Today was the last day of school for the kids so my routine will get broken up. For the last week and a half I have enjoyed a nice leisurely morning. I get the girls up about 6:30 and they get ready on their own before catching a ride with a teacher friend. Then I start mixing Manning’s breakfast cocktail of Pediasure, phenobarbitol, and trileptal. He has to get his g-tube feeding started before 7:00 in order to be finished by the time his bus comes to get him at a few minutes after 8:00. He has been involved in a terrific head start program in the public schools here. A nurse rides on the chair-lift equipped bus and rides to school with him where he gets daily stimulation as well as physical therapy. I get started on the newspaper while catching SportsCenter and then some CNN. McKenzie gets up by 8:00 usually and she likes to sit in my lap for a few minutes while Angie gets her breakfast ready. By 8:45 we have all left for the gym. Angie participates in a variety of classes while I get about 30 minutes of weight lifting in followed by 30 minutes on the stair-master. After all of that I have been going to either the school library or an empty office at our church to study. My goal has been five solid hours of review material a day followed by Kaplan’s Q-Bank at night. While I haven’t met that goal every day, I feel like I am getting some good work done.
You would think two whole years of basic science would be impossible to cram into a three week study period, but it has amazed me how much of has seemed to stick. I think the biggest challenge in the first two years of medical school, is getting a framework in your mind to put all of this knowledge in. For much of my first year I felt like I was inundated with seemingly unrelated and random information. Memorizing it was like building big unorganized piles of paperwork on the desk of my mind. But toward the end of the year, I started seeing enough of the big picture to build a mental filing cabinet. Then it was easier to put information in the right drawers at least. As the second year wore on, I had file folders and indexes built into my mental library. Now when I am re-reading a review book, the information makes so much more sense and I know exactly where it goes and how it correlates to everything else in the cabinet. It is a great feeling. I am reading stuff that I never caught on to from last year, and the lights are coming on now. For you readers who will be entering med school this fall, I would really recommend trying to get your own mental filing system organized as soon as possible. It really makes things easier.
Since I have gone so long without writing, I will try to recap some of my experiences by course for the next few entries. Microbiology was a course that most people didn’t seem to care for. It lasted for the first two-thirds of the year and was broken down into 5 units: Immunology, bacterial physiology, bacteriology, virology, and parasites and fungi. I liked the first two of those because they were theoretical and involved concepts. The rest of them were just endless parades of pathogens to memorize. They were just rote memorization of hundreds upon hundreds of bugs and worms. The class had a lab component to it that brought about one of my big gripes of the year. We all were required to have a microscope last year for Histology. The scopes are also used in the M2 year for this course. The custom at UMC is to use your scope the first two years and then sell them to the incoming class. However the school has just removed the requirement for this fall’s incoming class. I think they are moving to some sort of web-based lab course for histology as laptop computers are now required instead. Since it looked like we might get stuck with our scopes a lot of M2s began selling their scopes to this year’s M1s before the microbiology course was completed. Meanwhile the course director demanded that we keep our scopes implying that they were required to pass the lab component. Also rumors swirled that some of the departments would buy our microscopes after the year was over. Well it turned out we needed them to look at a total of 10 or so slides over the course of they year. We did some gram stains of known and unknown cultures and did an acid fast stain of some mycobacteria. That was it. It was ridiculous to require one microscope per student. We could have easily gotten by with 10 or so for the whole class. Meanwhile those of us who tried to abide by the request of the professors got stuck when it turned out that no one wanted our scopes. I paid an M4 $600 for mine last year and hardly got any use out of it. It will go up on eBay soon.
While I did fine in the class, my board score was mediocre and I have found the Step 1 questions on Q-Bank for micro to be extremely tough. I just hope there won’t be too many of them.