Tips for my First Year Self, Four Years Later


Advice for first years from someone who’s been there.

As the fourth year of medical school draws to a close, I can’t help but reflect on how much I’ve grown in the last four years. Medicine really changes who you are, whether you like it or not. Looking back, I’ve learned a lot and have some pearls from my mentors and my experiences.

If you’re entering your first year of medical school, or even your second year, here are some tips to help you make sense of your med school experiences:

Studying: It’s What’s For Dinner

  1. Remember, as a medical student, your job is being a medical student. Don’t get caught up with doing too many things… focus your energy primarily in learning medicine as well as you can.
  2. Time put into studying is proportional to the comfort you have with medicine. Each year of medicine is a foundation for the next… which becomes the foundation for your career.
  3. As much as the studying sucks, how well you do on the USMLE Step 1 and USMLE Step 2CK indicates how competitive your residency application is. So, in short, study hard! It is a marathon, not a sprint.

Life Lessons from a Fourth Year

  1. You

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Three Things I Learned on Away Rotations


This lovely sight greeted me every morning during my Pediatric Pain and Palliative Care rotation at Mattel Children’s Hospital (University of California Los Angeles).

During my fourth year, I used all three elective months to do away rotations because exposure to a variety of clinical environments is helpful for learning, networking and future planning. I picked an away rotation in both my intended specialty (anesthesiology) and an area in which I was interested (pediatrics). But you may be unsure of how or even why to do any away rotation.

Medical students and faculty members across the country are divided in their opinion of away (or audition) rotations. Certain competitive specialties expect applicants to have done away rotations, while others do not. For a field like anesthesiology, I think it could go either way. If you look mediocre on paper and know that your strengths lie in your clinical acumen and interpersonal skills, it may work in your favor to do an away rotation at a dream institution. However, if your residency application is strong to begin with, it may not be necessary – and could be detrimental – to do an away rotation. Either way, critically residency appraise your … view full post »

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The Sacrifices I Made in Medical School

Have you had to make sacrifices in med school?

Have you had to make sacrifices in med school?

Medical school can be a very stressful time, so it’s nice to be able to do something outside of medicine in order to keep you sane (especially when you’re preparing for the USMLE). I have classmates that use sports and exercise as their outlet, and other foodie classmates who love to cook and go to new restaurants around town. There are others who draw or paint, and others who give Best Buy’s Geek Squad a run for their money when it comes to anything tech related. But for me, it’s music.

Making my own music

A friend of my mother had purchased a saxophone in hopes of learning to play (hello, midlife crisis!) but never got around to doing so. When she found out I had joined the band at school and wanted to play the saxophone, she gave it to me. As a freshman in high school I practiced to keep up with the competitive culture and tried my best to stand out so I could earn myself a spot on the marching field. It was tough and no matter how hard I tried I still didn’t sound as good … view full post »

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Four Things You Should Know Before Your Third Year

Medical School Blog

Here’s how you can survive your third year of medical school.

As a third year, you now have the unique opportunity to participate in hands-on patient care! I was so excited to start my third year of medical school. Instead of reading about a 2/6 holosystolic murmur you finally get to hear it yourself. It’s amazing how much more information you retain when you actually get to see, hear, feel and smell all of the things you had only experienced in class or behind the screen.

Below you’ll find a list of the four most important lessons I learned during my third year of medical school.

It’s not all about you and your education

The first and most important lesson you will learn during your third year is that patients come first. It sounds obvious but as someone who has literally been a student for his or her entire life, this transition can prove to be a challenging one. Once you become a student rotating through the hospital, you will quickly learn it’s not all about you. This is an important thing to realize because it transforms your learning experience.

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Accelerated Step 2CK Study Guide

We’ve heard it before: USMLE Step 2CK is not as important as Step 1. The truth is that it is important. In fact, 80% of Program Directors surveyed agree that it is a key factor in selecting applicants to interview*, even more important than your personal statement or your performance in clerkship. And you nailed that.

Entering into a solid study plan before you know the facts can be tricky. It’s why we recommend reviewing the USMLE’s content outline before you dive in to your study plan. Know your enemy, they say.

Don’t worry: This accelerated Step 2CK High Yield study plan will help keep you on track so you can get that high score. Don’t forget about those Qbank blocks; they will give you that spaced repetition you need to build your confidence.

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Week Section # of lectures Duration of section (hr:min) Duration at x1.5 speed (hr:min) Qbank Blocks
1 Infectious Diseases 10 3:28 2:18 5
Allergy & Immunology 1 0:27 0:18
Cardiology 10 5:16 3:31
2 Endocrinology 5 2:17 1:31 5
Pulmonology 9 2:59 1:59
Rheumatology 8 1:36 1:04
Hematology 9 2:49 1:53
3 Gastroenterology 4 1:42 1:08 5
Neurology 8 2:42 1:48
Nephrology 8 3:48 2:32
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March 2015: The USMLE® Step 1 Test Change


What does the March 2015 bulletin mean?

by Christopher Cimino, MD, FACMI
Vice President, Kaplan Medical

What does it mean when the USMLE® reduces the number of questions on their Step 1 exam from 322 to 308?

The short answer is: more time per question, right?

Yes, but there’s more. What people really want to know is what’s really going on, but the USMLE organization isn’t offering an explanation. We know the 322 questions are composed of some questions that cover the stated topics in roughly the stated proportions as described in the USMLE Bulletin. We also know that there are a few questions that aren’t counted toward the score. These un-scored questions are new items that are being tested to determine if they are good enough to be used in future USMLE exams. Our best guess is that when these 14 questions are removed in May 2015, the new exam will be in roughly the same proportion as the original exam.

So, this means that examinees should study in the same proportion as always.

The other implication is that each question is now worth more towards the score. But consider that the USMLE and National Board of … view full post »

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Accelerated Step 1 Study Guide

There’s nothing fast or furious about Step 1. From day one of your study plan to the day you get your results, months will have passed. But isn’t there an inspirational quote about journeys and how they start with a single step?

My point is that when you come out of this phase of your career, you’re going to be a doctor and that’s pretty amazing. Your ultimate goal will be to administer quality patient care. One thing is certain: You won’t have to solve triple-jump basic science questions. So for this stage in your life, let’s work together to get that 260 you need for your top choice in the 2017 Match.

Here’s where it all begins: An accelerated study plan with Kaplan’s Step 1 High Yield program.

For 14 weeks, you’re going to hard core study only what you need to know. You’ll watch high yield Step 1 videos and answer some Qbank questions to solidify your understanding of these topics. Remember that quote about journeys? Something, something… first step. Let’s do this.


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High Yield Topic 1x Speed Video 1.5X Speed Video Qbank Block
General Principle
1 Biochemistry 5:11 3:42 5 Blocks
2 Pharmacology 1:32 1:06 4 Blocks
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USMLE Step 1 High Yield by Kaplan Medical

Kaplan Medical brings you the 2014-2015 USMLE(R) Step 1 High Yield program, specifically designed for U.S med students. Try us for free today. Register here.


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M2 Summer Guide: Hangover Cures


You made it through your first year of med school. Alive. That calls for a much-needed vacation. However you plan to relax, we’ve got a guide to match. From mosquito bites to hangover cures, Kaplan Medical’s Master Faculty is here to guide you through your “last summer.” 

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Your trip won’t be complete without our Five Tips for Surviving Your Outdoor Adventures. Use these when your parents ask you to “say something medical.” Read and share these factoids from our faculty:

1. Instagross. Both disulfiram and metronidazole block acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. In a person taking either of these drugs who also drinks ethanol (alcohol) they cause the accumulation of acetaldehyde and the symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and headache. It’s dangerous, gross and isn’t worth documenting on social media. Act responsibly.

2. Banana Baggin’ It. We’re not recommending this as a DIY hangover cure, but the affectionately-named, “Banana Bag” will get you back on your feet in no time. What’s in it? There’s usually a blend of B12, Potassium, Dextrose, and fluids, administered intravenously. Other vitamins like Vitamins A, and E are sometimes added. If you want our real view full post »

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Master the Wards: Chest Pain

This summer, Kaplan Medical brings you the Welcome to Wards: Survive Your Medical Clerkship series with tips from Program Directors on how you can excel in your rotations. Don’t embarrass yourself on rounds. Know the medicine and look like a rock star in front of your attending. Dr. Fischer will help get you through the Wards with this sample case scenario!


Conrad Fischer, MD is a celebrated educator, physician, and author of top-selling review books including the Master the Boards series. Dr. Fischer serves as Residency Program Director at Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn. He is also an Associate Professor of Pharmacology, Physiology and Medicine at Touro College of Medicine in New York City. He has taught medical Board review for over 21 years.


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