By Shaily Mehta
Things I wish I knew before getting into medical school
We’re all worried about getting into medical school, digging high and low for interview tips and cramming for stellar predicted grades. But what about after that? What happens when you get into medical school?
Medical school started on a high for me, meeting new people every day in lectures, seminars and night outs. I learnt something new every day and there was so much change. So much, that it all seemed too much all of a sudden when it came to revision, I did not do much by that time! In medical school there is so much content to go through, however there’s a tendency to not review concepts again till exam time. This was a major fall back for me. Working at the last week and cramming till the last minute. Not ideal, is it? I wish I knew to always work hard from the beginning, which seems tough but is extremely important.
Things I wish I knew before starting medical school:
1. Just making notes for the exam doesn’t work- This is extremely important to take away from this article. I only used to make notes and jut re-read these notes. This doesn’t test anything, and the questions are normally framed quite differently. It's important to know concepts inside out for exams. since they can test you on pretty much anything. I really suggest to check out some YouTube videos and finding an efficient way of doing active recall and testing yourself. I would definitely recomment the app Notion. It really helped me organise my flashcards and notes, and encouraged me to review them regularly.
2. Work from the very beginning- I can’t stress this enough, leaving things to the last minute is not ideal in medical school. It’s important to plan well ahead of assignments and exams, so you have enough time to work on an assignment. You can do this easily, using diaries and bulletin journals to help you set weekly and month goals. It's also satisfying to cross out each task as time goes on!
3. Don’t shy away from opportunities and take part!- This is another crucial point. It’s so easy to get sucked into getting great grades, that it’s easy to forget medicine is not only about getting good greats or reaching the top decile. Showing that you explore other things and that you like to do other things other than medicine is as important. So, don’t shy away from research opportunities over the summer, networking or working for societies. Keep an eye out for these opportunities and try to take part. It’s also important to don’t burden yourself with too many things! So have a good balance and make sure you have enough time to the project or role you want to commit to.
4. Collaborate with friends- whether it’s making notes or flashcards, medicine is an ocean. It’s sometimes hard to finish topics or outcomes by a given time, due to the vast amount of information. I found it so relieving to collaborate with my best friend, while making notes in clinical years. It took a lot of weight of my shoulders, when the work is suddenly 50/50. I highly suggest finding someone you trust and who motivates you, to collaborate with and set deadlines with. This helped me to stay on track of things and to finish topics by a given day, so we had enough time to review these topics. I felt I would have been behind without an amazing study buddy, so definitely consider it!
5. Make the most of medical school- Even though it’s stressful, when we look back it will be the best 5 years of our life. Make the most of it, take days off and don’t be so hard on yourself. This is easier said than done, but this is a huge take home message. You won’t get these days back, so make the most of it before you start working! Make the most of those holidays, and make the most of your night outs!
How’s life at Brighton?
I’m currently a final year medic at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), and these have been the best years of my life for sure. At BSMS, we have an integrated programme where we have clinical placements early on to get used to taking histories and talking to patients before our clinical years. By doing this, I felt more confident going into my clinical phase and not at all lost. We have live dissection in our pre-clinical years, which is definitely one of the best aspects at BSMS. We get to dissect the bodies ourselves using instructions from our lovely anatomy demonstrators, which helps us to explore the anatomy even further and reinforce those boring anatomy lectures.
To help us further, we sometimes have live anatomy sessions with the anatomy demonstrators using felt tip pens to draw out blood vessels and muscles. In these sessions, we might also use ultrasound to explore blood vessels or muscles even further, since ultrasound scans are definitely difficult to understand. I felt these sessions definitely reinforced what to look at in an ultrasound scan.
In clinical years, we first start off with medicine, surgery, elderly medicine and psychiatry rotations in year 3. We then head off to more specialist rotations in year 4 which are 5 weeks each including oncology & palliative care, neurology, dermatology, paediatrics, obstetrics & gynaecology, ophthalmology & ENT, infectious diseases & genitourinary medicine and musculoskeletal medicine. During our time in year 4, we also complete a research project dedicating one day of the week for it, which is an amazing opportunity to develop networks and a chance to get a feel of research in medicine. We also complete general practice rotations during year 4, alongside specialist rotations.
At BSMS, there is more focus on being a holistic doctor, rather than being an extremely smart one. BSMS mainly focuses on clinical teaching and making sure that when we do become doctors, that we are actually listening to the patient and looking at the broader picture. BSMS overall has an amazing work/life balance and a huge variety of students ranging from school leavers, mature students and even parents. We also have an amazing student support team, which I cannot thank enough, and are absolutely amazing at what they do from mental health to learning plans.