Friday, October 25, 2013

How to prepare for medical school

I'd like to try something new. 

I received the following from a happy college student who was just accepted to medical school.

Hello! I was just recently accepted into medical school! I will begin Fall of 2014. Do you have any advice for pre-matriculation such as things to buy, how to prepare, etc.?

It's been a while since I was preparing to go to med school.

I hope that some of you who read my blog could offer a few suggestions for this young man.

If you have some thoughts, please enter them in the "Comments" section of this post.

Thank you.


Unknown said...

Buy: Whatever your school tells you. Some require lots, some just require a stethoscope.
Prepare: Learn to read faster than you currently do.
Do: Something fun now

Anonymous said...

Enjoy your last summer before med school. If you can afford it go on a vacation somewhere.

If you had a science-based undergrad degree and got accepted, you are ready to go. You will be studying for some exam or something for the next 7+ years of your life.

If you read, read a book by Atul Gawande and also read Stiff by Mary Roach (about the life of cadavers).

Anonymous said...

Read House of God.
Get a stable living space and reliable car.
Learn the Brachial Plexes

Anonymous said...

From a medical student about to graduate...

Don't buy a single thing your school tells you unless you check with upper classmen first. Most of the required lists contain bullshit items that you will never actually need to own... equipment wise, a stethoscope is a must. Beyond that, check with classmates about what is needed during clinical skills training during m1/m2. Do NOT buy textbooks... save your precious loan money or give some of it back. Textbooks can be found as searchable PDFs amongst classmates or checked out at the library. Most of your studying will come from class notes, first aid, and review books. Textbooks are for reference but usually the internet will yield a faster answer. Prepare to become a lone wolf in search of answers via the web and texts because your notes may leave you confused.

I agree with reading House of God and Gawande (Complications, Better, etc) books.

Get a comfortable chair and a reliable computer/laptop. Figure out quickly if class works for you or not. If it doesn't stop going. Don't kid yourself. Plenty of my friends and I did very well never gone to m2 classes because we spent that time studying. If class works, great.

Residency programs don't give a shit about activities or clubs if your Step1 and grades aren't up to par. Bust your ass to get the best score possible on Step1 because that is the ultimate deciding factor and everything else is sprinkles on top. M2 year is best approached as a full-time job of military style living. It is only 9 months of hardcore training that will serve you well for the rest of your life.

Do NOT study or pre-read right now. It won't make a lick of a difference.
Go out and live. Have fun. Be reckless (safely and don't get caught). Basically, make some memories with friends.

Break any disillusions or fantasies you may have about medical school, saving people, or intellectual pursuits. M1/M2 is like vocabulary and concept boot camp training. You need to know the words and the rules before you can play in the clinical world that is mostly apprenticeship oriented. Be on time with a smile/enthusiasm, don't complain, and just be the guy who grinds out the work. Your classmates will spend more time complaining about work and studying rather than actually doing those things.

Med school is hell, bring your sunblock, hustle, and you will do great. I hope you survive the machine. Good luck.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Thanks for the great advice. I recommend you read this very nice story. Anatomy lab is chronicled from day 1 by a Wisconsin newspaper.

From Luke Selby MD on Twitter: "Can't prepare academically. Have fun, go on cool trips, do stupid mindless stuff. Play video games. Exercise. DONT PRE-READ."

Anonymous said...

I am an old doc, so take all this with a grain of salt.

I was a physics major, so intellectually MS 1 was a huge come down. You just have to memorize multiple names and facts in Anatomy. There is no way around it: it is just rote memorization.

Don't study before hand. One of my classmates read the anatomy book as his summer project. It didn't make any difference and just made him look like a DB before the term was in vogue.

It is highly unlikely to get kicked out of medical school once you get in. High scores in National Boards are prob. more a functional of native IQ than anything else. Not much you can do here.

Just enjoy your summer before medical school. It will be 25+ years before you can be this carefree again.

artiger said...

My advice would be to win the lottery. Med school is damned expensive.

Aside from that, I would agree with most of what 2nd Anon said, except about reading "House of God". It's not like that anymore.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Thanks for the comments Anon and Artiger. Here's one from SG Shah on Twitter: "DON'T buy books, talk to M2s ASAP. Stay reading/studying something, gotta learn to read quickly. Travel, work in hospital."

And from Shannon Brownlee on the NowTalk chat app: "Sorry to butt in, but I have one suggestion for new medical students: get involved in collective efforts to improve your profession and healthcare. Join AMSA or the Right Care Alliance. As a medical student, you have more power than you might think. And listen to Skeptical Scalpel"

Thanks for the compliment, Shannon.

Anonymous said...

I would refer Happy Premed to the comment that I put on your Monday July 1 post (my comment was at 438 pm on July 5.)

I agree with some of the posters above that READING the anatomy book the summer before med school is a waste of time. However, memorizing the BRS anatomy book (Chung or whoever it is 17 years later) might not be a waste of time at all. You just might fine tune your methods, before the fire hydrant turns on for real.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Anon, thanks for commenting. The BRS book is in its 7th edition. It must be good. Here's a link to it

If you want to look at a lot of data on the 2013 NRMP Match, here's all the data in a PDF

pamchenko said...

my school had us purchase portable opthalmoscope/otoscope and bp kit...what a waste of money. try to keep it to just the stethoscope....also don't buy an expensive one....a lot of students lose em and just end up using the disposable ones found on floors all the money you can for booze and school will be some of the best years of your life

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Pam, I agree about the ophthalmoscope/otoscope and the stethoscope. I've lost a few over the years. I also agree that med school can be fun if you are organized.

Anonymous said...

You still have time to change your mind.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Don't disillusion the poor kid. He'll find out for himself. Also, what career seems like a solid choice these days? Law, journalism, business?

artiger said...

Scalpel, if it was 20 or more years ago, I would have agreed with the above Anon. With work conditions being a little kinder now, I would neither encourage nor discourage medical training. It's a field that will always have availability, and that now 120 hour work weeks are discouraged, it ain't so bad. But with costs on average better than $200K, and all that time of lost income/savings, it's hard to recommend it.

I like accounting as a career choice these days. Or politics, professional sports, entertainment, or lottery winner.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Of your choices, I take the latter.

Anonymous said...

My musings on alternatives for med school applicants:

I read recently that the starting hedge-fund novice makes $325K. But, I assume that these are highly sought-after positions where every applicant has an Ivy League degree or equivalent, and has connections. By comparison, anyone getting accepted into a medical school (at age 22) is pretty much guaranteed a 6 figure income and steady employment for life.

Law school is very unattractive for the past decade or more. Unless you graduated from Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and a few others, you will be struggling to make ends meet. Half of all new law grads cannot find a full-time, paid, law-related job within one year.

Dental school has become increasingly popular; the acceptance rate is now similar to med schools. (OT: it is now the norm that dentists take all Fridays off. How did this happened?)

If you are technologically inclined, come to Silicon Valley, share a room and work-space with other geeks while working on your can't-miss start-up. If you fail, hey you will still only be 25 and can apply to med school then.

I think for most kids who get into med school, it is still a financially-comfortable, psychologically-rewarding, socially-lauded, occasionally thrilling, career.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Good musings. I can't disagree except I'm not sure that everyone who enters med school in the next few years will be able to obtain a residency position. I wrote this back in February and it's still true.

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