If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that I entered medical school without a clue as to what was going on. I had no older med school friend, no mentor, and nowhere to really go for advice. Hell, I wasn’t even on Reddit back then. As such, the first time I heard someone mention First Aid, I was like… What? Why would we need to buy an entire text book on first aid stuff like bandaids and CPR? Laughable, I know.
My biggest issue during the beginning of medical school wasn’t a lack of effort, but rather not knowing how to study for medical school. Do I read textbooks? Do I attend lectures? Do I take written notes? I’ve since highly refined my study strategies and discovered countless resources that were essential in my journey from clueless med student with average grades to confidently in the top of the class.
One of the biggest lessons I learned in medical school is that outside resources are the key to success. You will inevitably have a bad lecturer who doesn’t teach an important topic in an organized level at the appropriate depth. Many times I’ve finished a lecture and thought to myself – what the hell do I really need to know from that?
Luckily, we attend school in the Internet era, where so much information is shared online and a few keystrokes away. Need help with Anatomy? Phys? Board prep? There are countless resources out there for your learning pleasure. With so many, it’s important to sift through the good and the bad. The high yield and the pointless.
If you’ve stumbled across this post or you’re a Soze Media regular, this is your comprehensive guide towards essential resources that will make being a med student just a little bit easier for ya.
YOU NEED THESE
1. First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 (2017)
Ol’ faithful – First Aid is the Med School bible. First Aid covers just about each and every significant topic you will see in medical school. While it doesn’t go into the same detail that your lecturers may, it hits all the important points. Super high yield.
In my opinion, First Aid should absolutely be purchased as soon as possible. It is the most comprehensive guide towards acing Step 1, which as you know, is the most important exam you’ll ever take in your medical journey. I didn’t start incorporating it into my studies until midway through my first year, but I wish I had earlier for several reasons. First and foremost, the key to memorizing this beast of a book is repetition. So, even as a first year, reading through the relevant chapters gets you familiar with the book, despite the fact that you may not retain a whole lot during your first read. You need to know this book better than you know your best friend. You need to spend time with it. Appreciate it. And treat it well, while adding character by writing your own personal notes in the margins. Like noting that sympathetics cause pupil dilation, which accounts for the crazy “Molly eyes” commonly seen on festival grounds at night.
Second, although First Aid may be a study tool geared towards USMLE Step 1, it is actually a pretty great resource to review current material. Say you have an unorganized lecturer rambling on about renal pathologies and nephrotic syndromes, but you were just hit with so much information that you have to ask yourself, what was important? What do I need to know? No fear – just read over the First Aid pages covering nephrotic syndromes. If it’s in First Aid, you need to know it, and this book will hit the absolute most important points. This accomplishes two goals – it gives you insight into which lectures in a particular block are the most important for boards, which in turn will very likely be asked on the block exam.
You have to buy this book at some point, so you might as well buy it now to get familiar with Step 1 material as well as using it as a quick-hitting study guide towards each of your medical school exams.
You can purchase new edition here: Fist Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2018
At my school, we have a pathology professor that causes a collective groan throughout our class when we see his name listed to teach a class on the schedule. He simply does not teach well. This is a BIG problem, because along with Physiology and Pharmacology, Pathology is one of the three P’s of the USMLE Step 1 – the most important subjects on the exam. You must thoroughly learn and understand pathology the first time it is taught to you, because this will give you a solid framework when it comes time to study for boards.
As medical students, we have been blessed with the ambition of one dedicated teacher who has made our jobs easier, the one and only, Dr. Hussain Sattar. Years ago, Dr. Sattar launched Pathoma as an all-encompassing guide towards mastering pathology for Step 1. Pathoma includes both videos and a book. The book doesn’t include any drawn-out explanations – just diseases, and all the important points you need to know about each disease. In addition, Pathoma includes videos in which Dr. Sattar teaches you pathology like a medical deity, explaining the relevant diseases and making sure you know what “will be important for examination purposes”. Like First Aid, if you want to do the best you can on boards, you need Pathoma.
I highly recommend watching Dr. Sattar’s videos and reading along with your lectures. For example, if you’re learning the Gastrointestinal system and it’s pathologies, read the pathoma chapters (and watch the videos) for GI path when the block starts. This will give you a quick intro to what you will learn in the block. Then, you can correlate the important lecture points with Pathoma, both to help you understand the diseases as well as make note as to which points are important. After you’ve had a lecture over pathology topics, watch/read the relevant portions of Pathoma. You’ll never forget them. You’ll be taking your exam and thinking, TGFP (Thank God for Pathoma).
You can purchase Pathoma here: Pathoma (Book Only)
For full subscription options, go here: Pathoma.com
3. Sketchy Medical
One of my least favorite topics in medical school was initially microbiology – bugs & drugs baby. Gram-positive and gram-negative, aerobes and anaerobes, disease presentations and complications, treatments, and virulence factors. It seemed like so much to learn and memorize. So much information that just exists in space, factoid upon factoid.
To tie it all together, you have Sketchy, a favorite amongst medical students everywhere. Sketchy is so beloved by medical students because it takes a break from words upon words – Sketchy is an online video program where you watch cartoon videos to tie together all the information surrounding a particular infection or drug. It makes learning
fun bearable, by telling you a story. For example, check out this free sample video on Salmonella to see what I’m talking about:
Not only is Sketchy a fantastic board prep resource, but it will also make your life much easier while learning microbiology for your block exams. As another example, thanks to Sketchy’s Neisseria gonorrhea video, I’ll never forget that the G-clap causes purulent exudate from the male and female copulatory organs due to the image of the a spilled creamy substance on a table in Gonzo’s Bar.
You can purchase a Sketchy subscription here: sketchymedical.com
4. Costanzo’s Physiology
Physiology is the most important topic in medical school. Straight up. Physiology underlies pathology. Understanding physiology, not just memorizing a few pathways and numbers and arrowed diagrams, is the single most important component to a solid background before studying for boards. By the end of your preclinical years, you need to know phys like the back of your hand. Every single older student I’ve talked to about boards says that a strong base in physiology is the best thing you can do to prepare for success on boards. Without mastery, kiss your dreams of that 250+ Step 1 score goodbye.
Physiology also aint something that’s super easy to learn in a narrow window, meaning that when you learn it for the first time, you better learn it damn good. Some of my school’s physiology lectures were incredible, while others were straight up useless presentations by Phd’s who spend a third of the class time telling you about their research that will not help you as a doctor. So, I looked externally. I read several physiology books (including the shortened BRS), but no outside resource compares to Costanzo’s when it comes time to learn the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. It ain’t a topic that you read a few bullet points from First Aid or lecture and understand. It requires time and a complete picture view, which Constanzo’s provides.
Buy the book, read through the entire chapter of physiology for each organ system during the block as your primary resource for learning phys. Then watch your class lectures on 1.5x or double speed to pick up on important points emphasized in class, as well as integrate your knowledge. Also, don’t neglect the end of chapter review questions – they are fantastic for synthesizing and recalling the info you previously read.
You can purchase Constanzo’s Physiology here:
There are countless products to assist you in your learning in medical school, but I believe these are the essential four that you absolutely NEED. Aside from Constanzo’s, they are not intended to replace your school’s lectures, but instead should be used as a supplement. Like taking Creatine to accelerate muscle gains when trying to up your bench press. Feel me? They’ll make the process of learning easier. They’re a great outlet to turn to when you’re presented with an shitty lecture. They’ll give you a jump start on synthesizing all the important information you’ll need to learn and retain for boards.
These are the four resources I consider essential before board prep. I’ll give you cool people some recommendations and reviews on various question banks and other resources when I’ve crossed the long treacherous bridge of Step 1.
DISCLAIMER: I highly discourage sharing of these resources. They’re not ridiculously expensive and they’re well worth the price tags. I say this not because I’m some moral authority or I’m averse to downloading shit for free (I was once issued a cease & desist order in the mail for downloading a Panda Bear album), but rather because I have been permanently banned from accessing Sketchy. A buddy of mine who attends school a few hours away bought a Sketchy account and let me use it. The people of Sketchy must’ve noticed constant logins hundreds of miles apart. And now my computer’s IP address is banned – meaning not only can I not log in and access his account anymore, but I can’t even buy a new account myself.
Sketchy Medical, I love you. I’m sorry. I know trust is hard to rebuild once broken, but I promise if you give me another chance I won’t screw it up again. I miss you. Please take me back.