med school

Two weeks in and many more to go!

It’s Fridayyyyyy! Another week done and DONE!

gina.gifTruthfully, it’s been two weeks of studying, making new friends, MORE studying, going dancing, and then EVEN MORE studying. Yep I’ve been spending a lot of time with my books BUT I have a confession….I enjoyed it all. Yes I know, I know, it might seem strange – med school, firehose analogy, and all the other daunting images that come to mind when thinking about med school. So far, for me, it’s been a smooth transition. I will admit, this is mostly due to some of the study strategies I use, time management, my MEDPATH year, aaaannd of course, disclaimer, it’s only been two weeks. However, what I’m doing is working well for this block and I’m excited to share my tips!

First about the curriculum:

I’m on Foundations one, which is a 5 week mixture of Biochemistry, Genetics, Cell biology/ Histology, Pathology, Anatomy, Pharmacology, Behavioral and Social sciences AND Statistics (Evidence-based medicine etc). Wheeewww, looking at it now, that seems like a lot! What I like about it though is that the material is presented in different ways – what we call TLM (teaching and learning methods). So some of these subjects could be lectures, patient presentations, small groups, articulate modules, guided readings or team based learning (TBL). In addition to all this book work, we also have a patient and clinical skills component. All that to say, there’s a whole LOT to our curriculum and as time goes on, I’ll share more and more about it. One thing I will say though is I absolutely LOVE it!

Alright, unto what I’ve been doing to manage all the material. 

  1. I plan my week. I have a dry erase white board on my door (it’s actually a peel and stick whiteboard I bought on Amazon last year. Click here for something similar) that keeps me on track.
    • Did I get through all of Monday’s lectures, articulates etc? Note: first pass means preview for me. Second pass is typically in-class lecture. Some things like articulate modules, don’t get a second pass.
    • Did I make my Anki cards?
    • Did I review the Anki cards I made?
    • Did I prep for my LG class (which is the patient and clinical skills class)? planweek.JPGI made this board before class started and have been using it since day 1. Some columns don’t get filled i.e. I don’t plan to start BRS questions (Board Review Series – click here for link to books) until it’s closer to the block exam. My plan is to continue using this for the rest of the block and beyond!
  2. I preview – review. I am team PREVIEW lectures before going to class – like aaaaaall the way. Personally I am more engaged when I’ve previewed a lecture a night or two before and actually know what’s going on, what’s coming next, what slide I need to make sure I pay attention to because I was totally lost the night before and so on. It makes lecture a more enjoyable experience for me. So yep, I will sit there the day before go through all 60-something slides or however amount, just so I can have a better learning experience. I use my iPad (all students get one) so I’m able to write notes like “what’s going on here?” “is this important?” “skip!” It allows me to find out what’s high yield during lecture. A slight perk this week was having a random classmate I was sitting next to in lecture tell me “Wow you’re really smart, I hope you’re in my TBL group!” Yea, I felt pretty good. I told her my secret – previewing lectures is totally IN.
  3. I go to lectures. Some of the material is given to us as articulate modules which are prerecorded lectures – in those cases, yea I listen at home. However the in-class lectures are the ones I preview for AND go to lecture. Again for me, it’s making sure I’m engaged and paying attention. I prefer to hear the lecture once and not have to again, so might as well go and cement what I went over the night before. I find that when I stream the lecture live at home, I end up being distracted by other things, but when I’m in the lecture hall, I’m super focused.
  4. I make Anki cards. Anki makes the dream work y’all! It’s a flashcard app that uses spaced repetition and it is simply AMAZING. I make my Anki cards while I preview the lecture or while listening to articulate modules. During lecture, I pay attention to the slides I marked up (“is this important?!”) and more cards get made right there in lecture. I hope you can see how this makes learning a bit more interesting and engaging for me. I go over my Anki cards pretty much everyday – I give myself a break on Saturdays, but the rest of the week, I Anki while walking my roommate’s dog, while studying in my room etc. Yay for technology and being able to synch Anki to both my computer, iPad and phone!

Other things that have also helped is taking Biochemistry, Genetics, Histology, and Anatomy this past year. Shout out to MEDPATH. Some of this material feels like review (or at least vaguely recognizable haha). So these first two weeks haven’t been bad. One of the most enjoyable parts about it is incorporating the different diseases, symptoms, diagnostic methods etc i.e. Cystic Fibrosis. This whole week was pretty heavy on that, we also had a quiz today just on that, ask me anything hahaha.

But that’s how the week has been. Saturday’s are fun days. Last week was full of dancing and I’ve got some equally exciting things to look forward to tomorrow. I hope you do too!

The Fun Begins: My White Coat Ceremony!

“But they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings as eagles; they will run and NOT be weary; and they will walk, and NOT faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

Monday was my white coat ceremony and it was GLORIOUS. As I walked on stage after my name was called, I kept thinking this is really it – a major and symbolic step in my journey. I was overwhelmed with so much joy!

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Shout out to all the curve balls that made my journey to this point a bit more interesting and most importantly, to God who gave me the strength to tackle them all. All those challenges made this moment so much sweeter.

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A big thank you to my friends and family who have supported me throughout, also to you all, who read my blog, who provide encouraging words and put a smile on my face with your thank you emails – you’re appreciated!

Cheers to this next chapter, the curve balls that will be handled with grace (hopefully!), and the opportunity to share my experience through this blog. Looking forward to it all!

Meet Jessica – A 1st Year Med Student at The Ohio State University

A first-generation high school graduate, college graduate, and now medical student, Jessica certainly has an inspiring story! Born to Mexican immigrants, she serves as a role model not only to her family members but to people in her community. She’s a good friend and classmate of mine who recently started Inspire Hope, a YouTube channel targeting high school and college students interested in the premed track. I’m very excited to share her story on my blog and hope you will be as inspired as I am!

A few key points from the interview:

  • It wasn’t until her senior year of high school that she decided to pursue medicine
  • She went through the medical school application cycle twice
  • The MCAT was a challenge for her, but after a couple of retakes, she beat it
  • She created her YouTube channel to inspire high school students

Free MCAT prep courses mentioned in the video:

Check out our video interview to learn more about her story!

Halfway done!

Happy July everyone! I have a feeling it’s going to be a GREAT month. We started head & neck in Anatomy earlier this week, which means…**drumroll please** we’re halfway done with the summer session! Hallelujah praise Him!!! In all seriousness, it’s an AWESOME feeling knowing there’s just 3 weeks left of classes. Although we only get a week vacation before first year starts, I’m going to milk that break for all its worth. No plans yet, besides relaxing and hanging out with my fam; but the plan is to recharge as much as possible before ish gets real.

In the midst of classes, I’m still fitting in some fun here and there. The weather has been GORGEOUS and it’s been the perfect opportunity to test out my photography skills. I tried taking some shots of myself with the timer (and on my tripod), and bruhhh the struggle! How do some fashion bloggers do it?! I’m still getting the hang of my DSLR, and my biggest challenge is focusing. I was able to get some decent shots though. Cheers to this learning process!

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I’ve also been experimenting in the kitchen and cooking a lot lately – lots of veggies and home cooked meals. I’ve been feeding my body yummy goodness and it’s been loving me back! This week I found out that OSU has a community garden that’s open to the public. The Ross Heart Hospital community garden has weekly classes where they talk about the importance of nutrition, cooking, and healthy eating. Afterwards, you can pick from the garden – FOR FREE! Yes, vegetables for free, I was like what?! Sign me up! I went for the first time this week and a chef taught us how to make two plant-based sauces, afterwards was harvesting time. I probably picked close to $50 worth of groceries – it was awesome. The next day, I made some yummy goodness. Looking forward to experimenting some more!

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If you have any favorite veggie dishes, send them my way 🙂

Hope you all have a wonderful and safe July 4th weekend!

 

“You Can Have It All”

Last night I had the opportunity to attend the annual “Women in White Coats” event at my school. It’s an event that allows female physicians (OSU med alums) and medical students at OSU to connect and share experiences specific to women in medicine. Naturally, I was excited to go and gain as much as I can from these women who have been there, done that.

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My poor roommate got suckered into taking (several) pictures of me before we left for the event 😛womenwhitecoatThe dress code was business formal. I went back and forth on whether or not to rock a blazer and ultimately decided not. Glad I didn’t because it wasn’t THAT formal. There were yummy little appetizers and desserts, and ahh yes, wine!whitecoate1

The event was set up almost like speed dating. Almost. Lol. Each round table had at least one physician (most had two), and students could sit at any of the tables. There were three rounds of group discussions. After each round, the students were free to go to any table and spark up a conversation with a new physician. In the beginning of the event, the physicians in attendance had gone around the room and introduced themselves, as well as their specialities; this made it easy to navigate your way too a physician of interest.

What was also really helpful was a suggested list of conversation topics conveniently placed on table. I didn’t end up having to use the list but it was nice to know there was a back up in case things got a little to quiet *cricket cricket*

I honestly had an AWESOME time at the event. I was able to speak with a Rheumatologist, two Primary care physicians, an Endocrinologist, and an Ophthalmologist, and they ALL had valuable pieces of advice to give – from career advice, to having a family, being in a long distance relationship in medical school, marrying someone also in medicine, choosing a specialty, residency, studying for Step one, I mean literally the whole spectrum.

I learned that you can have it all, BUT you also have to know what’s important to you.

That was definitely a big take away for me. I left feeling oh so inspired by all the women who have paved the way (and continue to do so in their respective fields). Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” sums it all up for me. Take a listen and groove with me 🙂

First Semester Reflections

Second semester is in full swing and the grind is REAL. Before I get into all that in a later post, I’ld like to provide some insight into what first semester was like. Particularly for those interested in the OSU MEDPATH program – I believe the applications are due end of this week! As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the MEDPATH program is a conditional acceptance into The Ohio State University Medical School. It’s an AMAZING opportunity. That said, you still have to work your butt off. The Medpath alums (now MS1, MS2 etc) gave us quite a bit of advice in the beginning of the semester.

“Do extremely well in the first semester, so you aren’t worring about grades in the second semester, when you should be focusing on the MCAT.”

Ahhh yes the MCAT, for those who aren’t aware, that’s part of our conditional acceptance – grades and a retake of the MCAT. Although retaking the MCAT might seem daunting, our white coat ceremony is August 1st (6 months from now!). That’s all the motivation right there!

So what does doing well entail? As high a GPA you can get. Seriously. Essentially the higher it is, the more time you can put into studying for the MCAT, instead of worrying about trying to meet the grade requirement. So that’s what our cohort of 15 set out to do. Some of the classes we were taking were:

  • Human Physiology I (everyone has to take this)
  • Biochemistry
  • Genetics
  • Pathophysiology
  • Immunology
  • Medical Terminology

Your schedule is designed by the program director based on your academic records and what they feel will benefit you the most. You do also get some say so. I personally had human physiology I, biochemistry, genetics, and medical terminology.

How I studied

In general, I was using my log book and my plan of 20 hours/week minimum focused study time. Sometimes I fell short, some weeks I went above, but most importantly, I stayed on it. Consistency, I’ve realized is key!

Human physiology:

In the beginning I was doing my method of recording myself going through the lecture slides and listening to them over and over again. You can check out the post here. I did this for the first two exams. For the last 2 exams however, I switched things up and started concept mapping. I actually found this to be more effective. The process of concept mapping on its own is really beneficial, but most importantly constantly going over the concept maps I created helped A LOT. It’s one of the strategies I’m going to address in a post.

Biochemistry:

I would go over the lecture we had that day, that same night. I also watched a lot of Khan Academy videos on things I needed clarification on. These helped a lot. Along with practice exams – not one practice exam but four (or as many was available). What also helped was my study group. We would start meeting up about 1.5 – 2 weeks before the exam and would go over concepts and problems.

Genetics:

I had a study partner and we met up every single week to do genetics problems and review lectures. Some  weeks (i.e. exam week), we’d meet up two or three times that week and work through several practice exams. And these were about 2 hour long sessions each. Outside of this time, I also had my personal study time.

Medical Terminology:

We had weekly quizzes, the midterm and the final. This class was straight memorization. No way around it.

Challenges I encountered

So in the very beginning, I was told that life happens, and there might be some unexpected personal things come up, but the key thing is to stay FOCUSED. Remember why you’re here, and refuse to let anything get in the way of your success. Well, sure enough life did happen. The first week of school, I got into a car accident and my new car got totaled. I was understandably DEVASTED. But can I just say that GOD IS GOOD, and He’ll never give you more than you can handle? It’s a testimony on its own, but long story short, I was able to buy a used car in CASH (this is HUGE because no more monthly car note – broke student struggles!), it was just $2300 (also HUGE, it was in GREAT condition), and I bought the car just 2 days after the accident (it happened so fast!). When I say it’s a testimony, I mean it really is. All that to say God won’t give you more than you can handle. I got through the situation and got back on the school grind.

Another major challenge was working during the semester. Because the way my finances are set up, along with other factors, I took a part-time job somewhere on campus. We’re allowed to work during the program though it’s STRONGLY recommended that we don’t (and most don’t!). And if we choose to work, there’s a 20 hour max, which is precisely what I did. 20 hours. Every single week. And y’all it was HARD. It forced me to be very efficient with my time and account for every “free time” I had. There were several times I wanted to quit, but again like I mentioned, certain circumstances. So I worked, studied, slept, and repeated.

But life is all about balance. 

Even with all that I did have a life outside of school and work. One of the key things that was emphasized in the beginning is having a stable support system. I spoke to my family often. They encouraged me through it all, which was awesome. Same thing with my boyfriend. He’s a 3rd year medical student, so we understood each other’s schedule and made sure the communication lines were always open. Daily. We’re long distance (but thankfully a 3.5 hour drive) so we also alternated on who was doing the traveling. We saw each other twice a month which was great. As far as long distance goes, I will say that it does help having someone who is in the same field, but most importantly, I think the big factor to making it work is communication. This included voice recorded messages (through Whatsapp), video messages, scheduled phone calls, Skype etc. The way I see it, you make it work if you want to.

I hope this provides some insight into what the semester was like. If I were to sum it up in one sentence, I’ld say: My success last semester was possible through determination, focus, my support system, and the grace of God. HANDS DOWN. If you have any questions or comments, do drop it below! I love hearing from you all 🙂

Study Strategy II: Studying on the go

This is part two of my four-part series on study strategies. In part one, I discussed time management and what I’ve been doing this semester to be more efficient and maximize my time. Yes, I’m still using my trusty log book, and yep, still counting hours. I’m telling you, it works! If you missed the post, check it out here. In today’s post, I’m going to focus on LEARNING the material. In a previous post, I mentioned that one of my preferred learning styles is auditory (see the post here). Knowing this, I decided to use this to my advantage for one of my classes. I decided Human Physiology would be the best fit for this. Having a part time job (I’ll discuss this in a future post), I knew I had to find ways to maximize the amount of information I learned AND retained within my scheduled study time. I also didn’t take human physio during undergrad, so this was certainly going to be an interesting experience. The goal was to:

1. Use my study time effectively
2. Understand core concepts and lecture material in advance of the exam. Essentially the day before the exam, I should be feeling confident on the material, and if possible, straight chilling. Absolutely NO panicking.
3. Ace those exams!

Using the method I explain below, I learned to study on the goMost phones have a “voice memo” function, and as long as you have your phone and head/ear phones, you’re good to go.

Here’s what I did:

Step 1: Come to class prepared. This means powerpoint slides already printed (or for those with tablets, downloaded). This is particularly important since I took additional notes from lecture directly unto my slides. Coming to class prepared also meant my mind was mentally prepared. I’m not pulling out my phone to reply a text or go on Facebook, I am instead, listening intently to understand as much as I can so I spend less time later trying to understand what was thought.

Step 2: Within 24 hours, usually that evening or the next day, I reviewed my lecture slides and make sense of the additional notes I may have written on particular slides. I also made sure to clarify concepts I didn’t quite understand. Clarification usually meant looking up the specific concept on Khan Academy for a short and concise video on it.

Step 3: After reviewing my notes once, I could now record. I usually did this the next day. Literally, I would record myself going through each PowerPoint slide. Not just reading over the slide verbatim, but actually breaking it down as if I was teaching someone else. As I went through each slide, I could refer to other things I had mentioned. I was literally teaching myself in this recording.

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Step 4: Listen to the recording over and over again. It was best if I could listen while looking at my slides. This way I could target both the visual and auditory part of learning. Most of the time though, it was pure listening.

  • I listened to my recording while on the treadmill. My lecture notes would be mounted up so I could follow along (Side note: walking on 12.0 incline and 3.3 speed is the sweet spot for me)
  • I listened while driving. I have about a 15 mins commute to school daily so on most days, I’ld listen to my recording.
  • I listened at night.
  • I listened in the morning.
  • I listened while grocery shopping.
  • I listened whenever I could.

It worked for me. The key thing was repetition. I kept listening to lectures over and over again to the point where I knew what would come next in the slide AND I understood what I was talking about. I used this strategy for the first two exams in my Human Physiology class. Having a part time job, I felt restricted with time. I HAD to be efficient with time.

How effective was it? Well this strategy was effective enough for me to get an A minus on my first two exams.

I find that recording myself going through the material is more effective that listening to a recording of the professor because: (1), There are no tangents, random discussions, or interruptions to lecture; (2), it’s a much shorter recording; (3) I explain concepts in words I understand, using examples I can relate to; (4) I get to talk it out, out loud – which is very important.

For my last two physio exams, I switched my study style to accommodate the increasing complexity of the material. I’ll talk more about that later in the series. I hope you find this strategy helpful. Try it out and let me know what you think!

Check out my other posts on study strategies:

“Study Strategy I: Time is Money”

“What’s your learning style?”

50 (Awesome) Days Left of 2015

December is fast approaching and with it marks the end of another year. Yesterday, I glanced at the goals I set for myself for 2015 and was pleasantly pleased that I had accomplished a few of them. I usually create these lists of goals the last week of December and refer to them periodically throughout the year. This year, buying a car, getting into med school, and my trips to South Africa and Florida were some of the major things on the list and I was pretty excited to cross those off. There are still a few things I’ld like to accomplish before the year is over and according to my nifty countdown app, there are 50 days left of the year (well, as of yesterday). A lot can be accomplished in 50 days right? Cheers to ending this year with a bang!

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Study Strategies I: “Time is Money”

This is part one of a four-part series on study strategies. I’ve received a few emails in the past requesting advice on general study tips or any advice on studying while working full-time (which I did during my gap years). So in this series, I’ll be presenting strategies that I currently use and have found to be effective. To kick it off, I’m starting with the major requirement for any study session and successful endeavor:

Time

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Time management is a skill most people struggle with at some point; it’s something I find myself constantly fine-tuning. Although I consider it one of my strengths (years of experience juggling competing priorities), I know it’s something that can always be improved on. During orientation this past August, one of the speakers, Dr. Alvin D. Pelt gave a workshop on study skills that changed the game for me. BIG TIME. I’m going to focus on the time management technique I gained from the presentation and have been using everyday for almost 3 months now. It’s a system that has been immensely effective for me, particularly with my challenging schedule (to be disclosed later).

“Time is like money. You always think you have more than you actually have.”

This was an analogy Dr. Pelt made and I must admit he was quite right. Ever look at your bank account and go “How in the world did I spend that much?” or look at the time, perhaps in panic, and wonder “Where did all the time go?!

Yea.

Time and money are two peas in the pod. Similar to how you would budget your money i.e. a certain amount for rent, bills etc, is the same way you should budget your time. This brings me to my first point:

Schedule daily

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Make a “budget” for your time that day. When do you have free time? What amount of time is spent in class? commuting? Eating dinner or talking on the phone? Basically account for each hour of the day. This allows you to see the potential times during your day which can be made more productive. Once you’ve blocked out potential times during the day, then comes the crucial step:

Log actual study time

No, this doesn’t mean logging in 4 hours in the library, when you actually spent 2 hours on Facebook, half an hour in the bathroom, another half hour getting situated, and only one hour in the books. Nope not that. As Dr. Pelt put it, your actual study time is different from your perceived study time. So here’s the key ingredient, the magic to this technique:

Log in & out each time you start or stop studying. Exclude bathroom breaks, naps, phone calls etc.

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Please excuse my chicken scratch handwriting 🙂

Boom. That’s it. It sounds so simple and perhaps you’ve done a version of this in past, but this method requires discipline and definitely some behavior adjustments. The picture above is my log book. This notebook is EVERYTHING. I carry it everywhere.

Seriously.

It’s always in my backpack and folks who have studied with me, have seen me whip it out and scribble in a time as soon as we stop studying or take a break. I personally aim for 4 hours/ day or a minimum of 20 hours/ week of focused studying. Although I may fall short on my 4 hour goal on some days (unexpected interruptions, my mood etc), I consistently exceed my 20 hour/ week minimum (weekends to the rescue!). This leads to the last point:

Graph the results. Place the graph where you will see it everyday

Now, I’ll be honest, I typically don’t graph the results because I find tracking my daily progress in my small spiral notebook very effective just in of itself. However, this last point was mentioned by Dr. Pelt. As he noted, it’s particularly important if you’re studying for a major exam for a long period of time i.e. USMLEs, MCAT etc. It allows you to see if you’re on track or should perhaps, postpone. There’s also something gratifying about seeing a visual representation of your work and discipline.

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Success takes discipline. Budgeting my time and tracking actual study time has definitely worked for me. Give it a try. Stick to it. You might find yourself being more efficient and having more productive study sessions.

Thank you to Dr. Pelt for his awesome workshop!

Time: Image source

#Winning: Image source

What’s Your Learning Style?

This might seem like a simple question, but it makes a world of difference when it comes to learning large amounts of information in what might feel like a very short time. With a new school year beginning, it’s something that’s been on my mind. The big question: What is the most effective way to learn new information? This varies for most people. Thinking back to my college years, there were many nights where I sat bent over my textbook, reading a chapter, only to find out 5 pages in, I had NO IDEA what I just read. Alas, back to page one. Who knows what I’m talking about here? Struggles. For me, reading was NOT my dominant learning style (at least for this particular subject). Neither was writing my notes over and over again –  still I had a difficult time.

I was struggling to utilize a method that was simply not my dominate way of learning.

struggling learning

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It took me a while but it finally clicked; perhaps if I sat in the front two rows, never missed a lecture, and instead of trying to write down everything being said by the professor, just simply paid attention. Just listened.  

*BOOM*

I found the missing link. I discovered I’m a strong aural (auditory) learner and retain information better that way. I needed to hear things and have discussions for the information to stick. This makes sense because close friends know me for being a good listener (which further translated into my interviewing skills for qualitative research). Furthermore, the classes I enjoyed the most were discussion based or taught by professors who sought to really engage the class. So for me, sitting in the back of the class or maybe just the middle, wasn’t ideal. And missing a lecture, simply a NO-NO. For others, maybe not so much.

VARK model

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So what’s the big deal about finding out your preferred or dominate learning style? Well for one, it makes you more effective at studying and learning new material. If you’re putting a lot of hours into a class, perhaps you have stacks of flashcards, lots of outlines but still find yourself struggling with the material – it might just be that you’re not utilizing your dominant/ preferred learning style. Determining what learning style is most effective for you can help you determine what strategies to use for studying and disregard others that may just be time wasters for you.

Thanks brain

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Organic Chemistry for example, is a class where you’d really want to know your preferred learning style very early on and create effective study strategies based on that. Personally, I’m multimodal with aural (listening to lectures/ discussions), visual (pictures, charts), and kinesthetic (trail and error, practical exercises). This means that either of these strategies work for me based on the subject I’m learning OR I need to see the material presented in different modes to really learn it (I’m still trying to figure out which is most true for me!). So to grasp the topics in Organic Chemistry, I knew reading wouldn’t be enough for me – that would be struggle bus all the way. I need to hear the explanations over and over again and see visual representations, so I sought out videos. In my case, I used Coursesaver videos, and YouTube, and truly those helped me a lot!

So how do you determine your dominant learning style? There are several quizzes and questionnaires online that can help you with this. The VARK model appears to be a popular one and splits the learning styles into four categories: Aural (auditory) learners, visual learners, reading and writing learners, and kinesthetic learners. I encourage you to check it out!

The new school year’s begun and it’s time to hit the road running! So what’s your learning style?