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Apr 09 2007

The Harvard Years

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Author: Dr. James L Flowers
Category: My Evolution of MCAT Prep Thoughts

I had finally made my way to Harvard Medical School (HMS) despite my misgivings of leaving my wife, 2 year old son and the baby on the way back in Milwaukee. It couldn’t get any more difficult, right? On September 26, about 2 weeks into my medical school education, my wife delivered the baby…and a baby. She had twins and the doctor did not even know. Now I had a family of four and was two weeks into being educated at the top medical school in the country and maybe the world. And, my family was not well off financially. It had been difficult enough to just get the money to get to Boston, and now…?

I was supposed to have attended a summer pre-entry program that summer, but my wife’s pregnancy and my need to work had precluded that. One thing I did was to buy and read the Lehninger book on biochemistry. I never had a true biochem course and had been told how difficult this was. So, during my first week I decided to take the exam to place out of biochemistry, it would give me time to work. The other students taking the placement test had had biochemistry at some of the best schools in the country…the Ivy League, Stanford, MIT and others. I had come from a small midwest liberal arts college that had no formal biochemistry course.  Out of the 160 entrants, not all took the exam, I was one of eight to place out of biochemistry. So, those hours other first year students were spending in biochemistry, I spent working as an instructor for the Greater Boston Collaborative, an alternative high school. That was during the year. I had the summer off that first year, and I had to work.

I contacted Dr. William Wallace who was the director of the Harvard Health Careers Summer Program (HCSP). He initially stated there were no jobs left for students during the summer. But, he needed someone to teach a MCAT prep, and with the help of Dr. Alvin Pouissant’s intervention, I was able to get the job teaching the MCAT prep. I had told both that I could do it even though I had not one bit of material to teach it. I used the fact that I had scored in the 99th plus percentile on the science and math portions to push the issue. I needed a job. They agreed to give me the chance. Now I would have to deliver.

Dr. James L Flowers Photo

Apr 06 2007

The Early Years

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Author: Dr. James L Flowers
Category: My Evolution of MCAT Prep Thoughts

Welcome to my blog. This is my first entry. I’m going to start by telling how I started helping prepare students from across the world prepare for the MCAT…

I took the MCAT in 1971. At that time, I could not afford to take any MCAT prep. In fact, most MCAT preps were in their infancy. I relied on a number of books published by ARCO and Barrons. I found these books to be nearly worthless. They focused on questions only. There was no content given to review the topics being covered. So, I set up my own study program based on what I perceived I needed to study. Fortunately, I had recently prepared for and taken the GRE in chemistry and performed very well. So, I could limit my study to physics and biology, which I did. I then scored in the 99 percentiles on science and math.

Although my own preparation helped me appreciate some aspects of preparing for the MCAT, my real education occurred as I began to teach students to prepare for the MCAT.

I took a job as Tutorial Coordinator for the Experimental Program in Higher Education (EPHE) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) in 1970. I had been a graduate student in chemistry at Dartmouth. In the spring of 1970, an event called “Kent State” occurred and my classes were disrupted. I spent the spring traveling around the east coast and observed several Viet Nam war demonstrations. Eventually, I decided to take time off and try to decide what I really wanted to do. A Dean at Dartmouth was from Wisconsin and got me the job at UWM.

Early on, I was asked by a student to help him prepare for the MCAT. I had not even prepared for it myself, but I took it on anyway. I was able to meet with him and developed an approach to help him learn the material. He took the MCAT, did well and ended up in medical school. I was shooting 100%.

Then I spent the time preparing myself for the MCAT and did extremely well. I then applied to medical schools for 1972. I did an early application for Marquette Medical School, now the Medical College of Wisconsin. With my MCAT scores in the 99 percentiles, I was immediately accepted. During a discussion with one of the professors, Dr. H, he told me I should really apply to other schools and not attend Marquette. I followed his advice and did. I applied to Harvard and within a few months I got a personal call from Dr. Pouissant asking me to attend Harvard Medical School (HMS). I accepted. But, during that year, my first child was born, I had married in 1970, and was now a nontraditional medical student. I would not leave my wife and newborn and turned down the admission to HMS. I was told I could not hold over the admission to next year, but I had to stay with my family. So, I took my chances and would have to reapply next year.

The next year, I reapplied to Harvard and Stanford only. I interviewed and was accepted by both. I chose HMS. My wife had problems taking OCP’s and contraception doesn’t always work. So, my second child was to be born in September of 1973. My wife decided I should start HMS in September 1973…which I did.