Every medical student’s worst nightmare: failing boards.

Boards.

To most, that’s just a word. To others, that one simple word can cause the most debilitating anxiety, an overwrought feeling in the pit of one’s stomach, an uneasiness that shakes the core of their being, and strike such an intense fear that courses through every vein in their body.  Now do you understand? Brace yourself because it’s about to get real and you might want to sit down for this one.

I pride myself in always being honest and genuine and giving you glimpses into my life in med. school and as you may or may not know, it hasn’t always been pretty. In fact, I often say that “med. school isn’t all sunshine and rainbows” and for me, it has rained far more than the sun has shined.

If you need the long story, please refer back to my previous blogs so I can save you some time. For a quick recap, I had a rocky start. I got waitlisted, got accepted the day class started and then took a semester of personal leave to get my mental health in order after having two back to back deaths in my family and failing two courses because of that. In undergrad you can just pick up right where you left off or retake a class, well, not in med. school. There are more school policies than I can count and one of them is that not only do you have to retake courses but if you fail more than 2 then you have to repeat the entire year and ask for a chance to prove to them that you can make it. Talk about pressure, right? Thankfully, I was never in that position. I came back the next year, learned how to study, addressed my mindfulness, and killed it my first year. Granted, to me “killing” it is passing but I’ll have you know that I got A’s and high B’s in those courses that I previously failed, I can’t say that for the rest of the courses that year but I do know in medical school that a doctor that made straight C’s is still a doctor. I did well in second year, maintained my B average and passed my OSCE. The COMSAE was a different story though and actually where this tale begins.

The very first COMSAE I took was in January. To those unfamiliar with this term, it is the practice board exam for D.O. students that they have to pass before they take COMLEX level 1 aka USMLE Step 1 for D.O.’s. I actually wrecked my car on the way to the exam because the roads were so icy and hadn’t been salted. It was really bad. Thankfully I wasn’t hurt, but my car and another car were in bad shape. My taillight was hanging on by a wire on the way to school and my kind classmate helped me duct tape it until I could get it fixed! The night before the COMSAE, I stayed over at a classmate’s house because I was worried for her own mental health and wanted to be there as a supporting friend and a shoulder to cry on. You know what they say, no good deed goes unpunished so I wrecked the following morning. I cried all the way to school and found a way to gather myself up and go in there and take the COMSAE. I actually contemplated not taking it because I was so distraught but I knew that there was technically no punishment for underperforming so I just went for it. Granted we didn’t have to get a 400 on this, we weren’t even finished with courses for the year, and I had done ZERO board prep thus far (it was only January for goodness sake) but they still wanted us to get above a 250 for very good reason. Miraculously, I did. The worse that would come of not getting a 250 or above was talking to the dean about how to improve and I was so lucky to escape that madness, or so I thought.

The next COMSAE came in May. We had to pass to be able to sit through boards, and I failed it. I didn’t fail horribly, in fact I did better on it than I did on the COMLEX, but it wasn’t enough. My school put me on a prep track along with 40 or more classmates that had also failed. This wasn’t permanent and no one saw it, but we did have to pass before we took the real thing. After this month-long prep program put on by the school, I either benefitted slightly or I just did better on a different form of the exam because when I took the next COMSAE, I passed. If I didn’t pass this second comsae, my rotations would’ve been delayed. I got exactly what I needed to pass and my COMLEX level 1 date was a week away.

At this point, I was so over studying. I was so burnt out. I had been going hard since March, but thinking back it was more quantity over quality. I couldn’t study that entire week and my mind was not there. I got to the testing center that morning and I probably couldn’t even tell you my name. I felt like I blacked out during the second half of the exam because of testing fatigue. I started at 7:45am and didn’t get out until 4:15pm. This exam is 400 questions, 9 hours long, and there are no breaks besides your permitted 30 min. lunch break. Actually, there are 2 optional breaks but don’t take them unless you’re literally going to pee your pants because THEY TAKE TIME OUT OF YOUR ACTUAL EXAM. This is something I wasn’t aware of and I took my sweet old time, a good 8 minutes both times (16 minutes total WASTED) and this made me panic even more because I almost ran out of time. I was so crunched for time that I was trying to guess as best as I could and was frantically clicking through the last set of questions. At the end after I clicked submit, I was so angry, so upset, and felt that it was such an unfair exam to test my knowledge but you know what they say: life’s not fair and that is so painstakingly true.

I waited an entire month for my score. I cried, laughed, cried some more, panicked, and forgot. I tried my best to put it behind me but deep down I felt like I failed. Sure, everyone thinks that after they take step 1 right? Well I actually did. You never think it can happen to you until it does. It was one of the worst days of my life. I contemplated writing this the day after I failed, but I was SO motivated after seeing that score that I didn’t want to waste a single second and I wanted to get back to work ASAP. I had already completed half of my family med. rotation, was loving it, and my preceptor even gave me an A. As for the following 2 months, I studied by butt off. DIT clearly didn’t work for me, I know it works for many people but personally, it wasn’t the best program for me. This time, I tried boards boot camp, which is a program made specifically for D.O. students. I really liked this program but I found that it was so extensive and had over 360 hours of things to complete, I knew I’d never complete all of that before I went to take it a second time. That ALSO gave me anxiety which made my studying even worse. Nonetheless, I picked myself up, did the best I could, and studied with two other classmates who had also failed. I had heard about ~30 students out of 215 or so had failed. It was very disheartening to hear it had happened to others but honestly it was quite comforting to know that I was not alone in such an awful place.

I took the exam and then immediately started my psychiatry rotation. I actually felt better coming out of the exam that time. I still felt like I failed and was hoping for a miracle to just barely pass. I know my strength does not lie in standardized exams and that I will never be the student in the 600 or 700 range (Comlex max. score is 800, passing is a 400.) During this psychiatry rotation, as you might have heard through my other social media sites, I felt like I found my calling. A little bit of that passion inspired me to write this blog for you today. I loved every minute of it and also did very well in that rotation. I know I have what it takes, but for some reason, standardized exams get me every single time.

I got my score two days before I was scheduled to finish my last four weeks of my family med rotation. I was so excited to finish this rotation with this preceptor because he is my personal family doctor and also my mentor in the Rural Health Initiative program. It was set up to be the most perfect rotation but I didn’t even get to start. A classmate, the same one that studied with me who also failed, told me the Psych COMAT scores (Shelf exam for rotations) were up. I anxiously went to NBOME to see how I did because I thought I did really well. I didn’t find the exam difficult and I LOVE PSYCH but my scores for the psychiatry shelf were not there, there was a different set of scores waiting for me. I expected to get my scores for level 1 that day because usually you get an e-mail saying they’ve been released. I looked down for my COMAT score and I see two “Failed exams” back to back. I thought I misread something or this was a COMSAE score. “Surely I didn’t fail again, that can’t be possible, I should ask for a re-score” were the thoughts that flooded my mind. Deep down, I knew I didn’t need to re-score it, the NBOME never makes mistakes, and it actually took almost 2 months to get these scores so they’re probably as correct as they can possibly be and it was true. I failed. All of my practice COMSAE’s I passed, sure they weren’t with flying colors but they were well above a 400, my percentages were increasing on combank and comquest (question banks similar to UWorld for MD students) and I even ended my last question set with a 75% which was a win for me. I thought I was ready, but I wasn’t. I actually did WORSE on this exam than I did the first time and I have no explanation for that besides debilitating anxiety. My anxiety truly comes to a peak during exams and has been undiagnosed and untreated for years which leads me to talk about how important mental health is, especially in medical school.

No, you can’t just tell someone with anxiety to “get over it,” “just relax,” or “it’s all in your head”, because it doesn’t work – in fact that makes it worse so please don’t do that. Just because you can’t see a mental illness, doesn’t make it any less real. It doesn’t make you any less of a human being, it doesn’t make you any less worthy as a person, and it doesn’t define you or who you are. I’m so passionate about this that I want to make it my life goal to end the stigma on mental illness and mental health. I’m so tired of the negativity behind it. Over 21% of adults are affected by some sort of anxiety disorder, and I am included in that 42.5 million population. Since my second failure, I have made an appointment to get my anxiety under control and to finally address it being the 25 year old woman that I am. It’s time to control my anxiety and stop letting it run my life.

Sometimes people I don’t know will comment things like “can I be you” or “I can’t wait to be in your shoes” on my pictures or on my tweets. I always chuckle at this because some days I don’t even want to be me. If y’all knew what I’ve gone through, you wouldn’t want to either. Just because I have cool pens or highlighters or a cool purse and post about it, doesn’t mean my life is perfect or I have it all together. Probably more days than not I don’t have it all together. I’ve never been the perfect or “ideal” med. student, and I probably never will be, but what I’ve always been is myself, and that counts for something, somewhere. I have one shot left to take this exam. I’m actually going to a program in Florida called “Wolfpacc” that guarantees a pass on step exams. I’ve had several classmates who have failed step 1 or level 1 twice improve by 100 points, and also a now practicing DOCTOR that failed step 1 and step 2 both TWICE EACH that pointed me to this program. I started January 3rd and finish February 24 and am giving it my all because honestly what do I have left to lose?

I truly feel in my heart, as crazy as this may sound, that I’m meant to suffer and go through hardships in order to help others that may be in that same situation one day. I feel like I’m meant to go through challenges to shed light on the situation and be a beam of hope to someone else that has to endure it and if you’re that someone, I hope this reaches you.

You’re more than your number, and I know I need to take my own advice and listen, but we really are. So many doctors have told me that they’ve failed a board exam whether it’s step 1, step 2, or BOTH, and are STILL doctors today and got a residency. Yeah, it may be harder but it’s definitely not impossible and where there’s a will, there’s a way, and somehow we will make it through. I don’t know what my future holds, in fact, I’m not even sure I’ll be a medical student come April if I don’t pass this exam, but I DO know that I will do everything in my power to conquer this exam that has defeated me twice now and has defeated my friends and classmates alike. If you’re in this boat, I want you to know that it is NOT the end. Unless you’ve absolutely done all that you could, exhausted all resources and options, and the school dismisses you because you’ve failed 3 times and broken their academic policy, then it’s NOT over for you so I don’t want you to act like it is or even feel like it. SO MANY doctors fail boards, but no one talks about it. Why? Instead we shut ourselves out, isolate ourselves, and do everything we can to sweep it under the rug and pretend like it never happened. We are so ashamed that it happened yet never stop to think that we aren’t alone and it happens to even the best doctors.

A few of the administrators at my school loved to speak fear into the eyes of medical students – they probably didn’t mean to, that’s just how it felt on the other side being a student. It started first year getting talks about boards, and then the year after that getting told in a roundabout way that you won’t get a residency if you fail and it’s the absolute worst thing that could happen to you. Well it’s not. In fact, I saw a homeless man today – as I stopped to give him all the spare change I had, I couldn’t help but think how selfish  I was to be this upset when there’s a man in front of me with no house, no food, and no money and here I am crying about a test. It really put things into perspective and how it can ALWAYS be worse than what it actually is.

Please don’t give up. I’m not, and you shouldn’t either, whether you’ve failed a class in high school, college, medical school, a board exam, an entrance exam, whatever it may be. Remember why you started, don’t quit, find a way. If you need time off, take it, if you need help, seek it, if you need to retake the class or test, do it. If plan A doesn’t work, guess what, there are 25 more letters in the alphabet.

And to those of you reading that for some reason don’t like me or my account or feel like you’re better than me and so many others that have struggled and failed because you passed on the first try, congratulations. If you feel the need to belittle me, criticize me, judge me or my journey, or my failures, go right ahead because I can PROMISE YOU that you won’t say anything worse than I’ve already told myself or how I’ve felt about myself. Your opinion of me does not matter, you don’t walk in my shoes, and you don’t live the same life that I do or anyone else for that matter. You cannot get to me because I am my own worst enemy. For those of you that truly act that way, shame on you and I’ll pray for you. As a patient, I’d actually take a doctor who struggled over someone who didn’t because you know what that shows me? That despite almost losing it all, they found a way to prevail and succeed in the midst of adversity just to help me.  Just because I failed doesn’t mean I’ll be any less of a doctor, and I guarantee not a single future patient of mine will ever know about any GPA or board score nor even ask, and neither will yours! One exam doesn’t determine how great of a doctor you will be. Sure, a failure might close a few doors but when one door closes another opens. Sometimes we look so long and regretfully upon the closed door that we often don’t see the door that has opened for us. So keep your head up!

Sorry this was such a long post, I had a lot to say and there was no shorter way to not put it all out there. Please feel free to contact me at any anytime whether it’s on here, snapchat, Instagram, or twitter, I promise I read ALL of my messages and do my very best to help everyone that I can. I will be here for YOU, talk you off the ledge, and let you know that it’s going to be okay when I’m trying to make it myself. Please take care of yourself, you’ll do your patients no good if you aren’t well yourself. Life is not perfect and neither are we but I can guarantee that at the end of our journeys, it will be because they’re OURS and no one can ever take that from us.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline 
1-800-273-TALK

Suicide & Crisis Hotline 
1-800-999-9999

Help Finding a Therapist 
1-800-THERAPIST (1-800-843-7274

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

Panic Disorder Information Hotline. 800- 64-PANIC.

Drug & Alcohol Treatment Hotline
800-662-HELP

Thor goes to med. school!

IMG_7935.JPGIf you’ve ever sat and thought to yourself, “Should I take my dog to medical school?” or “Should I even get a pet in med. school?” then this post is for you!

I never met a dog I didn’t like. You know those med. students at parties that are in the corner petting all of the dogs? That’s totally me. No shame. I’m a dog person and by dog person, I mean HUGE dog person. Meet my baby Thor! He is a full blooded, brindle, American Great Dane! He’s 175 pounds at 3 years old and is my very best friend. He loves ice cream, squeaky toys, and long walks around the med. school campus. I can’t tell you how many times he’s been there for me whether I’ve failed a test, gone through a break-up, or just am a stressed out, emotional med. student. Having a dog in medical school is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Granted, it was not the easiest nor the most convenient/fun going through the puppy days during your first year but we made it through to the other side and thank God the puppy stages are over! However, I do miss being able to carry around my dog, even though that was only for a few months!

There are lots of pros and cons to having a pet in medical school. This list differs for the type of animal, obviously. I can’t imagine that list being very long if, for example, you had a pet fish or a lizard and yes a lot of med. students have them. Fun fact, I used to have an iguana and even won 1st place at my county science fair in middle school for doing a project on Iguanas’ eating behaviors. Anyway, the list is very different when comparing dogs to cats. Nothing against cats, but dogs are better 😉 just kidding…I also have a cat: Manny PacMEOW. Cool name, huh?

Life in medical school can be crazy, hectic, unpredictable,  stressful and challenging to say the least. Keep this in mind when choosing a type of dog. Obviously, having one of the most hyper breeds is probably not in your best interest but again, to each his own. One of my classmates had an Australian shepherd – she just made sure to always get an hour of exercise with her pup every day. This is something to keep in mind. Are you willing to give up 30 minutes or more a day to walk your pup/play with them at the park? For me, I take frequent study breaks and also like to work out so I essentially was killing two birds with one stone – working out and also walking my dog as my study break! Granted this might take an hour at most out of your day, but don’t forget about letting your puppy out in the morning, at lunch, and then again before bed. If you’re like Thor, you like to go outside as much as you can so sometimes you go out 4-5 times a day, all of which are about 5-10 minutes at a time which also needs to be factored into your schedule. If you’re not willing to get up an extra 15 minutes early to let your dog out before you have a full day of lecture from 8am-noon, getting a dog might not be for you. You are going to have some days where you are required to stay on campus from 8am-5pm even through lunch breaks and sometimes even later. Do you have a friend/roommate that can let your dog out if need be? If you don’t, you have to make other arrangements if that means getting up earlier like I said, racing home after lecture, finding a pet sitter or a doggy day care if you know you’re going to be gone all day, every day, and so on. There are no doggy daycares. 😦

Three words: pet friendly apartments. You’ll quickly learn that finding an apartment in med. school can be tough and it only gets tougher when you need to find a house fit for Fido. I got lucky and had an amazing town house and it was plenty spacious enough. Not only is it harder to find pet friendly apartments but is your breed on the safe list? Don’t get me started on the people that make these lists because it’s about how the dog is raised, not the entire breed. Plus Great Danes are known to be “gentle giants” and how they are on some aggressive breed lists determined by the landlord is beyond me. Like I said, don’t get me started. Furthermore, how much does your dog weigh? So many places have weight limits. Some apartments I was looking at had a limit of 50 pounds…which is basically what almost one of Thor’s legs weigh hahaha. Not only is it hard to find a place fitting all the requirements, but it will be MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE. You will be required to put down a pet deposit which is usually an extra month’s rent or more and will be required to pay for any damage by your pet, etc. To me, having my best friend to cuddle with every night is worth every penny, but if you aren’t willing to pay a couple extra bucks, again, a pet is probably not for you.

Speaking of cost, pets can be expensive. Thor’s food is around 50$ at least once a month. That doesn’t include treats, toys, vet bills, flea medicine, heartworm medicine, leashes, dog crates, food stands, feeding bowls, and the list goes on. All of this is something you need to budget when you get your loans in medical school and it can easily be done. You need to find a vet that is a good fit for both you and your pet in your town.

Are you the type that can only study on campus? This is an easy one. If you absolutely cannot study at home and get easily distracted, you probably shouldn’t get a dog. Now cats, fish, lizards, parrots etc. take significantly less time and attention. You never have to let a cat outside and can be gone all day with no guilt because cats basically take care of themselves – dogs, not so much. This is one of the most CRUCIAL factors to consider when weighing the options of bringing your pet/getting a pet in med.school. I study both on campus and at home and can adapt easily and also make a flexible schedule so when I needed to focus, I’d go spend several hours on campus but when I wanted to study at home, I kid you not, I’d literally recite my notes and try to teach my dog whatever I was learning. Hey, they say if you can teach it then you know it right?!

Training your dog should be a priority. Having a poorly behaved dog that chews up your notes when you go to a group review at the library is never fun, trust me, I know from experience. Again, this will require time and/or a trainer or at least someone with experience in handling/training dogs. This is something to consider – are you going to have time for an additional 15-20 minutes of training your dog during the day – whether that’s teaching them tricks, manners, rules, or socializing them, it’s extremely important to their lives and yours that you do so. If you’re bringing your dog from home who is already trained, your life just got A LOT easier. Can you imagine a Great Dane who stands 6’6” on his hind legs jumping up to greet your friends as they walk through the door? I can. A well behaved dog takes time, effort, and patience!

I’m going to be honest, at times it was very difficult to have Thor during medical school. Yes, he’s a Great Dane so my problems were a lot BIGGER than average. I either had to be in the anatomy lab all day and worried about how I’d make it home to let him out and then cleaned up pee or poop when I couldn’t find someone to let him out, or some days I  didn’t feel like taking him on a walk especially when we had 2 feet of snow outside, or when he chewed my beautiful Tory Burch ballet flats that I wore to clinicals (one of the worst days ever!) With that all being said, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. He is literally one of the biggest reasons I made it through my 1st and 2nd year. He has brought more joy to my life than I ever thought possible. Having him was a huge stress reliever. He taught me so much about responsibility and life and having him on a schedule kept me on a schedule and more organized. He was there for me when other humans weren’t and buying him was one of the best decisions I ever made. They say dog’s are a man’s best friend, but for this medical student, my dog is one of the greatest companions I’ve ever had in my life.

IMG_7678

I took this picture when I was quizzing myself on the kidneys and Thor was like “Please no more studying, Mom!”

IMG_9836.JPG

IMG_0650

I hope this post shed some light on owning a pet in medical school and can help you decide if getting a pet is for you! As always, if you have any questions or want to know more tweet me @StudentDrDiva or leave me comments below! 🙂

 

 

My Basic Beauty Essentials

Hi Guys! So I know I haven’t blogged in forever — SO SORRY! Med. school owns me, literally. Boards are approaching..you’ll understand when you get there and to all of you that have already been there, PROPS, I can’t wait until I’m in your shoes. Anyway, I got asked by several of you to post my skincare routine, beauty tips, and a few of my favorite products so here goes. I’m gonna go from the head and work my way to the toes just as I would in a head-to-toe exam 😉 haha, see what I did there?

Before I proceed, I have a few skin facts for you: your skin is the LARGEST ORGAN in your body. Therefore, I am very particular about what I put on it. You know the saying, “Don’t put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat”? I agree with that to some extent, of course I’d never eat my body wash but you get my point. Your skin absorbs up to 60% of what it touches – so whatever you put on it will get absorbed and go into your bloodstream. I use all organic or at least 100% natural skincare products, you just have to be careful because the term “natural” isn’t FDA regulated like organic.

Parabens, Pthalates, and Sulfates, OH MY! Parabens are very similar in chemical structure to Estrogen and even fit their receptors. When parabens bind to estrogen receptors, this can disrupt the endocrine system and cause breast cancer as well as other forms of cancer. Pthlates give plastic its elasticity – this is a no brainer, you don’t want any form of plastic entering your skin..again a risk for cancer. Sulfates can form carcinogenic nitrates which is also linked to cancer. These are all common products found in BRAND NAME beauty products! To each his own, I just personally don’t want any type of chemicals going into my skin. 🙂 ALL OF THE PRODUCTS MENTIONED BELOW ARE EITHER ORGANIC, OR 99-100% NATURAL!!

1.SHAMPOO & CONDITIONER – Some of my favorite brands are Organix, Gud, Jason’s, Burt’s Bee’s, Yes TO, and Wen. All of these products are either organic or natural in nature and don’t contain any artificial fragrances, perfumes, dyes, parabens, pthalates, petroleum, sulfates, etc. I have long hair and one of the most frequent compliments I get is on my hair. I’m currently using one of Organix’s new scents: Niacin & Caffeine and absolutely LOVE it! My hair has felt thicker, stronger, and more smooth. I’m also a huge fan of their biotin and collagen shampoo and conditioner. These are found at your local Wal-mart, Kroger, CVS, H-E-B, Amazon, their website. etc!

caffeine.jpgWEN.jpgOrganix.jpgyesto.png

2. BODY WASH – First, I ONLY use a real sea sponge. They are 100% natural, being found at the bottom of the ocean floor, are a renewable natural resource, eco-friendly, less abrasive than artificial sponges, exfoliate better, and don’t contain any added colors, chemicals, or toxins that artificial sponges contain. I recently just switched to these… I know, I used to love the colorful Bath & Body works sponges too. My current body wash is Gud’s by Burt’s Bee’s Mango Moonwash but I also love the Yes To body washes, the grapefruit Burt’s bee’s, and the Organix body washes. I love the Mango Moonwash scent of Gud’s, but then again, I love all of their scents! I get the sponge and bodywash from http://www.Amazon.com and use my student Prime 2 day FREE shipping!
sea spongegud-body-wash.jpg

3. Make-up Removal – Philosophy’s gel cleanser make-up removal is literally the best removal I’ve ever owned. It gets rid of all traces of make-up! It makes my face feel SO CLEAN and smooth. I do this step before I use my simple sugars green tea facial scrub.You can get it from Sephora, Ulta, Amazon, etc. I use the Yes To Eye Make-up Remover pads to get rid of any stubborn mascara marks and they work wonderfully! Also get them from either the Yes to site or from Amazon.

phil.jpg yes2remover.jpeg

4. Facewash/Facial Care – I don’t know if any of you watch the show “Shark Tank” but recently there was a company shown called “Simple Sugars.” I am obsessed. I am very prone to breakouts with my oily skin and STRESS, surprise right? I use the green tea facial scrub – it’s excellent at reducing inflammation, is a natural antibacterial, an excellent antioxidant, and makes my face soooo smooth after washing and has also cleared my break-outs. BTW I have NO TIES to any of these products and am not endorsed, these are just my honest opinions. 🙂 The only downfall is your skin can feel “greasy” if you use too much or if you’re not used to the feeling aka you are used to the “squeaky” antibacterial clean which strips your body’s natural oils and balance fyi. They also do body scrubs which I use a couple times a week. The smooth, soft feeling you get after using their scrubs is amazing – you literally DO NOT need to add lotion, that’s how silky you’ll feel but clearly you can if you like. I am a huge fan of the grapefruit scrub (the only one I’ve tried so far) but it’s also a very powerful antioxidant and even reduces the appearance of cellulite! I’m so excited to try the coffee and chocolate scrubs next! Below is a picture of my actual products I received from them, they come in cute pink packaging! HUGE FAN! You can get their products at http://www.simplesugarscrubs.com however I also love Alba’s organic facial wash to fight stubborn break outs, you can get it from Amazon! My 2 OR 3 step routine is usually the Philosophy make-up remover cleanser, Simple sugars green tea facial scrub, and THEN Philosophy’s RENEWED Hope in a jar (the original hope in a jar is much thicker and not as effective in my opinion) on very harsh, cold winter days when my face is dry. I ALSO add a weekly facial in my routine and my favorite thus far is the Alaskan Glacial Facial – Alaskan clay which is gathered from a river that carves through an Alaskan Glacier, it’s literally a glacial facial and all natural! I chose the peppermint lavender because it is so refreshing and rejuvenating. It makes my face feel soft, smell great, and removes blackheads, toxins, and impurities from my skin. I usually only do the 2 steps though because I’ve learned that the less I bother my face, the better. My skin type (on my face at least) is oily and gets aggravated very easily so I use as less product as possible (the body heals itself – notice the osteopathic concept? 😉 

simple sugars.jpghope.jpgalaska.jpg

5. Shaving Cream –  I love how smooth EOS makes my legs feel after shaving, and I love even more that they’re chemical free, no animal products, no artificial colors, parabens, etc..you get my drift by now. Far better than any Skintimate or Silk brand. eos-shave-cream.jpg

6. Lotion – You can see the trend here, my favorite lotions are Organix, Burt’s Bee’s, Yes to, and EOS. My current lotion is the cherry blossom and rice milk. The scent is amazing. I love all three scents but I always like to switch it up each month and go from brand to brand.lotion.jpgyes2lot.jpg

7. Deodorant – I’ve searched high and low for a product like this. Again, if any of you are Shark Tank fans, then you know what product I’m talking about. Piperwai! I’ve tested it short and long term and it actually WORKS as an anti-perspirant and deodorant. I compared it to Tom’s natural deodorant I’ve had previously which worked as a deodorant but wasn’t an anti-perspirant..I don’t recommend it. But Piperwai is a natural cream charcoal with NO aluminums (aluminums are also linked to breast cancer and other forms of cancer), no parabens, no pthlates, no chemicals etc. It rubs in CLEAR and works ALL DAY! I compared it to Dove (what I had before Piperwai) and found that it actually worked better! Who knew?!

piperwai1piper2.jpg

Whatever you do, you’re going to be in your own skin until you die. That’s a while. Might as well get comfortable in it! 🙂 Stay tuned for my favorite make-up products and tips in the very near future! Hope you guys enjoyed this! XOXO -M.

How To Study in Medical School

Hi guys!

So I know I’ve promised a blog, I just haven’t gotten around to it. I figured I’d have time during fall break, but here we are 🙂 A lot of you have been asking for new study methods, how life is in medical school, and how I’m managing my time, etc. so I figured this blog will be a hodgepodge of sorts hopefully covering everything. My study methods and habits have changed dramatically and by this I mean completely different from what I’ve ever done before. I took a class that teaches you specifically how to study for medical school and pharmacy school, whichever pertains to you and I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned how to schedule, take tests, study in general, organize my space and time, and balance my life so that I can spend time with my friends and family and do well in school. I’m gonna give you a bit of information of how this all works.

Before every single class or directed study, which is basically a lecture or reading we have to teach our self (any assignments in general that aren’t lectures), I do a process called frameworking. Frameworking takes about 10 minutes for every hour lecture, or 20 for a 1.5-2 hour lecture etc. You get the picture. Basically all you’re doing is decoding what the presenter is trying to teach you. You’re figuring out the basic and main ideas of each lecture, the highlights and most important points, and where the bulk of the information is coming from. You set your timer to 10 minutes and begin by flipping through the lecture to see the flow, how it’s organized, and what will be talked about. There are several different types of frameworks – I use outlines primarily but I’ve used webs and cascades more here recently. Some people use only webs and cascades, others use only outlines etc. It depends on the lecture and format and how your brain is designed to perceive this new information. Once you get the basic idea down, depending on the type of framework you’re using, you get to work. With an outline, you put the main idea in black or whichever color you choose. For a web, you put your main idea in a bubble in the middle of the page or the top etc. The key for choosing a color will show you the layers into the presentation and the levels of detail. Your first pass should always be the same color, second pass another, third pass another color. You won’t get more than 3 passes usually within those 10 minutes looking over the material. The idea with this is it’s giving you a guideline/map before you ever go into lecture. How many people see a packet of 100 slides and get overwhelmed and have no idea how anything fits or relates to each other and then have a hard time differentiating the details between all of this mumbo jumbo? THIS GIRL. But with my framework, if I ever get off topic I go and check my map and see where we are in lecture. Every “ping” I make back to my map while taking notes on the handout solidifies information. Back to the colors, for example if our main idea of a lecture is bone diseases, that would go in black. Our second pass tells us that there are different types – osteogenesis imperfecta, osteoporosis, achondroplasia etc. those would all be in blue (again or whichever color you use, I’m just showing what I do) then your third pass which is more detail would be in red, and your fourth in green etc. The key is to NOT READ the slides! YOU ARE NOT READING TO LEARN. You are reading to decode and find main key points, how it all ties together, and the BIG OVERALL PICTURE. Your active learning will be in class the next day (or if you stay at home, during the audio). You want to do this as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Back to the layout, bone diseases are our black bubble in center of the page, in blue are the bubbles around it which are the types of bone diseases. In red coming off of those blue bubbles are the etiology, risk factors, etc. & in green is even more detail. I’ll post a picture online of examples if need be. This is NOT A CONCEPT MAP. Let me be clear. Concept maps are done after you’ve studied, been to lecture, read, etc. and make connections and big elaborate pictures. You are getting the basic layout of every lecture or handout you’re given which can be HUGE for detail people like me. Take home points: e is fast and you should have a physical timer in front of you, frameworking is NOT reading in advance and it’s NOT about learning, you must concretely write them out on a blank sheet of paper and it CANNOT BE MORE THAN ONE PAGE, cannot include details only categorical placeholders, you are finished when your timer goes off, and do not bog it down with any details since this washes out the organizational structure, if your framework is wrong or unclear – fix it, if you don’t know where something goes – put it in its own separate box and figure it out during lecture, this MUST be done 24 hours before the lecture – either the day of or night before. Pictures below: of outlines and a web.

nZmYlDsBySarSTYY

After frameworking, which I refuse to go into lecture without one ever again, I attend the lecture. I take notes, although I do not take very many. I only take those deemed important. NOT EVERY WORD THAT THE PROFESSOR SAYS IS IMPORTANT. Note that. I used to be a crazy note taker trying to write every single word that they say. If you do this, you are not learning anything actually. You’re basically a typewriter. and you’re not getting hardly anything out of lecture. Sit back in class, really try to absorb and think about how it all makes sense and what is being discussed. Usually you’ll have clues about what’s really important and what you need to study for tests. Also, a  lot of the information they are talking about is on your slide just in different words. I pay attention, I leave my phone in my bag or away from me to avoid distractions and really clue in on what’s important. After lecture, I go home and dynamically read and mark what I’ve done for the day. This is step 3! First step is frameworking, second step is attending lecture or listening to it. Also, dynamic reading and marking  is not highlighting willy-nilly. This is also an active process. I only highlight what’s written in red, underlined, or bold by the professors or I highlight in layers according to my basic framework. You shouldn’t have more than a couple of points highlighted for each page. You are not trying to decorate your lectures. AVOID EXCESSIVE HIGHLIGHTING!! Another point some people miss inadvertently, if professors took time out to underline or bold anything, you better believe there’s a reason. KNOW IT. I underline in red what’s important, numerate things in blue for example if you’re given a big paragraph of symptoms, I’ll number all of them. What’s KEY for me is marginal questions. From each slide I’ll pick a question, sometimes two, on what’s most important. For example: going back to bone diseases: my question on a slide would be “What’s the mechanism of achondroplasia etc.” I’ll have about 3 marginal questions per page (usually my slides are 3 to a page) but no more than 5 questions because you don’t wanna get crazy with it. Also within your reading and marking you can create character maps – for example: maybe making a superhero out of Calcitonin and calling him Calvin and drawing how he affects blood Calcium etc. To sum up dynamically reading and marking: underline what’s important in whatever color you choose (for me it’s red), numerate (for me it’s in blue), annotate (in green for me), make maps, highlight, draw things, write marginal questions for yourself, and summarize. It takes some time, but it’s a much more active process than re-reading pages from a book over and over and not getting anything from it. This REALLY works for reading assignments they give us. It also is more beneficial than just going through the lecture material and highlighting anything.

After dynamically reading and marking, I’ll go back to my original framework and retrofit it. This means I’ll add anything I missed the first time around, which is usually a good bit but the key here is to not write everything down. For example: the types of Osteogenesis Imperfecta – you wouldn’t write out all 4 types and everything about them because that gives you a FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY. You’re reading over the information being “Mhm, yeah ok I know that. I got it” then you’re put in a testing situation and you’re like “ummmm, what was that again?” Instead of writing all of the types out, you’d write Types (4) and leave it at that so later on when you self test, you can force yourself to recall the different types and distinguish them from one another. I do this for every framework I make. Once I’m done with frameworking, attending, dynamically reading and marking, then retrofitting, I’m done with the material and just self-test daily before the exam. Self-testing is key to everything which brings me to my last point in the process.

PRACTICE RETRIEVAL: WHAT TAKES A B TO AN A. There are 4 basic types I’ve learned: basic self-test, timed self-lecture, framework self-test, and voice flash cues. I don’t use voice flash cues but those are simply making questions on your phone or ipod and pausing, trying to answer them and then checking to see if you’re right by listening to the answer. These are great for workouts, commuting, anywhere on the go when you don’t have any notes handy. Basic self test is just choosing your material – a chart, concept, etc. and writing it down on dry erase board, paper etc. then checking. The timed lecture is taking 3 minutes and writing down everything you know about a certain item, topic, lecture etc. and then self-checking to see what you missed. It is the same as the basic self test but with a timer and under pressure like in a test situation. The framework self test is doing what I mentioned earlier – writing the causes down of a disease for example there’s 4 causes, and then going through and trying to remember those causes, but you do it for each slide of the lecture or point on your framework. You can use any of these 4 methods of practice retrieval at any time during your study block – so if you’re falling asleep because you hate immunology and are bored, start a self-test. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS SELF TEST! It’s better to figure out what you don’t know now and force yourself to recall versus getting to a test and it showing you what you do not know. Trust me.

That is my basic study sequence. Framework. Attend lecture. Dynamically read and mark. Retrofit/Condense/Make notes or maps. Self-test. It’s done wonders! This brings me to time management. Each study block should be 50 minutes, no more or less. You should have a timer and have zero disruptions during this time. No cell phone, no web surfing, no social media, no not even playtime with your puppy. Those 50 minutes are devoted solely to trying to learn new information and make it into long-term memory. This cannot be accomplished with multiple distractions. With every ping of your iphone, even subconsciously your thoughts are being directed elsewhere even for a split second. This causes problems when trying to encode new information into your memory. Do not go more than 4 study blocks of 50 minutes and make sure you take 10 minute breaks after each 50 minutes. This keeps you on track, lets you know how much you’ve accomplished in less than an hour, and also gives your mind a break. The breaks are crucial. Don’t skip them and think you’re fine because if you do you start to not be as focused and lose minute details when encoding. I recommend keeping a schedule. Some people do, some don’t. I have my days marked down to the half hour. I keep an IDEAL vs. REAL schedule and have tables set up Sunday through Monday. Do I follow it rigorously? I try to yes but I don’t kill myself if I don’t. I mark down what I did instead – so if I went grocery shopping instead of my study block I was supposed to have, I’ll mark it down. Here’s an example of color coded ideal vs. real schedule. Note: I have abbreviations for everything. PS: Personal study, EX: exercise, S: Sleep, LEC: lecture, R&R: rest and relaxation, M: Maintenance – getting ready, and traveling to and from places, etc.

qJmg1NuU

I also recommend keeping a personal study agenda. This is different from a to-do list. It only has things to do concerning academics. You have a daily agenda – get a small notebook from wal-mart or something and write things you need to do for the day or after lecture. Do not put anything that doesn’t have to do with school! Attached is a picture as your example. My notebook is sparkly, obviously.

BQd3Hv8u

As for other methods such as memory palaces and character maps, these can be saved for another blog. This is already lengthy enough and covers all the basics. I’ll send the other blog out pretty soon. Plus you guys will really enjoy my crazy character maps for biochem intracellular signaling – the JAK STAT pathway involves jack in the boxes in case you’re wondering but I didn’t miss a question on that quiz so it works 🙂 if you’re current study methods are working, don’t change them! But if you need a boost, need different methods, are struggling etc. try these and don’t ever hesitate to get help –> Promedeus or the STAT program are 2 great programs I recommend! All of the above methods are courtesy of Ryan Orwig from the STAT Program. I did not make any of these up, these are his that he created and has designed specifically for medical and pharmacy students as well as pre-med, pre-vet etc. All credit goes to him. If you’re interested in his program, google him and his site will pop up. It was the best money I ever spent. Never in life do I ever worry about failing a test because I have the proper tools and techniques to keep me from doing so. Now I only try to get A’s 🙂 Hope this helps anyone out there!

Until next time,

XOXO,

Med. school queen.

MCAT: The Struggle

The dreaded MCAT… many shudder at the mere mumbling of the word. I, unfortunately, am one of those people. While many changes are on the way for the new and improved MCAT of 2015, I still would never want to sit through that exam again. Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of tweets in regards to the MCAT. Many of you are studying for it, getting ready to take it or maybe re-take it, applying to medical school, and for some this is your first time even hearing about it. One particular tweet stuck out to me though and it reads “I don’t have a 4.0, I didn’t get a 40 on my MCAT, I’ll never get accepted to medical school now.” I’m about to unfold why this statement is so absurd, and the pressure that this individual has put on themselves for thinking that requirements like this exist, is unreasonable. Yet I, too, was one of those individuals.

I’m a small town girl from a small state with about one million people in the state’s entirety. There are two Allopathic medical schools (M.D.) and one Osteopathic medical school (D.O.). For most U.S. medical schools, at least a 24 on the MCAT, an average of 8 in each section, is required to even be considered for an interview, which means you won’t get passed the first round if you don’t have at least an 8 in all categories. Sure some can get away with a 12 in 2 categories and a 7 in one, etc, but a lot of that is about who you know – and that’s life. There will always be outliers. Both M.D. schools in my state required a 24, the D.O. school did not have a minimum requirement, but had more students applying than both of the M.D. schools combined. Do note that just because the D.O. school did not have a minimum requirement, its average MCAT score was about the same as both M.D. schools. Granted, this D.O. school takes about twice as many students as the M.D. schools, an average class size of 200+ so there is a greater MCAT range. Guess who was at the bottom of that range? This girl.

My best MCAT score I ever received was a 19. “A 19, are you serious?!?” Yeah, dead serious. There, I said it. I’m not ashamed because guess what? I GOT ACCEPTED to my FIRST CHOICE school! I’m the perfect example of why one test score does not showcase an individual’s true potential, and that WE ARE MUCH MORE THAN A NUMERICAL VALUE ON A STANDARDIZED EXAM. My MCAT was my only flaw in my application, and yet somehow, with such a low score, they saw past this, and saw me for the sum of my parts, not an individual component. I might’ve aced an interview, but that’s for another day 😉

Here’s how it went down. My undergraduate school is a state funded school, no Ivy league, nothing special; it has less than 2,000 students total. We didn’t have a pre-med program, there was one “pre-med/pre-vet/pre-dental” etc. for the entire group of science majors wanting to continue their education in healthcare. Getting a couple of tips from my pre-med advisor, I thought taking the MCAT would be a breeze. “What, I only need a 24 on a scale of 1-45? That will be a piece of cake. I’ll at least get a 30.” WRONG. I went in to the exam comparing the fact that I had aced my courses in my biology major, done well on the ACT entrance exam to get into college, and had always been good at math and science and would do just fine, and I didn’t need to study. This is  flawed thinking that I would like to address that NO ONE should have. I took the exam, never studied at all for it, got an 18. I was somewhat appalled, but more shocked than anything. Now that I think about it, that’s not too terrible considering I guessed on about 75% of the physics and chemistry portion. Yikes. 

How could I get that low when I knew so many things? Obviously I attributed it to the fact I didn’t study at all, chalked it up as a loss, and scheduled to retake it. When I say didn’t study at all, I truly mean DID NOT study at all. No review book, no notes, went in cold. This was in the spring. My plan for retaking it was not even a plan, really. I bought a review book from Barnes and Noble, Baron’s I believe and I don’t recommend. It had a CD on it with a practice exam, I took it once and got a 28. My thoughts exactly, “Hey, that’s pretty good for not studying. If I just got a 28 on this practice exam, I’ll surely do better this next time!” Wrong again. I copied a few notes down from each of the sections, avoiding physics and math because I hated the subject and found it very difficult (something I also don’t recommend) and that’s about it. I retook the exam, this time I received one point higher, my now famous score of 19.

Fears flooded my mind followed by many tears wondering how it all happened, thinking I wasn’t smart enough to get into medical school, and wondering if my life-long dreams were crushed. I was helpless, I felt depressed, discouraged, and lost. If any of you are at this point, it does get better, I promise you! After doing some heavy meditating, talking to schools having already applied, and scheduling my MCAT for a 3rd and final try, I decided to break down and join a KAPLAN course. My friend was already enrolled, I won’t mention her score but it was worse than mine. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to take this course thought extremely expensive, but I will tell you now, it did me more harm than good. It works for some, for my friend, it raised her score a few points, but for me, my score worsened. How could it worsen you ask? You don’t wanna know.

To make a long story short, I interviewed with my 19. Of course they drilled me on the fact that it was so low, and asked where I went wrong, what did I do or would do differently to raise it, and mainly what happened, and I was honest with them. Honesty goes a long way and really is the best policy, especially in interviews. I explained to them that I did not think I had to study for it, and that my accumulation of knowledge from passed coursework with flying colors would suffice. One professor laughed actually, one of the same professors I have now (how ironic) and I proceeded to make a joke out of it, which is what my score is in the grand scheme of things: a joke, because even though it’s low, NO ONE CARES. It doesn’t matter now that I got in, although it was one of my major hoops I had to jump through to get into the spot I am today.

So, with all that being said, and recognizing another struggle I’ve gone through to get here, I’m here to help any of you in need (please don’t ask me to tutor you in physics though HAHA). For those of you pre-meds that this is your first time hearing about the MCAT, I do encourage you to do your research, mainly on http://www.AAMC.org and get a feel of what you will be diving into. Also, talk to peers, previous students that have taken it, get some study tips from them, and TALK to your advisor but seriously listen to them! Take what they have to heart and APPLY it. Make an agenda. You can take the MCAT anytime, but most take it in the spring of their junior year right before they apply that summer for medical school. This gives them adequate amount of time to complete all of the pre-requisites required for the MCAT and medical school. You should order a review series, I did purchase Examkrackers at the last minute, and it seemed to be the best out of the bunch for me. I loved the cartoon characters and it made it somewhat fun, although this is not my term of fun, it wasn’t as daunting. Kaplan does work for some like  I mentioned, some use Berkley Springs or Princeton Review, it’s all up to you but choose ONE source and stick to it! For those of you taking the pre-reqs now, it’s never too early to start studying. Use those books to complement your studying and truly help solidify the material. If you’re struggling and having difficulties with subjects, talk to your professors! Never be afraid to ask for help! And if you need further education because face it, some professors in undergrad downright are terrible, then take a course! Whether it’s Examkrackers, Kaplan, in person, online, whatever, do what you need to do, just make sure you have sufficient funds to do so.

Here are 10 top tips to study for the MCAT: (note: some overlap with above said comments)

1. Create a plan of attack. Make a step by step study plan. The MCAT is not something you can cram in one night, trust me. Make a study schedule, daily, weekly, and monthly. Promise yourself, and me, that you will stick to it and follow it religiously! This is YOUR JOB. Buy a planner. Usean agenda, map out what concepts of each subject need to be covered. Outline the chapters, make concept maps, memory palaces, some review books come with flashcards, set a designated time to study for it each day. No distractions! Sorry, not even reading my blog or tweets 😉 heehee. Seriously, you’ll thank me later.

2. Find a review source or use your old notes and textbooks tailored to your personal needs. Just because your friend is using Kaplan doesn’t mean you have to. One is not better than the other, people succeed with various sources, some use none at all and strictly textbooks from college. It just depends on how you want to study and what methods you want to use. Systematically review, don’t cram.

3. Take practice exams! For 35$ a test, AAMC offers practice exams with past questions on them! Great investment of your money! Simulate your testing environment so you get used to taking the exam in the same conditions: no distractions, one room, no snacks, scheduled breaks etc.

4. Analyze. Go over your practice tests, see which questions you got wrong, and analyze why you chose that answer, your though process, did you know the content or was it a test taking mistake? Did you read the question? Track your progress and keep a log. Don’t kill yourself if your scores are not where you want them to be. Relax, you’ll get there with a lot of hard work, time and dedication.

5. Get in shape physically! While your mind is getting in shape preparing for the exam, get in shape physically! DO NOT cut out meals, exercise, sleep, etc. just to cram in as much studying as possible. This will set you up for failure and with a proper schedule, there’s no need to cut any of this out. Physical exercise increases blood flow to the brain, improves memory, and increases concentration are just a few among a plethora of good things fitness does for us! Eat healthy also – your body needs to run on good fuel, you wouldn’t put regular gasoline in a Lamborghini would you? No. Don’t put crap into your body! Your body and MIND will thank you!

6. Get in shape emotionally! Taking the MCAT is a mind-numbing, daunting task that is more than 5 hours long, give or take. Set time for yourself to meditate, pray, relax, each day! If you have anxiety, find ways to rid this. De-stress by performing a variety of activities (ahem, see tip 5). Take scheduled breaks but don’t get carried away. Study 50 minutes, off ten in 4 hour increments.

7. Find a study buddy. Odds are, your friends will be taking it too! Go to the library, you don’t necessarily have to study together, but make yourselves accountable for the material by studying in the same room. Studying alone is great but you can learn so much from another person and they can also from you! Keep your study group to a minimum, no more than 4 people. It’s important to keep good group dynamics and more than 4 sets up for easier distraction. Keep a time limit, keep everyone on task, and make it a scheduled activity.

8. Familiarize yourself. The MCAT is like no other test. Research it, learn it, live it, love it. While you do need to know the content, you need to know how to take it! Brush up on your test-taking techniques and improve on them. Taking the test is one thing, knowing the material is another.

9. Plan your test day. Think positive thoughts! Always! Plan everything out. Get a good night’s rest a couple days before, try not to stress, get up early that day, have a good breakfast with complex carbs for long-lasting energy, bring healthy snacks, avoid a lot of caffeine, drink water, and dress comfortably. Know where the testing center is so you can avoid any confusion or traffic the day of. It’s amazing what being in a calm, proper mindset can do for you.

10. Consult your colleagues. It helps to get a view from someone else’s eyes. Talk to students that have taken it before, talk to your teachers, anyone that knows about it. It can put your mind at ease. If you don’t wanna discuss your scores with others, don’t! It’s no one’s business but your own. However, it is very beneficial and insightful to learn from others and see where they went wrong so you can improve yourself! —> Hi 🙂

In conclusion, if any of you are discouraged by your score or are struggling, thinking it’s the end of the world, don’t fret, don’t think you aren’t smart enough because you are. They say the score is supposed to be a helpful indication of how well you’ll do in medical school and that’s not necessarily true. Example being: I know a guy who got a 21. He graduated 3RD in his class of 120 students from medical school. That’s a HUGE accomplishment. So many pre-meds think you have to get a 45 on the MCAT or you’re finished, can only take it once etc. Don’t think your career is over, because it probably isn’t. Is it harder to get in with a lower score? Absolutely, so make sure your app is a killer. But is it impossible? No! Look at me, with my silly 19, taken more than once, that no one ever knew about until now. Not every app is perfect and if yours contains flaws, so what. You’re unique. You’re HUMAN. NO ONE is perfect, and don’t kill yourself trying to be. Whatever you do, don’t count yourself out. Where there is a will, there’s a way, and you CAN get in somewhere, whether it’s M.D., D.O. in or outside the U.S. etc. just promise me that you’ll never give up on your dreams.

XOXO

The highs and lows of medical school..

Hi everyone.

I’ve been debating on whether to update you on my story or just keep going, and I don’t think it would be fair to leave you guys hangin, so here goes. I started medical school in the fall of 2013. August 2, in fact. Unfortunately, I got called the day of orientation to be accepted, and had to pack my bags and be down there the next day. Having my slight hesitation being overwhelmed with the fact that I just got accepted to medical school in state, I accepted and went. I can remember the day like it was yesterday. I got the call and thought in the back of my head, what if this is the school? & I also didn’t know anyone from there besides the medical school. I didn’t have good service at my house so I stepped outside, answered the call, they told me I had a seat for the class of 2017 if I wanted it, and I dropped to my knees in joy, thanking and praising God. I worked my last shift at work, and packed all night into the early morning.

My mom assisted me and drove me down the next morning which is about a 3.5 hour drive. I was running on no sleep, was not hungry, my stomach was in knots because I was so nervous and anxious and still thrilled about being accepted. I got there the first day of orientation, only knowing one person. As I found my seat next to my friend from undergrad, we sat in the back row…our class size is about 230 mind you, so the lecture hall was huge. I went to all of my assigned activities, but started to get really dizzy, nauseous, and weak. THERE WAS SO MUCH TO DO. I had to set up financial aid, find an apartment, get my laptop, keys, etc.etc. buy books, FILL OUT MOUNDS OF PAPERWORK, and I managed to get most of it accomplished. My mom even lucked out and found an apartment THAT DAY. Keep in mind, this is the next day after they called me telling me I was accepted. So after having an eventful day, getting sick, vomiting in the bushes so none of my classmates would see me (HOW EMBARRASSING), I decided I’d had enough for one day and was ready to come home to get the rest of my things. We packed up and headed home that night, still sick, I had to pack the rest of my things because I was headed back to school the following day for good.

I moved everything into my apartment thanks to my wonderful parents and got squared away…the entire first week of classes. I felt behind from day 1, and I was to be honest. I had a hard time adjusting not only to the coursework, but new surroundings, new environment, people, life in general. It was hard, but I managed to pass my first course and get it together (barely).

In September, starting our second course of SKIN/Musculoskeletal, we had to learn the entire list of nerves, muscles, arteries, veins in both of the upper and lower limbs and the back. HELLO BRACHIAL PLEXUS. Anyway, we had to accomplish this in FOUR DAYS. FOUR DAYS!!! It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but that’s med. school. Anyway, the ball kept rolling. However, I was hit again with another unfortunate event. I got a call from a friend telling me that my best friend died in a car crash unexpectedly. She was my best friend in the entire world. Dying at my age, 22, knowing how short and precious life could be, I never dealt with death before and it hit me hard. I failed that exam, which meant failing the course. I had never dealt with failure before, ever, but nonetheless I picked myself up and kept moving along trying to bury my emotions because medical school WAITS FOR NO ONE.

After that course ended, we moved on to cardio/respiratory. I was doing okay in this course, still struggling to stay caught up, with Angela (my best friend) in the back of my mind. My grandmother (62 years old, who has no wrinkles and blonde hair — not your typical old grandma) got suddenly very ill. Her hip transplant was recalled and leaked substantially high levels of metal into her blood. She got an infection and was hospitalized. This too weighed heavily on my mind because she meant the world to me. She lived right beside my house, as you can imagine, I went to her house every single day from the time I could walk. While she had to go through many hip surgeries, and developed an infection that even vancomycin could not conquer, her time came as well, and I had to say goodbye. I raced from my apartment in school, getting permission from the dean to be excused from yet another test to make-up (the month before I was in the same situation with my best friend passing) and rushed to the hospital as fast as I could. Remember the 3.5 hour drive it takes from my home to medical school? I made it in 2.5 hours but I was too late, and although she was still alive, her blood pressure was 60/30 while she was on 3x the recommended dose of vasopressin, and two other blood pressure medicines that I could not remember. She passed away, needless to say, the test I had the week after, I failed as well. This too, meant failing the course so here was my dilemma.

At my school, you can fail up to two classes and re-take them in the summer. If you pass them, you continue on with your class. But if you fail more than two classes, you either repeat the entire year or they can ask you to not come back. I had passed one, failed two. So I asked myself…do I continue, knowing my mind is elsewhere, having a hard time dealing with the deaths of two extremely important individuals in my life, do I continue to just get by, barely pass? Do I continue to go on, knowing I’ve failed two classes, haven’t changed my study habits, and could possibly fail a 3rd and be in a position that they would ask me to leave? OR do I take a semester off, clear my head, better prepare myself for next year, allow myself time to mourn and grieve, handle all of my personal issues and family issues and come back better than ever ready to kill it? Do I take care of myself, learn from my mistakes, realize what problems I faced, overcome these, and come back? And I did. I took personal leave. I did not fail out, nor did I quit. The dean granted my personal leave, gave me his sincerest sympathies, and told me my spot was saved for the class of 2018 when I am ready to return.

I’m a strong believer in everything happening for a reason and timing. This year was just not my time. From getting called the day of orientation, 2 back to back family deaths, the odds were stacked against me. I do know God has a plan for me though, and I’m sticking to it. Here’s what has happened recently. I’ve cleared my head, I’ve been working, I already have a house for next fall with two amazing roommates and will be in the class of 2018 also! Did I tell you these apartments are the nicest in town and I envied them last year! SCORE! I already have roommates, people I know, friends, and I signed up for a class which teaches you specifically how to study for medical school and pharmacy school because I can assure you, some of the techniques that worked in undergrad will fail you in medical school trying to learn and memorize so much information. Everything is in order, all of my paperwork is completed, and I am on the ball ready to get back in class come July! I do have to repeat the entire year, including the course that I already passed. But THIS fall, I am prepared, know what to expect, have a clear mind and heart, know what I need to do, am much more strong, able, and persistent, and determined to be the best physician I can possibly be.

So all in all, I’m being honest about my story, what’s happened, and to show you guys that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. This is why I haven’t been tweeting much medical-related info lately if you’ve been noticing. I just didn’t feel right not being in class, so I only retweeted what you all would send to me and of course tweet encouraging positive things to you guys!  I feel like I needed this break from medicine, I needed these struggles and challenges so I can help others who have ever been in this same situation or might be in the future (though I wish that on no one!) I needed all of these adversities and difficulties because at the end of the day, it will only make me a stronger physician. I can truly sympathize with a family over a death of a patient now, because I’ve experienced it firsthand. I’ve experienced failure, something I have never seen in my life, everything coming so easy to me. This was the first true adversity I’ve ever had in my life, and for that I am privileged to have been through so much, learned so much already, and know exactly what I have to do in order to succeed! I hope my story inspires you, and lets you know that it’s OKAY to not be perfect!! It’s OKAY to fail sometimes. It’s OKAY to not have a deadline on your dreams and to take life as it comes. It’s OKAY to step back and take care of YOURSELF! Because if you learn from your failures, well, then they weren’t really failures at all were they? 🙂

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed on an equal or greater benefit.” Success is the result of perfection, hard work, LEARNING FROM FAILURE, loyalty, and persistence. Remember that! Thank you guys for reading, continue to work hard to get where you’re going. BELIEVE in yourself and ALL that you are capable of doing, because I promise you’re capable of so much more than you give yourself credit for.

A Med. Student’s gift list!

So, this is a super late post, and it’s after the holidays, but I wrote this a year ago and thought I should share it. These are items I wanted and asked for during Christmas last year. Here is a list of my items, all of which I either already received or have yet to buy that are perfect for anyone in medicine!

1. This was at the top of my list: Keurig! I received the Keurig “Elite” for Christmas! I kept switching between this, the Mini, and the new Vue – but I am obsessed with Dunkin and Starbucks, and the Vue is so new, that K-cups are incompatible so that was a huge NO and the mini was too small and not as efficient/diverse as the Elite!

Feautures:

  • Automatic
  • Choice of 3 cup sizes (6 oz., 8 oz. and 10 oz.)
  • Removable 48 oz. water reservoir
  • Quiet Brew Technology®
  • Energy Savings Mode – Auto Off

*The Elite Brewing System brews a perfect cup of coffee, tea, hot cocoa or iced beverage in under one minute at the touch of a button. With the choice of three cup sizes, the Elite brewer offers a removable drip tray to accommodate travel mugs –> ALL OF MY TUMBLERS! 🙂 PRICE: $119.95 @WWW.KEURIG.COM

2. Gray’s Anatomy – no, not the TV show, although I would love to own every season of Grey’s, this is the medical reference written by the world famous surgeon, Dr. Henry Gray and illustrated by H.V. Carter. I’ve started flipping through the pages and it is easily one of my favorites so far! Extremely detailed, fascinating, informative, and interesting. PRICE: $27.48

*This is an attractively designed edition of “Gray’s Anatomy”, the scientific and artistic triumph. Kept in print by its clarity and usefulness, the text features sumptuous illustrations and clear, matter-of-fact descriptions. This exquisite version of the text will make an elegant addition to any home library. “Gray’s Anatomy” is a phenomenally well-known title and with good reason; it is a scientific and artistic triumph. Not just a dry index of parts and names, Gray’s lets the natural beauty and grace of the body’s interconnected systems and structures shine forth from the page. Using sumptuous illustrations and clear, matter-of-fact descriptions, Dr. Gray unleashed a classic on the world more than 100 years ago. Its clarity and usefulness keep it in print today. Whether you want to understand yourself or others, knowledge of our physical parts and how they fit together is essential. “Gray’s Anatomy” provides that information in a simple, timeless format that cleanly dissects a body of knowledge grown over centuries. This book will not only fill the needs of people in the medical profession, but will please artists and naturalists as well. Part of the “Leatherbound Classics” series, this volume is an attractively designed edition bound in genuine bonded leather.
Gray's Anatomy (Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics)
3. Gray’s Anatomy Coloring book to match and I cannot wait to get some free time to start coloring! PRICE: $9.36 *For those who find the human body to be fascinating look no further! Compiled are some of the best drawings taken from the famous book of anatomy, Gray’s Anatomy (1858), by the late anatomist and surgeon, Henry Gray. With more than 85 illustrations to color, it’s easy to understand what
goes on inside you!
Start Exploring: Gray's Anatomy: A Fact-Filled Coloring Book
4. Physiology coloring book – what better way to reinforce physiology concepts than to color? This is written by Wynn Kapit, Robert Macey, & Esmail Meisami. I Cannot WAIT to start coloring in this one either. PRICE: $12.81 *This coloring book offers an enjoyable, highly effective way for students to learn physiology. Topics are covered in self-contained two-page spreads, allowing students to easily focus on the material being presented. A unique combination of introductory material, names and illustrations to be colored, and substantive captions deliver a comprehensive, yet easy-to-understand, treatment of physiology. The Physiology Coloring Book is the companion to the extremely successful Anatomy Coloring Book , which has sold more than 2.5 million copies.
The Physiology Coloring Book (2nd Edition)
5.  The Anatomy Coloring book – why get two you wonder? Because I know I’ll fill up the one, get bored, and need another. So this is my second one, written by Wynn Kapit and Lawrence Elson. PRICE: $14.59. *For over 23 years, The Anatomy Coloring Book has been the leading human anatomy coloring book, offering concisely written text and precise,  extraordinary hand-drawn figures. Organized according to body systems, each of
the 170 plates featured in this book includes an ingenious color-key system
anatomical terminology is linked to detail illustration of the structures of the
body.
6. DOCTOR BARBIE – “I CAN BE” set – “I Can Be Kid Doctor” – If you know me, you have know how awesomely insane this item is to me. This was my FAVORITE GIFT, every Med. school queen’s or pre-med princess’ dream gift!  No, I’m not gonna play with this Barbie, and honestly won’t even take her out of the package. She’ll sit on my desk and look pretty and be my motivation! I literally called every surrounding Wal-Mart for Dr. Barbie this year’s edition, but after seeing her online, I realized this one was the prettiest, and did I mention she was my avi on twitter? SOLD. PRICE: $39
7. Prestige Medical Hearbeat Socks – cozy, comfy, and medically accurate, what more could you ask for? I cannot wait to slide my feet into these – how cute are they? PRICE: $4.90
8.  Big Mouth Toys The Prescription Coffee Mug! If you’re pre-med, you most likely love coffee. This is a fun way to drink it! Who needs their prescription refilled? PRICE: $13
9. 14K Gold Caduceus Earrings. I love jewelry, and I only wear Yellow Gold. Yeah, I’d prefer 24K gold but hey, these were the only Caduceus yellow gold earrings I could find and I’m in love!  Literally obsessed with these Caduceus earrings and cannot wait to put them in my ears! They’re gonna look great next to my pearls! PRICE: $46.36 *This is a beautiful new pair of 14 karat yellow gold Caduceus earrings. These are a great gift for yourself or a loved one and make the perfect addition to any jewelry collection.     “Stay beautiful and confident, wear 14K gold.”      STYLE- Symbols  KARAT- 14 Karat  METAL COLOR- Yellow  IMPORT/ ITALY/ USA-  STAMPED- 14K  SOLID/ PUFFED- Solid  FINISH- Textured  APPROXIMATE LENGTH- 12 mm (1/2″)  APPROXIMATE WIDTH- 8 mm (5/16″)  APPROXIMATE WEIGHT- 0.51 grams
10. Giant Microbes Stomach Ache (Shigella) Giant plush doll – These are 1,000,000x their actual size! Clearly, everyone knows Microbiology was one of my favorite subjects! Most girls cuddle with a teddy bear, I cuddle with Shigella. How adorable is he? It includes a hangtag with an image and fun and educational facts about the typical stomach ache! PRICE: $29.95 *Having a stomach ache can be loads of fun … if it’s a Giantmicrobe, of course!  (And this one will tell you how to keep his friends away.) Perfect teaching tool for parents, educators, health, medical and science professionals! Great gift for teachers, doctors, collectors, kids of all ages, and anyone with a healthy sense of humor!
@GIANTMICROBES.COM
Giant Microbes Stomach Ache (Shigella) Gigantic doll
11. Giant Microbe “Mononucleosis” – Kissing Disease (Epstein Barr virus) Plush Doll – So I had “mono” several times in middle school and high school, not from kissing though 😉 ! I played three sports, took honors courses, advanced, and AP courses, etc. Needless to say, I was your typical but athletic pre-pre-med. making my immune system more susceptible to contract the Epstein-Barr virus. Plus. she’s pink AND girly, naturally.  PRICE: $29.95 *A kiss is just a kiss — unless she’s around! 95% of the population has encountered this sweetie pie. Find out who gets her special love. Perfect teaching tool for parents, educators, health, medical and science professionals!  Great gift for teachers, doctors, collectors, kids of all ages, and anyone with a healthy sense of humor! 1,000,000 times its actual size and it includes a hangtag with an image and fun and educational facts about the “kissing disease.” @GIANTMICROBES.COM
12.  Medical Syringe Highlighter Marker-Lot of 3. I constantly am running out of high-lighters, but these just make high-lighting that much more fun! This is a pre-med must have! Fun syringe shape, and 3 comes in a pack! They also have colored ones as well! PRICE: $7.97
13. 12 “Blood-filled” Needle Syringe pens! – As a pre-med, one can never have enough pens and these are awesome! These “Hypodermic” needles are pens that are filled with red liquid inside to simulate blood! Can’t wait to start taking notes with these! These too are also available in other colors besides “blood red.” PRICE FOR 12: $5.37
14. Anatomical Chart Company Tall Paul Torso Model by Anatomical Chart Company. What better way to study, then to handle the organs and their systems personally? I’m a hands on learner, and this is one of the greatest gifts I could ever have! PRICE: $161.58 *Budget Tall Paul Torso Item #: CMT5 Hand painted and meticulously assembled to simulate human anatomy. Dissects into 19 parts: torso, head (2-parts), brain, lung, (4-parts), heart, trachea, esophagus and descending aorta, diaphragm, stomach, duodemum with pancreas and spleen,
intestines, cecum, kidney, bladder (2-parts), liver. Mounted on a base. Size: 33-1/2″ tall.
15. Mini Pocket Fiber Optic Otoscope in PINK – while I have my real otoscope from Welch-Allyn, I purchased this travel, small otoscope for on-the-go training and to just play around with. I’m so excited to use it and it’s HOT PINK! I had to get it, it’s a med. school queen thing. Cheap, durable, and easy to take with you anywhere! PRICE: $31 *This Mini Otoscope offers tremendous value for money Its made from Aluminium for strength and light weight and the Halogen bulb gives a bright light without generating excessive amounts of heat.The magnication Lens can be swiveled out of the way when not required. The Otoscope has the following features:
  • 2.5V Halogen Light with Long Life Bulb – Gives Bright Cool Light
  • Canvas Pouch
  • Pocket Clip
  • 6 Disposable Plastic Specula
  • x3 Magnification Lens
  • Runs from 2 AA batteries
  • CE Approved

16. Littmann Cardiology III 27″ Stethoscope in  Coral Pink – I definitely needed a stethoscope for medical school and I’ll go with none other than Littmann, and obviously it has to be pink!  Did I mention you can have it monogrammed? This is perfect for the girliest of medical students! I chose the Cardiology, because it is a little better quality than the Classic, and I need the best quality I can find in order to hear heartbeat regularities and abnormalities! PRICE: $172.94 *The 3M Littmann Cardiology III stethoscope combines outstanding acoustics and superior versatility. It features a dual adult- and pediatric-sided chestpiece with a tunable diaphragm that allows you to use both sides of the stethoscope to monitor high and low frequencies. Also features a solid stainless steel chestpiece, two-tubes-in-one design, non-chill rims, adjustable double-leaf binaural spring and patented 3M Littmann snap-tight, soft-sealing eartips. Five-year warranty.

  • Two patented tunable diaphragms allow for listening to both low- and high-frequency sounds with either side of the chestpiece.
  • Two tubes are incorporated into a single-tube design that eliminates noise artifacts created from two tubes rubbing together.
  • Headset assembly is permanently set at an anatomically correct angle to minimize air leaks and prevent the headset from loosening over time.
  • Chestpiece features a non-chill rim and diaphragm assembly.
  • Patented 3M Littmann snap-tight, soft-sealing eartips assure maximum comfort and excellent acoustic seal. An extra pair of small eartips is provided to assure a personal fit.
  • 27″ length
  • @ ALLHEART.COM

17. PINK SCRUBS! – I won’t get to wear these in the OR, but you can bet I’m rocking these in cadaver lab, monogrammed of course.  Scrubzone unisex top and pants: PRICE FOR BOTH: $32 *@ Scrubs and Beyond!

18. K-Cups! – I definitely need these for my Keurig Elite, so I got Starbucks Breakfast Blend and Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin K-cups! So delicious. These are available at Wal-Mart, in Starbucks or Dunkin, online, etc. Price for each pack: $11.99

 

19. Operation, the game – My mom got this for me to perfect my eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills, as well as maintain my steady hands! I love this game! For those of you that don’t know what it is, it’s a fun medical game in which you try to remove small objects “ailments” from the body with tiny tweezers. You cannot touch the sides or else a loud buzz goes off and his nose lights up. It forces you to keep control, steadiness, and be precise – great game for future surgeons! Price: $18.99 *Test your medical skills with the Operation Silly Skill Game by Hasbro. This game features bells, burps, barks and
more. Grab your tweezers and hold your hand steady. What do you hear? It sounds like a flushing toilet, and it looks like Cavity Sam has a case of bad plumbing. Eeeeeek! You will need to operate to help him out. Press his nose to find out if the operation was successful, then listen as the game tells you what to grab next. Will you be the top doc? For 1 or more players

20. Operation Band-aids – again my mom was being thoughtful. What med. student doesn’t have band-aids? Forunately my band-aids match my Operation game. Pretty cool.

Compiled List of Medical Reads

Hey everyone! As promised, here is the list of compiled suggested medical reads from everyone. I don’t know about you, but I want to buy all of these books and start reading right now! Thank you to everyone that sent me suggested books – this list came from all of you! Take a peek, enhance your library, and learn even more about the amazing and fascinating medical world. At the very bottom of the list is a section titled “Textbooks/References” for pre-meds and medical students. Enjoy!

Why medicine?: And 500 Other Questions for the Medical School and Residency Interviews – Sujay Kansagra, M.D.

Everything I learned in Medical School: Besides All The Book Stuff – Sujay Kansagra, M.D.

Baby Doctor: A Pediatrician’s Training – Perri Klass, M.D.

Intensive Care: The Story of a Nurse  – Echo Heron

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

When the Air Hits Your Brain: Tales from Neurosugery – Frank Vertosick Jr., M.D.

The End of Illness – David Agus, M.D.

Monday Mornings: A Novel  – Sanjay Gupta, M.D.

Cheating Death: The Doctors and Medical Miracles that Are Saving Lives Against All Odds – Sanjay Gupta

Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science  – Atul Gawande

Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance – Atul Gawande

The Making of a Surgeon – William Nolen

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures  – Anne Fadiman

The Neuroscience of Sleep – Robert Stickgold and Matthew P. Walker

Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story – Ben Carson, M.D.

Every Second Counts: The Race to Transplant the First Human Heart – Donald McRae

For the Love of Babies: One Doctor’s Stories About Life in the Neonatal ICU – Sue Hall, M.D.

The Ultimate Guidebook For Getting Into Medical School – Chad Rudnick, M.D.

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer – Siddhartha Mukherjee

Cutting For Stone – Abraham Verghese

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right – Atul Gawande

Placebo Effects: Understanding the mechanisms in health and disease – Fabrizio Benedetti

The Heart Speaks: A Cardiologist Reveals the Secret Language of Healing – Mimi Guarneri

Heart Matters: A Memoir of a Female Heart Surgeon – Kathy Magliato, M.D.

White Coat: Becoming A Doctor At Harvard Medical School – Ellen Rothman

Sympathy and Science: Women Physicians in American Medicine – Regina Morantz-Sanchez

What I Learned in Medical School: Personal Stories of Young Doctors – Kevin M. Takakuwa, Nick Rubashkin, Karen E. Herzig and Joycelyn Elders

Short White Coat: Lessons from Patients on Becoming a Doctor – James Feinstein

Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality (Vintage) – Pauline Chen

The House of God – Samuel Shem

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey – Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.

The Lost Art of Healing: Practicing Compassion in Medicine – Bernard Lown

The Sublime Engine: A Biography of the Human Heart – Stephen Amidon

The Intern Blues: The Timeless Classic About the Making of a Doctor – Robert Marion

My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story – Abraham Verghese

Love in the Time of Cholera (Oprah’s Book Club) – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Arrowsmith – Sinclair Lewis

The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream – Sampson Davis, George Jenkins, Rameck Hunt, and Lisa Frazier

Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis – Lisa Sanders

How Doctors Think – Jerome Groopman

Confessions of a Surgeon: The Good, the Bad, and the Complicated…Life Behind the O.R. Doors – Paul Ruggieri, M.D.

The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear – Seth Mnookin

Med School Confidential: A Complete Guide to the Medical School Experience: By Students, for Students – Robert Miller, Dan Bissell, and Harold Friedman

Textbooks/References:

Principles of Anatomy and Physiology – Gerard Tortora and Bryan Derrickson

Clinical Anatomy – Richard Snell

Lippincott’s Pocket Pathology – Donna Hansel and Renee Dintzis

Handbook of Diseases – Springhouse

My 15 ways to cope with the stress of finals!

1. Create a good schedule and STICK TO IT – If you’re like me, you’re an obsessive organizer and everything has to be scheduled, even eating and showering. While most people aren’t necessarily this anal about their time and schedules, having a schedule can help out tremendously. This should have probably been prepared the week before finals so you can know what to study and when to study. But if you’re just now starting, do not fret. There’s still time. Create a schedule that carefully plans your projects, papers, and study time. Always leave room,  so overestimate how long it will take you to finish a project, paper or review your notes. Never underestimate yourself because you’ll probably be even more stressed out that you didn’t finish in a certain amount of time. Create a schedule that you can manage during finals week. Also gather everything that you need in order to study – find all of your notes, make outlines, print off all of the slides, etc. Have all of the material at your fingertips in order to study. Avoid procrastination at all costs this week!

2. PRIORITIZE – Give everything a priority – such as studying for your chemistry final would get a 1) and  visiting facebook would get a 10) on the priority list. Avoid wasting too much time reviewing material for a class that you have not had to study that much for. Also avoid reviewing unnecessary material completely. Only study what you absolutely have to. Finals week is not the time to be catching up on your textbook “just for fun” reading. If you have a final in a class and you’re on the edge between an A and a B, make that your top priority, even if the material is difficult. If you have A’s in every other class, obviously those would come behind your on the border class in terms of priority. If there is a class in which the final makes no difference to your grade whatsoever, that should get last priority. In essence, study for the most important courses first and those that are easier and don’t require much studying last. Prioritizing will not only reduce stress and help you organize what to study and when to study it, and will also help you get an idea of which finals are more important than others so you can effectively divvy up your time accordingly.

3.  Study in your own personal/effective way – by this I mean what works for you? For me, I use tons of flashcards, make creative outlines with every color of Sharpie you can imagine – the prettier, more colorful notes the better. I also hi-lite a lot of material. I’m a visual learner and the brightness of the text stands out in my mind better easing recall of the information. Also, mnemonics can be your best friend! Learning material sticks in your head much longer if it is creative and appeals to you! I’ve often been known to do a dance or talk with my hands during an exam. However, don’t distract your classmates. Write on dry-erase boards, create a story, be able to teach someone else the concept! Also, where do you study best? I switch from my room to the library. Wherever you can find yourself getting the most out of your time, go there and stay there!

4. GET SOME SLEEP – As absurd as this may sound for us pre-meds, it’s actually true. Give your brain a rest. The ideal amount per night is 8 hours of sleep for the normal person, but as we all know, none of us fall under the normal category – we’re PRE-MED! Get at least 5-6 hours of sleep. Running on an all-nighter with excess amounts of caffeine can cloud your judgment, not allow you to focus and you could end up making stupid mistakes or misreading questions and answers which could possibly blow an exam! Studies have shown that studying right before you sleep is most effective and by this I mean, your body and mind must enter all three REM cycles in order to effectively recall information! Not sleeping can lead to you worrying, being unprepared, weaken the immune system, and lead to more stress! Pulling an all-nighter the week of finals is not good for your brain or body no matter how much time you will gain by studying all hours of the night.

5. EXERCISE! – Exercising is so beneficial to the body. It releases toxins from your body, increases heart rate to allow you to sweat, boosts metabolism, boosts your mood and energy, controls weight, promotes better sleep, and REDUCES STRESS. Exercise burns away cortisol and norepinephrine that cause stress and releases endorphins into your system which can make you feel much better, even after failing an exam. Do not overwork your body during this time and don’t make your workouts so exhausting to where you cannot study afterwards. Make them reasonable, fun, and effective workouts that you are capable of: such as running on the treadmill for 30 minutes listening to your favorite music or going over flashcards, walking for an hour, riding a bike or cycling for an hour or less. Avoid vigorous, strenuous exercise that will tire you or tear your body down. Do some abs at home, exercise with a friend, go to the local gym and pump some iron! Also, yoga is one of the best forms of exercise due to its physical activity plus relaxation! If your campus has any yoga or pilates classes for free, go take one in your spare time to give your mind a break from studying!

6. Get help (if needed) – Although it may be a little too late to raise grades in certain areas, for some of us, the final is the breaking point from a B to an A. If you don’t understand something, don’t be shy! Ask a teacher or a tutor or even another classmate for help. It’s never too late to do so! This could help you score some major points on the final if you don’t understand a certain concept. Schedule some extra hours of tutoring or visit the professor during office hours to get help in areas you need.

7. Have some fun and be social! – Can you even see what you’re writing in that Ochem lab report? Take a break and have some fun! By this I mean get dinner with a group of friends to get your mind off of studying for awhile, call that friend back home and talk for a few minutes, spend some time OFF CAMPUS, join a club etc. Don’t go overboard, but give yourself a rewarded break now and then! Vent with your friends, chances are they are facing the same issues and problems you are, unless they’re education majors. In that case, you probably don’t relate to their coloring and arts and crafts activities. 😉

8. DON’T PARTY! – With alcohol in your system, your judgments will be impaired as well as your focus. If you want to party, finals week is not the time to do so. Going out can cost you precious time of studying and can set you back. It can also make you sick and if you get too hungover, you could possibly sleep through an alarm and miss a test completely! Alcohol can remain in the system even if you no longer feel its effects. It can cloud your judgment greatly and not allow you to perform your best on test day. Save the partying for the day when all of your finals are completed! I promise it will be worth it!

9. EAT HEALTHY. Eating healthy will not only give you energy to study and make it through your tests, but it will also keep you healthy which can rid stress. A few good examples of some healthy foods:

  • Protein bar – they fill you up and give you energy! They’re not too expensive either.
  • Salad – this can satisfy both your stomach AND your brain!
  • Sandwich – PB&J ,cold cut, etc. definitely your “classic” sandwiches. Nothing with grease, obnoxious amounts of sodium, fat, etc.
  • Fruit – if you love sugar, fruit is the way to go! Its natural sugars can give you energy and also help you with that “sweet-tooth” craving. For more nutrition and energy, add peanut butter! The added peanut butter with an apple can help fuel your brain and give you extra energy from the protein!
  • Trail mix – it’s easy, convenient, and fun. So many nutrients in such an easy mix. The mix can be healthy, give you energy, and with added small candies, also end the cravings of your sweet tooth. You can either make your own or go out to your local convenience or grocery store and purchase some, whichever is more convenient to you.
  • Drink lots of water. Our bodies are made up of over 70% water and I’m sure we’ve all learned how important Osmosis is in the body. See why water is so crucial to functioning? Being dehydrated can lead to headaches, illness, and poor performance on exams. Don’t excessively drink water to the point of having to micturate every 20 minutes during the exam, but make sure you are well hydrated!
  • Pasta (WHOLE GRAIN)– pasta is loaded with carbohydrates. If you have more than one final in a day and have to use your brain and energy for an extensive amount of time, I suggest carb-loading almost like how athletes carb-up before games and meets, except don’t gorge yourself which could lead to sleepiness due to the intestines and stomach stretching and swelling.

10. TAKE BREAKS – As much as we all wish we could study for 8 uninterrupted hours with no breaks, this would not be an effective study mechanism at all. Allow yourself to study for 1-2 hours, no longer. Take a 10 minute break in between – Check twitter, check facebook, feed your dog, do absolutely NOTHING, whichever floats your boat. Your brain can only handle and process so much information at once. Don’t overload it by excessive studying hours on end. Take those small, set breaks in order to recharge, break up the flow, and keep you from getting a headache from reading too much material at a time or focusing so long on material.

11. LIMIT THE COFEE! – Ahhhh I know some of you are coffee addicts, like me, but finals week is not the time for a cup of black coffee at 3 a.m. I am not saying to rid it completely, but limit as much as you can. As you know coffee is a stimulant that can often increase stress especially during times of high-stress periods aka FINALS WEEK. It can keep you up as we all know, and prevent sleep, and good, well-rested sleep at that.  Get rid of coffee completely this week if possible but for most of us, knock your intake down to a cup or two a day or less. Replace your cups of coffee with water!

12. NO DISTRACTIONS – yes that means twitter, unfortunately. Turn your phone off, don’t get on twitter, facebook, instagram, blogs, etc. Avoid all social media altogether. Turn off the tv, radio, ignore those phone calls – unless they’re emergencies, resist the urge to go out, and don’t be afraid to say NO! However, some people study best with slight noises in the background. For me, I enjoy complete silence or classical music: Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky etc. Do what suits you best! Classical music would be better over television because you might be tempted to watch the shows or movies instead of study. Don’t be afraid to turn your friends down; most of your friends will accept the fact that studying comes first especially during finals week. Many of them will understand and you can plan an activity to do the week after finals together when all of your stress will be gone!

13. Most importantly, don’t stress about being stressed. Stress is a NORMAL bodily function as a result from stressful stimuli. So what if things don’t go your way? Find other solutions! What often helps me is writing things down. Make a list of everything that is stressing you out! You might find that some stressors are quite absurd and you can rid them from your life completely!  We all go through stressful times and you’re not alone. Everyone on this Earth has experienced stress from time to time, although some have not experienced finals-related stress which to me, is a whole other level. If you’re stressed, admit it. Find a solution to your problems and figure out how to handle and deal with your stress! There are so many ways of coping that it is actually quite manageable. Admit that you’re stressed and instead of focusing on how stressed out you are, focus on getting through it and handling it!

14. THINK POSITIVE – you CAN pass that final and you CAN make it to see another day! Do not get down on yourself or let negative thoughts consume your thinking and activities. If you’re stuck on a problem or subject, try your best to get through it or skip it and come back. Sometimes answers are hidden in other problems and you can find them later on throughout the test. Picture yourself getting an A on that exam! Studies have shown that people who picture themselves doing well actually do better than those who don’t! See yourself short term, getting that A, passing the final, getting the highest grade in the class, getting a 4.0 and also long-term – putting on that white coat, etc. Positive thinking can be your most beneficial asset when it comes to finals week.

 

15. NEVER GIVE UP. If you fail a final, don’t dwell on it. There’s nothing worrying and crying can fix although that may be how you feel at the time. Chalk it up as a loss and move on! Don’t let one final or grade ruin your other finals and turn into a spiraling downfall. Don’t let one final get to you. If you did everything you could to prepare and you tried your best, that’s all that matters. Use your poor performance as a learning tool and motivation. Find out what you did and didn’t do and how to avoid or perform better in the future! Use it as motivation to ace all of the other finals. Don’t doubt yourself. Find your confidence. Don’t give up, no matter how hard that test is, don’t lose faith, and don’t lose sight of your true dreams, goals, and passions. EMBRACE FINALS! They can set you apart from the rest. Use them as your stepping stone to your career path, after all, you must pass them to move forward! BEST OF LUCK TO ALL OF MY FOLLOWERS DURING FINALS! HOPE YOU ALL ACE EACH AND EVERY TEST! XOXO