Time is Hope.

As you all see, from my temporary blogging hiatus, that I have been busy prepping for Block 3 exams, which we completed yesterday. Block 3 was by far the hardest we’ve had so far, with the most material covered. Not surprisingly, the class averages were quite low as well:

Anatomy Exam Class Average: 76.97

Anatomy Lab Practical Class Average: 77.77

Molecular Cell Biology Exam Class Average: 74.96

Like other students, the test took a big bite out of my confidence as well. The amount of material was especially overwhelming, as we covered the thorax and abdomen regions in Anatomy, and organelles, cytoskeleton, signal transduction, and cell interactions in Molecular cell biology. As a post-bacc, I’ve taken cell bio and physiology classes and so the mechanisms of the mitochondria and heart is not anything unheard for me, as with the rest of my colleagues, but I would’ve never imagined how different it is learning about the heart or mitochondria in medical school. The context and the approach is completely different. Suddenly I’m forced to think not only about how things work but how they can NOT work, and affect other processes that ’cause disease. Fields as different as biochemistry and genetics are integrated at all times, and within 4 weeks, you realized you’ve covered a little over 100 different disorders (this is no exaggeration, I counted), their symptoms, molecular mechanisms, treatments, and genetic inheritance… and this is only for Molecular Cell Biology class, for Block 3. I won’t even try to count how much we’ve had for Histology and Anatomy or all the other blocks combined.

I did not get the best grades I can get this time around, since I know I can do better, but at least I can say I performed better than the class average. I think I’ve lost my chances at getting Honors (>90%) for Molecular Cell Biology because of this test, but I’ll still try for Deans list (>87%), and if not that, the honor society (>83%). For anatomy, I still may have a shot at honors, but we’ll see. I still got the infamous Block 4, as well as the accumulative final (which is 1.5 weeks after Block 4) to boost my chances. It’s going to be tough, even tougher than this past Block exams, but now is a new block with a new four weeks laying ahead of me. As long as I still have time, I still have a chance, right? Time is hope.


I happen to be taking molecular and cell biology now and I’m interested to know how much more detail gets covered in medical school, not just with this class but any similar undergrad class like anatomy, physiology, microbiology, etc. As an example, I know our molec & cell professor urges us to focus on concepts: how signals are generated and propagated rather than memorizing each protein involved along the way. Did you have to know all the proteins and their roles within signal transduction? Is it the same way for all the classes that you took as a post-bac?

Hi, thanks for the comment!

When I first came to medical school, I felt much of the details and information were all very familiar (at least they sound familiar, you know?). But the difference is, in med school, we learn it all in a much faster pace, and we have to remember it all, not just forget it after the test (since we also have shelf exams as well as the USMLE). Unlike undergrad, we also learn much more clinical applications and diseases.

We had three professors in Molecular Cell Biology, and so far, all three expect us to know both the details as well as the greater picture. The test questions vary. Some present medical cases and ask us questions that require us to apply knowledge, while other questions require straight-up recall of detailed information. And yes, we needed to know all the proteins and their roles within signal transduction, as well as the medical consequences of their absence or defects, their symptoms, treatment, and mode of inheritance.

For anatomy, in my experience, there is no comparison to undergrad anatomy. It’s much more amazing working with a real human body and understanding clinical applications. There is much more detail, but in the end, you realize how the details all fit together. It’s an amazing moment when you suddenly see how all the parts come together to work as one. The bulk of the exam questions are like USMLE, where they have a paragraph that describes a case, and ask you questions that can only be answered if you really understand the material.

It’s hard for me to compare embryology and histology, since I’ve never taken a class in either during my post-bacc years. Embryology, however, is only covered in about a week’s worth of time (albeit twice a day for most of the week). Histology is only covered for 3 blocks (so about 9 weeks).

Knowing the details is no more difficult than knowing the big picture, and no less interesting. I think a problem a lot of students have during medical school is that when people are stressful studying and keeping up with the material, people tend to forget how fascinating this material really is. My philosophy is, if you keep yourself interested, you’ll be fine.

Good luck in your applications!