Self development: Grit & Personal Struggles

Grit can be defined as an individual’s ability to “maintain their determination and motivation over long periods despite experiences with failure and adversity” (Wikipedia). A mentor once told me that if she could grant me any superpower in the world, she would grant grit.  4 years later, I know appreciate grit as one of the most important traits that a person can develop.

Here’s an inspiring blog post from Anne that you should check out to highlight the importance of grit during the medical school application process:

I am always positive in my blog posts becauseI want to promote positivity rather than negativity. I try to be grateful and optimistic as much as possible but I do struggle and lack confidence in myself. Recently, I’ve been working to overcome the trap of comparing myself with others and falling into “not good enough” trap. Coming with a cultural background that values humility and self-deprecation, I (and likely others from the same background) easily admire the work ethic and talents of others and aspire to develop the same abilities. It’s  fantastic to aspire to the same high standards and to realize what areas need improvement. But, it’s important to be aware that we may be comparing our abilities while we are in midway through the journey of life to someone’s abilities while they are further along in the journey.

Specifically, I’ve been frustrated at myself for not being an eloquent enough speaker. I have been reaching out to numerous mentors that I am very grateful towards. The way that my mentors speak is so much more confident and contains ideas that are so brilliant.  I’ve caught myself thinking, “My answer was terrible because my answer was missing that point”.  Such a thought made me less confident the next time I talked, which is the opposite of what I wanted to become.

I am grateful to have met with a mentor yesterday who was also a younger applicant. She reminded me that I’ve become 20 recently but I’m comparing myself to individuals 10 years or more older than I am.  These individuals have had more years to live and experience more situations. If they are health care providers that speaks with many patients everyday, their speaking skills obviously are much more developed because  they’ve  been sharpening their skills for years . Her advice changed my mindset.

Yes, I still have a lot of room for improvement. Yes, I definitely am trying to learn from them and improve. But rather than over-compare, I have make sure that I’m staying in the healthy levels of comparison (“I like how they structured their answer in a way that I didn’t and so I’ll try to incorporate that to improve my own answer”). From now onward, I will work hard to improve my skills while maintaining a positive mindset.

The take-away message is: Whatever you are struggling with, remember to step back and check if your self-talk is helpful or not. You are smart, hard-working and motivated. You will be able to achieve your goal if you put in the right amount of effort and time.

If you want to read another person’s perspective on struggles, Tiffany at SecondHand inspiration wrote a heartfelt post about realizing that not being amazing at something right away is totally okay. Check it out here:

Best of luck,



New things I’ve been up to in starting this term of third year


Like last time, I’m enjoying my three year-long courses in pharmacology, physiology and neuroscience. This term, I’m taking a course in Darwinian Medicine which involves a ton of reading and thinking about what pressures may have led to the natural selection of some traits.  My project partner and I chose to do our project on evolution and myopia, and I got to read a bunch of interesting research papers. I’m also learning Greek and Latin medical terminology which is SO helpful.

Vision Health Volunteers

Since the very beginning of the school year, our team has been hard at working organizing our (hopefully impactful) initiatives to promote a more accurate depiction of individuals with vision loss and some top secret initiatives to achieve other missions. Stay tuned!  Our first event is next Thursday at 5:30 pm and it will feature a guest speaker who is navigating pharmacy school with vision loss. I hope that we can dispel some misconceptions by showing that while vision loss can definitely make some activities very challenging, individuals with vision loss should not be looked down upon because they are just as capable of pursuing challenging studies and careers.

Integrated Sciences Peer Mentoring Program

Since November 2017, I have been a mentor to 3 students. I enjoyed meeting them in person. I created guidelines and timelines to assist mentees to achieve their goals. I answered their questions regarding course selection and extracurricular activities, and provided editing and guidance on their degree proposals. If I could not answer their questions, I connected mentees to other experts. I recommend becoming a peer mentor as a way to give back to students who were just where you were only a short while back.

Speaking at the Operation Med School conference

I was invited to be a guest speaker at a  conference that will have ~ 350 attendees aiming to inform and inspire high school students aspiring to become the next generation of healthcare providers. At first, I was felt really doubtful about myself with thoughts such as “I am not a medical student and so can’t answer questions about medical school. What can I even say?” But I’m glad I pulled out some courage and accepted their kind invitation. If you’re a high schooler, this looks like a pretty well-organized event and the Dean of Medicine and the Dean of Medical Admissions will be Keynote speakers. So, check out Operation Med School Vancouver on February 10, 2018.

Becoming Science Fair Judge   

On January 30, 2018, I’ll be judging Life Sciences-related projects by grade 8, 9, 10 students at the Point Grey Secondary Mini School Program Science Fair. I’m an alumna of Point Grey Mini School and grateful for the opportunity to apply what were we learning in class to projects and field trips.

These are some blog articles that I liked recently.

My blogger friend Cindy Wei is travelling all Asia. This is her most recent post about Cambodia.

Hoping for a better sense of self? Maybe applying to residency will help  is by a blogger that I really admire for her ability to achieve a great balance between the stress that is medical school and applying to residency and living a full life .  Ada is #goals.


I want my future work to meaningful like the works of these individuals

Somewhere far deep in the archives of my UBC Blog Squad blog, I wrote about mentors that I am grateful for. Today, I wanted to started a list of persons I want to look up and want to produce impactful work like they have!

This is just a starting list based on some articles and books that I’ve read lately. I’ve been growing an strong interest in ophthalmology for the last few years but there is an especially large proportion of ophthalmologists on this list since I’ve been reading a lot of research articles on myopia this past while.If you’re interested in learning more,  I suggest you look up their work 🙂

There are definitely more researchers and writers and philanthropists and other contributors to our world that I would love to gleam wisdom from.  I’ll just leave you with just a few since I should get back to studying the respiratory system now.

You tell me : who are some inspirational figures that you want to be like or to meet?

Live persons I want to meet

  • Dr. Nathan Congdon is an ophthalmologist whose research is focused on improving the quality of eyecare in places where resources are  limited such as in rural China. For those of you who know how passionate I am about preventing blindness and my interest in rural health, I really want to get involved in research like that.  In Vancouver, we see wealthy Chinese immigrants and forget that many regions in China, particularly rural areas, can be very poor. There, access to health care can be unavailable and even when available, the quality can has room for improvement despite the best efforts of the health care providers.  I feel especially strong about this since my family originates from rural areas of China (though these areas are likely no longer considered rural given the rapid development in recent times).
  • Dr.  Dennis Lam who started free vision screenings & surgery for economically-challenged Hong Kong citizens and established 100 charity eye centers in poverty-stricken areas of China. Think of how many people such initiatives benefitted! I wish that I can become a physician that not only helps individuals one-to-one in the clinic or OR, but also can help many people on a wider scale whether that is through research or community aid initiatives or BOTH. That’s the dream, guys, that’s the dream.
  • Dr. Andrea Tooley is an ophthalmologist whose blog I have followed all the way since her medical school days. She is an inspirational figure to many who dreams of medicine by producing multiple videos and posts on advice for students in different stages of their education.  I highly recommend checking her content if you are looking to learn more about what medical school or residency is like, or for her study tips, or how to stay motivated.
  • Dr. Henry Marsh is a British neurosurgeon who wrote the memoirs, “Do No Harm” and “Admissions”, which I loved reading.
  • Dr. Cal Newport wrote several books on topics such as “deep work” and “debunking the laundry list fallacy” that changed my life for the better.

Deceased figures that I want to meet

  • Dr. Harold Ridley was a British ophthalmologist who pioneered the use of artificial intraocular lens in cataract surgery and pioneered intraocular lens surgery. When I first shadowed in ophthalmology, I was so fascinated by the surgical procedure and by the technology involved. I got further interested when the resident I shadowed told me about the history of how they invented the surgical techniques used in ophthalmology today (thank you Dr. M!). Dr. Ridley was persistent about improving cataract surgery despite his colleagues and other member of the medical community trying to stop him. His persistence led to him to refine the surgical technique that is still used for cataract surgery today.
    • P.S. I would love to go Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, England one day!!!
  • Dr. Oliver Sacks was a British neurologist who wrote multiple best-selling books on fascinating neurological disorders.

When to write the MCAT

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on and do not possess insider information on the MCAT or on medical school admissions. This is only based on my personal experience.  I am merely provide some opinion that might help out a fellow premed out there. 
A highly motivated reader sent in a question on when to write the MCAT.  This is a follow-up to my original post: How to study for the MCAT
 Many people I know have written it first or second week of August, and I was planning to do so. I did notice on your blog, that you suggested earlier times, such as the last week of July. Is there a reason that you took it in July, and even recommend June over August?  (Thank you and credits to the reader who asked this question.)
First of all, since you're a second year,  are you applying for medicine at the beginning of third year? And if so, are you planning to apply to UBC med exclusively? Or will you also be applying to Toronto, MacMaster, etc? If you're not applying until 4th year, then August anytime is fine. It won't really matter to you when you write it because you'll have your MCAT score report well before you apply. Study burn-out can still be a problem that applies to you.
If you are applying in third year, then there are several reasons why you might want to write the MCAT earlier than in August.
  1. It takes a month to get your score back.  Knowing your score before working on your applications can save you a lot of money and time that you can instead spend on just your top choice schools.  For example, if your CARS is not higher than 128, UCalgary Medical School and U Alberta explicitly do not accept out of province applicants with a CARS score lower than 128 (for proof see ). On the other hand, if you have a highly competitive score, then you may feel more comfortable investing the money in applying to multiple schools.
  2. There can be an accident at the testing center that may require you to rewrite. I heard of this actually happening in the form of a power outage (the MCAT is computer based). What if you can't get a test date early enough to meet your application deadlines?
  3. Filling in your medical school applications take a lot of time. There is a lot of work to do for your applications that can't be finished in just 2 weeks at the end of August. - Well technically, it can be done but it would be much stressful than if you had a greater amount of time to work on them. This is the key reasons that I sometimes wish that I wrote my MCAT in June rather than in July. If you're exclusively applying to one school e.g. UBC Med, then this is less of an issue since you won't need to spread out your time among multiple applications. 
  4. Study burn-out is a big problem. I think studying too long for the MCAT can be a bad idea. If you're just too sick and tired of studying for so many months and have trouble focusing/feeling motivated, your score might go down. You also start to forget material that you learned early in your study regime. This is similar to the experience of trying to remember something you learned all the way back in September when you're studying for December finals. 
  5. The law of diminishing returns applies here. If you study for longer than what is sufficient, you might only see a slight improvement or no improvement at all. Most of us hit a plateau when studying for the MCAT and it may be an unwise investment of time to studying for a whole extra month just for a 1 point improvement.
  6. You want time to relax before school begins. Imagine studying intensely for the MCAT and then starting school without any time to rest and recharge. You don't want to start your semester off on the wrong foot!  If you are a nontraditional applicant, this likely does not matter to you.
Take my advice with a grain of salt because picking your MCAT date ultimately depends on your personal preferences and what will happening in your life at that time. But in conclusion, if you are a second year intending to apply to medicine in third year, then the earlier you can write your test the better.