How to make the most of your summer(s)

Congratulations to all of the recent graduates! From High school, college, various health professional schools, etc. It’s not easy. If you’re done with school forever, I definitely envy you. This post is for college students, recent college grads who aren’t matriculating into med school, and those between their M1 and M2 year with a relatively free summer (your “last” summer). Summer is a time to relax and refresh your mind. But when your end goal is becoming a doctor, you have to make every summer count! At this point, you may already have a line up of what your summer will look like (summer program, working, interning, etc.), but I’m going to list some things you can add to it. All in all, you want to have a well rounded summer that will make you a more competitive applicant by the end.

Shadow

This is the time to explore or confirm career options with no strings attached. You can shadow multiple people as if you’re casually dating, or you can actually form a relationship with a physician that can serve as a mentor down the line. It’s easy to set up by simply making phone calls to your local offices (if you’re at home). You can ask them if the doctor would be open to having a student shadow them for however long. Or if you’re staying around your school, you can connect with faculty that you already know! I still keep in touch with a family medicine physician I shadowed during college, and that has proved to be a priceless relationship.

Research

For the college folks and especially for the medical school folks, research is so important. If you’re looking to get into a major academic medical school or residency program, or have a competitive specialty in mind, this is something they look for. Your application scores literal points for having it. And it can honestly be in any subject. My med school has a summer research program that pushes students to get involved in research early, but even without that, the opportunities abound. Even if you only do a poster or oral presentation and don’t get published, still take the opportunity. If you’re interested in family medicine like I am, you can probably get by without it. But these days you always want to set yourself up for success the best you can.

Scholarship search

I know it’s easy to just accept that student loans are inevitable and we’ll all become slaves to them, but we shouldn’t give up on scholarships! Many third parties offer students at different stages in their education scholarships for leadership, dedication to a cause, going into a certain field, being a minority, etc. You never know what you can find, and the money adds up! So if you land in some free time, keep it in the back of your mind.

Volunteer

Simple. Easy. Best advice here is to find something recurring so that you are able to have a more substantial impact. For example, volunteering every Saturday morning at the salvation army. If you only do something one time, it really shouldn’t even make it to your resume. Start with a simple google search. Or if you’re staying near school, you can likely find opportunities through their website.

Travel

Because life is hard and we all need breaks! Cross a destination off of your bucket list! And if you don’t have the funds for that, get your best friend of sibling and take a day/weekend trip somewhere that’s driving distance. You deserve to relax and treat yourself for all the work you’re about to put in this summer!


Hope this post applied to at least one person out there! Make the most out of this summer your future self will thank you.

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How I used my voice to make a difference at my school

I believe that as much as we are taught about path/pharm/micro and disease processes and how to work up different patient complaints, our medical education should also include discussions about unconscious bias and how it plays a role in our medical decision making. We all have biases that cause us to automatically think a certain way about a patient the second we walk through the door, and if we don’t recognize them, they can limit or alter the options we offer to our patients. We may also slip and say the wrong things to our patients (microagressions). Our biases can further perpetuate the inequities that are already present in healthcare. I realized that as a first and second year medical student, I didn’t get much exposure to this topic outside of a 3-day cultural competency intersession we had in the first year. It was actually our SNMA (Student National Medical Association) that was holding these discussions as opposed to them being a part of the curriculum despite the AAMC making such a big push for it in medical education.

So, last year I set up a meeting and made a pitch to the VP of our medical school about this and he agreed 100% with everything I was talking about and gave me his full support. But then he asked me to chair the ad hoc committee that was going to be making these changes. Basically he asked a 3rd year medical student to lead a committee of MDs, PhDs, and other campus faculty. I mean I had a lot of leadership experience under my belt, but never anything like this! But he had a lot of faith in me and gave me a lot of encouragement, so I said yes. Now, before the committee could be formed, it had to be approved by the big scary curriculum oversight committee at our medical school. So I had to present to them next. There was some hesitation and questioning at that meeting but in the end it was voted to form the committee and for me to be chair.

Since then, between all my working and studying on rotations, I’ve been balancing this committee. We had to do data reviews and literature reviews and there was a lot of back and forth about what we really wanted to accomplish. In the end, we managed to come up with a plan to actually integrate more discussions and teachings about unconscious bias into the curriculum, as opposed to the brief intervention we currently have. These recommendations were actually presented to the main oversight committee this past week (literally like a year after). They were very well received and I was pleasantly surprised to not get grilled as much as I did last time. So now I’ll be working with our Dean of curriculum to get them implemented, hopefully for next years incoming students!

I’m very proud of myself for stepping up to the plate and actually finding a way to make a difference in something I feel strongly about. My role in this arena led to me being selected as a 2017 NAMME (National Association of Minority Medical Educators) national scholarship recipient. I was also selected as winner of Augusta University’s Diversity and Inclusion Award last year. These are important to me because I’m being rewarded for pushing myself out of my comfort zone and making waves in an area I once felt I couldn’t even step into. So I write this post to encourage anyone who feels like maybe their voice as a student isn’t going to be heard over the crowd. Or maybe that opportunity is there and you feel like you don’t have the time to commit. That’s not true. If there is something you feel strongly about, there’s a reason why that is and you need to give consideration to how you can make a difference!

“The biggest rewards in life are found outside your comfort zone. Live with it. Fear and risk are prerequisites if you want to enjoy a life of success and adventure.”

– Jack Canfield


Have a wonderful week! 🙂

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Internal Medicine, a different beast

Finally internal medicine has come to an end

I have finally crossed the finish line of my internal medicine rotation. This was definitely the longest and most gruesome rotation I’ve been on. It was 8 weeks long which felt like 8 months. Usually you would do 4 weeks of general medicine (admitting patients from ED or ICU and handling all of their inpatient needs) and 4 weeks of a specialty–like cardiology, infectious disease, nephrology, etc.–that is more of a consult service (see patients for a specific reason and don’t manage any other part of their illness). On a specialty team, things are a little more chill than on a general team. I unfortunately ended up with 2 general medicine blocks. Each 4 week block I was allowed 3 days off–that was all. So I was just exhausted pretty much all the time, and I felt like I couldn’t make time to rest because I has so much to study (very unlike me). It was just terrible. I’m so scared to be a resident now after watching what they do.

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I will say that I have a lot more confidence in handling various patient presentations. I can manage a COPD or heart failure exacerbation with my eyes closed. And I’ve gotten more efficient in writing progress notes each day for patients and in writing hospital courses for patients I’m discharging. So my countless hours in the hospital were not in vain. I’m thankful to have had good residents who were patient with me and took the time to teach me as much as possible. Now my hours spent studying on the other hand…those quite possibly were in vain because the way I felt while I was taking that shelf exam………

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It was so hard! And I studied and prayed so hard and really pushed myself for 2 months so that I could feel prepared going into it, which I actually did! I was ready. But y’all, the makers of they test had something else in store for me that morning. I left my soul behind in the exam room as I walked out haha. Despite that, I still have faith that my God will reward my steadfastness with an acceptable score and I will rejoice in His goodness and mercy. I did my best and at this point, there’s nothing left for me to do.

This weekend was amazing because I was able to celebrate with both my friends and family. One of my good friends in my medical school class recently turned 25! Happy birthday again Jasmine! So on Friday, a group of us were in Atlanta for dinner and a fun night out at Josephine’s Lounge. Then on Saturday, my big sister graduated from pharmacy school! It was so awesome to bear witness to such an accomplishment. My parents came as well as a very close aunt; I enjoyed the family time. Today (Sunday) was a day for me. I slept in until after 10am, washed my hair, went to church, went grocery shopping and cooked for the week, and I watched some TV while I styled my hair. All and all, this weekend was a great balance and much needed to somewhat recover from internal medicine.

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Next up is my Neurology rotation! I don’t have much interest in neurology, but honestly I’m just happy to have my weekends back and hopefully be working more reasonable hours. I’m going in with an open mind, we’ll see what the next 4 weeks will bring!


Have a wonderful week!
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Trauma Surgery: Expectations vs. Reality

When I signed up for 2 weeks of Trauma surgery in my third year, I just knew it was going to be action packed. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and be pushed to work under pressure. I even figured doing it at my institution would be the best place because we’re the Level 1 trauma center in our area. I really imagined it being a highlight of my clinical rotations. ABCs, ex laps, chest tubes, gun shots, all of that! I was ready. So just imagine the look on my face (well, the thoughts in my mind since I’ve learned how to save face) when my classmate and I meet our resident on the first day and he says “you guys don’t go to the OR on this rotation.” All my dreams were crushed.

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We work with the resident who manages the patients on the floor. It’s our job to read up on the patients hospital course and answer the question What’s keeping them in the hospital? So I just get to read about all the crazy stuff that happens as opposed to being let in on all of the action. Basically feels like any other inpatient medicine service. We get to the hospital early to pre-round, then round with the trauma team, then follow up on what we need to do for the patients based on rounds. At this point, we (medical students) are sent home and the resident stays behind to man for floor. We don’t have access to put orders in so it’s really hard to be useful.

So am I learning stuff? Absolutely. Management of the complex injuries in patients with gun shots, stabs, falls, electrocutions, etc with different hospital teams coordinating their care is super educational. Right now, I have 5 patients that I’m following, and each of them are teaching me something different. However, it’s definitely not the experience I was hoping for. I guess it’s still a part of trauma surgery. But when you don’t plan on going into surgery, you really want to see as much surgery as you can. So that was disappointing. I did get to go to the OR once and that was for my patient who needed debridement of his foot wound (exit wound from a 14000 volt electrocution). I got a really good lesson/review about burns from my attending that day. (In case you didn’t know, there’s no such thing as 1st, 2nd, 3rd degree burns anymore–they’re changing the terminology to superficial/deep partial thickness and full thickness burns).

With my shelf exam coming up on Friday, I’m actually really not pressed to be in the OR very much anyway since I use every free moment to study, and each day is basically a half day. If I had this rotation toward the beginning of my 8 week surgery stent, I’d be pretty unenthused about it. I’ve just never heard of a surgery rotation where you don’t…go to surgery! But anyway, please keep me in your prayers for my shelf exam this week! I’ll write another post about my study resources/schedule for my preparation, but for now it’s back to work!


Thank you for reading! Enjoy your week! Subscribe on your way out if you haven’t already!

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How to be the most efficient with your study time

In third year, you lose control of your schedule and are left at the mercy of your dead fuck my life GIFattending and residents. With the early mornings and early evenings, by the time I get home, I only have a few hours to study. Especially if I go to the gym, things are even more constrained. And I’m not the type to stay awake late, I’m surely in bed by 11. So, when I sit down to study, I have to be efficient. Here are some tips to help you maximize your time.

First and most important is to make a SCHEDULE. Before you sit down to study, you should already know what you’re about to accomplish. This way you keep yourself on track and can sense if you’re getting behind. You can do this day-to-day with to do lists, but to be most successful, you want to make this schedule at least on a weekly basis. On Sunday, you can generally map out what you plan to accomplish that week. Then each day, before sitting down, review that plan and make amends based on the amount of time you have to study that night. Particularly during third year, when you already know what resources you want to get through, you can actually plan out your study schedule entirely before the rotation starts, then make changes to it as you go along (this is what I do).

phone call GIFWhen you sit down you need to minimize distractions. Turn your computer notifications off and put your phone on do not disturb. I usually keep my phone in another room or on the floor out of my sight. You can check up on messages/DMs/snaps during a break, but never mix your studies with your social life if you’re trying to be efficient. If you aren’t in an ideal location, plug your ears or listen to your favorite background noise with headphones.

Take advantage of your time during the day to decrease the amount of other random things you need to do at night when it’s study-time. Respond to emails, online shop, do busy work for school, work on the application, etc. Do these more mindless things before trying to squeeze in studying during the day–which actually requires brain power. So when it’s time to focus on studying, you won’t have so many little tasks to complete beforehand and waste time.

Lastly, you need to intentionally prioritize your studying. Seems intuitive, but if you don’t believe that your readings/questions/review/etc. are top priority in that time period, you will easily find distractions and reasons to do other things. You might find yourself cleaning something, constantly getting stuck on instagram, fiddling with another hobby of yours, or caught up on the phone with friends/family. So when you say the next 2 hours you are going to finish X, Y, and Z, you need you be firm and really mean that!

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Hope these tips help you next time you prep for a study session! Have a wonderful week, and Happy Valentines Day in advance!

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Life in the fast lane

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Me trying to catch up with life

We’re 3 weeks in to 2018 and I already feel like my life is propelling way too fast. During first and second year it was just one day at a time, one block at a time. Last semester for the most part was just one rotation at a time. But now all of that has changed! A week into January, we had to declare our specialties to our school and got advisors in our fields to help us moving forward. I proudly declared Family Medicine, which I’ll probably go into my reasons in another post. Then 2 weeks later they opened up the portal for us to plan out our entire 4th year! We have to determine when we want to do electives, away rotations, and our core rotations for the year. It’s a tad overwhelming for someone who barely even has a list of residency programs she’s interested in. I thought that would be my first step, but nope!

In the midst of all that, I submitted my application for STEP2, which cost me $1895 (should be illegal the way people make money off of us). I’m still traumatized by STEP1 and I’m already planning for the next test, which really shouldn’t be as bad from what “they” say. Meanwhile I’m only 3/8 weeks into my surgery rotation (which I have surprisingly been loving!) and I’m just trying to get through my UWorld sets and pages of Pestana’s each night!

Ish is getting REAL y’all! Everything is snowballing. Today I’m thinking about my surgery shelf exam, tomorrow I’ll be checking my email for the notification that I matched (in Jesus name). I’m excited to keep moving forward, but a piece of me kind of wants things to slow down again so I can wrap my head around it all and feel a little more control. I just feel this sense of unpreparedness, but everyone just says that everything is going to work out so not to worry. Easier said than done if we’re being honest. I’m a medical student, it’s kind of my nature to worry.

But these are problems that I’m grateful to have. Honestly, I couldn’t ask for better problems. I’m confident that in the end, everything will indeed be just fine, even if the path from A to B doesn’t look very clear at all at the moment. In the meantime, I’m still forcing myself to take things one day at a time, because I don’t have the energy to spend on stressing myself out, especially when I serve an awesome God. *kicks feet up*


#NoStress2018

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#YoungLadyWatching

Dear young lady watching,

I want to remind you that you were set on this earth for a purpose greater than yourself. You are not here by mistake. And the dreams and goals that lie in your heart are not there by happenstance. To reach your goals it will take an enormous amount of effort, but be confident that you are equal to the task because you have a higher power in your corner that can move mountains. You can’t give up because whether you know it or not, there is a #youngladywatching you! There will be voices in your head and doubt in your heart but you cannot let those penetrate into your destiny. Failure and rejection may come, but those things don’t determine your worth. Stay kind, remain humble, and always try to leave people better than you found them.

As a woman, and even more-so as a minority woman, you are likely to find yourself discredited, belittled, muted on your journey to and through medicine, especially within male-dominated specialties. You may not look like the majority of your classmates,  professors, or preceptors, but know you are not alone! You may, like me, find yourself sitting in an operating room lounge surrounded by white male surgeons who move around like you don’t exist. The desire to pursue a highly competitive specialty may be met with skepticism. People will doubt your abilities and judge you simply by the way you look. But it’s important to know again that you are not alone. There are women going before you, and with you, reminding you that all things are possible for those who work hard and believe. I serve as an example of one, and I hope that just my presence and journey through medicine will inspire another young lady to choose medicine and stick with it.

  • 22% of academic medicine professors are women.
  • Women make up 22% of surgeons in the US.
  • African-American women make up 4% of physicians in the US.
  • African-American women make up 2-5% of surgeons in the US.

The path to medicine, though arduous, culminates into the most noble and rewarding profession. And there’s a lot of maturation that has to take place before I’m even worthy of those two little letters behind my name. I’ve grown so much in just two and a half years of medical school, and I look forward to more challenges and failures, but also more wisdom and success. The best thing is that I’ve learned to put my wellbeing first and actually enjoy this crazy ride, and I encourage you to do the same.

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This post was inspired by two family medicine physicians Dr. Lauren Powell and Dr. Kristamarie Collman who recently began the #youngladywatching movement on Instagram to empower women in medicine. I’m the young lady looking up to them and I wanted to uplift those watching me. Search the hashtag to find more inspiring stories!

How you can make a difference as a medical student on rotations

We play a small but mighty role in the lives of our patients!

It can be pretty hard sometimes to find your place as a member of the “team” while you’re on your rotations. Speaking from experience, it’s hard to feel like I’m making much of a difference. After feeling good about the patient encounter and presenting everything to the attending (including the correct diagnosis for the patient), they come in and ask all the same questions and do all the same physical exam! Of course I understand why, but I can’t help but feel a little undermined at times. If you’re in a big hospital on a team with interns and residents then you might feel even more useless, because the students in training do all of the real work. I remember feeling lost in the shadows my time on a hospitalist team. Technically I was following my own patients and would present on them, but after rounds I was pretty out of the loop, unless I forced myself into it (and I didn’t want to be that girl). So it can be pretty frustrating. But rest assured, there are ways that you can impact your patients unlike any other person, as well as make a huge difference for your care team.

We’re eager and fresh in this new environment. We haven’t been jaded by the system and we only want to do the best by our patients. Our hearts tug when we hear bad news; we give people the benefit of the doubt; we believe it when they say they’re taking their medicine. This is such a meaningful thing that patients actually notice! There’s a difference in the way a medical student talks to them versus an attending. We show them the compassion, care, and empathy that they truly need and sometimes don’t get. There are times we can do more for them than all of the medications and tests that the residents are ordering. We have the time to sit with them and get to know them more personally. This especially goes if you don’t have to write notes after your patient encounter. More practically, there are many things you can do to be a rockstar team member: print rounding reports, gather new data on patients, do extra research on topics you or the residents may be pimped on, etc.

I’ll always remember on my OB/GYN rotation, there was a patient whose child had to be transported to another hospital while she had to stay to recover. It was so hard for her to be separated from her child. I came in during pre-rounds and was a soundboard for her to express her feelings. I told her that she was going to be a wonderful mom and that the time would soon come for her to be reunited with her child. I stopped in again later in the day, and as she was being discharged, she thanked me so much for being her rock as she waited for the go-ahead to leave the hospital. And she gave me the biggest hug. She said people just came in and out of her room all day and no one cared what she was going through. In that moment I felt like I did more for her than any of the nurses or even my attending–who really just signed her discharge papers.

So just remember that even though you might not have access to the computer record to look up patient info, or you might be the third person to take the same patient history, you really can make all the difference in a patient’s life. Our worth as medical students is unfortunately defined by how good our oral presentations and differential diagnoses are. But our worth as physicians is really in the connections we make with patients and in the rapport we build with them. That’s what makes all the difference. While learning to be good clinicians, we are also learning to be good doctors.

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Have a wonderful week! Subscribe on your way out if you haven’t already!

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Life and Death

A week of palliative care has shown me a lot

I’ve spent a week on my palliative care rotation and boy has it been heavy. Palliative care is focused on quality of life and relief of symptoms, especially towards the end of life. I’m assigned to a nursing home, so not only am I exposed to end of life issues, but I’ve been able to learn about geriatric/elder patient care in general. I did a puzzle with a 94 year-old in occupational therapy and I saw a patient around the same age in her last days of life. It’s been quite the ride.

Earlier in the week I was part of a very delicate conversation concerning one of our patients nearing the end of life. It was a team meeting with the patient’s son and grandson. Our medical director asked questions like “how do you envision a good death for the patient?” and “what are your goals for the end of life?” They were trying to think about what the patient would want, as he could no longer speak for himself. Such a delicate time for the family.

Dealing so much with death and end of life has actually made me reflect a lot on life and how we all want to life full lives. And even at old age, after living a full life, death can still come suddenly to a family. There’s never really any way to prepare for that conversation. But it’s a reminder to live each day to the fullest and take advantage of all the ways you can make a difference in people’s lives. To pursue your passions and not put a hold on your goals for life. Because at the end, we aren’t all going to be blessed with the opportunity to plan out how we or our loved ones will leave the world.

As a future physician it’s nerve-racking to think that I’ll have to have these kind of conversations with patients and their families as soon as my first year out of school. So I’m happy to be getting the small exposure I am now so that maybe when I’m more important I’ll be able to guide a family through such a vulnerable time as this.


One more week of palliative care, then Family Medicine. Stay tuned. I’m excited for the week ahead!

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The medical tag

15 questions to learn more about me and my blog

Check out my answers to the 15-Q medical tag to learn more about me and my blog! 

  • Who are you?
    I’m Ijeoma Okoye, a 23 yo first generation American, and third year medical student at the Medical College of Georgia. I like sunsets, long walks on the beach, and the occasional ratchet turn up.
  • When did you start studying medicine or premed courses?
    I began premed studies in 2011 at the University of Georgia and matriculated into med school in 2015 directly from undergrad.
  • What made you choose the medical field?
    Both my parents work in healthcare, but really it wasn’t until high school when I decided to pursue medicine. The only subjects I liked were math and science–I was your typical nerd. I only liked math because I was really good at it, but with the sciences I actually enjoyed the study. I contemplated pharmacy because of all of the chemistry but then considered my personality–how much I like talking to patients, how I wanted to be challenged, and the level of autonomy I wanted in my career–and I landed in medicine.
  • How did you come up with your blog name/username?
    My life has been a balancing act since college as a pre-med, and I don’t think it will ever stop. I think it’s something all pre-health and health professional students can relate to–this constant juggling between our identities as students, leaders, siblings, friends, regular people, etc. It just resonates. My content is also reflective of this balance and I feature people who can speak to the same.
  • How would you describe your blog?
    I’d describe my blog as the perfect blend between encouragement and entertainment for the health/pre-health professional student. I write very casually and lightheartedly but I cover things that are important to touch on in this journey into the healthcare field. I’m honest and transparent with my followers. As a minority blogger, it’s especially important to me that I put myself out there so that other minorities on the ride with me stay encouraged by seeing my journey.
  • What’s your favorite quote?
    – In life, you get out of it what you put into it
    – In all things, we are more than conquerers through Him who loved us
  • Best memory in medical school?
    My roommate and I hosted Christmas parties for our class during our first and second years of med school and they were always so much fun! Med students party way harder than I expected. Must be something about the stress….
  • What’s one course you struggled with?
    I struggled with GI a lot. Whether it was the anatomy with the blood supply or the physiology with all of the different hormones, or the drugs, it was just so hard for me to wrap my head around. I ruled that specialty out very quickly. Even while studying for STEP1, it was always my lowest section and unfortunately I don’t think I ever really conquered it. No success story this time around lol
  • What’s your favorite book?
    I’ve read very many great books, even just in my time in medical school. I think my favorite would be The Alchemist. It’s timeless.
  • What do you do in your free time?
    What free time? HA. No, I’m kidding I do try to make free time and these days when I get some time I will read, blog, exercise, clean, cook, watch a TV show/YouTube videos, call my parents, bother my roommate, call my boyfriend, look up new hairstyles, or hand out with friends if they’re also free.
  • What do you want to major or specialize in?
    I want to do primary care, and leaning towards Family Medicine right now. But I also want to own a gym and do personal training on the side.
  • Who do you look up to?
    My sister, my mother and father. I’m so blessed to not have to look far for role models.
  • How do you study (productively)?
    First step-put my phone on do not disturb and turn my notifications off on my laptop. Second step-establish my game plan for that chunk of time, always keeping it realistic. Then I just jump in. First and second year it was one lecture at a time, one slide at a time (our school does a lot of powerpoint) taking notes on paper or electronically as needed. Now that I’m in third year, it’s watching videos/taking notes, supplemental readings, and boat loads of practice questions
  • How do you stay motivated in medical school?
    I’m self motivated for the most part. But when that eventually fails, I’m motivated by those around me, so I will study with someone and feed off of their energy. If that fails or I don’t want to be around anyone, I think about my future patients and how I need to learn this stuff for them. When that fails, I pray for strength. Sometimes I feel like even that fails and at that point I just need to take a step back, breathe, maybe go for a walk, and come back to it (maybe even the next day).
  • What are your best tips for future medical students?
    First of all, don’t compare yourself to anyone else, because we are all meant to follow different paths to our end destinations. If medicine is truly the path for you, you will get there as long as you keep working hard, surround yourself with the right people, and cancel out any negativity or doubt that tries to come your way. When you get to medical school, buckle up! This is not for the weak hearted. That phrase that the hardest part of medical school is getting in is a lie! But you will learn so much about medicine and about yourself; all of your labors will not be in vain and you’ll find that it is indeed so, so rewarding.

I hope you enjoyed the read! Please subscribe on your way out if you haven’t!