A Taste of Your Own Medicine, Columns
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Eat, Study, Love: A Guide to Surviving the Boards


ATOYOMStudying for the boards is like preparing for a marathon shelf. Your stamina, knowledge, guessing skills and sanity will all be tested, although these are not formal topics listed on the syllabus.

At first, you’re gung-ho and ready to crack open your freshly bought books. Then, you slow down as you stare out the window wanting to be outside enjoying life. Lastly, you stare at your calendar wishing your test date was already here so you can get it over with, or you panic and reschedule your test date.

So what do you need to do to make this process go smoothly? There are some simple things you can do right now. First, drop that bag of greasy potato chips and stop drinking that soda. It’s important to eat healthy, balanced meals. If your stomach is happy, so is your brain. Don’t be afraid to eat comfort foods that make you happy, as long as you don’t splurge too often. Some people will make a delicious meal or go out to their favorite restaurant as a way of rewarding themselves.

You need to make time to blow off some steam and keep your body sound. Make time to play basketball or whatever sport you like to play. Unfortunately, most of your friends will be studying, so you’ll probably be by yourself.

Now it’s time to actually start studying. Different methods will work for different subjects. An outline may work for anatomy, but flashcards may be best for microbiology and pharmacology. It may help to form a study group where you teach each other topics once or twice a week; play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Don’t get nervous, however, when one colleague is studying pathology while another is on epidemiology but you are studying physiology and haven’t even begun those two subjects. Don’t worry, because everyone is on their own pace. You may not even study biochemistry, for instance, if you majored in biochemistry during college. So, keep stress to a minimum and stay away from people and situations that stress you out.

Set goals and constantly reassess yourself. It’s okay if not everything goes as planned, just adjust accordingly. Reward yourself when you meet goals. Also, stay organized: this will keep you on track.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to make every wedding, get-together, date night and video game night because you’ll be busy studying. These are just small sacrifices that we have to make to meet our long-term goal. Friends may pester you and they may not understand why you spend so much time studying, but true friends will stick by you.

You may get to the point when you’re sick and tired of studying. Before you pull out your hair, remember that this information will help you with your future patients. How so, you ask? For example, if you’re a psychiatrist with a patient with an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), you must be able to recognize the signs of a ruptured AAA in case this happens during one of your sessions, because it’s an emergency. Maybe you become a pediatrician and you use embryology to explain to the mother of your patient about her child’s Tetralogy of Fallot.

Do not be discouraged by what seems like failure; you cannot know how sweet success is until you have failed. One reproductive endocrinologist I worked with put a positive spin on our successes and failures: “Life is about victories and learning experiences.”

Valentina Bonev Valentina Bonev (21 Posts)

Columnist Emeritus and in-Training Staff Member

Loma Linda University Medical Center

A Taste Of Your Own Medicine is a column that gives you a taste of medicine. It focuses on important and interesting topics relating to medicine and being a medical student.

Valentina is a general surgery resident at Loma Linda University Medical Center. She graduated from University of California, Irvine School of Medicine.