious. I briefly interviewed Bryan Myers, PA at Kaiser Permanente after a regularly scheduled appointment and hoped he could help me answer some of these questions.
I asked Bryan what advice he would have for future PA school applicants regarding cover letters, letters of recommendation, and résumés. The first dish of advice that he issued me was to take the cover letter seriously. Without a meaningful and well directed cover letter, schools will not consider you immediately for an interview. He also mentioned that cover letters are what the reader sees first, and it must have focus and clarity directed to the school that we want to apply.
I was also interested in how he chose people to write letters of recommendation for him when applying to PA school. He advised me to choose friends and colleagues you are confident will write a strong and meaningful letter that will highlight your personal strengths and display your achievements. He also told me that if we don’t get accepted initially into a program to go and meet with a faculty member to discuss your application and how to address the weak points and how to fix them.
I wish that Bryan had more time to answer more of my questions that I had prepared for him, but after hearing the screaming child next door, I couldn’t blame him for having to leave so suddenly. It was very helpful to hear firsthand from a PA school graduate some tips and tricks for applying. As for the question I proposed earlier, “Are you going to medical school?” I’m still not entirely sure, but I hope to incorporate some of the advice that I learned from Bryan into my current resume and cover letter to become more appealing to post-graduate schools.
Like many college students, I am not entirely sure what I want to do with my future. Even when I come up with an idea it usually changes within a month or so. Even though my career goals have been varying, however, I do know for certain that I want to graduate from medical school. In these past couple of years working towards a pre medicine degree, I have learned that gaining acceptance into a medical school is notably challenging and often times stressful. For instance, the CU Medical School in Denver receives over four thousand applicants a year, yet only has enough space for two hundred students. For that reason, those that gain admission and go forward to become doctors are prestigious and hardworking candidates.
In order for me to grasp a better understanding of how to be a competitive applicant for med school, I have been shadowing and talking directly to doctors. One of these doctors is my family practitioner, Dr. Lindy Gilchrist at DTC Family Health. Three days ago, I interviewed her, asking questions regarding what she does specifically on a regular day as well as how she communicates with other doctors and certain challenges she is often times faced with regarding communication.
In this interview, my first question for Dr. Gilchrist was regarding her job responsibilities. In her reply she told me, “I see patients everyday from two years of age up to 100. I see patients if they have a concern about something that has just come up, or see them for a physical or chronic care such as high blood pressure and diabetes”.
One I had a clear understanding about her job description; I then ask Dr. Gilchrist questions regarding how she communicates with other doctors. What I learned from her response was of the importance of her capability to contact specialty doctors if her patients had specific illnesses she couldn’t address. Dr. Gilchrist informed me that often times, doctors of certain specialties were responsive about her patient’s conditions, however, at other times they can become too busy to reach through phone or email making her job even more challenging.
Another significant aspect of communication, which is important to her career, is keeping contact with her patients. At DTC Family Health, they have a patient portal system where every patient had a personal pin number in order to access previous and upcoming appointments, lab results, current vitals, and messages from their physicians. After a patient submits a message to their doctor or has a test done, their doctors write back to them within two days. At this point in the interview, Dr. Gilchrist told me, “Writing takes up a large amount of my day for sure. It is an important part of my career as I also write many personal notes on the patients I see throughout the day.”
Normally when talking to doctors about their careers, they inform me about the types of patients they see or the treatments and medications they prescribe everyday. However, after this interview, I walked away with a deeper understanding of they types of communication within the medical field. As with many careers, good communication is important. However from what I learned about working in the medical field was that communication is a necessity. Every day, physicians write personal notes about their patients, read and write emails to other doctors and patients, and are obligated to keep up on latest findings by reading research documents and publications. Most importantly, doctors are required to communicate efficiently with their patients in order to inform them about their health and what they can do to improve their well being. This implies taking complicated topics such as diabetes or high blood pressure and explaining it in a manner that is understandable to the general public. In my project, I plan to take this concept and apply it to a field of medicine I am interested in- sleep physiology. Like patients, many people want to know how to better their health, which includes how to fall asleep faster and longer. For my project, I will take the topic of sleep and write to the general public about the physiology behind it as well as how to overcome sleeping disorders in a manner that it understandable to those who may not be familiar with the science.
Once I decided I was going to write my final project on the topic of human spaceflight, I knew there was one man to talk to: Professor/Colonel Jim Voss. Colonel Voss is currently a professor in the Aerospace Engineering department at the University of Colorado, and has plenty of experience in the field of spaceflight. He is a former astronaut who has been on multiple missions to the International Space Station and lived there for 6 months at a time. Colonel Voss is also well known for holding the record (with Susan Helms) for the longest Extra-vehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalk, on the International Space Station for 8 hours and 56 minutes.
Upon talking to Colonel Voss, I asked him about his strategies and struggles with communication about spaceflight to both people in his field and outside of it. Colonel Voss told me the biggest problem with communicating to the public was that “People don’t understand why we go to space and what we do there. The challenge is getting people to see the value – they often have a poor understanding of the cost to go to space and usually don’t know the benefits.” All in all, the general public doesn’t quite understand the benefits that have come from space research and this results in a knee jerk reaction when they see a number with a some zeroes behind it. When it comes to the people in his own field, Colonel Voss mentioned that the biggest problem was “…convincing people that a particular technical solution is the better solution [than another proposed solution].” There are multiple solutions to one problem and proving that one is better than the other can result in troubles in communication.
After asking Voss about his strategies and solutions to these issues, he stated that for the public “I try to communicate the cost to benefit ratio by providing the reality of expenditures by our government to support space activities and by giving real world examples of benefits from space activities.” Voss tries to clear any haze the public may have from the little knowledge about the field they contain. As for a solution to the issue in the space community, Voss stated “I try to use sound engineering analysis to show the value of one answer over others. Trade studies where solutions are compared analytically is a method that I sometimes use.” He simply uses mathematics and analysis to prove one solution is a better option than others.
The most important piece of information I gained from Colonel Voss was how he communicates with the public. Since my project is directed towards the populace of the United States, it’s important to start off with explaining the research and what their benefits are that come from it. The biggest obstacle in this topic is the lack of understanding many people have about spaceflight. In order to successfully communicate with my target audience, I’ll need to take this into account and hope to give them a better understanding of space research.