Posts tagged answer

Mailbag: Post-CaRMS

A second batch of questions from my inbox. My apologies to those who waited and are still waiting.

Is herd immunity a thing? Can vaccinated people get sick? — Asked by Anonymous

Herd immunity exists and it is well documented. In fact, there is a brilliant animation created by the Harvard Medical School that explains this process.

Vaccinations help prime your body to fight off a specific infection. However, it usually takes a few weeks for your body to create a reserve of immune cells for when you next encounter the infection again. Therefore, if you were infected just before or after receiving the vaccine, you might still get sick because the vaccine did not have ample time to provide any protection.

A summary of how vaccines work is available through the CDC.

I don't know where you find the time to write but I love your blog! How much have you invested in it? — Asked by Anonymous

Thanks for the compliment. I honestly cannot tell you how muchtime-wise I have invested into this blog. I would probably say “far too many hours.” Financially however, my total investment to date is the healthy sum of: $10.

The return on that investment:

  • 2,396 total posts
  • 356 text-based posts
  • 161 links
  • 718 photo sets
  • 110 conversations
  • 108 videos
  • 147 songs
  • 518 sets of questions answered publicly 
  • 1025 sets of questions answered privately

And there is still room to take that ten dollar bill further as I hope to continue blogging into residency and beyond. Thanks again for your question and take care.

I'm an undergraduate who will be applying to medical schools this year. I'm really scared to even try. I experienced a sexual assault in my third year (I'm a fifth year) and the university refused to let me retake the classes from that period in which I made Cs and Bs, as the advisor told me it couldn't be proven. I've been keeping straight As to keep my honors, but how can I explain the poor grades from that time and my comeback without explaining why? — Asked by Anonymous

I cannot imagine how difficult that is an ordeal to go through. No one should have to endure that and I certainly can understand why you would not want to talk about it.

I am sorry to hear that your university has not allowed you to retake the course. I feel that perhaps the best way to explain it would be true to its essence without going into the details. For example, you could ascribe it to a traumatic event in your life at the time that really affected you during that period, something that affected your life on many levels, including school. However you decide to describe it, also highlight the positive turnaround afterwards. By all accounts, you are typically an A student and with a lot of support from your peers, friends, and family, and more importantly a strong will in yourself, you were able to achieve your original performance once again. If they go prodding for details, those are grey-zone questions that are generally not allowed and you should not have to answer them.

While I do not know you personally, I do not think you should be scared to try to apply to medicine. If you have a passion for the practice, and you love the challenges and rewards of being in medicine, then I think it is always worth a try. Everyone is scared to some degree, but we all have so much more to give than we think is possible. If anything, your experiences in all aspects of life make you unique and give you a unique lens through which you interact with your patients. And that is worth trying for.

I wish you the best in life and on all of your future endeavours. Take care and good luck.

Tom of the Medical State of Mind


I have been very busy over the past few weeks and have since had a amassed a pack of questions in my inbox waiting to be answered. This is about the first half of the questions that I have. The remainder will follow in a subsequent mailbag. I apologize for the delay.

Hi, I am currently a third year in community college and recently switched my major to microbiology, and am hoping to work in the medical field one day. I've done extensive reading of what med school & residency entails, and also the amount of prereq classes I need to take before I transfer. I just worry about what other people will think, since people quickly presume that an individual being in CC too long is lazy etc. Does age really matter? Does med school run the whole gamut in terms of age? — Asked by Anonymous

Age does not matter at all for medical school. One of my classmates entered school in his mid-40s; another classmate is in her early 40s. There are certainly less and less individuals as the age bracket increases but our class demographic covers the spectrum.

What specialty are you interviewing for? — Asked by Anonymous

My interests are in family medicine and internal medicine and I have applied broadly to both in Canada.

what was your senior quote? — Asked by Anonymous


I honestly could not remember what I wrote for my senior quote. It is unfortunately difficult to access not just on this CaRMS tour but also my study location. However, I would imagine I wrote something eloquent about wishing everyone well going forward, reflecting on my fond memories with friends, and my aspirations for a bright future.

Want to share your senior quote? Leave a reply to this post.

I don't know if you practice on the field yet, but I'm a new respiratory therapist. I was orienting in the PICU for 3 days and day 1, there was this 2 year old who was just not looking good. Rhonchi all over, chronic hypoxia due to tet. fallot. Anyway, on the 3rd day he was going down the drain. And well, I kind of feel like I didn't do enough to prevent what happened from happening. So there's definitely guild there. I was wondering if you've felt the same and how you've dealt with it. — Asked by Anonymous

Thank you for sharing.

It is always a tough thing to talk about but it is important not to let it sit buried inside. I have had many patients who had deteriorated in hospital that made me reflect: were we responsible? were we at fault? was there something more we could have done?

I always ask for a debrief with my team, or at least with a senior, be it the resident or the attending, to talk about the case. In a tough or traumatic situation, a proper debriefing with the patient, the family, and the care team is very important. It allows everyone to release the emotional burden they carry, to discuss what was and what could have been. More importantly, it allows everyone a chance to consider that question: did I do enough and if not, what could have been done differently?

There is a lot of support and reassurance in these sit downs that can be therapeutic. When I feel there is still something more, I will do some reflective writing to talk about the feelings and thoughts that I had. These invariably find their way here, anonymized and fictionalized.

I hope that helped answer your question. If you feel like it still doesn’t sit well with you, I would definitely suggest speaking to someone who was involved in that case and giving yourself a debriefing. It will help. Trust me.

Take care.

I have a character which experiences a hit and run accident. He was left unable to do extreme things such as sports and dancing too much anymore. Albeit this unfortunate event, i want him to still be able to walk, limping would work as well, as long as he doesn't need daily use of crutches, its okay. Is this possible? and if it is then could you also state how long the recovery would take? and what things will they do in therapies. Thank you for answering this if you will! — Asked by Anonymous

I have seen people who are not because of fractures, muscle injuries, chronic pain etc. so I guess it is entirely possible that that be the case.

With regards to recovery and treatment I honestly do not think I could help you all that much. Each person heals differently and it is also entirely dependent on the injury itself. Some people live with chronic pain for the rest of their lives and are quite debilitated while others are quite athletic and recover within a few weeks to months. Treatment ranges for pain include control with medications to alternative treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy. The physical healing requires rehabilitation. 

Hope that was somewhat helpful in some ways. If you need to do more specific research for writing your character, I would consider sitting down with someone to formally discuss it because that is not the purpose of this blog. Good luck to you.