As I become inundated with science, buried under electronic books (yes, I do everything on my iPad), and finally set into the rhythm of my first year of medical, I can’t help but notice the things I am so thankful I did, and some things I wish I would have. When you burn through an entire semester of Embryology in a week that’s taught by the guy who wrote the book, your strengths and weaknesses become pretty apparent… Pretty quickly. So, without further adieu, here are the things I am incredibly happy I did before I began medical school, and a few I wish I would have.
1. Take a lot of upper division sciences
If I can recommend one thing, it is take upper division science courses that deal with the human body and physiology. Taking Physiology as well as Histology and Neurobiology taught me the language of how to talk about and navigate the human body, “no the thoracoacromial artery should branch off close to the sub-clavian, go more superior.” I also couldn’t even imagine having to figure out the peripheral and autonomic nervous system for the first time with my current course load. People do it, but they sure seem a lot more stressed having to learn an already complicated system. Biochemistry and Cell & Molecular Biology are also extremely important courses that could help make your first year a lot easier.
2. Spend a lot of time in clinic, and soak in as much as you can.
We’ve only been working on our cadavers for a week, but my team has already discovered an incredible amount about our patient. Because of the 2.5 years I spent with Pediatric Oncology at Vanderbilt, I’ve been able to successfully identify the type of spinal cancer our patient has and the metastatic path it has followed. Tomorrow, we open the thorax, and I’ll hopefully be able to find a primary source for the cancer. This previous knowledge makes me excited to learn the anatomy, and is also a teaching opportunity for me to share with my classmates the knowledge that was poured into me by my mentors. Those clinical experiences are a part of what is fueling me to do well in anatomy.
3. Get really good at integrating technology into your studies.
Medicine and the way we access and teach it is changing through technology in drastic ways. I used to be the “gimme a book, the printed notes, and I’ll show up on test day” guy – not so much any more. I’ve had to alter the way I receive, categorize, and learn information because there’s so much of it! Instead of books and printed notes, I have an iPad with all of my eBooks, applications, classes, and notes. All of my lectures are downloaded to Notability, and I write, type, and draw on them just like normal printed out notes, but without all the weight and clutter. This allows me to quickly, efficiently, and effectively dig through mounds of information to find what I’m looking for. Imagine learning an entire semester of Embryology in a week with a book and printed notes… that would be horribly tedious and cumbersome. Don’t resist change; start early with integrating technology and your learning so medical school is a seamless transition.
4. Have hobbies and KEEP UP WITH THEM.
Yeah, med school is busy. Yeah, there is a lot of studying to do. But if I didn’t have hobbies like running, brewing beer, and playing guitar, I’d go insane. Literally. There is only so much studying one can do, and med school is all about the marathon and pacing yourself mentally and physically. Without those hobbies, I’d have no pressure release valve to help alleviate the stresses that are innately associated with medical education. I’d also have no way to decompress and work through the influx of emotions that come as a result of cutting into another human being for the first time. Under normal social circumstances, approaching someone with a #22 blade would be a illegal; however, becoming a student of medicine allows me the privilege to respectfully wield that curved, stainless steel instrument, and learn the human body so that I may help my future patients.
Recognizing and working through those emotions are incredibly important to a medical student’s mental and physical well-being, and I’m a firm believer that hobbies like mine are intimately involved in that cathartic process.
I wish you the best of luck, and keep your eye on the prize! I’m busy, but have never been happier.
This is a repost of a popular article from our series Journeys with Joshua.