med school: one block from ms2

Today I started the last block of MS1. My last block of my first year of medical school. I remember 7 years ago, graduating from undergrad and not thinking there was any way I could get into medical school. I remember feeling as if I was the biggest failure, ruining my entire future career over stupid adolescent decisions. I remember 5 years ago, getting rejected from over 50 schools for the third time, still holding onto hope, but taking a detour to get my MPH. I remember 2 years ago, getting rejected again from all the medical schools but being presented with an opportunity via a Master’s program. Fast forward a bit and I remember exactly one year ago I was anxiously studying for my Master’s of Medical Science classes hoping to end the year with the GPA needed to matriculate into medical school. Knowing that there would be no guarantee that I would be where I am at now, but it was my last and only chance at gaining admission into medical school. My resilience and grit prevailed.

It gives me goosebumps!

Now a year later, here I am logging into Zoom as I start my Clinical Neuroscience block. This past year went by much faster than I anticipated. Although day by day it felt like the days were long, retrospectively, everything has been moving so fast. So you all are probably wondering, how exactly has it been?

First of all – my whole entire year was via Zoom University. Yes, one whole entire year of medical school – remote. I was sitting in good old California while my professors were teaching from the East Coast. What did school look like? Classes were usually from 5am-2pm PST (9-5pm EST), with some days being shorter than others. All of my classes were mandatory – yup, cameras on even if it was just lecture. There were days that were jam-packed, with barely enough of a lunch break – while other days were filled with directed study materials. Direct study means you learn that material on your own. Labs were all virtual. Which was a bummer because one thing about med school I was looking forward to was cadaver lab!

My school has all of it’s exams bright and early on Mondays! We get the whole entire weekend dedicated to studying – which meant barely any weekends “off.” During my first semester I practically had an exam every Monday AM. The weekends I had off were the best – I have truly treasured them!

As for how my curriculum went, let’s dive in:

First Semester

The first 8 weeks were strictly dedicated to anatomy. They say you cannot truly dive into medicine until you have a core foundation of anatomy. Especially as an osteopathic medical school, we have been told that anatomy is everything.

Our anatomy courses consisted of labs and lectures. And I tell you, it was a lot. I found that each organ system needed a different learning approach. For example, MSK (musculoskeletal) required a ton of rote memorization for upper limb and lower limb muscles, functions, nerves, blood supply etc. While there were patterns, it really was all memorization. Whereas with GI (gastrointestinal) and REPRO (reproductive) I found it to make more sense logically. Overall, without physical lab sessions and study sessions, I struggled! It was hard to not have the ability to 3D visualize the organ systems. Plus, on a personal level, I was still getting used to 5am classes and learning to adapt to Zoom University.

Following my intensive anatomy bootcamp, we went into “Core.” Core consisted of typical basic medical science foundational classes to prime us for Systems. Due to the pandemic, our core classes were squished into 6 weeks. We had microbiology, immunology, physiology, history & physical (our “doctor” class), biochemistry and osteopathic principles & practice – crashed into a small amount of time. It was WILD! This was when we had an exam every Monday, and we were tested on the material from the week before. This was when I truly felt the “drinking out of a fire hydrant” metaphor.

My first semester ended early because I chose not to go to campus to complete my labs, covid cases were rising and traveling during Thanksgiving break did not sound ideal. Because of this I have a 2 week intensive bootcamp over the summer to makeup all my in person osteopathic labs.

Second Semester

After a much needed month off during December – where I lounged and chilled and even created my 12 days content – I started the semester with “Core II.” This block consisted of pharmacology, biochemistry II, and pathology. It was for about a month and then we dived into our first system!!! MSK! Okay I will be brutally honest – I hated MSK. Part of it is because I hated UL (upper limb) and LL (lower limb) so much. But for those of you who like bones, sporty injury, and all things movement and medicine – this will be for you. Me, not so much. Transitioning into systems was a steep learning curve. At this point you integrate all of core classes you learned to apply to this one organ system.

So what I mean by this is – you learn how everything is supposed to work (anatomy + physiology), how to diagnose (radiology + labs!), then what could go wrong (pathology) and what “bugs” could make it go wrong (microbiology) and how to fix it with drugs (pharmacology) or OMM (osteopathic medicine manipulation). Systems is all about integrating everything, so it takes time. I personally learned I am a bigger picture person – I like to see everything first and then break it down, so it’s taken me a little while to adapt but overall I love it.

After MSK we went into Basic Neuro, the block I just completed. This block was solely focused all neuroanatomy. We learned all things brain. This was tough af. The brain is on another level friends. Again, I needed to find a new way to learn things because my previous methods of learning was not working. Things did not “click” for me until 5 days before my first exam – which was not ideal!!

But, eventually it worked out. Thus far, I have passed all my blocks which is exciting. But I’m convinced if these were normal circumstances maybe I’d be able to do better.

Moving forward, I have started Clinical Neuroscience, which is all things that could go wrong in the brain. I’ve heard it is one of the hardest blocks, so what a way to end my first year of med school! I am excited to continue to be challenged.

Personal Reflections

Med school is tough. Honestly, I think about this a lot – how I have been wanting this for so long and it took me so long to get here. When I think about this, I remember how it honestly worked out for the best. The level of self-discipline and the amount of sacrifice that is needed for this field – you really have to be in the right headspace to go into this field. If I went into medical school straight out of undergrad, I know I was personally not in the right place in life to excel. At this point, I know I am in the right place. Mentally, I know how to cater to my mental health needs and the boundaries that are created for me to “call it” when I am drained. Physically, I know I am doing way better than I have been in the past with keeping myself active and eating appropriately. Spiritually, I have a better grasp on where I need to go if I feel like I am at a point where I cannot deal.

I feel like when going into the field of medicine – or any field of life that requires sacrifice, dedication, and commitment – you need a firm grasp on self. It is so hard to give yourself to a field if you are unsure of your motivations and your “why.” A lot of that stems from knowing self.

Also, I want to clarify I am not saying you have to be in perfect health to go to med school – but I do believe if you are in a place where you can address your physical, mental, spiritual, and other dimensions of wellness – it would be in your best favor! And I think I realized this when I started to feel the “burn out” early in anatomy last year. I felt my mental health waver from neutral to poor and as soon as I felt it, I addressed it accordingly. I think being in a place where you are aware of when to address those needs – is important. It will only set you up for success.

Anyway, I feel like I have done some major reflections. Let me know what you think or if you have any questions at all!! Excited to keep moving forward and can’t wait to continue to share.

Sending tons of love,

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