I just finished 6 weeks of my surgery rotation – and I LOVED it! It was such a great experience. I learned more than I can put into words. I saw so many interesting cases, and I was able to connect with patients on a whole different level than I was used to. First, I did four weeks of general surgery on a team that truly sees everything general surgery has to offer: hernias, appy’s and choley’s, breast surgeries, exploratory laparatomies, gastric bypass, colectomies and different anastomoses procedures, thyroid and parathyroid removals, and lipomas and I&Ds. I scrubbed in on so many different types of cases. I was able to hear the patients stories before the surgeries, scrub in on their cases, and follow up with them afterwards. I became very good at retracting, suctioning, using the laparoscopic camera and suturing.
The hours were definitely long. I arrived at the hospital at 4:30 am to get numbers with the interns. We rounded 6-7ish, and then I was typically in the OR from 7 am – 6 pm, leaving the hospital on average around 7 pm. There was one day I left a little before 5 pm, and there were a few days I was there till 8 pm. Besides the fact that the hours were long, the days seemed to fly by. Four weeks was over before I knew it, and I wanted more!
After 4 weeks on general surgery, I then chose pediatric surgery as my elective within the surgical block. I chose this because 1) I love kids, and 2) I thought it would involve cases that I didn’t get any exposure to during the previous 4 weeks. The two weeks on pediatric surgery were completely different: the team was smaller, the patient list was 1/5 of the size, my hours were closer to 12 hours, and the patients were a lot smaller and way cuter. One thing I learned that I was not aware of, was that pediatric surgeons actually do a lot in the thoracic cavity, and I was able to see some pretty awesome thoracic cases.
Some things I learned that helped me during these 6 weeks on surgery:
I really am going to miss the OR. Hopefully I’ll see it again in OB/GYN. Next up is two week in ED! I’m excited for a change of pace while still being able to wear scrubs.
I am officially two weeks out from finishing Step 1, so I wanted to write this post while everything was still fresh in my mind to hopefully help others with this first medical board exam. I’m going to organize this post chronologically to help with organization. If you want more info on what I did earlier in the school year (Sept – March), just go back one blog post for that recap. Ok so grab a drink and maybe even some popcorn and tune in for all the info…
Main dates: started UWorld March 1st. Finished first pass UWorld April 23rd. Finished UWorld marked questions for a second pass May 19th. Dedicated study period began May 20th. Step 1 June 19th.
Pre-March, I focused on my course work and the organ blocks that were were in. I did use the USMLE RX question bank but only did questions on the topic we were covering at the time and definitely didn’t make a big dent into it. I had been through all of Sketchy Micro 2-3 times, and therefore I was pretty comfortable with micro. My curriculum still had not covered Heme, Onc, GI or Renal when I started UWorld.
March – Mid May:
From March through mid May, I still had classes 4 days per week and roughly 1-2 clinical afternoon sessions a week, so I was balancing Step 1 studying with my curriculum. My goal was to finish my first pass of UWorld as well as my second pass through marked questions before my dedicated study period started May 20th. I made it a goal to finish my first pass in 7 weeks, which equaled to 9 blocks per week. I did 40 question blocks on timed mode with all the subjects/systems checked off . I made this work with my schedule by getting to school at 5:30/6 am and working until class began at 8 am. I would usually get through a block of questions (about 45 minutes) and a third of the way through reviewing the block before 8 am. I tried to finish the review that afternoon/evening, but there were definitely some days where I wasn’t able to get through reviewing the entire block so then I would have to catch up later in the week. On Thursdays (we didn’t have class) as well as one weekend day (either Saturday or Sunday) – I would do two blocks and review them. That way,I was able to do 9 blocks a week. In the beginning, it took me around 2.5 hours to review one block, but within 3 weeks I had it down to 2 hours or less. During my first pass through UWorld, I took notes using the Note function that was built into the UWorld application. I tried to keep my notes short, about 3 sentences per question, and I would only take notes on questions that I either got wrong or was not confident with. These were the same questions that I flagged. During my first pass, I probably had notes written for roughly 65% of the questions.
So I was able to finish my first pass of UWorld in 7 weeks. I then had 4 weeks left of school until my dedicated period started, so my second goal was to go back through my flagged questions for a second pass (I called this my 1.5 pass since it wasn’t all 2,000+ questions again). I saw huge improvements on my second pass, and my time management and efficiency greatly improved. I took ~ 45 minutes to complete a block, but only around 1 hour to review a block – and this time I hand wrote notes. I organized my notes in a binder divided by First Aid Chapters. I would only write down a few lines per question that I got wrong. I ended up finishing this second pass on my last day of M2 which was right on target with my goal. During the last few weeks before dedicated as well as throughout dedicated study period, I also started really watching Sketchy Medical Pharm videos which was something I hadn’t done. My one regret was not starting this sooner. The last thing I did before dedicated was that I reset my UWorld account (but not before saving all my notes as a PDF!).
The last two weeks of classes I started planning out my 4 weeks of dedicated study period. I planned to take 4 NBMEs – one a week every week except for the last week before my exam, as well as both UWorld Assessments. I planned to do the NBMEs in order in such a way that I ended with the most recent exam, so I worked my way back 4 exams and started with that one. I took that first NBME on my last Monday of the M2 school year (5 weeks before my exam). I used the results of that NBME as well as the overall UWorld reports to plan out my study period. My plan was to start with my weaknesses in the beginning, hit my strengths in the middle, and then cover everything again at the end while dedicating more time to my weaknesses. I also planned to do around 3 UWorld blocks a day, but I also knew that I wanted to be flexible with this.
Dedicated Study Period: Mid May – Mid June (4 Weeks)
I studied a little bit the weekend right after school ended, but I also took some time to relax and refresh before it really started. I started that Monday with my second NBME and 3 UWorld blocks for a total of 7 blocks. During that first week, I covered Neuro, Cardio, and Biochem. I treated each day similar to a work day and studied with two of my classmates. We would carpool to school at 6:30 am, work in a study room all day – we wrote the date on the white board every day to help us keep track of time (trust me, it can feel like a time warp), and we also had motivation posters up around the room for some inspiration. In the mornings, I did 2-4 UWorld blocks (depended on the day), reviewed the blocks, and then started on my First Aid chapter of the day. Because I had already done so much UWorld, I made sure to prioritize content review – I prioritized getting through my assigned First Aid Organ System for that day over making sure I got through all of UWorld again. We would quietly work until lunch, take a 15 minute break and then spend the rest of lunch hour eating and reviewing 7 sketchy micro videos per day. To review the videos, we had a deck of study cards and would call out one bug name (ex: Staph Aureus), we then each wrote down everything we could remember about that bug in the span of a minute or two, and then we would review our Sketchy Notes to see what we missed. Actively quizzing myself really helped me to retain the little details I wasn’t remembering. After our lunch hour, we continued to work until around 6 pm (some nights it was 5, others went to 7:30, it just depended on how we felt). When I got home, I would either workout, do a little (1 hr max) more work, or just eat dinner and relax. I tried to be in tune with myself to see how I was feeling and decide what I needed that day. On average, I worked out 4-5 days a week doing 30 – 45 minute workouts. I truly believe this kept me sane and kept my mind quiet at night allowing me to sleep well throughout study period. I also kept a very strict sleep schedule – in bed no later than 10 pm (9 most nights), and up at 5:15 every morning. For the most part I tried to eat healthy but I definitely struggled in this area – I found myself using snacks as breaks during the day and also opted for easier food options like packing a sandwich over a salad. Speaking of breaks – I took a 5 minute break about every hour – either walking to refill my water bottle, using the restroom, or just looking at instagram and replying to some of yall’s sweet comments from that day’s post. I continued this every day. On weekends, we went to a different location (conference room at the hospital) to help keep things fresh – plus it had giant windows which was awesome.
So as previously mentioned, the first two weeks were focused on my weaknesses, the third weak I zoomed through my strengths, and the last week I covered everything again with more time spent on the weaknesses. Every week (except for the last week) I took an NBME exam followed by a few UWorld blocks and reviewed them that day. I also did the UWorld assessments but I did them instead of my morning UWorld blocks on the days they were scheduled. Each week I saw my scores climb closer and closer to my goal. Each week reassured me that the hard work was paying off. I didn’t have to adjust my study habits or schedule during dedicated, but I was constantly assessing to see if it was needed.
Honestly, I think one of the things that helped me the most was having my two study partners. Find someone that works harder than you, and ask to study with them. That’s what I did and it was awesome. We had a no goof off study zone – we worked in silence for 97% of the time, and 3% of the time we were venting, laughing, crying, and cheering each other on. If one person was making a coffee run, they’d check to see if anyone else wanted something. We kept each other accountable and made sure no one went to nap on the couch unless it was absolutely necessary. There were several times when one of us swore we were getting dumber or going crazy, and the other two were the rock and made sure we didn’t drift away from the stress. Being with others that are going through the same process can be an amazing help – and this is one of my #1 tips!
Week Before the Test:
The week before the exam, I paid extra attention to my sleep, my workouts, as well as my studies. I hit every topic again (some days I went through 2-3 First Aid Chapters) and made sure to really focus on the things I struggled with rather than just rereading everything. Some tables/images I completely skipped because I knew I was comfortable with them. Other topics (for example: heart murmurs) I would spend 30 minutes on re-writing and studying. The other thing I did my last week that I would highly recommend is that I took the free 120 USMLE questions at my testing center (its not free if you take it at the center but its worth it in my opinion). I scheduled it for the same time of day as my Step 1 test to check out traffic, parking ect. I was able to see how the center functioned and learn how the process worked. This was a huge help and really made me feel calm on test day. If you’re planning on doing this before your test (highly recommended), do know that it takes some time to sign up and register for the practice test, so you have to do it a few weeks in advanced. Besides the free 120, I didn’t take any practice tests during the last week – I wanted to focus on material.
By midway through my last week, I had completed 90% of the reset UWorld questions. At this point, I decided to go back through once again and hit the ones I had missed during this last pass rather than making sure I got through UWorld all the way. There weren’t too many blocks and I split them up over 3 days, so it was pretty light on the quantity of questions, but there were also questions I was seeing for the 3rd or 4th time so I wanted to make sure I learned them since obviously those were concepts I really struggled with.
The day before my test, I read through UWorld notes PDFs, watched a few Sketchy Medical videos, got a workout in, went to the grocery store to get lunch and snacks for test day, gassed up my car, and then was home and in PJs by 6:30 pm. I tried to relax and got in bed at 8:30.
I woke up at 5:15 like I did every day, showered and put on my favorite outfit. I left my house 2.5 hrs before my test time to reach a test center that was 30 minutes away. I stopped to get a bagel and coffee – I filled my travel thermos up with coffee to sip throughout the day. I reached the test center parking lot about 1 hr and 45 minutes before my test, 45 minutes before the testing centered open (yes I am one of those people). I flipped through some First Aid pages in my car but that was more to quiet my nerves than to actually look at any material. So here’s a major tip – call your test center and find out when you are allowed to start your test. My test center said that you are allowed to start the test 45 minutes before the actual scheduled time, so I went into the office an hour before my test time and started shortly after. I was one of the first ones there, so it was quiet and calm. I also used foam earplugs during the exam – and this blocked out all the noise of people coming and going throughout the day. I proceeded to take the test, skip out of the building, go right to Dairy Queen and eat an ice cream before driving back home. After I finished the test, I was expecting a rush of relief, but I think I was still to jacked up on caffeine and adrenaline. I went home, ordered delivery for dinner, opened a wine, and started the new OITNB season.
So that’s my Step 1 journey. Truly the only thing I wish I did differently was start Sketchy Pharm earlier. The other thing that I really wanted to say was that all throughout M2, I had heard people say “Everyone wishes that had taken Step 1 a week earlier”. But here’s my truth: looking back – I don’t wish I had taken it a week earlier – although I don’t think the last week greatly increased my knowledge, I do think it helped my nerves and my confidence therefore helping my score. Regardless – 4 weeks was perfect for me and it allowed me to have two weeks of vacation to spend time with my loved ones and relax.
I’m happy to write a more focused post on specific topics – Utilizing UWorld, planning your dedicated study schedule, ect. Send me a message on Instagram with any suggestions!
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/>
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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