Ultimate tips for 3rd-year students

These are my ultimate tips to help you survive 3rd-year of medical school in Gdansk.

Would you like to know what to do in order rock your 1st or 2nd-year? If that’s the case then click here and here, respectively.

I would like to start by congratulating you. 33.3% of your mission is complete. The recipe for sucess in 3rd-year is no different than that from the previous years. Self-discipline, time management skills, and motivation to learn are the basic ingredients. 

The time for you to undergo metamorphosis has come. A year from now you will be thinking like a doctor. By no means, you will feel competent enough to handle the work of a physician but consider the next months of rigorous training an introduction to a doctor’s mindset.

Without further due let’s talk business.

Pathomorphology – 14 ECTS

Prepare for every single seminar/exercise. No excuses.

Attending the weekly classes without prior preparation is equivalent to wasting 4 hours of your time. You will not be able to understand a thing because the terminology is different from anything else you have encountered thus far.

Here is a suggestion on how to prepare for classes based on my study routine.

Pathoma is a priceless study resource. There is a reason why is used by most of us studying medicine around the globe.

Start by watching all the Pathoma videos on a certain topic. After every video read the corresponding section in the Pathoma book. Depending on the chapter you should expect to use anywhere from 2-4 hours covering the material.

Some of my friends did not find the videos helpful but I recommend giving it a try. Listening carefully to all the tricks and mnemonics used by the author to remember the high-yield details truly helped me digest the difficult concepts faster and retain information for months.

The next step is to read the same chapter in the pocket version of Robbins pathology book. That might be a real challenge since the book is dense, small and full of detail.

Remember that the most important thing is to get the bigger picture first. Then you can afford diving into details, as you read it a second, third, and fourth time. The more you read the better you become at it.

Be careful to not fall into the trap of trying to memorise everything you read. Be selective. Pay special attention to tables and figures because the information they convey is usually tested in exams. As the name indicates, pathomorphology is all about cell and tissue morphology. In other words, whenever your eyes come across a paragraph which describes how a tissue looks like under the microscope, learn it by heart.

The last step toward perfect preparation for class is to, in addition to the previous study, read the same chapter in medium Robbins pathology book (recommended book by the pathology department).

Some of the illustrations presented in this book are gold to the average mind who is trying to understand complex pathological processes. Looking through tables, diagrams, and particularly the green boxes concerning morphological aspects of disease will help you succeed in exams.

Try the best you can to be at least one week ahead of the game. Stick to a routine and work consistently. Slow and steady.

As you might predict, there will be times where you will fall behind. It is inevitable since other subjects will demand priority. However, it is important to keep your head in the game and catch up with pathology as soon as possible. Ignoring it for several weeks will crush you ruthlessly sooner or later.

During the fall semester, I managed to use all the 3 resources mentioned above. Nonetheless, in the Spring semester, my schedule was so time-consuming that despite my best efforts I was not able to keep up with my ideal routine. Therefore, I adjusted. Even though it was the recommended book I gave up on medium Robbins pathology because the information was a little too diffuse for my taste.

Medical school is all about priorities. When tackling the difficult times you must stick with the resources that you feel most comfortable with.

So here is my number one tip for you. For as long as you can keep up with the workload consider using the following resources 1) Pathoma. 2) Pocket Robbins Pathology. 3) Medium Robbins Pathology. Whenever life gets too crazy, drop your least favourite book.

Pathology is my absolute favourite course thus far. I believe that it is the master key to medicine and I sincerely hope that you have as much fun as I had with it.

Pharmacology – 10 ECTS

Pharmacology is a difficult course because it requires endless hours of pure memorisation. 

There is a bit of understanding involved because each drug targets different types of receptors in the body. So knowing your physiology will help you a great deal regarding the side effects of medication.

You will be tested on a lot of details as well as useless information since many of the drugs mentioned during class have been out of the market for many years now. Prepare yourself for a lot of frustration. Pharmacology is not structured to be a fun course here.

The recommended book is Basic and Clinical Pharmacology by Katzung. A true monster. I bought the review version of the book instead since it is half the size. However, it remained brand new in my shelf. The way the information is organised made me confused.  Ultimately, I got the Lippincott Pharmacology and used it rather as a backup resource in case I needed to check something out that was not well understood.

I know students who read the recommended book religiously and did great throughout the year. It is a matter of personal choice. Go with whatever you feel that works best for you. 

I decided to attack pharmacology with Victoria’s notes after attending the first seminar. Whatever they go through in class is most likely going to appear in her notes. Trust me, having them in front of you during class is like having a script for the seminar. I highly recommend committing her notes to memory. Make it your goal to know them inside out without even looking at the papers. Whenever you know them to that extent you will be ready to write the colloquium.

Besides, looking at the lecture presentations is a smart thing to do. Victoria’s notes cover most of what is mentioned there but not every important detail. Glancing over some PDF files written by older students might be a good idea as well. That proved to be especially useful when memorising the prescriptions for the colloquia.

Sketchy pharmacology is another option for those of you who enjoy the videos. 

Consider studying pharmacology hardcore at least 2 weeks before any colloquium. There will be a lot of raw facts to digest so do not fool yourself into thinking that you will manage to cram everything in one week. Frankly, you are setting yourself up for failure if you do so. 

Pathophysiology – 7 ECTS

Fortunately, there is a great deal of overlapping between pathophysiology and pathomorphology. In summary, the former will become second nature if you are devoted to mastering the latter.

Paying attention in class, reading the materials provided by the department, and looking through a few PDF documents written by previous students, in combination with a solid knowledge of pathomorphology is enough to pass all the exams with bright colours.

Pathophysiology requires some brains. Understanding the concepts is a must. Hence, focus on reasoning from day one.

Clinical Genetics – 3 ECTS

I highly recommend you to attend lectures.

The professor is good, fun and engages with the students. Furthermore, a fair number of hints will be given regarding the final examination. When the time to study genetics comes around your ability to be selective will save you hours of sweating.

It is not a difficult course overall but it does require some dedication. 

Internal Medicine – 3 ECTS

Most of the classes are practical and relatively fun since you interact with real patients.

There will be a theoretical and practical colloquium in the Spring semester.

The exams are nothing to worry about for as long as you are paying attention during classes. 

Introduction to Surgery – 3 ECTS

Seminars and practical classes alternate weekly.

The final exam is usually scheduled for May-June.

Introduction to Pediatrics II – 3 ECTS

Pediatrics is more fun this year. You are allowed to see patients regularly and you get a better sense of what it is like to be a pediatrician.

You will know what do in order to pass the exam when the time is appropriate. 

Laboratory Diagnostics – 3 ECTS

By far my least favourite subject of the year.

You will meet a variety of professors along the course and a couple of them are good.

Unfortunately, the classes are extremely boring. Sadly, it is a pure waste of your precious time. Yet, the course content is important for your future as a physician.

The exam is a bit intimidating because it consists of 100 questions. Hopefully, by the time you must take it you will already have a doctor’s mindset. In other words, your educated guesses will redeem you from failure.

Introduction to Neurology – 2 ECTS

Do not underestimate this course.

No matter how eager to learn you are in class, neurology will require some days of revision before the final exam in June. A lot of it is repetition from 1st-year but you will be surprised with how much you have forgotten.

Whenever you are in the clinics ask your teacher for some tips on how to study for the exam. They will direct you to the high-yield topics.

Psychiatry I – 2 ECTS

A positive surprise. I enjoyed attending classes. Mostly due to the opportunity to interact with patients. Psychiatry and the following subjects will be the least of your problems. 

Clinical Nutrition – 1 ECTS

Epidemiology – 1 ECTS

Medicine of Labor – 1 ECTS

Electives – 2 ECTS

I strongly advise you to take care of the elective subjects in the fall semester. The faster you get rid of them the better. After February, free time becomes the hard currency you wish you had bought more of.

I truly hope this post helps you to assess your priorities. 95% of your time should be spent digging into pathomorphology and pharmacology. The rest is collateral damage.

Good luck!

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