June 30, 2017

Week 1 of clerkships, and a little bit about the dissertation submission process

Today marks the end of my 1st week back to medical school, as a 3rd year student on the wards.  (Is it more grammatically correct to say “in the wards” or “on the wards”?  Hmm…) It’s been a pretty crazy ride so far, and I have to say, post-call day was pretty brutal.

So just to walk you through my week, I’ve basically been waking up around 6am this week to make it in on time at 7am (and I’m fortunate that my commute is about a <10 min walk) to be able to look up what happened to my patient overnight, check in with them, and get my thoughts organized before we round at 9am.  Generally I’ve been staying until around 4:30-5pm, sometimes just to go over my notes for the day.  On call day (Wednesday this week – it happens every 5 days), I got in at around the same time, but stayed until ~9pm, and post-call day, I had to wake up at ~4am to get in at 5am to prep for rounding at 7am to go over the patients the night shift team needed to pass over to us.  I still got out around 4:30pm that day.  So as you can imagine, that’s been pretty rough.

After I get back, I’ve been working on revising and sending out our manuscript the first couple nights to a new journal, and then yesterday I got an e-mail about minor edits for my dissertation, so I spent a couple hours fixing that on post-call night (after first taking a nap for a couple of hours), and finally got the final acceptance for that this morning.  Whoo hoo!  That also means I haven’t had any time to study/catch-up yet though, so I’ve been doing pretty poorly in terms of answering questions from the attending/residents.  It’s to the point where our attending didn’t even bother asking me questions when he went over antibiotics with us this afternoon, which is pretty much when you know you’re in bad shape. Sigh.

Anyway, also just wanted to give a brief overview of the dissertation submission process, (at least at our school) since I haven’t had a chance to yet, and did just happen to finish that today.  Basically, ~2 weeks before the PhD defense, you’re supposed to submit your dissertation to all of your committee members.  They review the file, and depending on the department, they’ll either give you feedback before your defense, or after.  My department does that after for some reason, so I didn’t see any edits until after my defense.  Then, you have 10 business days (aka 2 weeks) to make all the edits your committee requires, which can be either minor or extensive, depending.  Mine were pretty minor for the most part, luckily, but since I’m somewhat of a perfectionist, I also went back and fixed wording, added citations, fixed figures, etc.  That last one took an extremely long time to figure out because Microsoft Word for some reason was not converting pictures right, so I tried asking for help, and that person didn’t get back to me until the day before it was due (and actually they made one thing worse and didn’t fix any of the issues at all), so it was quite a bit of a panic there at the end.  Extremely fortunately for me, I was supposed to meet up with a computer engineer friend for lunch that last day, and he finally figured out the rather crude, but effective, method of print-screening the figures really large on a big monitor and copy-pasting into Word.  So there’s a tip for you, if you ever have issues with importing images into Word!

Anyway, after finally submitting it, then we wait until the graduate school looks over it and sends an e-mail with any formatting or other issues that need to be fixed.  I got that e-mail yesterday, made my revisions (and went through everything again with a fine-toothed comb to check for (many) spacing errors and typos), sent it in, and got the e-mail back this morning saying it was officially accepted.  Apparently sometimes that last step can go back and forth for a bit – another MSTP who went back a rotation before me and is now on the same rotation as me said it took him a couple weeks of going back and forth with the graduate school before it got accepted, but I think he also didn’t realize that some of his changes threw off other formatting, so maybe that’s why it took longer.  But anyway, there you have it!  That’s the dissertation submission process in a nutshell.   And it’s past my bedtime nowadays, so goodnight!

May 6, 2013

Studying for Step 1

Getting into the full swing of studying – I’m at T-3 weeks + 1 day right now, and need to really ramp up the studying.  I think after today, I’m going to try to update daily with a brief entry on what I’ve done every day so there will be a record somewhere in case anyone wants to know the step-by-step process of studying for this humongo test that basically determines your medical career (or what you can apply for with reasonable hopes of matching into at any rate haha).  Before I start my records, here are the things I have bought/otherwise acquired for Step 1 for your reference:


Pathoma (book and lectures), USMLEWorld Q-bank,  South Biochem, Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple, BRS Physiology (5th edition, Linda Costanzo), Robbins and Cotran Review of Pathology, First Aid 2013, Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy, Kaplan’s Q-bank, Goljan audio, NBME exams, Kaplan Q-book.

I first bought Pathoma during the school year since we got a good deal on it as students.  Same with a USMLEWorld Q-bank that I didn’t touch until last week.

In April, I bought: Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple, BRS Phys and studied from those, borrowing a Kaplan Q-book and Robbins and Cotran Review of Pathology from a friend to do micro questions.  Was thinking about buying Lange/other pharmacology flashcards, but decided not to after reading reviews.
Later, I of course bought First Aid 2013 (new and improved from the 2012 version and much less errata), and also Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy (for reference) and my own copy of Robbin’s Path (see above).  I also bought Kaplan’s Q-bank last-minute last week just in case, but I’m not sure whether I’ll have time to do it yet.

Other resources include: Goljan audio (a classmate at school also downloaded short-audio versions, which is great to put on an mp3-player/ipod), South Biochem (audio and handouts) and NBME practice exams.  Hopefully no one sues me for putting this up or takes away resources because of this post T__T.


So here’s what the rough timeline of what I’ve done so far (with first a word on how studying was with grad school on top of it…so skip the first long paragraph if you don’t want to read about that):

Medical school ended around March 22, which was about 9 weeks ago or so.  Most of my MD classmates start clinical clerkships this week, so they all had to finish before May 2.  However, us MSTP’s have an extra month because we still had grad school throughout April.  From what I’ve heard from upperclassmen/current MSTP classmates is that people in the grad school “themes” all finished 2 weeks ago, and that they either have tests or had a presentation or two on journal articles related to their classes.  Each class is also usually only about a month long.  I, on the other hand, actually had it pretty tough this time since I’ve decided to do a Nutritional Science PhD, which is off the beaten track, so I have to pioneer the way so to speak.  I only had 2 classes this semester, but both were whole-semester long classes that only ended last week, with writing assignments every week (this is all on top of taking all the regular med school classes mind you), and one of them was a grant writing class that also had a couple quizzes and required a grant proposal written throughout.  The final grant proposal was due last Monday, which was the same day my final review paper was due for my other class (along with other projects)  Basically, April for me was spent working on grad school – Class 1: writing/editing the grant proposal and peer-reviewing other people’s grant proposals for hours, and preparing a powerpoint scientific presentation on a paper (which takes hours for me, even for a 15 minute presentation), then Class 2: Researching/preparing for a mock, taped interview session (on acupuncture), researching and presenting another powerpoint scientific review on green tea, then preparing for a consumer presentation on the topic with a handout that also took hours T__T, and finally, writing a review paper (on different studies!) on green tea.  I should say that the grant proposal was on the Paleo diet.  So no overlap between classes unfortunately, which many of the other students were lucky enough to be able to do.  (My topic for the Paleo diet was already chosen by someone else so I was told to choose something else for the other class).  I think the mindset of studying for tests and med school is drastically different than the mindset of a writer/presenter.  I never really realized that so clearly even in undergrad with my double major in the humanities and the sciences.  But here, while trying to flip the way I organize my thoughts so much in such a short space of time, I have recognized that they really are like two sides of the brain.  Needless to say, studying was very difficult in that context.

So, not much studying was done during April, and I am currently left with basically the same amount of time as a regular med student (or maybe less since I didn’t study for Step 1 at all during med school except for chapters 4-5 of Pathoma during Heme-onc, which I re-did anyway for Step 1).  There are two major things that I did accomplish in April though, and that is to go through all of South’s biochem review (audio along with the handouts) and read through all of Clinical Micro MRS (minus the last 2 chapters on antibiotics in the future and a recap of diseases for bioterrorism, both of which I just skimmed), and did a few micro questions in the Kaplan Q-book and Robbins Path.  I may have also gotten in a few chapters of Pathoma and BRS phys in.  Hah, so I did do a little more than I thought, phew.

Since last week, which was my first week of full day studying (which I was not nearly as productive at as I should have been…), I did Pathoma, BRS Phys, and First Aid (FA) for pulmonary and 1 question block on UWorld for it.   Man, going through answers for the test block took literally 4 hours, I kid you not (and I thought my friend who just took it was exaggerating when she said that… she was spot on.)  I also did manage to go through the same 3 resources for GI and finish a question block, but that was all for the week (including yesterday).  I suppose I did lose a couple days because of clinical orientation on Thursday and I flew home Saturday (listening to Goljan and annotating FA on the way as best as I could with a passenger that kept trying to talk to me on the 4-hr leg of the flight >.<), but still, it’s been hard to focus.

So yes, need to really ramp it up.  Did Renal on Pathoma yesterday, and a question block for hepatobiliary on UWorld that I am currently going through right now before I decided to type this up hehe.  I am way behind my schedule (I thought I’d be done w/ MSK and onto neuro by now HAH as if) so my goal today is just to catch up as fast as I can – hopefully after going over questions, I can finish Renal on FA and BRS phys and do a question block… won’t be too expectant that I can do much more than that.

Oh a comment on studying schedule – I’ve only been doing like <8 hrs previously, but starting yesterday I’m doing around at least 10 hrs, waking up at ~6:30am (thank goodness for jet lag in my favor here) and working until 10pm, with breaks for meals.  I have heard that an avg of 12-14 hrs a day is normal at this point (and really should have been true starting at least 4 weeks out from the test).

Ok, I think I’ve spent enough time here… I hope it was somewhat helpful on understanding the life of a med student while studying for boards and what the timeline should be like for your own studying if you decide to go to med school.  I would eventually like to also post some of the crazy/weird mnemonics/ways of remembers stuff I’ve come up with on a separate post to keep track of all of them, but we’ll see if I have time haha.


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