Saturday, August 10, 2013

The First Week of Medical School


That was crazy.

I’ve officially completed my first week of medical school, which is still a little bit crazy to think about. It was a lot of fun, but wow – it was also a very busy week.

Stritch has the curriculum set up in such a way that, at least in the first year, you are taking one “major” class at a time. There are also two “minor,” much shorter classes that occur for a few weeks each during the first year while the “major” class is going on. Underlying all of these classes is a final “doctoring” course known as Patient-Centered Medicine that runs through the first three years. Right now, the “major” class is Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, affectionately known as MCGB. There is also a “minor” course – Behavioral Medicine and Development, aka BD. And then, of course, there’s PCM.

So far, most days have gone from around 8 am to an average of about 2:30 pm, some days shorter and some longer. One day a week, PCM keeps us around campus until anywhere from 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm, but it usually gets out early. Looking ahead, it seems like the days will be a bit shorter after this first semester ends, which will be nice.

MCBG, the bane of my existence right now, is essentially a review of all of the cell biology, biochemistry, and genetics material we learned (or didn’t learn, as the case may be…) in undergrad. Though the material itself isn’t necessarily new or particularly complex, the sheer amount of material covered is just short of overwhelming. It’s manageable on a day-to-day basis, but is enough to quickly bury you alive if you fall behind. And we have a test after this next week. Should be fun.

BD is a more of a “soft” class – not a ton of effort is needed here, although some studying is certainly useful. It’s actually been a fairly interesting class, and this week has covered things like child development, elderly development, death and dying, and women’s health. For the elderly development lecture, the lecturer invited three of his patients who were around 70 years old to come speak to the class. At the start of the lecture, only one gentleman had shown up – one of the others was ill and couldn’t make it, and another was thought to be wandering the campus somewhere (it turned out she had been waiting in the wrong place). After the lecturer gave a brief intro, he brought up the elderly gentlemen and began to ask a few questions, such as “As you entered into this season of life, what surprised you the most?” and “What were some significant changes that you noticed?” Unfortunately, the patient would have none of it and refused to stay on topic. He was a pleasant enough guy, but apparently preferred to joke about how the women his age were too old for him or how the only time he would lie was when he was selling cars. When asked what sage advice he would like to pass on to the young people in the room, he replied lightly, “Eh…they don’t listen anyway!” One could tell halfway through the interview that the lecturer seemed to be regretting inviting this particular guest.

Finally, the other guest arrived and was brought up to the front of the lecture hall. She actually had some great things to say about getting older, how that affected her life, and how she had perceived that her various roles in life had changed. It was a good interview, but the best part was when the lecturer asked what her interactions with technology were like, to which she replied, “I am not internet!" That got a quiet chuckle out of the class. Overall, though, it was very kind of both of them to come in. It was good, at least with the second guest, to hear some of the things that we had been discussing in class come straight from the source, as it were. If nothing else, it made for an entertaining lecture.

In this post, I mentioned that I was planning on using OneNote to take notes in class and Anki to help retain information. So far, both systems have been working very well. OneNote is an awesome way to organize all of the information/handouts/powerpoints/online readings/etc. for each class in one place that is easily accessible, flexible, and extremely portable. Anki has been an excellent learning tool. It takes a little bit of effort to make the cards initially, and one does have to commit to a daily review of any due flashcards to make it truly effective, but I think it will be worth it. In undergrad, I feel like I learned the basic concepts of most things but really tended to cram much of the rest of the information I needed for exams, and then never really thought about the info again. I really want things to be different this time around, and I feel like Anki will greatly help in retaining the information over the long term.

As I mentioned before, most days end around 2:30 pm or so. I usually go home, spend a few minutes with my wife (we decided early on that we would spend at least ten minutes or so together as soon as I walked in the door, just to connect and hear about each other’s day), and then study for 3-4 hours. This usually involves reviewing that day’s lectures, making flashcards, reviewing flashcards, doing any reading, and downloading tomorrow’s lecture materials to OneNote. I try to stop around 6-7 pm for dinner and spend the rest of the evening with my long-suffering wife. Ideally, I have all of my studying done at this point, but there were a couple nights that I had to pick things up again around 10 pm or so and spend another hour or two tying things up. I’m looking forward to the days getting a bit shorter so I can, as a rule, be done by 6:30 pm or so.

It’s been a hectic week, but it’s also been a good week. We are both glad that the weekend is here, and are thoroughly enjoying relaxing and doing a whole lot of nothing as we gear up for week two.


  1. I'm currently an undergraduate with plans of attending medical school. I just wanted to tell you that your blog is very entertaining and insightful as to what I can expect once I reach the stage that you are at now. Thank you!

    1. Thanks! I'm glad you are enjoying the blog. Good luck!


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