Bao Vu, MS1

Age 24
From Mercer Island, WA
University of Washington, B.S. Neurobiology, B.A. Biochemistry

What does your typical day of medical school look like?

Currently our school has class 3 days a week, but it will change with the new building next year. On a day we have school we are in class for around 4-8 hours depending on the day.

My normal schedule:

6 AM – 8 AM Wake up, breakfast, getting myself ready for the day, get to school
8 AM – 12 PM iRat and tRat (theses are diagnostic exams to see how well we retained from online pre lecture material) followed by 5-6 30 minute sessions for the day
12 – 1PM Lunch Break, play super smash bros with friends at school
1PM – 3 PM Weekly clinical case presentation and preparation
3 – 5 PM Study
5-6 PM Go to gym and work out
6-7 PM Dinner
Study until 10-11 PM, sleep

6-8 AM Wake up, breakfast, getting ready, get to school
8-10 AM Lab Session #1 for everyone (Can be anatomy, pathology, histology, or other discipline)
10 – 5 PM 2 hour rotations for Lab Session #2, Clinical Skills, and break. We switch schedules every 3 weeks to make sure it’s fair for everyone, but here is an example schedule. (10-12 PM Lab session #2, 12-1 PM Lunch, 1-3 Break time, 3-5 PM Clinical Skills)
5-6 PM Go to gym and work out
6-7 PM Dinner
Study till 10-11 PM then sleep

6 AM – 8 AM Wake Up, breakfast, getting myself ready for the day, get to school
8 AM – 11 PM iRat and tRat (theses are diagnostic exams to see how well we retained from online pre lecture material) followed by 4-5 30 minute sessions for the day.
11 – 1PM Lunch Break, play super smash bros with friends at school
1PM – 3 PM College Colloquium. This class is pretty much our ethics, and other misc topics related to medicine
3 – 5 PM Optional Anatomy Lectures. These are only when we start a new unit, otherwise this time is for personal studying time.
5-6 PM Go to gym and work out
6-7 PM Dinner
Study until 10-11 PM then sleep


My schedule varies a lot when I don’t have scheduled school activities. But I study anywhere between 6-10 hours per day during this time depending on other commitments (shadowing, clubs, research, etc..). I like this system as it gives you a lot of time to pursue what you want.

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

At our school we use a flipped classroom setting. Before school, we have to get through pre-lecture material, and then during flipped classroom we will apply the material via a clinical case or practice board style questions. Quality of the flipped classroom sessions vary a lot between professors. There are some professors that do this pretty well and keep us engaged, but there are others that can’t really teach at all so you have the option of picking and choosing which flipped classroom sessions to attend. At the start of the course (we are systems based), we get the schedule for all the lectures therefore we can plan for which ones to attend and which ones to skip. I personally attend all the flipped classroom sessions, but there are other that skip some or skip all the flipped classroom sessions.

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

My study habits have definitely changed between undergrad and medical school. In undergrad I was able to get away with passively looking at my notes throughout the quarter and get a good score on exam.

In medical school, I’ve had to make changes to be more active with my learning while processing an exponentially high quantity of information.

My current strategy is to get a good baseline for the information from Boards and Beyond, Pathoma, and Sketchy and then activating the associated Anki Cards (I use Zanki). I currently only do cards related to the current body system we are learning, but I do around 500-ish cards a day on average once I get through all the cards at least once. In the beginning the number of cards can range from 200 to 1000 depending on how many cards I activated and the number of review pending.

Towards finals week, I start doing practice questions to help me integrate all the material I learned for that block. I currently use USMLE Rx for my questions, but I have UWorld ready for my M2 year.

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?

We are a Pass/Fail school so the culture at my school is very very chill and laid back. Everyone is super nice and we are always willing to share notes or support each other in times of need. Especially since we are a new school, it gives my class a lot of opportunity to shape the culture.

I can’t think of anything specific that represents the culture at my school because there are so many clubs, events and activities that are being started from ground one. I’m personally involved with building the Super Smash Bros Ultimate Scene, SnowSports (Ski/Snowboarding), and Arts in Medicine which all have helped me to build more rapport with my classmates. Honestly the culture here at CUSM helped me to put more emphasis on personal wellness, and knowing that there’s a lot more than just studying for exams/Step1.

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?

We are located in San Bernardino/Colton so there isn’t as much to do compared to some of the other SoCal Med Schools which is a double edged sword. There are less distractions, but on the other hand we have to go a ways to do “fun” stuff.

In terms of options nearby, there is a pretty decent nightlife and bar scene in Redlands or Riverside (which are 5-15 minutes away from school). In terms of big post-exam/Halloween parties, they’ve been mostly been hosted at other classmates houses/apartments.

The more “fun” options are around 1-2 hours away depending on traffic which include

-Big Bear/Snow Summit Resorts for Skiing/Snowboarding

-Orange County where I got to visit family and enjoy some nice food/nearby beaches

-Los Angeles (don’t really need to explain this one)

Personally what I do for fun in the area

-Going to Smash Bros Tournaments around the Inland Empire (occasionally)

-House Parties or going to Beach after exams

-Skiing/Snowboarding (occasionally)

I honestly don’t mind there isn’t much to do in the immediate area since I study most of the time, but some of my classmates do like to venture into OC or LA more frequently to get more of the big city feel.

What would you consider strengths of your medical school?

1) Students have a lot more say since we are a New School. We were able to changes a lot of stuff such as the grading system (ABC to P/F System), and the schedule (5->3 days a week).

2) Most faculty are heavily invested in your success – very good open door policy.

3) ARMC (our teaching hospital) is very interested in working with our school and medical students. They are continually designing ways to have students in the hospital during clinical years via shadowing, and research opportunities. There aren’t many opportunities at the moment but I can imagine things taking off within the next couple of years.

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?

Boards and Beyond, Pathoma, Sketchy Micro/Pharm to get a good baseline for the material. Reinforce with Zanki Deck.

USMLE Rx – help to integrate information once I have a grasp of the material. Use towards finals week.

UWorld for MS2 year – for Step 1

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 have a clinical skills course for both M1 and M2 years. They teach you the related history and physical exam techniques by the body system we are learning. For example in the MSK course, we took histories related to joint pain, decreased ROM, and for physical exam we learning how to examine the joints and muscles all over the body.

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 had to apply twice to get admitted into medical school. My biggest piece of advice is to be confident and be yourself. I had 3 interviews the first time I applied and got rejected from all of them straight out. I took the mindset of trying to say what my interviewer would want to hear from me and honestly I cringe when I go back and remember what I said during those interviews.

The second time I applied, I was focused on being passionately about who I was and what I would be bringing to the table if the med school accepted me.

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?

I try not to think or take time doubting myself since there are 100 different things that I could be doing with my time whether those things are school related or not. Just keeping a positive mindset and knowing that I have a lot of time to improve myself helps me to positive approach these feeling of doubtfulness if they crossed my time.

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

I try to do a variety of activities unrelated to school with my classmates such as Super Smash Bros, Skiing/Snowboarding, and various art activities.

Other than that I try to take care my myself physically and mentally via balanced diet, exercising at the gym, sleeping 7-8 hours (please get enough sleep).

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