Untangling the Web: Online Resources

As a non-traditional pre-med student, there's a lot to keep track of. And a lot you've got to know. The Internet can be a great resource for bushwhacking through this tangled jungle of a journey. But you have to know where to look, and where NOT to look, as there are definitely reliability issues out there. The purpose of this page is to keep an ongoing list of Web resources for non-traditional pre-med students. (Many of the links also apply to traditional pre-med students, too.) All of the links posted here are ones I use, or plan to use in the future, as I progress down my path. While some of these links are specific to pre-med or med students, others may be of interest to those who want to keep track of current events in medicine, or are curious about a particular research topic. I plan on updating this list as I find more sites, so check back for new additions. If you have any suggestions of Web sites to add, please comment! I am always interested in feedback.

1. The Official Story

American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC)
It's a bit difficult to summarize everything the AAMC does in one or two sentences. According to its mission statement, the AAMC "represents all 133 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; approximately 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 62 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and nearly 90 academic and scientific societies." Its responsibilities include "supporting the entire spectrum of education, research, and patient care activities conducted by our member institutions."

And that means for pre-med students ... what? Several things. The AAMC runs AMCAS, the application service that is required for all students applying to allopathic (MD) medical schools. It also sponsors the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), the oft-dreaded exam that is required by all medical schools for admission. In addition, the AAMC publishes the MSAR (Medical School Admissions Requirements) book, which is, basically, a pre-med's bible.

Unfortunately, the AAMC's Web site is very difficult to navigate. At least, my experience has been that it is hard to find what you're looking for. So in addition to the home page, I am also including links to some of the key AAMC pages:

A wealth of information about the Medical College Admission Test. Anyone looking to take the test should register as SOON as registration opens, because seats fill up quickly. So checking this page often is a good idea.

Every pre-med student should own the most recent copy of this book, which lists all accredited med schools, their requirements, mission statements, profiles of the previous entering class, contact information, etc. It's $25 (plus $8 S&H, I think), and worth its weight in diamonds.

Anyone applying to allopathic (MD, as opposed to DO) medical schools WILL use this AAMC-sponsored application service. It's a bit complicated, so understanding it early -- and getting your application in early -- is key.

Links to Medical Schools
Just like it says, this is a list (with hyperlinks) of all accredited medical schools in the United States, as well as several in Canada. Quite handy. Saves on a lot of Googling.

List of Post-bac Programs
This is a list of all formal post-bac pre-med programs throughout the United States. Very useful for those planning to attend such a program.

International Opportunities in Medical Education (IOME)
This is an AWESOME database put together by the AAMC and FAIMER (Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research). It catalogs which medical schools offer international programs or rotations for their medical students (as well as residents and faculty). You can search by medical school, geographic region of the world, and type of opportunity, or choose to have the database show you all available programs. As someone who is interested in doing at least one international rotation as a medical student, this database may help me choose which medical schools I want to apply to.

2. The Unofficial Stories

Hear about the pre-med journey, medical school admissions process, medical school itself, residency, and beyond from "real" people.

OldPreMeds (OPM)
This is a fantastic online forum (of which I am an active member) for non-traditional pre-med students, medical students, residents, and physicians. Members post questions and answers about everything from how to study for the MCAT to how to write a personal statement to how to choose a medical school (and everything in between). OPM hosts a conference (in the flesh) every year where people can meet each other and attend workshops. I have found the whole community to be a very helpful, friendly one.

Blogs by other non-traditional pre-med and med students:
The Long Road To Medical School
Path 201X's Blog
Doctor and Mom

3. Paying For It All

This acronym stands for the "Free Application For Student Aid," and it's an acronym every student should know. You have to fill out this application at the beginning of every calendar year (the earlier the better) to qualify for government loans, and for your school to give you a financial aid package. It requires that you have already done your income taxes, so be prepared to do that early, too.

4. What's New?

Medicine is constantly evolving. So it's important for every pre-med and med student to keep up with new developments, research, treatments, etc. Not only that, medical school interviewers love to ask questions about current events in medicine.

Medical Journals 
Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)
New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)
The Lancet
(this is only a sampling, obviously)

Newspaper resources
NY Times Health Section
LA Times Health Section

Sound Medicine
(This is an AWESOME podcast!)

Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. National Library of Medicine, this is a compendium of (literally) millions of medical research article citations, with links to many free full-text articles. This is a nerd's paradise. I think it's heaven.