Pediatrics In Review: A Look at Clerkship #2

Central to the skillset of every physician is the differential diagnosis; this is the process by which new patients are evaluated to establish the most likely diagnosis. Similarly, the first clinical year of medical school is like a differential for each student, except instead of a medical diagnosis, students are seeking to determine which specialty they will choose. This column explores this differential: experiences from each rotation by a current third year student.
In my first rotation, Women’s Health, I wrote about the humbling experience of helping with the birth of a child. This miracle of life is what attracts many people to the field of obstetrics, but working directly with the baby during the newborn period and throughout his/her childhood is, of course, the role of the pediatrician. As I’ve heard many times on this clerkship, “children are not simply small adults,” and understanding human development, the unique diseases of childhood, and the specific needs of young humans is often complex. For this reason, pediatrics is one of the oldest medical specialties, and remains the third largest by volume in the United States.[1]

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The Soft Skills You Need to be a Leader in Medicine

Medicine needs a strong core of leadership now more than ever. Medical students and new physicians spend massive amounts of time training and studying the basics of medicine, yet they may not be receiving training in many of the soft skills required to be a leader in today’s medical environment.
Being knowledgeable about disease and various forms of treatment is absolutely vital, but soft skills are what separates a good physician from a great physician. These skills include communication, collaboration, and confidence. As physicians, we are expected to practice as a team, and ultimately be the leader of that team. Let’s discuss how you can prepare to be a leader in medicine.

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It’s Real: The Sophomore Slump

Chronicles of a Med Student

I strolled into second year, fresh off the plane from my South American adventures and ready to hit the ground running, expecting another experience like first year. It would be smooth sailing as long as I stuck to my schedule and my friends. I was good to go. Little did I know, the “second year slump” was about to hit me like a ton of bricks. I had never before experienced such a feeling in my life—I was accustomed to challenges, pushing through whatever stood in my way, always making it through to the other side. But to be honest, few things in my prior academic experiences have challenged me as much as medical school. Before medical school, most of the challenges I faced seemed far less daunting to me than what came in the second year of medical school, even the first year of medical school. So imagine my surprise when I found myself having my first meltdown of medical school just a few weeks into my second year: Wasn’t I supposed to be good at this by now?

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Is a Post-Bacc Program Right for Me? Seven Benefits to Consider

It’s important to remember that as you prepare for and apply to medical school, there isn’t one set path you must take. It’s okay if your path takes different twists and turns along the way. Increasingly, applicants are taking gap years, sometimes called bridge years, between graduating from college and applying to medical school in order to gain more medically-related experience, pay down educational debt, or prepare for the MCAT exam.

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5 Things I Wish I Knew At The Beginning of Medical School

It is not just nostalgia and excitement that grips me as I am nearing the end of medical school. A part of me is terrified at the thought of finally having to own that white coat, to be the person in charge. There is another part (though not as dominant) that is filled partly with regret. Regret over the things I didn’t do, the things I could have done differently, the moments I missed, the unnecessary anxieties…

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Humanitarian Opportunities for Medical and Pre-Med Students

Although repeated to the point of being cliche, “to help people” is one of the most popular answers would-be doctors give when asked why they want to go into medicine. The great news is that there are many humanitarian work opportunities for pre-med students, med students and even new doctors to undertake that will not only hone their clinical skills and make them more culturally competent physicians, but also allow them to give medical care to those who might not otherwise receive it.

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Not “Ours” Anymore: Sharing Our Doctor Spouses

Medical Spouse

By Amy Rakowczyk

One thing is certain during medical school: your medical spouse is going to study and work a lot of hours. This is a necessary part of becoming a doctor. They need years of studying, preparing, and training in order to be able to perform the job. The time required means that you, the medical student spouse/partner, will have less time with them. There will be fewer hours when they are available. That is the hard reality.

It’s easy to start thinking about how unfair this is. You are left with gaping holes of time and are by default in charge of all the non-medical school items. You are working harder too, with less support. The unfairness of it can quickly turn into resentment and bitterness.

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An Introduction to Student Loans

Consider these three questions. First, what is a loan? Second, how is it typically is structured? Third, do you know how much you will be paying back if you borrowed x amount? I always wished someone had personally educated me and answered these very questions.
It has been almost 20 years since I chose my college (an expensive one), and almost 10 since I made my decision to pursue a career in pharmacy (a smarter choice, but still expensive one). I consider myself fortunate because my profession (for the most part) allows me to pay back the student loan I have accumulated and still enjoy a lifestyle I had imagined.

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Five Tips for Staying Healthy and Productive in School

staying healthy and productive

While your dream of getting accepted to medical school probably involves countless nights studying, hundreds of volunteer hours, and a very long application process, taking time for yourself may not always be at the top of your priority list. What many aspiring doctors tend to forget is that taking some time to relax can actually boost your productivity once you get back to work.

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Answering The Most Common Question in Medical Education

Central to the skillset of every physician is the differential diagnosis; this is the process by which new patients are evaluated to establish the most likely diagnosis. Similarly, the first clinical year of medical school is like a differential for each student, except instead of a medical diagnosis, students are seeking to determine which specialty they will choose. This column explores this differential: experiences from each rotation by a current third year student.
Doctors-in-training have heard this question thousands of times, beginning the moment they announced their intentions to pursue a career as a physician: The question, of course, is some variant of “What kind of doctor do you want to be?” Before I interviewed for medical school, I was told to answer noncommittally; it was suggested that, if I already knew what kind of doctor I planned to become, it would imply the clinical years weren’t important to me. I was told to leave it open-ended so as not to rule any specialty out too early. I see the value in that—looking back, how could I have possibly had a good idea, given my limited clinical exposure before medical school? Even for students that do have clinical experience, it’s easy to imagine they could change their minds and, regardless, should be open to learning from the clinical years. Similarly, we were told not to answer too definitively during third year either—the idea being that if we tell an attending what we want to do, and it isn’t the specialty we are currently working with, we will be permanently alienating ourselves from that profession.

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Conquering Organic Chemistry

Organic Chemistry is a hurdle every premed must undertake. For many, it can dissuade you from pursuing your dreams of becoming a physician. This guide is here to prevent that, and instead help you come to terms with the beast commonly referred to as “orgo” or “ochem.”
First and foremost, let’s debunk a couple myths surrounding the subject.

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Managing Anxiety on Test Day

managing anxiety

Taking the MCAT can be a nerve-wracking experience. In fact, many students develop significant test anxiety as a result of the MCAT’s role in the medical school admissions process. If this scenario describes you, here are several tips to help you successfully manage this anxiety:

1. Review difficult details and concepts on your test day
As you study for the MCAT, proactively compile a list of those details and concepts that you consistently struggle to understand. On the morning of your exam, wake up an hour early to review this list. This can help you refresh your memory and begin the MCAT in a much calmer mood.

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Managing Bipolar Disorder in Medical School

Two days before interviewing at the medical school I now attend, I couldn’t get out of bed. At the nadir of my eighth major depressive episode in eight years, I seriously considered whether I could make the trip. Thankfully, I did. And thankfully, six days after that interview I met the psychiatrist who would finally piece together my long and steadily worsening psychiatric history.

I sat in his office, quiet and dulled compared to my spring and summer self, and began recounting my story – the weightiness of my current depression, the semester in college marked by a mere two to four hours of sleep a night (“insomnia” according to my doctor then), and the clockwork nature of my mood changes each year. Within ten minutes, he stopped me mid-sentence and said, almost casually, “You know, you show a lot of signs of bipolar disorder.”

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How My Research Degree Taught Me I’m Not a Surgeon

Recognizing the connection between lab work and surgery
What surprised me the most during my medical school journey was that it was primarily lab work, not my surgery rotation, that taught me I was not a surgeon. The type of experience my lab work entailed had absolutely nothing to do with surgery or clinical medicine, so it was a peculiar and fortuitous realization. I do not believe when entering medical school that I had ever thought about doing research, but our program strongly advocated it. I met with various advisors in first year and decided I was going to transition into the combined PhD program.

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How Nontraditional Students Can Best Position Themselves When Applying to Med School

A friend of mine studied film in college and subsequently found himself working as a cameraman for a documentary television program about the lives of EMTs and ER physicians. He experienced some very tense situations, and from his work decided that he wanted to do more than document how people received medical care—his desire was to participate in the action of helping others as a doctor.
Unfortunately, his film education was the furthest possible undergrad experience he could have from pre-med. He had no applicable science credits, no anatomy or physiology, and the only shadowing he had done of physicians had been with a camera in hand. In short, his path would be an arduous one, and he was soon going to turn 31.

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Paving the Road to Medical School

The path to becoming a doctor can feel daunting. For those of us that don’t come from a medical family, it can be challenging to navigate what all you need to do to be a competitive candidate. As a third year psychiatry resident looking back on my pre-med days, I realize just how lost-in-the-woods I felt at times trying to figure out how to get where I wanted to go. Here are half a dozen steps you can take to help pave the way to medical school. 

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Medical School Interview Do’s and Don’ts

One of the most important phases of the application process is your interview. It’s your chance to demonstrate your communication and interpersonal skills, judgment, maturity, and the qualities that are important for a future physician. It’s also your opportunity to see if the school’s learning environment and culture is a good fit for you. It may seem early to start thinking about interviewing, but some medical schools start as early as July, while others interview throughout the fall and spring until their class is filled.
To help make your interview day a success, here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind as you prepare.

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Poker Face: Interpersonal Comparisons in Medical School

interpersonal comparison

Poker, one may reasonably argue, is a game of sheer luck; he (or she) who happens upon the most desirable combination of cards will likely win the round of bets. However, as seasoned players know, the art of poker lies in its psychology. The ability of the player to keep an emotionless persona not just when dealt an appealing hand but especially when dealt a bad one—the poker face—is how competitors can trick each other to win in high stakes situations regardless of their cards.
I find at times medical school to be like a big poker game, with its players the medical students. The stakes are plentiful: a “bet” of a couple hundred thousand dollars that a medical degree will be obtained, a desired specialty (though I am in awe how some of us have already chosen or eliminated fields within months of donning the white coat), a coveted residency program, a preferred lifestyle, and more. With our futures on the line, it is thus natural that we all play our cards to the best of our abilities.

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