Just within the last year alone, I have noticed a surge in the use of iPad at AUC, and it’s not a surprise as to why. As I have expressed before, the iPad is an incredible tool for med school, being both versatile and handy. There are tons of apps out there that med students find useful. I’ve downloaded and tried out quite a few apps. Here are the ones I personally like and use regularly.
The main reason for getting an iPad for medical school is the ability to annotate lecture slides at ease while going through them in lecture. I’ve tried quite a few annotation apps before, and nothing beats iAnnotate PDF. You can directly write, type, and draw on lecture slides, as well as organize all your files with folders and subfolders. Although the name is “iAnnotate PDF,” you can put more than just PDF files on this app, such as powerpoints, word docs, and picture files. You can download these files directly from the web or dropbox onto the app.
Another feature of iAnnotate that is extremely useful is the search ability. You can search for keywords within each slide set, or within your entire file library. I’ve yet to find another program that can do this as efficiently as iAnnotate PDF. This is especially useful if you want to look something up but don’t remember which set of slides it is in.
I highly recommend using iAnnotate as your main documents library on your iPad. I use it to store not only all my lectures from Basic Sciences, but also papers I read during clinical rotations as well as a tool to mark up my patient case logs and school forms. I also use it for all my non-medical-school-related documents.
The program costs about $10 but it is well worth it, and useful beyond just medical school.
A free alternative to iAnnotate PDF is PaperPort Notes, but its organization, search, and annotation functions aren’t nearly as great as iAnnotate PDF, and its stability is questionable (it has a tendency to crash). However, the biggest advantage of PaperPort Notes is the ability to audio-record lectures directly onto specific powerpoint slides while you annotate the slides. You can play back the audio to see what the professor was talking about on that exact slide. It’s the only program I know of so far that can do this, and this feature is especially great if you are an audio-learner. Other programs like iAnnotate PDF or Notability may have an audio record function, but they cannot save them onto the specific slides that the audio was recorded, like PaperPort Notes can, and you can’t do anything else while you record audio.
In addition to annotating and audio, you can also search for keywords within a slide set, however, you cannot search for keywords within your entire library like iAnnotate PDF. PaperPort Notes also has voice recognition built in so that it can translate voice into text, but as a student I’ve found little use of this feature. PaperPort also syncs with DropBox and you can download files directly from the web. Again, for an annotation app, I didn’t find PaperPort Notes as useful as iAnnotate PDF, but it’s free of charge, so you can’t really complain.
I’d also recommend iFlipr, which is a note card program where you can create and quiz yourself on note cards you made, or download a whole bunch of note card sets that other students have made and shared online on their website.
For books, you will need a book-reading app, and my favorite one out there is the Amazon Kindle app for iPad. Amazon has the biggest selection of medical ebooks, more than the iBooks store. For this reason alone, I recommend Kindle over iBooks. Also, if you ever want to access your purchased books from a non-apple tablet, non-apple smartphone, or simply on any computer browser, Kindle is the way to go, as it is not tied to Apple.
You’ll need a drug reference. As of 2014, the best free drug reference app out there is Epocrates (I used to recommend Micromedex but in 2014 they started requiring a paid yearly subscription). In Epocrates, you can search for any drug by generic or brand name, look up its dosing, mechanism of action, contraindications, adverse effects, trade names, and much more. It also features a drug dosage calculator as well as pill look-up. The drug information on Epocrates is completely downloaded onto your iPad so you won’t need an internet connection to look up stuff, but some other features like the pill look-up requires an internet connection. The best part is it’s all free!
Besides a drug reference, you’ll also need a medical reference to look up medical conditions. Medscape is the best free medical app currently for several reasons. First, it tells you in good detail (with journal references) everything you need to know about different diseases and conditions and their managements. Second, all the information is downloaded onto your iPad, meaning no loading time. Third, it’s free! It constantly updates itself with the most up-to-date information, and acts as great reading and studying material. It also has a drug reference, but it is not as comprehensive as Epocrates.
This app requires you to already have purchased access to the USMLEWorld Qbank, a very popular Qbank used by students to study for the Step exams. Having the Qbank on a phone makes practicing questions much easier, as you can practice anywhere and anytime. I definitely used this app a lot while preparing for the Step exams.