What I Learned About Myself During Anatomy Class: Helpful Tips for Starting Med School

EMILY HAUSE - Anatomy Lab - KAPLANHello my future and current medical school readers! I officially finished anatomy a few weeks ago and I can honestly say that I don’t miss it. It turns out that anatomy wasn’t really my strong suit as a student, but today I want to talk a little bit about my struggles with the class so hopefully you can learn from my experiences.

First off, I had been out of school for awhile before I started medical school in August. I was initially worried because I haven’t been required to study, memorize or be tested on material in over three years. This turned out to be a fairly accurate worry. If you have been away from school for a few years, it’s hard to get into the studying groove. It turns out that like any major skill, if you don’t use it, you lose it. It took me a while to find a location, style, and group setting that worked for memorizing the anatomy information and getting it to stick on Test Day.

Secondly, I did not use my resources effectively. I started off not using the practice tests, the useful mnemonics from my classmates and the Bone Room (where they keep human bones for studying) as frequently as I needed to. I felt like I was somehow independent of these useful resources and worried that using them made it look less like I knew what I was doing. Sidenote- worrying about looking stupid or silly in medical school is an absolute waste of time. Everyone looks silly at some point, so you might as well get it out of the way early.

Fortunately, after the first test, which did not go well at all, I had the wherewithal to ask for help. This is the single biggest piece of advice that I can give you for your medical school career. As students in undergrad, we almost never had to ask for help. We pre-meds were the top of our classes and multitasked like champions. In medical school, at some point, you will need to ask for help. It may be a tough concept, a hard test, being overwhelmed and needing advice about how to organize, but you will need assistance.

Don’t be too proud to ask for it when you need it. When I acknowledged that I needed help, people rushed to help me and anatomy got much easier. I am, however, glad to have moved on to the biochemistry/epidemiology section of my medical school classes. Now I can return the favor and help my classmates who didn’t major in biochem.

Happy studying!

  • disqus_wvMLVA1hDr

    The preclinical parts of med school are all about memorization. People who majored in college in fields based upon thinking, figuring things out, understanding, are shocked at how hard it is to just memorize reams of material, often with no clinical correlation. The older you get, the harder it is to just memorize. My classmate who did the best was young, and had a photographic memory – he could “see” the information from the textbook pages in his mind during the tests. Later on, the clinical section of medical school is much more about gathering information, thinking in algorithms to figure out diagnoses and synthesize treatment plans, in addition to developing the skills to elicit the needed information from the patient, and to deal with them kindly, respectfully, compassionately. And then, after all that hard, hard work, killing yourself studying for years, staying up all night at the hospital, you get rewarded with residency, where you will work even harder for at least eighty hours/week, 50 weeks/year, at much less than minimum wage, for at least three years, and as much as an additional nine years. But then you’re done! You may be half a million dollars in debt. You may have to retake your board certification tests every few years. But after anywhere from eleven to twenty years of education beyond high school, working harder than anyone else ever works in their lifetime, you can now practice medicine. Of course, so can the nurse practitioner who got her RN in two years, and then got her MSN in another two years, through an online course, no less! These days, with nurses and physician assistants licensed to play doctor, why bother with the expense and effort of going to medical school, or even obtaining a four year college degree. After all, you don’t really need college, med school, and residency to practice medicine, according to the state licensing boards.

  • Dennis

    Strange thing is that almost all the useful things a physician uses in his practice are learned after medical school, especially during residency training. Medical school is more about meeting basic standards and selecting an area in which one wishes to pursue further training than about learning how to do a medical job.

  • disqus_wvMLVA1hDr

    Can a person with a two year community college degree run a research lab in your place?

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