Updated: May 7, 2020
By Salyha Mughal
Ah Year Ones, eager, wide-eyed and blindly stumbling into the endless, horror filled, traumatising, lucky-if-you-survive-it jungle we know as MBChB Medicine. I’m kidding, I’m kidding, don’t worry! Year One is probably the best year of your whole med-school experience- make the most of your youthful, enthusiastic approach. By the end of the second semester, your fuel to maintain consciousness through lectures will be entirely exhausted...
One of the biggest complaints of all fresh and fumbling medic fawn is the fact that this jungle is way, way too big. When it comes to researching for us (un)lucky PBL-based learning students, there are far too many places to look. As a parent, this was the most common concern I received from my medic children (mentees). Where can I find reliable info? When do I know when to stop researching? What do I do with these twelve 1500-page textbooks I took out? Given that I too, was one of those wheelbarrow-full-of-the-recommended-reading kids, let me tell you what I’ve learnt from getting lost in the jungle.
Okay so you’ve just been assigned your learning agenda for the week, now what? I know some peoples’ first instinct is to start frantically flipping through pages of Guyton and Hall. Though textbooks are undeniably the ‘Gold Standard’, I’d advise you to slow down and first get a good overview of your topic. Generally, your weekly topic is themed around one central disease so I would jump onto Google and start with getting a rough understanding using very basic-level websites at first.
The internet is a vast and wonderful place, the waterfall of the jungle that all its inhabitants so heavily rely on. The NHS website is perfect for background study. It gives concise, reliable and lay information perfect to start you off. Similarly, charity websites such as the British Heart Foundation or Macmillan can be useful, these can also be great for epidemiology as they usually have a stats section. But obviously, the crowning glory of epidemiology has to go to WHO. I would also recommend a website called BMJ Best Practice for which you can use your university credentials to get full access. They have a full evidence-based catalogue of current best practice for diagnosis, management and medication for every disease.
So, at this point in this article I have decided it is time for me to confess my blasphemous secret. Okay here goes…
…Wikipedia is the best online resource to exist. I said it. Please hear me out! As long as you are not completely moronic (and surely if you are reading this you are not), I promise you Wikipedia will save your life!! There are articles on everything imaginable and if you generally cross check info, you’ll find it’s such a useful place to get info simply and easily. As long as you aren’t stupidly gullible and write essays about how humans have 3 hearts just because “iT sAiD oN wiKipEdiA”, you will save infinite time and effort. (BUT PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO NOT CITE WIKIPEDIA AS A REFERENCE EVER)
Now I know some of the more experienced (read: nerdy) students may be interested in using journal articles for your learning. Personally, I would just avoid going there at all costs because in my experience, that level of insane complex detail and experimental research is unnecessary and too time consuming for pre-clinical learning. Unless you’re writing a report, I’d consider that ~academic~ side a death trap. Stick to the forest floor amigos.
The next best product of the internet has to be YouTube. It is one of the greatest learning platforms for medical students and the extent of creative, high-quality educational content is outstanding. YouTube videos are my go-to when it comes to revision because they give you all the essential detail you need quickly so you can cram while travelling or eating etc to maximise study time. You will find some of your lecturers’ teaching styles are not suited to you, so it’s great having someone else teach it to you differently. To give you an insight into a couple of my YouTube favourites, I have listed them below:
· Osmosis – an essential
· Dr Najeeb – simple and beautiful but also really long and a bit boring
· Ninja Nerd Science –omg what would the world be without you
· Armando Hasudungan – you haven’t seen beauty like it
· Khan Academy –though it does cover everything very well, I’m not really a fan
· Geeky Medics – these guys will keep you afloat through OSCEs :,)
Moving onto physical resources, generally the best medical textbooks are:
· Martini’s Fundamentals of Anatomy and Physiology
· Guyton and Hall’s Textbook of Medical Physiology
· Kumar and Clark’s Clinical Medicine
· Marieb’s Human Anatomy and Physiology
Aside from all the medicine text blah-blah my favourite thing about textbooks are the diagrams. I would definitely recommend taking advantage of them as you can be assured they are physiologically accurate and reliable. Specifically, when it comes to anatomy, most students like using Gray’s Anatomy, Moore’s Clinically Oriented Anatomy or Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy. (They also have some matching anatomy flashcards that all the Kool Kidz have).
Picking up textbooks on highly specific topics is a BAD IDEA, please don’t try and memorise the whole Oxford Textbook of Clinical Nephrology for your one-week diabetes case, it will be far too detailed and not worth the time or effort!
Please keep your A-Level textbooks!! I used my bio textbooks more than any other book in first year purely because it was so useful to have a refresher over the vital basic concepts that I totally forgot over summer. Same goes for those of you who were God-gifted enough to have taken IB (you guys are basically doctors already).
I mentioned anatomy briefly earlier. For anatomy, us Mancunians are blessed with our online anatomy workbook, which is what I use, joint with any diagrams I can draw out. Despite occasionally being incorrect, Teach Me Anatomy does explain concepts very well with probably the best anatomy diagrams available online.
And last but not least, you may have heard of the icon, every med student’s idol, Robert Acland. If your med school does not automatically grant you access to him and all his glory, I urge you to get Acland’s Video Atlas of Human Anatomy yourself. You need him.
Finally, for revision I sometimes like to use a software called Anki which many med students really enjoy. You can create flashcards and revise them using spaced repetition, with many super cool add-on features. Others prefer Quizlet in which you can share flash-card decks with you friends, perfect for group studying. My favourite memorising technique has to be using whiteboards to write out the information I need to learn, explain it, then rub it out and repeat.
And that concludes our tour!
*A disclaimer* I do appreciate that for most post-grads this article won’t be so useful as you have plenty experience with the researching process. This is aimed more for the fresh-out-of-college students who may be struggling with this aspect of medical school, like myself. You will get different advice from different people; everyone has their own learning styles, so this is just about my personal experience! When it comes down to it, there are an infinite number of resources available and it’s all about finding what works best for you. It might be hard to get your bearings when you first start off but that’s okay, enjoy the journey. Best of luck with your expeditions!