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Good Luck To All Applicants! (& Last Minute Ama)


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The time for offers to be made is nigh. 

 

I always get excited by proxy around this time of year, remembering what it was like to be applying. I wish you all the absolute best! It is both a stressful and promising time of the year. 

 

I took a quick look through the threads on this page and didn't notice an AMA post for current students (though I did see the thread re: campus selection). If you have any questions about any features of the program or Hamilton, I'd be more than happy to help with that. I'm currently a clinical clerk about to enter my final year of the program. I'm sure other students on here could chime in as well.

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Hey! How do I train myself to do well on the MMIs? I noticed that I'm REALLY bad at interviewing, my thought process is often incoherent, and I often have a completely blank slate when doing an MMI question... I have no problem resolving problems in real life, but as soon as I know that I'm answering a question for an interview, I no longer know what I'm doing...

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Is there enough free time during the school year to be heavily involved in research? Did you find that it was difficult to stay involved in research? 

 

Research is possible, however there is less opportunity vs 4 year schools simply based on time. You can use your first summer electives to do research, or do research electives during clerkship. One advantage we have is that during pre-clerkship without mandatory lectures there is more time for you to set your own schedule, so can fit research opportunities in. You do have the option to take a year off for research or a masters though and graduating after four years.

 

How did you know if the PBL learning style was right for you? Do you know of anyone who has disliked it in medical school? I've been in a very traditional undergrad program so far and haven't really experienced anything like PBL, so I'm unsure if would like it as a primary way of learning or not.

 

PBL just means that your learning is self directed. How do you study for tests now? Do you take notes during lecture and review your notes? Do you read the textbook and study from that? Do you look up other sources online? Each of those are options and you can choose the one that works best for you. Personally lectures are low-yield for me, but if you find didactic learning works best for you there are many previously recorded lectures or lectures on almost every medical topic online you can use to study. It can be frustrating to adjust to the idea that there is no "one true answer" to PBL but you get used to it.

 

Hey! How do I train myself to do well on the MMIs? I noticed that I'm REALLY bad at interviewing, my thought process is often incoherent, and I often have a completely blank slate when doing an MMI question... I have no problem resolving problems in real life, but as soon as I know that I'm answering a question for an interview, I no longer know what I'm doing...

 

There are many good resources for this. Basically understand basic ethical and medical principles and be able to relate topics to them. There is usually no right answer to a MMI question. Basically you just have to identify the issues in the question, identify the stakeholders, outline each option, and the pros/cons and ethical issues of each option, then choose an option and rationalize it. It's not a normal way of talking but more of a personal debate.

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Thanks so much for doing this! I have a quick question about research. Typically students at other medical schools will do research in their summers, I was wondering how medical students at McMaster handled research. Is there enough free time during the school year to be heavily involved in research? Did you find that it was difficult to stay involved in research? 

 

This is true - many medical students will decide to pursue research in the summer. I will say at McMaster our preclerkship does not tend to have as much mandatory time, allowing you to structure it as you wish. Part of your schedule can be research. I personally worked on two projects (leading to authorship in two publications - currently writing the manuscripts) during pre-clerkship and didn't find it made it difficult to study for core material. It is more difficult to carry this forward during clerkship, but I have found my supervisors have been lovely about delegating me work that I can do during evenings. 

 

Some people will do research during post MF4 electives as well. I personally did clinical electives (gen surg, internal medicine, radiology) to prime myself for clerkship and to rule out specialties I didn't want. But if you have a burning passion for research, I know someone who spent all 7 weeks of their summer electives between 1st and 2nd year doing research. Now while this is an option, I personally would recommend doing clinical work - I learned a lot of foundational things like how to write a note, how to dictate, how to ask another speciality for a consult, politeness surrounding allied health, etc on my post MF4 electives, so the learning curve felt less steep by the time I began electives. It all depends on your goals and having a more research-oriented summer is a viable option!

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How did you know if the PBL learning style was right for you? Do you know of anyone who has disliked it in medical school? I've been in a very traditional undergrad program so far and haven't really experienced anything like PBL, so I'm unsure if would like it as a primary way of learning or not.

 

I personally don't know of anyone who told me they outright disliked Mac's PBL system. It'll take time to get used to it, but PBL is how you will find information about your patients as a clerk. For example, you have a patient come in with a STEMI (ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction). Let's say you don't know a lot about that. You'll need to know a set of things: risk factors for acquiring, clinical presentation of this (does it match what your patient is presenting with?), how to diagnose it, what the prognosis is both long-term and short-term, what available therapy there is and the benefits/risks/alternatives to each of the options. Now a STEMI is something most medical students will have a good handle on by the time they get to clerkship....but let's say you didn't, you'd need to know exactly how to find that information and assimilate it because your attending will ask, you'll be expected to manage your own patients and discuss them on rounds, etc. In essence, you will be expected to acquire and apply new information quickly (but of course it also depends on the rotation you are on)

 

But that was at least my experience on internal medicine; I would be asked about the patients I carried daily, what new tests I'd like to order, if any, what new therapies I'd like to begin, if they were ready for discharge and so forth. It's hard to learn that sort of thing from a lecture so you need to rely on your own learning tools to figure it out. Looking back on preclerkship, I value the way it was structured more when I realize there are no lectures on the specific patient load I was carrying - you really do need to "read around your cases" to do well. I would imagine going from rote lectures in preclerkship to that type of learning as a clerk could be very difficult without having some form of PBL previously, which is why I imagine most medical schools have been using it as part of their pedagogy nowadays. 

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Adjunct: Mac actually isn't 100% PBL anymore. This used to be the case years back, as my tutors have told me Mac used to have literally zero lectures because independent learning was the point of the program. There is now more didactic learning that has been implemented because of feedback - Monday and Friday mornings tend to be lectures throughout your medical foundations. These lectures aren't designed to cover all of the core material, but they tend to be good adjuncts to your individual learning. I actually liked the balance between lecture and tutorial in pre-clerkship! 

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This is true - many medical students will decide to pursue research in the summer. I will say at McMaster our preclerkship does not tend to have as much mandatory time, allowing you to structure it as you wish. Part of your schedule can be research. I personally worked on two projects (leading to authorship in two publications - currently writing the manuscripts) during pre-clerkship and didn't find it made it difficult to study for core material. It is more difficult to carry this forward during clerkship, but I have found my supervisors have been lovely about delegating me work that I can do during evenings. 

 

Some people will do research during post MF4 electives as well. I personally did clinical electives (gen surg, internal medicine, radiology) to prime myself for clerkship and to rule out specialties I didn't want. But if you have a burning passion for research, I know someone who spent all 7 weeks of their summer electives between 1st and 2nd year doing research. Now while this is an option, I personally would recommend doing clinical work - I learned a lot of foundational things like how to write a note, how to dictate, how to ask another speciality for a consult, politeness surrounding allied health, etc on my post MF4 electives, so the learning curve felt less steep by the time I began electives. It all depends on your goals and having a more research-oriented summer is a viable option!

Hey!!

How soon did you start contacting researchers in order to obtain a position for your preclerkship years? And do you have any advice on what they look for, how to contact them, when the best time period is to contact them? Should we contact them before we start our first year? Sorry for so many questions, I appreciate any answers!!

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How did you know if the PBL learning style was right for you? Do you know of anyone who has disliked it in medical school? I've been in a very traditional undergrad program so far and haven't really experienced anything like PBL, so I'm unsure if would like it as a primary way of learning or not.

 

I liked PBL itself. It was a great to have a small group of students with one teacher and discuss cases.

 

The problem I had with Mac's preclerkship curriculum was that it wasn't structured well at all. Our lectures would sometimes start with the most complex topic in the field, i.e. electrophysiology and complex arrhythmias (i'm talking first month of med school an EP running through AVNRT and AVRT in 2 minutes almost as if we were residents) was one of our first lectures in cardiology and then we would finish off with a more introductory topic like hypertension or valvular heart disease, which are more conceptually easy to understand. Instead of having the tried and true anatomy -> physiology -> pathology -> pharmacology, often we would just skip randomly from one to another and leave some more basic topics missing. 

 

Its easy to say, well students should just practice "self-directed learning", but the issue is where do we start, what do we need to know? Classmates would find it often difficult to know "where to start" when it comes to topics, which I think is an issue with Mac's curriculum. 

 

Overall, Mac's program is most lacking in anatomy, histology, imaging and pharmacology teaching. Its strength is in clinical medical teaching. 

 

If I were in charge of fixing Mac's curriculum, there would definitely be more contact hours and my argument would be that student's still need some direction, you can't ask someone to just flip open a textbook and read end to end. There isn't enough time to do that, so its important to guide students on what is truly relevant information and what isn't clinically relevant. 

 

I would increase the number of teachers in anatomy class, right now there are maybe 10 or so students around one cadaver moving from station to station with some stations not having any teachers. I would also ensure there is at least 2 hours of anatomy every week. I would expand the dissection course to more students and since spaces are limited, would at least reserve more of the seats to MD students and ensure that students doing dissection don't have conflicts with class. 

 

I would add more lecture time (currently most weeks there are maybe 6 hours of lectures max) and organize them in such a way that the basics of anatomy, physiology, pathology and pharmacology are all covered. The way it stands now is sometimes we will get a very indepth lecture on diverticulitis for example and then completely omit gastrointestinal physiology or esophageal disease. 

 

More radiology teaching. I think being able to read a CXR, CT, U/S should just be basics and unfortunately there just isn't enough teaching on this and the teaching we do get is variable, sometimes its too in depth and other times it misses the basics. We had one CXR talk at the beginning of first year where the instructor quickly ran through normal and abnormal CXRs in an hour and at this point most students hadn't seen a CXR in their entire life. Needless to say, most were left confused. 

 

This is more of a procedural focused idea, but it would be nice if students had more access to learning how to do procedures and clerkship basics. I find some of the most expected things of a clerk i.e. writing notes, interpreting labs, orders, discharges and basic procedures end up being a simple PDF attached somewhere or something we are taught on the job. The issue is that clerks from Mac don't have as much time as in other schools to learn these basics before electives begin (which is often early on in clerkship for many streams)

 

Overall, I just feel like having the least number of contact hours of any school in Ontario and having a 3 year program (2 years pre-CaRMS) logically just can't work well without sacrificing some competency. 

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I liked PBL itself. It was a great to have a small group of students with one teacher and discuss cases.

 

The problem I had with Mac's preclerkship curriculum was that it wasn't structured well at all. Our lectures would sometimes start with the most complex topic in the field, i.e. electrophysiology and complex arrhythmias was one of our first lectures in cardiology and then we would finish off with a more introductory topic like hypertension or valvular heart disease, which are more conceptually easy to understand. Instead of having the tried and true anatomy -> physiology -> pathology -> pharmacology, often we would just skip randomly from one to another and leave some more basic topics missing. 

 

Its easy to say, well students should just practice "self-directed learning", but the issue is where do we start, what do we need to know? Classmates would find it often difficult to know "where to start" when it comes to topics, which I think is an issue with Mac's curriculum. 

 

Overall, Mac's program is most lacking in anatomy, histology, imaging and pharmacology teaching. Its strength is in clinical medical teaching. 

 

If I were in charge of fixing Mac's curriculum, there would definitely be more contact hours and my argument would be that student's still need some direction, you can't ask someone to just flip open a textbook and read end to end. There isn't enough time to do that, so its important to guide students on what is truly relevant information and what isn't clinically relevant. 

 

I would increase the number of teachers in anatomy class, right now there are maybe 10 or so students around one cadaver moving from station to station with some stations not having any teachers. I would also ensure there is at least 2 hours of anatomy every week. I would expand the dissection course to more students and since spaces are limited, would at least reserve more of the seats to MD students and ensure that students doing dissection don't have conflicts with class. 

 

I would add more lecture time (currently most weeks there are maybe 6 hours of lectures max) and organize them in such a way that the basics of anatomy, physiology, pathology and pharmacology are all covered. The way it stands now is sometimes we will get a very indepth lecture on diverticulitis for example and then completely omit gastrointestinal physiology or esophageal disease. 

 

More radiology teaching. I think being able to read a CXR, CT, U/S should just be basics and unfortunately there just isn't enough teaching on this and the teaching we do get is variable, sometimes its too in depth and other times it misses the basics. We had one CXR talk at the beginning of first year where the instructor quickly ran through normal and abnormal CXRs in an hour and at this point most students hadn't seen a CXR in their entire life. Needless to say, most were left confused. 

 

This is more of a procedural focused idea, but it would be nice if students had more access to learning how to do procedures and clerkship basics. I find some of the most expected things of a clerk i.e. writing notes, interpreting labs, orders, discharges and basic procedures end up being a simple PDF attached somewhere or something we are taught on the job. The issue is that clerks from Mac don't have as much time as in other schools to learn these basics before electives begin (which is often early on in clerkship for many streams)

 

Overall, I just feel like having the least number of contact hours of any school in Ontario and having a 3 year program (2 years pre-CaRMS) logically just can't work well without sacrificing some competency. 

 

Wut?

 

Only 6 hrs of lecture in a week max? What does a typical week of classes look like at Mac?

 

We'll have 6 hrs of lecture and a 2 hr small group in one day 1-2 times a week depending on the course. Some half days of lecture, some days off, some days with 2 small groups and a few lectures in the same day, as of late.

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Hey!!

How soon did you start contacting researchers in order to obtain a position for your preclerkship years? And do you have any advice on what they look for, how to contact them, when the best time period is to contact them? Should we contact them before we start our first year? Sorry for so many questions, I appreciate any answers!!

 

 

Hey, basically right away in October/November. Look for research that appeals to you! Mac is a world leader in EBM so a lot of people end up pursuing that. I didn't feel that I had much difficulty finding researchers to work with. I would suggest emailing broadly and seeing if that gets you anywhere. 

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Wut?

 

Only 6 hrs of lecture in a week max? What does a typical week of classes look like at Mac?

 

We'll have 6 hrs of lecture and a 2 hr small group in one day 1-2 times a week depending on the course. Some half days of lecture, some days off, some days with 2 small groups and a few lectures in the same day, as of late.

 

So yes, roughly two mornings of lecture of week. There is 6 hours (split over two sessions) of tutorial a week which is considered the "core"; you discuss material that usually is not related to lecture but can be (they try and split up the material). There is another 3 hours of clinical skills a week and another 3 hours of professional competencies. The rest of the week's time is up to you to decide how to utilize. 

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Hey, basically right away in October/November. Look for research that appeals to you! Mac is a world leader in EBM so a lot of people end up pursuing that. I didn't feel that I had much difficulty finding researchers to work with. I would suggest emailing broadly and seeing if that gets you anywhere. 

 

Thank you for your reply! Also, is there anything specifically that researchers look for in taking on students - i.e. past experience? specific interests? I am interested in pursuing some kind of research in the field of pediatrics, preferably something clinical that involves patient interaction, and I'm wondering if this is possible. Thank you once again! 

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Thank you for your reply! Also, is there anything specifically that researchers look for in taking on students - i.e. past experience? specific interests? I am interested in pursuing some kind of research in the field of pediatrics, preferably something clinical that involves patient interaction, and I'm wondering if this is possible. Thank you once again! 

 

Hey

 

so I emailed some researchers. they asked for my CV and interviewed me. I had very little research experience at the time and they still took me for the position, so I think just show interest and be enthusiastic and that matters more. for what it's worth, I found it easier to find research as an MD student than I did as an undergrad student

 

GOOD LUCK TOMORROW!!!!

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Hey

 

so I emailed some researchers. they asked for my CV and interviewed me. I had very little research experience at the time and they still took me for the position, so I think just show interest and be enthusiastic and that matters more. for what it's worth, I found it easier to find research as an MD student than I did as an undergrad student

 

GOOD LUCK TOMORROW!!!!

 

Thank you so much for your reply! I was a bit nervous about not having experience but I suppose being a med student would make a difference. Thank you so much, and good luck to everyone tmrw !!!

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hey, sorry im late but hope this AMA is still going strong! I had a question about the self-learning curriculum at mac, do they provide material to learn from or are we expected to find our own resources? I'm scared I will be a little lost as I've typically learned didactically (where everyone in the class learns from the same base material). Any additional information about the self-learning would be much appreciated!!

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hey, sorry im late but hope this AMA is still going strong! I had a question about the self-learning curriculum at mac, do they provide material to learn from or are we expected to find our own resources? I'm scared I will be a little lost as I've typically learned didactically (where everyone in the class learns from the same base material). Any additional information about the self-learning would be much appreciated!!

 

A little of column A, a little of column B. For each medical foundation (pre-clerkship is divided into 5 MFs), they give us a hefty list of suggested textbooks, and every tutorial case has at least a couple of suggested resources (textbook chapters, papers, etc). Beyond that, it's up to you! Definitely part of the learning curve is figuring out how to efficiently find good resources that work for you, but it's a really worthwhile skill to have. It's pretty different from didactic learning in that you have to decide for yourself how much detail to go into on any given topic and what you want to focus on the most, but our tutors guide us, and we're given major learning objectives to structure our learning around so no one goes too far astray. 

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Thanks for answering all these questions.

 

I'm personally really excited about this type of learning as it seems to mirror the courses I was most successful in during undergrad.

 

I'm wondering about your thoughts on buying a car first year. I really want too, just for ease of driving home, groceries etc, and cost isn't an issue. My parents think I could probably wait a year but are leaving it up to me. What are your thoughts?

 

I know I wouldn't drive to campus so I'm torn

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You almost certainly don't need a car in pre-clerkship, many of my classmates didn't have one. Campus is fairly well connected to transit. BUT you may have your tutorials or clinical skills sessions at the hospitals or other sites, and you are responsible for getting there. For the most part there seemed to be someone in every group with a car who could carpool those who didn't, and almost everywhere is accessible by some sort of transit. Note that technically you are required to have transportation so not having a car will not excuse you from mandatory things.

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