Friday, November 20, 2015

Welcome to Med School

You've worked super hard. You've given several tests and spent countless nights studying and now, you're finally into medical school! Are you excited? I sure am! Here's a list of things of things that I think are super important for someone's first year in med school.

Self Care


Med school is tough! I sure wish someone had sat me down to explain what I would need to do be able to craft myself the necessary sword and shield required to slay my brand new demons, the most notable of which would be anxiety, depression, loss of self esteem and lack of motivation! Now, before I tell you what you should do, I'm going to insert a disclaimer here.

I'm not saying an expert, I'm just here to give you my experience and my feedback. The methods may or may not work each and every time- I'm still trying to figure my way around even now! In fact, I'm probably going to be using these methods for next year myself!

There will always be someone better than you. You used to top your class in high school? Forget it now, med school is where the cream of the crop goes so your class dynamic is going to be a universe away from what you're used to. You'll come across geniuses who score effortlessly and even bigger geniuses who post their studying on a variety of social media

(I'm not talking about studyblrs who function to motivate others to study, I'm talking about people who post useless updates like "I just finished reading a week ahead of class" or "Have any of you read this amazing book on pathophysiobiochemhistology that I issued from the library" or "I can't wait to give the USMLE- I already bought an online membership for an exclusive question bank" etc etc)

And the thing is, that's okay! It's okay if you're not doing as good as you thought you could do, or if your performance seems to have fallen. The problem can be rectified if you just take a deep breath and let go of focusing on other people and focus on yourself instead. Don't worry about your class position, worry about how much you understand what you're studying!

Know that you will run out of motivation. This is a fact. There will be so many things going on and so much pressure on you that you feel like you'll burst and you just want to sit in a corner and play video games- which sounds like a horrible idea to do at the time. You're going to have to pick yourself up and keep going. All the motivation you had the first few months of med school seem to have evaporated and you wonder what had possessed you at the time?

Well, I always wish I had a bottle of sorts that I could collect my feelings in. Imagine keeping a refrigerator of emotions. Feeling super happy? Bottle some of that up for a gloomy day. Now, there's no such actual bottle available in any sort of market, but there are other things you can use instead. Here's a small list I came up with:
  • Make a motivation board on Pinterest or a specific tag on tumblr. Find an inspiring quote? Book mark it. Found a beautiful passage on medicine that ignites your passion? Copy and save image as. Gather those pixels and megabytes and store them for the gloomy days.
  • Are you feeling so happy about something, so proud of yourself, that you have no idea what to do? Write about it in your notebook. Gush about it in a video. Record your happiness in its purest form and place it close to your heart. Do this once. Do it again. Do it every time you feel good about doing what you're doing.
  •  Proud of something small? Managed to give a presentation in class? Answered a question correctly? More than writing the event, write about how you feel about it and how you want to keep improving and doing better!
People will keep trying to knock you down, whether it's just a look from your classmate or a hurtful remark from your professor. You're so used to being the best that it's hard to adjust coming back down to level zero. That's right, level zero. You are now the lowest level in this medical role playing game and it's no surprise that better players will try snubbing you. The thing is, you can't take what they say very seriously. Sure, they probably mean well, but to be honest,  you don't need extra negativity in your life. Listen, extract the useful, toss everything else out into the past.



Academic Purchases


Buy a decent notebook and an arsenal of pens. This will be your shield and sword for classes. Make consistent notes for each and every session you attend. I really wish I had done this- keeping a record of every class would have helped me to figure out how important each topic is. This is something you can't gauge from uploaded powerpoint slides (they make everything look important actually) and at the end of the year when you're having exams, you don't have the time to go through everything.

Buy original editions of your textbooks. Please don't buy second-hand or pirated copies! I know the textbooks seem really expensive but it's a valuable investment! These books have to last you five years- buying anything less than the original will have you forced into buying the original before even one year is over. Here's a list of must have textbooks:

  • Textbook of Medical Physiology by Guyton and Hall
  • Netter's Atlas of Anatomy
  • Snell's Clinical Anatomy
  • The Developing Human, Clinically Oriented Embryology by KLM 
  • Lippincott's Illustrated Reviews: Biochemistry
  • Junquiera's Basic Histology, Text and Atlas 

I also highly recommend buying the Board Reviews Series (I haven't bought it yet, but I plan to because I spent like, quite a lot of time reading the PDFs, I've come to realize how useful this series is and plan on using this for second year).

If you are a med student in Islamabad, here's a bookstore that caters specifically to medical students: Prince Book Depot, Basement Shop 4, City Arcade Plaza, I-8 Markaz Islamabad. Remember to buy a histology practical notebook and haemotoxylin/eosin pencils (basically, pink and purple expensive color pencils, don't even ask)

Study Methods


Invest now and save time later. Don't leave studying for the last minute. There's just so much information, it's going to feel very easy to postpone studying, but in the end, you're going to have a mountain to conquer and you will probably die at the end- the point is, don't procrastinate! Clear your concepts as they come!

Personally, I like making notes- a lot of notes- and I just had my professional examinations for first year and guess what? My notes are concise and give me everything I need to know- I didn't open any of my books for the text (diagrams are a different story). And let me tell you, it's much less stressful having three pages in your notebook summarizing a ten page chapter!

Watch videos. There are lots of videos available to cater to medical students. Watching these videos will help give you the bigger picture and let you see the relevance of your topic to other topics. Two of my favorite YouTube channels that I've subscribed to are KhanAcademyMedicine and Armando Hasudungan. Both of these channels have a large database of videos for a variety of topics. I really recommend going through these channels, subscribing and then using them to keep your concepts together, especially for revision, whether at the end of the week or before a test.

These are the main pieces of advice that I, at the end of first year, would have given myself when I started first year! I hope this, or some parts of this help you out as well! Have a nice week.

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