Tips on How to Survive Your First Year of Medical School

Medical Students Surviving

The first year of medical school can be frightening, but before we delve into some of the most common fears and how to handle them, congratulations! It takes a lot of hard work and determination to reach medical school, but you’ve done it. You are one step closer to becoming a doctor.

Now, the work ahead of you is grueling. You’ll feel overwhelmed – you probably already are. You will work hard and feel as though you have little time for anything else. But the following will help you to survive the difficult (yet completely worthwhile) years you spend in medical school.

Write A Letter to Yourself for Inspiration

During the next few years you will undoubtedly question whether your demanding work is worth it. That is why you need to write yourself this letter. In it, remind yourself why you wanted to become a doctor in the first place.

What is your drive or inspiration as a medical student? Where do you plan on going after medical school? What is it that makes everything worth it? Anytime you feel discouraged, pull that letter out and read it.

Find Some Time to Socialize

When you’re wrapped up in your studies it is easy to forgo socializing. Many people prefer to study alone. They study alone until they go to sleep, and when they wake up it’s time for classes. But this is very unhealthy and can actually have a negative impact on your schooling – as well as your mental health.

Make a little time for your friends and find new ones. Attend school socials and mixers. Even if you can only carve out an hour each week to socialize, do it. You owe it to yourself to have a little fun during these vital years.

Take Care of Yourself

Don’t lose sight of the most important person in your life: you. Go ahead and be selfish once in a while. Eat healthy foods, drink plenty of water, and pamper yourself when you have the chance. If you want that long shower, take it. If you feel you could nix your all-night studying this one time for a little fun or a full night’s rest, do it.

Speaking of rest, all-nighters aren’t healthy anyway. Aim for eight hours of sleep each night and skip the late-night studying. Oh, and remember to call your parents and siblings. As proud as they are of you, they miss you. A weekly phone call can help to keep you anchored and give you encouragement.

Practice Humility, Not Arrogance

It is a little-known fact that you will run into some very arrogant, narcissistic people in medical school. As inflated as your head might feel after acing that big test, pop it quick.

Pride in yourself is one thing. Feeling as though you are the be-all end-all is an entirely different thing. Not only will you be difficult to be around (and lose a lot of potential friends) but you’ll eventually dislike yourself, too.

Be Organized

In the first year of medical school alone you will be required to learn around thirteen THOUSAND unfamiliar terms. To handle all this information, you need to ensure you’re organized. Be efficient in your studies. Keep well-written notes. Have a system that works for the way you learn best. Test yourself often.



How Robots Are Training Doctors and Students

medical training robots

It is a well-known fact that this is the age of technological advancement. Not only are machines being created which are able to do more complex tasks, but artificial intelligence (AI) is continually being improved and reaching nearly unbelievable levels.

Sometimes we do not even realize just how far AI has come, but it effects our life daily. For example, think of automated phone systems. You can now speak in simple phrases such as “yes,” “no,” or listing out a number and the automated system understands you. This is just one of the smallest, simplest, yet most widely used ways AI is affecting our life.

An incredible breakthrough in artificial intelligence is now changing the way medical professionals are trained. While the new robot (we’re going to discuss specifics in a moment) is incredible, it’s also undeniably a little frightening – but so are all new things.

Meet Pediatric Hal

Pediatric Hal is an artificial intelligence robot with amazing, incredibly lifelike capabilities. He was made to look like a five-year-old male patient by Gaumard Scientific. Wondering just how lifelike he really is? Pediatric Hal can, in addition to many other things, do the following:

  • Imitate rapid breathing
  • Look scared, with wide eyes that dart around the room
  • Say “ow” when he is pricked with a needle
  • Answer basic questions relevant to what a normal human would be able to, aged five
  • Cry for his mom and dad
  • Mimic the symptoms of numerous illnesses, including cardiac arrest and arrythmia
  • Urinate on himself when frightened
  • Track a finger with his eyes upon request

As you can see, there is no wonder why pediatric Hal is being called “The World’s Most Advanced Pediatric Patient Simulator.”

Although initial prototypes were hyper-realistic, the creators did pull back just slightly. During test runs, the company decided there was such a thing as “too realistic” and held back from allowing the fake child bleed to death on the operating table.

Why A Lifelike Robot?

Many wonder why a lifelike robot is necessary in medical training. But the idea behind this invention is actually quite simple: it offers medical students the ability to practice working under pressure in a hands-on environment.

Once these pre-med and medical school students become doctors there is no room for error, because the cost of such is human life. While practicing on Pediatric Hal, however, errors are less serious and can be learned from before the price becomes so high.

The procedures which can be practiced on this robot are wide-ranging. They include everything from using a defibrillator, giving basic resuscitation (such as mouth-to-mouth), inserting tracheal tubes, or even performing complex surgical procedures.

In the past these things have been practiced on dummies. This is fine for learning the basic movements for certain procedures but lacked the “working under pressure” aspect that is so vital. Since Pediatric Hal responds in the way a human child might, those studying to become doctors are given a realistic taste of what they may face after graduation.

How Premed Students Balance Life

Pre Med Students

Pre-med is not for the faint of heart. Students studying medicine are under a constant amount of extreme pressure, which only becomes harder as they reach medical school. Besides being an incredibly competitive field, students are required to study for months without end, work well in high-pressure situations, and deal with a lot of emotional hardship.

Even during clinical practice, the emotions can be nearly debilitating. Compassion is a necessity, but it must be done while also keeping your emotions in check.

So how does one survive these grueling years? How can students not only ace their schooling but ensure it doesn’t completely take over their lives?

Here we look at a few proven ways pre-med students have learned to balance life. Many of these can also be applied to the next step on the journey to become a doctor – medical school.

Get Help if Necessary

High stress environments can wreak havoc on even the most resilient people’s mental health. A study from 2010 shows that 15% of pre-med students meet the strict guidelines for clinical depression. A 2016 study saw that this number only increases once students reach medical school, with the percentage with depression reaching 27%.

If you need help, get it. Never be afraid to speak up and tell someone you are feeling depressed…. And always remember that suicide is never the answer.

Become an Expert Studier

There is an adage that says the volume and depth of information a student is expected to learn in medical school is like drinking from a fire hose. To put it short: it can be very overwhelming. Therefore, it is vital to become an expert studier while still in pre-med, or else you will drown once you reach med.

A few quick study tips:

  • Avoid all-nighters. While it may seem like a promising idea, you aren’t as productive after a certain point – and it is much more valuable to get a full night’s sleep.
  • Find an organization system for notes, papers, books, etc. that works best for you.
  • Take regular breaks while studying to keep your mind fresh. Every 45 minutes you spend steadily studying, you should take 15 minutes to breath. Walk around the room, grab a snack, take a quick shower, or whatever you need to do to clear your mind.
  • Study smarter. If you have something down, skip over that and focus on the areas you need the most help with. There are some programs which allow you to do this in an organized, effective fashion – like CanadaQBank.

Take Care of Yourself

Do not neglect your physical health while in school, as this can haunt you well into the future. Even if it means having half an hour less time to study, it is vital that you prioritize your physical health as the most important thing. This includes getting thirty minutes of moderate exercise daily, eating a balanced diet, and drinking plenty of water. Also, don’t forget to get those eight hours of sleep each night.

Remember “Me Time”

Between school, clinicals, maintaining a social life, exercising, and possibly even working, your “me time” can disappear. Make every effort to ensure it doesn’t, however. At least once a week you should be spending a few moments caring for yourself. Do something you enjoy. Take a long, hot shower or read a book. Visit your family for the afternoon or catch up with your siblings. You’ll feel much better after.

Are Canadian Hospitals Scrambling from The Saudi Backlash?

Saudi Medical Students

Canadian hospitals are seeing some of their Saudi Arabian medical graduates withdrawing from their clinical duties ahead of an impending August 31st deadline. This has left hospitals scrambling to quickly fill in the gaps they are leaving behind.

These early departures are the latest in an overwhelmingly chaotic situation which have had (and will continue to have) a destabilizing effect on several vital parts of the healthcare system in Canada.

There isn’t (yet) an exact number on how many Saudi medical trainees are requesting leave ahead of the deadline. What is certain, however, is that many more will be leaving their positions, so they can prepare to return to their country.

Over a thousand medical graduates from Saudi Arabi have been working at Canadian teaching hospitals for their post-schooling internships. They will all need to leave the country now by the end of August. This quickly approaching, and life altering decision is a result between diplomatic disputes occurring between Canada and the Middle East.

The Saudi Arabian-Canada Training Program

A training program has long been in place which allowed these same Saudi Arabian graduates to train in teaching hospitals throughout Canada. The hospitals are given around $100K in fees for each medical trainee. In return, Canada gets medical practitioners to provide tax-free care to residents while the trainees get valuable experience.

What Happened?

The Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, publicly called out the Middle East in early August. The call out was a request to released human rights advocates who had been jailed for their efforts. It did not take long to get a response.

Saudi Arabia responded to the request by suspending all diplomatic relationships with Canada. Freeland was expelled, and all direct flights between the two nations were cancelled. Saudi Arabia also publicly ended the medical program and has said it will no longer purchase neither wheat or barley from Canada.

These are not definite, however, because negotiations are still ongoing. There is a small chance that the medical trainees will be allowed to stay and finish their residencies in Canadian training hospitals – even if future students are not allowed to participate.

The Real Impact – By Numbers

The Saudi Arabia residents make up a considerable amount of the workforce in many training hospitals throughout Canada. The numbers listed in the paragraphs below represent the number of these resident’s pre-disagreement. Since disputes began between the two countries, numbers have continued to drop as residents make plans to return home.

In Toronto hospitals, 216 residents from Saudi Arabia made up roughly six percent of the city’s total residents. An incredible fifteen percent of Hamilton’s medical workforce was comprised of these residents. In certain areas these trainees make up a third to half of entire wards. Most notably these include the pediatric and neonatal intensive care units (NICU).

As of right now, the only way for hospitals to move forward is to find which areas now lack personnel and work towards filling in those gaps.


NYU Medical Students Can Now Get Free Tuition

nyu medical school

Great news for current and potential medical students was announced Thursday. The NYU’s School of Medicine stated it would be covering all tuition costs for all students, without a bias towards need or merit. The reason behind this charitable move? The school cites concerns about the increasingly overwhelming financial debt which faces graduates.

Perfect Timing

This initiative comes at the perfect time. Affordability of higher education has become increasingly urgent as prices of everything from tuition and supplies to cost of living has continued skyrocketing. The interest rates on student loans alone have left some recent graduates struggling with thousands of dollars in debt from schooling.

Depending on the exact degree and length of study, this amount could even be tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. As the years continue to pass after school, interest continues to accumulate – sometimes quicker than alumni can pay off.

In fact, more than half (or 62 percent to be exact) of graduates leave with at least some debt. The average debt of the 2017 graduating class amounted to $184K.

Impact of Rising Higher Education Costs on Medical Schooling

The medical field has seen a lot of impact from the rising cost of higher education. Many schools have become worried that medical students are pursuing specialties with the highest pay rates instead of the general, vital fields of family medicine, research, and pediatrics.

With this worry in mind, the news released by Columbia in December was noticeably big news indeed. A former alumnus, Dr. P. Roy Vagelos, announced that they would begin offering those students with the highest financial needs full-tuition scholarships and other grants, in lieu of loans.

NYU’s Plan: What Is Involved

New York University’s plan goes far beyond this charitable gift from Doctor Vagelos. The plan was announced at the end of the annual white coat ceremony the school does for new students and their families. The university said this bold move would make it the only top-ranked medical school in the United States to offer scholarships to students covering the full cost of tuition.

Effective immediately, the plan will cover all students, both current and future. The yearly tuition at NYU’s School of Medicine is around $55K. This is ow waived for over ninety first-year students, along with 350 additional students who have three years or less to obtain their degrees.

The plan does not, however, cover room and board or fees. Together these typically amount to between $25K and $30K for a full school year. While this is still quite a bit of money (as much as $120K for a four-year degree), it is significantly less without having to consider tuition costs.

Why This is Important

The dean of NYU’s medical school, Robert Grossman, is quotes as saying: “This decision recognizes a moral imperative that must be addressed….”

To date, the university has raised an exceptionally large portion of the $600 million in funds that are anticipated to finance the plan – more than $450 million, in fact.

Why Are Canadian Medical Students Having a Hard Time Finding Residencies?

Canadian Medical Students Residencies

A residency is one of the most important parts of any medical student’s journey to becoming a licensed, practicing physician. Unfortunately for many students across Canada, residencies are growing scarce, even as many patients across the country are struggling to find doctors to care for them. What’s happening in Canada, and what can be done to change it?

News from the Canadian Resident Matching Service

After completing medical school, aspiring doctors must complete a residency, which is essentially hands-on training under the watchful eye of licensed healthcare professionals. Not all Canadian students are being given the opportunity, even after graduating their medical programs. The Canadian Resident Matching Service, or CaRMS, is the organization responsible for matching resident doctors with training facilities. In April 2018, the organization said that 115 of this year’s graduating students could not find placement. This number is up from 99 in 2017 and 77 in 2016. Failing to complete between two and seven years of residency means they cannot receive a license to practice medicine.

A Devastating Blow

Medical school is one of the most difficult undertakings imaginable. Sleepless nights, countless hours of study, and days counting pennies due to the sheer cost of attending school create a great deal of stress for students. Imagine completing an entire program successfully, feeling incredibly relieved as a result, only to find out that you cannot complete the final leg of your journey through no fault of your own. For these 115 hopeful students, it was a devastating blow, and it can all be blamed on the declining number of available residency spots across Canada.

Why Are There Fewer Residency Spots?

Henry Annan, a fourth-year graduate at Dalhousie University, is also the president of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students. In response to the increasing percentage of students who are not matched with residency programs, the group is now lobbying governments in individual provinces to give hospitals and other facilities more funding so that they can add the residency programs. Per Amman, provinces have been cutting funding for a few years, and those that haven’t cut funding simply haven’t been willing to keep up with the growing number of medical school graduates. Of course, mismatches between residency specialties that students wanted and the residency specialties available is also a factor.

Changes in Ontario

Ontario’s government recently announced that it would add 53 extra spots to help fulfill the needs of recent graduates in that province who did not receive a placement this year, but these spots don’t come without requirements. Students who accept them will be asked to sign a contract obligating them to work in an underserved area of the province for two years after their residencies are completed. Though it is an excellent step for now, it won’t work in the long run, and eventually, positions in the underserved communities will run out, as well.

As if this weren’t startling enough, the fact that patients across Canada struggle to find doctors makes it even more puzzling. People want to be doctors and need to complete the last step of the journey, and people need those doctors – but the Canadian government needs to allow for more residency spots in order to fulfill either of these needs.


What’s It Like to be a Harvard Medical School Student?

Harvard Medical School Student

People from all over the world have dreamed about going to Harvard Medical School since they were small children, but they rarely take the time to fully understand what it’s like. Here, you can discover some of the best parts of a day in the life of a Harvard student, which will allow you to make better decisions about your own medical education.

A Sense of Accomplishment

Before diving into busy days and incredible expectations, it’s important to first look at the best part of being a Harvard Med student – and that’s the sense of accomplishment. Only about 5% of Harvard applicants are accepted, and when it comes to the prestigious school’s medical program, that number drops to roughly 3% – a very small number, indeed. If you ever doubt your ability to make it through your education as tough as it is, remember that you are one of those 3%. You made it this far based on your sheer determination, your work ethic, and your intelligence, and you can continue to use those things to your advantage to succeed into the future.

Life On Campus

Life on campus isn’t much different from life at any other college according to students who attend Harvard Med. It’s very much a small community where you will eat, sleep, visit your friends, shop, and access pretty much anything you need. There are coffee shops, restaurants, shopping plazas and more within walking distance, and there’s also public transportation to help you get to destinations too far away for a stroll. You will travel to classes by foot, however, and you will need to traverse crowded sidewalks crammed with students and lots of tourists. If you have classes further away from where you live, you can take a shuttle to get you there.

More on Harvard Time

If you’ve ever had a friend or family member who’s attended Harvard, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of “Harvard Time.” For years, classes started exactly seven minutes after their scheduled start times, thus coining the term. However, in the last couple years, faculty voted to end this tradition – and even beforehand, several professors required students to arrive on time despite the tradition. Classes last about 75 minutes and you’ll have 15 minutes to pass between them.

Social Events

Harvard Medical School is no stranger to pride, and because of that, you’ll find numerous social clubs and activities in which to participate. Some of these are designed to help you hone your talents or enjoy your hobbies, but others exist solely to enhance the likelihood that you will succeed. The Student Affairs Committee, for example, exists to promote individual and professional growth of students during their journeys at Harvard Medical School and beyond.

Coursework, Studying, Exams, and Clinicals

There’s no denying that Harvard Medical School is one of the most difficult medical schools in the world. Courses are difficult, even for the brightest students, and studying seems endless as a result. Exams are also among some of the most challenging anywhere on the planet, which means students often feel a great deal of stress in the weeks and days leading up to them. Later in your education, once clinicals get thrown into the mix, you may feel as if sleep has become a luxury rather than a necessity. Nonetheless, it will all be worth it in the end.

Live at Harvard Medical School is not easy, but at the same time, it isn’t as terrifying as you might imagine, either. The sense of pride you will feel each day as you make your way to classes will make up for the difficult exams and nonstop studying, and to top it all off, the landscape is stunningly beautiful. There’s little doubt that your time at Harvard Med will be unforgettable.

What Is the Canadian Federation of Medical Students?

Canadian Federation of Medical Students

The Canadian Federation of Medical Students is an organization made up entirely of students from 15 different societies spread all across the country. The CFMS exists in order to serve as representation for all the medical students in Canada to the public, the government, and to other medical organizations both nationally and worldwide.

What the CFMS Does

The Canadian Federation of Medical Students plays numerous important roles. They are involved in advocacy, education, global health, communications, and student affairs, among other things, and they push to provide new initiatives for medical students to pursue. Currently, some of these initiatives include:

  • CFMS Wellness – This initiative seeks to promote wellness at medical schools throughout Canada with the ideology that wellness is an important ingredient in becoming a successful medical professional.
  • Residency Matchbook – The CFMS also reviews the residency match list set forth by the CaRMS, which is designed to help those moving into their residencies learn more about them and prepare.
  • Day of Action – This is an annual event during which a bevy of medical students travel to Ottawa’s Parliament Hill to talk about various issues of importance with lawmakers.
  • Press Releases – The CFMS is constantly involved with national and local press, which helps to get the word out about their organization and the goings-on in the national healthcare industry.
  • International Exchanges – This excellent exchange program allows medical students to travel to a foreign country to take on clinical electives or even research for a period of four weeks. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for many students that the CFMS is proud to sponsor.

Unique CFMS Resources

Though the medical schools and organizations in Canada strive to provide numerous services designed to enhance success rates, the CFMS, made entirely of students themselves, takes things even further. Their website provides medical students with a host of resources, too.

  • Residency Matchbook – The organization links to and reviews the CaRMS annual match to help provide aspiring doctors with career planning advice and more.
  • Discounts – Thanks to the popularity and reach of the CFMS, they have secured numerous discounts on everything from interview tours, WestJet flights, hotels, and even electives through a variety of service providers.
  • Resources from MD Financial Management – MD Financial Management is the financial services partner of the CFMS, and this group serves medical students who want to better manage their money. Included are financial checklists, options for buying a house and car, tips for buying insurance, budgeting advice, and much more.
  • Couples Match Ranking App – Finally, this unique app helps students come up with a ranking order when they apply for a residency using the CaRMS Couples Match option. This option allows couples the chance to stay together during their residencies – something that is quite unique to Canada, and something the CFMS promotes as important.

The CFMS is very much like a student council, but it has a much broader reach and is made up of students attending medical schools from one Canadian coast to the other. Thanks to its excellent reputation, it has become a go-to source of information and advice for thousands of medical students each year.

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Time Management Tips Ideal for Medical Students

Time Management Tips

Between going to classes, studying, and going about the everyday rigors of life – especially if you also have a job – it probably seems as if you never have enough time to get everything done. Fortunately, there are plenty of time management tips that can help you get more done in the time you have without sacrificing sleep or time for yourself.

Use a Monthly, Weekly, and Daily

Planners are a great tool to have in your medical school arsenal, and they come in many styles and price ranges. Ideally, you should keep a planner with a monthly, weekly, and daily view so you can have an overview of what’s coming up as well as a way to plan your day. Start by labeling the current month with your important exams and lectures, then head over to the current week and add these to that layout, as well. Then, every evening, review your weekly layout and create a schedule for the next day. By scheduling your entire day hour-by-hour, you will discover that you really can get things done as long as you stay focused.

Multitask When Possible

Though it’s hard to do much multitasking as a medical student, it is absolutely possible. Here are a few tips you can use:

  • Record lectures and listen to them when you commute or exercise. Some people find that listening to recorded lectures on their morning jog or even as they commute helps them discover things they may not have heard during the actual lecture.
  • Meal prep for a week in advance. This is one of the best time-saving tips of them all, and the good news is that it’ll also save you money. Plan your shopping trips in such a way that you have enough food to make two or three meals instead of just one. Then freeze your extra portions for healthy, wholesome dinners on the fly.
  • Study with friends. Social time is vitally important to your overall wellbeing, so make a few friends in your classes and turn part of your social time into study time. This will benefit everyone in the long run.

Don’t Procrastinate

“I’ll study an extra few hours tomorrow,” or “I’ll be okay if I only get four hours of sleep tonight,” are common among medical students. Unfortunately, what gets put off until tomorrow rarely gets done, and doing this regularly just puts even more stress on you the following day. Training yourself to stop procrastinating takes time and self-discipline, but it is well worth it in the end. Consider rewarding yourself for completing your list of daily to-dos without putting anything off. For example, for every day you manage to do this, give yourself $5 to spend at the restaurant on campus you’ve been dying to try.

Medical school is tough, and there’s no doubt about that. If you feel like you are constantly on the go but still not accomplishing as much as you should, you are absolutely not alone. The tips listed above are some of the absolute best for making the most of the time available to you without sacrificing your well being.

Are Medical Schools Looking for the Musically Inclined?

Doctors and Music

If you’ve always dreamed of being a doctor, you’ve likely spent many years preparing for your opportunity to attend a prestigious medical school. Between taking the right preparatory classes, getting good grades, and doing your part for your community, hobbies likely never cross your mind. However, there’s some evidence suggesting that medical schools prefer students with musical abilities for a few different reasons.

What Does Music Have to Do with Medical School?

If you think that your ability to play a guitar, saxophone, or piano will get you into medical school alone, then you have been sadly misinformed. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to admission into medical school than playing a musical instrument. However, if you meet all the other requirements and you play an instrument, there’s some data to show that your chances of gaining entry will likely be much higher. It’s not about the ability or the knowledge of the notes; it’s about the self-discipline it takes to learn an instrument in the first place.

Similar Traits

Dr. Doug Angel, a surgeon who carefully removes cancerous tumors of the head and neck, didn’t take the usual route to medical school. Dr. Angel and several other of Canada’s medical professionals started their journeys with degrees in music. Though he majored in piano and created beautiful melodies with his hands, he now spends his days removing cancerous tumors from his patients’ heads and necks. Though music and medicine may not have an apparent and immediate link, there are traits shared between doctors and musicians that can help predict professional success.

  • Avoiding Complacency – Complacency is often described as the lack of desire to improve one’s skills and overcome plateaus. Musicians push past these plateaus by reassessing their skills and focusing on what they could do better. This translates well in medicine, too. By constantly assessing one’s skills and how they could be improved, patient outcomes also improve.
  • Preparedness – Musicians who performed as part of chamber groups also have an advantage. They learned early on to work together on their own time to do the best work possible and be prepared for their performances. Once again, this will also serve students well in medical school; they will be expected to study on their own time and prepare themselves for exams.
  • Matching Technical Skill with Art – A career as a musician is founded in technical skill just as a career in medicine is founded in knowledge of the human body. However, at some point, both of these will coalesce into something greater – something in which both the musician and the physician will give it his or her own signature and make it an artform. Art and science complement each other perfectly, and musicians who have taken the time to learn the foundations and apply their own personal touches are almost always successful doctors for the same reasons.

Medical schools are catching on, too. After all, professors put a lot of time and energy into developing the world’s next generation of doctors and surgeons, ensuring that previous generations’ work and research is expanded into the future. These days, medical schools look at much more than your GPA, so if you are musically inclined, be sure to put this on your application.