Monday, April 30, 2012

Organization and study tips from Kathryn

Kat and I go wayyy back to freshman year. Being library-loving BIOC majors from the same residential college, we stuck together throughout the four years. Kathryn is also the lovely one who introduced me to BodyPump (called “MuscleBlast” at our gym). I adore her study habits and her focus, so I asked her to take a break from her busy medical school routine to answer a few questions.

Here we are at Beer Bike couple of weeks ago as first year alums. We took this picture post-race in the parking lot. We are sporting Jones College colors purple and green:
A couple of weeks after she began med school, she told me every day was like finals. If you’ve ever seen this girl during the finals, you understand how scary that is. Well, she’s almost done with her first year and she looks nothing like zombie-Yesle during her finals period. I needed to pick up some pointers.

How do you manage your time?
I’ve always used a planner to keep up with activities and to schedule my study schedule. I use different colored highlighters to help me stay organized. I also make lists on post-it notes for non-school related tasks/errands to run. I like post-its because I can be flexible with my tasks and move them to a different day in my planner. It also serves as a visual reminder of what I need to do. By writing things down, I free my brain from having to remember them and can leave more room for study information.
I think we should start a “Planners empty our brains” club. What study tips have you found useful?
Part of the challenge is finding how you study best. This can vary for each “subject” class you take in med school. For one class, it was really helpful for me to use an online flashcard deck (I used Anki). It made studying like a game so I had a little more fun reviewing the material, and plus you could study on the phone if you were waiting for the bus. I also found that using a white board to draw out stuff and make lists is really helpful because I can erase and review quickly again. I’ve also tried making quizzes/question on the side of my notes which I use to go back and review. I think mnenomics are also really helpful since medicine can be a foreign language at times.
Well, I’ve heard that medical students effectively double their vocabulary. What is so difficult about medical school? How is it different from undergraduate?
Most undergrad tests usually cover 3 weeks worth of material (7-12 lectures) which is the amount of material you learn in med school in 3 days. It’s often compared to drinking from a fire hydrant which on some days is true! 
Most important is repetition. I try to study the lectures we had that day and then review all the week’s lectures over the weekend to increase repetition of material.
Keeping the bigger picture in mind keeps her motivated, in addition to interacting with patients in a volunteer setting.
The focus of the first 1-2 years of med school is gaining med knowledge (lecture and studying) so that you will be prepared once you enter clinics. It helps you to realize that the studying you put in now is valuable down the road.
I try to have some type of volunteering activity each month since interaction with patients is so inspiring to me. Each day I get more excited for clinics! At the end of the day, I want to be content that I have put in the effort to glorify God through my studying and pursuit of medicine so that I can effectively serve, care for, and love people through medicine.
Kat is such a people-person. Naturally her study breaks involve interacting with others:
I love getting to know other med students on my study breaks. I’ve had the chance to meet upperclassmen while spending time at school (she noted they can give insightful tips on what studying methods work for different classes as well). Forming a bond with the people in your class/school is really important in motivating each other throughout the journey of med school.
But I think my favorite thing is catching up with people who aren’t in medical school and taking a break from the life of a med student which is a valuable refresher.
Like me, right? Kathryn suggests this busy medical school experience is also part of an important life lesson.
It’s the start of feeling like an adult where you learn to balance a school/work schedule with getting daily tasks accomplished. I think knowing that you will have to work hard in med school is important, but also that there is free time (it’s just limited). If you balance your time well, you have time; you just have to be a little more selective in your extracurriculars and do the things you are most passionate about.
Her comment on “keeping your eyes on the prize” to get through the grueling first two years really stood out to me. Similarly in dental school, the first two years are studying/lectures/studying to increase our background knowledge and prepare us to treat patients. I also love that she gave practical advice I can follow.

I admire Kathryn’s positive and optimistic attitude through it all. Fact: I have not seen her whine once our entire undergraduate years. I am glad to have someone like Kat who I trust & respect tell me what to expect (and how to thrive) in the four years ahead. And now she passes on her wisdom to me, you, everyone.


  1. I think my favorite thing is catching up with people who aren’t in medical school and taking a break from the life of a med student which is a valuable refresher. Friv am

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