Goro’s guide to success in medical school (2018 ed.)

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Goro

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For those of you who have been accepted and are preparing at this point for matriculation and orientation, congrats! Good luck! You’ve earned it. You did it! You WILL be doctors!!!

:thumbup::love::luck::hardy::highfive::soexcited::clap::=|:-)::woot::claps::banana::biglove:
So pull up a chair and grab another cold one; I was asked by an SDNer about the big DOs and DON’Ts of being a pre-clinical med student. Here are my thoughts:


As you know, you have along hard road ahead of you, but you can do it! Many of are probably still wondering “what have I gotten myself into?”

Well, for starters, that cliché of “drinking from the fire hose” is true. Actually, it’s more like “drinking from a fire hose while running after the fire engine”. We’re going to throw everything at you, in a very short period of time. I had a friend who was a graduate of U WV, and he told me that medical school “took him to his intellectual limits.”

Here are some tips that I have gleaned from my successful students, and helpful SDNers. In no particular order:

Identify your optimal learning style. Not everyone learns best by sitting on their butts for 6-8 hours a day. More importantly, what worked in college might not work in med school. I have tons of students who have troubles in the first third of their first semester because the sheer overload of material clobbers them.


Studying in med school isn’t merely adding more studying hours, but studying in a way that is best attuned to your learning style. Some people have to hear things, and so they may do best in study groups teaching their friends, or listening to lectures on video playback. This is why I feel that SDN posts asking “what works for you?” are better phrased as “what resources are available?”


The key thing here is shake things up. Try going to lectures if you're struggling; conversely, if you really get nothing from being at lectures, then by all means, do something else in that time period (unless you're at schools with required lecture attendance).


Others are visual learners and do best by making tables charts figures, writing out pathways, etc.


Every one of my clinician colleagues has told me that repetition is the key to learning. And don’t worry about not learning everything at once, you’re not radio actors with live air time tomorrow afternoon. We realize it takes time to get your material down. Yes, given the nature of the beast, some cramming will be impossible to avoid, but be aware if you cram, you don’t retain. And it’s not enough to memorize, you have to apply what you’ve learned. So merely reading and re-reading your PPT files to try to memorize them like you're learning the lines from Othello and Titus Andronicus isn't going to work.


You have taken and done well enough on the MCAT to have been accepted. However, some of you still have challenges with standardized testing. If you have test taking anxiety, get help for it NOW. And get a good night's sleep before exams, too. This helps retention and test performance.


Some people have trouble with exams because of poor confidence and a tendency to overthink. IF you able to narrow your choices down to two, but consistently pick the wrong one, then that’s a confidence issue. Go with your first choices for answers, because they tend to be the correct ones.


IF you are drawing a complete blank on most of the answers, then that’s a database issue.


I post this all the time here, but this is important enough to repeat: your schools will have special resources to help struggling students. One is a learning or education center, to help you with time mgt, learning styles, test taking anxieties, mind mapping, etc.


Med school is stressful. I like to point out that it has broken even healthy students. The other resource to use, and this is just as important, is the counseling or therapy center. Med school can be a soul crushing meat grinder, especially when you’re floundering. Don’t be afraid of losing face; don’t be afraid to seek out help. Don’t be a non-compliant patient. You’re going have plenty of these on your own!


Have or develop good coping skills in case family or relationship issues intrude. As a medical student you have to be somewhat selfish. This is especially pertinent for students who come from cultures where extended family is important. You can’t always run home if Uncle Joe gets sick.


In addition, it's best to have or develop a support group. Your fellow students are your family now. You can turn to them.


Yet another resource: Seek out your professors if you're struggling; they're there for you! IF you have faculty who teach their research and not what you’re supposed to really need, complain loudly and often to your deans. Don’t put up crap like that.


Always be able to look at the big picture. I have seen so many students get lost in the weeds trying to memorize every detail. You simply can’t do it. He who tries to learn everything will end up learning nothing. Use resources other than your PPT files, like Pathoma, Boards and Beyond, Anki, Sketchy, etc. High scorers on Boards tend to use more of the external resources than just than their lecture notes.



Bone up on what you're weakest in. This is why practice tests are so helpful. Qbank, Testweapon, USMLE World, ComBank, ComSAE, whatever the resource, make sure use to them. We and others find that our best students take lots of practice questions, and the weakest students don’t. If you feel you know particular material, it's OK to spend less time with it, and better to work on your weakest areas. But identifying those holes in your knowledge base is extremely important.



What to do about textbooks???? This is a vexed question! My views have evolved here.


My first recommendation is to find out from your senior classmates if the Faculty actually test from them, or even use them. There are indeed Faculty who will tell you “Read Chapter 8 from Robbins because that’s what I’ll test you on”, and sure enough, that’s where the test questions come from.


If Faculty only recommend books, then you’re probably safe with using PPTs and outside resources. There is a trend with the shift to e-books to include more useful content like videos and test question banks, so this might be some justification for buying books.


Board review books are exactly that; do NOT use them in place of a required text, unless your Faculty are so poor that they provide no guidance on what is important material.


At my school, we’ve found that our weakest students always try to make do with just review books. In fact, the weakest students have an attitude that “if it’s not in FA, It’s not important”. WRONG. Every one of my students who have taken Boards tell me that there’s stuff on Boards that is NOT covered in FA. FA is the barebones minimum of what you should know. Sadly, for some people, FA generates near religious devotion. Go figure. Some SDNers may be interpreting this as "if you don't buy textbooks, you're a bad student". I hope that's not what they're thinking.


Review books are for review, and that’s it. And BTW, First Aid for USMLE I still has errors in it!


Study with your friends, unless they’re too distracting. Otherwise, seek out the people in your classes who really impress you, and ask them “how they do it?” Even if you get a single tip that helps, that’s worth it.


What makes medical students fail? The most common reasons at my school are mental health issues, especially depression, or poor work ethic; less seen is an inability to separate outside life issues from med school (ie, poor coping skills), or repeated failure on Boards. A handful simply lost interest in Medicine, or never were fully committed to the path in the first place.


But to quote Queen Victoria, “We are not interested in the possibility of failure!


And to quote my wise colleague Angus Avagadro: Don't wait to be spoon fed everything, have some intellectual curiosity. This is what you are going to be doing for the rest of your life anyway, looking up things for cases you have and are not sure how to handle,. etc.


Most of you are where you are right now because you love learning about the human body. Don’t ever lose that.


And good luck to you all!
 
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7331poas

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On a related note, does anyone happen to know where I can find a UWash student guide. It was written by a 4th year at their school to help guide incoming students. Its a fairly lengthy pdf.
 

ACSurgeon

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For those of you who have been accepted and are preparing at this point for matriculation and orientation, congrats! Good luck! You’ve earned it. You did it! You WILL be doctors!!!

:thumbup::love::luck::hardy::highfive::soexcited::clap::=|:-)::woot::claps::banana::biglove:
So pull up a chair and grab another cold one; I was asked by an SDNer about the big DOs and DON’Ts of being a pre-clinical med student. Here are my thoughts:


As you know, you have along hard road ahead of you, but you can do it! Many of are probably still wondering “what have I gotten myself into?”

Well, for starters, that cliché of “drinking from the fire hose” is true. Actually, it’s more like “drinking from a fire hose while running after the fire engine”. We’re going to throw everything at you, in a very short period of time. I had a friend who was a graduate of U WV, and he told me that medical school “took him to his intellectual limits.”

Here are some tips that I have gleaned from my successful students, and helpful SDNers. In no particular order:

Identify your optimal learning style. Not everyone learns best by sitting on their butts for 6-8 hours a day. More importantly, what worked in college might not work in med school. I have tons of students who have troubles in the first third of their first semester because the sheer overload of material clobbers them.


Studying in med school isn’t merely adding more studying hours, but studying in a way that is best attuned to your learning style. Some people have to hear things, and so they may do best in study groups teaching their friends, or listening to lectures on video playback. This is why I feel that SDN posts asking “what works for you?” are better phrased as “what resources are available?”


The key thing here is shake things up. Try going to lectures if you're struggling; conversely, if you really get nothing from being at lectures, then by all means, do something else in that time period (unless you're at schools with required lecture attendance).


Others are visual learners and do best by making tables charts figures, writing out pathways, etc.


Every one of my clinician colleagues has told me that repetition is the key to learning. And don’t worry about not learning everything at once, you’re not radio actors with live air time tomorrow afternoon. We realize it takes time to get your material down. Yes, given the nature of the beast, some cramming will be impossible to avoid, but be aware if you cram, you don’t retain. And it’s not enough to memorize, you have to apply what you’ve learned. So merely reading and re-reading your PPT files to try to memorize them like you're learning the lines from Othello and Titus Andronicus isn't going to work.


You have taken and done well enough on the MCAT to have been accepted. However, some of you still have challenges with standardized testing. If you have test taking anxiety, get help for it NOW. And get a good night's sleep before exams, too. This helps retention and test performance.


Some people have trouble with exams because of poor confidence and a tendency to overthink. IF you able to narrow your choices down to two, but consistently pick the wrong one, then that’s a confidence issue. Go with your first choices for answers, because they tend to be the correct ones.


IF you are drawing a complete blank on most of the answers, then that’s a database issue.


I post this all the time here, but this is important enough to repeat: your schools will have special resources to help struggling students. One is a learning or education center, to help you with time mgt, learning styles, test taking anxieties, mind mapping, etc.


Med school is stressful. I like to point out that it has broken even healthy students. The other resource to use, and this is just as important, is the counseling or therapy center. Med school can be a soul crushing meat grinder, especially when you’re floundering. Don’t be afraid of losing face; don’t be afraid to seek out help. Don’t be a non-compliant patient. You’re going have plenty of these on your own!


Have or develop good coping skills in case family or relationship issues intrude. As a medical student you have to be somewhat selfish. This is especially pertinent for students who come from cultures where extended family is important. You can’t always run home if Uncle Joe gets sick.


In addition, it's best to have or develop a support group. Your fellow students are your family now. You can turn to them.


Yet another resource: Seek out your professors if you're struggling; they're there for you! IF you have faculty who teach their research and not what you’re supposed to really need, complain loudly and often to your deans. Don’t put up crap like that.


Always be able to look at the big picture. I have seen so many students get lost in the weeds trying to memorize every detail. You simply can’t do it. He who tries to learn everything will end up learning nothing. Use resources other than your PPT files, like Pathoma, Boards and Beyond, Anki, Sketchy, etc. High scorers on Boards tend to use more of the external resources than just than their lecture notes.



Bone up on what you're weakest in. This is why practice tests are so helpful. Qbank, Testweapon, USMLE World, ComBank, ComSAE, whatever the resource, make sure use to them. We and others find that our best students take lots of practice questions, and the weakest students don’t. If you feel you know particular material, it's OK to spend less time with it, and better to work on your weakest areas. But identifying those holes in your knowledge base is extremely important.



What to do about textbooks???? This is a vexed question! My views have evolved here.


My first recommendation is to find out from your senior classmates if the Faculty actually test from them, or even use them. There are indeed Faculty who will tell you “Read Chapter 8 from Robbins because that’s what I’ll test you on”, and sure enough, that’s where the test questions come from.


If Faculty only recommend books, then you’re probably safe with using PPTs and outside resources. There is a trend with the shift to e-books to include more useful content like videos and test question banks, so this might be some justification for buying books.


Board review books are exactly that; do NOT use them in place of a required text, unless your Faculty are so poor that they provide no guidance on what is important material.


At my school, we’ve found that our weakest students always try to make do with just review books. In fact, the weakest students have an attitude that “if it’s not in FA, It’s not important”. WRONG. Every one of my students who have taken Boards tell me that there’s stuff on Boards that is NOT covered in FA. FA is the barebones minimum of what you should know. Sadly, for some people, FA generates near religious devotion. Go figure. Some SDNers may be interpreting this as "if you don't buy textbooks, you're a bad student". I hope that's not what they're thinking.


Review books are for review, and that’s it. And BTW, First Aid for USMLE I still has errors in it!


Study with your friends, unless they’re too distracting. Otherwise, seek out the people in your classes who really impress you, and ask them “how they do it?” Even if you get a single tip that helps, that’s worth it.


What makes medical students fail? The most common reasons at my school are mental health issues, especially depression, or poor work ethic; less seen is an inability to separate outside life issues from med school (ie, poor coping skills), or repeated failure on Boards. A handful simply lost interest in Medicine, or never were fully committed to the path in the first place.


But to quote Queen Victoria, “We are not interested in the possibility of failure!


And to quote my wise colleague Angus Avagadro: Don't wait to be spoon fed everything, have some intellectual curiosity. This is what you are going to be doing for the rest of your life anyway, looking up things for cases you have and are not sure how to handle,. etc.


Most of you are where you are right now because you love learning about the human body. Don’t ever lose that.


And good luck to you all!

TLDR: wondering if your 2018 includes advice about not bringing a gun to work in order for students to succeed.
 
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Goro

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Based upon stories from SDNers,:

Don't put spycams in bathrooms
Do't bring guns into hospitals where forbidden
Don't argue with attendings
Don't cheat
Don't lie to attendings
Don't falsify work hours
Don't falsify patient data
Don't cheat
Don't leave unless you have permission to do so
Don't assault people
Don't make your political grandstanding and twitterfeed more important than your clinical work
Don't take quizzes for other classmates
Don't cheat
Don't lie on your application
Don't use twitter to disparage your home institution, especially with when you have performance issues.
If you develop mental health issues, get them treated ASAP.
Don't fail Boards
Don't cheat
 
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Based upon stories from SDNers,:

Don't put spycams in bathrooms
Do't bring guns into hospitals where forbidden
Don't argue with attendings
Don't cheat
Don't lie to attendings
Don't falsify work hours
Don't falsify patient data
Don't cheat
Don't leave unless you have permission to do so
Don't assault people
Don't make your political grandstanding and twitterfeed more important than your clinical work
Don't take quizzes for other classmates
Don't cheat
Don't lie on your application
Don't use twitter to disparage your home institution, especially with when you have performance issues.
If you develop mental health issues, get them treated ASAP.
Don't fail Boards
Don't cheat

And dont gunner too hard! (Unrelated to point 2)
 
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Taddy Mason

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Based upon stories from SDNers,:

Don't put spycams in bathrooms
Do't bring guns into hospitals where forbidden
Don't argue with attendings
Don't cheat
Don't lie to attendings
Don't falsify work hours
Don't falsify patient data
Don't cheat
Don't leave unless you have permission to do so
Don't assault people
Don't make your political grandstanding and twitterfeed more important than your clinical work
Don't take quizzes for other classmates
Don't cheat
Don't lie on your application
Don't use twitter to disparage your home institution, especially with when you have performance issues.
If you develop mental health issues, get them treated ASAP.
Don't fail Boards
Don't cheat

Don’t break into administrative offices in the middle of the night and steal school computers that have test info stored in them.

Don’t get arrested for possession of hallucinogens and then vehemently defend your use of them and accuse the school of not being “open minded” when in front of the academic and professionalism committee during your dismissal hearing.

Don’t murder prostitutes you find on Craigslist.
 
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operaman

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Goro’s guides should really be required reading. It blows my mind how many students still come in and do stupid things despite countless posts and articles saying not to do them. So my few additions:

1) don’t be an idiot. If you think something above doesn’t apply to you, you’re wrong.

2) ask for help IMMEDIATELY when you start having trouble or s—t goes down in your personal life. Deans will bend over backward to help you and they can do a LOT more for you if you’re proactive. If you wait til after you’ve failed the year, there is less they can do at that point.

3) your entire life now counts toward your professional work. You can get expelled just as easily for doing something stupid outside of class as you can for doing it inside class. Sorry but this is the price of being a member in this profession.

4) your career is much easier to destroy in the beginning. Get a DUI or a drug charge or behave unprofessionally as a med student and you may get expelled without any chance of ever getting a degree. If you do that as a resident you may get dismissed from your program but you’ve still got your degree and possibly even a license. Do it as an attending and you may get fired and put on some sort of probation by the licensing board, but you’re still a licensed physician and can earn a great living. It’s counterintuitive but you’re most vulnerable as a student so keep your nose clean and stay under the radar.
 
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Raney Schauer

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Don’t break into administrative offices in the middle of the night and steal school computers that have test info stored in them.

Don’t get arrested for possession of hallucinogens and then vehemently defend your use of them and accuse the school of not being “open minded” when in front of the academic and professionalism committee during your dismissal hearing.

Don’t murder prostitutes you find on Craigslist.
The first two sound totally made up.
 
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Raney Schauer

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Tip:

Don't be this POS

26nassar1-articleLarge.jpg
 
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Goro

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Don’t break into administrative offices in the middle of the night and steal school computers that have test info stored in them.

Don’t get arrested for possession of hallucinogens and then vehemently defend your use of them and accuse the school of not being “open minded” when in front of the academic and professionalism committee during your dismissal hearing.

Don’t murder prostitutes you find on Craigslist.
A faculty colleague of mine who used to teach at a podiatric school told me a story that was VERY similar to #1!

I'd love to hear to dish on #2!
 
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Doctor-S

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Every one of my clinician colleagues has told me that repetition is the key to learning. And don’t worry about not learning everything at once, you’re not radio actors with live air time tomorrow afternoon. We realize it takes time to get your material down. Yes, given the nature of the beast, some cramming will be impossible to avoid, but be aware if you cram, you don’t retain. And it’s not enough to memorize, you have to apply what you’ve learned. So merely reading and re-reading your PPT files to try to memorize them like you're learning the lines from Othello and Titus Andronicus isn't going to work.

Yet another resource: Seek out your professors if you're struggling; they're there for you! IF you have faculty who teach their research and not what you’re supposed to really need, complain loudly and often to your deans. Don’t put up crap like that.

And to quote my wise colleague Angus Avagadro: Don't wait to be spoon fed everything, have some intellectual curiosity. This is what you are going to be doing for the rest of your life anyway, looking up things for cases you have and are not sure how to handle,. etc.

1) don’t be an idiot. If you think something above doesn’t apply to you, you’re wrong.
+1 on these four suggestions.

Thanks for posting these @Goro and @operaman.
 
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Kgizzle

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Also, if you're chill AF don't worry about everyone around you doing the most. This journey is about you becoming the best doctor that you can be. Don't compare yourself to other people and don't lose sight of why you pursued medicine in the first place. Most medical students are insecure as hell so they try to project competence through getting every single resource and doing every single volunteer opportunity. You are a chill individual do NOT get sucked into that world, it is not fun and you are not that kind of person. Just focus on working hard and pursuing your outside interests, you will be okay. And your interpersonal skills will make you a favorite among patients. Honestly, SDN selects for a special type of individual, you're not that individual and it's okay... you know how to have a good time and it's absolutely okay!
 
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ohmanwaddup

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What does it mean to not memorize? Not trying to be a tool but I’m doing biochem right now and I’m using Anki after going through slides and textbook readings to keep it fresh. I can explain most concepts ie the steps in cell signaling, PCR, apoptosis, but isn’t that the same as memorizing a topic? Just trying to not unknowingly dig myself in a hole
 

Goro

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What does it mean to not memorize? Not trying to be a tool but I’m doing biochem right now and I’m using Anki after going through slides and textbook readings to keep it fresh. I can explain most concepts ie the steps in cell signaling, PCR, apoptosis, but isn’t that the same as memorizing a topic? Just trying to not unknowingly dig myself in a hole
Oh there's plenty of stuff you have to memorize, but that's not enough. It's the Baseline.

On top of that you have to apply what you have learned. It's like seeing the connections. Knowing what the trigeminal nerve enervates is not enough, you have to be able to understand what happens if a patient has deficits in the nerve.
 
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Spectre of Ockham

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Don't try to save others during the exams. Your neck will be put on the guillotine not them.
 
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Deecee2DO

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Great post by @Goro. I have found that in med school it is not uncommon to feel like everyone else in your class has it all figured out and they know the “best” way to study. this is a bad trap to get sucked into and there is no best way to study. Study how you learn best. More likely than not your classmates may act like they arent stressed or they know what they are doing but underneath they are just as clueless and stressed out as you are. Some students will make it sound like if you arent using a certain resource you are “doing it wrong”, or if you dont have an IPad and 3 monitors up while studying you arent studying “correctly”. Do not get sucked into what others are doing. I dont use anki at all because it doesnt work for me others swear by it. All i use to study is a whiteboard, blank sheets of paper to write stuff out in tables or pathways, youtube videos, lecture videos and PPT slides and then practice questions from board books when i know the material. First 2 months of med school will be a learning curve to see which study methods work best for you. whatever works keep doing it.
 
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D

deleted314957

Some very apropos comments from Goro, et.al. However, I think the tenor of comments (not just from Goro but those from physicians in general which are directed at med students) tend to scare many of them.

For you students, remember what you have mastered in your prior studies.
Many, if not most of you took courses which were conceptually very challenging/abstract/etc.Think of physical chemistry, orgo, diffe-q and others.

Med school, for the most part, is conceptually not difficult at all. You have already done the stuff that requires real learning of challenging material. Med school just presents you with MORE material to remember/absorb. There is (generally) nothing difficult to understand if you had a solid BCMP background. So you will need good technique to handle the volume and Goro has wonderful ideas.

Just remember, you have demonstrated (even proven) that you have the brain power to get thru med school. Do not be scared. Be determined.
 
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nimbus

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Don’t crash AMWA meetings to harass the speaker.

Don’t post a picture of your Academic Standards Committee online.

If your school requires you to get a psych evaluation before you return to class, get a psych evaluation.

Actually follow the advice of your own attorney.

Don’t f*** yourself.
 
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Goro

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Don’t crash AMWA meetings to harass the speaker.

Don’t post a picture of your Academic Standards Committee online.

If your school requires you to get a psych evaluation before you return to class, get a psych evaluation.

Actually follow the advice of your own attorney.

Don’t f*** yourself.
To this, add: if your Dean suggests something, do it.
 
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Deecee2DO

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Also, some med schools will abuse the "professionalism misconduct" scare tactic over things as trivial as not filling out an online survey or evaluation. They will hold and maintain their power through this as the last thing you want is faculty that hate you ultimately leading to a poor dean's letter with red flags (and they know this). Do what you are told and follow the rules even if they seem stupid. You are the clay until you are in practice
 
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Goro

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Also, some med schools will abuse the "professionalism misconduct" scare tactic over things as trivial as not filling out an online survey or evaluation. They will hold and maintain their power through this as the last thing you want is faculty that hate you ultimately leading to a poor dean's letter with red flags (and they know this). Do what you are told and follow the rules even if they seem stupid. You are the clay until you are in practice
As annoying as they may be, those surveys do improve our curriculum.
 
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Goro

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Hey @Goro - any advice/observations specific to boards prep?
Start prep during Xmas vacation of M2
Do as many practice questions as you can
Find out what are the deficits in your knowledge base and work to fix those first
Like it or not, studying for your classes is studying for Boards (professor's research excluded)
FA is not the be all and end all its devotees make it out to be
Not all question banks are the same, but I like Uworld the best.
BNB is pretty good too
What works for other people might not work for you. You do you.
 
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Dhooy7

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On a related note, does anyone happen to know where I can find a UWash student guide. It was written by a 4th year at their school to help guide incoming students. Its a fairly lengthy pdf.
Did you end up finding the UWash student guide? Thx!
 

SurfingDoctor

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Based upon stories from SDNers,:

Don't put spycams in bathrooms
Do't bring guns into hospitals where forbidden
Don't argue with attendings
Don't cheat
Don't lie to attendings
Don't falsify work hours
Don't falsify patient data
Don't cheat
Don't leave unless you have permission to do so
Don't assault people
Don't make your political grandstanding and twitterfeed more important than your clinical work
Don't take quizzes for other classmates
Don't cheat
Don't lie on your application
Don't use twitter to disparage your home institution, especially with when you have performance issues.
If you develop mental health issues, get them treated ASAP.
Don't fail Boards
Don't cheat
Ha. This is the educational/academic version of “Don’t stand up while the coaster is in motion”
 
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jmneddy

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For those of you who have been accepted and are preparing at this point for matriculation and orientation, congrats! Good luck! You’ve earned it. You did it! You WILL be doctors!!!

:thumbup::love::luck::hardy::highfive::soexcited::clap::=|:-)::woot::claps::banana::biglove:
So pull up a chair and grab another cold one; I was asked by an SDNer about the big DOs and DON’Ts of being a pre-clinical med student. Here are my thoughts:


As you know, you have along hard road ahead of you, but you can do it! Many of are probably still wondering “what have I gotten myself into?”

Well, for starters, that cliché of “drinking from the fire hose” is true. Actually, it’s more like “drinking from a fire hose while running after the fire engine”. We’re going to throw everything at you, in a very short period of time. I had a friend who was a graduate of U WV, and he told me that medical school “took him to his intellectual limits.”

Here are some tips that I have gleaned from my successful students, and helpful SDNers. In no particular order:

Identify your optimal learning style. Not everyone learns best by sitting on their butts for 6-8 hours a day. More importantly, what worked in college might not work in med school. I have tons of students who have troubles in the first third of their first semester because the sheer overload of material clobbers them.


Studying in med school isn’t merely adding more studying hours, but studying in a way that is best attuned to your learning style. Some people have to hear things, and so they may do best in study groups teaching their friends, or listening to lectures on video playback. This is why I feel that SDN posts asking “what works for you?” are better phrased as “what resources are available?”


The key thing here is shake things up. Try going to lectures if you're struggling; conversely, if you really get nothing from being at lectures, then by all means, do something else in that time period (unless you're at schools with required lecture attendance).


Others are visual learners and do best by making tables charts figures, writing out pathways, etc.


Every one of my clinician colleagues has told me that repetition is the key to learning. And don’t worry about not learning everything at once, you’re not radio actors with live air time tomorrow afternoon. We realize it takes time to get your material down. Yes, given the nature of the beast, some cramming will be impossible to avoid, but be aware if you cram, you don’t retain. And it’s not enough to memorize, you have to apply what you’ve learned. So merely reading and re-reading your PPT files to try to memorize them like you're learning the lines from Othello and Titus Andronicus isn't going to work.


You have taken and done well enough on the MCAT to have been accepted. However, some of you still have challenges with standardized testing. If you have test taking anxiety, get help for it NOW. And get a good night's sleep before exams, too. This helps retention and test performance.


Some people have trouble with exams because of poor confidence and a tendency to overthink. IF you able to narrow your choices down to two, but consistently pick the wrong one, then that’s a confidence issue. Go with your first choices for answers, because they tend to be the correct ones.


IF you are drawing a complete blank on most of the answers, then that’s a database issue.


I post this all the time here, but this is important enough to repeat: your schools will have special resources to help struggling students. One is a learning or education center, to help you with time mgt, learning styles, test taking anxieties, mind mapping, etc.


Med school is stressful. I like to point out that it has broken even healthy students. The other resource to use, and this is just as important, is the counseling or therapy center. Med school can be a soul crushing meat grinder, especially when you’re floundering. Don’t be afraid of losing face; don’t be afraid to seek out help. Don’t be a non-compliant patient. You’re going have plenty of these on your own!


Have or develop good coping skills in case family or relationship issues intrude. As a medical student you have to be somewhat selfish. This is especially pertinent for students who come from cultures where extended family is important. You can’t always run home if Uncle Joe gets sick.


In addition, it's best to have or develop a support group. Your fellow students are your family now. You can turn to them.


Yet another resource: Seek out your professors if you're struggling; they're there for you! IF you have faculty who teach their research and not what you’re supposed to really need, complain loudly and often to your deans. Don’t put up crap like that.


Always be able to look at the big picture. I have seen so many students get lost in the weeds trying to memorize every detail. You simply can’t do it. He who tries to learn everything will end up learning nothing. Use resources other than your PPT files, like Pathoma, Boards and Beyond, Anki, Sketchy, etc. High scorers on Boards tend to use more of the external resources than just than their lecture notes.



Bone up on what you're weakest in. This is why practice tests are so helpful. Qbank, Testweapon, USMLE World, ComBank, ComSAE, whatever the resource, make sure use to them. We and others find that our best students take lots of practice questions, and the weakest students don’t. If you feel you know particular material, it's OK to spend less time with it, and better to work on your weakest areas. But identifying those holes in your knowledge base is extremely important.



What to do about textbooks???? This is a vexed question! My views have evolved here.


My first recommendation is to find out from your senior classmates if the Faculty actually test from them, or even use them. There are indeed Faculty who will tell you “Read Chapter 8 from Robbins because that’s what I’ll test you on”, and sure enough, that’s where the test questions come from.


If Faculty only recommend books, then you’re probably safe with using PPTs and outside resources. There is a trend with the shift to e-books to include more useful content like videos and test question banks, so this might be some justification for buying books.


Board review books are exactly that; do NOT use them in place of a required text, unless your Faculty are so poor that they provide no guidance on what is important material.


At my school, we’ve found that our weakest students always try to make do with just review books. In fact, the weakest students have an attitude that “if it’s not in FA, It’s not important”. WRONG. Every one of my students who have taken Boards tell me that there’s stuff on Boards that is NOT covered in FA. FA is the barebones minimum of what you should know. Sadly, for some people, FA generates near religious devotion. Go figure. Some SDNers may be interpreting this as "if you don't buy textbooks, you're a bad student". I hope that's not what they're thinking.


Review books are for review, and that’s it. And BTW, First Aid for USMLE I still has errors in it!


Study with your friends, unless they’re too distracting. Otherwise, seek out the people in your classes who really impress you, and ask them “how they do it?” Even if you get a single tip that helps, that’s worth it.


What makes medical students fail? The most common reasons at my school are mental health issues, especially depression, or poor work ethic; less seen is an inability to separate outside life issues from med school (ie, poor coping skills), or repeated failure on Boards. A handful simply lost interest in Medicine, or never were fully committed to the path in the first place.


But to quote Queen Victoria, “We are not interested in the possibility of failure!


And to quote my wise colleague Angus Avagadro: Don't wait to be spoon fed everything, have some intellectual curiosity. This is what you are going to be doing for the rest of your life anyway, looking up things for cases you have and are not sure how to handle,. etc.


Most of you are where you are right now because you love learning about the human body. Don’t ever lose that.


And good luck to you all!

Everything in here is SO incredibly and also strangely motivating. Thank you so much for taking the time and also for linking me back get ready based on my post about requesting advice. I can’t wait to begin!
 
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M&L

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i saw this thread last year, but it really didnt speak to me. Now, when i am about to matriculate, i read EVERY WORD :)) thanks, @Goro
 
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Ultimax

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I saw this post last year and I just reviewed it to prepare for matriculation next year, these advices are golden!
 
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GloballyMed

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@Goro You are a cool cat! What school are you at? I will ditch the MD to go to your school, just don’t reject me when I say I don’t like cats and would prefer dogs. I wish all faculty have the humor like you do.

PS. Excellent advice as always. Thank you
 

Goro

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@Goro You are a cool cat! What school are you at? I will ditch the MD to go to your school, just don’t reject me when I say I don’t like cats and would prefer dogs. I wish all faculty have the humor like you do.

PS. Excellent advice as always. Thank you
I could tell you, but then I'd have to reject you.
 
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medstudent_2024

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Hi @Goro,

I am an incoming student who is excited, nervous but wanting to succeed in medical school to my fullest potential. I will be attending KCU in July. I loved your med student tips but became anxious when you started talking about standardized exams. I typically do well on school exams both in undergrad and during my biomedical sciences masters. I struggled in medical physiology due to procrastination and biostatistics due to both procrastination and some testing anxiety. Other than those two classes, I for the most part feel modestly confident going into a school exam. Standardized exams are a whole different ball game.

For me, the disconnect with standardized exams is: 1. not having a full comprehension of what will be asked of me (school exams have a finite amount of material to be reviewed)
2. Not knowing what study resources to trust. My practice MCAT scores under full testing conditions were about 8-9 points higher than the actual exam. Faculty members that I have talked to in the past have suggested perhaps the issue is testing anxiety.. who doesn't have a little bit of anxiety on a standardized exam which will essentially determine your entire professional fate???? I know there is an optimal level of anxiety and the higher my confidence the more optimal my anxiety will be.

I have also worked with cognitive skills in the past but again it has helped a significant amount on preparation for school exams but did not transfer to the MCAT. I WANT TO DO WELL. Do you have any advice from day 1 on how to best prepare for USMLE and COMLEX and/or perhaps signs from first and second year that I am on the right path to succeed on the standardized exams to come?

Sincerely,

Eager Med Student
 
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Goro

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Hi @Goro,

I am an incoming student who is excited, nervous but wanting to succeed in medical school to my fullest potential. I will be attending KCU in July. I loved your med student tips but became anxious when you started talking about standardized exams. I typically do well on school exams both in undergrad and during my biomedical sciences masters. I struggled in medical physiology due to procrastination and biostatistics due to both procrastination and some testing anxiety. Other than those two classes, I for the most part feel modestly confident going into a school exam. Standardized exams are a whole different ball game.

For me, the disconnect with standardized exams is: 1. not having a full comprehension of what will be asked of me (school exams have a finite amount of material to be reviewed)
2. Not knowing what study resources to trust. My practice MCAT scores under full testing conditions were about 8-9 points higher than the actual exam. Faculty members that I have talked to in the past have suggested perhaps the issue is testing anxiety.. who doesn't have a little bit of anxiety on a standardized exam which will essentially determine your entire professional fate???? I know there is an optimal level of anxiety and the higher my confidence the more optimal my anxiety will be.

I have also worked with cognitive skills in the past but again it has helped a significant amount on preparation for school exams but did not transfer to the MCAT. I WANT TO DO WELL. Do you have any advice from day 1 on how to best prepare for USMLE and COMLEX and/or perhaps signs from first and second year that I am on the right path to succeed on the standardized exams to come?

Sincerely,

Eager Med Student
Best thing to do is consult with your school's leanring or education ceneter on test taking strategies.

I struggled in medical physiology due to procrastination and biostatistics due to both procrastination and some testing anxiety.

This is more concerning to me. You're in the big leagues now, you can't afford to allow your anxiety to wreck your performance. Hence, consult the school's counseling center.

Concerning study resources, there are tons, but you have ot pick those that are best suited of your learning style. UWorld is universal, and I have a high opinion of Boards and Beyond. All of my students swear by Sketchy Micro, even with the hieroglyphs that boggle my Micro colleagues' minds. But Anki seems to be a mixed mag. It's good for memorizing, but what about learning???
 

medstudent_2024

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Best thing to do is consult with your school's leanring or education ceneter on test taking strategies.

I struggled in medical physiology due to procrastination and biostatistics due to both procrastination and some testing anxiety.

This is more concerning to me. You're in the big leagues now, you can't afford to allow your anxiety to wreck your performance. Hence, consult the school's counseling center.

Concerning study resources, there are tons, but you have ot pick those that are best suited of your learning style. UWorld is universal, and I have a high opinion of Boards and Beyond. All of my students swear by Sketchy Micro, even with the hieroglyphs that boggle my Micro colleagues' minds. But Anki seems to be a mixed mag. It's good for memorizing, but what about learning???


I procrastinated a bit after crushing the first exam for physiology, I was 15 points above the average and had also received a few med school acceptances as well, so that was the source of procrastination, I still finished with the average but I am going in as a humble peasant so will definitely give 120%.

Do you think board review courses are a good idea or do you think that a school's curriculum should carry you most of the way to success on boards? As a student, how would I know which boat I fall into?
 

Goro

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Do you think board review courses are a good idea or do you think that a school's curriculum should carry you most of the way to success on boards? As a student, how would I know which boat I fall into?
Board review? That's up to you. They're a waste of time for some student., but a needed focus for others.

Only you can tell what kind of learner you are. You'll rapidly find out what works and what doesn't.
 
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