Friday, May 11, 2012

10 Things I Wish I Knew About Residency Interviews

Though it seems so long ago, the month and a half I spent on the interview trail is one of the most interesting times of my life. This high stress environment did not suit me, believe me. But this time really did teach me that you CAN get used to anything. By no means is this an exhaustive list, and it does not serve as a strict blow by blow. However, these are some of the small quirks I wish I had known during this time.

1. Schedule: The month of September/October can be very exciting! I was definitely glued to my smart phone, pulse quickening after each and every buzz indicating I got a new email requesting my presence during an interview. Harness your chi, and welcome your inner anal retentive med-student self, because you have to remember that certain programs only interview during certain days, while others interview daily. Keep your iPhone with the calendar or a small pocket calendar handy at all times. If your top choices only interview during certain days, "reserve" those times until you hear from them (but also be realistic and don't hold your breath forever).
2. Respond to email requests in a timely fashion and know that the program coordinator or program assistant is going to be an incredible lifeline. Be nice to them because they can give your the time to get your foot in the door. Especially when certain dates fall through (and they will!), having these people on your side is great because they are more willing to work with you.
3. They say this time and time again, but schedule your top choices in the middle of your interview. Have one or two practice interviews first in programs you don't particularly love. This gives you some semblance of confidence due to repetition, and it gives you a sense of comparison that can generate questions during the dreaded, "do you have any more questions?" :::blank stare::: moments.
4. Also, the interview trail is expensive! I was definitely spoiled applying in Family Medicine because most of my hotel stays were paid for, as well as most of my meals while I was in the city. I don't know much about other specialties, but make sure you save up some loan money to make this happen. Plane tickets require some shopping around. And most of the time, I opted to drive to a lot of my interviews, to save some money. During what I fondly call my "Tour de Florida", I spent $650 in gas money. Awesome. Just be prepared.
5. (4b) This might be pretty obvious, but try to bunch your interviews close together so you can avoid too many flights. Rent a car! Or drive in spurts. I used Tampa/Orlando as a home base instead of Pensacola because flights out of there were much cheaper and the central location was much more conducive to driving to my different interviews. Try to find a hub from which you can spoke out from, or do what some other people did and get a one way flight from your furthest destination and drive with a rental car back to your point of origin.
6.(4c) This is probably not a big deal for people who have nice, brand new, reliable cars. But I've been driving my Civic since high school and it is nearing its last breath. Pushing the car to do what I asked it to required some planning. First the essentials: get an oil change, change out the tires, get new windshield wipers, check the fluids in your car, make sure the spare tire was accessible, do minor repairs, make sure that you have AAA or some other road side assistance. Then, the extras: invest in a GPS if you don't already have one, plug in the old iPod with some tunes or some audiobooks to help the time pass.
7. Dress: I always chose to wear a traditional black suit. And ladies, perhaps one of the biggest challenges is finding some good looking comfy shoes. You will tour hospitals and walk a lot. The last thing you want is to be distracted by ill choice footwear.
8. Residency dinners are great, if the program offers them. They are usually scheduled the night before the interview and it gives you a chance to talk to the residents and ask them questions. It is also a good time to size up these people to see if you would want to work with them, if their personalities jive with yours, etc. Use this time wisely because some programs give residents equal vote and all programs rely heavily on their impressions. Just some etiquette issues: try not to order the most expensive thing on the menu and use your judgement when ordering any wine or alcohol (or just don't do it). Give medicine its just due, but the residents are also trying to sell you their city so ask about what they like to do for fun, what makes this program unique being in this city, etc. Remember that though it may seem intimidating that these residents are (gasp) doctors, they are only a few years removed from where you are sitting. Some of the best residency dinners I went on eventually drifted towards topics of Fantasy Football (which is ok by me).
9. Know your application. They WILL ask you about it. Don't be dishonest. Don't overly embellish. Be genuine. These people meet a TON of people during the interview season. Their BS meter is honed and primed. Be sure to have some questions ready specific to the program. And lastly, be courteous, but let your personality peek through. There is no sense being a polished non-version of yourself. You have to find a program that suits you and they have to find a candidate that suits them. It is like speed dating, so put your best foot forward but don't forget to be yourself.
10. Write thank you notes. I had a stock email for the program director, attendings, residents, chief residents, and program coordinators. I just filled in parts that were unique to our conversation/experience. Write notes for yourself. I made a spread sheet that had all the important facts that differentiated one program vs another. It will definitely be helpful when all of the interviews start running into each other!

That's all for now, but I'm sure there are more that I haven't covered. I hope this is a good start!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

I have really enjoyed having the time to read fun, fiction books during the past few weeks.

On May 1st, Veronica Roth's sequel to Divergent, titled Insurgent, came out, and I was extremely excited about it! I find myself  lucky, having finished the first book just days prior to the sequel release, and not having to wait a long time to read Insurgent. The current buzz on the book is that Roth did not opt to do a tremendous amount of summarization of the previous novel.

Of course it is difficult to write a book review for a sequel without divulging too much about the plot, so there are some spoilers. You have been warned.

First, the strengths: Tris has lived through a harrowing experience on her Initiation Day, including deaths of her parents and of one of her friends (covered in Divergent). I felt that her hesitance around guns, the persistence of her nightmares, and the way she made wanton decisions that put herself in risky situations, made her pain very real, very pervasive, and very natural. Despite all the activity that was going on around her, Tris had to continue to force her way to work through these fears and deaths and incorporate them into her world view. Instead of haunting her, these events eventually drove her actions and goals.

We also get a chance to view the different factions and the different capacities in which they work. Since the first book focused on Abignation and Dauntless (and a little bit of Erudite), we at least get to see the inner workings of Amity and Candor. Proving herself truly Divergent, it makes sense that Tris can make attempts to blend in, but never truly does fit in.

Her relationship with Four flourishes, and we find him to be a far more complex character with many more layers than he initially let on. And the torture. And the betrayal. And the twist! It has been years since I got full-body goosebumps at the end of reading a novel (yes it was that good!)

Then the weaknesses: Tris has a lot of talent, instinct, and natural prowess to protect and act as she is brave and self-less. But she sure does need some rescuing! Roth makes a point to illustrate many situations that are almost impossible to get out of, surely to build suspense and to make the book the page-turner that it is, but it seems like Four is Tris's version of a savior over and over again. Yes, it is a romance. Yes, it is an illustrative tool used to show that Four would do anything for her, but I grow tired of it. It would be nice to have a woman that doesn't need rescuing, even if it is just in YA fiction.

The verdict is that this is an amazing book, with no hints at a sophomore slump. I anxiously wait for the the third book in the series, and believe that Roth is just getting started!

The Archetypal Coming of Age Story

This is something I wrote at the end of my first year of medical school, but I never finished. It makes sense though, that I was able to put an ending to it, now that I can reflect back to the experience.

The Archetypal Coming of Age Story

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Pinakbet is a Fillipino dish that can be broken down by a few different parts. It has a base of meat with veggies in a soup. It is similar to a gumbo, minus the tomato sauce and seafood.

The more I cook some Filipino food, the more I recognize a pattern. Most dishes start with sautéing a trifecta of
garlic, onion, and ginger. In certain circumstances, like this one, it includes tomatoes. Then, the mixture continues to cook by adding some meat, in this case, cubed pork, until it is browned.

It is seasoned with the same shrimp paste we used in the other recipes called bagoong.

The result is a delectable concoction.

4 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
2 tablespoons of ginger, crushed and minced
1 medium tomato, sliced in cubes
1.5 lbs pork, cubed
1 cup Green beans
1 cup Okra
1 cup Eggplant
1 cup yellow squash
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon bagoong
2-3 cups of water

1. First, prepare the meat by cutting it in cubes and sprinkle meat tenderizer and set aside in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
2. Sauté garlic, onion, and ginger until browned. Add tomatoes until wilted.
3. Add meat until browned, about 15 minutes.
4. Add soy sauce to season the meat.
5. Pour water over browned meat. Allow this to simmer. Then add the bagoong.
6. Add squash and wait 5 minutes before adding in the rest of the veggies.

7. Simmer another 15 minutes until the vegetables are cooked.

Enjoy this with some white rice!

Friday, May 4, 2012


(May 3, 2012)

In my house, this dish has always been a staple. Adobo, much like the Spanish-type seasoning, has a very strong garlic base mixed with a tang of vinegar and soy sauce. I was a kid of the 90s, and along with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Capri Sun, I grew up watching cheesy paid advertisements for cooking devices that you "set it and forget it". That last sentence might sound like a serious tirade, but in reality, that is what I view this dish to be like. It was one of the first meals I learned how to make by myself, and it is so versatile and essentially idiot-proof. Of course, there are many different takes on this classic, and even in my family, there a three different versions going around. My mother likes to cook her adobo with chicken, and after it has mostly cooked and simmered in the brine I will talk about in detail later, she chooses to fry the pieces of chicken in a separate frying pan to give the chicken meat a slightly golden brown color and crispy consistency. My dad, however, like to make his with pork, and prefers to add potatoes in the mix. Again, these are just slight variations to the original... a little flair, if you will.

I prefer my adobo as classic and plain as possible, with only one slight variation. You will find that it is also the easiest  of versions to pull off (partly because I'm lazy, and partly because it is delicious in its simplicity). As with most Filipino dishes, it is frequently served over white rice. Enjoy!

      3 lbs pork with skin, cubed
      1 cup soy sauce
      1 cup vinegar
      5 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
      1/2 sweet onion, sliced
      1 tablespoon pepper corns
      3 pieces of bay leaves
      1 tablespoon sugar

1. First, prepare the pork by sprinkling it with some meat tenderizer and setting it aside in the refrigerator for 30 mins-1 hour.
2. In a large pot, combine all ingredients (pork, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, onion, pepper corns, bay leaf) except sugar. Make sure that the pork is fully coated with the brine. Remember that the soy sauce and vinegar are in a 1:1 ratio, so if you need to add more, just make sure that they are in equal parts.
3. Heat covered in med-high heat for about 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. You will find that the pork will release quite a bit of fat as it cooks (You can choose to skim this off as a healthier option) meanwhile, the soy sauce and vinegar will thicken as well. 

4. Cook thoroughly until the meat is no longer pink. Minutes before you take it off the heat, sprinkle one tablespoon of sugar and mix thoroughly. This will give the adobo some added sweetness and will allow some mild caramelization on top of the meat.

Again, this meal is best served over white rice. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Nicaragua Photos

Some edited photos from Nicaragua FSU COM Su09 trip are up! View them here!


Binagoongan (Shrimp paste)
(May 2, 2012)

Introduction: Binagoongan (bee-na-go-ong-ngan) may be a difficult word to say, but that's okay because your taste buds will be very busy anyway. The base of this dish is "Bagoong" or salted shrimp paste that has been fermented. Bagooong has different varieties and can be made out of shrimp (bagoong alamang) or fish (bagoong isda). Traditionally, bagoong can be used as a condiment or, as in this dish, part of the sauce base. Part of the fermenting process also yields Patis (fish sauce), which I have used in previous recipes.

(Photo credit from Wikipedia)

     3 lbs of pork, cubed
     4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
     1/2 onion, sliced
     2 tablespoons ginger, crushed and minced
     1 can coconut milk
     1/2 cup water
     1 bullion cube
     salt and pepper
     3 tablespoons bagoong alamang (shrimp sauce paste)
     green beans
     green onions copped
     optional: green chile pepper

1. Prepare the meat by cutting the pork into 1-inch cubes. A good way to ensure the meat is tender is to sprinkle some meat tenderizer and let sit in the refrigerator for about 30 mins-1 hour.
2. Saute ginger, garlic, and onion until browned and wilted. 
3. Add pork and cook on med-high heat until browned. Add water and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. Add bullion cube, salt (if needed) and pepper.
4. Add 1/2 can of coconut milk and continue to simmer. Mix in bagoong thoroughly. Continue to simmer for about 10 minutes.
5. Combine green beans, green onions, and optional green chile pepper. Heat covered for another 10 minutes.

Some tips: Remember that the bagoong is a very salty mixture to begin with, so use caution with adding more salt!
This is best served over white rice. Enjoy!