Friday, August 3, 2007


As I mentioned in the Teamwork post, one of the distinguishing characteristics of the medical school I attend is the family-like atmosphere. One of the programs that establishes and maintains that atmosphere is the 2nd Year --> 1st Year Mentor Program. Now that I am an older and wiser 2nd year medical student, the time has come for me to take a 1st year medical student under my wing.

I was recently contacted by my mentee, who wrote a short email introducing himself. I responding by giving him my contact information (i.e. mobile number) and letting him know that I would gladly supply him with many of the 1st year textbooks. My mentor had done this for me and I remember what a huge savings it was, allowing me to stretch those loan dollars a bit farther.

Soon after I had replied with my email, my mentee called to thank me and then proceeded to ask a battery of questions. He seemed extremely anxious about the upcoming workload and I began to wonder if I had been so anxious when I was in his position. I answered his questions as best I could, but mostly I assured him that there was nothing to worry about and that he should just take things one day at a time so that he didn't get overwhelmed. He had come this far and as long as he put in the time and effort, he was going to pass. Remember, Pass = M.D.

I left him with the two best pieces of advice I ever received regarding success in medical school: (1) treat it like a job (2) practice the Three R's.

Treat it like a job. Set a schedule where you work a certain number of hours every day. For example, my schedule was to work at least 10 hours a day. Approximately 4-5 of those hours were in-class lecture time, and the remaining hours were spent studying (either on my own or with my small group). Set regular breaks to eat, exercise, rest, but get through as much material as you can each day because it will pay off on test day.

The Three R's: review, recite, repeat. It's all about repetition. My best exam scores were on examinations where I was able to get through the material at least 5 times. Of course, you have to begin with some reading -- even if it's just headings and figures. Then you have to review the lectures and your notes. Next, try to explain the concepts to someone else (small groups good for this), or teach yourself out loud (I use a white board at home -- I know, I'm crazy). Finally, repeat the process. It's difficult to do with the volume of material during medical school, but if you are efficient with your time, the rewards are well worth it.

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