What They Don’t Tell You About Pharmacy School: Semester 3

As I write this post, I’m happy to say that I’ve finally made it through the first semester as a P2!! It’s only going to get harder, but I have to celebrate the small victories. As I’ve done in the past, at the end of each semester, I will share with you my experiences as a second year, first semester pharmacy school student!

  1. The Dreaded “TBL” – The TBL, or Team Based Learning, begins. I know that TBLs are used in other health profession schools as well, but I can’t speak to what they are like. They are worth a significant portion of your grade, you must spend a significant time preparing for them, and worst of all, you have to rely on your team and their knowledge to get you through the activity. We’ve all had both good and bad team experiences. Let’s just say, as the semester progresses, teammates get lazier and lazier and put in less work for your quizzes and participation. TBLs can be very bad.
  2. The silly classes are over. Oh, how I’ll miss the days of  “The History of Pharmacy Practice” and “Communications in Pharmacy”. As I reminisce on the classes that I barely had to study for, I am instead taking  “Toxicology”, “Pharmacology”, and “Pharmacokinetics” (all of which take at least 10 hours to study for *sigh*).
  3. I miss first year OSCEs. I’ll be the first to admit that last year, I hated my first year OSCEs. Now that I’m doing second year OSCEs that are infinitely more difficult, that incorporate disease states and symptoms that I haven’t even learned about yet, I think it’s safe to say I miss the days of just having to take blood pressure. Or memorizing a physical exam that I’m literally never going to do again in my life, and certainly not in practice. A lot more is expected of you, and my confidence is often shaken, but everyone makes it out okay.
  4. The Care Plan. Don’t get me started on these. Why must I fill in the same information about a patient in six different spots on the chart? Why, oh why, must I come up with a patient friendly way to ask them what their POEMs are, just for the sake of the chart? Most frustrating is, why does every teacher grade these differently and therefore, it’s almost impossible to get a perfect score on them?!
  5. If you just can’t, there’s always Margarita Monday. Sometimes, Mondays are bad. Sometimes our entire week is bad. Sometimes our TBL group mates aren’t reliable, and our teachers take entirely too long to upload grades that you’ve been waiting and waiting for. But Margarita Monday is always reliable. Every single Monday.

Short post this time, but it’s time for me to start getting ready for Christmas!

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas, and I’ll be back to write soon!

:)Lauren

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Last Summer

Theresa here! Before I start this post, I just want to say CONGRATS to anyone reading this who started (or will start) med/pharm/dental/nursing/PA/etc. school this year! Good luck on your first year of what I am sure is going to be a wild and exciting journey! 

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If you’re considering going to medical school, but haven’t heard the phrase “Last Summer”, it’s probably about time you put it on the list of “Things Medical Students Won’t Stop Talking About” right next to Step 1 and how unfair the last exam was. For those of you who don’t know, “Last Summer” is the slightly inauspicious term for the more disheartening reality that the time between 1st and 2nd year of med school will literally be your last “free” summer. After 2nd year, you get thrown right into 3rd year, almost without getting a chance to take a breath from the drowning that is studying for a taking Step 1. Sayonara to your summers until you retire from being a doctor!

OK. I’m realizing that this post is kinda on the grim side, so I’ll try and lighten up a bit. (Might be because I just took an exam on GI pathology, but who knows…)

 Puppies are always a good cure for post-exam blues, right?

Even though during your “Last Summer”you technically don’t have to do anything, there’s a unwritten rule that you still should be doing something. Why you may ask? The answer to most reasons why you do anything in med school: landing a residency. When applying, residency programs will often look at what you did during your first and second years, especially in highly competitive programs/specialties like optho or ENT. Likewise, certain programs value some “summer activities” higher than others (e.g. academic residency programs LOVE research). But this doesn’t mean that you must do research if you want to get into a competitive program. Although “Last Summer” activities are important, residencies weigh Step 1, class grades and letters of recommendation much higher. Plus, med school is a long four years — there’s plenty of time to squeeze in some research for those top tier programs if you manage your time well. In any event, there are SO MANY different things you can do in those precious few months between first and second year, so here’s a quick and dirty list of some of the things me and my classmates did this summer!

  1. Research. I’ll get this one out of the way now. Probably by far the most popular “Last Summer” thing to do. Most students either do clinical or basic science (“bench”) research. If you’re looking to get a publication/paper out of a project, clinical research is probably the easiest and best way to go. Bench research is notorious for being “slow” in the sense that experiments can take awhile to complete and the data needed to be gathered can be large. So unless you jump on a project right before they decide to submit a paper, it’s unlikely that a couple of months doing bench research will award you a first-author paper. However, having a background in basic science research is a invaluable skill, especially if you go on to do clinical research later. Another plus for research is that there are quite a few programs that offer stipends so you won’t have to eat Ramen every day trying to save money until your loans come in at the beginning of second year. I ended up doing a research program through my school called the “Student Summer Research Program” (I know, super creative title, right?) in which I conducted molecular biology research in a basic science lab. Going through the program was wonderful since we were able to present posters and submit an abstract at the end of the summer (it’s not a paper in Nature, but hey, I got my name on something!). I was also lucky enough to work with a great group of lab mates which made being in the lab (almost) every day of my last summer worthwhile!
  2. Travel. Probably the second most common thing to do. A lot of kids in my class did some kind of medical mission trip to an under-served country and also used the time as a vacation too (the affectionate term being “volun-tourism”). It’s for sure a great way to do some community service, practice your rudimentary medical skills and learn about a different culture at the same time. It can get a bit pricey though, especially depending on what country you want to go to. However, always check with your school to see if they offer scholarships or grants for students who wish to volunteer over the summer. The alumni association at my school would give students anywhere from $500-$1000 to fund their trip. It might not be much, but it’s at least a plane ticket. But traveling for the entire summer to go on a mission trip is not the only travel you can (or should) do! If you take anything away from this post, please hear this: take time to go somewhere while you still can. This is your time you’ll have so much free time. It doesn’t have to be as big as going transcontinental. Take a few days and do a small road trip. Set aside a week at some point and just go.
  3. Shadowing. Many students, especially those who don’t have any idea what specialty they want to go into, will use the summer to explore the medical field a bit more and spend more time with patients. If you can set it up and have good connections, it can be easy to shadow a doc for a couple months. Sometimes, you can technically work for the doctor’s practice and get a stipend or some form of compensation for spending time there!
  4. Tutoring/Teaching. Many schools have summer academic programs for undergraduates or high school kids in their community where med students can sign up to teach classes, most likely science. It’s a great way to stay sharp with a lot of the knowledge you learned during first year, plus it’s hard to find something more rewarding than teaching kids, especially if you can encourage them to pursue a career in medicine! Again, if you find yourself a tutoring program, most will have a form of compensation and/or housing stipend to get you through the summer. You can also tutor for companies, such as Kaplan, in which you can help kids with the MCAT or SAT.
  5. Working. Sometimes you just want to make a few bucks to save up for second year expenses. You don’t even have to have a job in the medical field. Just showing that you’re out and doing something is still better than nothing!

I don’t want to make this post too long, so I’ll end it here with what I think are the top 5 “Last Summer” activities. If you’re just starting med school, don’t worry about this for another couple months and try and focus on getting yourself settled in med school. One thing you MUST do during your last summer is take time for yourself. It takes a lot to get through year 1 and year 2 won’t be any less stressful, so take time to RELAX. Visit friends, go hiking, sit at home and binge-watch Stranger Things (which I totally recommend, btw). It’s your time to do whatever you want, so you do you during you last summer for a very looooooooong time.

Until next time!

❤ Theresa

Pharmacy School Applicant Do’s and Dont’s

Howdy everyone!

Just a few short days ago, PharmCAS released the 2016-2017 Pharmacy School Application! I remember filling out that same application 2 whole years ago, but wow, it feels like the time since then has flown by.

The application itself is long and intimidating, and it’s a school’s first “glance” at who you are. This application and all the information you put on it will be the reason a school extends an invitation to interview, or not. For me, it was practically the most important application I’ve ever filled out in my life, and I wanted to make sure that I made the best impression I possibly could via a series of electronic forms. I wanted to compile a small list of application “Do’s” and “Dont’s” for all the pharmacy school applicants this year and in the future. I’m hoping that this can help someone to get through that vicious application, and score an interview at their dream school!

Don’t leave anything off of your application.

When filling out the “resume” portion of the application, feel free to be yourself here. Are you a member of the local dodgeball team? Put it down. Do you spend time learning how to tap dance? Put it. Do you volunteer at the community’s Little League concession stand? Put it!! None of your accomplishments or extracurricular activities are insignificant. Anything goes here, just as long as it is something you legitimately do. Don’t make anything up here just to make yourself sound interesting. But, I do encourage you to share interesting hobbies and activities here . It makes you a more interesting applicant to the Admissions’ Committee, and it also gives proof that you are as well-rounded of an applicant as they are looking for.

Do think hard about submitting your application as an “Early Decision”.

Early Decision is a serious matter. There might be that dream school out there that you are applying to, and you tell yourself that you will absolutely accept their offer of admission if they choose to give it to you. That is a fine choice for some people, if they are dead set on attending a particular school. I advise you not to cut off all other options, though. If you don’t get selected as an Early Admit for your dream school, you need to have back up options. You are only allowed to pick one school as an Early Decision. You don’t even have to choose an Early Decision school if you don’t want to. Pharmacy school admissions is competitive, and you need to make sure all of your bases are covered. Also worthy of mentioning is, if you do apply for Early Admit, and the school offers you admission, you are bound to attend that school. There is no changing your mind at this point in the game. If, for whatever reason, you apply for Early Decision, the school offers you admission, and you decline it, you are not allowed to apply for any other Pharm D. programs during the current admission cycle – you must wait again until the next year. Take this decision seriously.

Don’t wait until a school’s deadline to submit your full application.

As a matter of fact, try to submit your materials as soon as possible. Sometimes, it takes a while for your transcripts to be processed by PharmCAS. It also may take a while for your references to submit their letters of recommendation. Plus, the earlier you submit your application, the faster you will receive offers to interview.

Do realize that most schools only give you 2 weeks to accept their offer.

After you attend a school’s interview, the waiting begins. It could take anywhere between 1 day to 1 month to hear back from the school. In any case, the majority of schools will only give you a 2 week time frame, starting from the day they accept you, to accept their offer. This can obviously be a huge problem. You may still have a ton of interviews lined up that you haven’t been to yet once you receive an offer of admission. You may feel slightly anxious that no other schools that you interview at will accept you, and that you might as well accept the school that has. Make the best decision you possibly can. If you feel confident enough to keep going, I advise that you do that. You don’t want to accept an offer of admission to a school that your heart isn’t set on. You won’t end up happy with that decision. I turned down schools left and right after they admitted me, mostly because they weren’t good fits for me regardless, but I’m glad I waited for the right place to come along.

Good luck to all of the pharmacy school applicants this year! I know you will do well!

:)Lauren

 

 

 

Professional Fraternities – Do I Join?

Hi everyone!

Today, I wanted to touch on the subject of professional fraternities and what they’re all about. I was presented with the opportunity to join a professional pharmaceutical fraternity in my second semester of my P1 year. It actually was a real challenge for me, deciding on whether I should pledge one of our fraternities or not. I wanted the friends, I wanted the networking opportunities, and I wanted the chance to make a difference in the fraternity’s chosen philanthropy. On the negative side, I didn’t know what pledging actually entailed, I didn’t want a boatload of extra work, I didn’t want my bid to be rejected for my chosen fraternity, and I certainly didn’t want to be hazed. What was a girl to do?! All of these decisions and all this stress on top of everything else I had going on with school…

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Long story short, I did end up pledging a fraternity, and became a full fledged member before the semester was over. The honest truth? The meetings and the extra work were definitely time consuming, some of the pledging requirements were difficult to complete, it was expensive, and of course the process start to finish was filled with anxiety-ridden moments that I can’t even share with you due to the nature of the fraternity.

All in all, though, pledging a professional fraternity is a good idea in my opinion.

If you are wondering if this is the right extracurricular to get involved in, I encourage you to think about a few things – Does the fraternity have a philanthropy that you care about? Do you have the money to pledge right now? Do you plan on being active for the following years of schooling or was this just a temporary venture to put on your CV? Are the people in the fraternity people you don’t mind spending a lot of time around? Will you take advantage of everything that the fraternity has to offer, such as regional conferences, volunteering events, leadership workshops, and career networking opportunities?

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When deciding between fraternities, or just deciding to pledge a fraternity in general, think about those things. Once you pledge one fraternity, you can’t pledge another professional one. Take the decision seriously. Do your research before you make any big decisions. Take the time to talk to fraternity members to get a feel of what the culture is like once you make it in. You don’t want to devote all of your time, money, and efforts getting into a fraternity, and finding out it’s not what you expected or wanted it to be. This is not only a chance to make new friends, it is also a chance to grow professionally.

Till next time,

:)Lauren

 

 

For all the Indecisive Students out there…

There are two types of regrets in this world: things that you do and things that you don’t do. The best way to live life is to only regret the things you’ve done.“– an obviously very exhausted Radiation Oncology physician who wanted to say something profound to a room full of 1st year med students

Hey guys, Theresa here! It’s been awhile, I know, but I thought I’d blog about something that’s been on my mind a lot lately: choosing a specialty. I think this topic isn’t just something that medical students have to deal with, but literally everyone has the dilemma of deciding on a career. It’s a lot of pressure to choose something that you’ll end up doing for the rest of your life.

You’d think that going into professional school, you basically know what you want to do for the rest of your life. And truth be told, some do. When I started medical school less than a year ago, I was 100% sure that I wanted to become an orthopedic surgeon. That didn’t last long, however. As the year has gone on and I’ve had more exposure to other specialties, I can say that I do not know what specialty I’ll apply for in my 4th year. Honestly, I feel like it was easier to decide to become a physician than figure out which kind of physician I want to be.

Deciding on a specialty would be much easier if Ryan Gosling was pressuring you into choosing.

At the same time, as a rising second year, it’s still early enough in my medical education that it’s fine that I haven’t chosen my specialty yet. In fact, many of upperclassmen and residents I have talked to did not make a decision until the end of their first year after they had rotated through the different clerkships and taken some elective rotations. This makes the most sense — deciding only when you have had real exposure to the different specialties out there. And trust me, they are all completely different! I mean, would you want your dermatologist fixing a valve in your heart? Probably not. But both of these specialists all took the same classes in medical school, yet their respective careers and lifestyles are vastly different.

This all being said, there still is a lot of pressure to choose your specialty early, especially if you want to go into some of the more competitive ones like ENT or ophthalmology. Applicants are for these residencies are so competitive that students even remotely interested are encouraged to engage in research and shadowing as early as possible (like 1st year early) in order to have a fighting change of matching.

One of the great things that my school provides for us indecisive students is a program called Careers in Medicine (CiM). The directors of CiM put together programs like “Residency Speed Dating” in addition to specialists panels that correspond to the organ system block we are studying at the moment (for example, for our pulmonary block, the panel consisted of pulmonolgists, critical care internists, anesthesiologists and thoracic surgeons). These programs are wonderful because the physicians don’t try to sugar-coat anything. They will tell you the absolute worst things about their field. Sometimes it can seem harsh to hear things like a doc chose emergency medicine so that he wouldn’t have to deal with a patient for a long time, but it’s something that we need to know as medical students trying to figure out what is best for us and will make us the happiest in the long run. You want to choose a specialty that fits your interest as well as your personality and lifestyle.

I’ll end with this: it’s okay not knowing what you want to do. Go out and explore different things and don’t settle for anything less than what’s best for you. As a physician once said to me, “If you can imagine doing the worst part of your job everyday for a week straight, then that’s the right job for you.”

That’s all for now guys! I’ll probably be MIA for a little bit since I have T-minus 25 days left of school with two quizzes, two tests, an OSCE and a shelf exam all crammed in there. But when I’m all finished up, I’ll post a recap of my first year along with what I’m doing with my “Last Summer” as well as what’s ahead for year two. Until then, thanks for reading!

❤ Theresa

What They Don’t Tell You About Pharmacy School: Semester 2

Howdy guys!

I can’t believe it, but I actually made it (almost!) through my first year of pharmacy school! I only have 4 more finals this week and then I can officially say that I am a P2!

So, on to the good stuff –what are some things to expect while in your second semester of pharmacy school?

  1. You start to come to the realization that there are more facets to pharmacy than just your usual retail setting. We were exposed to the world of personalized medicine/pharmacogenomics, job opportunities in specialty pharmacy, the art of modern compounding, and the very sterile world of IV/infusion pharmaceuticals.
  2. Prepare to have your blood pressure taken by your classmates an unhealthy amount of times. I’ve had my blood pressure taken approximately 1.2 million times this past year, and I am confident in saying that some of my classmates still need to learn how to do it. My limp arm can’t stand to be the guinea pig any longer.
  3. The alarming amount of paranoia you begin to feel after taking pathophysiology courses. After every lesson, no matter what it’s concerning, you start to feel as if you immediately are having symptoms of whatever disease state you just learned about. We learned about pulmonary embolisms one day, and accordingly, I started having unsettling pains while I was breathing (turns out it was probably just a panic attack…or really bad acid reflux). You learn about intestinal parasites, and all of a sudden you can’t stop itching all night and have severe diarrhea for the duration of the lessons. You see my point.
  4. Not only did I get to compound my first capsule and mix my own cream, I also got to make my own natural remedy for insect bites. Ah, the wonders of natural medicine!
  5. Suddenly, you realize that pharmacy school isn’t as hard as it was when you first started. You start to remember more things. Old lessons from last semester are coming back to haunt you … I mean, coming back in greater detail so you can build on your knowledge. You actually start to learn about how medicines work. You are actually starting to learn what you came here to do!

Stay strong! If I can make it, so can you!

:)Lauren

On the Art of Studying

Hello everyone!

First I want to apologize for being MIA for well over a month! I had fallen into a false sense of “I’ve got this whole med school thing down” and then BAM we switched into a new block of courses which dumped clinical and laboratory work on top of our lectures. and my studying habits had to change yet again. With that being said, I thought I’d make this post about studying and what resources I have found over the past few months. Some of these I use, some I don’t. It’s all about finding what works best for you! So here’s a in-no-way comprehensive list of study tips! Just a note, some of these are med-school specific, in terms of question banks and board-prep materials, but I’ll try to keep it general too!Find a good note-taking programThis is #1 for a reason. The heaviest part of school (no matter your field of study) is going to be lectures and taking notes. And what worked for you in college will most likely not work for you in professional school. For instance, I used to print out PPT slides and directly take notes on those print-outs. But in med school, there are just too many lectures to validate killing that many trees. Additionally, professional schools in general are increasingly incorporating more and more technology into how they teach (as well as in clinical practice), so it’s a good idea to get used to using a computer all the time. Instead, I highly suggest finding a computer program where you can take notes. Some kids go very basic and take notes on Word or directly annotate through PowerPoint or Adobe Reader. I personally use OneNote, especially since I have a Surface where I can type and/or use a stylus to highlight and it lets you easily organize your lectures into “notebooks”. Similarly, many iPad or Mac users have found the app Notability to be a great tool as well. At the very least, by using a computer program, you will get really, really good at typing quickly and if professional school doesn’t work out, you could always become a stenographer.

  1. Anki. If you like flashcards, this is the program for you! Similarly to the whole “wasting paper-embrace tech” notion, you would have a slew of flashcards for all the info you’re learning, so you might as well computerize it! The very simple and easy program is completely free as an app on your computer or android phone (sorry iPhone people, you have to pay for the phone app). But it’s more than just a back and front card. You can easily format the card (or “notes” in Anki language) with different fonts, copy paste images onto the cards, tag the cards with keywords, etc. The “decks” of cards are searchable and the program also creates a study-plan for you. But maybe the best part is that each deck is a file that you can share with your classmates. That way, if you are too lazy to make cards on your own (like me) you can just wait for your altruistic friends to share them with the class!
  2. Take breaks. This is probably not a new study tip for anyone, but it’s always worth repeating. I’m sure most of us have looked up from our notes after studying for an hour and realized that nothing is sinking in anymore and you have to re-read the same bullet-point a few times before you think you got the concept. Many studies have shown that taking short breaks between studying helps you retain the information better because your brain has time to process and store more of the information you just reviewed. For me, I usually spend about an hour studying then take a half-hour or so break and watch a TV show, cook a meal or basically anything that will get my mind off studying.
  3. Outside Review MaterialOk so here is where it’s gonna get a bit more med school specific, so if you’re not interested in med school, go ahead and skip over this, I won’t be upset! I have only recently started using more outside resources for reviewing, mainly because I was nervous that the stuff my school was teaching me would not be the same as other sources. In reality, they are really similar since the main goal of my school as well as these resources are to prepare kids to do the best on Step 1 at the end of 2nd year. First Aid is a must as it will be the book you will use (at the very least) to prep for Step 1. Pathoma is a set of videos that go hand-in-hand with a book that wonderfully explains pathology and histology topics. Netter’s Flashcards and the app Essential Anatomy are beyond great for learning anatomy and quizzing yourself on structures. For physiology, many kids use BRS Physiology and say it really helps explain some difficult concepts (I haven’t used it yet, but I should try it). One of my favorite resources is called Sketchy Micro which is a series of videos that teach you all of the important concepts microbiology and pharmacology. it’s very thorough as well since each bacteria, virus and drug has their own video. Basically, the Sketchy writers make up these ridiculous stories that they draw out throughout the video that are wonderful memory devices. For instance, the video on ß-lactam antibiotics was centered around a Star Wars theme with Penicillin G represented as “Princess Ella” with “G” shaped hair buns along with ivy around her neck to signify it’s given intravenously (IV). It’s so dumb, but no joke, it works. If it wasn’t for the sketchy videos, I probably would not have passed our virus/fungi/bacteria unit. As for question banks, the best one’s I have found so far are UWorld and PreTest. The NBME also puts out old questions that are very useful when studying for Shelf exams. And if you want to shell out a few hundred dollars, there are some more comprehensive review programs/websites like Firecracker or Picmonic. Most of the subscription resources, however, have free trial periods so if you try it and realize it doesn’t work for you, you didn’t waste the money (especially since we’re all poor students in a lot of debt).
  4. Write it out. Writing things out and transferring things in your mind to something physical by writing it out does wonders for helping me remember something. Adding different colors and drawing pictures/tables really helps with memorization as well. I would suggest using a whiteboard or chalkboard, since they you have such a wide space to write on and it’s (obviously) reusable. I love my school for the fact that there are a number of small classrooms that are rarely ever being used, so it’s very easy to commandeer one the day before an exam.
  5. Teach it outIf you have the opportunity to teach someone about a concept, it immensely helps you both learn and understand the concept. Think about it: when you teach someone something, you have to fully understand the material and then figure out a way to convey it clearly to your audience. Even if it’s just another student or a family member, teaching makes it stick!

Those are the big hitters for me! What about you guys? Have any study tips that have worked really well for you or resources that have helped you master material? Share them below! Just remember that what works for me or someone else, may not work for you. Half the battle is figuring out how you learn and which methods help you remember the best.

Until next time!

❤ Theresa