medschool

Top 4 Non-Academic Mistakes to Avoid While Studying for Step 1

Studying for the USMLE, especially Step 1 can seem like a daunting task for many of us. [Gunners, please disregard this statement.] Countless programs and websites exist solely for selling books and study methods pertaining to these licensing examinations. Over the years and especially after careful retrospection, I have come to realize that there are four common mistakes we all seem to commit during these extended periods of stress. In a way, they are just common sense but highlight the basic needs we have as human beings. Following are the four mistakes to avoid during your studies…. 1. Not getting enough ZZZ’s! Pixar Animation Studios It is imperative that we not only get enough sleep but also quality sleep. Declarative memories such as facts and semantics are consolidated in slow wave sleep and procedural memory requires REM sleep to be solidified. In other words, the material we learn during the day becomes ingrained in our memory during night time making it easier and faster to recall on the big day. Getting a good night’s rest is imperative for anyone to perform well.   2.   Not finding time to relax! The answer is not always to “study more.” Many programs subscribe to a ‘one day off weekly regimen’. For example, I would study hard Monday through Saturday and take Sunday off. On Sundays, I took it easy. I went for...

Man! That Went South Very Fast…

Imagine you are a paramedic responding to a call for a 75-year-old male who is having abdominal pain. You get out of the recliner that you have been sitting in for the past 2 hours, waiting for a cool call, and you get this: an old man with a belly ache. Great. You get into the truck with your partner and drive down the road at a standard pace, arriving on scene after 10 minutes. You walk to the door with your equipment bag and knock. A worried woman answers the door and leads you to the bedroom upstairs to her husband, who is lying curled up on bed with his hands over his belly. “Hi Sir. What’s going on today?” “My belly hurts,” he says. You approach the patient and lift up his shirt to do an abdominal exam, palpating the four quadrants for any distention, rigidity, guarding, bruising, etc. You find nothing notable. “How about we get you to the hospital, get you checked out?” “Ok.” After transporting the patient to the back of the truck, you and your partner get set up. Patient is hooked up to the EKG monitor, an initial set of vitals is being taken, and an IV is started. You continue along with a more focused assessment, asking specific questions about what’s been going on recently with the patient, past medical history,...

The Fascinating Story of Being the Only Woman in Medical School

I first had the pleasure of meeting Jean Smelker nearly a year ago. I had just finished undergrad and was on my way to start medical school and graduate school in the fall. Jean, a retired pediatrician with a soft voice and a beaming smile, was so excited to hear about my journey (though I’m sure I was more excited to hear about her’s.) You see, Jean went to medical school in the early 1950’s, a time when women physicians were rare. In fact, she was the sole female in her medical school class of 75. In addition to her training as a MD, she earned a master’s degree in immunology and a master’s degree in public health, which came in handy as she served as director of two Children and Youth (C&Y) Projects throughout her career (one in Kansas, the other Minnesota) that provided comprehensive health services for children living in low incomes areas. She proved to be very bright and ahead of her time, becoming known as a progressive and holistic physician. Her philosophy that “We do what is best for the patients and make it work” became a guiding principle for the Minnesota C&Y project, and she was renowned for her use of hypnosis to treat warts.   On top of her serving as director of these projects and later commuting between Minnesota and Ohio for...

Being Pre-Med is What I Do, Not Who I am

I recently reconnected with my third grade teacher, Mrs. Garrett. She brought the scrapbook she assembled when I was a student in her class. She had ten students that year and each of us had our own page in the book. I turned to mine.   In the center, there was a picture of me wearing a crisply ironed collared shirt with perfectly straightened hair and a string of pearls I surely begged my mom to wear for that picture. Arranged rather creatively around my picture was a newspaper clipping about the award I won for being the only kid who wore a seat belt on the bus, my straight A report card, and a piece of paper on which I wrote in incredibly neat handwriting: “I want to be a doctor.”   Mrs. Garrett reminded me that the assignment was to write something about myself. Out of curiosity, I flipped through the pages in her scrapbook and read what my classmates wrote about themselves. One of my friends wrote “Pink is my favorite color” and another wrote, “I love to dance.” Most others wrote about their hobbies or interests and all the other pages included pictures of my classmates making silly faces, having fun, and playing outside. There were just two other pictures of me in the scrapbook, both showing me sitting at my desk with a sharpened...

3 Simple Tips to Maintaining Your Happiness Throughout Med School

In her new book, What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect The Practice of Medicine, physician and author Dr. Danielle Ofri writes: “Doctors who are angry, nervous, jealous, burned out, terrified, or ashamed can usually still treat bronchitis or ankle sprains competently.” This is so incredibly sad. And, it is most depressing to realize that the experience isn’t much different for us. The tendency to evade our emotion begins as early in our career as our pre-med life, well before we actually don a crisp white coat and care for patients. We take such terrible care of ourselves. The process from start to finish can feel, more often than not, like a Herculean task, but we refuse to accept the frustration, anger and fatigue that are coupled with the hardships of our professional pursuit. Why do we think we are immune to emotion? Why do we forget that we are so much more than just organs, tissues, and bones? This notoriously difficult pre-MD life can make you feel like you are gripping onto the fraying shreds of a short rope. And somehow, through it all, when we are “angry, nervous, jealous, burned out, terrified, or ashamed” we are expected to keep calm and carry on. After days (okay, fine, maybe months) of carrying on without feeling any calm at all, I had to take a step back to process the...

The Top 10 Gifts for Med Students this Holiday Season

It’s that time of the year again….where families and friends get together to celebrate one tradition or another. It’s also that time where we give and receive presents. So, chances are, you probably know someone (or will know someone) in medical school. Yes, they haven’t called or talked to you for months, but rest assured, they are hard at work and probably going through academic hell. An encouraging, thoughtful letter, or better yet a gift is sure to cheer them up. Here are my top 10.  1. Littmann Stethoscope  It is one of the best gifts you can give to your beloved med student. Its light-weight, durable and most importantly, practical. The product is amazing and quality, they will use it for decades to come.  2. iPad or an iPad mini Anything Apple (besides the edible kind) will do, but these high-end, sleek tablets will let your medical student watch surgical procedures, read medical articles and play fruit ninja while on break. One bonus about the mini is that it fits most pockets of white coats. Perfect companion to double check the starting dose of a beta blocker on Epocrates. 3. Payment of student loans We are medical students. Enough Said. Thanks for the remittance. 4. Personal training sessions Medical school does not allow much free time.  Most of our lives revolve around a computer . Needless to say,...

What if Your Professor’s iPhone App Helped You Cheat?

What happens when technology overstays its welcome? Remember the saying, “too much of a good thing…”? The medical students of King’s College, London could probably tell you about that. The students will be retaking their most recent exam in OB/GYN after it was discovered that their professor took almost 60% of his exam questions off of an iPhone app…which he invented! The app (which is FREE, btw, so go ahead and check it out) contains practice exam questions ranging anywhere from contraception methods to the diagnosis of syphilis. That is, they would have been “practice” had the questions not then been the exact questions on the exam. The problem is, it is unclear which students actually had seen the app prior to the exam so…retake for all! None for you, Glen Cocoa! (Lol, it’s been a long day.) Today’s medicine is all about the latest technology, right? The medical field is making strides due to innovations in technologically based surgical techniques, training tools and even “digital diapers” (tracking your baby’s health by analyzing its poop…pretty genius). How would a rhinoplasty patient ever know what their nose may look like post-surgery without preoperative computer imaging planning? The horror! As the next generation of doctors enters medical school and training programs, we begin to question how medical education will evolve. Most critics of the emergence of technology in medicine cite the possible...