Tag Archives: General Advice

Advice for the New Medical Student

This summer, approximately 25,000 students will begin their first year of medical school in the United States. While the path to medical school was challenging, medical school itself holds a number of additional challenges, as well as significant opportunities. “Concerns about succeeding academically, choosing a specialty, maintaining a social life, and making time for family can certainly cause anxiety among new medical students,” writes Dr. Meg Keeley, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.1 Below, we offer some key advice for the new medical student.

Evaluate your study habits

In one study, researchers found that “in general, study skills are stronger predictors of first-semester total grades than aptitude as measured by the MCAT and undergraduate GPA.”2 There are many reasons for this, but one of the main reasons relates to the immense volume of information to be mastered. April Apperson, Assistant Director of Student Services at the University of San Diego California School of Medicine, explains “The material presented in medical school is not conceptually more difficult than many rigorous undergraduate courses, but the volume flow rate of information per hour and per day is much greater – it has frequently been described as ‘drinking from a firehose.'”3

Utilize active, rather than passive, learning strategies

The USMLE Step 1 exam is a critical factor in the residency selection process. With a strong focus on clinical applications, rather than rote memorization, the USMLE is a distinctive and challenging exam for most students. How should you study for an exam of this importance that’s so distinct from other exams? Drs. Helen Loeser and Maxine Papadakis, Deans at the UCSF School of Medicine, advise: “Use active learning methods as you integrate your knowledge and apply basic science information to clinical vignettes.”4 Research has shown that active learning leads to better long-term retention of information and easier retrieval of information when needed.

impacting communities

Impact your community

Medical students have been able to impact their communities in wide-ranging and meaningful ways, through student organizations, national groups, or through their own initiatives. Student-run health clinics offer one example, in which students often serve an underserved population, including the uninsured, homeless, and the poor.

Maintain your emotional well-being

Studies have shown that students experience significant stress during the preclinical years. This can have real consequences, including depression, anxiety, and effects on patient care. It becomes vital that students develop strategies now to cope with stress and promote their own well-being, in order to maintain resilience and the highest standards of professionalism throughout their career.

Explore different specialties in medicine

In one study of medical students, 26.2% were unsure of their specialty choice at matriculation.5 A similar proportion remained undecided at graduation. Exploring different fields during the preclinical years may help. Students have done so by participating in specialty-interest groups, shadowing physicians, performing research, and identifying mentors.

About the Authors

Samir Desai is the author of Success in Medical School: Insider Advice for the Preclinical Years and writes about residency match success at TheSuccessfulMatch.com.Author Rajani Katta

Rajani Katta is the course director for dermatology in the basic sciences at the Baylor College of Medicine, and the author of
The Successful Match: 200 Rules to Succeed in the Residency Match.


References

1Keeley M. Ask the advisor: How to successfully navigate the first year. AAMC Choices Newsletter August 2011.  Accessed June 18, 2012.
2West C, Sadoski M. Do study strategies predict academic performance in medical school? Med Educ 2011; 45(7): 696-703.
3University of California San Diego School of Medicine. Successful Study Strategies in Medical School. Accessed February 20, 2012.
4University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. Rx for Success on STEP 1 of The Boards. Accessed October 19, 2011.
5Kassebaum D, Szenas P. Medical students’ career indecision and specialty rejection: roads not taken. Acad Med 1995; 70(10): 937-43.

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How to Pick Individual Residency Programs: FREIDA

AMA FREIDA Online

It’s application season, and while this takes place every year, we only go through it once (thankfully), and thus the >25,000 participating med students are unfamiliar with the process. There are a TON of considerations on selecting individual residency programs to put on your ERAS application. It can seem daunting to wade through the list of endless programs out there unless you are certain of a smaller specialty from the start. We’re going to start with the basics, for those of you who are really lost.

First, head over to FREIDA Online. It’s a searchable sortable database produced by the American Medical Association with over 9000 residency and fellowship programs.  After scrolling to the bottom of and agreeing to their policies, users can select their desired specialty (including sub-specialties and combination residency programs), geographic area, program size, and academic affiliation. Results can be further filtered by benefits, ERAS or NRMP participation, research requirements, or specialty training tracks.

Searches can be saved for later viewing, although this is generally not necessary. For the more popular specialties such as Internal Medicine, paring down the perceived 3 billion possible choices by all of these options still produces a list that still feels like 567,902 programs. In actuality, you should come out with a list of less than 100. It’s still overwhelming, but much better than when you started. Trimming that list down to your “short list” of about 20 total programs to which you will apply. The final push should come from academic advisors in your desired field. If all else fails, post a question to this post, and we’ll have someone look into it.

AMA logo, producers of FREIDAHopefully though, FREIDA Online will be a highly useful first step. For those of you wondering, the AMA application name stands for “Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database.”  Sounds about right. Good luck on the application process!

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