How to Survive Medical School: Second Year Overview

Dedicated study period for Step is inching closer! Yes, I just used an exclamation point — if I channel positivity, will that make everything better? We are in our last week of lecture!!! How crazy is that? The psychiatry examination on March 4th (aka my little sister’s 19th birthday!) and that rounds things out until in-house final exams and USMLE 1. I figured that now is as good a time as any to start rolling out content about how I survived second year. I’ll post about my favorite resources, strategies for each class, and USMLE 1 (after I take it, of course).

This post will serve as an introduction in which I’ll provide general tips about how to effectively use your study time (based on what worked for me) and which resources (outside of Tulane materials) were particularly beneficial.

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“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written.” – Melody Beattie

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Happy New Year! My hope is that all of you have an amazing 2016 filled with love, happiness, adventure, and unforgettable moments. If you’re anything like me, you see the start of the new year as a moment to reflect, grow, and become a better person. I love making (keeping few, breaking some) resolutions. I make resolutions at the top of the year (which I reevaluate at the start of each month), prior to the start of Lent, and on my birthday.

As some of you faithful readers probably would have guessed, I have a system for making resolutions. I start with five categories — academics, personal health, faith, passion projects, and relationships — and make 1-2 goals per category. In short, these resolutions push me toward finding more balance in my life.

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“Be a source of joy, and let the critics and haters complain about the world.” ― Paulo Coelho

It’s December 9th. It’s been almost five months since my last entry. In the time that has elapsed: I traveled (to Dallas, Atlanta, and Cancún), I read many novels, and I returned to school. I’ve thought about posting; in fact, I started a few posts and never got around to editing or publishing. I’ve received emails, some panicked, about my hiatus. The panicked emails sound something like: “are you not posting as regularly because second year is significantly harder than first year?” Good question.

Two of my classmates (shout-out to Ken & Liz) asked me, a few months back, why I had (essentially) abandoned my blog. My response: “Can we just agree that second year is crazy? I haven’t had the energy to write about medical school. I’m just trying to get through it.” Take note that I had just spent 2.5 hours chatting outside of the library, so my response was very melodramatic and I obviously have time to blog.

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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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