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To stream or not to stream – that is the question.


Lecture hall at 8:30 a.m.

The idea of attending lectures is becoming more and more of a thing of yesteryear with the advent of technology. Medical faculty often marvel at how rarely one takes notes by hand anymore or how textbooks are now often electronic. On any given lecture day, anywhere from 10 to 30 students are sitting in the lecture hall at 8:30 a.m. (generally less on snowy days or right before long holiday weekends like Labor Day).

UMMS affords students flexibility in deciding how they like to learn lecture material whether in class or online. All class lectures are recorded and are posted only minutes after the lecture, making it easy to watch lecture content from the comfort of one’s home, library, coffee shop, or even bed! Students even have access to prior year’s lectures, making it possible to watch all the lectures before the first day of school (for all the over-achievers out there). I will point out though that on several days of the week, we also have interactive group sessions usually in the afternoons that require attendance and are not recorded (doctoring, paths of excellence, patient presentations, small group discussions, initial clinical experiences).

While certain portions of the curriculum are mandatory attendance, lecture attendance is usually optional. As someone who both streams and attends lecture, there is something to be said for going to class. Here are a few things I like about it:

  • You get to see people in your class – with most of the classes being optional in the M2 year and with more individual standardized patient experiences for doctoring rather than whole group discussions, it is possible to be a complete hermit and go weeks without seeing classmates.
  • You are forced to watch and hear things at a normal speed – I have a tendency when streaming to want to watch videos at 1.4 or 2x faster only later realizing that I didn’t catch what was being said at all. For example, just last week we learned about PAH (pulmonary arterial hypertension) and PH (pulmonary hypertension), which sound surprisingly alike especially when watching at a faster speed. However, in class, I can just turn around and ask, “What did he just say?”
  • You get to laugh at the professor’s humorous remarks along with your class-going friends. Sequences later, you’ll reminisce and say “remember that time professor X said ...” These often just don’t translate as well when listening – especially when watching the video at 2x speeds. Some of my favorite recent comments by professors in class,
    • On lecturing: “More glad than usual to be here [lecturing]. I’ve bored myself to death over the last 24 hrs playing Angry Birds and watching South Park episodes after episodes after episodes”
    • On streamers: I’ve been talking this whole time to you on the recording. Now I learn that you are watching this like Sunday morning after the football game… So I’m going to stop speaking to you like you’re presently listening.”
    • On lecturing for the second hour in a row: “I’m tired of listening to myself so I’m going to get the enthusiasm up here. I’m going to be James Earl Jones, I’m going to be Jim Harbaugh…and we’re going to talk about … lungs.
  • You automatically block off time on your schedule for lectures. With there being so many events and cool things to do in medical school, it is often easy to delay watching lectures and become wrapped up with things like research, shadowing, or extracurricular and with quiz-free weekends, it becomes all the more important to keep up with the material. Going to lecture helps me from getting behind on content.

Nonetheless, I appreciate the flexibility of streaming too. On any given week, I will go to class half the time and stream the other half. Sometimes I even pick and choose which lectures I want to go to. I can’t seem to quite make up my mind on which I like more so, in the meantime, I will just enjoy the freedom of being able to choose!

Good Luck on Step 1!

It’s hard to believe that it’s already time for the Step 1 study period again. As the M2s finish up their preclinical training, here’s some advice I gained from this period:

  1. As tempting as it seems to keep studying for one extra hour, just go to bed. You can’t learn things effectively if your brain is tired.
  2. Stay calm. (Yeah, right). Everything will work out fine, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.
  3. Do what works for you. It doesn’t matter if your study plan doesn’t look like anyone else’s, or really isn’t even a plan. If it’s what has been working for you, rock it.
  4. Do something you enjoy. It doesn’t matter if it’s exercise or lying in bed watching reality TV.
  5. Accept that you won’t always be happy. I loved making new connections in my knowledge base, but I also shed many tears. But it’s worth it.
  6. Don’t lose touch of your support network. Just like sleep, it may seem more efficient to study an extra hour than talk with your friends and family. Staying sane is most important.
  7. Checking Facebook (and other social media sites) during this period can be really depressing. Most of your M2 classmates aren’t posting, and looking at photos of M1 spring break is frankly painful.
  8. Don’t lose sight of the questions you answered correctly and confidently. After finishing Step 1, I went out to my car and cried because all I could remember were the questions I stared at with no clue how to begin. Over the next week, I started to remember the other questions that I answered and moved on without a second thought.
  9. Remember that you have already learned most of this information. You passed the sequences, so that knowledge is stored somewhere in your brain. The trick is familiarizing yourself with it in order to retrieve it faster and more effectively.
  10. Breathe! It will all be okay – in just over six weeks, you will have passed this milestone and focus on your reason for coming to medical school – caring for patients!

Free at Last!

Well, it’s finally over – I just took Step 1 this morning and am thrilled to be done! After sequestering myself in self-imposed isolation for the past month, I can now fully rejoin the land of the living. And I’m going to start by playing Whirlyball tonight as part of the MSTP Second Look Weekend.

I’ve learned a lot during my study period, not least of which was First Aid’s content. For those with Step 1 still looming on the horizon, here’s some of the non-academic tips I’ve learned since my last post:

  • Don’t be afraid to start “studying” for Step 1 during the school year by reviewing Step 1 materials for each sequence. Before each exam, I reviewed the relevant sections in Step 1 review materials (First Aid, Pathoma, Step 1 Secrets, Robbins), which helped it solidify in my mind and also made me more familiar with the resource’s layout. Pathoma, in particular, was really helpful in summarizing the pathology for each sequence.
  • Don’t use a billion resources during the dedicated period. Throughout my M2 year, I used a lot of Step 1 materials. When making my schedule, I planned to continue to use the majority of them but soon realized that there was not enough time in the day. Decide which resources are essential and focus on them; otherwise, you spend a little bit of time on each resource and a lot of time running around like a chicken with its head cut off (believe me, I did).
  • When making your Step 1 schedule, keep your usual study methods in mind, even if they aren’t represented in the myriad study schedules that have been posted online. I started out with a fairly standard study schedule, scrapped it after 2 days because I wasn’t covering the material like I needed to, wasted a week handwriting 1000+ flashcards (that I never reviewed after that week) because I panicked, and then finally just read through First Aid over and over. While my final method may not work for everyone, it is essentially the same thing I did during each sequence – read through the coursepack every day until it was time to take the test. I wasted that week trying to study in a completely new way, instead of just trusting myself. I need to see material multiple times before it sinks in; consequently I read First Aid in its entirety approximately 5 times.
  • The dedicated period is an emotional roller coaster. There will be panic attacks, and you will probably cry at least once (or twice). This period is incredibly difficult for everyone; don’t be tentative in reaching out for help when you need it. In addition to commiserating with other medical students (I would suggest friends who are in the classes above you as they will be less panicked and more full of helpful wisdom), don’t forget your friends and family. Sometimes a hug is what you need most.
  • Breathe. By the end of the dedicated study period, you have worked so hard. Just trust yourself and have faith. Everything will work out.

I’m so relieved that it’s over. Good luck to those who are still studying – you will do great!

Snow Day?!

Last weekend, Ann Arbor was hit by over a foot of snow, prompting school-wide cancellation of Monday’s classes as roads were cleared and students frolicked (yes, there was actual frolicking) in the snow.

At first, this was actually the first time I’d ever been annoyed about having a snow day. Last Monday was when my Comprehensive Clinical Assessment (CCA) was supposed to occur. The CCA is an annual rite of passage where second-year medical students perform aspects of history taking and physical exam in different stations to demonstrate our readiness to advance into third year and onto the wards.

A few months ago, the CCA didn’t seem like that big of a deal. We are given plenty of time to complete each station, which consists of the same things we do during each CFM week. Of course, as the actual date came closer, perspectives began to change and we all started freaking out a bit more.

Last weekend, I spent much of the weekend reviewing our physical exam checklists and practicing with friends. I learned that classes were cancelled on Monday but the hospital would remain open. It didn’t occur to me that the CCA would also be cancelled, so I woke up bright and early and was halfway through my morning preparations before I checked my email and discovered that I could go back to sleep. Oops.

During the last week, I have not reviewed the checklists since. My anxiety has actually abated to the level it was months ago, and I feel confident that I will pass my CCA tomorrow.

I did have to laugh, however, when the forecast for this weekend initially predicted sleet followed by 6-8 inches of snow. Although this never came to fruition, it seemed ironic that we could potentially have another snow day tomorrow. Then I knocked on wood. Better safe than sorry.