UC Davis Surgical Resident
Dr. Abdul Hassan – October 11th, 2019
Who is Dr. Hassan?
Dr. Abdul Hassan is a surgical resident from UC Davis currently in his second year in the surgical department. Dr. Hassan first obtained an interest in medicine in between the years of 2006 to 2008 when his mother nearly died of a mis-bowel injury. He was impressed about how much the surgeons stood by his mother during her operation and recovery and thought this a profession he could pursue. He attended UC Santa Cruz for his bachelor’s in microbial biology and eventually attended UC San Diego for medical school. His current trajectory is to get into general surgery, but he has also considered getting into pediatric surgery.
How did Dr. Hassan get into medical school?
Dr. Hassan didn’t have much direction on how to go through the medical school process. However, he did have a doctor who mentored him and helped him get to where he needed to be. Under Dr. Ian Brown, who Dr. Hassan is now working with as a resident, he learned how important good grades, volunteer work and medical experience was in order to get into medical school. After spending some time reading the internet together, Dr. Hassan obtained a better idea on how to best tackle his medical career.
Though Dr. Hassan’s efforts to get into medical school have been mostly consistent, feels this wouldn’t have been the case if he hadn’t taken three years off in between getting his bachelor’s and taking the MCAT. When sharing this part of his journey to the club, he acknowledged that this wasn’t the traditional pathway in getting into medical school, but he shared that this time allowed him to get work experience, such as being an MCAT teacher, obtain money for medical school, and develop a strong emotional base for the stress that medical school would bring. Overall, he felt this break then prevented him from getting burnout while in medical school and suggested the club members to consider doing something similar. In his words, without a strong emotional base, he would have “lost himself” in medical school.
Why did Dr. Hassan choose to attend UC Davis for his residency?
Dr. Hassan noted that he had gone to UC San Diego for medical school, but he emphasized that he didn’t do it because of any prestige that the school had. He stated that he did that because he felt that was the best school for. He also explained that this was the reason why he didn’t stay at that school for his residency. He felt that UCSD didn’t have the residency program that would be the most useful to him, so he applied and got accepted into UC Davis where he felt he would grow the most. He told the club members that it was more important that they applied for schools that they felt would most grow them over getting into a school because of the name.
What did Dr. Hassan say about getting into a residency program?
The application for a residency occurs during the fourth year in medical school. Whether of not they are accepted into a program is put solely on the individual as they need letters of recommendation and a good resume to get accepted. When Dr. Hassan went through the application process, he applied to at least sixty programs so that he had an increase chance of being accepted into one program. In addition to that, he ranked the schools from the one he wanted to attend the most to the one he wanted to attend the least. The thing about this ranking system is that the schools also rank how bad they want certain students. If the rankings between the two entities match, a student gets in. Dr. Hassan also stated there were ten things that are important for getting into a residency, but in front of the club, he stated the three most important: test scores, letters of recommendation, and interviews.
What was residency like for Dr. Hassan during his first year there?
Dr. Hassan went over some of his experiences in his first year of residency. During their first year, interns are considered “interns” which essentially means they’re the grunts of the residency program. Whether or not a resident gets a lot of cases during this year depends on how assertive they are in getting them. The more assertive an intern is, the better off they are in the moment and in the long run. Dr. Hassan, who is in his second year of residency, is now considered a “junior” and is now being assigned cases more often.
Which surgical programs are the most competitive?
All surgery programs are very competitive, but the two most competitive are dermatology and emergency surgery. This is essentially because they work the least for the most pay. For example, an emergency surgeon may work as little as little as 10 hours a month and still easily make a million dollars in a month. Dr. Hassan, however, advised not to pursue these fields of surgery, or any field of surgery, unless they truly want to pursue that field. One reason was that, even though surgeons in these fields are payed rather highly, they typically miss the opportunity to establish a bond with a patient; something that Dr. Hassan personally considers important.
How did Dr. Hassan prepare for the MCAT?
When talking about his preparation for the MCAT, Dr. Hassan stated that, even though its very important, its still JUST a test; its an assessment of an individual’s critical thinking abilities and should only be a part of a lifelong process of learning and improving as a potential medical professional. He suggested that those wanting to go into the medical field should beginning preparing for the MCAT early. Theoretically, its an assessment of knowledge and skills obtained in classes spanning to an individual’s undergraduate career. Relearning everything from earlier college can take a long time and is a reason why it took Dr. Hassan three months to prepare. Any effective MCAT preparation should only be just going over books as reference material and use it as a guide to make sure everything is down. Dr. Hassan emphasized that the MCAT is not a test a person should cram for; they should be working a little bit each day to prepare and gradually take in the material. As he stated concerning the MCAT, and school in general, “It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon” He also recommends annotating whatever preparation material is being used. He personally used the MCAT preparation book from Kaplan and personally found it very useful. Something that Dr. Hassan did to prepare was to memorize flash cards whenever he would have free time. More specifically, when had a free moment, he would use “Anki,” which is a flashcard app to gradually and thoughtfully take in the material. He also emphasized learning and knowing the concepts instead of trying to memorize a lot of stuff as well as understanding what’s truly important information and what is not.
Something that Dr. Hassan did that helped with the exam was produce a mock booth that emulated the testing area. He felt Kaplan’s book was the best for him to prepare for the test, but he recommended to the club members that they get whatever books is easiest for them to read. He also thinks Exam Crackers has a pretty good book, too.
What are some other things that Dr. Hassan did that he felt contributed to his success preparing for medical school?
What Dr. Hassan considered a part of his success was if things in medicine didn’t work out, he would be okay. He also emphasized that the major that a person pursues, whether its in science or a different field of study, it not very important; what’s truly important is about whether the right prerequisites have been completed and if they were completed well. This lead him to state that, whatever a person chooses to study as an undergrad, it should be something that they truly find interesting. He’s stated that some of the people that he was in medical school with included math and English majors.
What is Dr. Hassan’s average morning like as a resident?
Dr. Hassan’s schedule as a resident depends on the day. His days would typically start at 5:30am where he would get together with his team and catch up on the day before. As a resident, surgical plans are typically planned out the week before.
What other things did Dr. Hassan talk about concerning being a medical resident?
Dr. Hassan informed the club members that, as a doctor, at some point in their career, at least one person will die because of them. He shared this to inform the club members that being a doctor can be tough.
He went over the autonomy a person would getting their years going through rotations. During a person’s first year, they always have an attendee with them, but they obtain a lot more autonomy by their 3rd and 4th year.
How did Dr. Hassan tackle his undergrad education?
While going to school for his undergraduate degree, he made studying his priority. He saw studying less as preparing for the next exam and more of preparation for life down the road. He stated that, in order for someone to excel in college, a person needs to do a little bit for their classes each day. In addition, he stated that it’s important for students to establish a support system made up of family and friends for when times get hard and when a person begins to second guess their choice of going into the medical field. He also noted that its important for an individual to be kind to themselves when going through school. In addition, he stated that its important to have a little something, health-wise, that a person can look forward to each day to keep them anchored may it be working out, meditation, or something of the like.
What is insurance like for someone in a residency program?
Dr. Hassan shared that, as a resident, a person gets really good insurance just in case something happens. He also shared that surgeons are their own worst critics and need to become aware when and when not to perform something during an operation.
If you would like to get in contact with Dr. Hassan for any questions or for advice, please contact one of the ARC AMSA officers.
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