Howard Morgan, medical student at LSU Health Shreveport, recently matched into Radiation Oncology at University of Texas Southwestern. He’s here today to tell us some tips and tricks for surviving medical school and The Match:
Tell us about yourself:
Howard Morgan: Hi, my name is Howard. I grew up in Ruston, Louisiana, which is where I also went to elementary school, high school and college. I then went to LSUHSC Shreveport for medical school. Apart from my medical interests, I like to think of myself as sort of an artist. I enjoy drawing, painting and composing music. I also love jogging and exercising.
Looking back on your medical school experience, what would you say to the young and naïve “first-year you”?
HM: In the first year of medical school, I studied a lot more than necessary at the expense of socializing and having fun. I still think that I had a lot of fun during all of my medical school years due to the excellent camaraderie that I felt with all of my colleagues — and I will miss all of them when I leave — I would tell myself to be less tense. Do what you can to the best of your abilities and be content with your shortcomings.
What tips do you have for USMLE?
HM: Everyone studies differently. If you hear a study strategy from someone that aced the USMLE that doesn’t sound like a good idea, odds are, it wouldn’t be a good idea for you. One thing that I think helps everyone is taking the practice tests that the NBME provide. They are kind of pricy, but they are the closest to the real thing that you will get. Take these NBMEs all the way through with one sitting (the full 4 hours). It’s helpful to do it with a friend so that you have motivation to finish them. Most people find them intimidating, since you have a lot of self-doubt when you answer questions. However, I think it is good to face the intimidation more when you are practicing than on actual test day. When you get to test day, it will just feel like another practice test. On test day, don’t get stressed out at trying to do better than what is possible. Just do the best you can. You can’t learn anything more on test day, and it will be intimidating no matter which way you face it. Recognize that everyone is intimidated. Feel calm knowing that you have prepared to the best of your abilities, and take the actual test just like you had taken the practice tests.
What advice do you have for the students going through clinical rotations?
HM: As far as evaluations from attendings in outpatient and inpatient settings, the bulk of your evaluation will be from how well you present on rounds or after you see patients. Make sure to be well-prepared on rounds by being well versed with the patient’s hospital course and what your plan will be for the patient. Residents are often very excited to help you and discuss what a reasonable plan for a patient would be. Talk with them before rounds so that you can have your presentation fully thought out.
What recommendations do you have for medical students to maintain their sanity?
HM: Don’t study or work so much that you cut out your friends. Friends are so important. They make you smile when you’re feeling down, and they make you laugh when you’re bored.
How did medical school differ from your expectations?
HM: I expected medical school to be very stressful the whole way through. However, I found my experience to be extremely enjoyable, which I highly attribute to all of the close friendships that I have formed throughout my medical school career. Work is just so much more pleasant when you see a welcoming face as you walk into class.
What things did you do during your four years of medical school that you believe particularly impressed your residency program?
HM: I would say some unique things that I did would be volunteering as a reviewer for AMSRJ and helping with ultrasound education. However, I would say most of my interviews tended to focus on who I am, what I like to do, what research I’ve done, what research I’d like to do in the future, what I’m looking for in a program and what location would make me happy.
What attracted you to your chosen specialty?
HM: Many things, to be honest, but I would say if I had to pick one it would be the opportunity to not only impact the physical aspect of illness but also the psychological component. The treatment of cancer can be very daunting, especially with the long wait times that you have following treatment to know how it is responding. I found a lot of inspiration in one doctor that was able to take such a negative situation and turn it into hope. It wasn’t just what he said, but how he said it. You could tell that his conversations were very uplifting, and that’s what I wanted to be like. I wanted to be able to have therapeutic relationships with people who are in such vulnerable times in their lives.
What is your biggest fear about beginning residency?
HM: With increasing independence, I think my biggest fear is missing a crucial diagnosis, which would delay management. However, I found it very reassuring this year when I was doing my acting internship to see interns, who were MS4s last year, do such an excellent job handling a large volume of patients very thoroughly. I think it shows that our institution well equips us with the knowledge/tools necessary to be effective interns and shows that being a good intern is not an unachievable goal.
What advice would you give third-year students about to start the Match process?
HM: I would highly recommend talking with an MS4 who recently matched in your field of interest to get all of the specifics on applying, what places that they liked/disliked, etc.
I also want to say that the interviewing process can be very enjoyable. It led me to several places that I had never explored and really opened my eyes to the beauty of our country. Plus, you get to connect with several different faculty members across the nation and see how your specialty can be run differently at various places.
And a fun bonus question! Please share an easy and quick recipe that got you through tough weeks in medical school:
I think it’s common that when you have a tough week, everyone else may be having a tough week. Therefore I think discussing your frustrations with your co-medical students is often the best way to fight your worries.