Medical Student Q&A Series: Monica, MS3

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In this Q&A series, we have the honor of featuring Monica, a third-year medical student! She shares why she choose OB/GYN, how she prepared for USMLE Step 1, how she maintains wellness in medical school and so much more!

Monica is a third-year medical student at The George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC. She is originally from Buffalo, NY and attended St. Bonaventure University, where she received her degree in Biological Sciences in their BS/MD program. She will be applying to residency in OBGYN next year. She loves to spend quality time with her family, fiancé, and friends. She also loves watching TV and movies, and trying new restaurants!

1. What has been your favorite year of medical school so far?

My favorite year of medical school so far was my first year! I absolutely loved meeting new people and developing friendships. My friends have been the best part of medical school and they have helped me through every high and low. I also loved walking into school every day for lecture and feeling, “wow! I’m a real medical student!” Studying all the time was hard, but I got to study with my friends in the library and I had a wonderful study group to review practice questions with before every exam. Learning all of medicine was also so fun! I had finally gotten to start studying something I’ve been wanting to study for years! We also had some amazing experiences during first year, like having THE Dr. Fauci come talk to us about the HIV epidemic and his experience with it!

2. Have you decided on a specialty? If so, why did you choose it?

I have decided on OBGYN and I couldn’t be happier! I absolutely love female patients, I love mothers, and I love feeling a personal connection to my patients. There is nothing more beautiful or rewarding in this world than family and I get to participate in creating families on a daily basis. I also want to be there as a strong support system when women are struggling or feel inadequate or go through tough times like miscarriages or cancer. I was drawn to OBGYN because I love the operating room so much, but I also love continuity with my patients and all of the medicine that goes into prenatal care, contraception, and more! OBGYN has every aspect of medicine that I enjoy, and I can’t wait to apply to the match next year!

3. What tips do you have for medical students for choosing a specialty?  

I went into med school saying the only specialty I would NOT do is OBGYN because my dad is an OBGYN, but knowing what I know now, I highly recommend you keep an open mind! It’s also really helpful to keep track of things you love and things you hate on rotations, and keeping a journal or discussing your day with a loved one to really analyze why you love or hate those things is important! The rotations are so busy and exhausting, some people go through them without taking time to think about their specialty, so don’t make that mistake! It’s also important to consider length of training, income, lifestyle, and competitiveness in your decision, but don’t ever base your decision on just these things. Find your passion and go for it with wisdom in an informed way!

4. Let’s talk about USMLE Step 1! What were your favorite Step resources?

My friends like to jokingly call me a Sketchy Queen! I literally adore Sketchy and I might have failed everything without it. Sketchy Micro, Pharm, and Path were my bread and butter and they helped me so much that even on rotations when I get asked a question I think of the Sketchy videos! I’m planning on using it again for Step 2, along with UWorld, which is of course the literal gold treasure of the USMLE. 

I also highly recommend spending $15/month on the Amboss library. Every time I’d review a UWorld block and would want more information on renal tubular acidosis or glomerulonephritis or HIV drugs, for example, I’d just pop it in the Amboss search bar and it was like using a Google search engine that was hardwired towards the USMLE – so clutch and saved so much time I could have spent searching for answers.

5. How long did you take for dedicated studying and did you feel like it was sufficient?

I had to take Step 1 during the COVID Pandemic. I allotted 8 weeks to study and I did feel like it was enough, but during week 6 of my studying the world “turned off” so I actually ended up studying for 6 months. I was able to get through UWorld twice and my wrongs once, so I did feel like I was very well prepared for the exam, but I certainly wanted to take it earlier. I had to take a few weeks off in the middle when my exam was cancelled for the third (of six) time to mentally recuperate, so I highly recommend not prolonging your study time because you WILL burn out, and if you don’t mentally burn out your body will break.

We are not meant to sit on our behinds for 14 hours+ a day for that long, so I ended up developing piriformis syndrome and fainted from the pain at one point (an ambulance came to my house), so that’s my funny Step 1 story!

I wish I told myself to be more present and to really enjoy med school instead of complaining so much and to trust the process and believe that everything will be okay

6. What should students do during the pre-dedicated phase to prepare for Step 1?

I would honestly just focus on learning the material at your school and spending the time to truly understand it. You won’t have as much time for subjects like cardiac or pulmonary physiology, RENAL, and micro during dedicated. Think of dedicated as the time when you need to master an exam, not the material. I watched Sketchy the first time during pre-clinicals and I also finished Pathoma and read through First Aid in addition to my coursework.

I loved Physeo and Boards and Beyond for certain topics during pre-clinicals, but I’d never recommend these lengthy sources for dedicated time, which should be mainly spent doing questions and brushing up on weaker areas. I also recommend saving UWorld for dedicated time!

One thing that may be helpful would be to watch Pathoma/annotate the book once more before dedicated so that you can just read the book during content review or watch the videos at 2x-3x speed and understand.

7. Pre-COVID, where is your ideal study spot?

I loved studying at home, the library, and Panera Bread! Anywhere with comfy seating worked for me, because my back hurts after a while with uncomfortable café seating.

8. What are the ways you maintain wellness in medical school?

I am a Coptic Orthodox Christian, so church and prayer are an important part of my life. I love to spend time in silence in church to quiet my mind and stop worrying about school. Many of my friends meditate and similarly find a way to calm the worrying thoughts of studying or stress. I also love hanging out with friends, who are my biggest med school blessing! We found a restaurant with all you can eat sushi in DC and we used to go after every exam with our squad — that was our form of wellness together. I also love traveling and refused to give it up for med school (even though I had to give it up for COVID LOL), so I used to take every free weekend after an exam and travel to see my parents or go somewhere new or do something fun!

9. Any tips for having a productive study session?

The best thing my dean told us on the first day of med school was to never go into the library without a plan. Never be vague and say, for instance, “I’m going to study today.” Instead say, “I need to watch two lectures, follow them up with two Sketchy videos on the same topic, and do the associated flash cards, and then I’m done.”

Being specific will really show you if you had a productive study session, and if you do this then you can eliminate the guilt of feeling like you didn’t study as well as you should have or didn’t get enough done. If you want to go out to eat with friends, for example, but feel guilty about not studying, you can tell yourself, “I did what was on the schedule for today, so I’m good,” instead of thinking of the mess of a to-do list in your brain.

Also keep in mind that there are friends you can hang out with, and there are friends you can study with, and oftentimes they are not the same. We’re all adults and it’s totally fine to study somewhere else if your friends are distracting, so always be aware of yourself in this manner.

10. What is something you’d tell your younger medical student self?

I would tell myself to CHILL THE HECK OUT. I was so worried during first year about matching and failing out and doing bad and Step 1. I constantly felt guilty, feeling like I’m not doing enough or that I should be studying more. I also had really bad imposter syndrome. I wish I told myself to be more present and to really enjoy med school instead of complaining so much and to trust the process and believe that everything will be okay. It’s a lesson I’m still learning! In kindergarten, when you do something right, the teacher tells you to give yourself a pat on the back, and even though we in med school don’t really do that, it’s important to remember to be proud of and content with yourself, and to celebrate the wins!

I hope you enjoyed the interview! Let us know if you have any questions by leaving a comment below!

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