I have a pager and a white coat with my name on it???

Kristina, Third Year Medical Student

First year – check. Second year – check. Step 1 – check. Orientation week – check. Tomorrow, with white coat on and pager in hand, I step onto the wards.

It’s both exciting and scary that these mile markers for medical school have passed already. For so many years I have been learning from behind a desk, and now it is time to actually do things.

As I look back on the last two years, it is pretty incredible to see how I’ve changed and been molded to face the changes of medical school. The experience has enabled me to get to know myself in a more raw and vulnerable way. I’ve discovered strengths and weaknesses that I didn’t realize during my college years. If this has only happened in the first two years, I cannot even begin to imagine the changes I will experience in the last two years!

With Step 1 (part one of three board exams that dot the path to becoming an MD) behind us, it’s so interesting to even see the changes my classmates went through in such intense stress. I saw some burning out, some are peaking just at the right time, some in a panic to get the highest score possible, and some at peace with just getting it over with. I realize that we have all come to this point in order to become physicians by mostly studying, studying, occasional OSCE…studying, studying, …and more studying. Yet this is one of the first mile markers of many that REALLY stays with us significantly into the future. I really try not to think of that too much as I wait for my score to arrive sometime in July.

Although it has been draining, I have gained some of the valuable things this year. One of the best things I have experienced is making new friendships and strengthening existing friendships like never before in my life. My friends that I have made in medical school are definitely ones that I will keep for the rest of my life. This is one thing that I have absolutely loved about second year of medical school. In college, I had a harder time getting and maintaining friendships. I’m not sure why. Maybe I spent too much time in the chemistry lab, or maybe I just wasn’t a friendly person! But this year, the hardships have made friendships stronger, and that is something that I will always treasure. Because it’s these friendships that get you through the rough times, and it’s these friendships that make the good times even MORE awesome.

Another thing I’ve really learned this year that has been VERY important for me to “turn off the chatter”. There are always people around you suggesting the newest and best resource for preparing for classes and step 1. The class nearly goes into a panic at the beginning of second year trying to find the best books and notes and flashcards and dropbox pdfs in order to succeed in classes/boards. Early on, I found that this kind of talk reallllly gets to my head. And even though I managed to turn the chatter off first year, I had to do it all over again second year. As a result, my days grew to be spent entirely at home with studying from 6am to 11am, working out, eating lunch, studying from 1pm-6pm (with an occasional 20 minute power nap thrown in), dinner break, then studying from 7pm till about 10pm. Repeat the next day. Yes, it did get a bit lonely at times, but I was MUCH more at peace and much more focused.

This past week we had orientation, which was…..interesting. We had a lot of lectures about smoking cessation, preventive medicine, ethics, and some about how to succeed on the wards. There were ups and downs in my attention span, I will admit.

Thursday night was the clinical commencement dinner for our class at Castaways restaurant. It was so awesome to see everyone in nice outfits, all done up for the occasion! But what I think I loved the most was seeing how relaxed everyone was. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve seen such relief on our faces in all my time here. Now, come our first presentation to our attendings in a few days, I don’t think that will be the case! But, I loved seeing so much happiness then.

The program consisted of a vocal rendition of “Let it go” by some of my classmates (Hans, Ben, Vincent, Jackson, Vanessa) and I along with an encouraging and educational speech given by Dr. Werner on how to succeed in third year (probably the most informative speech of all orientation week). It was an awesome evening of no studying, good food, awesome friends, and a gorgeous sunset.

So in short…third year starts tomorrow. Without a doubt, I am SO happy second year will be over and behind me. But about third year, I’m not going to even pretend like I know what is going to happen, because frankly, I have no idea! I’m sure I will miss the days that I could completely control my schedule and plan my fun activities around my studying. However, at the same time, I so appreciate the first two years of molding me into being a better doctor and a better friend. I have grown in my solitude of prayer and study this year, and now I’m ready to continue growing around patients, attendings, residents, and nurses.

And the saga continues…


Kristina…now MS3


Second year growing pains

Kristina, Second Year Medical Student

First round of tests for second year is finished. I’m not going to sugar coat things. This year is a pretty big step up from last year, and it is taking me a little while to get used to things.

My summer was absolutely fantastic. I went to Europe with my family, volunteered with Dr. Appel in his clinic in Chad, Africa, hiked Half Dome, explored San Francisco…it really was more than I could ask for in the almost last summer break of my life.

The first day of orientation didn’t hit me, but the first day of classes sure did! I thought initially that I would try out different methods of studying to try and improve from last year. I used a lot of flash cards for my studies last year, so this year I thought about trying to read more and flash card less.

On I went. Week one, I was a mess. Week two a little less a mess. Week three a little less a mess. Week four – not sure what happened but it was a combination of that I lost my groove and family came to visit the weekend before tests. It’s incredible how such little things can throw you off your balance. To compensate for the time lost with hosting family, etc. I made myself study absolutely alone in my house for 2 days straight right up until the tests.

This test week has probably been the shakiest one for me since beginning medical school. I’m actually a little frustrated with myself.  For the first time in my career as a student, I’m now setting up meetings with some teachers to discuss how to improve my grade in a couple classes. Although it is a bit discouraging, I learned several things about myself and my studying.

  1. Don’t study alone. I am an extrovert. So much of my energy comes from people around me. Shutting myself away was absolutely terrible for my attitude, my outlook, and my studying.
  2. Back to my old methods! Obviously my new methods of studying in the classes I did poorly are not working. I should just stay with the habits that got me through last year! Lesson learned. Pulling out my flashcard program as I type.
  3. It’s ok to ask for help. I’ve always had the tendency to not want to ask for help. When I was little and my parents offered me help, I would shout out “NO! By myself! By myself!” My pride and stubbornness have been quite strong since an early age. I think this is a good experience in humility and accepting the advice and careful criticism of my mentors and teachers. Now it’s time to practice my listening

Even though it makes me feel like a crazy person, I really do love medical school. I have learned more about myself here than in any other experience in life. Loma Linda in particular is also my ticket to becoming a great doctor, and I wanted to take every advantage of my opportunities here to become just that. Time to get back to the grind to gear up for the next test set! With new advice, God by my side, and a newfound motivation, I’m sure it will be a much better experience than this last one.

– Kristina, MS2