Catherine Boatman, M2

SUNY Buffalo, B.A. Media Study
Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University

What does your typical day of medical school look like?

I usually wake up around 5:00am. I try to make it to school by 6:30am and study before lecture starts at 8:00am. I do attend lecture everyday, mostly to use my time efficiently. I tried watching the lecture recordings a few times, but I noticed that I was slacking off and putting off watching them for too long. While I’m in lecture, I’ll make Anki cards as the lecture is going along. This keeps me focused throughout the presentation, and I have a study resource completed when the lecture is over. I take an hour for lunch, and in the afternoon I have different things to do depending on which day of the week it is. For example, we might have Problem Based Learning, or Physical Diagnosis, etc. I get home around 5pm, eat dinner for an hour, and study until 9-10pm. Some days if I don’t have an afternoon class, I’ll go to my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school and train after lectures get out at noon.

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

There has already been a lot of great advice given on this subject. I will add though, that undergrad is NOTHING like medical school, and medical school is NOTHING like residency. I think a lot of younger premeds doubt if they are on the right path when they hit the Organic Chemistry wall. Just push through it, get the grade, and then move on because the vast majority of undergrad content has nothing to do with what it actually means to be a doctor day to day. Don’t think if you’re bad at chemistry or physics that you’ll be a horrible medical student or doctor.

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

When I was an undergrad, I studied by reading the textbook and supplementing with YouTube videos. I also did a lot of practice problems for classes like General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Physics. In med school, the material is so dense and presented so quickly, that I struggled transitioning. There is simply too much material to read the book for everything, and there is so much detail in the book that isn’t tested on. I changed my study strategy from making my own summary sheets, to group study, and eventually found Anki which changed everything. I wish I had found it sooner; I remember so much more information in a short time by using Anki. I make all my own cards because I think making them myself adds a layer of understanding.

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?

Our school is unique in that we have this program called the Academic House System. On the second and third floor of the medical school building, there are these little apartments with kitchenettes, couches, TVs, study space, etc for students. There are 13 of these mini apartments, and each student is assigned to one of the 13. This lets you get to know a smaller section of classmates (our class size is upwards of 200). Houses usually go on outings together like dinner, pottery painting, paintball, bowling etc to relieve stress and get closer with classmates. And of course, it’s all paid for by our awesome Office of Academic Affairs. At the end of the year we have an annual event called the House Olympics which is basically like a big field day with inflatables/dodgeball/volleyball etc. The winning House gets to keep the House Cup in their house for the next year. Students get really into the House system, and each house has their own pin that students proudly display on their white coat. It’s basically like getting sorted into a Harry Potter house. The Academic House System was one of the leading factors that resulted in me choosing MCG for medical school. They really put a lot of time and effort into student health and wellness.

What would you consider strengths of your medical school?

Our faculty and staff is so incredibly supportive, and I didn’t realize how important that would be while I was interviewing at different medical schools. So much of the potential stress at MCG is removed because our instructors really care about helping us in any way they can. Many of the lecturers are receptive to feedback, and willingly update slides so that concepts are more easy for future classes to understand.

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’ve already mentioned this before, but Anki is LIFE! The sooner you can try it out, the better. It is a decent time commitment, and you have to do it every day. That being said, the people I know who are successful with Anki don’t use anything else to study, so the time commitment is a non-issue.

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?

We start Physical Diagnosis during year 1, and learn basic physical exam techniques throughout the year. Mostly this has helped me get comfortable with putting my hands on a stranger. In year 3 and 4 we’ll get better at the actual techniques. We also have shadowing opportunities readily available from year 1. Once you get your white coat, students are also able to volunteer in many free clinics the school offers. There’s is a Mental Health Clinic, a Women’s Clinic, a Pediatric Clinic, and an LGBTQ Equality Clinic that are all free to the community. Most of our students participate in a clinic.

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?

I took six gap years. That’s right, SIX. If I could go back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I was so ready and prepared for medical school when the time came, and my stress level was decreased significantly because of this. I didn’t feel pressure from parents or peers to finish at a certain pace or with certain grades. I am in medical school because it is my passion, and all the studying and long hours are my choice. I don’t think that I would have had that clarity if I went straight from undergrad to medical school. I was also able to try out other careers like web design, teaching, and veterinary medicine before attending. This helped solidify my decision that medicine was the right choice for my career.

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

I have a very supportive fiancé that I could not succeed without. He makes sure all my meals are prepared and healthy, and ensures all my scrubs are clean. He really does everything around the house so I don’t have that extra added stress, and I am very blessed to have him in my life. So a supportive partner helps me, but that person could be a parent or roommate just as well. I also do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu whenever my schedule allows, and I try to force myself to make time for it at least once a week. It’s a great form of physical stress relief, and my BJJ friends have nothing to do with medical school, so talking to them helps get my mind off all the studying and tests. BJJ also helps keep me humble, and aware that there is a world outside of medical school.

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