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EMBARRASSING family issues

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by md2be4me, Jan 4, 2002.

  1. md2be4me

    md2be4me New Member

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    Need some honest opinions here.

    One semester in school my transcripts will reflect three Ws and some serious falling grades. Reason = family issues, but not your run of the mill, warm and fuzzy "granny was sick and I had to go work the farm" type. Mine was instead the debacle of a parent sent to rehab for drugs. (Mind you this was their second stint) What made this even lovlier was the fact that it was precepted by the cops and DEA.

    The Cleavers, we are not.

    Here is my problem. This issue could come up because of the transcript (who am I kidding? It will definitely be a flag), the interview questions that ask "tell me about the worst time of your life", or countless other ways.

    Should I be honest? My instinct is not to be. I have the shame that always accompanies children of addicts/alcoholics that generally involves protecting the secret at all costs. Plus, I'm really hoping that moving away will distant me from this. I don't want pity points, or to be looked at like trash.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. Coalboy

    Coalboy Senior Member
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    I'd say be honest, but without going into gory details. If you seem evasive, it probably won't go over well with the interviewer.
     
  3. Fixed Gear

    Fixed Gear Highly Acetylated Locus
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    Be honest.

    Don't go into details, but instead let them know what happened- an outline drawing, so to speak. Being honest shows your maturity and that (hopefully) you have gained closure on the events and used them for the positive, to learn from them. Being able to discuss what happened, howit affected you and your family, will show an unparalleled level of maturity.

    Good luck.
     
  4. md2be06

    md2be06 Senior Member
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    Be honest, but most importantly, put a positive spin on it. Show how you overcame all that adversity and talk about what it's taught you, etc. Spin is everything in interviews when it comes to touchy personal subjects. I agree with Coalboy in terms of not going into excruciating details though. Hope it works out for you! Btw, nice username. Seems familiar for some odd reason :D :D
     
  5. alice

    alice Senior Member
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    i agree with the 'put a positive spin' comment. i have a pretty ugly moment in my family history that didn't really effect my transcript, but i talk about it in my essays, so i've had to chat about it with the interviewers. from what i gather, you should try to be brief in discussing 'what's happened since'. i think that if you can use it to show that you have had a touching experience with the medical profession - points for you, and also that you have some idea how the patient will be feeling when you dole out bad news - more points. the only thing i'd look out for is a sob story or dwelling too long on an unfavorable moment. i think with interviewers you should always pretend they are a really nice adult you've met at a party. you want to be honest with them, but not delve too deeply, and you want them to like you. even though these people are doctors, you don't want to remind them of the toughest cases they've handled!!
     
  6. 8675309

    8675309 Member
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    I guess no one else is going to say it and I don't want to step on toes, but someone's got to say it. Lie.

    I don't know about these other people but on my interviews and that of my friends, the interviewers have been pretty conservative, starched collar types. There are so few spots in medical school and so many applicants, why would they risk a spot if there is any question in there mind about your integrity or ability to resist addiction, why push it? It is well known that addiction/alcoholism/etc. have some genetic component, if this is in your family history do you think they are going to think that it is a good idea to give you the ability to prescribe drugs?

    I'm not saying I would reject you or that I don't think you should go to medical school, I'm just keeping it real.

    Tell them your parent had some sort of disease that required your attention outside of school. This is not far from the truth, but do not fool yourself this is a lie. Now if they want to know the details of this illness, and most WILL, that is when you are really, REALLY going to have to lie and make up a good story about your parent.

    I know that I will be flamed for giving this advice, but think about it the people who are telling you to be "honest" don't have this kind of thing on their record so it will not affect their application to med school, it will affect yours.

    Alice, why don't you tell us what your ugly moment in your family history was and why you brought it up on your application, and most importantly have you been accepted, how many schools did you apply to, how many interviews, etc. Like you said it was not something that affected your grades so it might have been overlooked.

    md2be4me, I don't think you can put a "positive" spin on a parent going to rehab for a drug addiction, I'm sorry but after hearing that the majority of interviewers will write you off or when they tell the committee about it the majority of the committee members will. I have been at many interviews and if you have something that significant on your record (a lot of W's and falling grades) it WILL come up, and if you say family crisis or issues most interviewers will want to know more, this is perfectly "legal" during an interview and very probable.
     
  7. alice

    alice Senior Member
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    it's pretty personal, so i didn't want to share. but since it seems necessary to support my earlier, comments, here goes:

    a very close member of my family had a debilitating mental illness with very serious results. (that is as specific as i will get, sorry!) this is also genetic - which by the way scares me quite a bit!!! - but i have not found that anyone has seemed worried that i have inherited the problem. there is a genetic COMPONENT to things like mental illness and addiction, but there are quite a few other factors that go into the mix. in many cases, a close brush with situations like these inspires people to become physicians.

    like i said originally, i wouldn't dwell on the problem - or the fact that it probably hasn't gone away completely - at all! but i have been accepted at schools that knew i am genetically predisposed who apparently didn't mind too much. if you look like a competent individual in all other parts of your app, i really doubt they would think you were going down the tubes. in my life, my experience added a very real emotional component to my desire to enter this noble profession. thus, it seemed relevant to my application.

    because i didn't say it earlier - i wish you (original poster) lots of strength in dealing with this application process and your family. and the tv family is the Cleavers, not the Beavers. beaver was their kid.
     
  8. Resident Alien

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  9. simpleton

    simpleton Senior Member
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    I agree with what "8675309" has already said. It's easy for everyone else with rosy little lives to say what you should do but believe me from the interview experiences I've had I wouldn't mention your family issues. Chances are you might not get that understanding individual to interview you and you might end up with a crotchty old man who isn't going to give you the benefit of the doubt. I would avoid discussing your situation with anyone on your interview day, who knows maybe it won't even come up. You and your interviewer might even become lost in discusing more provactive things than your W's on your transcripts. If it does come up I would say something to the effect of what "8675309" said about a medical problem etc...etc...

    Good-luck and don't worry about it.
     
  10. DoctorOneDay

    DoctorOneDay Member
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    I totally disagree. I have a HUGE ugly spot on my record. I'm not ashamed to admit that I was dismissed from a medical school for poor academic performance. At my two interviews of course it came up !!! Both sets of interviewers told me they appreciate my honesty and candor (two very important qualities for a physician). And by the way I have been accepted to medical school for the 2002 entering class. Your parent's mistake is not your mistake. Use the opportunity (if it comes up) to be the poster child for perseverance. Speak about it openly and honestly but you don't have to go into woe is me excruciating detail. Shame is a hard obstacle to overcome but you can do it!!!
     
  11. ccryder

    ccryder Member
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    Although I don't believe in airing personal family issues in interviews, I definitely don't think lying is the way to go. Most people (perhaps this is my own naive, idealistic view) are not good liars. The interview is a stressdul situation and if you have to lie and remember all the different aspects of your lie, more than likely you'll either slip up or it will show that you are not being completely truthful. I have no doubt that interviewers will ask for an explanation of your transcript and I agree with Coalboy that you should be honest without going into too much detail. Going into too much detail runs the risk of giving the interviewer the impression that you are looking for sympathy which, depending on the interviewer, may not go over too well. I would mention at the get go that you aren't completely comfortable talking about the issue, explain why, and then give a brief explanation. I really don't think an interviewer will judge you based on the actions of one of your family members. S/he will only make conclusions about you based on how you handled the question.

    I think schools will see a lot of strength and motivation in you for having pulled through a very difficult time.
    Good luck!
     
  12. lilycat

    Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    I may be reading too much into the original post, but I think this is a situation that might be more difficult and a little more delicate to put a "positive spin" on.

    Personally, I don't think interviewers are too comfortable discussing areas that aren't "polite" for lack of a better term. Death, cancer, AIDS, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, even some pyschiatric illnesses are ok, but if you get into areas of drug or alcohol abuse, family violence/neglect/abuse, sexual abuse or assault, even infidelity (ie, between parents), it can quickly become uncomfortable for both the interviewer and the applicant. Since you don't seem to relish the idea of discussing this issue (I don't blame you), I would answer it honestly and quickly, with as few specific details as possible.

    Personally, I would try to come up with a quick 1-2 sentence explanation -- something along the lines of "an immediate family member entered rehab at that time because of addiction issues, etc," and then just a little bit on your feelings or family role at the time. I don't think you need to elaborate any more than that. Assuming that your academic performance picked up after that semester, I would definitely emphasize that point. While poor academic performance during a time of extreme trauma or stress is understandable, keep in mind that admissions committees will be questioning how you may deal with such situations in medical school. (Just my advice based on personal experience).
     
  13. YBee

    YBee Member
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    my word of advice:

    a lot of my medical student/doctor friends have told me to lie on essays to come up w/a dramatic story about various things. Now I am not comfortable lying so I didn't do this, but the fact that all these people involved in the admissions process at one time or another are saying this...It's very telling. Most of these questions are absolutely ridiculous anyway. "tell me about the one most important thing that ever happened to you in your entire life" I really think the schools expect us to lie - how many of you saw the UCSD essay "autobiographical sketch" followed by the comment - "this should be a true autobiographical sketch"

    anyway, if you are not a good liar - don't lie - it will be harder for you to remember all details if pressed.

    Regarding a parent's drug abuse problem - I don't think there should be any stigma attached to you for this - However you absolutely should NOT mention any mental disorders in your family - esp. those that are genetic - I mean, I wouldn't even mention depression, let alone schizophrenia , esp. since schiz. usually hits in the late twenties. They will wonder if you have it, or are going to have it.
     
  14. 8675309

    8675309 Member
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  15. 8675309

    8675309 Member
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    Look its all about political correctness and what not. Yes people will say "Oh that's your parents it's not you" and other crap about how you're your own person but we all know that is total BS. People are shallow, judgemental, deceitful, mean, petty, etc. at times in their lives it's just some people are better at hiding it than others.
     
  16. Resident Alien

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  17. Coalboy

    Coalboy Senior Member
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  18. My Opinion,

    I don't think you have much reason to lie. I mean, you don't have a drug problem, do you? just because you had a bad semester doesn't mean you're a bad student. You just tell them that this thing happened (follow the advice of the posters and be consise, with no gory details, unless they ask for them in which case pump out details untill they cry their eyes our for you. also at the end talk about how you learned from the experience and have learned how to separate your work life from your personal life, etc.). it's important to be professional. that means discuss your situation briefly and mention how you've learned from it. then move on. be professional. if they ask you for details, be personal. that's how i'd do it. in fact, that's how I will do it. I messed up my whole senior year because of family problems and illness, so i sympathize. unfortunately, i don't know about you, but i didn't mention this in my personal statement, so i think it's really gonna hurt me.
     
  19. 8675309

    8675309 Member
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  20. 8675309

    8675309 Member
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  21. reesie0726

    reesie0726 Senior Member
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    During your interview, you will be able to feel an interviewer out. There are those close-minded people who will attach your parent's problems to you. However, I think alot of people would commend you for being able to take a responsible role in your famil to deal with such an issue. You know they are going to question this in your interview. Think about two general responses: one a kind of soft, version (well, ok a lie) and the other the truth without the gory details. Anyway, use this as a chance to build yourself up. You had to take a leadership role in your family, problem-solving, ability to deal with a stressful situation blah blah blah. But anyway, make it seem like you would even be a better doctor anyway because you have had to deal with such a trying experience.
     
  22. Resident Alien

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  23. md2be4me

    md2be4me New Member

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    I'm leaning towards a very white-washed version at this point. Thanks for the honest opinions.
     
  24. Sonya

    Sonya Senior Member
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    Hi,

    This isn't really advice but a related question. Sorry it's long, but I though I'll go into detail, and maintain the annonymous name.

    I am suprised how the majority of the people are saying being fully honest. I'm not saying you should not be honest -- I really don't know and am interested in the answer myself.

    Basically, i have one semster of several W's which I will catch attention. It was due to acute psych illness (i mean really sudden onset, like over one weekend). In me thogh, not family But my recovery has been complete, and now it doesn't affect me at all (other than I take an EXTREMELY low dose medication and it has no effect but my physician thinks I should continue to take it).
    supposedly the diagnosis is schizophrenia, but my physician says my recovery has been better than much any others he seen.
    so, anyway, the diagnosis is beside the point.

    Medschool are going to see my transcript and wonder what happened and ask. I think I'd tell them it was medical problems, and refuse to tell them anymore. Would it look too evasive?

    If I tell medschools it was schizophrenia, it'll raise a big flag. and for most schizophrenics this is a conditon for life... it's not been for me though.

    When people casually asked what happened i usually say it way a thyroid condition b/c they also detected that. But the medschool commitee people are doctor, they know that thyroid problems don't cause that severe a problem.

    Very few people outside my family know it was psych illness. I really don't need to tell anyone.

    Among the very few people that do know it was mental illness, is my neuro prof. He knew i was a really brilliant student in the beginning of the semester. I would very seriously consider using him for my rec letters.

    But then i got sick. and the screwy thing about mental illness is you don't think your sick, so i went to classes and such, but I was totally in a different delusional world in class. and my prof took me to student health services after class. and then i was admitted. and then it's been an awful 8 month battle. I dropped all but one class. and it that class I went from like the top student in a large class to a relatively poor grade.

    But anyway, my neuro prof thought -- let me rephrase that thinks and will always think -- it was due to pressure and stress of midterms and such. I know it was a lot more than stress of school, I have handled well situations of much more pressure. I retook neuro last semester (with the same prof), and got an A+.

    Would using this prof as a reference be a mistake. I mean, i'm sure he'll maintain privacy about medical issues, but would he raise a flag about my ability to handle pressure in medschool? I never talked much about this illness to him later.

    I could certainly put a positive spin, and come up with good answers for such questions in essays. I wont be bluffing anything, it's really been a brutal taste of what medicine is about. It really made me consider a lot and made me really appreciate it more too.


    But, I have a very strong candidancy and application otherwise. I think it will just raise a bigger flag than whatever positive spin i can write or talk about.

    I am thinking I can lie and talk about positive spin dealing with psych illness in a friend of mine (tell my story, but say it happened to a close friend of mine). I've done that before. I'm really bad at lying though, but here i wont have to make anything up.

    Thanks for any and all comments to come.
     
  25. kutastha

    kutastha 2K Member
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    This is not meant in any way to minimize your troubles, but I remember some advice my mother gave to me many years ago... she says to me, "Andrew - you're only embarrassed if you allow yourself to be." It reminds me of that quote from Eleanor Roosevelt - "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission". Be strong and be yourself. You'll come on out top, rather than trying to be something else.

    Andrew
     
  26. warpath

    warpath Officer Cadet
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  27. YBee

    YBee Member
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    Dear Someone

    if you tell your interviewer that you do have/have had a mental problem of any kind - or that you are taking medications for a mental problem, you will NOT get into medical school. Med. school is extremely stressful for many people. If the admin. office thinks you can't handle the stress, they will not let you in. They see it as: history of mental problems therefore will not handle stress well. Do NOT tell them this. I don't care what anyone else tells you about being honest in this situation - don't do it.

    Is it fair that they pre-determine like this? They are medical professionals after all and if they advocate drugs and therapy for others with mental problems to be fully functioning, how can they then imply that it doesn't really work? Makes the psych. medical profession seem pretty nefarious doesn't it?

    I don't think your story should be about a friend, but about a family member, b/c that will explain why you had to go home and help out and thus drop out of your classes. -- you thought you could keep up in the one class even tho' you were at home most of the rest of the semester, but it was too hard to do from a distance which explains why you got a bad grade - in retrospect you should have dropped that class as well. Your family member - maybe a sibling can be the fall guy is now fine on v. low dose meds. I wouldn't use the word schizophrenia anywhere either. I would use some other mental problem - maybe anxiety disorder or one that is more widely known to go away with proper cognitive training/medication. I think when most people hear schizophrenia they think (rightly or not): ahh- genetic disease, "someone" might get it too, and not controlled that well by meds and what if he stops taking his meds. Just b/c the interviewer is a doc doesn't mean he knows anything about clinical medicine, let alone clinical psychiatry - play it safe.
     
  28. Jessica

    Jessica Senior Member
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    md2be - I would also lean toward telling the truth (minus gory details or "woe is me" stuff) in your situation. I think that years of experience enable ad com members to be acutely aware of when an applicant is being genuine... your honesty about your challenging expereinces will make you stand out from other applicants (in a good way or a bad way ?? I guess that all depends on the individual interviewer...) If it were me, I would try to focus on what the expereince taught you about yourself or coping mechanisms you have developed that will help you to deal with future challenges/difficult situations (the positive spin thing.)
     
  29. Sonya

    Sonya Senior Member
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    hey Warpath,
    Thanks for the info. I guess schizophrenia is not as genetically based/heritable than people believe. But also, ther eis

    YBee,

    Thanks for the suggestions. Medschools want any excuse not to admit you, b/c they plenty of good applicants. So, they aren't going to trust someone w/ psych illness be able to handle medschool. Maybe nefarious, but reality. :(
     
  30. Sonya

    Sonya Senior Member
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    Hey Warpath,
    Thanks for the info. I guess schizophrenia is not as genetically based/heritable than people believe. But also, there is a lot of variation in the stats out there.

    YBee,

    Thanks for the suggestions. Medschools want any excuse not to admit you, b/c they plenty of good applicants. So, they aren't going to trust someone w/ psych illness will be able to handle medschool. Maybe nefarious, but reality. :(

    Okay, maybe i could use such a story. What I meant is that I would say a friend/family member had this sickness for any sort of questions on difficult experience you faced in life, how much you've seen of medical profession.

    I'm bad at lying. I want to keep it as close to truth as possible. I can lie in essay questions and come up with good stories of how an experience changed my view of medicine, but in the interview it's different.

    But, it would be much simpler to say it was medical issues that are rather private, and I would not want to get into them. Would this look bad, evasive, suspicious?

    I live at home with my family, btw. So MAYBE that's why a family members illness would have had such an effect on my education. I mean, in reality, my sickness was scary and hard to deal with for everyone, but it wouldn't have that much of an effect on another member in the family.

    another problem saying it was someone else, is that other people at my school knew I was sick. But, i suppose (hope) medschools wont find info from them.

    When they ask to list medications you're on... what do I do? Not just for medschools applications. Starting job, even volunteer positions. One time i was honest, and they made me discuss it. If I put the medication, they will know exactly what the condition is. CAN i lie there? Would it be illegal to lie there, or would it be illegal for them to require me to answer that.

    BTW, The last time this discussion came up on SDN, it was the conclusion that we just say it was medical reasons and leave it at that.

    Thanks
     
  31. 8675309

    8675309 Member
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  32. Starflyr

    Starflyr Manic Faerie
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    I didnt read the second page, so forgive me if I repeat something that has been said. I had a similar situation - I have bipolar disorder (manic depression) - and while I surely wasnt going to lie about it, I wasnt going to give any details either! If the interviewer asks you about your grades say that you had major crisis with an immediate family member that affected your schoolwork. If pressed, it is perfectly OK to say something like "One of my parents required extended inpatient care". And if asked for details, just say that you arent comfortable giving any (not that it's really their business at that point anyway). That leaves it up to them - maybe your mom had vaginal cancer or a mastectomy or your Dad had Chron's disease or prostate cancer or something. Something personal and severe but not "discussable".

    Star
     
  33. OldManDave

    OldManDave Fossil Bouncer Emeritus
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  34. 8675309

    8675309 Member
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  35. UCLA2000

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    I didn't read all of the posts, so don't flame me for repeating anything. I got my degree in Psychobiology (the biological explanation for psychological phenomenon...so this post is right up my alley).

    Here's what I know: Studies of momozygotic twins seperated at birth show that if one twin has schizophrenia, then in 50% of the cases the other twin will have it as well. This is MUCH higher than the % that someone in the general public will have schizo. This suggests that there is a genetic component.

    In addition, data shows that children of schizophrenic patients are more likely than someone in the general public to have schizophrenia.
     
  36. DoctorOneDay

    DoctorOneDay Member
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    8675309,

    I think it's cute that you think I'm not telling the whole truth. But every school I applied to knows that I was dismissed from a medical school for LEGITIMATE academic reasons. It is part of the AMCAS process. I applied to 2 schools (UIC and Finch) and was interviewed at both and was accepted to UIC already and NO I don't know anyone on the inside. Maturity is a hard lesson for some people. Lying is pointless for me. I have no problem addressing the lessons I have learned from my mistakes. I only applied to 2 schools because those are the two schools I am most interested in. I was told (by the dean of admissions) that I could have gone back to Northwestern (where I was originally enrolled) but I chose not to for personal reasons.

    Medical schools are looking for MATURE, PROFESSIONAL people who are willing to take on difficult tasks. I wonder what you will do when your first patient dies on you, make up some elaborate LIE?

    To the originator of this thread, hang in there, you will make the right decision for you. Don't let people discourage you based on their own biases.
     
  37. 8675...,

    come on man, there's no need to shovel feces into old man dave's, or anybody else's face. That sort of disrespect will only gain you enemy's in the medical profession. I thought old man dave's comments were too strong, but intelligent, and very respectable. why would you trash him by insulting his school or his journey into the medical arena? that's bs. people on this board need to read other people's posts without a defensive mindset. planning out vicious retorts WHile reading a post will never allow you to learn a different perspective. part of being a Civilized Person is striving to understand others. i just don't think that some of these comments are necessary, but that's just like, my opinion, man.
     
  38. 8675309

    8675309 Member
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  39. 8675309

    8675309 Member
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  40. DoctorOneDay

    DoctorOneDay Member
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    8675309,
    Such an angry person. Lighten up!!!! Life is way too short to go through it ATTEMPTING to pick fights with people. You probably just do this to amuse yourself (there are far better hobbies) This is the last time I'll acknowledge you because I'm way more intelligent than that.
     
  41. OldManDave

    OldManDave Fossil Bouncer Emeritus
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    8675309,

    Yes, I attend a DO school because I CHOSE to attend a DO school. Yes, I took 12 years to get into med school after royally screwing up my first time in school. So what? I did it and I would not trade the life I have led. I have experienced & done things you may never see or do. Do I regret any of it...Nope. Nor do I think that you are mature enough or man enough to fill my shoes or walk the path I have taken. You simply have not "lived" enough to even know or comprehend.

    Furthermore my friend, I am laughing at your pitiful 'attack' on me. The only things you could up with to say were the fact I am gonna be a DO and that I am older and took a while to get in. Those are such cliche, juvenile "pre-med" remarks...couldn't you be little more original?

    You see, those are points of pride and I very mcuh appreciate your highlighting just how strong & dedicated I am to what I am doing and will become. Silly young man...

    Now, if you wish, you can post your nastiest, cause I have no intention of continuing to follow this thread. I know that all you seek is to get folks riled up & bitching...I'm sure you get your jollies from such juvenile activities.

    Well, you're not gonna involve me in it. In fact, I wish you the most of luck and success. I sufficiently confident in myself and my CHOSEN profession to not have to belittle you to reaffirm my own decisions. One day, when you've gotten some years and experiences under your belt, you will see that OMD knew what he was talking about. I just hope that no patients or colleagues suffer from your decisions/actions until you do learn.

    I bid you adieu!

    :rolleyes:
     
  42. 8675309

    8675309 Member
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  43. alice

    alice Senior Member
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    I don't know if this will follow the sequence of the other posts, but it goes back to an earlier debate. I think that parental or personal mental illness is very much like drug problems. Of course there is the argument that much of mental illness is beyond a patient's control and much of drug problems is within the patient's control. However, looking at the statistics and my own experience, I would argue with both of those things. Especially in the case of someone who is not is the patient, but a child of one, the experience is going to be very similar. The pressures and emotions of dealing with a loved one in a dangerous and destructive cycle have certain ramifications, regardless of the nature of that stress. Obviously, there are differences, but I think that any honest explanation can be framed in such a way to demonstrate how you and your desire to become a physician have grown from the experience.

    A very important thing to remember is that people enter medicine because they believe that disease can be treated. While there may be a few closed-minded doctors around, I would guess they are in the minority. I think that showing a recovery or road to recovery would not necessarily bring a doctor to doubt your competence. Someone with a diagnosed problem is often better than an undiagnosed person entering medical school. The stresses might bring out the same problem in different people, but the one who had already experienced the crisis would know how to begin dealing with it.

    Finally, I think that lying is OUTRAGEOUS. Do not do it. Obviouly, frame everything in the best possible light, but get used to the truth. Being a doctor is not about making things appear different than how they are, it's about looking at how things are and trying to make them look better.
     

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