Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Yes, I am alive.

So, it's been forever and a half, since I last posted, and for those of you out there that were worried I am still alive (which I'm sure weren't many of you....except maybe my mom, but since a) I talk to her everyday and b) she doesn't know what a blog is, I don't think she was concerned). Anyway, I thought it was time for a post.

Lots and lots has happened. 2nd year is hard as everyone said it would be, but it is also interested. The sheer amount of information is definitely overwhelming at times, but a long time ago I accepted that perfection was unattainable and I feel OK even if I don't know every detail and minutiae. I think that has been harder for some of my other classmates. I also have been trying really hard neither to beat myself up over unproductive times nor to become overwhelmed by the amount of work that still needs to be done. Although I have had my moments of freaking out (no one's perfect...see above).

I had heard that CPR block was hard conceptually but GI block was hard because of the sheer amount of material, and I think that that was pretty much true. I had also heard that it was really hard to start GI block right after CPR block because you don't have a long weekend in between (as you do between the first 2 blocks). I think that this was true, but I don't think that the long weekend really would have made a difference. I was definitely just burned out after CPR block for about a week and I really never regained the same intensity during GI block I don't think, but it all seems to have worked out alright.

I really started focusing on Lecture Objectives as a way to study, and that seems to be working pretty well, so I've been sticking with it. I also have really liked small groups/labs as a way to go over things and hear them another time and in a different way. I definitely like repetition.

I had been studying at the carrels a lot more than I had first year, but I got really sick of it during CPR block, so I wasn't there as much for GI block. I also started just studying at home more, partially because it really started getting cold out (at least for my wimpy constitution), which makes me become somewhat of a hermit. The only problem with that is that I definitely felt a bit lonely and isolated, which is largely due to the fact that I live by myself (which I actually usually enjoy quite a bit). I don't know...I definitely need to work on some kind of balance. I think the other issue is that I've found it hard to hang out with a lot of my friends because we all have such limited non-studying time, and that time doesn't always coincide (i.e. you started studying earlier so you want to take a break earlier than your friends, or you were planning to take Saturday night off, but they weren't etc. etc.). It definitely takes some more planning.

In an effort to try and maintain some semblance of sanity and social interaction this block, many of the MSTP girls (and some of our med school friends) planned to get together once a week and watch the PBS version of Pride and Prejudice (featuring Colin Firth...insert swoon here). We weren't wholly successful (we only met twice), but it was really fun and I believe will be continued next year.

On a totally separate note, I've been helping to choreograph for the med school musical (yes, the med school puts on a musical every year, which at least last year was quite good. There is a surprising number of EXCEPTIONALLY talented people in med school). I have limited dancing experience and ZERO choreography experience, but it's been really fun.

We've also all been trying to figure out the whole USMLE process (for those of you as clueless as I was, USMLE are the licensing board exams that you have to take. There are 3 steps, which you take at various points during your medical career. Step 1 is taken after your 2nd year of med school). I have gotten registered and tentatively picked a date. I haven't done major studying at all, but I am doing a bit of review of Biochem over break, esp. since I took a grad school class (molecular cell biology) in lieu of med school biochem. However, since I haven't taken biochem since my junior year of college, I figured a little review and some focus on clinical biochemstry would be a good idea.

Ok, well I think I"ll leave it at that. Happy New Year to everyone!

Friday, December 26, 2008

GI block redux, USMLE for fun?

We got to learn a bit about the science advisory board in DC for the next four years. I am not going to write anything about it. I don’t feel like it.

GI block (gastrointestinal disease, endocrinology, and dermatology plus their respective pathology sections) was MUCH harder than CPR block. CPR, in hindsight, wasn’t that bad. More concepts, fewer factoids were to be had in CPR block. Be forewarned, incoming students.

Really, it took me until GI block (and halfway through, at that) to understand how I need to study. I tackled pharm block like a first year that worked a little harder (wrong idea). I took on CPR block like a study-shotgun being fired at a course-load wall (wrong idea). Halfway through GI block, I took a few hours and constructed an elaborate workbook that tracked, graphed, and summarized my study activities, confidence with various lecture subjects, pace vs. lecture schedule, and many other things. It updated automatically when I input various parameters and gave me a constant overview of where I was and where I needed to be. Anal-retentive organization, it turns out, was what I needed. Too bad this is completely against my nature and took me 3 months or so to learn…

On another note, I started studying for step 1. I am not crazy, I am not gunner, and I am not a perfectionist. The reason I started studying is because
- Reviewing medicine is actually interesting. Reading about science is a zen activity for me, and since I have no deadlines or pressure at the moment, it’s actually entertaining.
- It doesn’t stress me out right now (see above) and I figure more is always better if you can handle it.
I have also decided where I am going to study when it comes down to the 3 weeks pre-exam. I was thinking about coming to stay with my parents (up north) for free food/laundry service while I studied. I figured that I could study in peace.
When I took a diagnostic exam for shits the other night, I posted a note on the door of my study reading:
“Taking an exam until 7:00 or 7:30. Please do not interrupt me unless it is something REALLY important. Leave a note on the door and I will get it when I am done.”

About 1 hour, 10 mins into my test, I get a knock on the door.
“Dinner’s ready.”

That settles it. I am staying in St. Louis.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Daring proposition for US medicine

President elect Obama released this video last week about jobs and the economy. The part that relates to this blog comes in right after 3:50 or so: electronically linking all of our health care. The task is massive and I am skeptical (skepticism has its place in politics as well as science) but it could change the way we do medicine. I don't see it happening before I get my PhD, maybe even my MD, but here's to hope.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Look, this blog isn't about politics. It's about science. Any soundbite by any candidate that so blatantly trivializes a key part of scientific research deserves attention by the scientific community.

BTW: if you want to be involved in science and politics,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

2nd year represented in 1 image

I took a quick break from studying to take and stitch together this shoddy panorama of our study carrel. The desks here mostly belong to MSTPs, some of whom use this space as mere storage and others who use it for daily studying. Note the piles of study materials and beverage containers. We have 2 minifridges stocked with food, juices, and beer, about a dozen different dry teas, a microwave, water boiler, rice cooker, food cabinets, etc. It's pretty much a home away from home, and many of us spend 12+ hours a day in this little room.

(We got really unlucky in the lottery for carrel space. Most carrels are much larger and have windows. We live in a closet. Although this sucks during sunny days, it does help you forget that it's 11 PM and you are still studying. A mixed blessing, for sure.)

Back to pathology...

Monday, October 20, 2008

CPR block'd!

This blog has been on my mind more than the [lack of] updates suggest. A few reasons:

I keep thinking “I should really do an entry about 2nd year” and the madness that is CPR block

I think I want to change the kind of content that is here (more about this below)

I notice that we (or, since I am the only one that really writes here, I) get more traffic these days.

Why haven’t I updated? Mostly because I am a 2nd year med student and my life has little time for blog updates. Sorry, that’s how it goes in CPR block. After this exam block, I will see if I can bang out an entry or two about 2nd year. Until then, I have some thoughts about content that I would like to spew forth to see if any readers will react. Positive or negative comments are welcome.

About what am I writing? Well, I read many other med/MSTP blogs. One blog in particular irks me. Now, maybe it’s because I have a personal bias against the school/author(s) for admittedly shallow reasons… or maybe it’s because the content sucks and it comes across as pretentious, boasting, and other adjectives that convey the same point. I dunno.

At any rate, I don’t want to write about my MSTP life like the other blogger(s) go(es) on about this other school’s program(s)*. I realize that some of my previous entries, especially those written when I was still in awe that I actually made it this far, sound almost exactly like this other school’s blogger(s). This irritates me.

So, readers (that I know are out there!), what do you want me to cover here? I can bitch about the daily strife of the MSTP life, I can wax philosophical about the state of science and medicine today, or I can just answer questions about the school and programs. My goal is to be as palatable and useful as possible without having to censor myself, sound like a PR firm, or end up reading like that other blog. If you don’t give input, I will just write whatever I feel like writing. This blog might thus end up as something like a verbal colostomy bag. That’s something nobody wants.

OK, readers, what would you like this blog to become?

*To avoid digging myself into a hole, I have to be annoyingly cryptic about my trivial dislike for this other party. To the other bloggers out there that I know read this at every update- I read lots of blogs so the chances that I am bashing you are pretty slim. Most of you write well and provide a great service to those interested in your institutions. Even if I am referring to your school, my opinion means nothing; what do I know, anyway?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

class show tidbits

If you want to see what antics our crazy class our class is getting into these days, check out these youtube videos. If you know the MSTs (through interviews or second looks) you will notice that we were pretty omnipresent in the class show. There are some more vids on the WUMS2011 youtube account if you care to see some more.

Oh yeah, and we got the final roster of the incoming MSTP class. I look forward to meeting the ones I haven’t yet. Alright, I gotta study for Neuroscience; final’s next week.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

end of interview season!

Yes, yes… bad MSTP blogger. I haven’t written about the grandeur and glamour that is the life of an MD/PhD in a while. I kind of thought I would have time to do so while recovering from a recent surgery, but it turns out I just slept a lot.

There are some of you that I really liked and was saddened to find out that you were not offered a spot on the admissions list. Let’s just say that if I had some say, I would have changed that for a few of you. Seeing as how I enjoyed meeting you because you were intelligent, balanced, and fun to talk to, I am sure you got an offer from other great schools. The national MSTP crowd is well connected enough that I can reasonably expect to cross paths with you sometime again in our careers.

And now I just want to take a few minutes to say:

-it was awesome meeting those applicants that I was fortunate enough to meet

-I am pumped to learn that there are already a good number of you signed on and committed to the program

-come to second look weekend

-no, really, come to second look weekend. It’s FREE.

Second look is absurdly fun (really, it’s ridiculous.) If you can, I suggest that you come to the one that combines the MD class with the MSTPs. If not, at least go to the MSTP only one. Even if you aren’t totally into WashU at that point, second look is a great time to network with other MSTPs, some of whom will end up here and some of whom will choose other schools.

Oh, and I am helping to plan the MD/MSTP combined weekend. Unfortunately, the MSTP-exclusive weekend falls on our spring break, so the 1st and 2nd years will be mostly out of town by then. I might still try to meet up with you on the Friday prior, but that’s pending.

At any rate, being an MSTP here is still awesome and I am still having the time of my life. And I can speak first hand that if you for any reason must take some time off from school (say, to get your leg repaired), the school is wonderful to you throughout the process. You don’t appreciate it until you need it.

See you in April…

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

One semester down...

So, we're about a week and a half into the second semester of first year, so I thought it was time to write an update. I've actually tried writing this a couple of times, but for some reason it's been hard. anyway, here it goes.

It's kind of weird reflecting on all of the things that I learned over the last six months. The amount of information that I know now and didn't before starting med school is kind of astounding. Finals at the end of the year was definitely a bit intense, but it felt great to get it done! However, after being in st. Louis for more than 7 months I can confidently say that I am so happy with my choice to come to WashU and St. Louis. I even forget sometimes how lucky we are. When I told some people over break that med school was fun, they just gave me the strangest looks because that's not a word they were used to hearing associated with first year of med school. However, I'd say that there's a pretty good consensus of happiness among the first years!

Winter break was fantastic, although a bit short. I could have used a couple of extra days. It was nice hanging with my family though and just taking it easy.

it was great coming back to school and seeing all of my friends. I really missed them over break. This semester has been pretty good so far. I definitely miss anatomy all ready as now we have a lot more time in lecture, but small groups do help break it up. Plus, I really like the classes that we have this semester. Anyway, I guess that's all. We'll see how things go this semester!

PS. A fun video that we were looking at during physio small group today. Enjoy!