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How to Become a Flashcard Wizard for the MCAT
Posted by Dr. Birju Patel
Just to be clear, I have a really poor memory. If you and I meet, I’ll likely forget your name. In med school I saw former MCAT students I’ve tutored and not given them a second glance. I’ve forgotten the names of family members I’ve known my whole life, and often have asked my wife to help me figure out who’s married to whom.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve struggled to memorize [seemingly] meaningless information for tests. And yet, I did just fine on the MCAT (and the USMLEs), so I’ve always resisted the idea of focusing on rote memorization.

In my experience, the MCAT has never been a test of simple regurgitation of facts. For example, you're never asked about the definitions of speed and velocity. You could, however, be asked whether a car driving in circles at a steady 20 mph is changing its speed or velocity; that’s a matter of understanding and application.

And heck, if you can understand all of that well enough, you’ll get that question right and know you don’t need to make a flashcard for this topic!
Recommended Read for Med Students: "Being Mortal" by Atul Gawande
Posted by Dr. Birju Patel
Continuing in our series of recommended reads, the following is a review of "Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End" by the acclaimed surgeon and writer, Atul Gawande.

Is this really a "must read?"
Not necessarily.

Cool. So who should read it?
You should read it if you, a loved one, or a patient of yours may one day get old, deteriorate, and/or die.

So...basically, we should all read this book?
MST Recommended Reads For Med Students (and Everyone Else): The House of God
Posted by Dr. Birju Patel
Welcome to this, the first of hopefully many installments of MST’s "book club," where we recommend books for people in the medical field, or review books that have been recommended.

We start off with a classic, Samuel Shem’s tale of madness, sex, and heartbreak in the intern year, The House of God. I first read this as a medical student in my first year when a preceptor told us that we should all read it several times in our career—during our pre-clinical years, during our clinical years, during our intern year, as a resident, and probably once again after that point.

I read it, loved it, gave it away for the benefit of other med students, and revisited it just now, 6 years later, for this review.

Becoming A Great Doctor Takes Even Greater Organizational Skills
Posted by Dr. Birju Patel
A recent conversation with an old friend of mine made clear the ways in which being a great doctor requires the same attributes required of any professional.

My friend, a recent graduate of architecture of mechanical engineering school, now works as a project manager. He described the revolving door of his position. What separated the people who lasted from those who didn’t, he said, was organization.

He explained how he started every day by making a to-do list that he kept in his pocket and updated continuously until he clocked out. It reminded me a lot of the residents I’ve trained under and with. Here, then, are a few tips to help you make sure that you are always on top of your work too.
How To Get in the Ring with Your First Test in Med School
Posted by Dr. Birju Patel
The first test of med school seems to loom so large in the minds of med students and premeds alike.

Many see it as a rite of passage, the signpost of truly being a med student. It’s also a reality check, both for the level of difficulty in med school and where students stand amongst their classmates.

But is this how we should approach the test? Should it really even matter and, if so, how?
Top Reasons Students Rush Their AMCAS Applications
Posted by Dr. Birju Patel
The supreme rush students feel to get into and to move on with their careers is one of the most common (and frustrating) themes I've encountered over my years of helping students with the MCAT, AMCAS, and medical school in general. 

As we move through this year’s applicant cycle, and as students everywhere grapple with whether or not to take the MCAT or submit their AMCAS, I thought it the perfect time to address this rush.

I'm not here to say "it’s about the journey, not the destination," to point out that a gap year can be beneficial, or to help you to decide whether you’re ready to take the MCAT, as we’ve already addressed these topics at length.

Instead, I’d like to acknowledge the many reasons students choose to rush their applications, to not put themselves in the best possible position as applicants, and the likely consequences of doing so. Let's start with one of the biggest misconceptions out there:
MCAT2015 Flashcard Study Options Review
Posted by Dr. Birju Patel
With the new, longer MCAT2015 here, we're all looking for new ways to practice the skills and memorize the considerable information necessary to excel.

As you know, we've been doing exhaustive reviews of the materials that are out there. Today, I'm reviewing some of the major offerings as far as ready-made and easily portable study options go.

Each of these show promise, and I hope that their creators update and improve on them.
3 Time Management & Organization Tips to Get You Through Med School
Posted by Dr. Birju Patel
Ever ask a medical student what the most difficult aspect of med school is?

Chances are you’ve been told that it’s the amount of material you have to master. Perhaps you’ve even heard a graphic metaphor to describe it, such as likening it to drinking out of a fire hose. And what are we told is the key to success when faced with such a Herculean task? Time management.

Our own esteemed  Katherine Seebald, who is about to join the ranks of the USC Trojans as a medical student this fall — and who, like Hermione Granger, excels at pretty much anything — asked me the following question recently:

“What were the three biggest things you learned re: time management and organization that helped you in med school?”

By the way, that’s verbatim. On a related note, she and/or I may think and talk in the form of powerpoint slides and Buzzfeed lists. Here’s my answer:

Test Anxiety? Punch Fear In The Face
Posted by Dr. Birju Patel
Anxious about your upcoming MCAT, USMLE, COMLEX, Shelf exam, midterm... or any other exam? You're not alone. Have people already been telling you, "You'll do fine! You always do fine!"? We know that doesn't really help... Plus, we all know it sucks being anxious, particularly if it gets in the way of your studying, performance and scores.

What does help when it comes to keeping anxiety at bay, though, is having some awesome aces up your sleeve — and understanding WHY we have anxiety in the first place. Below are a bunch of tips. Use any and all that apply or work for you.
Psych Rotation: Do's and Don'ts
Posted by Dr. Birju Patel
My tendency with patients has always been to want to listen to them, to believe them, or at least their experiences. This led to me realizing during my first year of med school that I would be a psychiatrist. My ease and sense of belonging during my third year rotation solidified my choice.

As a second year psychiatry resident at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel, my training from that point until now has deepened and informed those innate tendencies. For example, did you know that one psychoanalytic explanation for the mechanism of much of psychosis is that people have permeable ego boundaries, that they have trouble distinguishing where they end and others begin? That's why they fear that others can read their minds and know their darkest secrets. Imagine what a frightening experience that must be! At the end of the day, it still all comes down to empathy and respect.

I say all of this mostly to explain why the post below is perhaps more serious and sincere than you were expecting. It'd be easy to fill a post with funny stories, but as an advocate for people with mental illness, I have a more important message to share.
careers med school tutors