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1 Speaker 1: In this episode, I want to discuss how to describe things in your personal statements or in your application materials when you have to talk about something that's a bad thing from your past, whether that's poor grades or maybe dropping out of a program, failing out of a program, or some other kind of life change like that where you realize on paper it kind of looks bad and you really do need to go ahead and address it on the personal statement or on some kind of paragraph box within the application itself. I mean, many times, people can have a B or a C or something like that here and there in your transcript, and it's kind of understood that that kind of thing is going to happen once in a while to someone. In terms of an admissions committee and what they're thinking, they're looking for people to show a dedicated commitment to professionalism, education, lifelong learning, and patient care over time, so as long as it's not a pattern, don't stress over one B here, one C there, or something like that. If something unusual happens and you have a failing semester or fail a class or something like that, you have to start putting it in context for yourself. Now, understand there are two things that are happening here. One is that you're kind of coming to terms with what in the world happened to you, and the second thing is what do you put on the application. Okay? What I want to encourage you with today is this idea that there are many, many physicians out there that have failed a class in undergrad. The myth that if you can't handle biochemistry the first time means you shouldn't be a doctor is a bunch of bogus, negative hype and stereotype that's perpetuated by nonphysicians. Remember, way, way back in some of the earliest podcasts that I ever did, if you listen to that far back, I definitely say from the beginning, you need to adopt a strategy whereby you don't follow the advice or even really entertain or listen to it from people that are not physicians themselves. You need to get your information from people that have done it before. If you're going to rebuild a car engine, would you go and talk to your plumber about how to do it? Thank you. No, so what happens at undergrad schools, unless you're at one of the really big ones or something that has some kind of award-winning, grant-winning kind of pre-med advisor, most folks listening to me are not going to a place like that because they wouldn't be searching for how to get an edge and extra help through a podcast or website or something like that. What I want to say is that this answer is a very personal answer for everybody. SARS_ _ Page 1 of 6

2 I mean, how in the world, on a public podcast, are you going to talk about how you answer your deepest, darkest problems in your application and in your past? Yes, we all have them. The question is did you get caught? Did it make it to the paper? Is it on paper? Are you going to have to explain it? In other words, did you have a DWI or something like that? I mean, in general, you can't get a medical license with a felony conviction. Okay? Barring that, if you had failed out of a semester or even college altogether, how do you explain that and come back? Understand that I was not around a lot of really traditional pre-med students anyway. I was at a small school, and as soon as I got out of the Army and began to really take pre-med full time, fortunately, we had an active pre-med club. That first academic year I was there, probably even the first semester, I think, we went and toured five medical schools in four days. It was all arranged. We paid for it. We traveled together around Texas seeing medical schools. It was awesome. The pre-med advisor... or sorry, the president, the club president, was a student who was a junior or senior or something, and he had went to a large university, the University of Texas, and was there for a year and a half and failed out completely and was removed academically from the institution. He partied, and he drank alcohol. You would think how does a guy like that ever come back, and that's why I bring him up because that was my initial point of inspiration. I was way ahead of him, and I didn't even get accepted into medical school. He got accepted into medical school his second or third try. He was trying... at least the second time. But I thought, "Oh, I'm a veteran. I have pretty much a clean record." Academics were all there. My MCAT was never good. That was the only weakness, but this guy had to over and above prove his academic prowess in undergrad, and he did. He was able to arrange it. He arranged those tours, went way out of his way to make contacts so that every time we showed up to a different campus, he already had somebody there on that campus to meet. Definitely, persistence, dedication, hard work, a positive mental attitude, all these things are prerequisites to bounce back from the situation, but that's all that's going on on the personal-development side of the equation. As far as what's happening on paper and what you're actually going to write, that's what we need to discuss here. I left the emergency-medicine residency on not good circumstances. I had really never done poorly on a job. Now, before I joined the Army, I had a couple jobs, and I didn't leave those always on great SARS_ _ Page 2 of 6

3 terms. Believe me. That's a story for another day, but in terms of my more adult professional life, I never had any problem before or since that emergencymedicine program. As you discovered listening to the podcast and some of my teleconferences, that wasn't all my fault. I was in between residencies when I was very much in Matt's predicament. He's the guy that I did the podcast on the cure for test anxiety, if you want to go into his full question, but I didn't really address the motive there because it was a separate issue and question altogether. That's this question we're talking about today. How do you actually explain yourself on paper? There I found myself in a very similar situation. I had, for all practical purposes, on paper, it sure looked like I just failed out, washed out of emergency medicine. That was a devastatingly painful thing to think about if I were to just leave that on paper and not try to explain it or have an answer, so of course, I did a lot of personaldevelopment work. One thing that I did when I was really not sure what I wanted to do, when I hadn't realized how much I liked psychiatry yet, was I went to an international headhunter organization in Dallas, Texas... I could give you the name off the air here... paid $5,000 that I didn't have to go to this headhunter and say, "You know what? I've got an education. I have a doctorate, and I can't get a job." By the way, that's a growing problem you've heard me talk about and allude to. We will discuss the growing epidemic of unemployed physicians because of the lack of residencies in later podcasts, but there I was not knowing exactly what I wanted to do, knowing that I loved patient care, but not sure which specialty to apply to, and feeling like if I went back right away and applied to emergency medicine, I really didn't have an answer. Well, why didn't you do well? I didn't have an answer. If you just looked at their comments about me, you would think that I was a bad doctor, and that was not the whole story. I have since been vetted and licensed. That was a malignant program, and malignant programs, part of their definition is they're going to document negative, malignant things about you to hurt your career even though it's not all true, and some of it is outright lies that they make no effort to correct. They don't care about being correct. They're trying to protect themselves from being sued. That's really what's going on in these environments. I was there, and they taught me about the Success Story Format. They didn't quite call it or use it the way I do and have adapted it for the Medical Mastermind Community, but I learned some valuable skills. At first glance, it SARS_ _ Page 3 of 6

4 looks too simple and too easy, but I'm telling you, if you'll wrap your brain around the Success Story Format, it can revolutionize the way you describe yourself on paper, the way you can sell yourself, sort of. We all feel a little awkward when we're writing a personal essay because we're Type A personalities. We're go, go, go. Good enough is never good enough. We have to get 100% on everything kind of or we're afraid we're some kind of failure. Keep in mind you always have to keep your shadow in front of you. The impostor phenomenon of the constant threat of being found out or that someone's going to realize that you're not as good as you say you are haunts all of us. It's been well-documented in medical schools and in doctors that we all have sort of this internal fear of not being good enough. You find the person that's the most over-achieving of all, and they have the greatest fear of it. In fact, often, it's that fear that drives us to succeed, and we succeed far and above our peers, but to us, it's never good enough. Does that sound familiar? Well, the Success Story Format helps you to suddenly sit down to write a personal statement for an application, and now all of a sudden, I'm going to supposedly switch gears here and try to talk good about myself? That's completely unnatural. It's completely opposite of what we do all the time in our life. We simply don't think like that. The Success Story Format was my personal way of getting a foothold in changing the way I think about myself, and in turn, it's actually had a ripple effect in the way I see other people and the hope in other people. It's made me a better mentor, teacher, and a coach, and a physician especially in psychiatry when people are often hopeless and you have to be able to give them some hope or else you can essentially outright kill somebody practically with your words. I have seen that happen, and it's devastating. We, in medicine, have to be positive believers for our patients to get well and heal from their diseases, or at the least, to focus on what positive and good there is in life and in relationship, to live fully to the fullest extent possible. That's your job in calling yourself a physician, so part of your professional development now, as a pre-med or a medical student that has something negative they have to write and explain on an essay, is to make sure you're not just trying to skip ahead and get the MD and the money behind your name. Make sure you're actually doing the same kind of personal development that you're going to ask your patients to do one day. Okay? The Success Story Format involves sort of describing the situation. It's actually a format. It's probably easiest to show this in a video, and I've made a video on the SARS_ _ Page 4 of 6

5 Medical Mastermind Community that actually walks you step by step exactly how to do this, but I'll try to describe it the best I can here in audio form. Just imagine sort of a grid of a table where you're going to put in what I call the SARS format, the situation, the action that you took, and the results from it. The part about the situation is not necessarily to complain, to say, "Oh, I was working two full-time jobs and tried to take 17 science hours or something like that." You're not whining or complaining, but the action you take... Just keep in mind, this is at a point and time in your life when you failed a class that you're trying to explain, but you're going to instead focus on your action that you were taking, like maybe you were bettering the diabetes monitoring in your workplace. Think of something even small that you did that wasn't absolutely required. Anything at all that you did that was above and beyond the call of duty at that time in your life, you put it in the A column. Then the result of that... anything that could be measured, quantified, like you're building your resume in that style, and then put it all together. The statement can go something like, "Yes, I was taking too many science hours for that amount of employment that I was doing that semester, so I didn't score as well as I wanted to. I really think I learned a lot more than showed up in my grade." I just read a personal statement from someone that sounded just like that. Do you see how the whole emphasis of that conversation is on the negative? It's on the face value, and in your mind, it's all negative. You don't see anything else until you wrap your mind around the Success Story Format, so instead it could look like, "That was a busy semester for me while I was focusing on improving the diabetes-monitoring treatment. Fortunately, 42% of our patients had better compliance as a result, and it taught me a great deal about balancing academics with making a real-world impact on the situation around me." Now, folks, I did not write notes to come up with that just now. Honestly, I'm driving down the road home from work after answering someone's on this subject. Okay? When you wrap your mind around the Success Story Format, you will be able to talk like that, and it totally revolutionizes the dynamic. Rather than you kind of feeling defensive and explaining something, you're almost showing off with documented evidence of exactly why they need you, why they want you, how in a stressful situation you have the insight to grow and to learn and put your best foot forward and to bring something to the table, to really show up, make them want you. It turns the tables on the reader, so that's the Success Story Format. SARS_ _ Page 5 of 6

6 If you want to watch the training videos, they'll walk you exactly step by step in how to do it yourself and all of the supporting documents and tables that go with it because, believe me, there's a whole lot more that goes with it before you get to that particular step to prepare your mind, then visit the premedpodcast.com. Consider joining the Medical Mastermind Community if you want direct access and comments by me on your personal statement. Take care. SARS_ _ Page 6 of 6

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