What’s The Secret To Being At The Top Of Your Class In A Medical School?

Discussion in 'Medical Students Cafe' started by Dr.Scorpiowoman, Apr 1, 2020.

  1. Dr.Scorpiowoman

    Dr.Scorpiowoman Golden Member

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    This question was originally posted on Quora.com and was answered by Matthew Wong, Neuroscientist, PhD (Psychiatry)

    Ah how to be a good doctor?

    I never was top of my class in medical school. That’s because I never did medical school. However, I was top of my class in two separate years (1st and 3rd year) when it came to my Advanced Science program majoring in Neuroscience which featured a lot of units in common with some aspects of medical school (physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology, anatomy and histology, pharmacology and neuroscience), including getting a top overall score for Pharmacology in 3rd year. I also got the joint best result for one of the neuroanatomy classes.

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    I definitely cannot say that this is the same as going through medical school. Very different kinds of pressures and environment overall. Maybe David Moore can give you some words of wisdom on what it’s like to go through med school. However, I can give some general advice that will serve you well.

    1. Form good habits early. This of course assists with keeping your weighted average mark (WAM) or GPA/whatever cumulative score high but also helps you to easily track your progress. Some real common sense stuff: don’t skip lectures or classes, and make a solid attempt at any prerequisite coursework before class. Make the most of every learning opportunity.

    2. Consolidate learning. Med school and anything medical related covers a lot of things that you (unfortunately) must commit to memory. You will go through plenty of drug names, classes, mechanisms, plenty of gross anatomical names, tissue and cell types linked to function. You will explode unless you keep tabs. One way to do this is to write up individualised notes. I was very fond of the OneNote system as you could easily type notes and append images. Also use visual metaphors. Medicine and cell biology has some highly visual components. Something as simple as “an agonist acting on a receptor is like sending a letter through a mailbox successfully, while an antagonist acting on a receptor is like a big block of wood that sits in the mouth of the mailbox and blocks letters from being stored and sent” will instantly make the concept easy to understand. In fact this is why I find an anime like “Cells at Work” so cool. It takes immunology and explains it in a very understandable and relatable way. Make your neutrophils into sturdy front line warriors and bacteria into invasive monsters and they truly come to life.

      Another thing I did especially for pharmacology was create a drug table for every new class we looked at - antihypertensives, anti-epileptics, reproductive, anti cancer and antibiotics etc. This table would have the major class, the mechanism of action, the names of characteristic drugs, adverse effects and contraindications, and some information on dosages. I also made short multiple choice quizzes online. Mindmaps are particularly useful as well and ought to be built up when you are studying for exams, you will find out how much you can cover through these.

    3. Networking with fellow students. If you are a medical student and you are trying to win it on your own, you probably aren’t ready for the rigors. Yes, a medical doctor practices on his own, but while you are a student, you want to engage others as much as you can. Sometimes the course naturally dictates that you work in groups. But beyond the formal aspect, make sure to have a close-knit group of fellow students that you can communicate with. Often you remember better when you study as a group. Certainly, it can be more motivating to have someone else around you also keen to study. They also make quizzes and stuff like mindmaps more fun to do. Be willing to ask and listen to their questions, because often they will be common with yours. It then becomes a quest to help each other achieve your goals.

      Networking will also help out with case studies, practice and the like as you replicate some of the things expected.

    4. Networking with professors and teaching staff. This is a clear no brainer. It doesn’t matter what stage you are at, if you have a burning question or concern, ask and probe as much as you can. A good relationship with your professors and teaching staff will make things a lot smoother for you and you will get more out of your learning and find good mentors (which is another point - if a mentor system exists, why not go for it and be mentored, especially as a junior student?).

    5. Stockpile internal and external resources. Sometimes the lectures and in class activities won’t cover everything or in as neatly arranged as you like. Youtube and other sites may often be a good supplement. Be aware the presentation may be different but if it helps you to learn, why not? I also recommend actually going through the textbooks, as they provide broader context that may not be presented in the course.

    6. Understand your weak points and find ways to overcome these. If you don’t sometimes get floored by the content, you probably aren’t human. You will find some lessons that fly completely over your head. That’s very natural. Our brains can only process as much information in one sitting. Often, its a process of simply sitting down and breaking the information into bite sized chunks and then seeing the overall picture, step by step with your teachers. I will tell you how much a relief it was to know all my biochemistry lectures actually fit together despite the sheer volume of new information.

      Naturally you will reflect and try to patch up on your weak pts. Never treat a poor result in a given assessment as final. You will sometimes do poorly, not because you didn’t study hard but often the way the answer is communicated might not be quite what examiners were after. This is also where understanding criteria is key. Look over the outcomes as this is what is assessed. You will also muck up on a lot of practicals. That doesn’t matter, as long as you learn from these in the long run.

    7. Don’t try to be best at everything. Well actually, do, but know your limits. Remember, a professor often teaching a course has high level expertise in a specific area. They will know the ins and outs more than you do. Sometimes, they will put in more information than you will actually need. Good information, but not directly relevant to you overall. An example I will give is my physiology lecturer, an expert in the cardiovascular system. This man would draft up huge flow diagrams of process after process. I unfortunately had class clashes so had to miss a lecture every fortnight. One of the lectures he delivered was on microvasculature - how blood flow is regulated in the small vessels. I went through the notes and the recorded lecture afterwards and it was truly one of the worst study experiences of my life. When a flow diagram has over 15 arrows all over the place, you’re not going to enjoy yourself. So I actually told myself, this stuff isn’t important. I tried to summarise the most vital aspects of the flow diagram but no way would I commit myself to memorising the regulatory process. If I want to become an expert in microvasculature, so be it. But I didn’t, and frankly, even if I did, I would not want to study it this way. Let me say the practical where we examined blood vessels in various organs was far more informative than half that lecture.

    8. Remember to have fun and be yourself. Medical students especially. Medicine is lovely but you have a life to live. Go out for fun dinner and games with friends. Do attend those associations to chill. Many here will know that I am a Christian and frequently attended my university run campus ministry bible study, bible talk and training. I spent up to 4 hours a week doing faith related things on campus. Two other students I knew who attended campus ministry activities on a regular basis studied advanced science medicinal chemistry and advanced science in molecular biology. Both of them topped their respective courses more than once, like myself, and received Dean’s List honours despite the common misconception, “we can’t afford to spend time not studying!”. Not bad for three aspiring scientists stuck into God’s Word when they aren’t studying.
    Honestly, there were some tough bits of courses. Medical professionals really do have it hard to get to where they are. But have a goal beyond the course. Don’t focus purely on marks or position. Focus on how you will develop as a student, professional and a person. That to me is by far the most important thing. Your primary goal should not be to best all the other students in the course. If that is the case, you can likely become disillusioned if you don’t make it. Instead aim to expand your knowledge to be the best health professional you can be and have transferable skills that will set you well for life. Maintain positive relationships with the people around you and new people that you meet. If those things are on the right page, you will do well by nature. I for one didn’t really set the goal of topping my degree twice, scoring 100 in chemistry twice and getting a Pharmacology prize. I certainly don’t consider myself to be the most intelligent person in a given course. But being attentive and keen to make a difference is always a good start.

    This is why I’ve always loved the film Patch Adams (starring the late but always wonderful Robin Williams, based on a true story of a real Patch Adams). If you have not watched it, do so. In the film, Robin Williams plays Patch Adams, a medical student whose strategies and approach to patients isn’t exactly what you might call “medical canon”. Of course the film exaggerates somewhat but it shows that head knowledge and even good clinical skills is not everything when it comes to being a good doctor and there are things that you must learn beyond the books and the surgery table.

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  2. Claire West

    Claire West Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the useful information. I believe that a good student is distinguished from others by the way he studies. I try to do everything I can to get as much knowledge as possible, not only remember the answers for the exam, but also look for a way to remember this or try to put it into practice. As an example, I can cite the latest events from my student life. Each student received a task and a topic for writing an essay. Many of my classmates just found an essay on a similar topic on the Internet, while I wrote my essay and conducted research on this topic. Yes, I turned to a special service, such this https://www.essayedge.com/medical-essay-editing/ , that helped me find errors in my text and gave recommendations about what changes I need do in my writing work in order to get the correct essay structure, to make it more understandable and logical, but I wrote my essay by my own , because for me this isn't a boring homework, this is another opportunity to become a little better than I was yesterday in my study.
     

    Last edited: May 30, 2020
  3. Rebecca_Stevens

    Rebecca_Stevens Young Member

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    Great article! Thank you for such useful tips. At our school, we all help each other and contribute to each other's success. We are one big family, and I am happy to know that if I face some issues, I will be helped. For example, last semester, we had a group project on education and we were all struggling to come up with some good topic. One of my groupmates shared an awesome source of inspiration for all of us. We wrote about uniforms, which, BTW, were first introduced in Christ’s Hospital in 1552! Interesting, right? You can find more information here: https://pro-papers.com/blog/school-uniforms-essays - a great source with topics, tips, and what-not. So, we all started brainstorming and came up with a successful project related to both education and medicine! So, my suggestion to all students would be to make friends with peers and you will not only be successful in your studies but will gain true friends for lifetime!
     

  4. Diane Patterson

    Diane Patterson Young Member

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    My biggest secret is that it helps me research paper writing service some wonderful people from whom I get the most help. I am a medical student without the free time and with a very busy schedule, but very interesting for me. I do not regret that I am a medical student, and I am very happy that I found this super team, that's what I call it, to help me.
     

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