I am the eggman. They are the eggmen. I am the … TURTLE?

by Lorien E. Menhennett

My middle school nickname — “turtle” — was a comment on my overpreparedness.


When I was in middle school, my friend Jaime Truitt used to call me “Turtle.” The nickname didn’t really catch on with anyone else, which actually surprises me because the moniker was truly appropriate. I carried a bluish-green backpack (right color), the pack was stuffed to bursting (hence looked like a shell on my back), and I had everything I needed in there (in Jaime’s words: “You carry your house on your back!”).

To this day, I tend to be very prepared, if not overprepared, for most situations (when I have the time). From going on vacation (typed up and formatted checklist) to going to the grocery store (hand-written list this time, but organized by where the food is located in the store so I’m not wandering).

The same applies, of course, to getting ready for medical school. Which is, obviously, a little more important than remembering the sunscreen or that the ketchup is in the same aisle as the olives (why that is, don’t ask me). One of the things I’m doing to prepare is to look at potential medical school interview questions. Because those interviews–of which I will hopefully have several–are do-or-die situations. They can make or break a borderline (or even a stellar) application. No pressure, right?!

It’s not hard to find sample questions. Google the phrase “medical school interview questions” and you come up with “about” 14,800,000 (yes, that’s 14 million 800 thousand) hits. I copied and pasted questions from a few sites that appeared to be reliable (i.e., Harvard’s pre-med advising office) into a chart.

So I’ve got them … now what? Clearly, this isn’t the kind of thing I can cram for. And the ADCOMS (that’s pre-med lingo for “admissions committees”) may not ask me ANY of the questions I prepped for. But practicing will get me in the right frame of mind. Thinking about why I want to be a doctor, what I want to do, how I feel about the current health care system, etc. I will start to approach these topics very critically, which is both good for the interview, and for when I am a practicing physician.

Over lunch today, I was casually glancing over the questions. I groaned a few times, rolled me eyes, laughed, scratched my head, smiled. The questions are really all over the place, in terms of difficulty, subject matter, length of response, required background knowledge, and so on. Then I came upon the dreaded “strengths and weaknesses” question. You know, the one they ALWAYS ask in job interviews, trying to trip you up. Such an insidious question, one you can hardly answer without making yourself look bad.

So I stared at the question. Then I stared off into space. Sure, I have weaknesses–everyone does. And I could think of a few. But I thought to myself, “Hell if I’m going to sabotage myself in a medical school interview!”

Then I realized something: the weaknesses that kept popping into my head were really strengths, but taken to an extreme. Therefore if I could harness those weaknesses, rein them in, I could transform them into the strengths that they had the potential to be. Whoaaaaa … (my Cartman moment)

For example: take my overpreparedness. It can get a little excessive. And, as my husband will attest, a bit irritating to a partner / companion (romantic or otherwise). Too much baggage, too much planning, too much fretting. Toning it down, though, and planning a little less than I do now would relieve that pressure (on both me and the person with me), while still allowing us to be prepared for whatever adventure lay ahead. Whoaaaaa … (yet another Cartman moment)

Maybe I’ll still be somewhat of a turtle. (I do, after all, have another green backpack, although this one is more of a mossy color.) My goal for the future, though, is to be a smaller one. That’s a good place to start.