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McMaster 1st year Medical Student - AMA

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1 hour ago, Edict said:

4. I do agree that the school throws around accusations of "unprofessionalism" with surprising ease, often for things that weren't even unprofessional to begin with. You are on a tight leash at Mac, there are a lot of rules that are out there, possibly unbenownst to you that are selectively enforced, not sure how it is at other schools. Shadowing wise, I found it adequate but it definitely is specialty dependent. I felt it rather unfortunate that a lot of these shadowing or early med school experiences were lottery based and many didn't get them. 

This sounds awful. Guess I didn't realize how lucky I've been at Queen's. Shadowing is so easy to set up, no travelling required unless you actively want to travel to a Queen's faculty based in a regional centre to experience community medicine vs academic medicine. So many of my classmates and myself have set up observerships the day of when we end class earlier than expected for the day, when the schedule for the rest of the day just doesn't seem like it'll be all that interesting/helpful, etc. Can't imagine having to go through some sort of lottery system for shadowing opportunities, when we're so used to just emailing any faculty to set up an observership. We have a minimum number that we need to do each year in different first entry CaRMS specialties to really force us to explore careers even if we think we know what we want to go into (no max and we're really encouraged to go well above the minimum for our personal benefit). Just wow, I know Mac's 3 year curriculum had very logical and understandable weaknesses for CaRMS, lack of summers, etc but didn't realize that even something that should be as straightforward as shadowing seems to be more of a fight than it needs to be.

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19 hours ago, xiphoid said:

This sounds awful. Guess I didn't realize how lucky I've been at Queen's. Shadowing is so easy to set up, no travelling required unless you actively want to travel to a Queen's faculty based in a regional centre to experience community medicine vs academic medicine. So many of my classmates and myself have set up observerships the day of when we end class earlier than expected for the day, when the schedule for the rest of the day just doesn't seem like it'll be all that interesting/helpful, etc. Can't imagine having to go through some sort of lottery system for shadowing opportunities, when we're so used to just emailing any faculty to set up an observership. We have a minimum number that we need to do each year in different first entry CaRMS specialties to really force us to explore careers even if we think we know what we want to go into (no max and we're really encouraged to go well above the minimum for our personal benefit). Just wow, I know Mac's 3 year curriculum had very logical and understandable weaknesses for CaRMS, lack of summers, etc but didn't realize that even something that should be as straightforward as shadowing seems to be more of a fight than it needs to be.

Yeah, certain programs like shadowing the L&D ward were made a lottery and doing a summer pre-clerkship elective in CTU was also a lottery. Doing cadaveric dissection was also a lottery that we had equal footing with all the other health professions for and there were only something like 10 seats. No disrespect to the other professions, but I'd imagine that it would be more important and useful for a future surgeon to do cadaveric dissection than some of the other health professions. On top of that, the dissections often coincided with tutorial, which wasn't addressed. 

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4 hours ago, Edict said:

Yeah, certain programs like shadowing the L&D ward were made a lottery and doing a summer pre-clerkship elective in CTU was also a lottery. Doing cadaveric dissection was also a lottery that we had equal footing with all the other health professions for and there were only something like 10 seats. No disrespect to the other professions, but I'd imagine that it would be more important and useful for a future surgeon to do cadaveric dissection than some of the other health professions. On top of that, the dissections often coincided with tutorial, which wasn't addressed. 

L&D CTU and cadaver dissections are still a shitshow - not much as changed around here 

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On 5/16/2019 at 11:54 PM, Rorzo said:

That does not mean everything is positive, I do have multiple friends who ended up unmatched, matched to alternate specialties, or who taking a 4th year (which is an option) because they switched focus midway through clerkship.

I'm interested in hearing a bit about the 4th year if you know any more about it! At what point could you decide to do a 4th year, and are there any restrictions on taking it? Is it possibly an option for those who are left unmatched after 3 years? Thanks!

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On 5/29/2019 at 5:11 PM, feathers said:

I'm interested in hearing a bit about the 4th year if you know any more about it! At what point could you decide to do a 4th year, and are there any restrictions on taking it? Is it possibly an option for those who are left unmatched after 3 years? Thanks!

I don't know an amazing amount as I didn't go through it myself but I can pass along some second hand experiences from friends. 

It seems like you can decide at any point really - I knew people who decided their career plan would need a 4th year in their first year and people who took an extra year after being unmatched. Subjectively, it does seem that the earlier you do it the better the outcome' that guy who decided early on matched to ophto and all of the people I know who did it after being unmatched ended up in family. The most common seemed to be the middle ground - deciding late that you want a competitive specialty and then taking the extra year and delaying the match to be more competitive. This appears to have been moderately successful, with some of these candidates matching to fairly competitive specialties. 

There aren't any restrictions I know of, but it isn't a perfect system. You have to pay a fair amount of tuition for that year and you're in a weird insurance limbo where you can't do electives for the entire year (I think it was max 16 weeks but I am certainly not a definitive source). If you do have specific questions I can ask some people who have been through it.

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9 hours ago, Rorzo said:

There aren't any restrictions I know of, but it isn't a perfect system. You have to pay a fair amount of tuition for that year and you're in a weird insurance limbo where you can't do electives for the entire year (I think it was max 16 weeks but I am certainly not a definitive source). If you do have specific questions I can ask some people who have been through it.

At the interview, we were told students do not pay tuition during the enrichment year. Not sure how accurate that is though.

https://mdprogram.mcmaster.ca/docs/default-source/general-resources-page/research/enrichment-program-policy-09-06-2017.pdf?sfvrsn=4

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9 hours ago, targaryen said:

At the interview, we were told students do not pay tuition during the enrichment year. Not sure how accurate that is though.

https://mdprogram.mcmaster.ca/docs/default-source/general-resources-page/research/enrichment-program-policy-09-06-2017.pdf?sfvrsn=4

Sorry you're absolutely right - I just checked and what I was thinking of was that you're still responsible for ancillary fees such as health insurance/library. Certainly much less than actual tuition

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On 5/30/2019 at 11:52 PM, Rorzo said:

Subjectively, it does seem that the earlier you do it the better the outcome' that guy who decided early on matched to ophto and all of the people I know who did it after being unmatched ended up in family.

Thanks so much! So this extra year is basically a self-directed research project, with some limited electives? It looks like you must apply by Nov of the 3rd year, so how do people decide to take this after being unmatched? 

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Thanks for starting this thread! I'm feeling a little worried about coming to Mac after reading some of the posts here. :( 

What kind of ECs would you suggest doing in the first year of medical school, given that it's a 3 year program?

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Just wondering what the specialties are and which are considered competitive/ middle/ non competitive.

ive always been interested in psychiatry- can anyone speak to whether Mac is good for that or any other suggestions (such as research or other things I can do to prep)?

thank you to all the upper years!

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I currently have a choice between Ottawa or Mac (Hamilton), as I got off the waitlist for both. My wife lives in Toronto, so that's a compelling factor to go to Hamilton (to be close to her and we can visit more frequently). However, summers are not off for Mac's 3 year program, and medical school is a busy time. What would you recommend?

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On 6/1/2019 at 7:18 PM, Nirvanesthesia said:

Thanks for starting this thread! I'm feeling a little worried about coming to Mac after reading some of the posts here. :( 

What kind of ECs would you suggest doing in the first year of medical school, given that it's a 3 year program?

Don't let these posts scare you. Mac has a very high match rate. Medical school is difficult no matter where you do it, it will just be for different reasons depending on the school. There are a ton of ECs to get involved with here and it's a great research center, if that's something that interests you.

 

22 hours ago, throwaway124 said:

I currently have a choice between Ottawa or Mac (Hamilton), as I got off the waitlist for both. My wife lives in Toronto, so that's a compelling factor to go to Hamilton (to be close to her and we can visit more frequently). However, summers are not off for Mac's 3 year program, and medical school is a busy time. What would you recommend?

Many people in my class have partners in Toronto and family and they visit them frequently. It's totally doable.  That being said if you get offers to both off the wait list, do what feels right for you. I would say having your support system nearby for med school is a great idea. Med school is a lot of work and decision making and having that support closer to you will help make that burden easier to bear.

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@throwaway124

Current 1st year student chiming in; if you're still in the process of making your decision/gathering information, I strongly (STRONGLY) encourage you to seek the counsel of upper year students.  I think bins on your other post in the Ottawa group said something about 1st years having rose-coloured glasses about med school; as a 1st year, I can confirm. Compared to the rat race of undergrad, it's super chill, low-stake exams, saving an extra year of tuition, PBL (which is good or bad depending on your style, personally not for me so I won't say more on it). We also have a super supportive administrative staff (not sure about Ottawa in this regard), which is great!

But to echo some of the statements other students/former have made (swomen and edict come to mind), we have some serious grievances over anatomy and pharmacology. I also feel completely unready for summer electives and wish that I had a bit more structure to my learning. PBL and self-directed tutorials are wonderful, but they also leave me feeling inadequate. And I completely get that it's designed to mirror how you learn as a physician; you won't always have a convenient little handbook of all the info you'll ever need to know--a large part of the job hinges on your ability to discern what information's important and what is not. But at the same time, I strongly suspect that come clerkship, this freedom will translate to apparent inadequacy. Of course, I'm sure if I work my ass off I'll be able to come across as competent, but it's sometimes really frustrating knowing that you have to do much extra work on the additional stress of med school to compete with and be on equal footing with clerks from 4 year schools who have almost 1 or 2 extra years of schooling under their belt. 

I'm also based in Toronto, so going home often is a possibility, but it's often for a few days at most (gunning for a specialty, often v busy); I think the brevity of these visits reduces the benefits of being so close to home. For sure you're further away at Ottawa, but you get proper breaks to decompress and fully enjoy your time away from school.

I also did not know that clerkship streams would be assigned via lottery. Had I known that the order of my core rotations (i.e, pre vs post-CaRMS) and # of elective weeks is dependent on a lottery system, I would have noped the freaking hell out of here. 

I'm so, so, so, so incredibly grateful that Mac accepted me (b/c no other school did) and there are elements of it that I absolutely love. Pre-clerkship's great, and super chill! But come clerkship, I feel like that's when shit will hit the fan and I'll pay for how "chill" (not chill if you're gunning for a specialty imo) Mac's pre-clerkship life's been. 

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On 6/1/2019 at 7:18 PM, Nirvanesthesia said:

Thanks for starting this thread! I'm feeling a little worried about coming to Mac after reading some of the posts here. :( 

What kind of ECs would you suggest doing in the first year of medical school, given that it's a 3 year program?

Hey!

I get the worry--Mac was my only acceptance (off the WL), so I didn't have much of a choice.

To be blunt, I'll just say it like this: if you're in 3rd or 4th year, GO TO A 4 YEAR SCHOOL. I know there are tons of people singing praises about Mac, but ask yourself; do other schools have so many students that directly tell you not to come to their school or are so eager to note its disadvantages? If you're older, have research pubs in an area you might be interested in, or know 100% you want family, by all means, come to Mac. A lot of people say that it's also great if you know what you want right away, but to be honest, I wouldn't put much emphasis on that. After all, so many surgical gunners realized they don't want the lifestyle or derm hopefuls realized just how insane the competition is. But when you hear current students saying negative things about Mac, they're well justified. 

A year ago, I thought getting into Mac was the best day of my life. And I'm still incredibly grateful for the chance to be here. But the truth is, the compressed time frame forces you to rush decisions that'll determine the rest of your life. I feel like so much of my career is based on the clerkship lottery and meeting the right places/people--equally true for 4 year schools perhaps, but you have a bit more leeway to stumble a little.

People often cite the economics of a 3-year program. As someone from a low income background, I personally think this is strongly overrated. Yes, you save tuition and gain 1 year's net earnings as an attending physician. However, it comes at the cost of rushing your decision, if you came into med school w/o any idea of what you wanted. I'd much rather take the hit now and lose out on the extra money/income for the satisfaction of knowing that I had every opportunity to explore all options and choose the career I'll be happy in for the next 50/60 years. After all, as a doctor, you aren't ever going to be hurting for money. I'd rather take the marginal paycut and the satisfaction of knowing I took the time I needed rather than rushing a decision that'll change the course of my life for a negligible pay boost. 

I got in straight in after 3rd year, so have comparatively little valuable ECs from my pre-med life that'll help me down the road. I'm a surgical gunner, but tbh, there's not a whole lot I can do to boost my CV compared to people who are coming in w/ grad degrees of students at other schools who have had double the time to produce valuable research. 

Tbh, it really depends on what you're aiming for. Do as many horizontal fields you can ASAP b/c you need to rule out certain fields before ranking the various clerkship streams. Less than 2 years of pre-clerkship without dedicated summers means wet lab research isn't worth the while; unless you're very lucky, you're unlikely to get much publishable material in that timeline. I know Niagara folks have a lot of QI research which is easy to set up over there, Mac also has a lot of stuff going on w/ clinical epi. 

If you're aiming for a very competitive or surgical specialty, be prepared to do a lot of self-study (re: anatomy, pharm, path). 

I'm only in 1st year and figuring things out/winging it a bit, but ECs don't seem to have the same weight in CaRMS as they do for most med school admissions. Letters are super important for CaRMS, hence the importance (in my opinion/understanding) of studying by yourself so you can perform well on electives (or at the very least not get destroyed/yelled at when you're being compared to 3rd/4th year students from other schools). 

So your priorities would be horizontal electives, setting up connections/networking, developing solid clinical skills for clerkship, forming a robust foundation in anatomy and pharm on your own (if necessary). Then research. All other ECs are secondary to this. 

Sorry that this isn't more coherent! I'd normally edit and make it more concise, but OSCE season, so hope this slightly bitter drivel helps. :)

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