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.

A busy semester passes like a blur

Does this sound familiar at you? Each day sprints past you as you go from class to the library to a meeting and so on. Each day is not long enough for all the things you want to accomplish. You start a little sleepy Monday and before you know it’s Wednesday – one of those days so long that as soon as your head hits the pillow, you instantly fall asleep from exhaustion. Then, you’re at another end of the week and you can’t wait to use the weekend to do all the things you wanted to catch up on during the week. But the weekend always feels shorter than you would like. Each week passes by in a blur. Each month passes by in a blur. How is it the end of the semester this year?

I have only one final exam left to go! It’s been a very fun semester and I’ve loved my classes.


How to prepare an Integrated Sciences Proposal

I am in the Integrated Sciences program meaning that I designed my own degree.  The concept is similar to pursuing a double major because you integrate 2-3 disciplines (essentially majors).  Integrated Sciences requires a bit more initiative because you have to pick and justify every single course that you plan to take, and find a faculty member to back up your proposal.

After creating my Integrated Science proposal, I was pretty excited and happy to be studying exactly what I am passionate about so I also hope that anyone lobbying for a custom design major will also end up with a major of all courses that you’re interested in and passionate about. I was beyond excited to part of a program of such supportive staff and faculty and of older students willing to mentor ( and of other students like me who took the initiative to build the major of their dreams!

General Timeline for your Integrated Sciences Proposal 

  1. As you take classes in first and second year and gain experiences outside of school, reflect on what your academic interests are.  I realized that I loved Pharmacology and Neuroscience/Psychology.
  2. By October, find and get guidance from a faculty member who is generously willing to back-up your proposal to create this custom major (thanks Dr. Horne!!)
  3. Obtain a Peer Mentor to advise you on how to improve your application
  4. By November, write up a draft of your statement on what your educational and career goals are (lots of thinking about what you want to do with the rest of your life -eek!) –> don’t worry, this will probably change drastically by the time you submit your official application
  5. By the end of winter break, write up a coursework rationale. You will write why each and every one of the courses you plan to take from now until you graduate is important for achieving your goal. Quadruple check that your custom degree fit all the graduation requirements and Faculty of Science of requirements
  6. By end of the first week of January, send your proposal to your Peer Mentor for edits and your Peer Mentor should get back to you within a week.
  7.  By the second week of January, Your Faculty Mentor must officially sign on to your degree proposal online to indicate he or she is your mentor. At this point, you should review your proposal with your Faculty mentor  -> make edits as needed.
  8. By Mid-February, you must have completed and submitted your Degree Proposal to your mentor for official approval by this date. 
  9. By Mid-March, you must have submitted your Degree Proposal to the ISci program for approval
  10. You will receive feedback from the proposal reviewers on to change. Make this edits and re-submit as soon as possible.
  11. Receive your official approval. Welcome to Integrated Sciences!

How to efficiently utilize your time with your Peer Mentor

You will be matched with a senior students integrating areas the same/similar to your interests. This year I will be a Peer Mentor to 3 students.
The most efficient plan of action would probably be:
  1. Tell your mentor where you are in your Integrated Sciences proposal timeline. E.g. do you have already have a draft and looking for edits on your curriculum rationale? Do you want suggestions on courses?
  2. If you don’t have a draft yet, when do you plan to complete it? i.e. November? Winter break? Early January?  Give him/her an honest estimate based on your personality. That way, they know when to set aside time for you and when to be conscious about checking for emails from you.
  3. Try to finish a draft of your proposal on your own first 
  4. Email your questions about specifics e.g. you want to know what extra courses you can use for pharmacology discipline or about the breadth requirement
  5. If you would like edits, email me your proposal and I’ll try to send it back to you within the week (even sooner if earlier in the semester)
  6. Optional: we can also meet to discuss edits at this point over Skype


Quadruple-check that you will be able to graduate!

  1. Check that you meet the Faculty of Science requirements for graduation. This is a helpful checklist:
    • Pay special attention to the “Breadth requirements” (courses outside of your major area)
    • Make sure you have 3 courses of Math or Statistics
    • Arts credits used in your disciplines can be used as arts credits for graduation.
  2. Check that you meet all the Integrated Sciences requirements:
  3. Physically go to the Science Advising office and ask an advisor to check that you will meet all the requirements for graduation
  4. Physically go to Integrated Science Advising to check that everything is good with them.
The hidden perk of Integrated Sciences.
  • This program is so sweet that they have courses where you and your class can travel to Iceland or Hawaii for course credit! Y’all should rush to apply.
Integrated Sciences vs. Double Majoring
  • The Integrated Sciences program is all about combining different science disciplines. If you are more interested in blending Arts and Sciences, check out this post by my fellow Blog Squad writer on her cool blend of Behavioural Neuroscience and English!
Let Me Know in comments! Would you be interested in mentoring services being offered on this blog for anyone wanting help with:
  • the MCAT
  • Organizing your study routine & becoming a more efficient studier 
  • applying to university and scholarships
  • applying to Integrated Sciences
  • Anything else 🙂
  • My wish is to “pay it forward” in thanks to the older students who mentored me!
 Shout out to Iris for being a reader of this blog and my mentee! I’m always thrilled and grateful to those of you who actually read this blog! 

Applying to Medical school: Preparing your application

In Canada, you are allowed to apply to a handful of medical schools while in third year but the number of third years that get in is not very high because you’ve had less time to do extracurriculars, boost your GPA, etc.  I’m not confident that I’m competitive to get in but I’m still going to try because as Wayne Gretsky said “You miss all the shots you don’t take”. If I just give an earnest effort to applying, I still get a better chance than not trying at all right? Most importantly, I’m going to apply this year to get a practice run to familiarize myself with the application process. All the information I gather together, I can hold on and make applying to next year easier 🙂 Here are some things I learned so far – some of these are things I wish I did so I hope these help you : )

  1. Keep all your emails, or else you’ll regret having trouble finding that exact day you gave a presentation.
  2. Keep meticulous records of all volunteering & employment. Record the date, hours, the contact information of someone that can be a verifier.
  3. Your application takes a lot of time (~2 months). A friend of mine finished her application in a weekend so I thought I could finish it in a week working on it in the evenings after work. Nope. Nope. Nope. Some of you awesome writers probably can. The rest of us  need more time than that to write and revise.
  4. You will spend a lot of time emailing/calling to find a verifier.
  5.  When your old contact has changed jobs/disappeared/changed their email address/phone number, don’t panic. Spend your energy looking for an alternate verifier instead.
  6. You may feel feel like everything you’ve done so far sounds lame on paper or feel like you’ve so uncompetitive compared to the profiles of accepted applicants. I try to keep in mind that it’s NOT a competition of who’s better – you’re competing with yourself to present the best picture of yourself! If you feel a hit to your self-confidence at times, it’s okay!! I think it’s pretty normal. Talk to a friend that can cheer you up 🙂
  7. Ask for help if you need it. No one in my family has gone with through this application process so I asked some friends & colleagues to look over my application – which I am grateful to the moon and back that they are willing to do so.
  8. See your weak areas as places to grow 🙂 Filling in the application has made me realize what areas I am weak and what kind of experiences I should look to gain this upcoming year.
  9. It’s probably better to know your MCAT score before you start working on your application. I’m starting to work on it without knowing my MCAT score and I wish that I know my score so that I could know which schools I am eligible for and just focus on those. My scores don’t come out until the end of August. So if you have the luxury of choice, I would advise you to write the MCAT earlier in the summer, e.g. at or before mid-late June so that you know you stand.
  10. Make a giant spreadsheet to track deadlines and interview dates.

Good luck!

P.S. Does the fact that I quote Gretsky instead of an European philosopher make it painfully obvious that I’m a Canadian? Hockey is basically a philosophy for living here in Canada, at least for hockey players (hahaha).


Study Tips: How to Stay on top of your assignments and studying

Today’s post is a reply to a question posted by Shaun.

” Hi Shanna,

I have been reading your posts about UBC advice and I have been loving it! You seem to truly know your stuff. Currently, I am a first-year student (just started this month), so naturally, I am curious about all sorts of things.
How are Anki flashcards working for you?
How do you keep track of assignments from all of your classes?
and Do you find blogging to be helpful to your personal growth?



Thanks so much for reading and commenting Shaun. First of all, congrats on starting at UBC! How exciting! I wish you a great year full of fun adventures, new friendships, and figuring out how to ace your classes!

Thank you for your kind words. I hope this is okay with you that I’ll split up my answer into several posts, so I can take some time to give you a quality reply!

MOST IMPORTANT TIP: Set multiple email alerts for your small weekly assignments. I find that getting an email is much more helpful than a phone notification. If an alert about an upcoming assignment comes in as the same idea as a text from your boss or your best friend, you might forget about it! This is the email system that  I use with automatic email alerts. Note that I get 3 alerts! So that if I’m lazy and ignore the first email, my alerts refuse to let me forgot about that assignment!


For midterms and big papers, set 4 alerts. The first alert will come should be set for 2 weeks in advance.


Regarding weekly biology and psychology Launchpad/physics and calculus and statistics problem sets, do your assignment as soon as it’s available. If it opens Friday afternoon at 4 pm, do it before you relax for the evening.

Batch them together. If the professor releases 2 weeks of assignments at a time, I would do both of them at the same time since I’m doing it anyway. Getting yourself started is harder than continuing so if you have time, utilizing your good momentum can save you time in the long run.

My opinion only: Paper planners are superior to a cellphone calendar. I have friends that are brilliant students such as Veena and Kelsey that keep track of their due dates and exams all on their cellphone so that might work for you too. I tried the app too but I find it too much of a hassle to type something in and repeatedly check. When you have a paper planner, you can take it out as soon as the professor mentions it and write it down. Part of this is that I feel rude pulling my phone during a lecture but that might be a personal opinion and maybe everyone will doing that in a couple years.

When needed, keep a blank notebook for long to do lists . In busy periods of your life, a planner may temporarily not have enough space. For example, I used a blank notebook to plan out my estimated timeline for writing and editing my application. When you have a ton of projects in different realms in your life, you can have a page just about “urgent school assignments”, “to-dos for Vision Health Volunteers Club”, “Home life to-dos”, “Finalizing your major/other school admin things”, “General finance to-dos”.. Having a multi-purpose notebook on you at all times proves very useful though when you have a meeting and need to write something down.


I do want to note that in first year,  you have the most weekly assignments that you need to keep track of it that you can forget about because your professor will not remind you! If you utilize automatic alerts, you won’t forget. Each year, my classes get less and less assignments and put more weight on exams. For instance, in third year, only 2 of my classes have assignments. My PATH class has only a midterm and final. My physiology class is literally only based on final exam marks . So the further you go along, the less you have to care about little assignments.

Best of luck!


PATH 375

Courses and Electives useful for Premeds at UBC

Thanks to the reader who asked this question:

“What electives do you recommend for someone interested in a health profession such as medicine, pharmacy, etc?”

I titled this post “for premeds” but this probably applies to students interested in pharmacy, optometry, etc as well! I also named this courses and electives because what was an elective for me may be a required course for you. Full disclosure: I am not an expert and in no way a premed advisor. I’m just another student but since this was a popular question, I wanted to share my experience with my classes so far.

Classes that you’ll probably also find interesting if you’re interested in healthcare and medicine and diseases and all that great stuff

  • PSYC 101 – Biological Psychology
  • PSYC 102 – Developmental and Abnormal Psychology
  • MICB 202 Immunology and Microbiology (diseases and stuff – very cool class)
  • MICB 302  More Immunology
  • BIOL 260 Animal and Plant Physio
  • CAPS 301 Human Physiology
  • PCTH 201 Intro Pharmacology
  • PCTH 305 Pharmacology
  • PSYC 304 Neuroscience
  • CAPS 391 Gross Anatomy (though if you’re in Kinesiology, it’s supposed to be very similar to courses you have already taken)
  • CAPS 390 Microscopic Anatomy
  • CLST 301 Medical Terminology – greek and latin!
  • PATH 375 Human Pathology
  • ISCI 350 Darwinian Medicine

Health-related Classes with multiple choice exams and were easy to get 90% or higher (A+) in if you study

  • PSYC 101 – Biological Psychology
  • BIOL 112 – Cell Bio
  • MICB 202 Immunology and Microbiology (diseases and stuff – very cool class)
  • PCTH 201 Intro Pharmacology
  • PATH 375 Human Pathology
  • PSYC 304 Neuroscience

These were electives I took and found incredibly useful for the MCAT. By already learning this information in depth, studying for the MCAT will be freeze. I strongly believe that these courses help you help a solid science foundation that you will draw upon when taking high level courses.

  • PHYS 117 – Physics: Kinematics, forces, etc
  • PHYS 118 – Physics: Magnetism, electricity
  • BIOC 202 – Medical Biochemistry
  • CHEM 205 – Physical Chemistry
  • CHEM 233  – Organic Chemistry
  • CHEM 235 –  Organic Chemistry Lab
  • PSYC 101 – Biological Psychology
  • PSYC 102 – Developmental and Abnormal Psychology
  • SOCI 102 –  Sociology, Social Change, Institutions
  • BIOL 112 – Cell Bio
  • BIOL 200 – Advanced cell Bio (this was REALLY useful)
  • BIOL 260 Physiology


Please recommend any classes that I don’t know about!

Wish you all a fantastic start to the school year!



How to prevent procrastination

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It’s difficult to totally stop procrastination but there are things we can do to devote our time to more important things than endless social media.

In this post, read about:

  • A surprising reason why overachievers may procrastinate
  • Realistic steps you can take to change your mindset and environment to optimize focus
  • Specific programs and techniques to prevent social media distractions on your phone and computer
Photo credits to KushandWisdom

You are not a terrible lazy person if you procrastinate. You are a perfectly normal person trying to do the best you can and you are not perfect all the time.

I attended a Procrastination Masterclass for Perfectionists held by Sam Brown who proposed that you might be procrastinating because you are a type A high achiever that has high standards for yourself and you’re working hard towards ambitious goals.

Reasons we might procrastinate on studying are:

  • We set standards too high and unrealistic for ourselves e.g. we expect to be studying every single minute for 12 hours straight.
  • Doing things other than studying seems more appealing and interesting
  • We feel lost and confused because the material is challenging and intimidating
  • We feel frustrated
  • Other negative emotions

According to Sam, avoiding studying and relying on cramming is a form of self-sabatoge. You’re afraid that you try your hardest and you fail. So instead, you procrastinate so if you do fail, you have an excuse to tell yourself e.g. “Oh I didn’t spend enough time studying”. Essentially, you know that you didn’t try your hardest so it feels acceptable that you failed because you can believe that if you did try your hardest, you would have succeeded.

We value decent grades and learning the material in courses well so we don’t want to self-sabotage. We want to truly put in the best effort we can and produce the best output possible.  So let’s try to implement some barriers to decrease the amount of time spent procrastinating. Notice that I said decrease not eliminate.

What changes to your study routine can boost your focus?
  1. Keep your big goals in mind. These could be: ace this final, get a good GPA, get into your dream professional or graduate school. And write out your big goals by hand often to remind yourself about what is important to you!
  2. Decide on the 2-3 important goals you will accomplish today. As a student, I only study 2-3 subjects a day rather than try to study for all 6 of my classes on the same day.
  3. Start with something short, easy and productive to feel good at the beginning of the day. I personally find that starting with something extremely difficult can deflate your motivation while starting with something doable can fire you up to accomplish more.
  4. Surround yourself with a motivated study buddy. Ask a friend to study with you to motivate each other to get lots done.
  5. Study outside of your room when you feel distractible. I personally love to study at school but coffee shops or your dorm’s lounge area are other options.
  6. Recognize what distracts you and set up barriers to accessing those distractions.
What barriers can you set up to prevent access to distractions?
  1. Block distractions on your phone using the app Freedom (
  2. Only open 2-3 programs at a time
  3. For computer distractions, install the Self-Control app for Macs and Cold Turkey or Stay Focused for PCs. Block Tumblr/Instagram/Facebook/and other distracting websites. But learn from my mistake, don’t disable Youtube or you’ll unable to watch videos posted by your professors.
  4. Kept your phone hidden in your backpack rather than up on the desk.
  5. Delete excess social media apps. You can keep the most important one or two to you but definitely delete apps that drain hours of your time that you could instead use to spend quality breaks with your friends and family.

Let me know which ones you like and any suggestions you have!

Hope your studying is awesome and you can achieve your target grade for your next exam!