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.

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

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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! 🙂

 

 

Everything One Needs Before Entering Medical School

Hello, first years. I hope this finds you all well and you’re enjoying summer and NOT trying to study in advance for your first day. Seriously, don’t do that. Anyways, since I have survived my first year in medical school, I figured I would share some advice and tips for all of you incoming first years. It should be pretty useful for those of you this coming fall and years to come. This can also be added to for those of you that aren’t first years and are farther along than me and reading this. Feel free to comment on it and share your ideas. So read it, take it in, share it, whatever. These are in no particular order. Enjoy and good luck! XOXO, Student Dr. Diva

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  1. Plan your week out on Sunday night – thank me later. You will save so much time being on a schedule, knowing when you are going to the gym, what you’re going to eat for dinner, how many hours of studying you need to put in for the day, etc. I plot my schedule in Excel and plot an Ideal vs. Real graph and plot what I really did after I’ve planned out my ideal schedule for the week. It shows me where I spent the majority of my time and where I can save time in other areas. A Sunday well spent brings a week of content!
  2. School Supplies: As far as this goes, everyone is different but here are a few of my absolute necessities: papermate felt tip colored pens and other ballpoint colored pens, computer paper, mechanical pencils, hi-lighters, a stapler, staples, white-out, scissors, a hole punch, pens, (you’ll get a bunch of free medical ones though), the pens that come with 4 colors in one (I use these for frameworking before lectures, see previous blogs), colored pencils, a pencil sharpener, markers, huge 4-inch 3-ring binders for each course, binder tabs, a good agenda (I like Erin Condren or Lilly Pulitzer), a stylus for you tech people, sticky notes, page tabs, a pencil pouch (Michael Kors or Lilly Pulitzer are my favorites) and a crate to put it all in or a desk organizer at your seat in class.
  3. Ipad Air – mini or full size – The mini fits in your white coat and can be used a lot during rotations. However, my friend uses her mini during x-ray lectures to see the screen better. Also, a ton of my classmates take notes on ipads, apparently it saves more trees 😉
  4. A good pair of headphones – I personally recommend Beats by Dre. I have the noise cancelling studio headphones but I recommend paying extra and getting the wireless. This does wonders when trying to cancel out noise to listen to lectures, or just studying with no music. It really helps when I’m studying the morning of exams to cancel out the noise from the students talking nonchalantly. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Plus they come in tons of colors! Mine are hot pink!
  5. Make friends and fast. You’re going to want a buddy to cry with over how much work you have left to do, how there is not enough time in one day, grades, relationship problems, or about how med. school just sucks in general some days. It’s always good to have people going through the same things as you so you can relate and it definitely helps to not be alone. Plus you can encourage and motivate each other! Most people find their best friends in medical school.
  6. Be nice to people! Don’t be that gunner that is rude to everyone and purposefully teaches people the wrong terms on a cadaver practical and screws all of their friends over on purpose to get ahead. NEWSFLASH: 1ST 2 YEARS OF GRADES DON’T MATTER IN MEDICAL SCHOOL. Take that, gunners.
  7. Back to grades – if you don’t make straight A’s, so what! 7-0=D.O. or C=M.D. Just be careful with these statements if you want a top notch residency in neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, etc… then your class rank might matter a little. But as far as that goes – all that matters are BOARDS SCORES, interviews with residencies, WHO YOU KNOW AKA CONNECTIONS, letters of recommendation, 3rd and 4th year grades, and thennnnnn clear at the bottom are 1st and 2nd year grades which I’ve been told by residency programs that all they do is check for an academic transcript. So don’t jump off a bridge because you got a B or even a C. Seriously, some people contemplate it. I’m not making fun or a joke, it’s seriously sad seeing someone getting so broken down over them. It’s not that big of a deal, promise. Ever ask your family physician his grades in medical school or what rank he was? No I bet you haven’t nor have even thought about it until you just read this sentence. Most of them can’t remember nor ever kept track or cared. Pre-med/Undergrad is over people. Don’t sabotage your friends/classmates for grades that don’t “amount to a hill of beans”…WV reference.
  8. MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF, YOUR FRIENDS, FAMILY, AND RELATIONSHIPS! Only the crazies study medicine 18 hours a day and have no life or friends. Medicine is a huge part of what we do, yes, but it is not all that we do or all that we are. Never forget that. You have people that love, care about you, support you, and would do anything for you. Never leave them behind for a career that will always be there. Your parents and grandparents won’t always be around, medicine will. Remember that.
  9. Eat well and exercise! I swear this is one of the most important concepts people fail to realize. Our bodies are intricately and perfectly designed machines. They are just like cars – they run on what we put in them! You wouldn’t put 85 unleaded gas in a Ferrari, so why put a ton of fried, artificial, junk food in your body especially on weeks of exams? Stress eating is real, but learn to combat it with healthy foods and snacks! It does wonders for your brain and energy levels. Exercise at least 30-45 minutes a day, 5-6 days a week. Not only will it boost your energy levels and endorphins, it will help rid all of the stress in your body and get your mind off of school for a while. It’s also been proven to help with memory, learning, and the list goes on and on.
  10. A nice computer. Usually your school gives you one. Ours aren’t that fabulous. I recommend a Macbook Air that is lightweight, top-notch, and thin enough to be carried anywhere and everywhere. Yes, you will be trying to research and study in the areas you’d never believe you would.
  11. Start prepping for boards. I’m not saying take your first aid the first day of class and fill it out vigorously and read every page. I am saying though, that every exam you take is preparing you for boards. There are multiple questions on each of those exams that you’ll take that you will see again on boards in a different style, version, etc. Take it seriously.
  12. Try not to procrastinate – take it from me! Also, youtube why medical school is like eating pancakes and you’ll understand this procrastination concept in medical school. It is much different from undergrad. It is so hard to catch back up. I know you don’t feel like studying today, but don’t make it hard on yourself by having double the workload tomorrow. Suck it up, get it done, and stay on task.
  13. SLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP. Another concept students don’t seem to feel is important. They’re gonna regret it when they graduate and look like they’re 50 years old when they’re actually 25. Sleep is CRUCIAL for encoding memories, healing the body and mind, and again, the list goes on. So don’t avoid it or you will crash and burn, literally. Try to get at least 6 hours, each body is different (I need at least 7) and can work on different ranges but 7-9 is preferred.
  14. Don’t be that annoying person that asks a question every single lecture in the classroom on purpose to hear yourself or something. I really don’t get what these people get out of it but that’s just my guess. Definitely don’t ask it if you don’t know what you’re talking about. People will talk about you and might even question what you’re doing in medical school, it might be so bad and distracting to students that they might even include it in a blog like “Everything a first year needs to know”. Just being honest. You wouldn’t believe the comments and remarks I’ve overheard about certain “question girl or boy” as they’re referred to. You don’t want to be that person.
  15. Invest in supplemental materials for boards and to help encompass curriculum learning: Picmonic, Firecracker, Pathoma, Sketchy Micro, Osmosis, etc. These all get pricey but I do have a discount I can give you guys on Picmonic – tweet me for details! I love using Picmonic because I am a visual person. I will remember a picture, not words. I also love firecracker because it’s like a huge question bank that I can access on an app and use while I’m waiting in lines, traveling, etc. I am not endorsed so I’m telling you for your own benefit. Make sure you check the program out to see if it fits your needs before you go spending a ton of loan money.
  16. Textbooks – if you want an ipad and use PDF’s disregard this. If you’re old school like me and kill trees (not purposefully, I love nature tbh) then you’ll still use textbooks. You don’t need every textbook on your list that the school gives you and if you need it, you can always access it in the library and print off pages by making copies. Save yourself a few hundred bucks and talk to your peer mentor, a current student, or the employees in the bookstore. I have a list that my school recommends which will probably be different from your list. I will update this blog July 1 when it is released and give it to you all. Come back then!
  17. A good stethoscope! You’re going to want to hear that murmur your grader is telling you she hears so you better have a good stethoscope, not a fake, plastic one from wal-mart. It’s an investment, it’s not that expensive, and you’ll use it more than anything else and can carry it all the way through medical school and into residency and beyond. I recommend Littmann Cardiology III. I love it, it’s great quality, and mine is pink! Yes, you can get whatever color you want and no, it is not unprofessional. Don’t be boring and go with grey. At least get black with brass and your name on it or something 😉
  18. DO NOT REFER TO YOURSELF AS DOCTOR ANYTHING. YOU ARE NOT A DOCTOR. You are a piddly first year that is a STUDENT doctor, so do yourself a favor, take Dr. out of your bio on Instagram, twitter, snapchat, Tinder, whatever social media you have. It’s kind of lame/rude when you refer to yourself as doctor when you haven’t earned it yet. Also, you’re not going to have the answers when a patient asks you a question or when your attending asks you a question, so you’re going to want to be a first year. Live it up while you can. Trust me, I’m only a silly second year. Also, prepare yourself for the millions of questions you will now get from your friends and family that assume you know everything a doctor knows. My favorite reply has been an educated guess followed with “but I’m not even a doctor yet so I’d recommend going to see someone for that.”
  19. Professional clothing. I’m not saying don’t wear yoga pants (because I wear these basically every day that I’m out of class and studying in the other classroom) but I do try to dress nice and look professional for each lecture when I can. These are your professors, future colleagues, mentors, etc. Impress them. I’m not saying dress up every single day, but nice jeans, a nice blouse, nice shoes, not your club clothes with tons of skin showing. Again, undergrad is over. No more thirsty Thursdays wearing those sky high heels. You’re thirsty Thursdays will now consist of drinking massive amounts of red bull or coffee and will be spent in a library. You also need a nice suit, dress, dress pants, and blouses etc. These will be for shadowing your physicians, patient clinical encounters, awards banquets and ceremonies, etc. Look sharp. A professional, well-dressed person earns more respect.
  20. A whiteboard. This is one of the most important study tools in your entire medical school career. Don’t drop 200$ on a fancy, expensive one either. Save your money and get showerboard from Lowe’s! I got a 5ft. x 8ft. whiteboard that is thin but I screwed into my wall for around 20$. I used this so much over the year that my hands would get stained from markers.
  21. Treat yo self, but don’t overdo it. If you get an A in a course and want a new Tory Burch tote, or Lilly Pulitzer dress, or Michael Kors watch, or a Sephora trip, go for it guuuuuurl. Obvi, boys get your boy things like a new video game or something idk. Just don’t be doing that once a week or anything crazy. You are a broke med. student and most likely you’ll be taking out loans unless your parents are rich and pay for your entire tuition, bills, rent, food, textbooks, diagnostic equipment, clothes, gas, etc. In that case, spend whatever you want, lucky you. If you’re like most people, you’ll be 200,000 dollars in debt on average – so don’t spend $1,000 on an unnecessary coffee table for an apartment you’re only going to be in for 2 years. Just a suggestion.
  22. PICK A GOOD SEAT. Yes, even if you have to go in the night before orientation and sleep there (all my friends and I did it, it’s fine, we have no shame.) It was worth the sleepless night. We got the exact seat we wanted, and they were the best seats in the class, sooo there ya go. If you’re in the back, you can’t see as well and definitely aren’t engaged by the professor. In our lecture hall of 215 seats, it’s impossible for the professor to make eye contact with every person. If you sit up front, studies show that you pay better attention, plus it’s just rude to text in the lecturer’s face while they’re presenting. Trust me on this one, ALL SEATS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL. But for other people, they don’t get distracted and it doesn’t matter where they sit so they might like the back, especially if they want to be the first ones out of lecture.
  23. Go to class! If you can speed the lecture up at home and don’t take many notes, that’s understandable, or can’t keep up and need to slow it down, also understandable. Again, studies show that one learns more by simply attending class and absorbing the material. I know it made a world of difference if I just listened to the lecture or actually went and saw the professor talking. I’m not an auditory learner which brings me to another point:
  24. Figure out your learning style. Our class was made to take a short quiz and see which learning styles we would utilize based on our responses. I’m visual. My friend is auditory, my other friend is kinesthetic. Learn this early on and it will save you tons of time by knowing how you can learn the most efficiently which is key when they bombard you with SO. MUCH. MATERIAL.
  25. TAKE TIME OFF. Don’t try to study ahead on thanksgiving or Christmas breaks. YOUR BRAIN NEEDS THAT BREAK! Seriously, burn out is so real. Don’t study the night after exams either. Go have fun with your friends, go drink, go do whatever it is non-medically related that you do. You will be much happier and simply put, sane.
  26. Be open minded. Everyone you meet is for a purpose – to teach you something, give you something, learn from you, etc. Everyone is so different in your class, yet you’ll find some very similar to you! Each person’s style and learning techniques vary substantially. Be nice to them and understand this point. Sure, you’re not going to like some people in your class which is normal but who knows! You might meet your best friend as I mentioned before or even your soulmate. I’ve seen it happen. Furthermore, be open minded about specialties. If you come in wanting to do neurosurgery but don’t like neuro, don’t be discouraged, but don’t be so dead set on a specialty that you won’t budge. Most people don’t select their specialty until they can be immersed in it during rotations. It’s great to have an idea once you come in but allow yourself to remain flexible.
  27. Any time you see “HIGH YIELD” or hear those two words in a sentence, star it, highlight it, flag it, write it on your hand, do something. It’s obviously important or on some type of exam you will have in the near future. Also any of these phrases are similar to the high yield phrase and possibly on exams like “this is worth mentioning or remembering, this is important, you should know this, I put stars by this, I made this bold, this is in red for a reason, study the objectives, this is noteworthy, I would remember this if I were you, this is an exception,” etc. IMPORTANT!*
  28. A large desk with the maximum surface area possible. If there is clutter on your desk, then there is probably clutter in your life – also another study found which you can google these said studies fyi. The clearer your desk is, the more organized you are and this is true. Only put your absolute study essentials on the desk and what you have to do that day with all of your needed materials so do actually put your clothes away and don’t just pile them onto your desk.
  29. Scrubs – I like brightly colored scrubs from Wonderwinks. I’d recommend 5 sets one for each day of the work week. We had cadaver lab every day, twice a day some modules and they start to smell. Also, if you have OPP lab (osteopathic medical schools) you’ll need t-shirts and scrub pants and it’s always fun to wear different colored scrub pants each week and not the normal ugly blue, grey, and hunter green ones. I have yellow, bright green, coral, peach, pink, and black……and also the ugly colors (that I never wear. Ew.)
  30. Set rules and guidelines especially if you have roommates. Know what bothers them, let them know what bothers you. Create a list, sit down a talk to each other in weekly or monthly meetings in the house, or whatever works. Work together to not drive each other crazy. Seeing each other all day in class, then at home each night can really be annoying for both of you. It’s medical school. It WILL happen. It’s also important for your friends to not call you during the day to disrupt study time and to let them know when it is okay to call. They might be mad at first but they’ll get over it.
  31. Lastly, but not least, TAKE THE SUMMER OFF BEFORE YOU START MEDICAL SCHOOL. I cannot stress this enough. You will probably tweet and thank me later. You cannot physically learn and prepare all you need to know for the entire year in 3 months of summer vacation. It’s impossible. Your mind won’t get a break, it’s unnecessary, and no one does it. Odds are, you’ll forget most of it anyway and you should be prepared or at least somewhat prepared after your pre-reqs and MCAT. ENJOY THE LITTLE BIT OF FREEDOM YOU HAVE LEFT!
  32. A good phone. I have an iphone 6 plus and I love it. You need a good phone not necessarily to talk to people but basically to check your school e-mail everyday….not kidding. Also call your family from time to time and a reliable phone is important when you have a study group and certain agendas you need to be on time for. I also use this for an alarm which you will definitely need after studying all day until the wee hours of the early morning and getting up at 7am.
  33. Realize you’re not perfect, and it’s okay to say YOU DON’T KNOW. You’re not in undergrad anymore, Dorothy. You CANNOT learn everything. It is physically impossible unless you’re a genius and an amazing test taker with a photographic memory all in one that gets 100s on almost everything. But those are extremely rare. You WILL go into a test that you studied everything for the best you could and still not know 100% of a concept or material. In case you forgot already, read bullet 27 again.
  34. Whatever you do, no matter how hard it is or how much you want to, don’t give up. Remember why you started and why you’re here. Post motivational quotes on your wall, write them on your mirror, print them out and put them at your desks. It will be hard. It will be mentally and emotionally trying but you WILL get through and make it and it WILL be worth it! 🙂

In order to succeed, you must first believe that you can. “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

 

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