medschool

How To Study for the MCAT

Studying for the MCAT is daunting, but it’s something that nearly everyone who aspires to go to medical school has to do. The act of studying itself is grueling but, for me, figuring out where to start was another hurdle to overcome. What books should I use? How much time each day should I dedicate to studying? What practice questions should I use? I’m here to help you answer these questions. Because, once you figure out how you should study for the MCAT, everything else becomes pretty straightforward. Books: There are tons of companies out there that provide great material. When I studied for the MCAT in 2015, I primarily used Kaplan. At the time, I found them to be the most comprehensive and the easiest to read. The Princeton Review (PR) books, for instance, were also great for certain subjects (particularly biology), but the series lacked a lot of the necessary biochemistry material that Kaplan had an abundance of. While studying, I followed the study guide provided by AAMC. After studying an item on the list, I checked it off. I did this for every item on the list, which made the whole process of studying much easier. The good thing about the Kaplan books is that a lot of their sections and headings match up very well with the headings in the study guide. Ultimately, it could...

5 Student Loan Mistakes All Med Students Should Avoid

Managing student loan and debt requires the same diligence as managing medical school. But with so many things to consider and so many decisions to make, it is far too easy to let student loan decisions slide until “everything’s settled.” Until you’re out of residency, the period of transition for medical students is fraught. Even with the challenge of medical school behind you, what to do about the question of loans accumulated throughout the process? When dealing with student loans, and with federal student loans in particular, the worst thing you can do is turn and run in the opposite direction. For med school borrowers it can be difficult to work out a repayment plan while still living on a resident’s budget, but by planning early it’s possible to set yourself up for a debt-free future in only a couple of years. Here are a handful of mistakes all doctors should avoid when deciding how to pay back their student loans. Failure to Consolidate Loans First, there are several important differences between federal student loans and other loans. General student loans function like other debt. Federal loans qualify for a variety of important repayment options. This makes consolidation an important first step. Failure to consolidate at the start of residency is a potentially costly mistake because of the special treatment afforded qualifying federal loans. Among the most significant benefits...

How To Be More Confident In The Medical Field

The most important task for every premed and medical student is learning how to appear confident. If we want the privilege of cutting people open and prescribing potentially lethal drugs, we need steady hands. But confidence is something I’ve always struggled with, particularly in my academic life. The common theme in my feedback from faculty, bosses, and attendings has been: be more confident. This is a great problem to have. Presumably they all see a reason for me to be confident (who would tell an incompetent person to have confidence?). But it is a problem. Here’s what happens: a faculty member tells me to be more confident, and my first thought is always, Yeah, but… Yeah, but I’m not sure that what I’m saying is right. Yeah, but there’s more than one answer. Yeah, but I don’t feel confident. But what really prompts me to think, “Yeah, but”? Stephen Hawking famously said, “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” And it’s quite pleasant and intelligent-sounding to argue that my resistance stems from my internalization of the imperative to question one’s own knowledge. But that’s BS. In truth, my feelings stem from a much less pleasant reality, which became impossible to ignore when I was studying for Step 1: I don’t trust myself. And no situation better exemplifies this lack of trust than...

Why I Don’t Wear Scrubs

Some of the nurses at work were talking about a sale on scrubs.  I was listening in, because I only have one pair of scrubs that I wear on call and they’re awful.  The top is so big that it could be a dress on me. Nurse: “Actually, I’ve never seen you in scrubs, Dr. McFizz.  You never wear them!” They pointed out that a few of the other doctors do sometimes wear scrubs during 9-5 business hours, but some of us don’t.  Here’s why I don’t: When I was an intern, I worked at a county hospital, serving a very poor population.  Intern year is hard, and I wanted nothing more than to live my life in scrubs–basically, nonstop pajamas.  But our program director said to us, “You know, these patients may be very poor and not speak English, but they should be treated with respect. And that means they deserve a doctor who is well dressed.” Some of the other interns wore scrubs every day anyway, but I didn’t.  On non-call days, I wore “nice” clothes. Those words really stuck with me, even now, over ten years later.  I feel like it’s more respectful to dress in nice clothes when I see patients. You can find Dr. Fizzy’s newest book, The Devil You Know on Amazon. Read an excerpt here. She’s got a great job at a VA Hospital,...

Five Tips For Choosing The Right Medical Field

When a student decides to study medicine, there can be an overwhelming amount of choices to be made. There are many options in the medical field that can be explored. It is also important to choose something that suites you. Keeping an open mind to the other options available is an important start. Once you’ve managed to do that, you can move forward. When we think about the medical field, our minds seem to limit the options to only a ‘Medical Doctor’. Many students cannot get into medical school because there is only a limited amount of students accepted every year. So let’s say, you’ve applied at an institution to become a medical doctor, but unfortunately was unsuccessful. What other options do you have? How do you determine which of these other options will suit you best? Your base Before you apply for any studies, decide on where you would like to build a career. Look at the current industry needs and make sure that you will be able to find employment in your preferred area. You may be busy submitting a recommendation letter for nursing school, only to find out that the area you want to work in does not have job openings. This is why you need to make sure that wherever it is that you are setting your heart on to pursue a career, will be...

How Do You Find A Mentor?

One of the greatest moments of third year is when you figure out (or confirm) what you want to do with your life. (I know this doesn’t happen for everyone, and I’ll address that topic in a future post.) Okay, so you know what you want to be when you grow up. What now? You need to find a mentor. If you’ve read my blog before, you probably know how strongly I feel about mentorship. (My very first post was on this very topic.) But what is the purpose of this particular mentor? A mentor is an experienced and trusted adviser. Right now you need someone within your specialty to help you choose letter-writers, decide which programs to apply to, and prepare for interviews. You need someone to bolster your confidence when you get anxious about this process. You also need someone who will tell you things you don’t want to hear, so that you can match into the best possible program within your chosen specialty and not end up scrambling (or whatever they call it now). So what should you look for in a mentor? I recommend choosing someone who has expressed confidence in you, whose career you admire, and whose personality is somewhat similar to yours. Also look for someone well-versed in resident selection in your specialty or someone who has been through residency fairly recently. It’s...

A Look Back At Those Early Days As A Pre-Med…

One of the many perks of being a medical student is possessing the (purported) wisdom to guide those who will come after me. When I was in the ranks of those aspiring pre-med students who looked forward to a potential career in medicine, I often wondered how one acquired the kind of eloquence and understanding of what it takes to be in the medical field. While I definitely do not assume the ultimate authority on the importance of things to be done during one’s undergraduate career, I would like to take a stab at the most salient points in this arena by reflecting on my own experiences, hopefully helping out a handful of prospective aspirants who wish to join our ranks in what I believe to be one of the most rewarding professions in the world. Stay Committed This goes without saying, but it is still a point that is often underemphasized. The only way for medical schools to assess an applicant’s propensity to stick to the medical field over the long run is by measuring their experience in specific positions on a long-term basis. Whether it is climbing the ranks of a student organization on campus, volunteering with the same high school for the last three years, or writing for The (Almost) Doctor’s Channel once every two weeks (a little self-plug there), all of these activities showcase one’s...