Third Semester Finished!

Grades are out, and I’m happy to say that I have passed all my classes and I am officially finished with third semester and on my way to my fourth semester of med school!

I cannot say this enough times… TIME GOES BY FAST IN MED SCHOOL! I can’t believe I’m a fourth semester already…. it just seems too fast. Wasn’t I just a first semester not too long ago? Just a year ago on this day, I was writing this post. Back then, just ten days before starting med school, I was asking myself two questions: “Should I feel excited or terrified? Will I do well?” At the time, I was not sure. Today, a year later, I have to say, I am still asking those two questions.

Should I feel excited or terrified?
I am two semesters away from taking my USMLE Step I exam and leaving Basic Sciences for my clinical rotations. Every semester I get more and more excited as I get closer and closer to reaching my goal and learning a whole bunch on the way. Yet at the same time, every semester I get more and more terrified as the workload increases incrementally, the number of tasks to juggle at the same time increases, and the time until I take Step 1 can be counted in days. A lot of people want to get done with their five semesters on the island as soon as they can, and I don’t blame them. I too want to finish Basic Sciences in 5 semesters. However, in having this “countdown” mentality, all too often we let the timeless moments pass by, all the good memories and experiences that could have been. I say savor the  moments whenever you can, because they will fly by fast and you will easily miss them. I want to leave this island with lots of good memories, and that takes effort on my part. Good memories don’t just come. They are made. So always stay positive.

Will I do well?
This semester, I have done quite a few things:

  • For the first time, I was an Orientation Advisor, advising incoming students on any questions they have and holding a meeting with them in the beginning of the semester.
  • I’ve completed my first semester as a Head TA in the Anatomy Lab. As one of the three Head TAs, I manage the lab on my assigned days, prepare for mock exams (my job specifically was the VH dissector questions and checking on the validity of questions made by TAs), be a messenger between Dr. Nash and the TAs, take attendance of the students and the TAs, close up the lab when lab is done, choose the next TAs, give the TA orientation, and make TA certificates. On average, I spend about 6 hours per week in lab.
  • I’ve completed my two-semester term as a class rep. As one of the three class reps, I raised money for my class, voted “yes” in the induction of two new student organizations, made sure the mosquito problem in our lecture hall is solved, acted as both good cop and bad cop in breaking news to my class, helped set up and ushered the White Coat Ceremony, and suggested ideas for improvement around school at student government meetings.
  • After discussing with executive board members of the student government on the need for an SGA website and communication platform to bridge basic science and clinical science students , I created The Scope as AUC’s first student-run newsletter.
  • I’ve acted as a student representative to meet with the ACCM, AUC’s medical education accrediting body on their most recent visit.
  • I had the privilege to choose the colors for the new Orientation Advisor T-shirts. I hope all you OAs are OK with them! My intention for the color choice was to put the colors of the island into the shirt as well as making the colors as gender-neutral as possible.
  • I volunteered for the 2010 Commencement Ceremony, and met some wonderful new graduates and people from MEAS (and not to mention got an awesome free T-shirt, dinner, and donation to my favorite student organization along the way).
  • I was interviewed on camera to become part of the new videos currently being made by the school.
  • I blogged, and as always, answered several emails every week from prospective and incoming students (with the large incoming September class, there was especially more messages in my Inbox this semester).
  • I received the Dr. Karl Stockhausen Student of the Semester Award (thanks everyone for that!).
  • And, most importantly, I passed third semester, which I am so happy with because this semester has been quite a challenge and academically, it has not been my best. I definitely felt there was much more material to learn than second semester. From what I hear from upper semester I talked with, fourth semester will be an even larger jump in challenge than third semester… oh boy. This leads me back to my question… Will I do well? I sure hope so, but this semester hasn’t been easy, and neither will the next.

Advice for new Third Semester students:

  1. Build up your buffer — Some people have the mentality that they can slack off the first block exams since they’ll have four more exams following it to make up their grade. This is not good because the exams do not get any easier as the semester progresses. Actually, quite the opposite. So do well on your blocks in the beginning because it won’t be as easy by the time finals comes around.
  2. Don’t expect curves on the final — There was a rumor that the med micro final is curved every semester. Guess what.. there was no curve (at least not for this semester). For the first time, our class (which I’d say is a fairly smart class) made a failing average on an exam, especially bad since it’s a final exam. Don’t expect curves, and especially don’t depend on an assumed curve to pass.
  3. Take advantage of extra credit points — specifically, do the case studies for Pathology, and finish the extra credit questions on the med micro exams. Just because they are “extra credit” doesn’t mean there’s no value in doing them. Quite the opposite. There will be questions on the pathology exam based on the case studies. If you’ve done the case studies, these exam questions will be easy points. Don’t underestimate the power of a point, or even half a point. It could be the point that saves you from failing.
  4. Enjoy your classes – while the material for third semester may be challenging, and painful, I found it interesting nevertheless. If it’s not to you, make it interesting somehow, because you’ll need any drive it takes to go forward.

I will be staying in Miami over the break visiting Irene. Last week, she moved to Miami to start her Physician Assistant Masters degree program at Barry University (which she will start next week). I’m looking forward to seeing her new home, attending her white coat ceremony, meeting her new friends and roommates, and exploring Miami with her while we still can. It’s funny… we now both live in Aventura. She lives in a suburb of Miami called Aventura while I live in an apartment in St. Maarten called Aventura. We may not live in the same city, or even country, but at least we both refer to the same name for our new homes.

Have an awesome break everyone and see you back on the island in two weeks!

2 comments to Third Semester Finished!

  • Ricky

    Hello Benji,

    Thanks for this informative blog. I really enjoy reading your blogs. I was wondering if you could share your thoughts on establishing a medical university in Caribbeans. Are there any universities on the verge of closing down and seeking a turnaround? Is it a good way to start up a new University?

    We are a physician group seriously considering this option.

    You may write to me on my email rak_cal99@yahoo.com

    Regards

    Ricky

    • Benji

      I don’t recommend it. Schools close down probably because the market is saturated. Schools are constantly popping up seemingly in the Caribbean and many of them are not accredited or stable. Don’t be one of those.

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