Hello! My name is Teja Paturu. I’m currently an M2, and I was in your shoes not too long ago. I remember my M1 year being one of the most transformative years of my life: it was the first time I lived without a roommate, dealt with student loans, studied for hours on end for days on end, and definitely the first time I experienced imposter syndrome. With that being said, I wanted to share my reflections in the form of some advice.
Some days are reverse Pomodoro days.
You’ve probably heard of and tried the Pomodoro method: a study strategy with some organization of a longer study block (like 45 minutes) followed by a shorter break (like 10 minutes). When I feel like I’m at risk of burning out, I spend an afternoon (or sometimes even a full day!) doing “reverse Pomodoro” where I work for 10 minutes and break for 45 minutes. While it sounds like a very inefficient use of time, I find that doing this strategy makes me feel less guilty about taking the break I need; it eventually even gives me the energy to finish my work without getting burnt out.
Are you really going to watch 10 hours of Boards & Beyond and read 8 AMBOSS articles to prepare for lecture?
There are hundreds of prominent companies looking to profit off of your M1 panic era. Be very selective about where your money goes—you will absolutely not have time to utilize all of these resources. I encourage you to try the free trials of these services before purchasing and look into free options to supplement class material. Some of my favorite free resources during M1 were NinjaNerd, condensed First Aid pages on the Hoard, Brett’s review PowerPoints, and the Academic Support Center Canvas page’s questions (you’ll hear mixed feedback about these questions, but it’s really easy to skip out-of-scope questions, so I found them to be helpful).
Anki isn’t everything.
I remember there was a huge Anki craze at the beginning of M1. While there is scientific evidence that the spaced repetition algorithm is optimal for memorizing information, it’s important to realize that doing almost 1,000 Anki cards a day may not be the optimal strategy for YOU. Keeping up with my ever-growing Anki deck was often overwhelming, and there was even a course where I gave up on Anki completely (I still did fine and was happier than ever)! If you are unable to keep up with all of your Anki cards or want more time to do things outside of Anki, my strategy for Anki is to just do the days’ lectures’ cards and only look back at the cards for lectures with very memorize-y material. For example, if we had 4 lectures on a Monday, after class I’d make “filtered decks” for just those 4 lectures and work through those. Later on, usually the weekend before the exam, I’d repeat the memorize-y lectures, like Dr. Wiranowska’s virtual microscopy lectures or Dr. Anderson’s microbiology lectures.
Eat a leaf, take a walk, and touch some grass.
As easy as it is to just grab a slice of pizza from Greenwise for lunch everyday, try to get your fruits, vegetables, and protein in—your mind and body will thank you, and good food gives you the energy to get through course content. Oftentimes Greenwise has great sales on fruit, so you can replace that evening snack of hot Cheetos with some blackberries. Eat that snack on a short walk or at least sitting outside so you can change your environment up and get a little bit of passive exercise. I know how hard it can be to actually get to the gym or even to a workout, so incorporating some light activity is really crucial. One way my friends and I have made physical activity fun is to plan beach Saturdays where we study at a cafe together for a few hours and then go swimming together at the beach in the evening.
You are too hot to fail!
Everyone in this class is incredibly impressive for even making it into medical school—so few people make it this far, and there were so many barriers you overcame. Remember that you deserve the seat you have. Whether you fail a test, an NBME, a full course, or even have to remediate the year, you are too hot to fail. Everyone in the administration wants you to pass and wants you to move on to the next phase of training. There are ways to make up for a bad test grade, opportunities to remediate an NBME or course, peers who have repeated a year and others who have found an even better alternative to staying in medical school. None of these things mean you have failed—you’ve survived and thrived through every bad day in your life so far, and you will continue to do so. I have full faith that life always works out when you believe you are too hot to fail!
For many, the first year of medical school is brutal! It’s easy to get swallowed up by overwhelming quantities of material, lifestyle changes, FOMO from peers in other fields, self-doubt, and a slew of mental health issues you’ve never faced before. Lean on your friends and family, get professional help, and, most important of all, take care of yourself <3
Link to USF’s counseling center resources: https://www.usf.edu/student-affairs/counseling-center/
Below is contact information for faculty who you can reach out to for support.
Dr. Kira Zwygart
Associate Dean, Student Affairs
Ph: (813) 974-2068 | email@example.com
Dr. Deborah DeWaay
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education
Ph: (813) 974-7131 | firstname.lastname@example.org