It is February of our last few months of clinical rotations. I am a rising fourth-year medical student at a well-known East Coast institution with a not-so-bad track record, I guess you could say. I scored in the top percentile for the USMLE Step 1, honored my third-year rotations, and have comments from attendings about how I am destined to succeed in this career. One might think that at this point ...

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Over the past eight months, I’ve rotated at the Palo Alto VA, Santa Clara Kaiser, Stanford outpatient family medicine, and pediatrics clinics, and most recently, at Santa Clara Valley. At the VA and Kaiser, all my patients spoke English. Occasionally, at Stanford’s outpatient sites, our patients spoke a language other than English; however, this never felt like a barrier to care because Stanford had phone interpreters available, as well as ...

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One of my favorite shows to watch as a kid was Bill Nye the Science Guy. I fondly recall being glued to the television as Bill enthusiastically explained the mysterious wonders of the universe with all of his props, gizmos, and gadgets. Unlike science teachers at school, whose seemingly endless lectures bored me, Bill Nye’s hands-on, interactive approach held my attention. He simplified complex science concepts so well that even ...

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There comes a time in most people’s training when adversity threatens to become overwhelming and swallow them whole. It could be as a medical student, while spending countless hours in the library or when on demanding rotations. Or, it could be during residency, from the 80-hour work weeks or the stressful patient care situations. It might even happen well into training, when the weekly grind just becomes too much. Burnout, generally ...

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As an early third year medical student, I had a few attending physicians tell me that MD stands for “make decisions.” I find myself subject to these sorts of pep talks when I answer their clinical questions with a response influenced by a high pitched vocal inflection that suggests that I’m uncertain. For example, while being pimped on the next step in managing a patient, I might have responded with a ...

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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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