Sunday, July 31, 2016

Saying Goodbye to Dermatology and Hello to General Surgery!

Last Day of Dermatology Selfie :-)

Happy Sunday! My dermatology rotation is officially over and I’m kinda sad to be finished with it. The past month has been nothing short of amazing and I couldn’t have asked for a better first rotation. I got the opportunity to see a number of pathologies such as basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, seborrheic keratoses, melanomas, cherry hemangiomas, and the list goes on! 

The future surgeon in me loved observing Mohs surgeries on Wednesdays where cancers were cut out, observed under a scope, and skin grafts were performed. I also had the opportunity to go to the cosmetic side of the practice last week and see cool things like laser hair removal and the laser lipo sculpting procedures. Dermatology has a variety of things to offer and I can definitely see why it’s such a competitive specialty. Plus, you really can’t beat the hours, the free samples, and the free food from the drug reps, LOL. 

My favorite part of the rotation was last week when a patient who I had previously seen on my very first day came back for a follow up appointment and immediately greeted me by name and remembered all the little details about me that we had previously talked about during the patient’s previous appointment. The patient was super sweet and told me I would be a great physician. It’s the little things like this that really make me happy to be on this path through medicine. I was also very fortunate to be under an amazing physician who took time out of his very busy schedule to answer my questions and thoroughly explain what was going on with every patient to me. The nurses and other staff were also the absolute best and were pretty much my lifeline throughout the entire month. I also had the chance to rotate with medical students from other schools, a PA student, and even a podiatry resident, so it was great getting different perspectives and meeting new people. 

Tomorrow I start my general surgery rotation and I am super excited for the month that is in store! I’m also a little bit anxious since surgery is a field I would like to go into, so I definitely want to make a good impression. I’ve already checked out a ton of surgery textbooks from the library and I’ll be making my question bank purchases this week to make sure I can rock the shelf exam at the end of the month. I’ll also be back in mommy-mode as my daughter is gearing up for school and our normal schedule again after being away from me the entire summer, so this month will definitely be an interesting one. I’m not sure how hectic my schedule will be this coming month, but I look forward to updating you all on this wonderful journey. Wishing everyone a fantastic week! 

Monday, July 18, 2016

How I Studied for the COMLEX Level 1 and USMLE Step 1 Exams

My approach to studying for boards was slightly different from that of my classmates and probably what most people do. If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, then you already know my bad history with standardized exams which includes taking the MCAT four times, and this scared me into starting extra early with my board preparation and maybe even going slightly overboard with it. For the record (and in my opinion), the MCAT has absolutely no bearing on how a student will perform in medical school or on their board exams, but I wasn’t about to take any chances. So with that being said, while most students start studying for boards 6 weeks to 3 months out, I started my studying 6 months from my exam date, and I have absolutely no regrets.

I had two major goals before I started studying for boards: I wanted to keep my resources to a minimum to avoid getting overwhelmed and I wanted to have done at least 8000 questions before my exam date. I met both of my goals and even exceeded the minimum number of questions I had planned.


For both exams, I used First Aid for the USMLE Step 1, Pathoma (both the book and videos), UWORLD, USMLERX QMAX, and Combank. I also took all six NBME exams along with the free NMBE exam, and I completed both UWORLD assessment exams. For my COMLEX exam studies, I added in the Saverese OMT book, but did not take any COMSAE or NBOME exams outside of the one that was administered by my school. I did every single question in each question bank listed, and for UWORLD, after my first pass was complete at the end of February I re-did all my incorrect and marked questions. When I was 6 weeks away from my exam, I reset UWORLD and completed the entire bank again on timed, random mode (I used tutor mode during my first pass). I also completed both the USMLE and COMLEX side of Combank, along with all of USMLERX and when all was said and done I believe this added up to having completed a little over 10,000 questions (not including the assessment exam questions). I also dabbled with the Doctors in Training videos, but I wasn’t a huge fan, and I did read the First Aid book completely through about twice. Additionally, I used Picmonic for any topics that I just couldn’t get drilled into my head, since it was a lifesaver for me during my first two years of medical school. If there was anything I would have done differently, it probably would have been getting in another pass of UWORLD because on my USMLE exam, there were multiple questions that were extremely similar and the exam also had the exact same format as UWORLD. I also would have probably read my First Aid book a few more times.

Maximizing the Question Banks

I know a lot of people tend to get caught up about their scores on the question banks, but I focused on using the question banks as strict learning tools. By this I mean I did not get upset with my super low UWORLD scores when I first started, but instead I used it as an opportunity to explore my weaknesses. Also, outside of my first pass of UWORLD I did all of the questions in each bank without assistance so that I could really see what I needed to work on. This meant lower percentages, but I tend to learn from things I get wrong, so more information stuck with me. What I found extremely helpful was reading over EVERY answer choice explanation on questions I got both wrong and right, and I annotated the information I did not know into my First Aid book.   


Studying for boards was hard while classes were in session, so I think when I first started I would just do maybe 20-40 questions per night. I treated the upcoming exams as if I were preparing for a marathon, and eventually (towards the end of my exam preparation) I was doing over 200 questions a day. I waited until I was six weeks from my exams to create a dedicated board study schedule, and I previously gave a snippet of what my daily schedule was like HERE, so I won’t go into too much detail about it right now. Our school does not offer a set dedicated board study time without classes, but I was lucky enough to have tested out of the OMM written exams during my last term, so I only had to be on campus for about 3 hours each week during my final six weeks leading up to my exams. This allowed me to really be able to put in full days where I only studied for my board exams, and that was typically between 10 – 14 hours of study time each day. My days were starting at 430am and not ending until 8 or 9pm, so it was an extremely stressful time. I made sure to schedule in breaks so I didn’t go crazy and I also took one day every week where I did absolutely nothing exam related and just relaxed or spent time with my daughter.   


So basically, my approach to my board exams was questions, questions, and more questions! It is true that everyone studies differently, but doing questions will not only help you figure out what to expect on the exams, but it will help build your test-taking stamina as well. Most people swear by UWORLD, First Aid, and Pathoma and while I did slightly more than that, I’m pretty sure this would have been sufficient. I don’t think there would have been any way to pass either exam without UWORLD, so if you’re on the fence about buying it, just suck it up and get it! Also, if you’re an osteopathic student who only plans on taking the COMLEX, I would still suggest using UWORLD because it is that good.

In my next post I will compare and contrast the USMLE and COMLEX exams, so stay tuned for that, but hopefully this gave you all an idea of how to go about these exams. Feel free to email me if there is any confusion, but hopefully my next posts will clear any of that up. Just keep it simple, do questions, stay positive and everything else will fall into place :-) 

So Many Updates!

Busy, but Happy :-)

Happy Monday! If you follow me on Instagram or any other social media, then you probably already know that this has been a great, but super busy month for me. I started my dermatology rotation on the 5th, moved to a new house just three days ago, and I’ve also been busy interviewing nannies (I’ll explain that in another post). But most importantly, after what felt like forever, I finally received both of my board scores, and I am happy to say that a celebration ensued :-) It is such a relief to finally be over such a huge milestone, but I still have more board exams to go before I graduate, and I’m already focused on the game plan for those, so I can’t get too cocky. I have no plans to post either of my scores on the blog because I realized that different people have different goals, and in the grand scheme of things passing is the only thing that really matters. Plus, residency programs like even higher scores on the step 2 exams, so I still have that looming over my head. What I will say though is that my dreams of surgery still remain a possibility for me, so I am extremely happy about that.

A lot of you reached out to me for advice on studying for boards, wondering why I took the USMLE, exam day feelings, etc., and I am keeping with my promise to write up posts on the topics. Immediately after this post, I will post a write-up of everything I did to study for both exams, and over the next week or two, I will write a few more posts that cover everything I’ve been asked, so hang with me. I’ll wait until the end of the month to write about all of the exciting things I’ve been learning on my rotation, and I’ll also end the month with a summary of whatever I haven’t covered so that everyone won’t feel like I just dropped off the face of the earth. As always I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read my posts, and I can’t wait to share all my adventures with you all!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

When Will Enough Be Enough?

Black Lives Matter: In an Easier to Understand Format 
I had quite a few updates to give everyone, but in all honesty, the only things on my mind right now are the lives that were lost this week to senseless violence. I thought I would take a few days to process my feelings after viewing the video of Alton Sterling’s death, but then came Philando Castile’s death, the Dallas shootings, and it seems like more and more pops up on my timeline as the days go by.  

There truly aren’t any words to describe my feelings after watching those videos. If I had to put them in words, I guess I would say it’s a mix of anger, frustration, sadness, hopelessness, fear, and outrage. The Alton Sterling video hit really close to home for me because I consider Baton Rouge to be my second home, and I am familiar with the area where he was killed. Outside of the obvious reasons for being upset, I couldn’t help but think that could have been one of my brothers who actually lived with me for a bit when I was in the city. And then to watch the news and see people trying to criminalize this man and not take into account that his life was taken from him unjustly, just blew my mind. This was someone’s son, brother, father, etc., and it seems like people are looking for any and every excuse to justify something that simply cannot be justified. The same can be said for Philando Castile, whose daughter sat in the backseat and witnessed her father be killed. There really just aren’t any words.

This week has been super heavy on my heart and I still cannot properly articulate what I am feeling. I usually try to keep my posts lighthearted and related to medical school, but I feel to not say something is to be a part of the problem. As a parent, it breaks my heart to have to raise a child during times like this, and I can only imagine how hard it is for those parents who are raising sons. What I find even sadder, is that stuff like this is nothing new, but with cellphones, everyone can see it now. The closest thing I could find that somehow describes my thoughts is the pic below of someone’s public post on Facebook (written at the beginning of the week), but even this doesn’t cover everything. Right now, I just pray for the families and friends of all those lost to violence like this, and I hope that we can somehow find a way to instill awareness and initiate change without having to sacrifice the lives of more people in the process.  

I couldn't have said it any better

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...