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!

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