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GUEST BLOG: Settling Into Medical School

stethoscopeonbooks.jpgby Sean Huggins, OMS-IV

Depending on where you are in your medical school journey, you might find some of this knowledge useful, other parts redundant, and some flat-out "not your style." For those incoming, I encourage you to take this advice with a grain of salt and fit this information to who you are. Much of medicine is learning about a system, drawing off the same stores of knowledge and data as others, and using similar technology, tools, methods, etc.

One of the most daunting aspects in all of this is maintaining your unique humanity. It is important for you to be you; your particular skill set of humor, anecdote, and relationships will make you a great asset to a program in the future, so perfect yourself. Make sure to take time to breathe, time to laugh, time to engage in hobbies, and also time to study. There are many ways students study that you might find beneficial, but you won't know until you try them. Work through different styles until you have found what is your best fit. If, after a semester, it turns out you aren't doing as well as you hoped, reach out to classmates, professors, or upperclassmen for advice on how to succeed. There is no magic bullet. You must invest time to make gains. Learning instead of cramming will pay dividends in the long haul.

Resources: Pick a few, master them, and use them as you wish. If you want to use a review app ala Firecracker or picmonic, grab one that works for you early and commit to it. I personally feel that a copy of First Aid might be a better investment.

  • OnlineMedEd -- Depending on your subscription level, a good resource for concept videos, questions, and flashcards.
  • VisualDx -- I find it incredibly useful for dermatoses, and its content has expanded to include other disease processes. Provides tests, therapy, and a differential.
  • UpToDate -- Can be helpful when writing papers, but make sure to use the reference rather than quoting UpToDate directly. It is sometimes a bit too in-depth for a first pass but a good place to go when diving deeper on a topic.
  • MicroMedex -- It has in-depth reports on different drugs and disease processes you find of interest. It can be a bit bulky to navigate at times. You can get an app on your phone to rival your Epocrates app that is a bit less flashy.
  • Epocrates -- You might consider getting this or MicroMedex to go over your drugs. It has a good interaction checker but can also prove useful for its pill identifier for people that can't remember what they took. This can prove expensive if your institution doesn't already provide it.
  • Stanford interactive antibiogram -- Stanford's own institutional antibiogram showing the relative effectiveness of various antibiotics.
  • Sanford Guide - The gold standard for antibiotics.
  • MedScape -- Countless great write-ups to give you basic overviews of diseases. You may need an account for some features, but accounts are free.
  • Radiopaedia -- For investigating radiographic findings you don't understand.
  • Figure1 -- I find this to be one of my favorite wind-down apps for after the studying is done. I can still put my medical knowledge to the test, but I also can relax and not worry about what goes in or comes out. Varied diseases shared from around the world. I find this best used for learning how to interpret imaging (CT and MRI, primarily through series.)
Lastly, remember this journey can be unbelievably tiring. Anyone can succumb to poor circumstances, physical illness, depression, and all manner of things. Know who can support you, and know to whom you can reach out if your safety net breaks. Never be afraid to let someone know you don't feel well. You have spent too much energy for too long to give up on yourself. If you need help, seek it. If someone around you looks a little worse for wear, ask them how they are doing. If they need help, be the help. Do not let hubris get in the way; make sure appropriate care is taken. Treat yourself like you would treat your mother, grandmother, brother, sister, best friend, or whomever. If you or anybody needs to talk or feels like taking his or her own life, do not hesitate to contact the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 24-hour crisis line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

About the Author

huggins4thyearsmall.pngSean Huggins grew up in Utah, served a two-year mission in southern Mexico, and has since relocated to Arizona, with his wife and child, for medical school. He worked as a medical interpreter in a free clinic for a year prior to entering medical school. He is interested in all forms of medicine by particularly Radiology, Internal Medicine, and Infectious Disease. He has a strong interest in underserved populations and is in his fourth year of medical school at Midwestern University - Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine. 

About VisualDx

VisualDx is an award-winning diagnostic clinical decision support system that has become the standard electronic resource at more than half of U.S. medical schools and more than 1,500 hospitals and institutions nationwide.  VisualDx combines clinical search with the world's best medical image library, plus medical knowledge from experts to help with diagnosis, treatment, self-education, and patient communication. Expanding to provide diagnostic decision support across General Medicine, the new VisualDx brings increased speed and accuracy to the art of diagnosis. Learn more at www.visualdx.com.

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