Flashback to M1: What Would I Change? {Old Post}

Semester two of M2 year is already flying by…how is it the end of January already? Sorry for being so MIA, but I’ve been pretty busy with my Neuro II course and beginning my Step 1 studying. The M1’s at my school are about two weeks into their first organ system based course and I thought it was a good time to do some reflecting on what worked, what didn’t and what I would change. So, M1’s listen up and learn from my mistakes!

Back in November, I wrote a post on all of the awesome materials you need to be successful in the organ system base courses (refer:link). Here’s a few more tips on how to use these resources:

1. Pathoma –> This is seriously the best resource for pathology. I try to listen and annotate this before we start the pathology in our actual course. This gives me some good base knowledge while the clinicians talk. Also, the first three chapters are on topics that may have been covered in the basic science courses, but they serve as excellent reviews. I just relistened to Chapter 1 and lots of things that I’ve learned recently make more sense. If I could go back to the first organ system, I would have taken time to listen to these chapters.

2. Qbanks –> As I said in my previous post I like to work through the RX questions first (easy, medium, then hard questions). This helps me learn the material, so I don’t expect a high average score on these. Next, I tackle the Kaplan Qbank. Same thing here, the questions are more difficult in my opinion and I’m still learning while doing them. For reference scoring an average between 60-70%during the week and a half prior to the exam is pretty good. I ended up scoring in the mid-eighties to high eighties on most of my NBME exam with these type of RX/Kaplan scores. With the rest of the course points I was able to honor many of the courses. BUT, don’t forget to really review what you are getting wrong and learn the material (don’t just gloss over the explanations). If I had extra time sometimes I would redo the questions I got wrong (the interface makes it easy to do this).

3. Sketchy Micro –> Most of my class is totally in love with Sketchy Micro, but I want to remind you that it takes getting used to. The first few sketches I did I felt like I wasn’t retaining anything. Trust me, there is a learning curve, but once you get over this hump everything will come together and you WILL remember all of the important facts about the bugs. I usually started by listening to the sketch and taking notes right next to the printed out picture. I would have to go over this sketch several times (highlighting and quizzing myself). After this, I pretty much had solidified the information and would practice my knowledge by doing questions. As you use sketchy more this will get easier and you won’t have to review the sketches as often.

4. One other resource that I forgot to talk more specifically about in my last post is the Robbins and Cotran Pathology Questions. These are really great if you want extra practice with pathology and if you have time. I’ve attempted to get through them for most of the organ systems, but haven’t always had time. If you have extra time or need more practice these are excellent.

What did NOT work:

-DO NOT OVERWHELM YOURSELF WITH RESOURCES. People in your class are going to like different resources, and it’s key to just pick the ones that work for you and call it a day. Once you do well in your first organ system solidify your resources, and don’t get bogged down with what other people are doing. There are seriously a million resources and you do NOT have time to use all of them.

-Sometimes, sadly, lectures don’t work for me. There are specific lecturers I don’t go to because I cannot learn from them. Don’t do yourself a disservice by forcing yourself to learn from someone or in a way that hasn’t been successful. This is a waste of time, which you can’t afford. One tip I have for pathology lectures is to pull out your first aid or organ systems text and annotate next to each disease based on what’s being said in lecture. Most of the time that lectures line up perfectly, and you can just add a few more key points. The NBME exams are different in that it tests larger concepts, rather than small details. In addition, NBME exams (in my experience) have never tested me on the clinical procedures for each disease. For example, you will need to know the clinical presentation/pathologic finding for X disease but you won’t need to know is it important to get a CT first or give an IV, etc. Your clinical management will be a  focus in your later years of medical school.

What I would have changed:

 On a more global level, I’ve found one big mistake in my studying habits. Step 1 is coming up and I feel like I’ve forgotten a lot of material. I know it’s natural to forget, but I never really did anything to prevent some of that loss of knowledge. A handful of my classmates use a long-term study aid like Firecracker. I really wish hindsight I would have started something like this during my M1 organ system years. Firecracker can be intimidating for a lot of students, because you are supposed to get through a certain number of questions per day, but let’s be honest no one is perfect. BUT, I firmly see now that something would have been better than nothing. Even if you can only do 10 questions a day from that, it would be better than doing nothing. Another resource I’ve been using lately that is similar to Firecracker (but I think cheaper) is the USMLE RX Flash Facts cards. They use the same idea as Firecracker, which is just to ask you questions, give you the answer and then you rate how well you knew that fact.

What I would NOT change:

Second term M1 year and first term M2 year give you more flexibility in your schedule. Even though it’s important to still study hard, this is the prime time to get more involved in student orgs, do something you love, or spend time with family and friends. I definitely did lots of extracurricular activities and was able to see friends often. I wouldn’t change that, because in the future I may not have this much time on my hands to really do things that make me happy. Time literally flies by in medical school and the last thing you want to do is look back and feel like all you did was study, because trust me you can do SO much more than that.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that you are learning a skill and that takes time to develop. My first organ system I did okay, but not as well as I wanted. But, that’s OKAY because I was honing my skills. Your first NBME will be scary because it isn’t something you’ve done before, but just trust your instincts and you will do fine. If you get nervous taking timed, computerized test practice with your Qbank! Good luck, you will all do great!!

  One last thing to leave you with is a quote that I saw on my Momentum home page. This app is really cool and basically just becomes your homepage. It has an awesome new picture background every day, time, to do and main goals + a quote! I love it! Check it out here: link.

What To Do Over Break {Old Post}

Hi everyone!! I’ve been on such a blogging hiatus due to my crazy trip! My Christmas break is coming to an end and I’m just now getting back on track with my schedule. My trip was incredible because I visited so many new places that I’ve never been. I’ve fallen in love with the mountains in the west and am considering looking into practicing in Utah because it’s just so gorgeous there. For those who don’t follow me on my instagram (@aleahmch), I visited Las Vegas, Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and Park City! Here’s a few more pictures of the amazing scenery.

Some of the highlights of my trip were spending time with family, going on a helicopter ride over Sedona and seeing Cirque Du Soleil front-row! After having some time to reflect on my trip I thought it’d be a good idea to blog about breaks in general. Lots of M1’s are probably thinking about their upcoming summer break and what to do during it. At OUWB we got roughly 2-2.5 months off after our first year. I firmly believe that breaks are a much needed thing during both undergrad and medical school.

So, what did I do during my summer off?

  • Took several short trips to Traverse City, MI (wine tasting + family fun), up north to a friend’s cabin (boat + water time + friends), Lake MI (beach + family + friends), up even further north (for a friend’s wedding)

  • Took a longer trip to Negril, Jamaica (friend’s wedding + exploration with my mom)

  • Took care of all my appointments (doctor’s, dentist, hair, car etc)

  • Got situated into my new apartment

  • Hosted/attended several dinner parties with friends and family

  • Did some planning for creating a new AMWA committee and preparing for a mentorship program kick-off event

  • Started working on a project for one of my professors

  • Spent one month working in the anatomy department as part of my internship

  • Helped out with some things at school like preview days (for potential students)

  • Went horseback riding with friends

  • Picked up knitting

  • DIY’d a new study table, bar and corn hole set (check my instagram out to see the results)

  • Caught up with old friends from undergrad

  • Shadowed physicians

  • Volunteered my time during orientation week for the M1’s

  • Spent lots of time with B

 Everyone is going to choose to do different things during their time off, but some of my highly recommended tips are below.

1. TAKE TIME OFF. I cannot stress this enough. It’s great if you want to do an internship, but make sure you still build in time off. My internship was great because it allowed me a ton of flexibility and I still had an entire month off. You want to come back to M2 year ready and revitalized. Lay out all day long in the sun (wear sunscreen please) or delve into a non-academic novel. Take time for yourself, you deserve it.

2. BUDGET. Okay, so medical school isn’t going to budget money in for those months off or any of the excursions you want to take. It’s pretty easy to stretch your second term funds, but I still ended up about $1,000 short. I had to pay off credit cards after I got my loans for my M2 year. So, try to think ahead!

3. Get the lame stuff done that you never have time for during school. For me this meant getting a physical, getting my car maintenance done and making sure I got my hair cut before classes started up again. This will save you some unnecessary stress later on!

4. Try something NEW. I’m not a super crafty person, but I’ve grown to love knitting and DIY stuff (even though I’m still not great at it hah). Try something that scares you or something you never thought you’d be able to do!

5. Take trips! I couldn’t afford any big trips (my mom helped me get to Jamaica), but short weekend trips were super doable. I’d recommend using Air BnB to get super discounted rooms and meet some awesome locals. Staying with family or friends always helps ease the bills too! Weekend trips were great for us because B works full-time so he was able to either take a half day on Friday, or if it was somewhere close, not have to take any time off.

6. Do something academic. It doesn’t have to be super intense (trust me I didn’t study one bit), but I did do my internship and worked on a project. It helped me keep in the groove of having responsibilities and made me feel more “accomplished” at the end of the summer.

7. Make connections! This is a great time to shadow physicians and meet new people. Connect with professors and see if they are working on anything cool over the summer, or commit an afternoon to shadowing one of your favorite clinical lecturers.

*One other note, my internship was at my school, OUWB, but I do know from hearing from friends that if you are thinking about internships at other places (hospitals, schools, etc) you should start looking early. Each deadline is going to be different but you should definitely be looking stuff up now to ensure you have a good chance!