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It’s 2015, there is now the new MCAT, good luck to all of the new generation taking it. It’s something we all go through, so no matter how you do it’s a feat that you’re taking it. A lot of people start off as premeds, and then perhaps find something else that suits them better. But, people who take the MCAT have pretty much signed the premed contract with their blood. It’s a surreal experience when it eventually hits you that you’re be sitting for the exam a few weeks, and it will literally help shape your destiny. I took mine a few years back, a two years before I applied to medical school so I was one of the last to have the essays included. They eventually removed the essay portion, it was a pain to interpret if it even meant anything. Besides that, there are different forms of communication, and perhaps speed writing essays isn’t the most useful metric for who’ll make a good doctor. Personally, I liked the essay portion because it was a nice intermission between more rigorous sections. At the time, I was a paid contributing writer, so I didn’t practice essays for the MCAT. So, because I’ve never attempted them before it felt less draconian and repetitive as reading passages and clicking answer selections.
Though, I remember having a terrible week coming into the MCAT, including the night before the exam. Somehow, I had angered the MCAT gods that week, that night before dogs across my neighborhood barked from about 3:30-6 AM. So, instead of sleeping in for the MCAT, I was watching the History channel (this was way back when the history channel actually showed history, and MTV already had lost interest in music etc). During my exam, I was tired, delirious, and just ready to plow through the MCAT so I could go to a bar and celebrate my last day seeing the MCAT. If I think back about one of my essays, I was so giddy, I recall I wrote about hamburgers. When I finished the exam, for a brief second, I thought about not sending my score as you have that option. But, I thought, “NEVER AGAIN!”, and I pressed submit. I always feel lousy after exams, even if I’m prepared. A month later, I found out my independent dual readers at the AMCAS liked my hamburger rhetoric and I received a reasonable ‘matriculating score’, and I’m very proud I wrote about hamburgers. You’ll have your own experience, including some bad days and good days.
The old MCAT was around for over 20-years, and this allowed for the AAMC to gather a lot of data about correlation (but not necessarily causation) of the data. The old MCAT had a maximum score of 45, with 3 sections each worth 15 points, and for most of the exam’s shelf-life an essay. For all people who take the MCAT, the national average was about 24 points. The average matriculant for US MD programs had gradual creep up, from about 29 to 31 towards the end of the exam when message boards, tutors, and prep companies had the MCAT down to a science (no pun intended). Please note that because we’re talking only of averages we’re throwing out a lot of higher or lower scores that go into medical school and did just fine, an average score and a person’s score are not the same thing. We survived the MCAT, I can only imagine how those before felt with their paper test (I like paper tests). But, one thing is certain you’ll survive the new one, good luck and do your best!
At the end of the day, it’s just part of your application. So a bad score won’t doom you but a great score won’t buy you an acceptance either.
It’s winter in Boston, I hope all is well for everyone. Now, again, at my school applicants are interviewing. It’s a curious sight, I remember making the trip before, peering off into the classroom when I could to get an idea of who these mythical creatures called medical students were. So, it’s strange to be on the other side of the window. Anyways, nostalgia aside, I wanted to share with you an interview with a recently accepted applicant (see below). I believe we met on Twitter, when I was editing and critiquing personal statements in my downtime. I distinctly remember her personal statement, so I’m excited to see her progress from a hopeful applicant to an accepted medical student with a full scholarship.
So, here’s the interview:
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? — e.g. major, participation in college, post graduate work or activities, continued and concluded work/projects, notable experiences.
My family is originally from Peru, my father completed medical school in Lima and we immigrated to the United States when my father got a pediatrics residency offer in New York. I grew up and attended school in Texas, where I majored in Biology and minored in Psychology. I was very fortunate to have several mentors along the way who really pushed me towards research and am grateful our paper was accepted a few months before applying to medical school. I worked in two very different labs in undergrad, a summer in an entomology lab and a neuroscience lab my junior and senior year. Although I considered medicine, I originally planned on pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience/Neuropharmacology, so my focus in undergrad was research and teaching (I worked as a Teaching Assistant for Cell Biology lab and Supplemental Instruction Leader for Analytical Chemistry) and did not really have very much clinical volunteering (at least compared to my ‘intense’ pre-med peers).
My main extracurricular was Colleges Against Cancer (CAC), where I helped start Relay For Life at my university. Unfortunately, it seems that people in my life keep struggling with cancer. My first awareness of the disease was when my fifth grade teacher went through breast cancer treatment. In college, I discovered my lab mate was a lymphoma survivor (we co-founded our CAC chapter), my godfather battling colon cancer and losing my first research advisor to pancreatic cancer, and recently losing family members to lymphoma and glioblastoma. Although I have no idea what it says, I believe that my evaluation letter from my American Cancer Society staff partner had significant weight in the strength of my application.
There are people that seem to know they were destined for a career in medicine since they were fetuses. To say I am 100% certain that I should become doctor would be inaccurate, sometimes I still question if I have the desire pursue a career that in practice seems increasingly more centered on costs and paperwork, and less focused on quality and prevention. Seeing my father practice medicine in a private practice setting was off-putting to me, especially as I developed a real knack for teaching early in my undergraduate career. However my somewhat cynical, not idealist view that our current healthcare system is ‘broken’ is one of the many things that fuels me to strive for change. My senior year (after much introspection), I realized that academic medicine was a great way to consolidate helping with others while teaching and decided to apply to medical school. Since I still needed time to study for the MCAT, I decided would take a total of two years off before matriculating in medical school (which thankfully I will next fall!).
Applying to medical school is pretty difficult, besides the prereqs, a lot of steps have to be made correctly on a timely manner. How did you prepare for the applying to medical school, anything in retrospect you would have done differently now that you understand how the process works?
Honestly, I read a lot of blogs and from there searched for books. Hannah’s (@MDPhDtoBe) blog (side note: I met her a few months ago and she is an incredible human) and this one were probably the two I referenced the most. I used two books (one which you have mentioned in your own blog) the Medical School Admissions Guide and Cracking Med School Admissions, both which gave interesting examples of personal statements and suggested timelines. After the MCAT, the two most challenging parts of the application were the Personal Statement and the Activities Section (also, insanely time consuming). Looking back I would have kept better records on my activities because I ended up spending a lot of time tracking down faculty/staff for their contact information and wracking my brain to guesstimate how many hours I spend on all of my activities. Something important that I reflected throughout the interview process was to try not compare yourself with other applicants. It’s difficult when you’re in a room filled with brilliant, driven people, but reminding yourself that you have your own story, that everyone’s journey to medicine is different is good perspective to have because it’s easy to become intimidated and not think you’re good enough. You have made it this far, be proud (never arrogant) of your accomplishments!
Last year I edited your personal statement, how was the experience for you and how did it help?
The personal statement was very challenging for me to write. I probably went through ten drafts of my personal statement before I felt “satisfied”. Mr. @doctororbust kindly agreed to look over my personal statement and gave me great feedback, particularly with the flow of my ideas. Most of the people I asked to edit my personal statement were very familiar with my story and everything I had done throughout undergrad, so having someone who was completely impartial was extremely useful and I am extremely grateful for the direction my personal statement took after you reviewed it! Forever grateful.. this brings up another point, do not be afraid of asking for help. There are kind people in this world who genuinely want you to succeed :)
What were some things that surprised you about the application process? — this could be either positive or negative or even just an observation.
Overall, the application process was a journey. Equally beautiful and frustrating. Writing the personal statement was somewhat revelatory and defining. Creating a narrative that portrays you and your passion for this career in 5,300 characters is nothing short of daunting. I think I did not expect the application to take so long. I tried to finish it up as soon as I could. I am surprised to have gotten three out-of-state public university interview offers, so I wouldn’t discourage someone to not apply out of state, however make sure you do your research and write a compelling narrative on why you want to attend a specific school. If you can attend a recruitment fair, take advantage and stay in touch with people. An admissions staff member I met at a recruitment fair arranged for me to meet with a pediatric psychiatrist after my interview because I mentioned this was a strong particular interest of mine. As much as medical schools are interviewing you, you are also interviewing them to see where you will be the best fit and if they are granting you an interview, it is likely they will accomodate you to make you feel welcome. As I mentioned, I strongly considered pursuing a PhD, and debated applying to MSTP (MD/PhD) programs. Ultimately, I decided not to apply since I did not believe my MCAT was very competitive for MTSP programs. However, in my interviews and after talking to a few MSTP minority students, my MCAT score was higher than one (by 3 points) and exactly the same as the other MSTP student. Although I do not believe in holding myself to a “low standard” because I am considered a minority in this country, I do feel a slight sense of curiosity of what would have happened if I had applied to combined programs.
How many schools did you apply to? If you don’t mind disclosing it, can you share what school you decided to attend?
I initially intended to apply to more, but I ended up completing 13 allopathic medical school applications. To date, I’ve had two rejections, five interview invitations and acceptance offers from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and the University of Wisconsin- Madison. If I do not get any more interview offers, my last one will be at the University of Illinois-Chicago in February! Since I did also complete an application through TMDSAS, I’ve ranked UT Southwestern and UTHSCSA and will have to wait for ‘match day’ on February 2rd (Texas is special).
For schools that are a part of AAMC, I legally have until April 30th to make my final decision… However, during winter break when I was in Peru, I found a letter from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health saying I have received a full tuition scholarship!!! I am about 99.99% certain I will accept this offer because frankly I loved the students I met, the interviewees (we did a group one with 2 medical students and 3 other applicants), and the city of Madison. I am beyond thrilled to have this incredible opportunity, as I am flawed and far from a perfect applicant (as in I have a C in calculus and several Bs early on in my transcript.. but I worked hard to bring those grades up!).
What will you do as you wait to start?
I am happily continuing to work for a medical non-profit association in Washington, DC and tutor Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry and Spanish while I wait to start medical school next fall! Taking time off school was the best decision I made to solidify my decision to apply to medical school. If you have any questions about anything, please feel free to send me a tweet @brainyloma! Best of luck!
Thank you @brainyloma, please check her Twitter out if you have more questions.
Happy New Year!
WordPress sends a summary for the year to their authors, thought I’d share how this blog turned out to you all (you can scroll to the bottom for that). I’d like to take time to really thank you all, whether you’re a new or dedicated reader, your readership means a lot to me as I share and document my own experience. A year ago I was still in interview season, receiving my fair share of acceptances and rejections for medical school and I wasn’t yet accepted into the program I’m at now. Since medical school has started life started moving rather very quickly, at some points it was quicker than I would prefer. Neither the less, I am thankful for the opportunities already afforded to me thus far and those in my horizon.
To all my readers I only wish you the best for 2015. And while I hope 2015 went your way, always remember the words of the 14 Dalai Lama:
“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.”
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 42,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 16 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Cloth shoes and just below freezing don’t mix. A friend, another medical student, reminded me of that some months ago; I own warm boots that I had erroneously chosen not to wear the night of the protest. Though, medical school has sapped a lot of my free time away, I’ve slowly kept up with developing cases of Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamil Rice, among others to be killed while unarmed by the police in the US. I planned on going with other classmates that night of the protest, but we were never able to make the logistics happen in the crowded square. The event was going to coincide with the Christmas tree lighting at Boston Commons, a popular outdoor park for both tourist and locals.
I had arrived early to the protest, the police had wardened off a group of protesters; thus allowing them to protest yet preventing myself and others from joining them. As a consequence the ratio of protester to people in disgust of the protest was tipped in favor of our opponents who mocked our “inappropriateness” to stage a protest around Christmas. Is it more polite to abhor social injustice after the presents are opened? Fortunately, the ranks were soon bolstered as other neighboring students from Harvard, Northeastern, UMass (and of course my own institution). Understanding we lacked organization because of the protester quarantine we relocated to the corners of the park and organized a coordinated march. As we marched, others joined us, at last the numbers were burgeoning. At first it was just the young and hopeful, soon the young were joined by the old, and between them chanting in chorus with families of different races. That day I was reminded that as humans our first instinct is to not be the nail sticking out that gets hammered down, so it’s easier to express dissent when you know you’re not the only one. Soon, the police realized the protest had grown larger than they anticipated, so additional police were called and a helicopter requested. Neither the less, there was no violence that night from either side.
A few days after this event, five us of decided to try to string together an event as a social protest. Very soon we learned that other medical schools were already conjuring up the same plan, so we decided to host our “White Coat Die In” on the same day as others. This gave us about 3 days to organize the event. Fortunately, everything fell into place to make a coordinated 45 minute event: the university gave us space on short notice (we even got a thumbs up from the dean of medicine) and no security problems, by luck of the draw I gave opening remarks, and we had words from other organizers and one BUSM higher up. Attending was excellent: medical students (nearly 100), dental, and public health students also joined in protest in solidarity. A reporter from reached out to us, and the event was reported in Al Jazeera. The planning committee as grown, and we’re now working with other established groups to bring forth increased awareness and possible future curriculum changes.
Happy holidays, I’ll be ringing in my last shift (possibly, unless I get the itchy urge and find another slot) of the year in the ER/Trauma tonight. Tonight’s ‘uniform’ will be white coat and scrubs (also known as medical pajamas).
Doctor: can you guys call the other pharmacy to verify their prescriptions, dosage, and amount? If you don’t understand what they say ask them to repeat it.
Other medical student and I in unison:….sure…
Medical school is interesting because you cross the line of your comfort level a lot, for me it was a simple phone call. Everyone has seen the gibberish on prescription bottles, it’s a niche language, unless you mother tongue is latin I suppose. At my level of, without any pharmacology coursework, you might as well be speaking dolphin if you rattle off drugs to me. Anyways, it was a mission accomplished after googling the pharmacy and boasting my best competent person impersonation to the pharmacist over the phone.
The line between being a fly on the wall and becoming part of the process is ever blurring, even if it’s in the most modest of ways. For the surgical residents we stayed with making phone calls was probably the most trivial part of their day.
In class updates my neuro exams were yesterday, so academically I’m done for 2014! The verdict? Neuro is going a-okay according to my exams. Last semester’s medical biochemistry gave many of us quite a pummeling (even biochemistry majors), so I’m trying to learn from that experience and make improvements in how I approach studying for medical school — if neuro is any indication I’m headed in the right direction.
In physician training news we start giving physical next year (January 2015), upon admittance some generous alumni paid for all of our medical equipment:
After further work with real patients, for the first time, we’ll be exposed to a standardized patient to evaluate/grade our proficiency. In the meantime I’d rather not torture patients, so this month I’ve been volunteering my friends to eye and ear exams — incidentally, I never noticed how intimately close you need to be for eye exams:
I won’t be traveling home for holidays, I’ll just hang out in Boston instead this year. In Boston a large chunk of the population are students, college students at that, so plenty of people leave this city this time of year. As a consequence, a lot of my classmates have flown home, while some like me are sticking it out here. But, I’ve already made my agenda for how to spend the vacation:
1. Blog a little more (not to be substituted for sleep), hopefully it’ll be helpful for premeds
2. Go to favorite jazz bar several times, possibly with other people (haha)
4. Experience Boston Christmas experience
5. Skype with family
6. Oh yeah! Wash white coat, this thing attracts stains
*7. Take time to appreciate the volume of information I just absorbed, won’t be studying, but I will bask and reflect
I wish everyone a happy holiday!
Finished part of neurology, the midterm was worth 30% the final will be worth 70% of the grade. The course is split up between lecture, lab, and discussion (electrophysiology). The lecture portion of the course only started a few weeks ago, but we’ve already covered several hundred pages, between 1500-2000 slides (120-180 new slides per day), and several hundred more pages out of the text if you found time to do that as well — I should note that of the 120-180 slides you’ll probably only receive 1-3 questions, so you study everything in the hopes that you might understand it and hopefully see that concept on the test. In lab we dissect the brain we dissected out from gross anatomy, it’s a good break from lecture and requires less brain power than participating in electrophysiology discussion. So, you might be curious what learning neuroscience/anatomy is like. Well, the easiest way to understand it is the example below:
In the ball above, imagine your were given the task to find out where each rubber band was going. This also means knowing where each rubber band was crossing another band. Now, imagine each rubber band has a function, so you’ll need to know that too. And now, imagine you weren’t allowed to take the rubber bands apart, you’re forced to make a 3D map in your head instead. That’s medical neuroanatomy.
So, medical neurology/anatomy comes in several flavors. Some questions give you an amorphous blob and you’re expected to make sense of it:
A typical medical school question in neuroanatomy is a second or perhaps third order question, they’re doing you a favor if they ever ask you a first order question. For example, it’s rare that you’ll be asked ,”What is structure L?”, instead it’s more normal to ask “Where do the axons that originate in location L?”, or, “What symptoms would manifest in a lesion of structure labeled L?”
From the lecture material we receive many vignette style questions, also known as mock board exam style. If you’re not familiar with a vignette, it’s just a short story that leads into a question. Some of the story will be useless some of it will be useful, it’s your job to figure out which is which — it’s not far off from how real cases tend to be. A typical style question for neurology is:
“A 53 year old right handed bartender comes in after insistence from his wife because he’s been tripping more than usual lately. His pupil reflexes are intact, and he’s orientated in time and place. The neurological exam was unremarkable, except that his reflexes were exaggerated in his left leg. You also notice that he stumbles to his left when you ask him to walk with his eyes closed, this only happens when his eyes are closed. In general, what lesion would explain his symptoms?”
A. upper motor neuron lesion, right posterior spinocerebullar
B. upper motor neuron lesion, left posterior spinocerebullar
C. lower motor neuron lesion, right posterior spinocerebullar
D. upper motor neuron lesion, left rostral spinocerebullar
E. upper motor neuron lesion, left ventral spinocerebullar
On the upside, the questions are interesting and you start to feel all doctorey! Now, I feel a lot more prepared to attempt to understand when a patient comes into their appointment with a constellation of symptoms not easily explained away. Presumably, now that I just learned a bit of neurology I’ll think every patient that comes in has a neurological problem — I also assume I’ll think the same way for each system that I learn about. I suppose it may even sound a little silly, but it’s funny how the symptoms you learned just but a day or two before become relevant when that patient walks in the room. Sure, you won’t see that 1/100,000 diagnosis, but you will see stroke survivors and those with lifestyles that all but summon an impending cerebral accident. So, neurology is tough, but it’ll be the first time in medical school medical students will start to think like physicians.
So, a few weeks ago I finished Gross Anatomy, yay! This course is very time consuming, but interesting as long as you don’t mind smelling of formaldehyde and having bits of human flesh on your your clothes or exposed skin from time to time. In this post I’m going to share some tips that helped me get through. But, be fair warned, some of the links I’ll post are extremely graphic so view at your own discretion — some may even find this post somewhat traumatizing. If you’re not in medschool yet then these tips may seem hard to understand, but trust me once you’re there you’ll get what I’m saying. Your medical school (or future school) may have a different setup or variation, but here was our schedule for 3.5 months:
Written Test and Practicum
Unit 1 – Back and Limbs & Osteology (bones) Study & X-ray
Unit 2 – Thorax, Abdomen, Pelvis Cross Section (CT scans or cross sections)
Unit 3 – Head & Neck (Osteology, X-ray, CT scans)
Back and Limbs — Specific Tips
Initially, I had a pretty rocky start with this course, my roommate (also a 1st year, but at HMS) also lamented on the difficulty of “Back and Limbs”. But, really the hardest part is just figuring out how to study for the course. In retrospect, the material is rather manageable, but this is only because you get better at the skill sets you need to do well in Gross Anatomy.
– Be familiar with the acronyms. Back and limbs isn’t conceptually difficult, after all you probable didn’t need to go to medical school to know that you had an elbow. However, what does make it hard is the jargin, and depending on the staff you’ll hear more or less of it, in our case it was taught by someone who loved ortho so listening to their lectures was like listening to someone read out what they saw in their alphabet soup. This actually was probably the hardest part, try drilling these acronyms they use as quickly as possible so you can mentally join the discussion.
– The brachial plexus will be your first arch nemesis. At first, it really does suck, but it gets better trust me. However, it mostly gets better because other things you encounter are worse (evil cackle). You
should must feel very comfortable with the brachial plexus, especially as it’ll show up on Step 1 (your board exam for MD and optional for DOs who often take their exam and Step 1). Interestingly, expect to get a lot of questions with the stem “Someone was stabbed at a bar, now they have this symptom, which nerves may be effected?”
– You must feel comfortable with the arterial and venous supply in this section. The best way is to draw them out in any way you see fit, as long as it’s accurate, then check with your trusted friends, TA, or professor to ensure the accuracy — there’s no point in studying something wrong. Lymphatics often isn’t very emphasized in this section, at least for us, but it was in the other sections.
– Osteology, what can I say, don’t forget the bones. Knowing the bones become more than a didactic exercise once you see a X-ray scan and are made to predict which muscle would be impaired.
Thorax, Abdomen, Pelvis — Specific Tips
– The thorax is rather straight forward, there’s a heart, lungs, a few nerves running through it and some vessels surrounding the ribs. You should feel confident about cardiac cycle (including fetal), and know the embryological origin of all of the heart and it’s associated vessels. The lungs aren’t bad either.
Pelvis — the bane of most 1st year’s existence. This video will help a lot!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbCdR1PumnU (not graphic)
– Go to lab frequently, don’t be afraid to get eerily close to the dissections so you can find obscure structures. Most people struggle with the pelvic floor, the layers, and what can articulate with what. Lymphatics are tested heavily in this section.
– Lymphatics are important in this section because they let you predict the spread of cancers — as a consequence, you should also be familiar with collateral blood flow so you know what happens if you were to remove that diseased section.
– If you need to read CT/cross sections, start building up your skills early in the course and you might actually learn to like this portion of the course. The easiest way I found was to start with one structure, for example the superior mesenteric artery, and trace it up and down (rostrally and caudally, or even medially and laterally). Going to lab, doing practice questions, and looking at scans are a great way to build a 3D image of the body in your mind. For cross sections I strongly recommend RAA Viewer
– The intestines look like what they should only when they’re correctly placed in the body. After your dissection and during the test expect them to be in the silliest of positions, so get used to identifying landmarks to find your place as soon as possible. For example, the spleen or liver are typically the easiest to find, if you find those you can immediately orientate yourself. This also goes for the heart, you should be fine with seeing the heart in any position — don’t just practice in perfect positions, challenge yourself.
Head & Neck — Specific Tips
- The bad news is that this is probably the hardest section both in terms of dissection and identifying structures. The good news is that if you’ve been working hard in the other sections all of the skills you’ve previously acquired will come in handy — you’ll need to just have faith in that.
- Most of the had and neck is quite manageable, though you might feel differently once you get to the back of the pharynx. The key to this is to drill the section with friends, and videos like this help:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ER0nI__ZrQ (Acland video, graphic. Also, search Acland on Youtube for more sections, especially heart development)
- You should be very comfortable with seeing the head cut sagittally (split between the eyes), or even a coronal cut (typically from a CT scan). Learn the sinus drainage, and be able to identify them in both of these planes.
- The trigeminal nerve is tricky, the best way to get to know it is to draw it out over and over again. Then, in lab while studying try to answer what would innervate this, what would a lesion manifest as etc.
- Don’t forget about development! It’s not that bad, there’s a lot of easy patterns that you’ll notice if you study them early enough, e.g. pharyngeal arches 1,2,3,4,6 (that’s not a typo) will develop into CN V, VII, IX, X (superior laryngeal), X recurrent laryngeal etc. That may sound tedious, but trust me, if you’ve made it this far you’ll probably know how to remember random information anyways. The key here is to make sure you drill what your school considers important, typically innervation is a skill you need to have.
- You must be a pro at certain things like cranial nerve lesions (aka memorize it cold).
Here’s a link, you probably should also check out the other videos! This one in particular is of the infra temporal fossa (somehow my favorite section):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7vUXNc9lrc (very, very graphic, I’m not responsible for your nightmares! If you’ve never done Gross Anatomy these videos will likely change your life.)
– Gross dissection and studying are often disparate things, so don’t think just because you’ve scraped away all of the fat in the ischioanal fossa you’re pretty much done with the pelvic floor. There’s skills that you’ll gain in lab that’ll make dissections easier: loading scalpels, findings nerves from a rat’s nest, skinning etc. But, when you’re studying it’s a different mindset. Instead, go to lab with friends (try not going alone, if you’re the only one there it’s seldom productive) or join a group who’s studying and quiz each other/teach other. The more you go to lab, way before the test, the easier the practicum will be — once you get better it’ll also translate into your written scores as you incorporate more theory into practice. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should neglect your lab duties and screw over your teammates either, instead try to come prepared by knowing what’s important to look for during dissection so you can get out of lab as early as possible — for this it helps to show up to lab 10-15 minutes early and look at some examples (if your school has them), ask the TAs for tips or things to watch out for and you’ll be in much better shape.
– One of the biggest difficulties of Gross Anatomy (hell, all of medschool at the get go) is the language. Yes, you probably can process what it means when your professor says “It’s dorsal, yet slightly caudal and lateral to the cavernous sinus”, but if it takes you too long to stomach the lingo you’ll be out of luck because by the time you’ve translated they (your professor) has moved on. Likewise, learning some of the roots of the words, or conventions, makes things easier to remember — for example, the pudendal nerve’s function is easier when you know that pudendal stems from a word referring to the “gross (as in yucky) region”.
– Don’t be afraid to be pimped, you may think you’re getting picked on by your anatomy TAs, but it’s really to help you. You’ll go from getting pimped and hating it to being frustrated because you can’t find anyone to “challenge” your knowledge by pimping you. The best way to learn the lab part of the tests, and link it with the written background, is to drill with others and figure out what you don’t know.
– Bring a “dirty notebook”, a notebook and pen that you don’t mind gets greasy from human fat or intestines etc. When you go to study or during reviews, jot down what you didn’t know or misidentified as a “to-do list”. Have someone knowledgeable help you find items on your “to-do list, don’t forget to ask how they find it so you can do it on your own too. Next, go find those structures on at least 3 other bodies. For one section I went gun-ho and did almost all the bodies, it was by far my best section.
– Attend every speed review your school hosts. If your school doesn’t have one, or only does a speed review for the 1st section etc., then get together with your classmates to run your own. It’s tedious, but making a few people into resident experts in certain areas (the orbit, the neck etc.) and then helping each other is a good way to save time and learn more. Once you’ve seen a speed review you’ll know what I mean. But, above all else remember that a speed review isn’t to teach you, it’s to let you know what you don’t know so you can go work on it.
– Make sure to ask your predecessors for tips, they’re usually more than willing to save you the pain they encountered.
– Atlases: atlases are important for references and understanding of relationships, e.g. which arteries branch of what other arteries. But, keep in mind that the body will do whatever it feels like and so will often violate a pristine Netter Atlas drawing, this is especially true once you enter the abdomen and pelvis. So, an atlas is a great supplement, but it’s not a replacement for getting dressed in scrubs and heading to lab with a probe and tracing structures back.
Most importantly, you don’t need to love Gross Anatomy, but because someone gave their body to you be sure to respect it.