Pixie Sanders, a recent fourth-year medical student who matched to Banner University Medical Center South for family medicine, gives us her expert advice on succeeding in medical school and beyond.
1. Tell us about yourself:
Pixie Sanders: I’m a co-founder of FMstudent.com, and a former web monkey who took a long time to decide on a specialty.
2. Looking back on your medical school experience, what would you say to the young and naïve “first-year you”?
PS: Most curricula are based on a lecture-memorize structure, not meant for adult learners. You have to figure out what works best for you: ignore the chatter of the memorizers and adapt your learning for every situation.
3. What tips do you have for USMLE?
PS: For COMLEX Level 1, I used Pathoma, First Aid, and both COMBANK and UWorld for questions. I also recommend Doctors-In-Training over BBC. For Level 2, I absolutely suggest using OnlineMedEd.org all year long; I tried both Step Up and Master the Boards — neither is great but together they did the job — and used only COMBANK for questions. I skipped USMLE entirely, went through the ACGME Match and got into my top choice residency, so don’t think you have to take it, but leave the option open especially if you want to be on the West Coast.
4. What advice do you have for the students going through clinical rotations?
PS: OnlineMedEd is amazing, not just for shelf or COMAT exams, but to learn the basics and build a foundation for the knowledge you’ll gain from experience and reading. Highly recommended!
5. What recommendations do you have for medical students to maintain their sanity?
PS: You need to remain human, so having interests outside of medicine is key. My husband and I had a house rule against discussing medicine, so we had really fun game nights and dinners.
6. How did medical school differ from your expectations?
PS: In every way possible. What you imagine, versus reality, can be a bitter pill to swallow. Move past it, embrace the positive elements and know at graduation, no matter where you stand in rankings or scores, you’ll be getting the same title as everyone else in your class.
7. What things did you do during your four years of medical school that you believe particularly impressed your residency program?
PS: Perseverance in the face of failure, without a doubt. I didn’t have the required grades to be a club officer or mentor for incoming students, yet I used a polite argument to convince administration to make an exception, allowing me to do both.
8. What attracted you to your chosen specialty?
PS: I couldn’t settle on any one thing, and found elements I loved in every specialty and age group, so it was no question I’d end up being a generalist. I had a tough time choosing between the energetic pace and constant diagnosis of the ED, versus the dizzying variety available in FM, but mid-way through interview season it became clear which was the better path for me.
9. What is your biggest fear about beginning residency?
PS: Everything! I’m excited and nervous, I know I’ll be thrown in the deep end and be expected to swim. I hope the practice I got on audition rotations in fourth year is a sufficient foundation for the rocket-speed learning I’ll be doing this year. That said, I’m sure to be learning even more than I ever have before.
10. Here is a fun one — Please share an easy and quick recipe that got you through tough weeks in medical school!
PS: Buy yourself frozen steamer veggies and a George Foreman grill, and your life will be a thousand times easier. Even on Ramen nights, you can still add frozen veggies to the bowl!