Monthly Archives: February 2015

Everyday I am studying

As I mentioned in my last post, my classes for MS2 year are done! Last week I had my final combined regular exam and all that is left are a series of shelf exams before we disappear to some dark, lonely corner to study for our Step 1 exam. I alluded to the fact that buying a house threw me completely off course in terms of my regular study methods. As a result, because I was packing/unpacking and playing decorator instead of dutifully reviewing new material I had to resort to Emergency Plan B!

What is Emergency Plan B? Well, it is what is colloquially known as the “all nighter” or in med school the “two-or-three nighter.” A marathon of studying and reviewing that eliminates sleep and replaces it with chocolate covered espresso beans, pots of coffee and high carb snacks.  This plan is to be used sparingly and only in extreme circumstances. Yes, staying up for 2-3 nights with minimal sleep gives you the time you need to learn the content –but it comes at a price. The information I just last week knew well enough to score at the top of my class is leaking out of my brain faster than a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Not to mention my mental and physical health took a huge hit. Then there are the mood swings that come with feeling like the living-dead. Unfortunately for him, it was my poor husband who had to deal with my irrational self. So, my dear readers, avoid Emergency Plan B if you can. Do the right thing and study every night.

In other news, I had my first oral presentation at an Innovations in Medical Education conference this weekend. I felt honored to be among the three other presenters who had really inspiring ideas. I am talking REALLY awesome, big ideas. For example, check out this website It is an indispensable site for those in the medical field who are pressed for time and need to make sense of the 1,000s of medical studies that come out monthly. A medical student from Harvard (now attending physician) came up with a solution by having doctors write a brief synopsis and rate the validity of the study.

I think that is the best thing about attending conferences- the renewed sense of limitless possibilities you get. Hearing what other people have worked on inspires me to innovate. If medicine in and of itself isn’t awesome enough, there is the added advantage of room for improvement. Medicine changes so much and to have the ability to be part of that is incredible. I feel so lucky to attend a medical school that embraces change and in fact encourages all of us to explore technology and how it can better the field. This weekend I will be presenting at the American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM) conference in Austin, which I am sure will be just as exciting!

My life has been a series of lessons learned and lucky breaks recently, so please learn from my mistakes and don’t procrastinate. You might get lucky and ace that exam, but in the long run it’s a recipe for disaster. Also, don’t accept the status quo, there are so many people out there pushing for change–get inspired!

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From medical student to student doctor

Today marks our LAST day of classroom instruction. Let me repeat that, we are done sitting in classes…forever. It feels unreal to think that I have now amassed everything I need to know to pass my first board exam. And by amassed, I literally mean that somewhere among the thousands of pages of power point notes is everything that I need to know for my board exam. The unthinkable task of consolidating that information and transferring it into my long term memory bank is what the next 10+ weeks are for.

I took for granted the luxury of having days with just one or two 50 minute classes and the rest of the afternoon to run my errands and study until the late hours of the night. What awaits us next are 70 hour weeks in the hospital. Our schedules will no longer be malleable to our liking. Gone are the days of choosing not to go to your morning class because you can always watch it online later. We will be at the hospital when we’re tired, sleep deprived and under the weather. Yes, MS3 year is the first day of the rest of our lives.

The final two years of medical school are much less school and much more training. We will be set loose on the wards. Standardized patients will be replaced by human beings. All of the pneumonics, “triads” of symptoms and “pathognomonic hallmarks” will be brought to life in a rude awakening that the maladies that we blindly memorized were for the sole purpose of reducing suffering. What gets lost along the way as we struggle to pile on more and more information is that all of these disorders have a person attached to them. A thinking, feeling person that reminds us of our grandmother, our neighbor, our mothers. We begin to develop something that can never be taught in a textbook, the ability to comfort. One of my favorite quotes regarding our profession is the following:

To cure sometimes.

To relieve often.

To comfort always.

Medicine is an imperfect science. Despite our many advancements, more often than not we are unable to cure. And as frustrating as that is, our job turns to doing the best we can. The next two years will be about learning how to navigate the options-because there will be many and with no clear indication. We will learn how to make the best choices for our patient. The real reason you go to a doctor is because you need someone to guide you. The choices we make regarding our health are individual. There is no textbook patient and no textbook treatment. The clinical years are about synthesizing textbook information with the reality of medical practice. We have so much left to learn and I can’t wait for this next phase in our education!

The only thing left between me and my training years are 5 exams and my boards. Not too bad considering everything we’ve already gone through to date.

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