5 Things M2s Want for Christmas

Done with test cycle 3! It was one of the hardest test cycles of medical school so far (first year test cycle 6 still takes the cake though). In the spirit of the Christmas season, I wanted to share a few things that second year medical students would love to have.

1. A “Pass” in Neuroscience and Psychopathology

We start these classes halfway through first year and end them halfway through second year. Thus, we have to be in passing range in both classes after test cycle 3 to avoid retaking a class during the summer or repeating the entire year. It’s not as easy as it sounds! If we pass these two classes, then we can truly celebrate winter break.

So many UWORLD questions to do before STEP1!

2. Free access to UWorld, First Aid, Pathoma, Picmonic, Sketchy Micro, and STEP 1

If you’re having difficulty finding the perfect gift for that M2 niece or nephew, offer to pay for one of these essential subscriptions/registrations. Altogether, depending on the length of the subscription, they can cost close to $1000 (STEP 1 alone is $605). You’ll be sure to bring a smile to your beloved student’s face.

3. Home cooked meals with no pasta or canned vegetables

When we can’t afford time to visit a grocery store, pasta and preserved veggies become our staple foods. Either that or we make frequent trips to the hospital and student cafeterias. Or attend on-campus events with free food. Sometimes I wish I could come home to fresh bread, fried rice with spicy tofu, anything with eggplant, stuffed peppers, hummus, and other non-pasta foods. I speak for myself though as some of my classmates are expert cooks on a budget.

When mom brings over tofu 🙂

4. Consistently folded laundry

Washing and drying laundry isn’t too bad since I have machines at home. I can study while I wait. It’s the folding that takes time. I tend to wait to do laundry until I absolutely can’t go outside without people staring, so I always have a gigantic load to fold. There are days I wear clothes from my pile of unfolded laundry and hope the wrinkles will smooth out over the course of the day.

5. More sleep

Even though studying involves sitting for long periods of time, it’s still tiring. By the end of the day (around 10 p.m. for me), I can’t wait to jump into bed. Ironically, once I’m actually in bed, it’s hard for me to fall asleep. I keep replaying my day and all the things I’ve studied. I think about the day that is about to start and all I have to accomplish. After running almost non-stop all day, my mind needs extra time to slow down. There are nights when I’m happy to get 6 hours of sleep and other nights when 8 hours doesn’t seem like enough. Having more peaceful sleep would be a blessing.

Although I may not have all of these things (I did pass all my tests though, yay!), I’m still grateful that I’ve made it this far and that I have the family, friends, and materials I have now. Yes, medical school is a lot of work, but I know that someday it’ll all be worth it. Half-way through year two! Happy new year 2017!

Camaraderie and Opportunity

Giovanna, First Year Medical Student
Christmas break started off on an uninspired note, after an amazing, yet much less than perfect (academically-speaking) first half of the first year. When the reality of personally unsatisfactory performances popped up as test results on my computer screen, I knew that this Christmas break would need to be more than just a holly jolly jingle fest.

Besides renewing my energy for the next half of the school year, I wanted the break to remind of the joy and excitement that I had when I arrived at Loma Linda. By no means did the rigors of the first half of the year turn me into that highly publicized soul-less student. I simply know that we all have a delicate relationship with medicine. It needs constant analytical attention and effort so that those nights muttering “I’m fine” don’t turn into looking up art instructor jobs in Paris under the dimmed light of a computer screen at three in the morning. It takes an intricate balance of some personal time apart and some quality time together. Little did I know that following this simple tactic this break would revamp this love story. On a side apologetic note, the sappy metaphorical tone is a direct result of three too many romantic films while on break.

The background story includes my friend whom I call Baby Liz. In nursing school I was lucky to find her friendship. Last summer, for example, included trying out the local public pool, where the colloquial term “stank face” took on a whole new meaning while bravely worn as the trade-off for the bargain of the admission price. Whenever I am home I visit her, we adventure all over Maryland and southern Pennsylvania. On this Christmas break, we set out on a neighborhood Christmas party that included three houses and three courses. The first house had some delicious tomato bisque as an appetizer, Liz’s house attempted a chicken and vegetable alfredo (I’ll partly take the blame for the chewy chicken), and the last house had some yummy dessert treats and good conversation. As I walked in to that last house I remember thinking, are those surgical room scrubs I see? Any time is a good time to poke away at surgeon’s brains. Intended puns aside, the conclusion of the conversation was that I would be shadowing for a couple of days with the neurosurgery team.

I fell in love all over again, and I thought I didn’t need to. The resident was so welcoming, the other residents so friendly, and the attending surgeons so considerate. I was encouraged to watch a craniotomy for an arteriovenous malformation (where there is a section of no capillaries to offset the pressure between arteries and veins), performed by a female neurosurgeon, both the procedure and gender being a rarity. I sat in that atmosphere of pure focus and meticulous technique for more than four hours, yet it flew by as if half that long. The second day consisted of following the resident throughout the hospital, answering to emergent calls and consults.

It was the camaraderie I saw in the team. This consisted of their inside jokes and positive attitudes, even after days of scant sleep, and their enthusiasm to do whatever it took to care for a patient and perfect a skill. It was also the approachability of attending surgeons with an almost unparalleled responsibility to human life that was so humbling to me. Taking me around the hospital for the consults, Brian, the resident made me feel as if I was part of the team, as if my six months of books and tests made me an invaluable player, and as if my questions presented interesting points. I was even included in the patients’ chart as part of the team consulted (oh, the things that get us newbies excited!). At the end of the two days, I could not express my gratitude. My attempt at expressing just how much I had enjoyed the experience, and how I had hoped not to have been an inconvenience was met with the response, “I only made it here because of someone else’s time and attention, so it is the least I can do.”

Between the fascinating procedures and intricate clinical involvement, those two days were almost enough to have me sign up and start dreaming of neurosurgery. As I asked the female neurosurgeon about her hours and lifestyle, I saw the dedication, passion, and sacrifice that such a life takes. Trying to get a better picture of life as a neurosurgeon, in other conversations with the residents I would ask, “why do you give up so much of yourself, and how do you find the perseverance?” The varying answers included the honor in sacrifice, the reward in healing, and the humility in scientific limitations.

Standing at the brink of the second half of the year, or more honestly, sitting in the cheaper middle seat on a non-stop flight to an even cheaper yet inconveniently far LAX, my passion is more than renewed: it is stronger and has taken on a new maturity. It has a new appreciation for the opportunities I have been given, and it has a new regard for sacrifice and dedication. Camaraderie brought me opportunity, hard work will follow me through, and the love of medicine will drive me on. While I wish I could say I had definitely decided my future career, all I can actually exclaim is that I am almost at sunny California, ready to dig into the books again.

Filling My Current Role

Stephanie, Second Year Medical StudentWow it’s been awhile.  December was a CRAZY month with classes wrapping up, integrated tests to take, mock-boards to study for and take, and of course, Christmas :).  Looking back it was a bit of a whirl-wind month and I couldn’t really tell you where most of the time went.  BUT, it was a good month and everything turned out well.  My husband and I enjoyed some much needed time home in IL with our families and we are ready to “hit the ground running” for 2012.

As I’ve begun to settle back into the routine of daily life I have been reflecting a bit on something a student interviewing for admission to the medical school asked me last month during a tour I was giving.  During my introduction it was pointed out that I contributed to the blog for the School of Medicine at LLU, and one of the students asked me about it later on in the afternoon.  The part that struck me was the fact that he asked me “Why?” – as in why do I blog (what do I get for doing it).

I have to admit, I was caught off guard by the question because to be honest the thought hadn’t really crossed my mind before.  I was asked to contribute to the blog intended to give perspective students some insight into medical school life, I agreed, and I didn’t really think twice.  I ultimately told the student that I did it to help those following a similar path to the one I’m on and that was that, the conversation was over.

Because I tend to replay conversations in my head, however, it wasn’t completely over for me.  So, here is what I have come up with for “why”…….

My deepest desire/passion is for helping others.  This is why I want to be a doctor, and it’s what keeps me going when studying seems almost unbearable.  Right now, one of the simplest/best ways I can do that is by contributing to this blog (at least I’d like to think this helps SOMEONE 🙂 ).  The life of a medical student is crazy busy (in case you haven’t already gotten that impression from all the stories on this site….), so right now this is where I can fill the role I have been given and strive to fill it well.

As simple as it sounds, I know and have accepted the fact that my role at this point in life is being a medical student, striving to do that well, and realizing that I can’t do EVERYTHING that I may want to do/get involved with.  I’m thankful to be able to start the new year with a focused and driven perspective and I trust that it will guide me through some tough months of preparation for the Step 1 USMLE exams in May (May 23rd for me to be exact 🙂 ).

Christmas Staycation.

Ryan S., First Year Medical StudentI’ve been told that although medical school continues steadily becoming more difficult through the first two years, things can actually get a little easier as we adapt to the onslaught of information and learn what is most important, how to study more efficiently, etc.

That didn’t sound nearly interesting enough, so we decided to liven things up by adding kids to the mix (just kidding, that’s not why we did it!):

We’ll probably learn the gender in a few more weeks, but its not due until late June. I’m excited! Maybe it’ll finally force me to figure out that “study efficiently” stuff.

Other than that I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the holiday break, getting all my time-wasting activities out of the way so I can hit the books with renewed vigor on Monday.

The 12 days of Christmas – med school style

Hayley, Second Year Medical StudentAfter coming out of sophomore final exams, this is my nerdy version of the 12 days of Christmas:

In other news, the last 24 hours have been an absolute whirlwind.

What has happened:

– I finished my last final! Woohoo behavioral science!

– I cleaned my apartment from top to bottom.

– I went to Walmart.

– I went out to all-you-can-eat sushi with my boyfriend…

– And then I got engaged! So technically now he’s my fiancee.

– And then I flew home to Seattle.

So 24 hours ago, I was zombie girl, barely finished with tests, sitting around in sweat pants in California. And now I am with my friends and family in Seattle and I am engaged! Moral of the story: life is crazy.