Medical Education Pathways – Part 3 – Your Future Begins Now

TIPS AND STRATEGIES

How can one find information about foreign medical schools? How does one apply to medical school in another country? Students can either do the research and homework on their own, or find a student advocate to assist them in the process.

For students who want to take matters into their own hands, the most important things to look for are universities that are recognized by the appropriate accrediting bodies in the student’s home country. For example, American students looking for international medical schools should refer to the FAIMER website and search the IMED directory from their website for eligible medical schools around the world. It is also important to talk to the admission office and the international student office to determine if they are capable of assisting in matters such as housing, residence permits and other day-to-day aspects of living in a foreign country. Don’t forget to ask for names and contact information for alumni and current students of the university. Perhaps the most important factor in determining the reliability of an international program is the length of time that it has been available. Programs that have been around for more than 10 years have enough experience with foreign students to understand their needs. Programs with less than 10 years are still ‘learning the ropes’ and the program administration is typically not as smooth or easy as compared to more experienced programs. I have experienced both types of programs from a student’s perspective and from an administrator’s perspective. Programs with less than 10 years of experience are very difficult for both students and administrators to handle.

Many international medical schools work with student advocates in other countries to assist students who are interested in their programs. Student advocates are typically official representatives of the medical schools they claim to work with, and charge a fee for their service. If there is no stated upfront fee, the advocate has an arrangement with the university to receive a part of the students’ tuition fee. There are pros and cons to each financial model. It is important to note that it is not ethical for advocates to receive money from universities on a per-student basis, as this constitutes a conflict of interest. In the United States, it is a completely unacceptable practice. As with any other part of life, be wary of anyone who claims to give you something for nothing.

Applicants can contact local student advocates, search the internet, contact the universities directly or even visit the universities in order to get a better idea of the program, curriculum, culture and life outside of the university. It is important to confirm that the advocate has a good relationship with the university. It is also very important to make sure the advocate has a good history in dealing with students and universities. The best way to verify this is to ask to speak with some of their current students, and visit their office to be sure they are a legitimate organization. It is important to have a good advocate, because the advocate provides an initial stability and ongoing sense of security. It has been shown that students with support systems in place have lower attrition rates and better grades than students without such a support system.

An experienced and conscientious advocate will almost always insist on meeting the students and maybe even the family for an interview. After all, it is the whole family that is affected when a student decides to study overseas. It is important to establish a good relationship between the advocate and the student. Without this connection, the student might hesitate to reach-out for assistance if they need help while at school. Advocates typically help students during the transition, and stay close to the students in the first few months of school. As time passes and the students adjust to their new setting, they typically contact advocates only for more serious issues or in case of emergencies. It is typical for students to adapt quickly to their new surroundings and this natural ‘maturation’ allows advocates to stay focused on newer students.

Services an advocate might provide:

-Application processing & visa/immigration facilitation
-Arrange interviews locally – this saves students and parents from having to fly to the university before knowing they are accepted
-Many student advocates set up housing, internet access, cell phones, bank accounts, health insurance, etc…
-Advocates typically have employees in or around the university to provide on-site assistance for their students
-More comprehensive programs offer USMLE and residency counseling, and the possibility of some clinical rotations in the US to students in the program.

Whatever the situation, nothing replaces thorough research on the part of the student.

There are many advantages to an international medical education. It is a great opportunity for students who may not otherwise have the chance. There are so many bright young people in this country who could be great doctors if given the opportunity.

Well, the opportunity is here. Your future begins now.

Good luck!

AMK

Struggling To Pay Medical Bills?

People all over the U.S. struggle to pay medical bills. The unpaid hospital bills will pile up quickly from an unexpected illness. Due to the lack of medical insurance, you may have received a minimum level of treatment and were discharged with a recommendation of going to see another doctor. How do they expect you to see another doctor when you can’t afford to pay their medical bills?

This is the sad reality of the medical industry in the United States. While the current administration promises a resolution, what do you do in the mean time? There are options, however none are absolute. Americans neglect their own health issues until their body won’t let them anymore and sometimes it is too late by then. Waiting makes the issues worse yet many cannot afford the preventative measures and checkups necessary. Your health should be a priority, but the expense of medical bills sometimes makes that impossible.

Medical assistance is available through state and federal programs for some people. Those that are offered medical insurance through their employer sometimes can’t afford it or they have it and it is not as effective as it should be. The rates of insurance are high, the deductibles are high, the co pays are high and the percentage the insurance covers is low. For those who do have insurance these numbers still equal needing help to pay medical expenses.

Medical advocates can help with unpaid hospital bills; however their assistance is limited too. They can find errors in billing and negotiate the numbers, but in the end you still have to find a way to pay medical bills. When there is nothing left to rob from Peter to pay Paul, it is time to consider a different approach to resolve your medical expenses.

Many have not considered bankruptcy to alleviate the stress and financial burden of medical expenses, however many are forced into bankruptcy due to unpaid hospital bills. When you do not have the means to pay medical bills, consult with a bankruptcy professional to help you make the best financial decision.

Be Your Own Medical Advocate

I had been having many medical issues starting at the age of 27 that not any one doctor could really put their finger on and definitively diagnose. I was told by a handful of doctors, what they thought was wrong. I ended up hearing things that ranged from being pre-menopausal to slightly depressed. I even ended up seeing a psychologist to be sure it wasn’t depression. How silly is that? In February of 2007 I ended up seeing a surgeon in University of Penn in Philadelphia. I was told I had to have my thyroid removed due to a goiter. Naturally, being in shock, I go home and research the thyroid function and read all the information I can about it. I then begin to research what it will be like living without my thyroid and what the changes in my body are going to be. What I found is that all of the research and all of the knowledge in the world couldn’t even begin to prepare me for the journey I was about to take.

For any of you who are not familiar with the thyroid or its function, I’ll give you a brief synopsis. The thyroid is one of the largest endocrine glands in the body. It’s a butterfly shaped gland that sits in your neck, right in front of your trachea. Its main job is to produce thyroid hormone. These hormones are chemicals secreted by the gland to act like messengers telling specific body parts what to do such as regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, proper brain function, and most importantly, convert food into energy. The function of the thyroid gland is to take iodine, found in many foods, and convert it into thyroid hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid cells are the only cells in the body which can absorb iodine. These cells combine iodine and the amino acid tyrosine to make T3 and T4. T3 and T4 are then released into the blood stream and are transported throughout the body where they control metabolism (conversion of oxygen and calories to energy). Every cell in the body depends upon thyroid hormones for regulation of their metabolism. The normal thyroid gland produces about 80% T4 and about 20% T3, however, T3 possesses about four times the hormone “strength” as T4.

Without proper thyroid function, you can expect to see these symptoms:

• Fatigue and weakness
• Low basal temperature (cold intolerance)
• Dry and coarse skin
• Hair loss
• Cold hands and feet
• Weight gain
• Insomnia
• Constipation
• Depression
• Poor memory, forgetfulness
• Nervousness and tremors
• Immune system problems
• Heavy menstrual periods.

The awful thing about having a thyroid issue, is that all of the symptoms of which I had, could have absolutely been menopause or depression. Any and all of these symptoms go hand in hand with many different issues, but today, most doctors will immediately jump to depression first, without looking deeper into the issues. This is how I was NOT diagnosed for years with a thyroid issue.

I was told that after the surgery by an endocrinologist that I would be able to live a pretty normal life while taking thyroid medication for the rest of my life. Part of the research I had done prior to my surgery was about the different thyroid medications on the market today, most of which are synthetic. I did, however, find that there was one thyroid medication that was natural made from Pig thyroid hormones. In learning all of this during my research, I feel like I know my body and how it reacts to synthetic things and that my only option was the natural hormone. Armor Thyroid, the natural hormone has been used successfully since 1891. In the 1960’s, the big pharmaceutical companies were replacing Armor with the synthetic brand, which is very different than Armor in the fact that all of the synthetic hormones are T4 only. What is the problem with this, you might ask? If you recall reading earlier, T3 possesses about four times the hormone “strength” as T4. T3 is the one that puts the spring in your step because it is so potent. So my doctor, like many others, would not even listen to me in the fact that I would like to start out with the Armor Thyroid. She says that first we go with Synthroid, and if there’s a problem, then she’ll talk to me about Armor. OK, I decide, I’m not the doctor, so against my better judgment, I’ll do what she thinks is best.

I proceed for the next year and a half, taking Synthroid, and getting sicker and sicker. Any and all of the side effects of Synthroid AND being hypothyroid were mine to have. Over the course of the next 8 months I gained 25 pounds. I had a lot of muscle pain which I’m sure had to do with the weight gain. I am five feet nothing and was always about 110 pounds after my son was born. With twenty five extra pounds, my body was always feeling physically sick and then I was emotionally sick due to the extra pounds I was seeing. I was still so fatigued that I had grown accustomed to drinking energy drinks to keep me afloat, hence, I’m sure attributing to the weight gain. To make matters worse, I had severe constipation that would make or break each day with discomfort and bloating. I very rarely slept through the night which made my life during the day a struggle to keep it together. I would forget things a lot and couldn’t think straight so soon I became seriously depressed because of all of these symptoms and the fact that my doctor kept telling me to hang in there. I was crying all of the time and couldn’t control my emotions.

My doctor told me this had nothing to do with the thyroid, but I felt like my body was revolting against me and I had no control over anything. I went through a dose change of Synthroid every three months until we were to get it right. The dose change would sometimes make the symptoms so severe that I just didn’t know how to deal with it or myself or my family.

During this period of time while taking Synthroid, I researched and researched things that would help with all my symptoms. It was Rebecca, my healer, who turned me on to a natural product that would help with some of my physical issues.

After reading all about this “Holy Tea” I was intrigued and because of its claims, I tried it. I can say at this time, I will never be without it. I have not had the physical slowing down of my GI tract due to this detoxifying tea that, over time, clears out the so-called gunk that builds up in your system. It’s been used with great results for many things such as: Crohn’s Disease, IBDs, Spastic Colon, Enlarged Abdomen, Excess Stored Fat, Skin Conditions, Allergies, Fibromyalgia, Joint Pain, Insomnia, Low Energy, Loss of Clarity, and Forgetfulness, just to mention a few. This was not a cure all for me, but man how nice life becomes when your body starts to feel like it’s functioning again!

After having great success with the tea, I began researching their other products, one of which is Coral Minerals. Without my thyroid it’s very important to keep my calcium levels up because in the surgery, most of my parathyroid glands were taken as well. The major function of the parathyroid glands is to maintain the body’s calcium level within a very narrow range, so that the nervous and muscular systems can function properly. I’ve found that Calcium is the most plentiful of minerals in Coral Complex 3. Coral Complex 3 has helped people keep their bones strong, people with tendentious, periodontal disease, varicose veins, and even mood swings. I’ve been using this as well and it’s been a great supplemental boost.

OK, so I found a few things that helped make life a little more bearable, but the next time I was in to see the endocrinologist, I told her that enough was enough. I was ready to try the natural hormone, and hopefully feel better. She finally, after a year and a half, agreed. I can tell you that with-in a two week period of time, all of the aches and pains I was going through were gone. I wasn’t so sad anymore. I started sleeping through the night. My head was a little clearer, and things were looking up. I still had quite a ways to go, but at that point life was good, FINALLY!! At this point in my life, three years later, I can say that I’m still struggling because for the past three years, I haven’t been able to stay at one dose yet. It looks like I’m finally on that track now, and it was just 3 years in February. I’m sure I will always have some sort of struggle, but I’m on the right track, I can feel it.

So at this point, I finally find the right medication that works with my body and the manufacturer now has the product on national back order. Boy, I was starting to feel like I couldn’t get a break. No fear, whenever I have issues pertaining to my thyroid, I always go back to http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com. This is a website that has helped me with many questions that I’ve had as well as be able to chat with people who have the same issues as me. Every now and again, you learn something from someone that you had no idea would help you. It’s a wonderful site, and I highly suggest it for anyone going through these struggles themselves.

Throughout the past three years, I’ve been able to find many things that have helped me through this struggle. The main thing that has gotten me to the point that I’m at today is my support system. I have the best husband, family, and friends that anyone could ask for. They have helped me get through this time, by listening to me talk through it, or sometimes cry and complain. They’ve helped me make sense of it all every step of the way. So to all of the people in my life, I have got to say “I love you!” and “Thank You”. This doesn’t even begin to make you understand how much each of you is an integral part in my life. I treasure all of you and feel blessed that I have so much love in my life to get me through one of the hardest times I’ve had to deal with. And my husband, God love him, was the best support system anyone could ever ask for. I know during this period of time how awful I was feeling constantly and that I was never easy to deal with. But Dave stood with me, and supported me, every step of the way. What I learned most from all of this and mainly from my husband, is that no matter what, you need to trust yourself, and be your own advocate in this world. You know your body better than anyone… including doctors. They know medicine, but only you know when something is truly wrong, and despite the fact that they may tell you your perfectly fine, you need to stand up for yourself and keep fighting until you know in your heart that all is fine.

Thanks to all for listening, and be well.