medschool

7 Keys to a Successful All-Nighter

Sleep is a wonderful thing. As we rest our eyes at the end of each day, our levels of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that increases throughout the day making us feel tired, decrease. Our memory enhances. Hormones that correspond to both sleepiness and appetite decrease, helping curb our calorie consumption thus enhancing our ability to maintain a healthy weight. Our stress level decreases. Sleeping well makes us less likely to be depressed and more likely to live a longer life. But as a student, sleep is the enemy. Imagine all that we could learn, all that we could do if only we didn’t have to give up some of each day to sleep! And so, we fight our need to catch some Z’s, and if the need arises and we are determined, we can pull what is notoriously known as an all-nighter. All-nighters aren’t just something you do. It takes preparation and careful planning to survive one and be able to face the coming day. As someone who has pulled more all-nighters than any person ever should, I’d like to share with you my best tips to help you with yours. 1. Cut-out Comfortable Clothes You may be tempted to throw on some baggy sweatpants and a loose shirt for studying all night, but you would be wrong. Those clothes scream, “It’s time to sleep!” And far too often...

How Cord Blood Banking Will Change Medicine

Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH, Co-author of The Mommy MD Guides, discusses the limitless possibilities offered by cord blood banking. Regenerative medicine, in particular, is a field with vast potential for stem cell research now that cord blood banking is part of the curriculum for young...

5 First-Hand Survival Tips for First Year Anatomy

Not long ago, my friend Bruce* was a college graduate with fulfilled premed requirements and wavering confidence. After a year of rejections, he decided to seek the help of a friend with experience in medical school admissions. Her advice was simple, medical schools want to know if you have what it takes to maintain a balanced life while hauling academic butt full throttle for four years and beyond. For Bruce, that meant taking extra classes to prepare himself for the rigorous course of study that the first year of medical school requires. He got into Rush Medical College after applying a second time and feels strongly that one of the keys to his success as an M1 was taking Anatomy & Physiology in advance. Luckily for us, Bruce gamely agreed to answer a few questions I posed on what else helped him to ace what students often call the most difficult class of their medical career. Questions and my comments are in bold/italics. 1. What was the best study technique that you found for learning Anatomy? There is no single trick for learning anatomy – the key is studying it with different learning methods from every angle. Introductory anatomy (the kind you take as an undergrad) usually lacks cadaver dissection, so you’ll have to substitute with images, 3D models, and drawing. Also, when you are studying a particular feature...

When Practice Really Does Make Perfect

Many medical schools recognize that “practice makes perfect”, or close to perfect, when it comes to providing quality patient care. So, medical schools around the country have incorporated role-play acting and simulations into their curriculum to prepare students for real life clinical encounters by developing their communication and diagnostic skills. And, these faux examinations have proven even more beneficial than as just an educational tool. Ryan Jones, fourth year medical student at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, truly played the role of doctor in one of these educational situations. When examining actors pretending to suffer from specific conditions, Jones discovered that one of the actors had a true and life-threatening medical condition. Actor Jim Malloy was diagnosed by Ryan with an abdominal aortic aneurysm. The supervising doctor confirmed the diagnosis and soon after Malloy underwent surgery to have it removed. This educational exercise certainly tested Jones; not only did he receive credit for this examination but also for saving a life. These are the stories we love to share because they inspire students and remind them of the importance of their hard work, knowledge, and communication skills. Congratulations to Ryan Jones for saving a life as an “Almost”...

What You Need to Know About Holistic Review

Holistic review is undeniably a hot topic in the medical school admissions world currently. For traditional and non-traditional premeds alike, applying to a school that employs holistic review is becoming more desirable because of the simple fact that these admissions committees place less emphasis on having a perfect MCAT and a stellar GPA and instead try to get to know the student behind the application. Rather than narrowing their search to applicants who fit a certain cookie-cutter criteria, they look for students who exhibit excellence in all aspects of their life – not just their scores and experiences on paper but their previous work, achievements and the background that brought them to where they are today. The attitude is that everything about the student, even the parts that are unrelated to medicine, help tell their story and can attest to why they would succeed in medical school. Because of all the buzz I was hearing about this new style of admissions review, a little while ago I created a list of schools that either explicity state or otherwise imply that they use holistic review when looking at their applicants. I primarily found schools by looking at this report released by the AAMC and the rest I found on my own. With that in mind please know that this is by no means a comprehensive list so if you are aware...

Eating Chocolate and other lessons from the ABIM Forum

Every year, the ABIM Foundation convenes a set of thought leaders on American health care to answer the tough questions.   At first glance, this year’s meeting  had the same standard agenda –  talks and discussions followed by networking and informal activities. However, for some reason, this Forum was more exhausting. Perhaps trying to solve the nation’s vexing problems facing health care is fatiguing! So, what were some of the themes that we came away with? • Intrinsic motivation is powerful, so can we create it? We heard about the potential dangers of extrinsic motivation through financial reward. Pay-for-performance, after all, is a tool that is only as good as the system is designed, and many designs have not been very effective. I was reminded of an unusual medical education experiment when they started paying residents in pediatrics on a fee-for-service model (yes, residents). The residents saw more patients, and their outcomes even improved with fewer ER visits! But, closer inspection yielded that these residents stacked their clinics with well child visits, who were healthier and did not need to visit the ER. So fee-for-service residency was abandoned. While everyone agreed it was time to move away from fee-for-service medicine, do we really think a change in the payment system creates intrinsic motivation? One health system offered their solution: recruit those that are intrinsically motivated. But, that still leaves us with how does one become intrinsically motivated? The...

What Nelson Mandela’s Words of Wisdom Mean to Almost Docs

I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death. Optimism is one of the greatest qualities a person can possess in life, and often, especially in medical school and as a doctor, it is tested. Life is full of challenges, and part of what makes life exciting is overcoming these obstacles. Remember that no matter what you face, the only way you can conquer difficulties is to be positive and have faith. When a difficult exam is approaching, remind yourself of your achievements and accept the challenge with enthusiasm. When you’re treating a patient and you think they might not make it, do your best and have confidence in your ability, no matter what the outcome. I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. The responsibility of taking care of someone’s health and having their life in your hands is frightening. For medical students, it is especially frightening to take part in...