My first semester of medical school is officially done! It has been even better than I imagined. There is no doubt that medical school is tough and demanding. However, the opportunity to work with passionate physicians, professors, students and patients has challenged me and kept me motivated.
Highlights of the first semester of medical school:
Fascinating material: So far we have covered 3 blocks: Public Health, Respiration and Circulation. I really enjoyed the diagnostic aspects of these blocks such as interpreting chest X-rays and ECGs, as well as the anatomy and histology labs. I also enjoyed the various clinical scenarios where we had to come up with a diagnosis.
Family Medicine shadowing: I have been enjoying the Longitudinal Family Medicine Experience where we get to shadow a family doctor in their practice two to three times a month. It has been so interesting to see what we learned in class reinforced in the clinical setting.
Surgery shadowing: I had the wonderful opportunity to shadow an OBGYN endoscopic surgeon in the OR. It was an incredible experience!
As the months have progressed, I have been refining my study methods and trying out new techniques:
Keep up with the material: In medical school, it is critical to keep up with the lectures on a daily basis otherwise the amount of material becomes unmanageable.
Be strategic: Learn to identify what material is “high yield” and focus on that. It is almost impossible to memorize every single detail presented and you may burn out trying to do so.
Test yourself: I have found it very helpful to test myself often, either using online quizzes or building my own quizzes using key material from the lectures. My strategy is to write out 15 to 20 questions in an excel sheet following each lecture, upload the questions into an app called cram.com, then regularly test myself.
Explain it: Try to explain a difficult topic to a classmate (or in my case, usually my husband) to see whether you have really understood it. This will help to solidify the material and you will recall it more easily.
Remember the ultimate goal: Remember that the purpose of your learning is to become the best doctor you can be for your patients. Try to learn the material in a way that you can remember it in the long-term, rather than just short-term cramming in order to pass an exam.
How is balancing medical school with a family going? Generally, it is going well. I try to get the bulk of my studying done during the day and during the week so that I reserve my evenings and most of the weekends for family-time. I also try to multi-task listening to recorded lectures while commuting, cooking, cleaning or exercising. I don’t always succeed in finding a balance but I keep trying!
How to handle the heavy workload? If possible, it is important have a support network in place. I am very thankful to my husband for his help with our children and around the house, as well as my friends who have upheld me in prayer. Also, I try to reserve some time for my music hobby, devotional time and to exercise. This keeps my physical, emotional and spiritual life healthy. Planning my week also helps with getting things done in the most efficient way. Things don’t always go perfectly and I do feel overwhelmed sometimes. But developing a plan, being organized and reaching out for help when you need it can help you get through those particularly difficult moments.
Overall, I am very happy with how the first semester of medical school has gone. I feel incredibly privileged to be pursuing a career in medicine. If you have a dream, don’t ever give up on it. Keep persevering, keep your head up high and surge forward with all your strength. You can do it!
Well, it’s official! I am registered to sit the new MCAT exam on 05 August 2015. I have been wanting to go to medical school for so long, and despite setbacks and detours along the way, I am excited to be back on track!
I feel so much more relaxed about things this time around. So much has happened in my life since the last time I took the MCAT and I feel that motherhood has refined me in so many ways. I’m aiming to tackle the exam with confidence, a positive attitude and the reassurance that if medicine is my path in life, all will fall into place as it should. Ultimately, I am content and grateful to have my beautiful family and faith to sustain me.
So it’s one of those days when one of the kids is being a bit challenging. I didn’t expect this to be easy but man it can feel so discouraging sometimes! I’m trying to see the good in all the challenges I face. First and foremost, the Bible talks often about how struggles refine us and bear the fruits of patience and perseverance. I can already see that my patience threshold has increased since we first had kids. Whereas a particular situation may have thrown me into tears and gloom before, I am now learning to take a step back and look at the situation more rationally. How will this current trouble affect me or my family in the long run? Is it really that big of a deal? What can I learn from this situation or how can I turn it into something positive?
Throwing in a parallel to pursuing medicine, I sometimes wonder if parenting can be compared to residency. Endless hours of being “on call” for your children. Days of exhaustion, frustration and feeling like you have no idea what you are doing. But then also days of amazing connections, bonding, fun, laughter and a sense that even if we don’t know all there is to know about parenting, that a sense of unconditional love, warmth and commitment is what really matters.
So even on days like these when I feel a bit helpless, I am trying to see the positive in it and to remember the good things, like cuddling with our children, smelling their baby smell, holding them close, their hilarious antics that have us doubled over in laughter, or having them run to us with a look of complete love and dependence on us. Wow! It can be so difficult but so amazing. Very much worth all the effort and tears that come with it. I’m hoping that when I am finally at the stage where I am doing my residency, that I can remember days like this and remind myself that it’s all for a good cause and the difficult moments won’t last forever!