Friday, April 17, 2015

MCAT Accommodations Part Two

If you've bounced here by Googling "MCAT Accommodations" then I hope this helps you.

I recently received my response from the AAMC and while my request was NOT denied, it surely puts a damper on me trying to take the exam in June and have my application validated in July after my MCAT score posts.

Meaning... I will be a late app no matter what but the request from AAMC for more documentation definitely pushes me to a probable August MCAT date and Sept validation.

Can we say ICK?!

What happened, what you should know.

I submitted my entire MCAT accommodations package with the following:

1)  cover letter indicating current impact ADHD has on my life - work, home, school
2)  every accommodation letter received from my university for my premed pre-reqs
3)  my transcript in all it's ugliness
4)  a copy of the receipt for my ACT score showing I paid for the archival request and that it probably will NOT be obtainable given I took the ACT in 1982
5)  the entire ADHD document of testing done by a licensed psychologist who specializes in adult ADHD dated 2-12-2012
6)  a letter from my current physician who prescribes the medication

The request was for CURRENT impact assessment from licensed evaluator given my evaluation was 1 MONTH too old. In other words, had I submitted the package in late January, I would have been fine and my evaluation - that cost $2,000 to obtain - would have been "current" ...

With respect to my ACT score, the request from AAMC is this:

"Have you ever taken a standardized exam: ACT, SAT, GMAT, GRE, Other" and if so, please attach the score from that exam and any accommodations granted.

So, on that particular question I can either lie (never took the ACT ) and remember what organization I would be lying to (AAMC) OR I could tell the truth that I did in fact take it in 1982.

I did take the exam.  My score is no longer available and no accommodations were granted for standardized tests as ADA laws were not enacted yet so the best I could do was show that I tried to get the score.

AAMC has hogtied me to either lying to them or ... I don't know.  My score is simply not available as ACT will no longer keep scores prior to 2005 or something like that.

What can you do to avoid this nonsense?

Cover letter - keep to one page, summarize what the impact is of your disability on your ACADEMIC career and how accommodations have currently been leveling the playing field for you in school (aka: obtaining accommodations through your current courses)

Make the request: I request X-y-ZZ  - make the "ask" clear.

Sign it, Sincerely... that is proper, polite, and appropriate.

Obtain all accommodation letters from your schools (elementary through college if need be).  ALL of them.  Attach them to your MAO file.

Attach all diagnoses relevant to your disability and make sure they are CURRENT (less than 3 years - learn from my mistake).

Request letters of support how the disability was accommodated at work.  Attach them.  For ADHD, it does not affect me solely at school - it affects me at work, and at home.  Concerta helps the focus but the distractions and noise are still too much at times (so I have a private office or conference room at work).  At home, I've hired people to mow the lawn, clean the house, walk the dogs, and help with every other aspect of personal life because if I don't:

1/2 my lawn gets mowed
dishes stack up in a sink of running water with water ending up on the floor
laundry gets washed but not dried and end up with mildew

And remember: patience.  I figure - this is just my guess - the AAMC wants to make sure that those requesting the accommodations REALLY need it and those who do, will be patient and persistent enough to continue through the myriad of questions, requests, and further questions from AAMC.

Good luck!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Multiple Myeloma

I hope not.

I'll just keep thinking to myself: "Lab error"  :)

Normal Na+, K+, high Cl-, high CO2 = low anion gap

#1 cause is lab error
#2 cause is hypoabluminemia (low albumin)
#3 cause is multiple myeloma (although very rare)

My albumin stats are normal.  In fact everything was normal (immunoglobs were not tested) except for Cl- and CO2.

I am outside the parameters for typical multiple myeloma patients: age, race, and environmental factors.

I also do not fit the models for symptoms in any area.

The test was given 4 years ago.  Given the statistical prognosis for longevity, IF I had multiple myeloma back then, I would think I would be symptomatic now... or deceased.

I am not :)

It has to be lab error and while I will go Monday and have the work up redone, for a brief few hours (and overnight), I was semi-freaked out.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

MCAT Accommodations

They're not easy to get and also, much like the application for medical school itself, not easy to figure out HOW to apply for accommodations.

But I have.

Parts of the MAO that are critical:

1)  your past history of being accommodated in school (elementary through college) AND at work

I submitted all of my accommodations letters for all semesters of my premed pre-reqs AND my formal request for accommodations (a private office ;) ) at work

2)  documentation from a psychologist or other licensed healthcare practitioner who is qualified to assess whatever disability you might have which might allow you to have accommodations from AAMC

My diagnosis for ADHD was done over a span of 8 hours of testing while NOT on Concerta.  IT was ugly, and my brain hurt.  But I did get a 40 page diagnosis that substantiates my ADHD and need for private room for testing (and extended time).

3) transcripts... 

Mine arrived today... forgot how utterly FUGLY they were ... F, D, W, C-, A (Topics in Sex no less), A (band) and more W's, D's, C's sprinkled a few B's and finally I graduated... in 1989.

But what shows how my disability affects me is this:

premed prereqs are?

3.97

Same university, different courses, on Concerta, in a private room with extended time and wallah... 3.97.

Some people say it's unfair.  Some people say it gives me an advantage they don't have.

I disagree.

Accommodations level the playing field so that I can show what and how well I know what I know (and what I don't!!).  Accommodations simply give me a fair chance.

AND, AAMC is NOT - emphasize that point NOT - known for granting accommodations; so I also prepare as if I won't get them...

4)  cover letter which is different than a personal statement used for the actual medical school application... 

In keeping with the limitation on the personal statement, I kept my cover letter to the same length.  Given I'm 50, I have 45 years of history of academic trouble, behavior patterns of being disruptive to show and then, post diagnosis and on medication, solid grade, no behavior trouble, and yeah.  Life is good.

I submit the whole accommodations application on Monday, April 6, 2015.

And hope I hear by May.  I'll let you know.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Childhood Memories &The Characters That Shaped Our Lives

That old Motorola TV on four little wooden pegs for legs and black and white screen replete with rabbit ears on the backside and speakers in the front provided a necessary and pleasant after school show for me.  I was hooked from the first episode.

Many girls my age played with dolls and learned to sew; I learned to use test tube, explored addition of vinegar with baking soda, bleach with amonia and watched Star Trek.

My Barbie dolls were renamed Uhura and Spock; I even painted ears on the one.  My dad created a ship for the Enterprise; and both of us wept when in the movie, Enterprise was blown up.

From the Trouble with Tribbles to Wrath of Khan, Spock was always my favorite.  The science guy, the nerdy one, the unemotional external facade fully aware of the internal raging emotions of the Vulcan race.

Today, I weep again.  My childhood hero passed.  The science officer on the Enterprise went into the last frontier and sadly...


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Biochem Is NOT Hard

Unless you have a truly sucky professor (I did not - I had the greatest biochem prof ever!!)

In less than 5 minutes I can draw all of them which sounds daunting until you try it:

start with the two carbon backbone

off the left side draw an N, with both Hs (yes, both - it makes sense when you start combining amino acids in a string which then form alpha helices, etc)

off the right side draw the carbonyl off the 2nd carbon and the OH group

There, you have the start for 19 amino acids... all except proline.

Glycine is boringly blank - nothing but an H off the primary carbon...

Alanine is almost as boring but has a methyl group...

Then throw in another carbon off the alanine and you have valine...

Eventually, you get this:


I left off the two acids because you simply replace the NH2 with COOH and you get the acids.

There you have it.

How will that help in biochem?

Well, if you know that the reactions of the amino acids combine via peptide bonds, disulfide bonds, H bonds, etc ... and know the pka of the acids, you can start to configure the quaternary structures and figure out:

if the pocket on a substrate has a basic inside, what can fit inside of it?

HINT:  WON'T BE GLYCINE, et al ...

When it comes to the chymotrypsin reaction, knowing that histidine has a 5 member ring with two N in it, help remember the conformational change during the two cycle reaction...

Or when you get into creating urine, or why asparagus stinks in the urine ;)

Anyway, 5 minutes to do all that above ... taught to me by the greatest biochem prof ever !