Archive for January 2010

How to Survive Semester 5

January 25, 2010

I know I said I’d post this ages ago. Here (at long last) is my advice for the current Fifth Semesters (especially those completing AICM in Miami).

1. Save Your Pennies

One thing you don’t learn about fifth semester until nearly the end of it is that it is actually comprised of the 3 months of AICM and the first 3 weeks of your first core (or special) rotation. If you receive any form of student aid, you will not be eligible to receive financial aid for sixth semester until you have completed those first three weeks of rotation, which may be months after you begin AICM. Please keep this in mind and try to budget yourself accordingly, as expenses in Miami can be steep, the fees for the Step (and for Step prep courses) are monstrous and there are other incidentals (travel, shipping, health insurance deductibles, etc.) to consider. You may end up having to secure an additional loan (or, find yourself dependent upon the kindness of your parents, if you are fortunate enough to have generous ones) if you don’t keep an eye on your finances. Most personal finance guides recommend having enough emergency money set aside to last you for six months of rent, bills and expenses. If you don’t have that much money just lying around, at least try to live frugally.

2. Practice Early (and Often!) for the Practical

You may have already heard about the 200-point 45 minute physical exam you will have to perform during fifth semester for 20% of your grade. This exam is tough, but certainly not impossible, especially if you practice often with your partner and take advantage of the practice sessions offered by the junior faculty. Even though the grading rubric is made available and an exam demo will be posted on mediasite, it would seem that there is some subjectivity in the grading and how well you perform is not only a function of how much (and how well) you practice but also, who is grading. Since you won’t know who’ll be evaluating you until right before your exam, it’s best to make sure that for your part, you’re as close to flawless as you can be. The standard is quite high – scoring below 90% is usually a failure and if you do fail, you will have to stay a week after the final and retake the practical before you can pass 5th semester (even if you have As in everything else). Also, for the ladies – you must have a bikini top to wear during the practical (as you will serve as the patient for your partner). If you’re shy about that sort of thing (as I was), you’ll have to get over it…

3. Take Medical Spanish

In Miami, there are 2 ways one can earn 5% extra credit in AICM: one can complete an extra DXR case (they’ll tell you more about that) or, one can participate in a weekly hour-and-a-half-long medical Spanish class. I strongly recommend taking the class, even if you are already conversant (or fluent!) in Spanish. If you are a native (or fluent) Spanish speaker, you can get credit as a TA. If you are proficient or conversant, it’s an excellent chance for you to broaden your knowledge, as you will be provided with a medical Spanish “bible” with a full H&P glossary. If you have never studied Spanish before, I implore you to take the class because it is nearly impossible to avoid having to communicate in Spanish in Miami. Everywhere you are sent to rotate, people (patients, nurses, even surgeons in the OR!) will be speaking in Spanish around you. You’ll get so much more out of your experience if you can understand and communicate with even the simplest phrases. You can still do the extra DXR case if you want, you just won’t get credit for it. It’s easier to get credit for the Spanish class than for the case (which is graded) anyway. Plus, the instructor is delightful and for the final class, she makes tres leches, which is delicious.

I hope this advice is helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section.


January 25, 2010

It’s day 22 of Falcon and I spent it having an inordinate amount of fun in the first part of the biochem (of all things!) module, which for a few hours allowed me to forget the miserable weekend I had and the devastating news I received. Remember I mentioned the indignity of having to take the COMP again? Well, I took it and sadly, it did not go well. We received our scores (belatedly) on Saturday morning and I was heartbroken to discover that I’d failed yet again – this time by one condemnable point.

To say I was anguished is really an understatement. (more…)


January 17, 2010

If anyone who has been watching the disaster unfold after the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti is compelled to donate to the relief efforts but doesn’t know where to do so, here’s a couple of places:

Doctors Without Borders/Medicines Sans Frontières

American Red Cross

USMLE Boot Camp – Day 7

January 10, 2010

“This guy is really good!”

“Yeah, he’s killing it!”

– overheard outside of lecture, 1.8 (more…)

USMLE Boot Camp – Day 3

January 6, 2010

A belated 明けましておめでとう* to all visitors to this blog!

2010 is going to be a pretty exciting year for me in terms of medical training. Having completed my fifth semester, I’m now preparing to take Step 1 of the USMLE, which is arguably the most important test I’ll take in my career, in March. I’ll also be starting core rotations, most likely later in the spring. My dad, who, while stoic, is not without a sense of humor, gave me the best Christmas present this year – tuition to attend the Falcon Live USMLE Review in Dallas, TX. There was one catch – this present amounts to my Christmas present from him for the rest of my life. While I am exceedingly grateful, I hope it’s not supposed to cover birthdays as well. (more…)