The end of second year is coming quickly. Cue moment of complete honesty: it’s coming far more quickly than I’d like. I’m looking forward to being beyond the exam that shall not be named (oh come on, you know: Step One). I’m looking forward to working with a team, seeing / caring for patients, and having an opportunity to fine-tune my clinical exam skills. Regardless of how excited I am to move beyond basic science curriculum, I’m nervous. It’s scary. Transitions are scary.
Many of y’all who follow the blog are premedical students. Some of you may be starting medical school this upcoming fall–congratulations! I distinctly remember reading my first acceptance letter to medical school. I was excited albeit terrified. I had a gnawing fear that I was unprepared for medical school. That fear was fair — it’s impossible to be 100% prepared for the whirlwind of medical school — but I have come to realize that particular courses and experiences definitely made my transition to medical school easier. I wanted to share a super quick list with you all because it may be helpful for someone out there.
Before I jump into the list, I just want to say: don’t worry! If you’ve been accepted to medical school, it’s highly unlikely that you won’t be able to rise to the challenge. I know you might not believe me but it’s true!
So what prepared me for the academic aspects of medical school?
Premedical Coursework: I won’t pretend that I loved every, single premedical course. I despised organic chemistry (maybe it’s just taught in a soul-crushing way at Princeton) which shocked me because I genuinely loved general chemistry and I deplored physics which did not surprise me because I merely tolerated physics in high school.
- Biochemistry was one of the best taught science courses that I took during my undergraduate career. Granted I’m biased because the biochemistry professor was also my thesis advisor. Nonetheless, a good foundation in biochemistry made medical biochemistry (and some pharmacology) a lot easier to handle.
- General chemistry has been far more important in my medical school career than organic chemistry (I’m still annoyed that I had to take that class). Some of the concepts are important in conceptual components of pharmacology and acid-base disorders (really important in renal and pulmonary block).
- Drug Discovery and Development was a class I took senior year. I learned basics about drug development (the industry is so complex) and pharmaceutical properties. A lot of this information has been super helpful in my MPH and MD coursework.
Balancing Lecture with Outside Resources: Outside of my AP courses, I rarely read textbooks in high school. It just was not necessary. Lecture was my primary source of information. College was very different. Professors time after time prefaced lectures with: “we can’t cover everything in class, so be sure to look at the textbook.” At first, I was overwhelmed. I found it challenging to find the balance. How much time should I use to read textbooks or supplemental articles? Should I take notes from the textbook material? Should I read the textbook ahead of time. Cue another moment of honesty: I read the entire recommended organic chemistry textbook a month before sophomore year started. Yea…that didn’t do me much good.
There are resources ABOUND for medical students and it’s so important to find a sane way to integrate and prioritize information from different resources.
Summer Research Experience: I spent a summer after my sophomore year in Denver, Colorado. I worked in a lung cancer lab and studied the role of the Wnt signaling pathway in non-small cell lung cancer. I learned new laboratory techniques and a lot about lab culture; it’s definitely challenging to find your place in a lab (especially if you’re only there for a short while). Prior to the end-of-program poster session, I practiced my spiel many (x 100) times. I realized over that summer that I did not want to pursue a MD/PhD degree (yes, I was considering that before) and I learned how to explain technical concepts to a non-scientific community (really helpful now that I have to attempt to explain pathology to patients).
Side note: For those of you looking for summer research experiences, Accepted.com, has an amazing list.
So to reiterate, you’re all going to be okay. Don’t be like me: don’t doubt your abilities before you even have your first day in medical school. You’ll make it through! We all do somehow.