10 Things I Learned From a Residency Director

A resident director recently met with students of a club that I belong to. It was fantastic! I love being able to learn things from people who really know what’s what, especially in a field like medicine, which is often saturated by a lot of information from too many (not always reliable)sources. Getting straight answers from someone truly in the know is simply invaluable.

So I’ll share something I heard straight from one horse’s mouth. Maybe you’ve heard or experienced different things – that’s great; please share! We can all benefit from each other! I wrote this to share, but also in for myself. It’s a great way to record the thing that could help as i move further in my medical career. I’m just a wee M1, so my experience and knowledge on residencies is somewhat limited, but I do hope it helps!

Also, I won’t waste time talking about board scores and academics. You know what you have to do there.

1. Your Picture

I’ll start with the one people tend to not think about. In your application, you must provide a picture of yourself so admissions committee can get a good look at your mug. The resident director said that out of maybe 500 applications he will immediately throw out 20-30 applicants based on their pictures alone. Now don’t cry discrimination just yet. He went on to explain that these pictures were so ridiculous, so far-fetched or just plain crazy that he could not rationalize looking through these candidates’ apps. He said he has seen everything from a guy with wild, untamed lion-mane locks to a girl spilling so far out of her shirt it was almost taboo to look at to a Facebook party picture. It’s easy to get your picture taken in which you are wearing nice attire that appeases the older generation. Be smart. Do it.

2. An Attention Grabbing Statement

Personal statement that is. From what I understand, most personal statements are not read until the interviewee has been offered an interview.  Unless the first sentence grabs your face and makes you read it, makes you want to know what happens next or why this person wrote that sentence. Not everyone is an accomplished writer and, honestly, that’s fine. Even statements written with perfect Victorian prose will be skimmed and shrugged off. So what do you do? Just go for it. Use your experiences, the things that open the window to who you are. Also, the director said writing about how much you love medicine and all of your volunteer work for, say, habitat for humanity does not cut it anymore. In his words, “It’s expected that everyone does it! I don’t care!” A little harsh in my opinion, but the sentiment is there.

3. Activities that Show your Potential

You cannot rate a person’s hand-eye coordination, patience, or ability to improvise by reading about it on a piece of paper (Although I did try to do this in the research I did!). All specialties have certain skill sets which are essential to being successful in that field. Those skills can come from anywhere! Played piano, a master at paint-by-numbers, an accomplished athlete? All useful and relevant to certain specialties. These can be both learned and acquired, but you need to be able to prove that you have the steadiest hands in a 100-mile radius or that your attention to detail would make closet organizers swoon. It’s all about your activities. Your experiences in medical school build your skills. Residency programs need to know about these skills and  great abilities you have because you never know –  maybe that “useless skill” is really a golden ticket to the spot you want most.

4. Exaggeration Trip 

Sometimes it can’t be helped that we want to put a few more sparkles on our projects. However, a few sparkles can quickly turn into a glitter wave, and then we’re just totally out of control and there’s little left of the substance beneath all that glitter. Residency interviewers have been around the block before. If something on your application looks too good to be true or far more impressive than expected, then they are going to go after you about it. They know a bull shitter when they see one. So, claiming you speak French when really your extent of speaking the language consists of the one time you had half of a conversation during a  trip to France won’t fly. You will be find out. It’s medicine people. Half-truths and glossy words don’t help anyone.

5. Know your Audience

Many of us are aware of the stereotypes that follow residencies and specialties. While you should never make assumptions about anyone you work with, you can use the traits associated with each specialty to make the right impression in the right places. Different cities and hospitals have their own cultures. This is why auditions and interview dinners are important; they give you a chance to get to know the culture of a hospital. If you can’t swing a rotation at one of the hospitals on your list, then doing some in-depth research can be a great way to rub the faculty the right way right off the bat. This does not mean you need to act like someone you aren’t at all. Rather, it means know how to highlight your characteristics to suit your desired environment.

6. Lead with answers 

The art of conversation is lost on many. Like many art forms, there is a way to manipulate it to accomplish what you want. This is why interviews should be practiced. When you become adept at answering questions, you are able to direct questions in your favor based on your answers. This gives you control over the interview. Think about it like a pick-your-own-adventure book. If you read the book once, you can generally pick the answers that don’t lead to your death. That means practice (in case my analogy wasn’t as great as I thought). The director said that once you get them interested and invested in a conversation you’re usually on the right track.

7. Confident – not cocky

Confidence is how you prove your competence without actually preforming. Confidence makes potential seem worth investing in. Confidence is key. But there is a fine line between being strong and being a know-it-all. You would think that after a certain point professional students would learn how to act so as to not come off as a cocky narcissist.  And yet, we all know this is not true. You need to be aware of how you come off in any situation, specifically while interacting with residency directors. The residency director said that there is always time to pull back if you feel yourself getting too comfortable during a rotation or interview. This is important as getting too comfortable tends to cause interviewing students to become complacent and possibly arrogant, even if they have never been a showboater for one day in their lives. For those of you who do believe that you are God’s gift to medicine…hey, that’s up to you.

8. Modest – not reserved

For every boisterous personality, there’s an introvert counterpart. Both parties need to find the line, in their own ways, that brings them to that perfect point in-between assertive, understanding and compassionate. Especially in an interview, you have to prove your ability to assert authority without being overbearing or boorish. You also need to show modesty and appreciation for yourself. These are all qualities that a future physician must have. The director said, “Know your strengths, don’t hide them. But don’t throw them in our faces. Be proud, but not vain.” Pretty solid I think.

9. Memorable in all the right ways

I was told that out of the 25 people seen by this residency director on every interview day, he remembers around 10 of them off the top of his head. 3 or 4 of them are really great candidates, a couple that have interesting potential, and 4 or 5 of them are horrible. Those are some good or terrible odds, depending on how you look at it. Using the techniques you learned over time, become one of the really great candidates. At the end of the day, you want your interviewers to say to their colleagues, “Hey check out this one I interviewed today, he was fantastic”. While I wasn’t told how exactly to do this (except be super interesting??) so I’m hoping as school goes on, I’ll be able to learn more about being a prime candidate. Is it possible to do this at every interview you acquire? Maybe. Is it possible for you to be memorable no matter who you are? Definitely.

10. Follow the Feeling

No matter where you are or what you chose to do, it should feel right. I was told that while rotating and interviewing the one thing that is more important than anything else is the feeling you get inside. “You’re all smart. That’s why you’re here. But are you smart enough to trust your gut? That’s great for us, but even better for you.” Even though a place might seem great on paper, if its doesn’t feel right its not for you. The match doesn’t allow for a ton of a freedom, but for the bit it does has, do everything you can so that you can be happy.

I hope this was helpful! Good luck to everyone going through the match! Add helpful things because i’m still a wee baby!


Any ideas for good gifts for med students?

Originally posted October 2015

Depends on how generous you’re feeling (joking but also not)

If you want to go big:

  • A small sized tablet if they don’t already have one (they fit perfect in a white coat pocket!)
  • Get a great stethoscope, or if they already have one to last get it engraved
  • A fantastic vacation (with you!) for first years since we still get a summer break
  • “Mature” jewelry –  earring, necklaces, cufflinks made with real metals or stones
  • A subscription to their board prep website of choice (Picmonic, Firecracker, USMLEworld, etc)

And gifts that mean as much but don’t hit the budget quite as hard:

  • Their favorite type of coffee or tea to keep at home
  • Gift cards to places like starbucks, panera or anywhere that they love to get food/drinks from
  • Microbe plush
  • Gift card to a favorite clothing store
  • Amazon gift cards
  • A cute or quirky medical inspired water bottle or mug
  • An extra short white coat (that fits!)
  • Take them for a really nice mani-pedi (even the guys)
  • A massage certificate
  • Something that means something special to both you and your medical student

10 Things to Ask at Your Medical School Interviews

Originally posted February 2015

Also applies to many professional school!

Since being a student ambassador I’ve learned at lot things that are really important to medical school applicants and what it important for them to know when choosing a school. I have also learned what potential students find important to their personal experience. Luckily, I’m more informed than the average first year (thanks to the medblrs!) so I’ve been able to answer many of these questions effectively!

So (hopefully) I’ve complied some useful questions that can help you figure out if a school is the right place for you. Everyone has different wants and needs, and that’s just fine, but maybe you’ll see something you didn’t think of. If you have any to add, please do!

1. Ask the current students how they like their curriculum

The internet is a wonderful place, where many schools are kind enough to post either their curriculum or at least the type they employ. Its a great first past to knowing if a school is right for you. But simply knowing what type of curriculum a school has won’t let you know if it’s really giving the students what they need.  This is definitely a case by case basis and each student will tell you something different. But if you ask enough people you will get a feel for how the curriculum effects the students as a whole and how well the information is taught. This way you can get a feel whether its a situation you can see yourself succeeding in, and hey, you might even change your mind.

2. How heavily focused is the school on board prep 

Ask about how the testing is done (block or individual class exams, computer or written, classroom or school testing center), and are questions written boards style? Do they have focus on things besides boards? Half of the battle of boards is being able to correctly approach these specific types questions. Some schools build up to it and some throw you right in. Some school might be too focused on boards (the students might not be as great clinically). Do they offer any boards prep besides a kaplan discount if even? It seems far off, but trust me, it’s worth knowing sooner rather than later.

3. Does the school focus on a specific type of specialty

Some schools tend to focus more on certain specialties or areas to provide health care. Sometimes you won’t know how much until you get to the interview. Certain schools will heavily focus on primary care, some on competitive specialties, while others are into undeserved city populations or rural care. This shouldn’t drive your choice because all schools will have people who do match all over the grid, but if the focus isn’t what you’re looking for the won’t may not be quite right.

4. How does the class interact with each other

This is much bigger than you probably expect it to be, but how the students have previously interacted in past classes is a good determinant of how future class dynamics will be (but is not always the case). This generally varies from class to class, but more often than not a school will generally have a culture most classes follows. Places range from internally competitive to warm and fuzzy family. You do need to know yourself a little bit to know which environment is going to bring out the best in you. It won’t take long to figure it out from both faculty and students about it. And remember, second years have an effect on first year life. Just FYI.

5. What do rotations look like and how often do they change  

Your interviewers and 1st and 2nd year students probably won’t know the all the answers to your rotation questions unless you happen to get a 3rd or 4th year, a rotation preceptor or the administration who works on it specifically. It’s just hard to keep up with it all. Rotations are a big part of your medical education and even though they seem like a long way off, this is one thing you want to know about the future. What type of options are available, if they have anchor sites or traveling rotations, if international if possible through that school and how stable the sites are. Your rotations can really shape what you may want to go into, making it pretty important.

6. How receptive is the community to that school and how integrated are they 

This a question that you probably won’t get a real answer from an open house, except the regular spout most schools give. For some, it’s very true that their students are actively involved in the community and they are well liked at the places they volunteer with. Others…not so much. This again, is very specific for you. If volunteering isn’t really your thing to start with does it really matter? But if you do want the experience know ahead of time how manageable it will be for you to get out there and if you have to set it up through the school or yourself.

7. Do different programs interact

Well first are there different programs at the school. This does include an undergraduate population.There are really only a few medical professional schools that are just one lone profession. But if you do, ask how the classes are towards each other? Are they friendly or is there a lot of back handed things that go on? Does administration seem to favor a specific program? Are you removed from the undergrad populous or integrated into it? You might feel like it won’t really matter, and in the long run it doesn’t. It could make your life easier though and in med school you need all the help you can get.

8. How helpful is administration

Ask the medical students for sure about this because they will definitely have opinions about it. There will be problems everywhere you go, there is no one perfect system. Just some will…have less issues than others. A good way to approach this is to ask how active the admin is in keeping the students up to date on relevant events and changes and keep themselves updated on things like rotations or accreditation changes. Do they try to find help for struggling students? Or are you really left to your own devices?

9. What kind help does the school supply

Some schools will have tutoring and review sessions and all kinda of extra study materials. And some schools have “advisory” committees which are really “scare the crap out of you” committees. Make sure you find out about it. It’s never easy to approach the idea of being a struggling medical student and you certainly don’t want to give off the impression that you will struggle (but that is totally real, it happens to pretty much everyone). You can also wait until after interviews to ask this if it’s worrying to you. Besides the not fun stuff, you should also ask how the school helps you advance your medical career, as in getting the tools you need for whatever type of doctor you one day chose to be.

10. Why should you go to that school 

Even though they haven’t picked you just yet, you should know why you should pick them! Make them convince you why you should pick that school! Remember, if you do make it through the interview and it ends in acceptance now the school is at your mercy. They want you! The ball is in your court. When it comes down to it, you should feel right at a school, it should feel like a home.

10 Things that Make the First Year of Medical School Hard

Originally posted December 2014

Warning friends, this is not my normal kind of post. In many ways its how I’ve decided to vent my frustrations on what is my largest struggle since starting medical school, so if you aren’t feeling up to reading something that isn’t within my usual optimistic range, please feel free to skip over it.

But if you do chose to read it, know that these are all real things that are happening to me which make medical tough and they are not fun. For those who are in it, it might be different but I think we can all agree this is no cake walk, but we wouldn’t give it up for anything.  

There’s a thing I think most people have heard and it’s that medical school isn’t actually hard in terms of material, its hard because it runs you into the ground with volume and speed. Its like knowing how to swim. You actually swim pretty well. And then you get swept up in a monsoon and you have to survive. Actually scratch that. You’re expected to survive and swim in that monsoon like a champ.

But that doesn’t mean that’s the only struggle. There are so many factors that make you frustrated, get you down, pull at your heart and tear at your self-confidence.

There are also so many great things about medical school. I really do love it. But it’s a balancing act where we often fall to the less desired side of scale more often then we’d like to admit. So today I vent.

1. Feeling exhausted all the time

And every variant of that. Fatigued and sleepy. Tired and sore. If you can think of any time you’ve felt this way, med school just amps it up. You want to sleep or stop studying but you can’t risk enough of a break to truly fix the issue which becomes a constant stream of just slightly burned out all the time. It takes a lot of time to figure out a schedule that works for you so until then you have to fight through it.

And that all in itself is exhausting.

2. Forgetting school isn’t number one

Medical school, to put it simply, takes over your life. It becomes the only thing you have the ability to care about if you let it. Its so easy to forget that you have others who are more important than a grade on a paper. Even your own well-being stops being a priority. We’re going to be doctor as long as we get through, but we still manage to forget that. You end up in class even though you spent the morning throwing up. You accidentally stay 13 hours at school. You have’t gone outside in 4 days.

Med school is extremely important. But is it so all consuming that I can’t even remember to eat? That’s nonsensical.

3. No time to pick up the pieces 

Did badly on a test? Slept so little you’re running on your last cylinder? Break up with your SO? Well tough luck kid. That’s how it is. Maybe it’s just getting us ready for a world where we don’t have the time to stop because every second counts. But that doesn’t mean it’s all fine and dandy. It definitely feels like you’ve pushed everything to the way side because you had to. Eventually, you get better at not letting the pile of repression grow into a monster. But as a first year you kind of have to relearn how to deal with adult issues.

4. Disappointing others 

Broken dinner dates. Snark and lack of patience of a non-med friend’s struggles. Having to canceling seeing your mom. Leaving your pet home for 12 hours and listen to it cry when you get home. For must of us, its not grades that establish how the important people (or animals) in our lives feel about us. It’s who we are and our actions. And med school changes you pretty quickly and you don’t even see it happening. It hurts a lot to know you’ve hurt someone else, though it make take us some time to see it. You live and learn and balance your education and your med life but it doesn’t make it easier known you sometimes have to let your loved ones down.

5. Being expected to know nothing and everything

If I had a quarter every time any kind of instruction said some variant of “you should know this” I would not have to ever worry about food money. Equally so, I’m constantly being told “first years aren’t expected to know anything”, so much so I expect I’ll probably hurt someone with my infinite and vast lack of knowledge. Though it doesn’t make a lot of sense, that’s kind of the way medical education works. But its hard not to feel frustrated when you’re getting reprimanded for not knowing something you just learned that day. Give me a break!

6. Nothing is set in stone 

You can try to make a solid plan. You really can try. But medical school has a way of turning everything one it’s head. Even itself. Things you thought you wanted at the start of the year are totally different now and it only gets more confusing as you expand your education. That also means that no event is unbreakable. Everything is tentative.

7. Failing where other people succeed 

As medical student we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, but for some reason we are kept competitive with others (as long as the word standardized exists at least). So when your class breaks the record for the average on a test by 8 percent and you just barely pass by the skin of your teeth its a tough pill to swallow, just as a dumb first year example. You learn failure is a part of a process as is feeling inadequate. But that doesn’t mean it gets easier. It feel terrible to fail. And the failures will only get bigger. But hopefully the successes are even larger.

8. Losing connection with those outside of the system 

“Only those who go through it, understand it.” Such a truth has never been more relevant than coming from a completely non-medical background. It’s not so much that you lose your innate connection with those people, but your understanding of certain things change. Sometimes you feel like you’ve lost your pillar because they can’t understand what you’re going through and can’t support you in the same ways. And other times you know you can’t fully sympathize with some of their problems. Both parties have to work a little harder, and when one doesn’t…well that’s a different grievance all together.

9. Forgetting why you’re here

8 hours in lecture. Being palpated so hard you get a bruise on your stomach. Studying for hours on end that doesn’t always pay off. Without any real patient interactions or being able to see medicine in action, its easy to forget what the end goal is when all you do see is endless powerpoints, practice questions and exams. Just gotta keep the finish line in sight. Even if you have to get on top of a mountain 3.5 miles (or years) away to see it.

10. Watching people bail

Nope, you read that right. Not fail, bail. This post was kind of inspired off of this point because I had a friend who had worked so hard to get into med school. She gave up her first career, which she was very good at and made good money to follow her dream to become a physician. She was a wonderful, sweet person. But for somewhat unknown reasons she left school completely, possibly never to try for medicine ever again. If there are people who work so hard and then just fall…it’s easy to let your mind wander and think could that be me? I want this so much. Could there be a day that it becomes so hard, so frustrating and so endless that I’ll lose what made me want to be a doctor in the first place? Could these first two years be such a massive hurdle that I can’t make it? These are scary and completely realistic thoughts. So I can only hope that I can be strong and remain strong and know, not think, that medicine is truly for me.

I love medicine and I love being in medical school and learning so much. So as the year draws to a close I want to let go of the things that have been weighing one me, a lot of which this post covers. I hope that to everyone who got through this long post knows that while these are very real and have posed serious challenges, I wouldn’t change my experience for anything. If you’re here for the right reasons, you and I can make it and be great.

10 Things to Get before Your First Semester of Medical School

Originally posted October 2014

I’m almost done with my first semester of medical school!

Thank all the stars.

In celebration that I have 2 weeks left, I’ve come up with a list of the things I should have had the moment I started to make my life easier. These are nothing more than suggestions to anyone who will be starting soon. Remember, it’s a personal experience, and everyone’s will be different, and it’s what you make of it. I just like sharing.

And if you’ve got something to add, please do!

1. Netter’s Anatomy Flash Cards

If you even have the thought that you might want them, just get the stupid cards. These suckers have saved me anytime I have been stuck somewhere and I need to study. You can grab them between breaks, read them on the couch, make games out of them. Anatomy really doesn’t vary in terms of material and everyone takes anatomy.

2. A bunch of those 70 cent notebooks

But Sass, you say, I want the nice notebooks! And you get those lovely book bound notebooks with the heavy paper (if it so pleases you). BUT you’re going to need scratch paper, And yes you  can use regular ruled paper or computer paper. BUT if you aren’t a fan of “holy crap I wrote something important on that paper” situations or if you’re a compulsive hoarder (we all become hoarders in med school) it’s just so much easier to have these cheap-os.

3. Some kind of calender 

I don’t care how you do it, but do something. Use Google Calender, get a planner, put sticky notes everywhere, get a whiteboard calender DO SOMETHING. You may not realize it yet, but medical school says “hey we need every inch of brain power and long term memory you have” so believe me when I say, you will forget so many things if you don’t put it somewhere.
4. A good pillow 

Despite how it might seem, sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. So why make yourself have a harder time getting to sleep? Quick answer, don’t. Do what you can to make it easy for you get whatever amount of sleep you’re getting (every second counts). A great pillow is the simplest solution, though comfy bed sheets or a fluffy comforter can help too.
5. Reliable internet 

First of all, the majority of medical education now functions via the computer, you need internet. Secondly, I know we are living off “future money”, but current you will be a much happier person if your internet doesn’t constantly cut out. Even if you study at school all the time and are never home are you gonna lie and say you don’t lose your mind watching netflix (or any variation) because the video won’t buffer? If nothing else, invest in this.

6. An arsenal of writing utensils 

You will need good pens that make you happy (you need happy). You will also need pens you know you will not miss you never see them again. You will need board markers because whiteboard learning is a gift. You will need highlighters because neon yellow is the calling card for need to know. You will need pencils because we live in a world of mistakes.

7. Vitamin D 

*Disclaimer I am not a doctor (just yet), this is just a suggestion, ask a medical professional to know if you should take any supplements* Do you wanna know a vitamin most people are deficient in? Vitamin D. Do you know where we get Vitamin D from? The sun. Do you want to know how often first year medical students go outside? If you guessed “only when they remember” then you are correct. Some of us are lucky enough to be outside. The rest of us need a bit of help.

8. Snacks

Not just any snack. A good, reliable, filling and hopefully healthy snack. Med students come in three varieties when it comes to eating. Eats like a normal human, eats out a lot, and forgets to eat. I fall into the last category because I just don’t have food with me. So find a snack that makes you fall into the first category .

9. A phone that works and can access wifi

At the minimum, you need this. You need a way to stay in contact with the people who matter to you, to be notified when you’re in the library and their about to be a quiz, when you’re still new to this hole med school thing and you get your first text from a new friend. You’ll want to pull up grades on the fly, or see that they changed a class in your email. Oh, and wait until interview season starts. You just can’t avoid it, you need a phone that gets you connected.

10. Confidence in yourself 

Let me tell you something about medical school. It’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done so far. It’s endless hours of learning words you didn’t even know existed, things you may never see again, and pictures you can’t even grasp. It’s a world full frustration and of feeling like you aren’t good enough, or as good as everyone else. But you are. You made it this far and you can do this. So if there is one thing you do get, let it be this. Let yourself believe you can do it, and that you have the ability to be successful.

50 Things I learned that Happen Before, During and After the First Medical School Wxam

Posted October 2014

Medical school is the most wonderful, amazing, horrible, gut wrenching experience I’ve ever had. It will get infinitely better and worse all at the same time. Its a whirlwind.

The first big exam in medical school is a stepping stone. Its the start of the medical student actually becoming and actual doctor! It sounds great in theory, but its not such a fairy-tale in reality. So I’m sharing my experiences, advice and a bit of motivation about the first stop in the medical school experience.

My experiences might be different from yours, and that’s how it happens. These are just what I learned from me and my classmates. I just want to share!

Before those days

  • The first time anyone mentions your first exam will be during orientation, your last moment of beautiful freedom.
  • Exam taking in medical school is unlike how you’ve been done testing before. It’s different at every school, but it’s a whole new ride.
  • You will be told you will fail by upperclassmen, instructors, pretty much everyone.
  • It’s easy to think to yourself that it’s just a scare tactic and hey, you don’t need to worry about failing.
  • It’s not that these people are trying to scare you. They are trying to warn you.
  • Just remember that most upperclassmen only want to help you.
  • Okay and maybe scare you just a little.

Ready, Set, Go and never stop

  • The first day of classes will be overwhelming. There are no syllabus days, no get to know the class. It’s go time.
  • Even though it was a lot, the first day won’t seem so bad.
  • After the first week you will feel like you jumped into the deep end and you do not have your floaties on.
  • Try as you might, you will find yourself comparing what you know to what your classmates know and comparing study habits.
  • You realize you have no idea how to study anymore.
  • Don’t worry, neither does anyone else.
  • The next week consist of frantically trying to figure out how to study again.
  • If you find yourself at an impasse, seek out those with experience. Call a friend who’s already a doctor, find a current 2nd, 3rd or 4th year or seek an advisor.
  • Don’t forget about your professors! As the test makers, they really are a good resource. It might be intimidating, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
  • Take breaks! Take a day off! Take a nap. Trust me, you’ll need it.

Dig a little deeper

  • Even if you don’t quite have solid foot hold, you have to keep going. You can’t stop now!
  • Study with everyone you can. No one has allegiances or solid groups yet, and you will find out which people you can work well with, if at all.
  • Many others will assume class is useless. You have to figure that out for yourself though even if you have to suffer some.
  • You will feel tired. Not just tired, but drained. Not just drained, but beaten down.
  • Random bouts of test anxiety will start popping up even if you are still two weeks away from the exam.
  • These episodes will including feeling like you don’t know enough, don’t know anything, and that you might just be going a little crazy.
  • Remember that you can’t know it all, but you can know a lot.
  • After two weeks you will have exhausted every way you know of to keep yourself from being exhausted.
  • The days before the test, you will cycle through “I don’t know everything, I MUST learn everything NOW!” to “I’m so screwed” to “I should just accept it the way it is.”

The Day arrives

  • For all that jazz about accepting thing for the way they are, you might be up at 6 am studying just a little bit more.
  • Check the weather the day of your exam! Check the traffic!
  • Eat your safe food.
  • Pretty much the only conversation starter you’ll hear “So are you ready?”
  • Almost everyone in your class pretty much looks like they are in some form of facial pain from trying to act calm.
  • Stay far away from any known gunners.
  • But stay equally as far from the nervous wreck. Just being around them will make you feel even more nervous if possible.
  • If you are the nervous wreck don’t let it show or remove yourself from others as not to freak yourself out more and freak anyone else out.
  • Just tell yourself you’re okay. Because you are. You are smarter than you think.

Test Time

  • Put on your game face, leave your problems at the door and act like you’re going to rock this shit.
  • But you will completely blank at some point (don’t freak, its normal).
  • Gut instincts are a pretty good way to go, but if you really don’t know a question leave it for later. Chances your exams are pretty long and some questions can give away answers to other questions.
  • Don’t let the distractions get to you. If you can’t tune out excess noises, like someone throwing up for example, make sure you have ear plugs (and that they are allowed).
  • Use your time. Think out questions. Let oxygen get to your brain.
  • At the same time, if you feel done with your exam and you feel there is nothing more than you can do, turn in or end your exam. Don’t brood over what might be.

Your first chapter, completed

  • Whatever you need to do to be over the exam do it. If you need to cry, bitch about every question, speak to no one, or party it out do it.
  • BUT if you have another exam afterwards, you need to find a way to but this exam behind you beyond your norm.
  • You may pass. That is fantastic, you’ve already got at least some of it figured out. Don’t get cocky though.
  • You may fail. The world will keep turning, and you now have learned what doesn’t work for you. This is your tool to succeed for the next exam.
  • You will be so burned out. You might be burned out for days. Allow yourself some time to come back.
  • You now have the experience to be successful in medical school. Make sure you use it wisely.
  • If you love medicine, make it work. If you hate the book part of medicine, make it work anyways.
  • No matter what, remember that you can do this.
  • This is only the beginning.

I want everyone in medical to do well! I want everyone to succeed! I hope that you’ve learned something or felt the pain of medical school exams along with me.

The Art in Notes

Originally posted July 2014

I am an avid note taker, whether it be in class, during my own study time or just things I need to remember. One of my favorite things to do as I take notes is draw! As a visual learner, drawing makes learning easier and more fun, at least for me.

Plenty of people (and by people I mean my friends who have used my notes) have asked me how I do it. So now I make will make a post that explains my methods and maybe these can help you guys incorporate some more art into your studying. I am using my anatomy notes for this post as examples, in case you are wondering.

You don’t have to do it my way, and your way is awesome too! Hopefully you see something you like and it helps!

But I have no artistic skill! I can’t draw!

Not with that attitude. Listen here, you are going to be working on notes, not trying to get your work into the Met. You don’t need the talent of a genius and you don’t need years of study. You just need the basics and some practice.

What are the basics?

If you look online, you will find some really amazing tutorials on what seem to be very complicated topics, like hands, body motions or scenery. Most of these guides have at least this in common; all the artists start out with sketches using basic shapes. This makes drawing much easier because it becomes more like tracing. Here’s a very basic example so you can see what I mean:


Use those shapes to help you!

Use a reference

Everyone has an innate creativity, but the best part of note taking is that you are trying to learn something rather that “come up with something”. So when you are making notes, use references to help you guide your drawings. I can’t draw a heart from memory, I’ll only confuse myself when I look back on my notes later.

Use drawing as a tool for memorization

You want to be as accurate as possible for you learning, and then you can do practice of those drawings to help you remember facts about it later on.


This picture is a drawing of the Abdominal Aorta. In our anatomy class, we could get bonus points if we would draw this image (and others) with all the labeling and 90% of our class always got points. That means 90% of my 300 person class could draw this. So you can too! Use the original first and then use drawings to set in the info! For this practice, I suggest using paper that in not in your normal note arsenal.

Simplify when you can

Have you ever seen those diagrams of cells going through mitosis? Bio books love to make those images pretty and detailed. If you chose to draw this, which I’ve seen a lot of people do, there isn’t really a need for you to draw each cell as shown. Our brains are wired to remember simpler things, so why give yourself a heavier load? If you can draw a wiggly, detailed cell as a circle do it! Here’s an example for the skin. You just need to draw enough to understand.


Time it

I am fast at drawing. This is something I picked up over time. But I always follow a rule when I draw in my notes. In an hour, no matter how many images you draw it should take 15 minutes or less.  After 15 minutes you are wasting your time trying to perfect a picture rather than learning the material. This picture I drew in class, so it probably took me less than 3 minutes.


This one I did in my own study time and maybe took me 10 minutes. After I was done with it, I don’t see another drawing for maybe 3 pages, and not another large drawing for 6+ pages.


Drawing fast will only come with practice, but keep that 15 minute rule in mind.

Love your colors

I love taking notes in general in an array of colors, and those colors can help you memorize and solidify as long as you use them consistently. In my notes, I usually chose 3 pens, one for a header, one for general ideas and one for details. You can change those colors up from day to day, but the pattern should be similar. In the same way, you should pick colors in your images that help you remember things, like using separate colors for different areas, like this!


Vary sizes

One of the biggest mistake I see when people draw in their notes is they draw things to small! Some pictures do not need to take up the whole page, but make sure you give yourself enough room so you can actually see the picture and study from it.

Have fun!

Use your new art to make taking notes fun! Use doodles to remember things! And don’t you dare worry if your drawings aren’t perfect. These are your notes juts for you! This is all for the sake of for your education.




So I might be a little all over the place, but remember all these picture happened over a whole semester and I didn’t draw everything that I learned(now that’s crazy!). I did what I need to do to learn the best way for me. I hope this sparks some new art in all of you students!