I thought I might write a short description of my experiences during the first two classes during the fall of medical school. As you may already know, the fall term of your first year consists of two “Fundamentals” courses, which will sarcastically be referred to hereafter as “Fun-1” and “Fun-2.” After a slow-paced summer of adjusting to Birmingham, Fun-1 is an altogether shock to the system. One of my fellow classmates and MSTP likened it to letting several bears into an auditorium full of people; an unfortunate number of med students fail the course faster than they realized they were in medical school. Although realistically, the fateful few (1) needed to fail, and (2) get to try again next year. Regardless, Fun-1 is about learning how to handle more information than can possibly be mastered within the allotted time. Therefore, my biggest lesson learned was how to study “outside-in,” i.e. learn the big picture concepts, then work my way into the details. If you’re anything like me, knowing you don’t know something is worse than not knowing that you don’t. I had to learn how to maintain my perfectionist nature to study hard, without letting the random obscure exam questions get to my head.
Fun-2: Everyone says “it gets better after Fun-1,” and I hate to be cynical, but it doesn’t. Fun-2, which consists of pharmacology, immunology, and microbiology, was the most memorization I have done, ever. There came a point in my studies where every fact I memorized simply replaced another fact. The huge advantage to this was that, despite the bulk of information, nearly everything we learned seemed to have a purpose. For really the first time, we began to solve clinical cases, from diagnosis to treatment plan. My advice: make charts; they are compact, organized, and the best way to learn information in that “outside-in” strategy. In summary, Fun-2 was a lot of work, but was well organized and useful.
So, there are my two cents on what is allegedly “the most difficult term of the basic science years,” although I will test that designation in the coming months.