Greetings fellow humans! I have officially crossed Main Street and begun my journey at Baylor College of Medicine. We have just entered week 4 of classes, and my thoughts and schedule are still in a bit of a jumble. However, I am incredibly humbled by everything that is medical school. And it has been reassuring to be receiving countless words of wisdom, academic resources, and the foresight of clinical relevance to our studies. Let me break down a few of my first impressions.
- Content overload!!! You will be doing some heavy lifting (to put it gently), regardless of your undergraduate school or major. However, the following undergraduate courses seriously helped me at least recognize a few concepts thus far so as not to begin my studying from square one. I am sure I can comment again at the end of the term with additional courses that will have proved helpful.
- Biochemistry (I would recommend taking Pts. 1 AND 2; I didn’t take Pt. 2, but I presume it will be helpful for our unit on energy metabolism.)
- Molecular and Cellular Biology (including genetics; BIOC 201 would be helpful for those at Rice)
- You will likely fall behind a couple of times, but do not disparage and give up because the train will continue chugging up the mountain. Continue attending (or at least streaming) the scheduled lectures of the day while knocking out chunks of review material later in the evening. Be productive during weekends to catch up as much as possible before the start of the following week.
- Spend some time initially figuring out a study method (see my post about Anki), and make sure to include a mechanism for reviewing quick-refs of old material. I am currently making one-page lecture summaries (thank you, Dr. Brandt) in addition to studying shared Anki decks and performing free recall with a whiteboard.
Academics: Anatomy Lab
The experience is truly one-of-a-kind. We started our first lab session with Baylor’s tradition: all tank mates made the first cut together. Before each lab, we reserve a short period, known as a Kretzer moment (in honor of Baylor professor Dr. Frank Kretzer), for silence and meditation. At this time, an MS2 reads a short poem reflecting on this privilege and the gift imparted by our donors, who have quickly become some of our best teachers.
- Be proactive and seek guidance from circulating professors and TAs. While considerations related to time and objectives for the session must be taken into account, moving forward in the dark is truly a lost opportunity and doing justice to neither yourself or your donor. Spend your lunch time or extra hours before or after classes re-identifying structures and appreciating the dissection process. Anatomy lab is going to be over before you know it.
- Bring a physical copy of the lab manual with you. At least skim it in advance. Gauge if the lab is going to take a long time, and if so, make necessary preparations to minimize the work that will need to be performed during the lab session.
- Attend review sessions (termed “Anatomy Buddies” and “Pinkie Pinners” at Baylor) whenever possible. You will only get better at identifying structures by brute repetition and time spent in the lab. A textbook or simulated 3D model will only get you so far, although I recommend studying these at home too.
- Although fine technique is not something you will cultivate in anatomy lab, there will be times during lab sessions in which you can stretch these future surgical muscles with a scalpel and forceps (in case you were wondering, these muscles are your flexor digitorum superficialis/profundus and flexor pollicis longus, among many…*sighs*).
Life Outside of Classes
Baylor does a fantastic job of whisking the first-year class away to an outdoor retreat where we had many opportunities to bond. We also had peer resource network (PRN) groups from which to form initial friendships with classmates and upperclassmen. Although I had the chance to experience the beginning of medical school as a patient myself (haha, thanks to Texas fire ants and my subsequent anaphylaxis…just make sure to protect yourself and watch where you step in the wilderness), the lessons related to teamwork that were emphasized on this trip truly persist in the classroom, discussion groups, and clinic. I sometimes find myself thinking about how small actions, like going out of your way to personally say hi to someone or taking 15 minutes out of your study time to ask if someone is doing OK and catch up, have ironically become less second-nature because I am constantly so tired. “Culture of care” has been frequently emphasized and is even more important than it was in college, because the stress level is quite a bit higher. It is never OK to leave someone behind, and usually it doesn’t take much to make someone’s day. The little things matter so much more in medical school. Be grateful for them, and initiate the random acts of kindness. For instance, my coffee mug did not spill on me today, and I am currently eating sushi from the grocery store. These two things motivated me to write this blog post. 🙂 🙂 🙂
In all seriousness, don’t isolate yourself. If you are like me and need to study alone and in a quiet space, please do so, but find additional ways to stay connected. These activities may include eating a few meals out of the house each week or spending time with friends on the weekends. I play soccer on an IM team and spend one weekend evening not studying with friends (more than one will leave me too tired for productive studying throughout the rest of the weekend). Also, at least in my book, it’s never too late to meet new people. You will never be awkward in my eyes if you walk up to me and introduce yourself (unless we’ve already met, in which case I will laugh, remind you of when we first met, and likely use this moment against you at a later point in the course of our friendship). You will have made my day.
Just keep swimming,
Jackie O, Student Doc (aka, on my way to earning two more letters after my name)