You think you can’t do it, but you can. Like all other things, med school is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of deal.
Let’s be honest: I’m excited for next year already.
In this post:
How to Study and Survive | Love and Inspiration | Life Outside Med
How to Study and Survive
For the prospective med student, postgrad studies seem daunting and not a little bit terrifying. People aren’t lying when they say that the pace will be different, and the pressure can be brutal. When you have the lives of future patients depending on what you know or don’t know, the immense pressure is pretty justified.
It’s okay to be anxious about things like how to cope and how to study. The adjustment can take weeks or even months. It can take the whole of first year.
When it comes to school (not just med school, really), there is no “normal” study style or adjustment period. Mentors, upperclassmen and experience will all tell you that. We do things at our own pace. What matters is that we get there in the end.
For me… I just drew. A lot. I think I was most successful in the modules where I could draw anatomical structures and diagrammatic cellular processes, because I’m a pretty visual learner.
I also used social media to motivate myself. I like sharing and posting my notes on twitter. I’m pretty sure I have a few blog posts floating around that are all review-related.
Many people rely mostly on transcriptions made by the assigned groups. I’ve seen people do different tricks to retain the complex information. L sometimes audio records the lectures, and goes through them afterwards with her notes. N makes these pretty index card reviewers. Some post helpful mnemonics as their status or as a tweet. A surprising number of people make memes.
Our batch (go like and follow our Facebook page!!!) also has two dedicated accounts for academic support. One of them is a Facebook group where people share things, and another is a Q&A-heavy twitter account, ASMPH 2021 S&R.
There will be tons of memorization in med school, no matter how you look at it. The trick is to learning to appreciate the terms you digest.
If it’s a question of living life on top of getting passable grades, then it’s a matter of finding love and support from the people around you.
Love and Inspiration
Over and beyond time management, or money for tuition, or the commitment to reading, I feel like the number one thing you need to survive is a healthy supply of love for the craft and inspiration to continue.
(You can get love and inspiration everywhere.)
The people in ASMPH are extra supportive. I’m talking encouraging candies and chocolates before exams, free pens and ice cream, the worms. I wish I had photos to show here. It takes me ages to feel like I’m part of something, and I think I’m more than halfway there. #Blessed.
Don’t forget the friends and family you had before going to med school. You need to come home (even if it’s just on the weekends) to a family that’s supportive of your Sunday night cramming sessions.
I also think having friends who have gone through med school ahead of you would be a big help. I have M, and to some extent all the other alum of the Debate Circle to give me tips and to commiserate when things get rough.
I’ve been through fourteen modules total (plus research, leadership and ethics courses on the side). All of them, in some form or another, try to push forward the drive and motivation to succeed in this field.
The Case of Amazing Teachers
There are two kinds of teachers in med school: medical practitioners who are competent in their field, and medical practitioners who are not only competent at being a doctor, but at being a teacher as well. I count our batch extra blessed for having many instances of the latter (though some modules still suffered).
For YL5, I think I’ve got around three professors I really appreciated. That isn’t to say the other module heads and guest lecturers were subpar –if I had to list all my honorable mentions, from Doc Jocson (for the dad vibes) to Doc Mantaring (for helping me understand embryology???) To Doc Julius (fun times I’m still crying) to all of our preceptors, I’d run out of space.
Doc Sam from our Head and Neck Module, to me, seemed like one of those genius protagonists in medical dramas (not the douchebag kind, but the humble ones). She’s incredibly down-to-earth, and really helpful by virtue of being approachable. She’s one of the top reconstructive surgeons in the country, I think, and one of the ways she inspired us was through our integration session.
For our integration session at the end of the Head and Neck Module, our speaker was a man whose tongue had to be reconstructed. His actual tongue (or at least a big bulk of it) had to be removed because of a cancerous tumor growth (if I’? not mistaken). But even without this important muscle, he could still speak because of reconstructive surgery (and lots of therapy). Doc Sam did that. And we learned from someone who could do that. Amazing.
Doc Chris from our OB submodule, on the other hand, wasn’t a ~genius surgeon~ or anything like that. But what he did bring as inspiration were personal stories and anecdotes.
I think there’s absolute value in being a competent doctor and in being an excellent physician or surgeon. It’s great that you can diagnose diseases and alleviate pain. But those aren’t the only things that are important. It was really apparent that Doc Chris treated his OB patients as people, not just as vessels for babies and disease.
He liked to impart nuggets of wisdom throughout the lectures: words on simplicity and privilege, advice on duty and responsibility. Being a doctor, he stressed, isn’t about you or me. It’s about the patient.
He was also pretty hilarious. It’s fun learning from people who show such compassion.
Last in my mentions is Doc Ronibats from our Neuro Module. He was our teacher during the Cell Module, and our coordinator and main anatomy lecturer for Neuro. I think it’s fair to say that Doc Ronibats also inspired through his competence as a surgeon and through his personal anecdotes. But I think what really struck me the most was his dedication to teaching.
He mentioned several times that he had always wanted to teach. And you could really tell. His presentations were well-prepared (and #aestheticgoals), and his delivery usually challenged us to think for ourselves. He put in effort to making learning as interactive as possible (you could check it out by following #AteneoBrain on Twitter). He had a way of making us remember complex pathways and terminologies.
And I would forever appreciate the fact that he integrated humanities in our study of the human brain. We had readings ranging from The Diving Bell to When Breath Becomes Air. Adding human experiences to clinical descriptions make things more visceral and all the more important. (Both are excellent reads, by the way!)
Teachers who show dedication to the craft inspire dedication in turn, and for all of these modules it felt even more of a privilege to be a medical student.
In Defense of the Hands-On Approach
Is this post ever gonna end? I’m already at 1000+ words.
Another reason why I felt like there was a steady source of love and inspiration during my whole YL5 experience? The numerous opportunities to see theories in action.
We had patient encounters very early on (was it during our Derma module? I can’t recall…). I practiced how to take BP and other measurements from my sister, mom and Ate Risa. We had a comprehensive OSCE for the Neuro Module, even though we were only first-year students.
We got to tour an actual hospital (lol) and see OBGYN residents and consultants in action. I got to see a cesarean section being performed in front of me??? A few feet away?????
I mean. There’s not much you can feel when faced with the first cries of a baby except feel very, very blessed. And also very sure you’re where you want to be.
Some of the consultants during our tour of the hospital wondered. Apparently, such clinical exposures were too early for first-year medical students such as us. We should master the basics and theory first.
I think that misses the point. I love ASMPH for helping us appreciate and better understand theory by challenging us to practice and by exposing us to patients. Reading about a patient encounter and actually interacting with one impart two very different things.
Love for the Future
Whenever a family member was (unfortunately) confined in the hospital or being treated, at some point someone would go turn to me and ask “what does that mean?”. I’m glad I’ve only been asked things like “What’s an angiogram?”. Anything more than that and I’d be useless.
But moments like those make me feel kilig inside. I feel like Captain America shouting “I get that reference!” [I don’t actually know the exact quote, please forgive me…]
I get the same feeling whenever I watch anything related to med school.
Life Outside Med
I know I’ve already said this, but time really does fly fast. I can’t count the number of times I wanted to blog about something that happened in my life but I couldn’t because the next exam or module was looming.
Here’s a semi-dump of things that happened anyway:
Debate, aka why am I not retired yet? Who said I can debate and judge tournaments? Lol. I think I debated in ARCIV, judged in NDC with M, and then judged for MINT (an experience I blogged about here).
Learning how to friend. Imagine I, a socially awkward scrambled lazy egg, made friends. Though lbr I still don’t know the names of everyone I talk to, but at least I remember faces pretty well… plus, special S/O to Roommate of the Year! Love and endless gratitude to the back row/lunch table friends! And my KPop friends! Thank you for holding my hand during my first ever concert! ( Xtine Faustino, Noreen/Nicole for the anat pic, CJ for the BTS pic, and an assortment of others)
Party!!! Again I, who committed to celibacy for the entire first year, actually attended a party. I even got chat up by an Ateneo Law student. Wild.
I painted a bunch of things. I think. My Instagram has them. I painted the Kiss of Passion project earlier this year. I’ve also got another project that I finished a month ago, but I haven’t had the opportunity to post it yet (so here’s a snap of it lol).
Holla to my part-time work life. Because of you, I became confident enough to eat healthier this year (I subscribe to Dear Diet PH almost weekly) and to buy my new Samsung Galaxy S8 (!!! her name is Peg!!!)
My family and I travelled to Hong Kong. And of course we did loads of other stuff in the interim. We even had the time to attend a conference (for singles!) headlined by Bo Sanchez. There was also a doctor turned also-vlogger in the line-up, which was pretty cool.
I would like to thank my mother for everything, from raising me up to paying for med school. This post literally would not be possible without you. I will pay you back someday, please wait!!! And thank you to the whole fam for putting up with me…
I can’t wait for next year!!
This is like the longest hangover post I’ve ever made. Yay?