Dear 1st Year Medical Students

Young african-american doctor making notes at the medical meetingThe first day of medical school is fast approaching for many you! First off congrats!  Let the heavens say AMEN! Let your cheer squad give you that resounding YAAAASSSSS!!! Ok now, let’s get down to business 😊 You have fought hard for this moment and it’s finally here which is super great but, medical school is a whole new ball game and if you don’t have your game plan in place things can quickly become overwhelming. So here are a few my tips for starting medical school off on the right foot so you can thrive rather than just survive.

  1. The fire hose analogy is fact not fiction

We all heard of this analogy before- but it is VERY true.  All the information you learn in medical school feels like you are literally being slammed with the world’s biggest fire hose daily. Don’t let this fact scare you though; many have come before you and experienced this “hosing” (myself included while having 2 babies) and survived; therefore, I KNOW YOU WILL SURVIVE TOO. The biggest key to success is time management. You must develop a habit of mapping out your life i.e. planning study time for each course, meeting with tutors/teachers to review, study group sessions, time for sleep or eating etc. Ok, maybe penciling sleeping and eating on your calendar is extreme but, you catch my drift. You must be methodical in how you allocate your time to make sure you can fully master (not just memorize) all the information medical school will throw your way.

  1. First Aid is a MUST

If you haven’t done so already, run to Amazon and buy a copy of First Aid. For those who may not know, First Aid is a review book for the United States Medical License Exam (i.e. the USMLE board review book). First Aid is your medical school BIBLE. It’s not like a GQ or Vogue magazine where you read every now and then…. IT IS YOUR BIBLE…. YOUR DAILY BREAD. Now, some of you may be scratching your head like “I haven’t even stepped in the classroom yet, why are we talking about boards already?” Your first boards take place at the end of your second year and they will cover the coursework over the first 2 years of medical school. So, as you progress along in your courses, you can review topics and annotate First Aid as you learn. I call this strategy “pre-gaming” the boards edition 😊 The advantage of pre-gaming is that when board time rolls around, you have already reviewed First Aid, made notes and you ready to study and review. Moral of this story- work smart not hard kiddos!

  1. Find your tribe

Can’t say this enough, find your “squad/ tribe/ village/hittas—whatever you want to call the circle friends you will grow to rely on medical school.  This will be the group of people who be the coffee break buddies between classes, the laughter to break up the boredom of studying, the cheer squad on your good and bad days, study buddies who laugh at your geeky science jokes. So, don’t be a lone wolf. Be social. Mix and mingle with your classmates. FIND YOUR TRIBE. No one survives medical school by themselves.

  1. Believe, Believe, Believe

Self-explanatory. Always believe in yourself. Doubt kills dreams and as it only serves to brews hesitancy and fear that can paralyze your ability to go for your goals. So don’t doubt yourself you might wreck yourself—that’s a rhyme right?!?! Lol. Know that you didn’t come this far to only come this far. You earned your acceptance to medical school which means you are more than qualified to become a doctor. So, roll up your sleeves, discover your favorite coffee brew, create a playlist of your favorite trap songs (to hype you on those long study days) and start grinding until you shine.

  1. Learn how you learn

This is essential. Everyone studies different. Do you like lectures and note-taking or do you prefer to read books or maybe charts/graphs? Do you like to study mostly by yourself or do you prefer group study? These are important questions to ask before you get knee deep in your medical studies and find yourself sinking in quick sand of medical knowledge. You need to know how to effectively study to achieve academic success and that means knowing which study style best fits you personally.  If you haven’t figured this out yet, take time and find your study style.

  1. Don’t memorize, learn and apply knowledge

This is not college where you study a little bit here and there or burn the midnight oil with cram sessions. Pump and dump style learning WILL NOT work in medical school. Treat medical school like it’s your job to learn as much as you can. You are not just learning information to get a passing grade on test but, you are learning this knowledge so you can save your patient’s life one day.

  1. It’s okay to ask for help

We all know doctors are type A personality which means we always strive for perfection. Don’t let your desire to viewed as perfect hinder you from seeking help if you aren’t preforming well academically.  If you find yourself struggling, reach out for help. Go to review sessions, meet with tutors, talk with your teachers, do review questions, etc.  Don’t struggle in silence. Use your resources to help you succeed.

Good luck future docs!

The Little “Doctor” Engine That Could- 5 Tips to Motivate Aspiring Doctors

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This is for that pre-med or medical student out there who needs a “divine sign” to keep pushing today! Let’s chant together, “I know I can, I know I can, I know I can.” Let this be your daily mantra! No matter what season you are in your journey, stay focused! You don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward…just take the next step forward.  Becoming a doctor is a long journey filled with many ups and downs with a whole heck of lot of uncertainty.  I am here to say trust the process and always keep moving forward NEVER backwards. You will look back on this very day and thank yourself for not quitting when the road became rocky.  Growth isn’t always comfortable BUT it is always worth it.

I can say these things with great certainty after having walked the burning sands of becoming a doctor. Here I was a triple minority: poor, black and a woman trying to re-write the rules and break the mold to become a first-generation doctor.  I didn’t always have the answers. I can’t even begin to count how many times I heard the word “no” along my journey. Heck, I can’t tell you how many times I had to change up my plans once a was door closed. I can tell you I never let someone’s doubt cause me to doubt myself nor my abilities to become a doctor.  I really was the like The Little Engine That Could. My path wasn’t always straightforward, I had to take few detour routes through the swamps and back alleys but, nonetheless I persisted until I finally broke the mold to became Dr. Denmark.

So here are some pearls of wisdom that helped me stay motivated along my journey:

  1. Surround yourself with positivity

This is self-explanatory. Don’t hang around people who don’t support your vision. It doesn’t matter if they are “fam bam” or a friend who you wore matching diapers with as a baby- if they are negative limit their time in your life. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and will be your cheerleader on your best and your worst days.

  1. Be your #1 fan

If no one else believes in you, then believe in yourself. Becoming a doctor is long journey and many people fall off the support team along the way before you finally make it. Don’t let someone lack of ability to see that you are destined for greatness derail from going for your goal of becoming Dr. “Insert Your Name.” Always believe in yourself and know that you are capable of anything you put your mind to.

  1. Recognize your progress

Any progress is good progress as long as you’re moving forward. Don’t be hard on yourself if your goals are taking longer than expected or not going according to your perfectly color coordinated timeline-you know that one you carefully highlighted with 8 different colors and laminated 😊 Remember, little progress adds up to big results.

  1. Visualize yourself accomplishing your goals

Visualizing myself as a Dr. Denmark motivated me to wake up at the crack of dawn to get ready for my day or fueled my 3am study sessions in med school.  So its helpful to visualize yourself as a doctor as way to motivate yourself. If you believe it you can become it!

  1. Don’t compare

We all know comparison is the biggest joy stealer. Yet, so many find themselves cruising the gram or FB comparing their Day 1 to someone else’s Day 365. . Please don’t compare yourself. Comparison will only make you question your capability, slow down your progress and prevent you from fulfilling your purpose. Focus solely on your journey and life goals and you will be successful.