See, Test, & Treat: A Women’s Affair

Hey Ladies!! I’m fresh out of the See, Test, & Treat event put on by the College of American Pathologists (CAP) Foundation!!  Although I had to pop in, speak, and leave quickly to be able to make it to the Texas Association of Family Physician’s Annual Session & Primary Care Summit in Galveston, I was able to speak to a group of about 30 women about Sexual & Reproductive Health that’s pertinent specifically to women.

See, Test & Treat is a free cancer screening and health education program that brings the power of diagnostic medicine to underserved communities. Their signature program:

  • Saves women’s lives through early detection
  • Empowers families through preventive health care
  • Connects communities with their healthcare providers

In a single-day, culturally appropriate program, women receive a pelvic and clinical breast exam, a Pap test with same-day results, a screening mammogram with same-day or prompt results, connection to follow-up care, interpretive services, translated educational materials, and a healthy meal.

Because I only had an opportunity to field a few questions before I had to leave, I felt it would be great if I could add this to my blog for people to share!  It isn’t 100% inclusive of the conversation that we had at the event but I think it will plant some seeds!

In this talk, I educate about Safe Sex Practices, STDs/STIs, Cancers that affect Women majorly, Well Women Exams, Contraceptives, & General Tips that you should regard.

I do realize that our reproductive systems are usually either a touchy subject or a private matter in general, but there are a few things that you can do to protect yourself or catch things early. One of the biggest things you can do is pay attention to your body and really become familiar with it.

You can do personal breast exams (feel for lumps/hardness/tenderness, check for dimpling around the nipple, don’t ignore pain in the breast or armpit area) at home. Masses in or around your pubic area could be just a hair bump or could be something worse. Go get it checked out. Post-menopausal menstruation is always reason for a doctor’s visit.

If you aren’t that familiar with everything or you can’t see certain parts of your body, 9 times out of 10, your partner is!! Have them do regular checks of your body or ask them to even mention when they notice a change outside of those checks.

Lastly, especially for those that are sexually active, regardless of your sexual preference or whatever he/she says, ALWAYS USE PROTECTION and always inquire about status/get tested!! Herpes, HPV, & HIV are nothing to play around with. HPV is one of the most associated diseases of Cervical cancer. No amount of fun or spontaneity is worth your happiness, livelihood, or life. & if something does happen, go get treated.

Embarrassment shouldn’t be a reason to possibly infect others. If you don’t know of ways to protect yourself, ask your physician, DM me, or if all else fails, there’s always a quick Google search that can fix that! Condoms & dental dams are only two great examples!

Breast cancer is definitely a detrimental disease to women (& men alike) but there are definitely other prevention/screening techniques that need our attention as well. Take the time out to protect yourself, make an appointment with your Ob/Gyn, and get tested. I’m not only speaking of HIV when I say, “KNOW YOUR STATUS!”

Remember: EARLY DETECTION SAVES LIVES

SHARE WITH YOUR FRIENDS!!

AWARENESS IS KEY!

If you have questions, feel free to comment here because 9 times out of 10 someone else has the same question. If you don’t feel comfortable commenting here, shoot me a message at studentdrkendra@gmail.com!!! Everything people discuss with me stays private!!!

SHARE, SHARE, SHARE!!! This could save someone’s life!!

 

Advertisements

Step 1: Get To It & Through It

Ahhhhhh Step 1, the right of passage for every medical student that seems like torture to get to & go through and the one thing that can affect the trajectory of your whole career in medicine.  It’s a daunting task but seems like everybody (for the most part) has gotten through it pretty well.  The Journey to it & through it can be UGLY but hopefully I can offer you some tips that will successfully get you where you want to be in preparation.  It seems like a lot but what you’ll mainly want to focus on is: A Schedule & What Resources to Use.  I will outline these topics, as well as offer the study and review techniques that I used & scheduling that was best for me.

A few things to note first:

  • Find what study method works for you
    • Figure out whether or not you do best with videos, reading a book, doing questions, or attending a Step Prep Class
  • Preparing for Step 1 is a Marathon NOT a Sprint
    • You will have to study + Review, Review, Review.  There’s no way around it and there’s no such thing as cramming for this exam.  You are essentially being tested on the FIRST TWO YEARS OF MEDICAL SCHOOL (I couldn’t even memorize material after one block if I didn’t commit to it.)
  • Some things will work for you and some things will not
    • If you find that something doesn’t make a concept stick, don’t force it.  Move on to something else.  There are tons of resources for that you will likely find a benefit from.  Something that worked for your classmate might not work for you at all.  That’s OK.

So, let’s get started!

Resources That I Used

  • First Aid
    • First Aid is the cream of the crop when it comes to HIGH YIELD information for Step 1.  It offers info in bullet-point format and gives you the meat and potatoes of concepts relevant to Step 1.  For certain concepts, I did find myself having to search out other resources to fill in gaps so I would have a complete understanding though.  Use First Aid to follow along in class during 2nd year.  When you get to your dedicated study time, it isn’t so hard to get through because you pretty much already know what’s there (AND your NOTES are there).  Most people recommend going through First Aid 2 or 3 times BUT AT LEAST ONCE (Keeping up with it for class, going through it when you first start ACTUALLY studying for Step 1, & then a quick pass during your dedicated study time).
  • UWorld
    • Just as First Aid is the cream of the crop when it comes to high yield information, UWorld is that for question banks.  Many recommend if you don’t do anything else, do QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS.  UWorld allows you to solidify concepts as well as review why an answer is correct or why it’s incorrect.  If you can afford it, start doing UWorld Questions early, but if all else fails, AT LEAST 3-6 months before your exam.  You want to finish all of UWorld by the time your test rolls around.
  • USMLERx
    • USMLERx is another great question bank that you can use.  Because this is ACTUALLY written by the people that write First Aid (and it pairs quite well), I used this to get through First Aid.  It’s a lot cheaper than UWorld so I had this a lot longer.  It helped to get through First Aid when I was just getting started studying.  These questions are a little more detailed because they’re pretty much testing if you know what’s in First Aid, where UWorld tests if you know the concepts.
  • Pathoma
    • Pathoma is the ULTIMATE video resource for Pathology in class as well as for Step 1.  Use this for your class study.  Make a point to note the differences between each disease.  Dr. Sattar does an amazing job at grouping diseases together for memorization purposes, then combing through each disease to delineate it from different disease processes.  It gives you a holistic view of pathology to include disease processes, histology, & pathology.  I never would have been able to identify different diseases simply by looking at Chest X-Rays, microscopic slides, or solid organs without the help of Pathoma.  This is good for Step 1 as well as for starting rotations.  I’m actually in 3rd year and still look at Pathoma from time to time.
  • SketchyMicro/Pharm
    • If you haven’t used Sketchy Med for didactics yet, I’m going to take a guess and say that you don’t have ANY problem with pure memorization of dry material.  Sketchy was my saving grace for Microbiology.  Sketchy is a video service that teaches material through cartoons, illustrations, & recurring themes.  It offers a way to remember material that you would otherwise have no way to compartmentalize.  After watching videos, even outside of the school setting, I’d find myself associating things that I learned on Sketchy to everyday life things.  For example, anytime I would see a cane or “staff”, I would think of “Staphylococcus“.  Even now I find myself going recalling facts from Sketchy.  I primarily used Sketchy for all of Microbiology and some Pharmacology, but they now offer Pathology as well.  I haven’t used it personally but have heard only good things about it from classmates.
  • KISS Pharmacology
    • I used KISS Pharm to give me a quick and dirty review of Pharm since it was kind of my problem child.  It’s not holistic but it definitely gives you a brief review before delving into the concepts of pharmacology.  It is a nice resource to use early on.

Resources That I Didn’t Use But Others Found Helpful

  • Picmonic
  • Firecracker
  • Kaplan
  • Doctor’s In Training

General Tips

  • Plan your calendar early (Plan when/what you’ll be studying AND Schedule time to catchup if something happens AND OFF Time)
  • Make A Schedule AND STICK TO IT
  • Make an effort to follow along with First Aid during Didactics
  • Learn to tie in various concepts and topics (Biochem pathways & Pathology is HIGH YIELD)
    • No book will give you every explicit “connection”.  Learn to think through concepts and how they COULD affect large scale disease processes
  • Those Pharmacology mechanisms of action and side effects are REAL and are tested like no other
  • I cannot stress doing QUESTIONS enough
  • Learn to pace yourself
  • Make every effort to learn in didactics.  You don’t want to be forced to attempt to learn a difficult concept 2 or 3 weeks before your exam.
  • Epidemiology & Physician’s skills questions are FREEBIES (Learn these concepts early)
  • This is Important:  No matter how difficult preparing for this exam is, make every effort to maintain your physical health, mental health, sleep, hygiene, & utilize your support systems.
  • THIS IS A MARATHON NOT A SPRINT.  THE TEST ITSELF IS LONG AND YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO BLAZE THROUGH IT.  Try to build up stamina during your study period.
  • Last, know that there will be a few things on your exam that you’ve NEVER seen before.  DON’T FREAK!! Sometimes you will be able to deduce the answer.  Sometimes you will have to make an educated guess.  Pick one and move on.  Don’t let it jolt you too much.

Study Strategy

The method that worked for me best was do questions, notate things that I didn’t know (it also gives you insight to what will be asked & how it will be asked), go through that specific First Aid section, & then do UWorld Questions.  Going through questions before reading gives you insight into what you should be getting out of each concept.

Ex:

  • Do a Block of USMLERx questions for Cardiovascular Pharmacology
  • Take Notes from questions with emphasis on concepts that I’m unfamiliar with
  • Read Cardio-Pharm section of First Aid
    • Read with a purpose.  Use those Notes from above to curate your reading
    • Also there are supplements such as Sketchy or Kiss Pharm that you can use here to solidify material
  • Do UWorld Block for CardioVascular Pharmacology

Schedule

With the above example in mind, I did this for every section of First Aid.

Monday-Friday, I did a section of First Aid. Sometimes I would do multiple if the sections were short, like Embryology & Anatomy for the most part.  So weekdays consisted of doing USMLERx + First Aid + Supplemental Resources+ UWorld every day for each section.

On Saturdays, I only did questions.  I did at least 2 UWorld blocks.  One was always the past week’s work (because I usually finished a specific subject like Cardio or GI in one week).  The other was always a cumulative block that consisted of ALL of my studying for the past weeks.

Sunday was my official DAY OFF

Dedicated Study Time

My dedicated time was 3 weeks prior to the exam, I did a quick run through of First Aid again but I mainly focused on tons of QUESTIONS.

So I took my test and got my results back.  I did far better than what I even imagined I would do.  Adhering to this schedule took DEDICATION and there were definitely some setbacks but I got through it and got the PASS!! I know if I did it, you can do it too!!

I hope this post sets you on the right track to successfully ACE Step 1!  Be on the lookout for a post outlining my experience about actually TAKING Step 1!!

It’s tough getting to the test and Even Tougher getting through it but you’ll make it!!  Keep pushing hard and set yourself up for success!!

~Student Dr. Kendra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From 1st Year Tribulations to 1st Year Wins

As promised, I’m back!!  I’ve definitely missed my followers over this past year and a half!!  This will be a short post but definitely a sincere one.

When I began medical school, I had the hardest time integrating.  The learning curve was SO steep!  I had to fight an uphill battle of learning how to study for the first time along with being ill the majority of the time.  In May of last year, I decided to repeat my first year.  I decided that as long as I’ve been in school already, what’s one more year?  So for most of my followers that were preparing to enter school, I experienced my full 1st year of medical school with you guys.

We’re so used to excelling at everything and being the best of the best. When we come to medical school & we’re hit with that first low grade, it can definitely be a hit to your ego. Most people learn from it and build upon it, while a select few have a pretty rough time.

I was one of the ones who immediately had a very, very hard time. Along with getting some of the worst grades of my life, I got one of the worst shots to my ego as well. In the twinkle of an eye, I lost confidence in myself & I began to have horrible test anxiety. In lower levels of education, it’s fairly easy to deal with that. In med school, not so much. Every single minute is just whizzing by you and you find that not only are you having a rough time with the “here & now”, you’re also far behind!!  I had never had to deal with test anxiety before. From what I found out is that tons of professional students begin to have test anxiety AFTER undergrad (Who knew?!?).

Oftentimes, during hard or rough periods, we find ourselves counting ourselves out far before we get started or are even close to the finish line. Sometimes it can be a hindrance & we cause ourselves to be on the losing end. More often than not, we end up winning.

I recently had to deal with an illness the night before an exam that caused me not to be able to study. If it was any time that I had to rely on pure confidence, it was now!! I wasn’t able to prepare for the exam like I normally would but I had studied a week prior so I had SOME base knowledge. I simply told myself, “You might not know the details but just try to reason your way through the test and no matter how you do, you should be able to fight your way back with your test next block.” Really and truly, I didn’t expect to get more than a 50 on this exam because I just didn’t have the information down.

I went into my exam and came out feeling better than I have on almost any exam!! When I got my grade back today, not only did I do fine on the exam, I got the best grade that I’ve had since I’ve been in med school!! If that’s not a sign I don’t know what is!! Remember, you may be down, but you’re definitely not out!!

While I haven’t hit many milestones yet, I silently rejoiced at the end of the school year for a very personal, significant one. A successful year of lectures came to an end. While it’s the norm for any other student, I silently rejoiced. Last year, when I arrived at that point, I skid into Finals not having any idea what I was doing, questioning whether I wanted to be in Medical school, & wondering if this was the end of what had been a dream a lifetime ago. I was tired, broken, & discouraged. I, unsuccessfully at the time, attempted to persevere through an illness & social/educational anxiety. In short, I was a mess & had to figure out a way to pick up the pieces all by myself.

This year, I did what I never thought I WOULD do & what I had been discouraged from at every turn. I walked into Finals with the light of a new beginning and the realization of being blessed with a second chance.

After many failures, pickups, counseling sessions, & destressors, I can finally say that I have found ways to effectively manage my anxiety. I’ve come to realize that although tests are an essential part of my education, they don’t define me as a person, student, or future doctor. Yeah, we want to do great on exams, but if you don’t do as well as you thought you should have, there’s always a way to make it up. Work hard for that next exam, work on study strategies, and get ahead of the game!! As a medical student, it’s far too easy to define yourself by exam scores and it can cause you to get down on yourself pretty quickly! Trust me, I dealt with it! That can all be curbed by self-evaluation & working on those flawed areas.

It took me quite some time to say, “Hey, there were plenty of other people that could be in my spot, but I was chosen!!” “It’s my time to shine and I’m not letting anything or anybody take that away from me!

It’s taken me almost a year to gain my confidence back and it’s an uphill battle every day, but I am winning!!

In the words of my most inspiring professor, Joanne Oakes, “This won’t be on the test but this is real life.”

XOXO,

~Student Dr. Kendra

The Not So Pretty

Keep calm everybody!!!  I’ve finally decided to keep a written account of my medical school experience!!  A little about me, I guess.  I attend UT-Houston Medical School as a 1st year.  I’m definitely a homebody and by no means a gunner.  For all you gunners out there, have at it!!

Other than class attendance and mandatory events, the only extracurricular thing that I do for the school is occasionally host an interviewee in my home.  They are just full of unanswered questions, and for lack of a better word, yearn for the knowledge of someone that has already started the journey that they are about to embark on.  Even as someone who has succeeded in becoming a medical student (a feat in itself), I definitely still heed the knowledge and pointers that my upperclassmen peers are willing to offer.  Before I came to medical school or even applied, I had so many questions so I thought it was time for me to host a forum to talk about my experience in the quest to become a doctor and also offer some advice, should some need it.  By all means, most of this blog will include only my personal experience and my “Non-expertise”.

Getting into medical school is hard, but staying in medical school is EVEN HARDER!!  SPOILER ALERT!!!  IT’S NOT PRETTY!!!  Without further ado, here it goes.

I am pretty much the typical small-town girl.  I grew up in Hamlin, TX, a city of about 2400 people.  I graduated salutatorian of a 33 person class (Fascinating right??) in 2010.  By that time, I absolutely had it set in my mind that I was going to school to be a doctor.  Traumatic experience, death of a family member, epiphany, blah, blah, blah, the sort of thing you put on a personal statement right??  I attended undergrad at McMurry University in Abilene, TX.  I majored in Biomedical Science and minored in BioChemistry (the fun stuff).  Let me stop here and say I definitely chose BioMedical Science as a major because it offered all of the prerequisites for Medical school without (for the most part) taking anything else (yay)  and I also got a Bachelor’s out of it (double yay).  I was definitely not going to be either one of those habitual major changers or an art history major that decided to “pursue her passion of art history” but wanted to be a doctor as well.  Back to my life.

I had the privilege of having an adviser that was also a chiropractor, so he offered pretty great advice, besides that little tidbit of information that he tried to force down my throat (You’re not extraordinary, you don’t have a 4.0 GPA, & you didn’t make a 40 on the MCAT.  You need to either just go get a master’s or at best, you don’t have a choice but to go to DO school).  Yeah, I just disregarded that.

I am a professional procrastinator, so I decided to pay for an online Kaplan course to prepare me for the MCAT (worst $1200 I have ever spent).  As I now know, I pretty much only learn if I’m sitting in a class or I have hands-on experience.  I ended up studying for all of about 30 minutes the night before my exam (don’t try this at home kids).  While trying to finish up the semester, I highly anticipated my score.  I told myself, “Whatever I get, that’s what I get and that’s what I’m applying with.” (cavalier right?).  Finally, dear God, 30 days later, I got my score back.  My one and only score was a 25.  (You mean to tell me I didn’t make a 40?  I won’t ever be able to go to medical school!!)  All that aside, like I promised myself, that’s what I decided to apply and, hopefully, interview with.

With my new-found confidence, I put my usual procrastination to work.  I waited around until the last day that the TMDSAS application was due.  (In retrospect, where was my brain?  What was I doing?)  I didn’t hear back from any school until after the pre-match period for most schools was over.  In the end, I only got two interviews (One in Galveston & one in Houston).  I informed my adviser about how elated I was that I got not one but two interviews and was pretty much told, “Oh you only made a 25 & your GPA is only a 3.7.  Good luck next application season.”  (Yeah obviously at this point he’s not gonna be of any help.)

When Match Day came around, I don’t know how many prayers I sent up!!  At 8:00 am I finally got to check and see if I got in and lo and behold I matched to UT-Houston!!!  I matched!!!  I matched!!! I matched!!! (Insert Happy Dance Here)  “Wait, what does match even mean??”  It took lots of Google searches and a few inquiries for me to even figure out that I was accepted.

Fast-forward to today!!  My med school life is anything BUT glamorous, perfect, any of those fun things.  Every day is a struggle but I definitely take medical volunteering opportunities any time I can to keep me grounded!!!  It also reminds me of why I came to medical school in the first place!!  I constantly go through the same cycle:  Oh I feel so stupid—>I finally understand what’s going on!!!—->I’m never gonna graduate—->(I volunteer) Now this is why I got into medicine!! and back again!!  But I wouldn’t trade it for the world!!

In conclusion, this blog was just made so others can see my transparency and know that you don’t have to be SuperWoman/Man to become a doctor.  I hope it is encouragement & motivation for most and maybe just informative for others.  Take it from somebody that was riding the STRUGGLE BUS!!!  Like I said before, beware.  The ride ain’t always pretty!!!  More pieces to come!!!

XOXO,

Student Dr. Kendra