David, MS2

Undergraduate: University of Washington
Tulane University School of Medicine (TUSOM)
From Olympia, WA

What does your typical day of medical school look like?

My typical day of medical school begins at 6 AM. I drive to the gym and work out for an hour, return home, and eat some breakfast with a cup of coffee. After a shower, I normally start studying at 9 AM. I tend to start with Step 1 review sources first, such as Pathoma, Sketchy and First Aid. When I do this for a couple hours, I switch gears to watching school lectures on 2x speed. There are about 3-4 lectures per day. This way, I have an idea of what is going to be tested on the in-house exams and am studying for Step 1 at the same time. I frequently take breaks throughout my study time, snack, and watch some tv shows. If we do have a mandatory class, I would have to cut out some of my study time and drive to school. All in all, I would say that I study between 6-8 hours a day (breaks included). If I have spare time, I will spend an hour on a research project or chill a little longer than normal.

How do your classes and lectures compare to those at your undergraduate institution?

Class sizes at Tulane are significantly smaller than undergraduate classes. Most of my class watches lectures at home, and for those that do go to class, they can easily ask questions to the professors. Medical school classes have many more professors lecturing, compared to undergraduate courses in which we had 1-2 professors per quarter/semester. I believe that med school professors are more responsive to email and are more concerned for my education as well. Undergrad at UW was very cutthroat. TUSOM students are the BEST.

There is a lot more material crammed into each lecture, and it is overwhelming EVERY TIME. However, you subconsciously develop the skills to cope and do well on the exams.

How has your approach to learning and/or studying changed since you were an undergrad?

As far as my study strategies go, I think I have a more systematic way of studying now because I have figured out what methods work for me. I did not figure out this method until this year, so I took quite some time to nail it down. However, I have to keep in mind that there are always minor adjustments to my strategies depending on the material. Additionally, my studying is more focused and productive. I do not waste as much time pretending to study like in undergrad, so I have time to go to the gym and have fun.

How would you describe the student culture at your school? Are there special events or activities that you consider very representative of the culture at your institution? What influence has this culture had on your experience in medical school thus far?

Many students in my class will tell you that their favorite aspect of TUSOM is the people in our class. Tulane has a way of selecting students that have very different and unique upbringings, experiences, and interests. There is always something to learn about your classmates. Having such a diverse class, there is a lot of programming to get involved with the city, the school, and with your peers. Whether we are volunteering at a community clinic or are planning fundraising concerts, there’s something for everyone.

Can you give us a brief description of the area surrounding your school and the things you do for fun? What are some things you like and dislike about the city/town you are located in as a student?

Tulane is located in New Orleans, which is a very fun city to go to medical school in. There is always some sort of event going on in the city, such as food festivals, music festivals, concerts, and sports. We also have a number of parks for students to roam and take pictures or exercise. My favorite thing to do is try new restaurants with my friends on the weekends. There are so many options and so much variety, that I have to try them all, or attempt to anyways.

Some of the cons of New Orleans include public transportation, poor infrastructure and poverty. There isn’t a robust bus system or light rail system for us to get around. It is very hard to travel throughout the city without a car. Speaking of cars, you have to be careful when you drive because the roads are in poor condition with pot holes every where and some drivers are frankly really bad drivers. People do not signal down here for some reason. Additionally, the city does not have very much money to fix major problems, such as infrastructure, youth education, and resources for the homeless. I do believe that the city is doing everything that it can to help, but when funding is short, there is not much you can do. With that being said, the citizens of New Orleans are kind and caring. They’re committed to improving the city and making this city a lovely place to live.

What would you consider strengths of your medical school?

The strengths of TUSOM definitely include our community involvement, the diversity of our class, and our match list.

What resources have been most useful to you in self-learning medical school material or in expanding on material taught in class? Can you briefly describe how you have incorporated them into your learning routine?

I like to use Sketchy and Pathoma to complement the school’s lectures. They nail down important concepts and add extra details that might not be discussed in class. Also, I use QMAX question bank to get an idea of how exam questions would put all the information together into a clinical vignette. I am constantly referring back to First Aid to add in notes or to review.

How much/well have you been able to develop clinical skills alongside your classroom work first and second year? What does your institution do to help you develop clinical skills before the clinical years?

Definitely! We have standardized patients every month that correspond to the organ system we are learning. We also have a simulation center to practice different skills, such as suturing or seeing the effects of drugs on a robotic patient. Additionally, our curriculum teaches us how to diagnose patients if we were actually on the floor of a hospital. Furthermore, we are all assigned preceptors the first two years. Last but not least, we have student-run clinics that give students the most hands on experience in performing physicals, obtaining histories, giving TB tests and giving vaccines.

What is one thing you would do differently if you could go back to your undergraduate years or the time between undergrad and medical school?

If I could go back in time, I would take 2-3 gap years before starting medical school because I went to medical school right after undergrad. Once you’re in the process, your life trajectory is pretty much set for the next decade of your life. By having more gap years, I could have worked different odd jobs, gained interesting skills and travel more.

Given the number of obstacles we face en route to a career in medicine, everyone at some point feels doubtful of themselves. How has this affected you and what has helped you persevere through these sorts of feelings?

Imposter syndrome is real! How I deal with this is reminding myself that my medical school selected me to attend because I have what it takes to graduate and be an awesome physician. There is no mistake in why each student is selected per class. It’s a really thought out process and I think this keeps me grounded and to not freak out. Additionally, working with patients when I feel lost or burnt out helps me recalibrate my brain and reminds me why I am in medicine in the first place.

How do you maintain your mental health while balancing school, work, family, and other social obligations?

A strong support system is key. I consistently FaceTime my family and my girlfriend, and I go home for the holidays to have an escape here and there. Friends in medical school and outside of medical school are also very helpful because med school friends can sympathize and your other friend can remind you what is outside of the bubble.

Eating healthy and exercising plays a significant role as well. We need to invest in our own health to successfully finish the marathon of medical school. It is daunting at first and seems like these healthy foods and activities take up a lot of time, but they don’t and it’s worth the time.

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