10 Things I Learned in My First Semester of Med School

I’ve FINALLY finished my first semester of med school– only 3.5 semesters left before I get my MD! I know I have a long road ahead of me, but it’s always nice to celebrate even the smallest milestones when you’re in professional school. So taking a page out of Lauren’s book, I’m going to do a short post on things that I’ve learned these last four months that I wish I knew before going into med school.

1. You have to completely change your studying habits.

I had a pretty decent formula for studying in undergrad: glance over my notes for an hour or so, then I was good. I definitely cannot get away with that in med school. There is just too much information being thrown at you. Now I can’t say what is the best way to study in med school because it’s really what you find out what works best for you. But keep an eye out for an upcoming post about different studying techniques!

2. Budgeting is not easy.

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If you don’t know, generally, a med student takes out loans to not only pay tuition, but also living expenses. Basically, you get about $10,000 at the beginning of the semester to pay for rent, transportation, food, etc. It seems like a lot of money, but it goes FAST. You have to be very careful when spending so that you have enough money to pay for rent in December along with Christmas presents.

3. Intimidation and competition start early.

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One of the reasons I was excited to go to my particular med school was the fact that it wasn’t known to have a competitive atmosphere. But I should’ve know that med school being med school, the “gunners” would make themselves known. And how early it was– like first week early. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being competitive (I think you have to in order to get into med school) and if you like being around those that outwardly exude intimidation that’s great! But if you’re more like me and are more internally competitive, make sure you find others in your class that have the same attitude.

4. Studying for exams will consume your entire day (or days).

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Everyone knows that med students have to memorize a lot of information, especially in the first two years (if not, see #1 on this list). Now this may depend on how your school’s curriculum is set up, but in my school, we pretty much take one large class. This means that every two weeks or so, we have a huge exam that is akin to taking five final exams at once. I’m not even joking here– most cover info from about 30-one hour lectures. For my last test before break (bacteria and antibiotics), we were given three full days to study. It might seem like a lot, but it’s not. I studied about 18 hours each of those three days and I still didn’t feel as prepared as I had for finals in undergrad!

5. You will (accidentally) find ways to talk about medical stuff you’ve learned in almost every conversation you have.

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Because med school consumes your life now, it’s just so easy to bring up something you’ve learned into a conversation. Now this would be okay around other people in med school, but be careful when you’re talking to non-med school folk! Your fun comment about what kind of diarrhea-causing bacteria your friend can pick up from eating the meal in front of them may not be as interesting to them as it is to you.

6. Non-med school distractions are a MUST.

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I should’ve put this as #1 on the list, but having stuff to do that isn’t med school is the only way to keep you sane and not constantly worry about school and your future. For me, I make sure that I keep a few hours a day for me time. I do whatever I want during those few, precious hours. Whether it be watching a movie, cooking a good meal, chatting with friends or finding a little adventure in the city, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have outside interests and hobbies

7. Living off-campus is not as common (and not as easy) as I thought.

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Going into med school I was given the option of living in on-campus dorms or finding my own place off-campus. I naively thought that most students (well-into their twenties) would not want to live on-campus in small dorms like they did in undergrad. Boy was I wrong! Probably about 80% of my class lives in the dorms with most of the commuters living at home with parents to save money. I found that I’m an anomaly living about a half-hour drive away from campus. I see why people deal with the small dorms, though. I find myself being incredibly lazy and not going to campus to do extracurricular things. Additionally, because I can watch my lectures at home online, I only physically go to school about once a week. BUT, if I had to do it over again, I still wouldn’t live on campus (just maybe a bit closer).

8. Boards are brought up CONSTANTLY.

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In med school, you take Step 1 of your boards at the end of your second year. I thought that I had at least a year until professors and students started talking about preparing for Step 1. The first week, our dean of student affairs suggested we purchase the prep book First Aid for the USMLE. Phrases like “high yield” and “you’ll need to know this for the boards” are brought up at least once a lecture and numerous times during review sessions. I know boards are extremely important, especially in landing a good residency, but it would be nice if they didn’t pile on the stress so quickly.

9. Never take the phrase “this won’t be on the exam” to be truth.

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I don’t really need to explain this. My advice is simple: KNOW EVERYTHING.

10. You forget what it took to get here and why you wanted to be a doctor to begin with.

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This is probably the hardest thing I’ve learned this semester. It can be hard to keep the big picture in mind most days. Just try and remind yourself every few days or so just for motivation sake!

❤ Theresa


RxIGHT -The Newest Innovation in Pharmacogenetics

Good Evening!

I couldn’t be more excited to share tonight’s post — another breakthrough in the world of pharmacogenetics! A few days ago, I read about RxIGHT, a pharmacogenetic test, which is the product of MD Labs.

In my previous post about pharmacogenomics (The Miracle Cancer Cure & Pharmacogenomics), I spoke a little about how each person is different, therefore we should not expect all therapies to be effective for everyone. By using the patient’s specific genome, we will be able to find appropriate therapies the first time around. No more guess work. No more wasted time, money, and energy. RxIGHT is an amazing tool that can help us to accomplish this with ease. We will be able to bypass therapies that won’t work and help the patient from the get-go.

They often emphasize the 7 Rights of Medication in pharmacy school — the right medication for the right patient at the right time at the right dose given by the right route for the right reason to produce the right response. A lot of “rights”, I know. But if you think about it, all of these elements are absolutely crucial for optimal patient care. With all of these “rights”, it is only appropriate to label this pharmacogenetic test with the same name. According to their website, RxIGHT is a test that patients can take (a cheek swab); their genetic profile is then measured against 200+ medications (including over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs) across 14 therapeutic categories (classes of drugs). Once the swab is sent in to the lab, your pharmacist will receive results detailing how your body is able to metabolize medications. This will ultimately help doctors to prescribe drugs that actually work for you without the negative side effects that come with medication trial and error.

In the health care world, errors happen more than they should. Patients more than likely are not aware of any of their genetic nuances that could affect how medications work in their bodies. Doctors are prescribing only the medications that they know best, even if it might not work for the patient. And pharmacists are filling the scripts and handing them off to the patients, assuming any potential issues have already been discussed in the doctor’s office. This cycle could be broken with this simple test. Medication errors would be significantly decreased and patients would see better health outcomes.

RxIGHT is a tool that helps health care professionals to eliminate any unnecessary medications, helps to provide the correct therapeutic dosing for each individual patient, and gives the patient the personalized medical approach based on their own body’s genetic needs. A patient’s time is precious. They deserve to have the best health care that we can provide as professionals.

This is an amazing new test. As always, I encourage you to check out their website and keep up with the latest!        http://www.rxight.com/


For Those Holiday Headaches…

The holiday season is fast approaching. What does that mean? It means our days will inevitably be filled with more stress from work, from last minute shopping, from finding the perfect Christmas tree, and a million other things that need to be finished in time.

For those annoying holiday headaches, I have put together a bit of information that I learned last semester to 1. help to diagnose your kind of headache and 2. find the best OTC analgesic to use (OTC is Over-The-Counter, and analgesic is a pain medication).

What Kind of Headache Do I Have?

  • Tension- Usually located on both sides of the head, with pain mainly affecting the top of the head (but could radiate down to the neck of sides of the head). You may be experiencing tightness or an aching feeling in the scalp.
  • Migraine – Usually only affects one side of the head. These kinds of headaches are usually accompanied by nausea/vomiting and a sensitivity to lights and sounds. The pain is more throbbing in nature.
  • Sinus – The pain will usually be felt on the face, forehead and/or behind the eyes. These kinds of headaches are usually due to nasal congestion.

*Disclaimer 1 – Migraines are very common, and there are medications made specifically for this kind of headache over the counter, but if you find yourself having several of these severe kinds of headaches without any relief, you should no longer self treat and you should get diagnosed by a doctor.


What Options Are Available For Me?

The pain reliever aisle in the pharmacy can be awfully confusing, even for pharmacy students. There are about 50 different products, but the funny thing is, they all contain 1 of 3 main pain killers. So, they really aren’t different at all, they just vary by brand.

The three major pain killers are: acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin. All of these options exist over the counter, yet some options are not appropriate for everyone.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Acetaminophen is usually the “go-to” medication, because it is safe in most populations. Acetaminophen can be used for mild-moderate pain and also for fever relief. This pain reliever can be used safely while pregnant. You should not take over 4 g/day (4000 mg). Do not take if you have consumed over 3 alcoholic beverages in a day. Be aware that continued use of this medication over a long period of time, or use with alcoholic beverages can increase your risk of liver damage.

Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)

Ibuprofen is an NSAID, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug; this means that it can be used for mild-moderate pain, fever relief, and also inflammation. Stomach upset may occur while taking this class of medication; ibuprofen taken with food, milk or antacids may help these symptoms. Taking NSAIDs can increase your risks of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, stomach bleeding or heart failure.


To be honest, I would never recommend aspirin for a pain reliever. But, it is in the aisle with the other pain relievers, so I will mention a little about it. Aspirin is a salicylate. Low dose aspirin is usually indicated for heart health. The maximum amount of aspirin to be taken is 4 g/day, but up to 6 g/day is needed to achieve pain relief. So, therefore it isn’t really worth taking for pain purposes. If you do choose to take aspirin, be aware that it is an antiplatelet drug — your blood cells have more trouble forming blood clots. This can affect those taking any blood thinners, patients with diabetes, patients with gout, etc.

*Disclaimer 2 – Not all headaches can be treated over the counter. As a matter of fact, some groups of people cannot be treated over the counter at all. Exclusions to self-care are as follows: an undiagnosed migraine, headaches lasting over 10 days with no relief, severe symptoms or head pain, pregnant women in their last trimester of pregnancy, children under the age of 8, headaches that are accompanied by a high fever that won’t go down, and those persons who consume over 3 alcoholic beverages per day. 

To recap: acetaminophen is usually a safe bet for most patients. Ibuprofen has the same affects as acetaminophen, but also has anti-inflammatory properties. Aspirin should just be taken for heart health, from my personal perspective. I hope this information is able to help get you through the holidays (and the rest of the year, too!). This is only a small bit of information about each of these classes of medications — always remember to do your research when taking a new medication, even if it is over the counter. Always be sure to consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.

Till next time,