Medicine, Health Policy, Education

Education Technology- It’s Here, But Will it Last?

This is a guest post from WesternU medical student Evan Yates

Since the first days of kindergarten, we have become accustomed to a typical style of receiving information- a teacher rattles off facts, we digest it, and regurgitate it on a Scantron. Fast forward 20 years to my second year of medical school, and aside from the Starbucks cups now glued to my hand, the teaching methodologies have remained constant.

While sitting through my 6th hour of lecture one day, I thought to myself- should these orthodox teaching methodologies eventually evolve? Is the way we learned the alphabet the most effective way for us to learn which class of anti-hypertensive medications can also cause ototoxicity? Or is there an untapped market out there for novel tools to better integrate complex information into manageable bites to bed drawn upon later on? Continue Reading

Review: So You Got Into Medical School… Now What?

“My goal was always to do well in school while enduring as little stress as possible.” 

Dr. Daniel Paull, MD, wrote “So You Got Into Medical School… Now What?” as a guidebook for the new medical student looking to make the most of out of their experience with the least amount of stress. An orthopedic surgery resident, Dr. Paull undoubtedly used many of the techniques outlined in his book to match into one of the most competitive specialties. Continue Reading

5 Questions With OnlineMedEd

There aren’t many great resources for medical clerkship education. While programs such as UpToDate offer a wealth of details for practicing physicians, the sheer volume of articles can discourage students from understanding the fundamentals of clinical medicine.

Case-in-point: my education on “real-world” medicine began as a hodgepodge of cases I’d see in the clinic, reading about those cases at night, and practice questions on UWorld. Sure, this method scored me points on multiple-choice tests, but what was missing was a framework for how to think about common medical problems. As much as I’d never want to go back to those months of Step 1/Level 1 preparation, at least there was a gold standard of review material: the much glorified UWorld, First Aid, Pathoma combination. There had to be something better out there for clinical education.

OnlineMedEd, a video series for medical students and interns, aims to change all that by making learning “easier, faster, and more reliable”. And like any education good resource, OnlineMedEd has spread largely through the recommendation of its user base. It wasn’t until I grew tired of hearing my classmate rave about the platform that I gave the videos a try, and my only regret is not starting sooner. Continue Reading

COMLEX Viscerosomatic Reflexes Made Easy

Viscerosomatic reflexes (VSR’s) account for up to 20% of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment questions for COMLEX examinations [1]. While VSR’s for the head and neck (T1-4), heart (T1-4), and respiratory tract (T2-7) may make intuitive sense for most DO students, the rest of the visceral organs and corresponding spinal level are easy to confuse. However, these points can be easily memorized with a little effort in order to boost COMLEX Level 1 scores. Continue Reading

On Hard Conversations

“I learned about a lot of things in medical school, but mortality wasn’t one of them.”

In his latest best-selling novel, Being Mortal, surgeon-writer Dr. Atul Gawande explores the concept of mortality in medicine. Medical innovations have pushed the boundaries of our capacity to heal, but as Gawande argues, “I have seen the damage we in medicine do when we fail to acknowledge that such power is finite and always be.” Being Mortal dives into how we age, cultural divides in elderly care, and the limits of modern medicine, but as a third-year medical student, I found his lessons on hard conversations to be the most resonating. Continue Reading

An Evidence Based Method to Acing the COMLEX and USMLE

With the New Year rolling around the corner, many second year medical students are readying themselves for an intense few months of studying in preparation for the USMLE step 1 and COMLEX level 1 exams. For a profession that prides itself on evidence-based practices in real-world clinical scenarios, medical education is certainly lacking when it comes to evidence-based board preparation strategies.

In my first post for the First Aid team, I dive into two studies that analyzed the study habits of high-scorers on the USMLE and COMLEX exams. More specifically, these studies address the correlation between early initiation of board preparation and number of practice questions with test scores. Continue Reading

Rediscovering My “Why Medicine”

On Being Nauseous

It was the end of my first week on Oncology, and I felt like throwing up.

Perhaps it was early in the morning, seeing the hospital patients I was following all having taken turns for the worse overnight. Or maybe it was seeing a daughter comfort her mother as she came to grips with learning she had months to live.  Or it was the look of regret on the face of a man who had quit smoking earlier in the year, only to be diagnosed with lung cancer weeks later. Whatever it was, I went home that night with knots in my stomach. Continue Reading

“Memory Hacks” Part I: The Baker/baker Paradox

What can medical education take away from a USA Memory Champion?!

In 2006, Joshua Foer won the USA Memory Championships by, among other things, memorizing the order of a 52 card deck in a staggering 1 minute and 40 seconds. Other events in the competition included remembering the most names of strangers and reciting the most lines of poetry. Perhaps more astounding is that Foer had been covering the event as a journalist in 2005 and, in just one year, had trained himself to the level of USA champion.  Foer chronicled his incredible journey in a New York Times bestseller, Moonwalking with Einstein, and a famous TED talk watched over 250,000 times.

Medical students are often told during the first-week of school that studying will be “like drinking water from a firehose”. Indeed, the pace and volume are certainly ramped up in comparison to college. While a 4-unit class at UC Santa Barbara would cover 30 hours of material over a 10-week period, exams at my medical school typically engrossed 35 hours of lecture crammed into a mere 2 weeks. Breaking down the lectures, I found between 15-20 testable details in each lecture making for 525-700 items to learn for each exam. Tracking the hours I spent studying for an exam showed I was spending about 75 hours in order to memorize up to 700 testable points. The fact that Foer could memorize the arbitrary order of a 52 card deck in under 2 minutes was thus certainly fascinating to me. Continue Reading

On Board Studying And Clinical Rotations

In late June I took my first set of licensing exams, the USMLE Step 1 and COMLEX Level 1. Scores from these exams play a large role in the residency match process, and as a consequence, most second-year medical students are obsessed (to put it lightly) with exam preparation. A future post will have more details on how I studied for these monster 7+ hour exams, but the short of it is that I used the popular “UFAP” protocol: UWorld, First Aid, Pathoma. I wasn’t alone in finding success with this strategy either, a recent r/medicalschool survey had a respondent average of 243 (~80th percentile) with these three resources being the most widely used.

Following the social isolation that was studying for those exams, my schedule turned to clinical rotations in Family Medicine and Surgery. Jumping from twelve hour study days to twelve hour rotation shifts has been equally exhilarating and terrifying. The exciting part is getting to finally do all the things I’ve been studying for the last two years. Seeing patients, scrubbing into surgeries, hearing heart murmurs, giving shots to crying infants, working on treatment plans, doing procedures, it’s been a blast putting all those hours of studying into use. The terrifying part has been what seems to be a Grand Canyon sized gap between my clinical knowledge and everyone else’s at the hospital. In a way I feel like all the tidbits I learned the first two years formed this giant framework and now all the holes are being exposed and (slowly) filled.

After two years of medical school, I can finally say this is what I signed up for.

From Around The Web

Podcast interview with College Info Geek: “Hardcore Studying Advice”

r/medicalschool Step 1 Survey 

AOA House of Delegates supports single GME accreditation

[Photo via flickr user peterras]