I’ve had requests to talk more about my Step 1 plan: what I’ve done so far, what I plan to do in the coming months, and when I’m taking it. So I figured I would answer some of these questions in hopes that it will help at least one person out there struggling along with me. My school’s M2 curriculum ends May 19th and M3 clinicals starts July 1st, so we get 6 weeks between when classes stop and rotations begin to study for Step, take Step 1, and then have some sort of a ‘break’. I’ve scheduled my test to have 4 weeks of dedicated study time, and 2 weeks of break before surgery rotation starts. Knowing myself, I knew I’d want at least 2 weeks to decompress and relax, so that was the main factor in scheduling my test when I did – I worked backwards from how much time I definitely wanted to have off. Because my school is on the shorter side in terms of time off to study for Step, most of us in the program start studying between January – March in order to slowly spread out studying, with that being said, most of the M3’s that I’ve talked to this year told me that they improved their Step1 score by about 30 points during their 4 weeks of studying, so most of us really cram at the end.
My ideal goal for this year was to mainly focus on my school’s curriculum and use some Step1 resources that aligned with what we were learning in school up until spring break. Then my goal was to start focusing more on Step1 than my school’s curriculum after spring break in order to get a solid basis before heading into dedicated study period. In the fall, we had MSK, Neuro, Endo, and Repro blocks, and between winter break and spring break we had Cardio and Pulm. For these blocks, I did my class assigned readings, the associated Pathoma chapters (some 2x) and looked through/annotated First Aid. I also used the USMLE-RX QBank to do tutor mode questions limited to the organ block we were studying. I bought USMLE RX videos in December, and started to go through the videos – my only regret so far was not buying this sooner! So this was basically where I was a few weeks ago… Spring break was in mid February, and from spring break to May, my curriculum covers Heme/Onc, GI and Renal blocks. Over spring break, I focused on some of the chapters in First Aid that we learned during M1: immunology and microbiology (I also wanted to do pathology and pharmacology but that did not happen). I bought UWorld at the end of spring break and have now been focusing on doing between 7-9 tests a week.
My current UWorld strategy is to do timed blocks of 40 questions, which I usually finish in around 45 minutes. Then I go back over the test that same day by flagging any questions I got wrong as well as questions I got correct but don’t feel as comfortable with, and I take notes on all questions I got wrong and about 1/2 of the questions I got right. Basically if I am not 100% confident, I’ll take notes on it. I take notes using the note function in the UWorld program, and I try to limit myself to 2 sentences unless it is a topic that I am really weak on. For me, typing is so much more efficient than hand writing, so this was my main motivator to type my notes. I used the UWorld notes over a word document because it is there and easy to use, and because it can organize the notes based off of topic (pathology vs physiology vs pharmacology) as well as by organ block. You can print or save the notes as a giant PDF file whenever you want and organized in either way. Aside from taking notes on the application, I am also hand drawing some of the figures / charts that UWorld provides. I typically hand draw around 3 – 4 figures per block, and again, there are on topics that I am not as comfortable with.
Looking ahead, my goal is to have completed UWorld 1.5x (1x and then 1x through my flagged ?’s) before dedicated study time starts. I also plan to have finished all USMLE-RX videos and all Pathoma videos by then as well. I know both of these goals are ambitious, but I know myself and I know that I like to shoot high, and that I’m okay if I don’t quite meet all my goals (this does not work for everyone). Maintaining a balance between studying, being prepared for class, as well as staying active and having some self care time is important to me, so my plans/goals might change a little over the next few months. I haven’t made my study plan for dedicated study time yet, so that will be another post in the future. I hope this was helpful, and if you have any questions feel free to connect with me on instagram @beingfranke !
Okay so for a while now I wanted to share my all time favorite tip for success: having a routine. I didn’t understand the need for a routine until I was in the midst of my second year of college when everything started to get extremely difficult and I felt constantly unorganized. Throughout my sophomore and junior years at Princeton, I learned some things about myself that have continued to help me succeed, stay on top of my work, and allow time for self care activities. So I’m going to share my top 5 tips on how to establish and master your routine.
So tell me, are you a fan of routines?? Let me know about your routine in the comments below or find me on instagram @beingfranke
Maevn Uniforms reached out to me to test out their Red Panda and Eon scrub collections. Maevn Uniforms is a Texas-based brand that offers high-quality male and female medical apparel. One thing I really like about the brand is that their main goal is to provide high quality scrubs and uniforms while working with a high level of integrity, reliability and transparency. Those are three qualities that I love to see in a company. I was excited to get the scrubs and test them out.
The Red Panda Collection is Maevn’s classic professional scrub line. The scrubs are very polished with straight clean lines. The fabric is slightly thicker than what I typically think of as an every day scrub, and this really adds to the professional look. The fabric feels durable and high quality. I wouldn’t be concerned about the material wearing down any time soon – the fabric and the stitching is made to last. The pockets were large and easily held a lot of weight/material without distorting the look of the scrubs. I loved that the V-neck had two front patch pockets – they were extremely practical in size and location. Overall I found this line to be everything it was advertised as – polished, professional, comfortable, and practical. If you’re looking for a solid professional scrub line – I would recommend the Red Panda Collection in a heart beat.
The second line that I tried was the new Eon Active collection. This line seriously blew me away. The material is light weight, super soft, and feels like butter. If you’ve ever tried on LuLu-Lemon or Athleta yoga pants – you know the feeling I’m talking about. It’s the type of fabric that you could live in everyday for the rest of your life without getting tired of it. The fabric is designed to be both breathable and moisture wicking. The fabric draws moisture away from the skin to keep you cool and dry. It is also extremely easy to move in these scrubs – I felt like I could do an entire workout in them. This Eon Active Collection is perfect for health care workers that are constantly on their feet (i.e. about 90% of health care workers haha). The waistband cargo pant has the most comfortable waist band I’ve ever worn on a scrub, and the pockets were large but did not distract from the shape or appearance of the scrubs. I also loved that there is a cell pocket that perfectly fits my iphone. Not only was the fabric amazing, but the scrubs were super flattering. Seriously I am now obsessed with these scrubs.
If you’re looking for some new scrubs, definitely check out Maevn Uniforms and let me know what you think!
I spent some time over the holidays reflecting on my triumphs and struggles of 2016, as well as what I wanted to do in 2017. For me, 2016 was not a magical or special year, it had it’s mixes of both ups and downs. For the ups, I ran my very first half marathon in May, which was quickly followed by another half marathon in July, a 10 miler in August, and a 25K trail race in November. I finished my first year of medical school, and then spent an amazing 10 weeks doing clinical research on Binge Eating Disorder in Pediatrics. I subsequently presented a poster on my research and just wrote up the first draft for (hopefully!) publication. I went to a broadway show, NFL game, and saw the Nutcracker. I also tried a few new things, including scuba diving, mountain biking, and get skiing in 2016! I spent a beautiful week in the Dominican Republic, and another beach-filled week in Marco Island, Fl. All in all, 2016 had some pretty amazing moments.
When I was reflecting, I did notice a few trends that I plan to improve on during 2017. The biggest thing that I want to change is how I respond to stress. I realized that when I became stressed or ‘too busy’, I would stop working out, socializing, and meal planning, and my junk food/convenience food intake would greatly increase. This led to quite a few lbs added on during 2016. Similarly, my self-care, exercise, and healthy eating habits were wildly inconsistent. Yes I ran my farthest races to date in 2016, but I also went weeks at a time with little to no exercise. I lost 6 lbs doing the whole 30 in the fall, but then gained 12 back over the next several weeks… I feel like I learned a lot about what is best for me and for my body in 2016, but I did not stick with it and make it a true lifestyle change. Those habits are being left behind in 2016.
So looking ahead, I want to focus on nourishment and consistency. My goal is one of a life style change. I will take my best exercise, nutritional, self-care, and relationship actions from 2016 and turn them into my new norm. I know I’ll have set backs, but the quicker I can pick myself back up after I fall, then the greater the amount of time that I will be on my feet. It starts on Sunday 1/1 with a restart of the Whole30-ish (haha my -ish is the addition of legumes). What are your goals for 2017? Comment below or find me on instagram @beingfranke
During my first year of medical school, there were very few things that I wasn’t learning how to do. Big picture included relearning how to study, manage my time, and grocery shop/cook for myself every week (living at home during my year off had its perks – thanks mom!). Also I had to learn new things, such as the entire first year curriculum, how to interact with patients, how to learn from a case based curriculum, and how to survive in Cleveland during the winter. So to simplify it, last year was a year of growth, but what I want to focus on in this post are the study skills that I learned.
The first, and probably biggest thing that I had to learn was that it was totally okay to change study habits multiple times throughout the year. I had to keep tweaking things until about April when I found what worked best for me. So if you’re an M1 and have been taking notes or studying a particular way since the beginning, don’t be afraid to switch it up if it isn’t working. To give you an example, I started off last fall taking hand notes on all of my readings, and reading all of the Boron Physiology assignments. I learned after the first block that it just wasn’t sustainable. I was wasting way too much time writing things out. I then went to writing really thorough computer notes while also reading every page assigned word for word. This definitely sped up my note taking process, but after a few months I was honest with myself that I just wasn’t retaining the information, and I was probably still spending too much time on each reading assignment. I kept switching my approach every block or so. Seriously the best thing that I did was not being afraid to change my study habits. The key outcomes to look for when deciding what works best for you are efficiency, retention, and completion. So in other words: are you getting through the amount of work that you have to do, are you spending an appropriate (not too long) amount of time doing it, and are you actually gaining knowledge from it / able to remember what you learned later on. I finally settled on a strategy that works for me almost near the end of first year. My strategy consists of quickly look at the readings to decide if they will be useful or if I want to use a different resource. Then I print the reading into OneNote (a Microsoft software), and I actively read by highlighting and scribbling a few notes into the OneNote document right one top or next to the pages. And that’s it. This way I am engaged with the assignment, but it is quick and efficient.
Similarly, my second piece of advice is to allow yourself to find resources that work for you. My curriculum assigned Boron’s Medical Physiology textbook for most of my required readings last year. This textbook is amazing if you want to understand the true mechanisms and biochemistry of physiology, as well as sometimes the evolution behind it. The amount of detail is amazing (and occasionally overwhelming), and sometimes organization of the chapters can make it a little hard to follow if you aren’t on your A game. I read onle Boron for the first 4 months of school before I discovered other physiology textbooks that I also found useful. I found Guyton and Hall to be the right level of detail and clinical orientation for a lot of different organ systems, and I used Costanzo’s Physiology when I wanted big picture concepts (before or at the end of a block for summary). There were a lot of specific organ system related textbooks that I had electronic access too through my library that I loved; some examples include William’s Gynecology and William’s Obstetrics. Also, I found Nature Review Articles to be really useful for mechanistic and more small scale but in-depth looks at specific topics. So in summary, your school is going to assign specific textbooks, but use your library to check a few others out!
Lastly, I learned to set a study routine. My curriculum does not have tests or exams, so it was important for me to stay on top of the material each and every week so as to not fall behind. I worked out a system where I would spend the weekday mornings doing work, Saturdays were spent catching up on the previous week (usually about 6 hours of work), and Sundays were spent reviewing for the week ahead along with chores/errands (usually 6 hours of work, and 2 hours of errands). By utilizing my weekends, I was able to not study most weekdays after dinner. Weekday evenings were able to be my self-care/workout/netflix time, and this significantly helped my stress levels. Your study routine will depend on your curriculum, but by having a routine, you’ll be able to keep your weekly study hours consistent and hold yourself accountable.
I’d love to hear what study skills you learned from your first few months of medical school! Comment below or find me on instagram @beingfranke
Applying to medical school can be extremely difficult and tricky. Not only does the process take almost an entire year, but the planning starts years before with scheduling out required courses and taking the MCAT. The personal statement writing process alone can take months! If this does not sound like enough obstacles to jump though, one additional challenge that I was not even aware of when I applied was having to understand all of the different medical school curricula (okay people this is the plural for curriculum… I wanted to write curriculums but spell check taught me otherwise – you really are constantly learning in med school! haha). When I applied, I understood the basic framework for medical school: the first two years are spent in lecture/class learning the material out of textbooks, and the 3rd and 4th years are spent doing clinical rotations where you are learning in a hands on environment in the hospital. It wasn’t until I had attended a few interviews that I started to realize just how different medical school curricula for years 1-2 can be! Because of this, I wanted to write a blog post that could perhaps shed a little light onto this topic for anyone going through or who will go through this process.
The first difference between curricula, and perhaps one of the biggest differences, is between course based (sometimes referred to as block schedule but this can also mean different things) and integrative organ based curricula. In a traditional course based system, students will take one or a few different courses at a time, similarly to how courses are designed in undergrad. For example, anatomy and histology can be taught together in a block. This means that during that specific block, say for 12 weeks, the students are only studying anatomy and histology, but they are learning all of it during that time. Other courses that are often put together in blocks include genetics & biochemistry, and microbiology & pharmacology (aka Bugs and Drugs). This is drastically different from an integrative curriculum where all of these different topics (anatomy, genetics, biochemistry, pharmacology, ect.) are taught together with regard to a particular organ system (often also organized in ‘blocks’). For example, during one “organ block” (ex: 8 weeks long), students take classes that all have to do with the cardiovascular system. Therefore in a given week, they may have a thoracic cavity anatomy session, a lecture on the physiology of the heart, and a lecture on cardiovascular pharmacology. After one organ system block, they then move onto another organ system (examples: endocrinology, pulmonology, musculo-skeletal system). If you can understand these two types of curriculums, then you have a good grasp on one of the major differences between schools! But as if things are complicated enough, some schools do a combination curriculum where the core basic sciences are taught alone in blocks (such as biochemistry, genetics ect.) and then organ block systems follow (looking at physiology, pathology ect.).
Within integrative curriculums, there are also differences with regard to whether or not physiology is taught along with or before pathology. Some schools like to teach all normal physiology the first year so the students understand how the body is supposed to work, and then dive into pathology, or what can go wrong, during the second year. This is nice because you get to see different organ systems twice, but it can also make for shorter looks at the organ system each time. Other curricula tend to dive all the way into the organ system that they are focusing on – showing both the normal and the abnormal at the same time.
The last curriculum buzz word that you might hear more of, especially as the years go by and curricula get updated, is Problem Based Learning. Problem Based Learning typically refers to small group classes (for example around 8-12 students in a group) where students work together to solve different problems or patient cases. These types of classes focus on integrating concepts, working with others and being a team player! Typically Problem Based Learning is used in addition to traditional lectures or seminars where a professor is teaching the material. They can be really helpful in actually applying the material to more realistic and patient focused situations.
I hope this blog post will be helpful to at least one med school applicant! If you have any questions with regard to curricula or want my opinion on the different pros/cons – feel free to reach out to me on instagram @beingfranke!
I finished the Whole 30 and overall I had a really good experience with it! I found some new products that I love (such as MaraNatha All Natural Coconut Almond Butter Creamy) and I tried a ton of new recipes. After the first 2.5 weeks, the negative tired/hungry feelings went away. My runs improved, and my energy levels were great!
Whole30 works for me because it cuts out three main food groups that I know do not work well with my body. Refined/white carbohydrates, added sugar, and dairy are typically not my friend. Over the years and after a few different elimination diets, I know that these contribute to low energy, bloating, and an overall sluggish feeling for me. I also know however that without dairy, I personally struggle to get my daily calcium intake – so I can’t see myself cutting this out 100%. Eliminating refined carbs, sugar and diary are what I have found work for me – but they won’t work for everyone. I highly recommend you try out an elimination diet if you feel as though certain foods may be negatively affecting you!
Although it was a great experience – I don’t think Whole 30 is the best food plan for me (it isn’t designed as a constant eating pattern but I’m just making this statement as if it is). One thing that I struggle to full get behind on the Whole 30 is the absence of legumes. Legumes are nutrient dense, contains carbohydrates protein and healthy fat, and they pack a ton of fiber into one serving. Fiber, and specifically legumes, has been shown to have amazing health benefits. So many studies support the use of beans, lentils, and other legumes as part of a healthy diet – and if one is vegetarian, they are a very important source of protein. I am also a huge believer in variety, and eating foods at the top of the food pyramid (sugar ect.) in very tiny moderation, so cutting out foods entirely isn’t usually something I enjoy.
Overall though, the Whole 30 was a really great experience. I lost 6 lbs during it, and I felt amazing! I will definitely consider doing it again soon (maybe with legumes next time haha).
So I am officially 12 days into the Whole 30! I wanted to write this post to share the ups, downs, and thoughts that I have had so far. Overall, it has been a really positive experience and I am feeling great. Even though the stress of school has elevated significantly from first year, I’m not craving ice cream pints or that everything bagel anymore.
So let’s start with the bad. Most of the negative experiences were during the first 6 days or so. I was eating refined carbohydrates fairly frequently before this, so I did feel a withdraw from the carbs and sugar. The first four days were the worst. I was constantly hungry, tired, and had an off and on headache. I also ran 3 miles on day 2, and it was my slowest 3 miler in a very long time, but nothing was worse then the 5 miler that I tried to do on day 4 – that was downright awful. I probably ended up walking almost 1/3 of my ‘run’. I felt like I had no energy and my head was foggy. Since then, the only negative thing I have been experiencing is a little more fatigue than usual on my long runs. I started eating a sweet potato the day before my long runs to see if it helps – I’ll let you all know how it goes after my 8 miler tomorrow.
So the positives are starting to trickle in. Since around day 7 my hunger has significantly subsided. My energy is elevated and constant – no more mid-day cravings for a venti iced latte. Overall my mood has been good! I’m a little stressed with school work but I’m actually surprised at the lack of external stress manifestation that’s going on comparative to the to do list on my desk. I am also really enjoying the time that I am spending in the kitchen trying new recipes. Below is a carnitas recipe that I modified (added 2 tsp garlic powder and 1 tsp onion powder to the rub) and seriously was amazed at how it came out! Nothing like a good crockpot win! Also because I have been thinking a little more about my meals and what I am buying at the grocery store, I am actually saving time spent in the kitchen with my meal planning. So overall I think the positives are starting to outweigh the negatives, but it was a rough start haha!
If you have done Whole 30 before, I’d love to hear how the start of it was for you. Also if you have any good recipes please send them my way!
Carnitas Recipe: <http://www.anyaseats.com/slow-cooker-paleo-pulled-pork/>
So last Monday I started doing the Whole 30, and I wanted to share a little bit about why I decided to do it. Let me start off by saying that I usually don’t support fad diets. Nutrition is an area of research that we still learn about every year, and as one’s medical conditions and activities change, so do their dietary necessities. I also don’t believe that the Whole 30 is the best diet out there – but I do believe that it is one of a few good places to start if you’re interested in changing your diet to benefit your health. I find it hard to believe that any one way of eating is “the best” way of eating. If I’m being critical, I don’t believe absence of all grains, dairy, and legumes is “healthy” (refined sugar on the other hand is a different story). In other words I don’t believe that everyone benefits from cutting out these staples especially since there is a lot of positive research supporting them in health and wellness.
So why did I decide to eliminate sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, alcohol, and any refined/processed/chemically laden foods for 30 days? Because I know myself well and I knew this would be a good way to kick my butt back on track. This past summer I got out of sync with my normal eating patterns. I was eating more carbohydrates (think white pasta and everything bagels), and eating less vegetables than I would have liked. My weight increased a bit and my loose pants started to feel snug. I knew I wanted to make a change and I thought the first week of 2nd year organ blocks would be the perfect time to do it.
I personally don’t do great when I say “okay starting Monday I’ll eat healthy”. I know myself and I know that when I implement a behavioral change, I do better with set goals and set guidelines. Whole30 provided me with the goal and guidelines, and all I had to do was follow through. I was also inspired by one of my good friends who successfully completed the Whole30 and saw some really positive results. I did a similar, but more intense, elimination diet last year called the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol (AIP) to see if eliminating certain foods would help my chronic eczema. Although the AIP protocol did not help my eczema, I felt amazing overall. I attributed the positive changes in my energy and overall health mainly to the reduction of refined carbohydrates and maybe (still undecided) the reduction of dairy. So when I saw the guidelines for the Whole30, I figured it wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
I’ll update with how the Whole30 is going this weekend, and then again at the end of the 30 days! One thing I will say right now though is that I’m loving exploring new recipes – I made slow cooker carnitas this week that were 100x better than chipotle. If you’re interested in learning more about the Whole30, I’ll post the website link below (realize though the the diet’s website will be inherently biased!). I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Whole30 – please comment below or comment on instagram!
These past few weeks have been a little crazy with the summer research block coming to a close. Between abstract submissions, presentations, and keeping up with the class work, I’ve had my hands full with med school life. Although it has been a little busier than normal lately, I balanced my priorities and made sure to sneak some self care into my schedule. I wanted to share some of those self care activities with you.
One of my favorite ways to deal with stress is to leave the books, the emails, and the text messages behind and head out into nature. This is usually in the form of running trails or hiking. I went on quite a few runs over the past few weeks, but my favorite one was on the Towpath Trail south of the city. The trail extends for miles and miles and snakes along a river – so the views are gorgeous and the path is flat (major plus in my book! haha). One of my secret reasons why I love running on trails and in parks is because there are so many dogs! And there is no better excuse to take a break than meeting a new furry friend! I actually have run into the same dog (Pumpkin!) now so many times on a trail by my house that the owner has started recognizing me. The only downside to my pup breaks is that sweaty hands + fluffy pups = fur covered hands, but I don’t mind! Even if there are no dogs, getting outside and having nothing else better to do than move your body does wonders for stress levels.
When all your friends are medical students, organizing nights out can get difficult. One of my favorite self care activities is to organize events that my friends can attend. My friends and I love paint nights because it allows us to schedule far in advanced to ensure we can all attend, and its also therapeutic to paint (no skills required!). Even if you are total science nerds like us, I highly encourage you to try sometime artistic every now and then. My roommate and I also go on spontaneous pottery painting trips throughout the year – it’s a great way to do something creative and take home a fun mug or bowl!
If I’m anxious, upset, or basically anything other than happy, being near water has a way of making everything better. I grew up by the water, and its something that feels so normal and calming to me. Before I interviewed in Cleveland I was worried about being in the Mid West and away from the coast – but I quickly learned that Cleveland is on the North Coast! Lake Erie is amazing. Last week my roommate and I went to a park on the lake and watched the sun set right over the water – it was gorgeous. I can be on a beach in minutes, or I can visit numerous rivers and creeks on hikes all around the city. I’ve been considering purchasing a small fountain for my room because that’s how much I just love the sound of water.
These are some of my favorite self care activities and they’re ones that I do quite often. I’d love to hear what your favorite self care activities are – feel free to comment below or let me know on instagram (@beingfranke).
Hi! My name is Caroline Franke and I am a second year medical student in North East Ohio. I love cooking, running, and playing with dogs and kids. I am on a mission to learn as much as I can about nutrition, mental health, and physical well being. Feel free to join along as I try to navigate the world of wellness.
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