Posts Tagged ‘study’

Ethics: don’t be a shit person

September 20, 2011

One day, I hope to be a clinical educator and lecture medical students in ethics.*

I could save universities time and money with my easy one step process to ethical enlightenment.

Step one: Don’t be a shit person

I would have lecture slides each with various fonts stating “Don’t be a shit person”

(there would, of course, be hyperlinks to direct them to the definition of “shit person” and maybe a demonstrative youtube video)

Students could buy a pocket book from my online store to help them through various difficult situations in hospital.

Each page would say:

“Don’t. Be. A. Shit. Person.”

There would be an Iphone & Ipad app.

I’d also sell those silicone wrist bands with “D.B.A.S.P” on them.

Thus ending the tortuous pain of medical students everywhere who attempting to write 3000 word ethical essays analysing cases that could essentially be summed up into one sentence (see above).

*Not. Really. Unless I get to roll out the above plan. Then it’s on.


Learn all the things

September 9, 2011

I feel like this post is written about my life.

Instead of cleaning, or buying groceries or going to the bank I’ve been occasionally doing some scribbling on paper.

Generally nonsensical statements. Like this one:

“Clozapine is generally therapeutic at serum levels above 350mcg/L and has a threshold for inducing seizures at 1000mcg/L thus why most patients are kept within the range of 350-600mcg/L. Levels above this require sodium valproate for anticonvulsant cover”

Which I read back later as:

“Some drug does something good at a level but something bad at another level so ask the ward pharmacist something when using the drug for something otherwise badness with the shaking and the seizing and something with probably family yelling and legal proceedings and oooh chocolate…I didn’t know I had chocolate in this pencil case…mmn”

There is definitely a split personality happening here.

One gets hypomanic and obsessive compulsively lays out the stationary into order of colour, then writes notes feverishly with excessive highlighting.

Then a few days later the other personality reads the manic one’s notes and scoffs, pours another gin and hops into bed with the electric blanket and a Charles Bukowski novel.

Unfortunately gin drinker is predominating.

Rhinoceros Unicornis

March 17, 2011

Endocrine Surgeon: …another concerning risk at the moment is the potential damage to your parathyroid glands during the thyroidectomy.

Patient’s wife: What are they, doctor?

ES: Well, our med student can answer that.

Me: hmm? urh, well, they, uh, regulate calcium in the blood and…uh…

ES: Yes! (Spins on chair) Did you know they were the last organ to be discovered?

Me: No…wow.

ES: What year were they discovered?

Me: ummm…I don’t know.

ES: I want you to find out what year, who discovered them and what colour the animal was that they were discovered on.

Me: haha. Seriously?

ES: uh, yes.

Patient: Was it a monkey?

ES: No.

Patient’s Wife: A dog?

ES: No. Stop narrowing it down for her.

So far I’ve got:

The parathyroids were discovered by Richard Owen in 1850 in an Indian Rhinocerous (Rhinoceros Unicornis, now the emblem of the International Association of Endocrine Surgeons) that died after a fractured rib punctured its lung and was bequeathed to him by some Zoo in London. He used to get all kinds of animal carcasses offloaded to him for his research. His wife apparently walked in to find the Rhino lying in her hallway. She was pissed. He also critiqued and argued with Darwin. He was badass.

Parathyroid glands were then first discovered in humans 30 years later in 1880 by Ivar Sandstrom, a swedish medical student. This piece of information upset me somewhat and led to feelings of  incredible inadequacy. Not only have I failed to be involved in research thus far, but I have almost certainly missed the boat in terms of discovering new organs.

But back to the Rhino. I know it had been living in the Zoo for 15 years before its death. The Zoo had paid 1000 guineas for it. It fell and fractured a rib leading to a punctured lung. It then vomited slimy blood streaked vomit for weeks leading up to its collapse and death. What I CANNOT find, no matter how many google searches I run, is WHAT COLOUR THE FREAKING RHINO WAS.

It’s not black. Its not albino either.

Endocrine Surgeon smiled and said “Well done. But no. Not black. Not albino. More research. You’ll understand why its important when you know the answer.”

Anyone have any idea?

Is this some sort of in-endocrine joke that I’m not getting?


added to note:

I’m an idiot who read wikipedia wrong in my haste yesterday;

This prehistoric-looking rhinoceros has thick, silver-brown skin which becomes pinkish near the large skin folds that cover its body. Males develop thick neck-folds. Its upper legs and shoulders are covered in wart-like bumps. It has very little body hair, aside from eyelashes, ear-fringes and tail-brush.

I still don’t get the joke.


March 13, 2011


– cleaning of new yoga mat (read: dunking of mat in bath of soapy water to avoid faceplanting it during next downward dog, as have done for last two classes. Note to self: new yoga mats are super slippery if not cleaned before use…)

– have become a ‘bike riding person’. complete with super cute basket that detaches for grocery shopping.

– cycled to amazing cafe twice this weekend for chai with friends.

– cleaned out wardrobe and jewellery and created ebay selling pile

– managed to ignore ebay selling pile for entire weekend, even though must step over it (due to its enormity) to get into bedroom.

– eaten more blueberries than ever. pondered why I used to baulk at paying $3.99 for a punnet when I am regularly paying $5.00 for bread…which I do not enjoy as much as blueberries. ahh blueberries. the bluest of fruits.

– painted most of furniture that stood still long enough white.

– went spontaneously to neighbourhood party. have awesome neighbours. made friends.

– had strange haircut experience with a hairdresser who, whilst philosophically talking about colour therapy told me that, for example, I would not be able to pull off like, spiky red hair as I’m not “like, out there” and “daring” enough and then queried why the back of my head was “flat”.

– discovered the bakery of my dreams. and then the second bakery of my dreams…and then third. This new suburb is almost 50% bakery.

– oh yeah, MOVED HOUSE. To the beach. Spontaneously. One weekend. Marvelled at ability to look at rental on a thursday and be sleeping in it two days later, on the Saturday night. Its easy to move quickly when you’re escaping a hothouse.

– explored two new suburbs

– have become an early riser thanks to surgical schedule.

– have decided not to become surgeon. thanks to surgical schedule.

– have seen babies born by caesarean, and the most impressive sacral pressure wound. Am embarrassed to admit that the pressure wound took my breath away more. But in fairness, birth and caesareans are spoken about. Nobody talks about pressure wounds. Not like these ones. No way.

– have started to suck the marrow out of the weekend (a strange metaphor for a vegetarian, but none else does it justice).

– have taken a lot of baths. because we (finally) have a bath. I’m ashamed to admit, it feels like we’ve “arrived”. Now when my mother tells me to “go and have a bath” after a long hysterical conversation about some trivial thing thats got me in a fit I can actually go and do it. Instead of dissolving into a heap of tears sobbing “buu…uut I doo…on’t HAVE one!” I freaking love baths.

– started yoga and ‘power pilates’. the yoga is lovely. however may tone down the, er ‘power’ after weekend of neck pain and discussion with former physio turned junior doctor. have started to reconsider the wisdom of putting my neck out (so to speak) to get into positions for a class being led by a (lovely) junior instructor with a 12 week training course behind her. But there are foot rubs at the end…


Not Accomplished;

– estudiar

– étudier

– s.t.u.d.y


My father did say, upon taking in the surroundings of the new place, the cycle paths, old fashioned grocery stores, the proximity to cafes, vegetarian restaurants and the beach, “Make sure you don’t get too distracted”.

Distracted? From thyroid cancer, trauma algorithms and diabetes? Never…

Wanna be best friends?

November 6, 2010

The single most important thing you need in medical school is not the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine (although I highly recommend it).

It is not an unlimited account at Officeworks.

It is not the brain of a ninja mensa prodigy child.


The single most important thing you need in medical school is friends.

If I could urge new med students to do one thing, it would be to make friends with as many people as you can. Get your nice face on. Go to every social occasion, party, drinks after pbl. Channel Jim Carrey in that B-Grade movie that I never saw but could get the entire synopsis by watching the trailer – “Yes-Man”. Say yes to everything. Be NICE to everyone. Don’t write anyone off as weird or creepy, or boring. They’re probably just shy, or tired or on drugs or poorly socialised as a child and kept in a box under the stairs. That doesn’t mean they can’t be your friend right? EVERYONE is going to be your friend.

Why? These people will save your life one day. They will send you an amazing flow chart. They will offer to explain blood pressure regulation. They will bake. My god, will they bake. They will swap notes with you even when yours are terrible. They will explain things in anatomy through song. They will forge your name when miss sign on for a compulsory class. They will go crazy with you during study week and think it’s perfectly normal when you walk into their study room, touch their arm and exclaim desperately  “I just need human contact”. They will kill themselves laughing at your ridiculous musculoskeletal exam and then teach you how to do it properly. They will silently place a hot chocolate in your library cubicle. They will go with you to exam feedback meetings and sternly argue your case. They will conspire to ‘acquire’ as many cannulas as possible to facilitate extracurricular learning. If they’re in the year above, they will give you all their notes, past exam papers and genuinely enquire how you’re doing with each block (and you will do the same to the year below you). They will make everything about this workload, this course, this shitload of note taking and struggling, easier. They will save your life.

And you will find yourself willing to jump off a bridge for them.

If you’re not sold on the warm and fuzzy angle consider;  mathematically, the more contacts you have, the larger your resource pool, the larger your board to bounce ideas off, the larger your support network and the larger your tequila-appreciation circle.  If you want to really step it up, get friendly with the staff. A friendly face as an OSCE marker can be enough to calm your heart rate so that you don’t kill the resus dummy.

Maybe it’s my perception of the culture  in our particular cohort. Maybe it’s the emphasis on our course being ‘non-competitive’.*  Maybe I’ve been reading too many “Buddha’s Tips for Life” pocket books and am slightly delirious at the end of an epic study week. Whatever the reason, I would like buy most people in our school a drink.**

I kind of love you.

*we don’t get given our marks, and are not competing against each other for glory, high ranking places or anything like that. It is US vs Medschool and we are eternally bound together by our incessant fight against admin.

**uh, and I totally would, except my funds from Julia Gillard et al are not quite sufficient right now. raincheck?

Path of least resistance

October 28, 2010

or “How to easily climb a hill”…

I have been climbing hills the wrong way. I’ve been trying to sprint up the highest points because that path looked the quickest, but it ends up being in full sun where I get horribly sunburnt and out of breath in no time with a hideous red face (uh, hills in this case being exams).

No more.

It seems paradoxical that the ‘easy’ path of least resistance is to study every day but it is. There is less stress. I’m not trying to cram things. By taking time to try and understand each concept I’m no longer having anxiety-filled sleepless nights. Its taking longer and requiring more rest stops, but its nicer. Climbing the hill, slowly and steadily but without breaking into a sweat.

Although that’s not to say I look beautifully calm and peaceful.

Au contraire.
I look homeless.
(But maybe leaning towards a homeless buddhist…)

The lightbulb moment

October 25, 2010

I recently had a change of study technique. My study methods up until now have been blatantly copying other students. I’m that chick who accosts you in the library and says “soooo what are you doing with that highlighter there, aye? ahhh you highlight your notes, huh? cool…”

I used flashcards because I saw someone doing it. I used a folder with tabs and bound notes because I saw someone do it. I handwrote my notes because someone told me it sticks better in your brain when you’re forced to write it (It kind of does, especially if you’re a fast typist). I bought books that people even half heartedly recommended.

But I still borderlined failed the neuro/psych/msk exam. Which made me cry. In a heap. In the shower. A lot. I was so down about it and felt like there was nothing I could do, because clearly my brain didn’t work the same way that other people’s did, as they all read the questions correctly and I was still reading them a completely different way. And forgetting stuff that I’d known when we did it in PBL.

But then in one moment the emo clouds disappeared and I realised that just because I was going through the motions of ‘studying’ like my friends it didn’t mean that I knew what I was doing. So, I googled “How to learn medicine”. Which is almost full circle from when I googled “how to get into medicine” in early 2008. I couldn’t believe it took THIS long for it to occur to me to actually research how you acquire large volumes of knowledge. Psychologists STUDY that kind of shit and here I was thinking I could just, like, do it by watching other people and buying some pretty stationary?

The results were amazing. On an overseas med student forum I found this gold:

To be a good student, the intangibles are required: work-ethic, dedication, and self-confidence.

However, in medical school, you will discover that almost everyone has that. The filtering process of undergraduate has removed most of those that lacked these intangibles. At this point it comes down to study method. The students who have the best methods are called geniuses. The students who have the worst methods flunk out or barely pass.

Good study method comes down to just a few things.

  1. You must understand the material by translating it in your own language.
  2. You must then review the material over and over again.
  3. You need to see the material at least 4 times with an optimum of at least 6 times.
  4. And finally, you need to review over several days.”

The most common mistakes made by medical students

1. Over-simplifying the material

2. Just reading and rereading the material. You must make your own notes in your own words and your own diagrams

3. Don’t review the material the week before the test. You must do it over the whole block.

Once I tentatively talked to a few people about it, it turns out a lot of students do this. Make sure they review a topic once every day for a few days to get it to stick. I’d just been reading it once, then waiting until study week (because that’s when you study, right?) and “reviewing” it and wondering why I wasn’t remembering stuff.


But now through trial and error I know what works for me. I think.

1. Pre-reading before a lecture.

2. Reading immediately after a lecture.

3. Writing in my owns word, turning the concept into a dirty story/poem or a song.

4. Painting and drawing for anatomy

5. Typing during a lecture, then reading over it to edit the grammar, then reading again to format the document. So by the end I’ve read the notes three times and have an easy to read formatted document.

6. writing one page per concept in a book. then condense hard to remember stuff on flashcards.

I hope this works. We’ll find out in three weeks.

Putting in the hours.

October 25, 2010

A pearl of wisdom found in this post from “The long road to medical school”

there is this myth that you have to be “smart” to do well in hard science classes. The truth is that they just require more solid knowledge and practice than social science/humanities classes and leave very little room for BS. But in the end, I think hard science classes are easier in a way because you won’t get a B+ if your professor disagrees with your interpretation of the text. You either know the material or you don’t, and that is completely within your control.


You just have to put in the hours.

I haven’t been posting much because I’ve been putting in the hours. Neuro, psych and musculoskeletal hit me for six. Despite putting in the hours I had to sit a supp.

So, I put in more hours.

(passed the supp)

Now, we have three weeks until our last exams for the year. There is a computer chair in the library with the exact impression of my butt from the hours I’ve been putting in.

Last year I had no concept of the hours required to learn this volume of information.I think emotions and a sense of entitlement to some form of creative-god-given-freedom hindered my ability to be a solid studier last year. I would get upset about the idea of spending all weekend in the library. It was unthinkable. Torture. A huge sacrifice.

I even printed off Albert Einstein’s quote “Never regard study as a duty, but as an enviable opportunity to learn” in an attempt to boost my productivity. But it was only recently that I “got” it. It isn’t a duty at all. It is awesome to study this stuff. It’s amazing I was able to dissect a body part this semester. It’s incredible that in two years this “torture” and “sacrifice” has turned me  from someone who couldn’t stand blood into someone who strokes non-med friend’s hands at dinner and says hypnotically “you have great veins…I’d really like to practice cannulation on veins like that”

Last year I was fearful of exams, anxious about results and full of self doubt. I felt like I’d scraped through to second year without deserving it. This year with this weird enthusiasm that’s started to bubble up, I feel like I want to put in more. Study more. Spend weekends reviewing. It makes me feel a little more in control and less likely to periodically fall in a heap.

I just can’t believe it took nearly two years to realise what my mum has been telling me for years.

Just go to the library. And then study. Repeat.

e. e. cummings

April 5, 2010

…was probably a


which i relate to {wholeheartedly}

because i am easily led

into worlds





i am lost {hopelessly} in

images of worn cotton pillows

vintage bunting

cake platters



lemon tarts

fresh produce piled high at sunday farmers markets {oh the sunlight

through the lens}

toddlers dancing at birthday parties



bicycles {with baskets}

steaming japanese noodles

pot plants

crystal vases

old photos


et cetera


cause {frankly}




{just} does


do it for me

{right now}.

The Gambler

November 3, 2009

It’s quite fitting that today’s exam fell on Melbourne Cup day. I was moaning to my mum about how in other courses I’ve studied you were given clear parameters of what to study. Learn this topic. It will be examined. The end. But with medicine it feels like they say “Learn these 42 topics. We will examine you on 3 of them. Plus a few more we found lying around that you hadn’t considered. Muhahaha.”

So you have to pick your bets wisely. Or even better hedge them so you learn a little bit about a lot of topics. It feels like the difference between doing okay + completely bombing out is just lucking out in what you choose to concentrate on or just quickly read over.  The other day my friend casually mentioned she wasn’t going to study the cystic fibrosis case too much because it probably wouldn’t be worth that many marks. I agreed. It’s only one case. How many marks can they allocate to it? hmmn? If it was a horse, that case would have pretty high odds. 1:20 or something.

But I studied it anyway + totally glossed over studying the arrhythmia case +  ECGs because I just don’t get them. It was a big gamble. I was sure I was going to lose marks over it.

First line of the exam paper reads: Jane is a seven year old with cystic fibrosis. Name 12 clinical features of cystic fibrosis that could develop over this patient’s lifetime.

The following TWO pages were question on CF. A substantial chunk of marks.

I was just lucky I bet on that horse. People who didn’t were unlucky. Not dumb or unprepared or worthy of failing. Unlucky. It’s near impossible to learn everything. You can have a broad overview of stuff at best. They could probably detail the pathogenesis of asthma, atherosclerosis + urinary tract infections but it didn’t matter.

Because two bloody pages were on CF.