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News from admissions

White Coat Ceremony—the Start of the Journey

It’s the high point of the first semester: the White Coat Ceremony.

Students in the matriculating class don the White Coat and recite the Hippocratic Oath—words and a simple piece of clothing that symbolize the promise and responsibility of their chosen profession.

At Saba University School of Medicine, the White Coat Ceremony took place on Friday September 2, with Associate Dean Michael B. Laskowski and Assistant Deans Roger J. Young and Lockie McGehee Johnson guiding a room full of students through the formal start of their medical education--and what is likely to be THE journey of their lives.

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Don’t Let These Five Reasons Keep You From Becoming a Doctor

On the long list of life’s great questions, deciding whether or not to attend medical school ranks well up there. Will you take the plunge or not? It’s a dilemma and we humans hate dilemmas. When we come to the fork in the road, we look for an easy way out. That often makes us grab at seemingly credible reasons to not do something, when upon closer inspection those reasons really don’t add up.

The website PreMedStar recently identified five reasons that keep people from going to med school. Here they are along with our take on them:

1.       I am not smart enough. Well, what is “smart?” Is the person who is “smart” in mastering organic chemistry also “smart” when it comes to evaluating a patient with a complex medical condition? In terms of the classic view of being “smart”, e.g., getting good grades on academic work, PreMedStar notes that if you are "smart" enough to successfully make it through college then you are also "smart" enough to succeed in medical school. If you don’t like academic work, and do not want to put in the effort to do well, that’s another issue. But it has nothing to do with being “smart,” whatever that means.

2.       My scores aren’t good enough. Unfortunately, scores have a lot to do with getting into medical school.  Standardized tests such as the MCAT, once intended to create a level playing field and eliminate favoritism, have morphed into hard-and-fast admissions cut offs. Everyone agrees that there are plenty of students who do not do well on standardized tests who would make great doctors. So, don’t let a bad test score psych you out. It’s a hurdle to overcome, not an insurmountable barrier. Here at Saba, we have seen numerous students who impressed us in many ways beyond their MCAT and GPA, and have gone on to become very successful physicians.

3.       I can’t afford medical school. No question, medical school is a big investment.  Here at Saba, we are proud that our tuition is one of the most cost-effective of all the leading international medical schools (see a comparison here), but we still know the burden this places on our students and their families. Government loans are one way that many manage this—Saba is one of the few international schools eligible for the U.S. Federal Direct Student loans. (Learn more here.) And keep in mind that there are many repayment options through the military, federal programs, or practicing medicine in underserved areas. Doubts over finances tend to bleed into other doubts and amplify them. Don’t let that happen. What seems like a major financial undertaking today, may seem far less onerous once you have successfully done it.        

4.       Doctors work too hard. Yes, this is true.  So do medical students. In fact, so do most people who want to accomplish something valuable. And as PreMedStar notes, this is true for many other professions that offer less job satisfaction and pay much less.

5.    It’s too late. While the average age for entering medical students is 24, more and more students are entering medical school at later stages in their lives. Here at Saba we have seen outstanding success from students who have come to us after careers as teachers, engineers, paramedics and more.  Read about them at http://www.saba.edu/for-alumni/alumni-stories

As in all big, life-changing decisions, you are going to be wracked by doubts. It’s natural. But make sure those doubts are really based on something—before you allow them to destroy your dream.

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Great Books by Michael Collins on Becoming a Doctor

 

For more than 30 years—in fact ever since he completed his residency—Michael Collins has been an orthopedic surgeon in a practice just outside of Chicago. He’s also the author of two acclaimed memoirs: Hot Lights, Cold Steel traces the arc of his four-year surgical residency at the Mayo Clinic from eager but clueless first-year resident to accomplished chief resident. His second memoir, Blue Collar, Blue Scrubs, goes back further in time to his pre-medical school life working construction jobs.

Both books are great reads, as is a recent interview in which he reflected on his life and the changes he has seen in medicine. Some of the most interesting takeaways from the interview:

·         Back when Collins went to medical school at Loyola University (today the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine), the curriculum was completed in three years. He says today’s four-year curriculum is better.

·         Collins matched in pediatrics before his first experience with orthopedics. He finished out the year in pediatrics and then switched to a four-year orthopedics residency.

·         In going for his residency, he didn’t do any visiting rotations. He got into the orthopedics residency because he played hockey with a guy who was high up in the department. He is staggered by what medical students today have to do to get a residency.

·         After practicing for over thirty years, how does he keep from burning out? “Burnout occurs when there is a disconnect between expectations and reality. It’s important to go into things with an understanding of what it’s going to be like. There are negatives: you probably won’t make as much money as a generation ago, plus the other things like paperwork, and the business of medicine. These are all true, and they are a problem. But I think if you focus as a clinical practitioner, basic things haven’t changed in thousands of years. You go into a room, talk to the patient, figure out the patient’s problem, and do whatever you can to help them. Helping people with their problems is the greatest thing about medicine. If you focus on that instead of the paperwork you have to do, you’re less likely to burn out.”

Collins has many more interesting observations. Ready them in the interview or take some time to read one of his memoirs.

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How to Handle a Low GPA

When you are on the pre-med track, the letters “GPA” are always in the back of your mind. Will yours be good enough to get you into medical school?

No question about it—as Linda Abraham (@Accepted), a leading med school admissions consultant, notes in 4 Ways to Get Accepted With a Low GPA—a good score inevitably plays an important role in med school admissions. But that’s not entirely because the GPA itself says something meaningful about you. Rather, it’s because the med school admissions process is so out of balance—too many qualified students seeking too few openings. Using the GPA as a cutoff is an easy way for the admissions committee to reduce its workload.

Abraham provides a set of helpful strategies for making sure that your GPA score does not define you in the eyes of admissions directors. According to Abraham, there are two essential strategies: showing that you have overcome whatever flaws led to the low GPA in the first place, while also providing positive reasons for a school to be excited about accepting you now.

Chris Cebula, director of admissions at Saba, echoes these sentiments. “The GPA is never the whole story. When we look at a student we dig deeper. Was it a poor performance early in your freshman year? What is your GPA since then? How have you done in your pre-med oriented courses? We are very selective—because we accept just 80-90 students per semester, we have to be. To find the students that will be successful we look less for a specific score and more for evidence that you have the discipline, the study skills and the commitment to learning that will get you to your residency.” For more about Saba’s admissions policies, go to www.saba.edu/admissions

 

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To Get Into Med School, Don’t Underestimate the MCAT

 

Every year at college commencements there are many graduates accepting their diplomas whose next stop might have been medical school had it not been for a disastrous experience with the MCAT . Considered by many to be the most demanding of all the graduate school entrance exams, a sub-par result on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is a key reason that so few of those who set out for medical school ultimately make it there. But it’s not the difficulty of the MCAT exam itself that keeps success rates low. A common culprit is inadequate preparation.

The MCAT is a seven-hour exam with three science sections (Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, Chemical and Physical Foundations of Living Systems, and Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior) and a critical reading section.

According to 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Studying for the MCAT, by a student who “flunked” the MCAT the first  time around, the big mistake is treating the MCAT as just another end-of-semester exam—i.e., a few hours spent going over notes and readings. Instead, treat it like you are training for a marathon, allocating solid, dedicated time every day. How much is enough? According to 4 MCAT Myths, most students who do well on the MCAT spend between 200 and 300 hours preparing for the exam.

And it’s not just about hitting the books. You also need to eat right, manage your social life, avoid straining your eyes and don’t plan something big for right after the exam—that’s likely to be an unnecessary distraction that will rob you of precious points on your score.

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Becoming a Saba Doctor

To become a Saba doctor, you must first gain admission. It’s easy to get started with our online application at http://www.saba.edu/admissions/apply-now

Every applicant to Saba University School of Medicine undergoes a close evaluation by the Admissions Committee. We look at your academic performance, MCAT scores and patient care experience and, if appropriate, conduct an interview with you.

School of Medicine accepts a relatively small number of students. Approximately 90 students are admitted to each class. This makes Saba one of the most selective of all the medical schools that are located in the Caribbean, but we believe this selectivity and commitment to small class sizes is essential to our success—particularly our outstanding first-time pass rates on the USMLE and the very high residency placement rate of our graduates.

While Saba is selective, because we operate on a year-round schedule—you can start your medical education at Saba in January, May and September—we accept applications at any time throughout the year.

Historically, the September semester is the most heavily in demand. In situations where a student is accepted, but the class is over-subscribed, we provide the option to defer to the next incoming class.

All prospective students are encouraged to submit their application and all required documents six to eight months prior to your desired start date, and certainly no later than three months prior. Decisions regarding admissions are normally made within one week post interview.

Students who have applied previously to Saba University may reapply. Application materials are maintained on file for one year, and students may reapply within that year at no additional charge. Beyond that time, students must submit a new application.

Questions? Don’t hesitate to contact admissions at admissions@saba.edu or by calling (978) 862-9600.

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Just Getting to Know Saba—Here Are 5 Fast Facts

 

  1. A Leading International School: Saba has been educating physicians for more than 20 years and is one of the most established and experienced international medical schools in the world.
  2. 99% USMLE Pass Rate: Saba students have a 99% first-time pass rate on the USMLE.  Based on data compiled by U.S. News and World Report, that not only exceeds any other Caribbean school, it’s better than most U.S. schools.
  3. Residencies: Saba graduates earn residencies at a rate consistent with U.S. medical schools, including appointments in 2016 at Boston University, Hershey Medical Center/Penn State, McMaster and Queen’s Universities (Ontario) and Yale.  Many Saba graduates become family doctors, addressing the critical need for primary care in the US and Canada.
  4. Approvals: Saba has received all approvals needed to enable our students to practice anywhere in the US and Canada. Saba was approved for participation in the Title IV U.S. Federal Direct Student Loan Program after the U.S. Dept. of Education determined that Saba’s academic program was comparable to that of U.S. medical schools. Because Saba, the island, is actually part of the Netherlands, Saba University has undergone a rigorous accreditation to meet European standards.  In effect, Saba is a European medical school that happens to be on a Caribbean island. 
  5. Tuition: In addition to Title IV loan availability, Saba aggressively manages tuition, keeping it 30-50% less than other international schools with comparable ranking.

 

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Saba—“The 18th Canadian Medical School?”

Getting into medical school is no easy task. That’s because there are simply not enough seats in medical schools to meet the number of students who want to become physicians. This is especially true in Canada where there are only 17 medical schools. A typical year sees more than 30,000 applicants competing for about 2,500 places. While Saba is located on a Dutch island in the Caribbean, it actually plays a significant role in the Canadian healthcare system. In fact, well over half of Saba alumni hail from Canada and stop in at almost any major Canadian medical center and you will find Saba graduates on staff. Learn more about the Saba-Canada connection, including interviews with some of our Canadian alumni, at http://saba.edu/about-us/canadian-applicants

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