Hiroe Hu is a student in Touro University California’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.
“Know the big picture.” Despite its simplicity, this was one of the best pieces of advice that I ever received in medical school (thank you, Dr. Lin!). Over the past year, this has become my mantra that served me well in both my academic and personal life.
My study strategy almost always involves the “big picture sandwich.” First, I listen to lecture or watch YouTube videos to grasp the summary of the material. My second pass would be a more in-depth look into the materials: reading the slides, referencing textbooks, memorizing facts, and taking notes to put the knowledge into my own words.
To complete the sandwich, I draw a diagram, table, or flowchart to synthesize all the information into one or two pages of paper. Whether I was learning biochemical pathways, anatomy, or pathology, this final step of “mind-mapping” has always been the most valuable tool. If I know how each of the “little things” is organized in relation to one another, it’s easier to extract the information from my brain when I need it. While mind mapping, I keep myself engaged by using lots of different colors and drawing pretty pictures.
The hours and hours of studying, however, make it easy for us to forget why we entered this profession in this first place. The big picture is also important for the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspect of your life as a student. This is why it’s important to have a few extracurricular activities to “plant” some inspirational reminders in your life – to keep your engine running with the fuel of your passions and dreams.
Over the past several months, I have been involved with the Wellness, Academics, Resilience and Mindfulness (WARM) curriculum project to promote wellbeing and prevent burnout in our students. Working on this project has allowed me to feel a sense of purpose that’s bigger than memorizing all the side effects of a drug or recalling the names of bacteria that cause pneumonia. Yes, it is frustrating that I cannot remember every fact we learn. But I am able to let go of that frustration more easily when I am reminded that I am not just defined by scores and statistics.
Medical school will always be rough, but it’s your perspective that makes a difference.