In this article, I’ll discuss a medicine-specific strategy that many of my physician colleagues and I have used over the years to learn dense, complicated information quickly and effectively, and to do well on board exams. These are the two most important tenets of studying for a medical board examination: 1. Find the highest-yield information and memorize it cold.  With active methods such as mnemonics, teaching others, lecturing “to the wall,” writing notes ...

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What does it mean to be competent at something? Competency may be defined as the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. When it comes to determining if a physician is competent in his profession, no one, board, no organization, no government, no residency training program or hospital actually will state that an individual is competent. There are significant legal ramifications to declaring someone as competent to practice medicine, and ...

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George Orwell said, “If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.”  If Orwell was right, the profession of medicine and the patients it cares for could be in big trouble.  As a result of ongoing changes in healthcare, today’s medical students and residents are being asked to write much less than in the past, with a ...

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Dear LilSis, Fifteen years ago, I met your father, Dr. Braxton Wannamaker, when I as a neurology resident at the same institution where you are now a medical student. Dr. Wannamaker mentored me in neurology, epilepsy research, and life. I am blessed that the entire Wannamaker family took me in as an adopted daughter, and that is how I got to meet you, sweet Louise. The fashion we wore, boys we dated, ...

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On a recent Friday, I went out with a handful of classmates for some food to celebrate the end of a particularly long and tiring week of school. Interestingly, although we had spent hours each day shuttling between lecture halls, the hospital, and clinical exam rooms, the conversation kept drifting back to one, very familiar topic: school. We talked about everything we had endured that week, compared notes on our ...

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Last May, I reflected on my path from medical school to starting a health tech company in San Francisco. In an environment which fetishizes the “dropout founder,” I always met perplexment when I said I planned on returning to medical school. Now that graduation day is around the corner, I thought I’d shed light on my choice for clinical practice and what I learned on the other side. Medical ...

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In a few weeks, thousands of medical students find out where they have matched for residency. I still remember the excitement and anxiety of peeling back that envelope and hoping I would see my top choice. My medical school had a tradition of putting each 4th year’s name in an old doctor’s bag. One by one, our dean would pull out a name, the student would contribute $1 to the ...

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It’s been six years since I graduated from internal medicine residency. Enough time to give me some perspective, but short enough to still remember the highs and lows vividly. I recently had the opportunity to talk with a bright and energetic group of medical students. (Really, though, is there any other kind?) The conversation turned to any advice that I had or maybe I felt obligated to give some as part ...

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All medical students start out as the best of the best: You had to be to get into medical school.  So now that you’re in, what are some of the things you can do to attain the specialty you really want? How do you set yourself apart from your peers? 1. Get out of your head. Telling yourself you can’t achieve a competitive residency is your first barrier.  If you can’t even ...

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I recently saw a patient who, against all odds, survived an aortic dissection. Miraculously, he was alive after the wall of his aorta -- the largest and most important vessel in the body -- began to rip apart. Aortic dissections are so violent and agonizing that a large portion of these patients don’t survive. Yet somehow, my patient was still able to sit upright in his chair and recount his ...

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