Learning Medicine

Learning Medicine
The Ultimate Guide to Study Skills in Medical School

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Day After

Hey all,

I'm going to make this quick. Honestly, for the next few days at least, I want to have nothing to do with medicine. I've dedicated enough time, and I think I need to get back the world that doesn't revolve around crushing qbanks all day. I don't want to think about Step 1 either until I find out how I did. Doing otherwise is a sure-fire way to induce some needless anxiety.

So here's my impression: I feel fairly good about the test. What I've studied and what I know, I got those questions right. Most were very straightforward, bread and butter stuff. There were a couple of "what the heck" questions with terms or facts I had never seen before. I didn't expect that. Not many, but maybe 4-5 q's. I reasoned them out and think I got them right, but it was still surprising.

- Many questions looked just like UWorld. It's unreal actually how good UWorld is at identifying topics that Step likes to ask about.

- Questions stems are a bit longer than my practice qbank questions

I'm going to refrain from being too specific until after I find out how I did.

I was physically and mentally drained by the exam, I have to admit. I'm not used to sitting for 8 hours. I use a standing desk at home, so I can move around. Sitting for that many hours was definitely painful. Made my neck tight too.

When I walked out of the test center, I felt strange. I had just finished a marathon that had loomed for so long, and now it's all over. I had expended quite a bit of energy on it, and now it was done. Time to figure out what to do with my time now :)

And so, that is what I will begin to do today. I'm not starting lab rotations until the first week of November. I'm taking this week and the next for some R&R. I have a lot of projects and books I want to read, and I'll do that in the next week. Then will take a road trip to a wedding the following week.

Over the next few months, I'm going to transition this blog to talk more about science and grad school than med school.

For the next few days, here's a list of stuff I'm going to do:

(1) sleep
(2) clean the house
(3) spend time with my wife, whom I've neglected for too long because of my studies
(4) learn some computer science and programming
(5) work on AgoraMed, the med education startup I'm doing with my buddy Peter
(6) start reading books for grad school - I'm going to take a general study of scientific method, experimental design, practical programming for bio-ish stuff, biostats, etc. Stuff that I could use no matter what I'm doing in the lab.
(7) Develop my productivity workflow. I've been tinkering with some programs like Omnifocus, Papers, Devonthink, Anki and Scrivener, and I want to develop a clean workflow that helps me integrate these tools and make them work for me. I'm going to write more about this as I do it.
(8) Do some fall stuff - pick pumpkins, apples, etc. I'm really liking fall these days and want to enjoy it while it's here

That's it for now. Thanks for following me in my Step 1 journey. Hopefully my reflections have been useful to you all. That is my main reason for keeping this blog in fact. I enjoy getting stuff off my chest, but I like even more when my words help others.


  1. DrWillbe,

    Regardless of the outcome, congratulations on finishing Step 1! I am eager to see what other interesting topics you bring to this blog. #7 on your "list of stuff" is particularly interesting to me - I'm a first year myself with a similar technology-oriented, endlessly-tinkering mindset and have been grappling with new study methods this year. I'm also curious about #5 - could you give a little more information on that?

    As for #8, don't forget about pumpkin beer! (If you're into that sort of thing.)

    All the best.

    1. Hey Ryan,

      Thanks! Let's talk offline about #5. THe productivity workflow I'll write about in the future. Once I perfect it :)

      Pumpkin beer is awesome.

      Also, I saw that you wrote a blog post about low carbing? Sweet man. I've been doing LC since I was 13, and now my wife and I do a more paleo regiment. We love it. I've spoken to Gary Taubes and want to get him to come speak here at Duke.

      Check out this site: http://www.awlr.org/about.html

      This guy Larry is at VCU med. He's amazing. He's a med student and he's running this awesome registry full of stories from people who have rejected the "eat less, exercise more" mythology and are losing weight effortlessly. It's pretty incredible.

  2. Dr Willbe:

    I had a false start with med school. In the first few weeks of school I found I was spending more time making flash cards (writing them out longhand) than studying them. I abandoned flashcards and almost failed. In undergrad I succeeded by making reams of flashcards on what I thought was every high-yield detail in the text. I was successful in organic chemistry this way (in addition to doing as many synthesis problems from the text as I could get my hands on.) Does this sound familiar to anyone? I'm getting a chance to redeem myself with medical school and I'd like to improve my efficiency.

    I saw your video where you talk specifically about how to "write" your cards in med school using a citric acid cycle text during your FirstAid study. Could you say more about how you determine what to put on the card? By that I mean your method of shorthand and your method of determining what is "high yield."

    I'm somewhat tech-savvy so I will try Anki and "tagging" the cards together by exam, though that's not the intended use. Furthermore, it is hard at my stage in medical school to gauge what is "high-yield" material for cards.

    1. Hey,

      I'm sorry the beginning of med school started out rough. It happens to all of us. Adapting to the volume and rate of med school is hard. And what worked in undergrad will most likely need to be modified or completely scrapped.

      I'm going to do a series in the future about what to put on cards. It depends on your goals.

      'high yield' is in the eye of the beholder. High-yield for class exams? For Step? For life?

      In general, class stuff is minutiae that you just need to remember for the test, and then dump it.

      For Step 1, we have First Aid for the Step 1. That book is all high-yield. Everything in it. It's been honed over years of editing and feedback, and you can trust that it is full of nuggets that are useful for Step 1, some parts of your classes, and somewhat for a career as a physician. At this stage in the game, you don't know yet what is important info. Thankfully, First Aid did the work for you.

      So as I've said to others, a good place to start with Anki is by going through First Aid, looking at the material that corresponds to whatever you're doing in your classes at the moment. Make cards just for the First Aid stuff. That is a good, minimal goal that should not give you too much trouble. You may be asking, well what about class material? I hesitate to tell you to make cards for that because it will be time consuming, and have short-term payoff. You will not likely want to use those many of those cards again. But deciding whether to make cards is up to you.

      Hope that helps.