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All I want for Christmas is… is a Littman 3M Cardiology IV stethoscope, said no medical student ever. As the holidays round the corner (and Grandma starts reaching for her rubber banded wad of cash) all sorts of thoughts pop into my head. How about a new Xbox one, or that shiny new 88 key Yamaha keyboard? Ooh! I know, I can buy a $1,200 iPad Pro and use it to study, and also watch the first 10 seasons of Shark Tank.

From a PGY-3 radiology resident to fellow medical students, I have some strong advice on how to maximize your holiday gift list. Initially, sit down and think about your financial needs for the next 2 years, as saving money may be more important than spending it this holiday season. For example if you’re an M1:

1) USMLE Step 1 — approximately $800

2) Cost of books — approximately $1,000

3) Cost of clinical supplies — approximately $500

...and so on.

If you’re and M3/M4:

1) Cost of residency interviews and applications — $2000-$6000

2) Cost of moving expenses for residency — approximately $1500

3) cost of (perhaps) buying a diamond ring — $8,000-$20,000.

Once you have your budget, subtract these fees from the money you receive from student loans (or current liquid assets). You then have (tada) your med student holiday wish list fund. Thinking back over the past 7 years of residency and medical school, these are the most useful tools I’ve found to help me in clinical practice.

  1. A tablet computer – with strong processing power: This is a life saver on the ward. I was able to pull up our EMR and write my notes wherever I was. I was able to educate my patients via graphics/images and powerpoint slides. Additionally, it allowed me to be the clinical superstar by always having uptodate at the palm of my hands. My advice is to spend the money on a strong tablet which lasts 3-4 years, rather than one where you will struggle to keep multiple applications open.
  2. A new wardrobe – the flashier, the better: Although this is embarrassing, as a medical student I was able to hide a lot under my white coat. I’ve even pulled a polo t-shirt and tie combo one day (nobody noticed thank God). As a medical professional you need suits, nice shirts, nice blouses, nice bottoms, and nice ties. I’m talking “niiiiice”, don’t look like a used car salesman. Your patients and your attendings alike will appreciate you when you look clean and presentable. Get some comfortable shoes too! You want to keep this wardrobe for the next couple of years during your residency. You can switch over to the velvet suits once you’re an attending.
  3. An infinite amount of pens – This is not a joke. Spend some of that holiday dough on gel pens before you end up begging on the corner of the ward for a bic ball point. Get your names engraved on them for extra flash (and for assurance they won’t be stolen). Having a smooth pen will make your life so much easier as you sign all of the discharge instructions/scripts/ and preauthorizations as an intern.
  4. Lastly, do something for yourself! By this I mean, take the guitar lessons you always wanted, sign up for the kickboxing class, or get yourself a massage. You deserve it! Not everything in life revolves around your career. The more you take care of yourself, the better you’ll take care of your patients.

Once all of this is said and done, make sure you spend some genuine time with your loved ones during this Holiday season. As you travel for medical school and residency, this time will diminish and may no longer be guaranteed. Take advantage of it while you can and have a happy and safe holiday season!

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Samuel Azeze, MD

Samuel Azeze, MD

Samuel Azeze MD, MPH is a graduate of St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada. He is currently a resident in Diagnostic Radiology at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. Prior to that he completed a one year internship in Internal Medicine at Staten Island University Hospital where he had the opportunity to work one on one with medical students who have a variety of learning styles. Sam has a firm knowledge of the medical basic sciences that has been tried and tested through his clinical experience. He has impressive USMLE scores that gave him a competitive edge while applying for residency. Sam plans to stay in the academic arena as a physician and has a soft spot for teaching and mentoring.
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