Medicine, Health Policy, Education

Medical School

Innovations in Medicine: TEDMED2016, Days 2 and 3

This is a guest post as part of a series by Evan YatesTEDMED Frontline Scholarship Winner.

Autonomy, the hive, startups

Day 2 led off with something that I was particularly excited about- the Hive. The Hive is a gathering of select startups focusing on advancing health, medicine, or biotechnology. Does this seem incredibly vague and encompassing a wide variety of topics? Yep, and it’s not an accident either. Being able to walk from one table to another, seamlessly picking the brains of Harvard trained physicians turned executives, then getting advice from Silicon Valley angel investors provided me with a unique opportunity to experience interdisciplinary collaboration in real time.

Chairman of the TEDMED Foundation, Jay Walker, stole the show with select objects from his personal library. When you start a talk with, “oh, and this is the first book ever to be written in English” or “let’s see where’s my Guttenberg Bible”, you’re setting yourself up for some attention. Mr. Walker has distinguished himself as a curator of knowledge, culminating in the creation of his personal home sanctuary, The Library of the History of Human Imagination. I can talk about this forever, but I’ll just leave this link here- http://www.walkerdigital.com/the-walker-library_welcome.html

TEDMED2016 exceeded all of my extremely high expectations. It honestly blew me away. What was perhaps most remarkable, was the lack of breakthrough discoveries, or most advanced and novel publication being talked about. Presenters opened up about personal experiences that changed the way they see the world.

The theme of the conference was ‘What if…”.  Attendants were required to submit their own question- your own personal open ended, life-changing scenario. What if. A phrase commonly used to reinvent past experiences, hoping for different more favorable outcomes, was now given to us as an opportunity to tackle what we felt was most important. What if open source collaboration was not only encouraged, but also rewarded? What if we took the egos out of innovation, humanized everyone, rolled up our sleeves and got to work? TEDMED is a place where we did just that.

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

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

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]

The Best 7 Android Apps For MedStudents

Medical students are a notoriously frugal bunch. Why else do so many lunch-time lectures entice attendees with the allure of free pizza? These Andriod apps are sure to boost your productivity without you having to adjust your student loans.

1. AirDroid

An app that allows you to control your smartphone from a PC web browser, Airdroid blends your phone and computer into one. From a web browser, Airdroid alerts you when you’re receiving a call, lets you send text-messages through your web browser, and turns your phone into drag-and-drop file storage device. The app can even track and lock your phone should you lose it, with the added ability to control the camera and capture photos of the misguided thieves.

2. AnkiDroid

Flashcards have been a tried-and-true method of studying for ages, but Anki has quickly become a medical student favorite by incorporating the concept of “spaced repetition” into the study staple. To see specific examples of students using Anki in their medical school classes, check out these review from The Hero Complex and Dr. Willbe.

3. Dolphin

The Android browser alternative for techies, Dolphin makes web-browsing a more customizable experience. Dolphin lets users force the desktop version of websites to load (versus the often lower-quality mobile), use swiping gestures or voice recognition to access bookmarks, and sync easily with other services like Dropbox or Evernote. Adding on the Jetpack plugin boosts browsing speeds up to 10x as fast as the default Android browser and 2x as fast as Chrome.

4. Wunderlist

To-do lists have been a saving grace for me in medical school, but keeping track of where I wrote the list is another task itself. Wunderlist is a beautifully simple to-do list app that syncs well between the mobile and browser version.

5. Evernote

One of the most user-friendly apps in terms of organizing notes, attachments, and links. Excellent storage and search functionality puts Evernote among the most popular digital note-organizers for my classmates.

6. Google Drive

The hands-down app of choice for any collaborative projects I’ve had in medical school. Need ten classmates to work together on a case-based learning assignment? Sort out who is going to make a study guide for certain parts of an exam? Throw together a group powerpoint presentation? Create a survey to sort out vegetarian and non-vegetarian attendees for a lunch lecture? Google Drive makes solving all of these dilemmas as easy as that question the professor repeated eight times in lecture.

7. Dropbox

While Google Drive is the main app I use for collaborative projects, Dropbox remains the king of file-sharing and cloud storage for most medical students. Having been in the file-sharing game since 2008, Dropbox boast over 200 million members in its user base. Dropbox starts you out with 2GB of storage, but makes it very easy to get more space for free. New Samsung phone owners may even be surprised to find an additional 48GB of memory added to accounts through a Samsung+Dropbox partnership. If you’re looking for substantial storage (>50GB) outside of the Samsung deal, Google Drive is the better money option, but I’ve seen medical students using Dropbox almost exclusively for sharing study guides or other small files.

Note: this list originally appeared on The Almost Doctors Channel.

[Featured image via Flickr user Saad Irfan.]

3 Unusual Classes You Should Take Before Medical School

One of the most frequent questions premeds ask  is “what classes should I take before going to medical school?”. The AAMC and AACOM require (at a minimum) a year of biology, English, and chemistry, but there are a few non-traditional classes I wish I took in college. With medical school experimenting with more holistic approaches to admissions, perhaps these 3 classes will be more favorably looked upon by admissions committees in the future.


Every few weeks, 1st and 2nd year medical students from around the country knock on doors, ask to come in, wash their hands, and pretend to be doctors for 15 minutes. They take medical histories and perform physicals on real people, but the catch is that these “patients” are actually actors. Standardized patient encounters are increasingly being used as a part of pre-clinical medical education and offer medical students the chance to “practice” being a doctor before heading out to hospital rotations.

If the “patients” are trained as actors then, wouldn’t it make sense for the “doctors” to have some training in acting as well? While it won’t help memorize the different cranial nerve exams, a background in acting could help students get into the “character” of a physician and develop “on the feet” thinking.

Public Speaking

Nearly 75% of people experience some anxiety about public speaking, but it is a critical skill to develop for a successful medical career. Whether presenting cases to an attending on the wards, giving a lecture at a research conference, or teaching the pathophysiology behind a disease to a crowded classrooom, public speaking opportunities are at every level of medical education. Furthermore, so many medical student are so bad at public speaking that even being marginally good can pay off huge dividends.


Well of course the guy with the blog is going to suggest taking a writing class. Besides the obvious bias though, consider that in the past two years I’ve had to write essays for medical school applications, secondaries, ethics class assignments, scholarship applications, summer project proposals, and leadership position openings. Simply put, the essays don’t stop in college and nearly every competitive opportunity is going to require persuasive writing skills.

[Featured image via Flickr user starmanseries]

The Second Year

And just like that, school is back in session. Summer nights spent catching up with old friends or playing foosball with family are now filled with pathology slides and bizarre mnemonics. Despite the 8am pharmacology lectures, I’m enjoying second-year so far. My school’s systems-based classes (currently in endocrine) are heavily focused on the clinical aspect and the idea of applying these principles to real patients in the not-so-distant third and fourth year is certainly motivating.

In someways, I feel like I never left school in the first-place. Back in my life are the marathon study sessions and the erratic trips to the grocery store. In other ways, however, the differences between first and second-year are stark. Board studying was a running joke during first-year, but now is invariably on everyone’s mind in one way or another. Constantly hearing that the USMLE and COMLEX will make-or-break certain residency choices has induced a certain obsession with finding the “best” way to prepare for these exams. My current strategy-in-the-making (based partly off great advice from Survivor DO)  will employ the use of Kaplan (provided by my school), First Aid, Pathoma, and UWorld. As my study habits changed quite a bit during the first-year, I’m expecting this strategy to fluctuate a few more times before I settle into a groove with serious studying.

Another big change is the presence of first-years around campus now. Seeing them around reminds me of a few things, namely 1) I smelled terrible after anatomy lab 2) how terrified I was the first few weeks of school and 3) just how absolutely terrible I smelled after anatomy lab. Talking to them reminds me of that initial mix of fear, amazement, and constant stress that was Gross Anatomy. Hopefully, they’ll be used to eating pancakes and drinking from a fire-house in just a few weeks. And if you’re a first-year reading this right now, contact me for some high-yield study guides.

Related Posts

“Memory Hacks” Part 1: The Baker/baker Paradox

5 Lessons From The First Year Of Medical School

[Featured image via Flickr user topfife]