How to Survive Medical School: Histology & Physiology

I’ve begrudgingly realized that vacation is coming to a close. In a little over two weeks, I’ll be back in class (okay…at home) . Many of you are soon to start your first year of medical school and I would be surprised if you aren’t a bit nervous. My greatest concerns, I’ll admit, were academic in nature. I found it difficult to find legitimate advice about first year courses. In far too many blogs, MS1s compared medical school to drinking out of a firehose.

Okay sure, they aren’t wrong. Okay sure, I’ve said that myself. Yet, I found those blog posts  to be anything but helpful.

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How to Survive Medical School: Anatomy, Biochemistry, Embryology, Genetics, & Neuroscience

It’s official: I am not longer a first year medical student. Two weeks ago, I completed my third neuroscience examination and with that, my first year curriculum at TUSOM. I’m giddy albeit apprehensive. The end of first year does not, unfortunately, mark the beginning of summer. Here at TUSOM, we complete first year with neuroscience (this is a six week course that terminates early May) and swiftly plunge into second year material. Next week marks the end of the immunology/inflammation block and our brief introduction to pharmacology and pathology. And that is why I am both excited but terrified. The immunology/inflammation block concludes with an examination on May 29th (my birthday–huzzah!?) and then I am free until the first week of August. I. cannot. wait. for. summer.

Now that I have survived my first year of medical school (I still can’t believe it!), I figure it is as good as time as any to share pearls of wisdom in regard to the first year curriculum at TUSOM: anatomy, biochemistry, embryology, genetics, neuroscience, and physiology. Some readers have emailed me / tweeted me / messaged me about the academic nature of medical school and I’ve been working my way through those responses. I realized that other readers / future readers may have the same questions; thus, here begins a series of blog posts: How to Survive Medical School. I found that many inquiries have been about anatomy. In an earlier post, I shared the personal aspects of my experience in anatomy lab. Although I vaguely mentioned / vented about anatomy coursework on both this blog and the Twitterverse, I have not really shared specifics about the academic aspect of the course. I know, I know — better late than never, right?

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“And as a special treat, he took me to the pathology lab and took a real human brain out of the jar and placed it in my hands. And there it was, the seat of human consciousness, the powerhouse of the human body, sitting in my hands.” ― Aditi Shankardass

“Today, I held a human brain.”

That was how I started the conversation. Not with hello. Not with any of the standard greetings with which I am well acquainted. It was as though the experience of which I spoke rendered me mannerless. And she responded: “how did you feel about it?” This particular friend has an habit of responding to statements with either (1) “oh, how was that?” or (2) “how did you feel about that?” For some reason, I could never predict when she would ask either of those questions; I never had an eloquent response prepared.

“Oh.”I sat cross-legged on the floor of my apartment; I had a copy of Netter’s Atlas opened to the colorful sketches of the brain. There was really no comparison between the color-coded brain in the atlas and the brain I was able to study in the anatomy lab. “I…I don’t know. There was the initial shock factor which was soon followed by awe and humility. In that moment, I was holding the cadaver-donor’s personhood. In a way, it felt really personal.” In previous posts, I made half-promises to: (1) comment on my experience in anatomy, (2) address resources I used to survive the course, as well as (3) resources for the shelf exam. I think I may cover all of those aspects in upcoming posts but as I am on vacation / in a pensive mood, this post will serve primarily as a reflection.

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Liebster Award

You may have noticed that over the past few months, my blog has been…barren. In that period of time, I began and finished anatomy and embryology. Last Friday, we took the NBME Anatomy Shelf exam — a national anatomy exam — and tomorrow we begin the integrated curriculum (full steam ahead for Biochemistry, Genetics, Physiology, and Histology). In a few days, I’ll share a reflection on my experience with anatomy (and embryology?), some information about how to prepare for the NBME Anatomy Shelf (what I did and what I wish that I did), and more updates about my life at TUSOM!

Over the past few months, I’ve received a few nominations for the Liebster Award and I want to take the time to thank the individuals who nominated my blog and to answer some of the questions the nominators sent my way.

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“This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.” ― Taylor Swift

If I had to describe the last four weeks in one word, I’d go with whirlwind. Rather than bore you with prologue and pretense, I’ll just jump into a recap.

Four weeks ago: (1) my roommates moved in, (2) I finished MPH summer coursework, and (3) celebrated the end of summer courses. My roommates — Grace & Amanda — moved in and they are absolutely phenomenal human beings; I feel pretty lucky to have such great roommates. Both Grace and Amanda were able to join in on festivities.

Brittani — one of my friends in the MPH program — suggested that we throw a party to celebrate the end of MPH classes. Every good party has a theme (#amiright) and we decided to have a curry cook-off. Ben and Emi respectively made Taiwanese and Japanese curries and Brittani b(r)ought Jamaican curry.

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