5 Things You Need to Know About First Year

As August begins, all those anxious MS1s are entering into the world of “almost” docs. But what happens after the white coat ceremony? Here are the top 5 things I learned from my first year of med school.

1. Life revolves around school.

From the very first day of anatomy lab until the final musculoskeletal exam, my life revolved around the next upcoming exam on the curriculum calendar. There was a certain amount of studying that needed to be done every day, and taking unnecessary days off created multiple dreaded 10+ hour study days. Unquestionably, medical school pushed me to manage my time more efficiently than anything in college. And while life did revolve around school, I tried my best to not make my life become just staring at power points. Just like my classmates and I become more efficient at studying, we squeezed as much fun as we could out of those windows of freedom, no matter how small they were.

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flickr / Enokson


2. Medical education is adapting to the digital age.

Of all the scheduled class time during the year, I attended less than 25% of in-class lectures. WesternU COMP does a great job of being flexible with different learning styles, and the option to watch recorded lectures fit perfectly into my learning style. Instead of sitting through a 4-hour lecture, I could playback the lecture at 2x speed for 2 hours then spend the next 2 hours going over the material myself. For my Molecular and Cellular Basis of Medicine (MCBM) class, I didn’t even need to watch more than 80% of the lectures; professors provided tested information on their powerpoint slides. Online resources such as Wikipedia, UpToDate, or Youtube videos could be used to fill in gaps when needed.


3. Graduate Medical Education changes are looming.

In October 2012, the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) announced plans for unified accreditation of graduate medical education (residency) training by 2015. This was ground-breaking news especially for DO students as the plans cleared the pathway for a single match process for the class of 2015 and onward. However, all the news I’ve heard from AOA conferences indicate hold-ups in the proposed merger and 2016 seems like the earliest possible year for the changes to go into effect.

On the funding side, politicians have finally realized the dire need to increase the number of residency training spots and HR 1201, “Training Tomorrow’s Doctors Today”, is making progress in the House with 37 co-sponsors as of July 2013. The bill seeks to lift the cap placed on residency funding since 1997 and create 15,000 new residency spots over a 5-year period. Help support the bill by asking your representative to become a co-sponsor today.


flickr / Tulane Publications


4. Getting involved kept me sane.

Some advice I kept getting throughout the year was to not get over-involved in order to protect valuable studying time. While I did my best to ensure schoolwork was my top priority, getting involved with a few organizations helped me keep sane. Throughout the year, I was able to travel to Salt Lake City for the International Street Medicine Symposium, Washington DC for DO Day on the Hill, Napa Valley for the Doximity Leadership Summit, and Sacramento for OPSC Lobby Day.  These, and a few smaller trips, were incredible experiences to meet some awe-inspiring physicians and get a bigger-picture view of medicine. Sure, the trips took some time away from studying, but they left me re-invigorated to hit the books again when I got back.


5. Medical education is a marathon, not a sprint.

After the first anatomy exam, a fifth-year OMM fellow congratulated us with some words of wisdom, “Medical school is a marathon, not a sprint. Keep running along but be careful not to burn yourself out in the process.” More often than I’d like to admit, I seriously questioned my ability to carry on. That, and my respect grew by leaps and bounds for all the physicians who had made it through school AND residency. A little perspective and chats with fellow classmates kept me on track though. With over 4386 applicants for the 220 spots at WesternU COMP, I knew there were 19 other people perfectly happy to be in my spot. And while the first-year was tough, there are even bigger challenges looming on the horizon with Step 1, rotations, and residency. A year older and perhaps a little wiser, I’m (hopefully) ready to tackle these next steps.


flickr / Martineric

Featured image courtesy of flickr / aeu04117

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Ryan Nguyen, "Almost" DO

Ryan Nguyen is a DO student at the Western University College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific and blogs about medical school at WhiteCoatDO.com. In addition to school, he is a Foundation Scholar for the California Academy of Family Practice and Student Ambassador for Doximity. He tweets @RNguyenMed.