In Transition

USDA_MyPlate_greenAs many of you know, I have recently finished medical school, passed the Step 2 CK exam and am in the process of applying to residency programs in Family Medicine. I have almost two-thirds of a year before starting residency (fingers-crossed). In the meantime, I have moved back to my hometown of Macon, Georgia, and started working full-time with my father, a pediatrician, at our two clinics in Macon and Milledgeville, a town of about 18,000 people an hour northeast of Macon. In both clinics, I’ve been seeing patients, writing SOAP notes, doing minor procedures, conducting lab tests, and working with the EMR system. My father lets me do almost everything but sending out prescriptions, finalizing patient charts, and other things that only a licensed physician can do. For this, I really appreciate my experience here. My father loves teaching me, and I really enjoy learning from him the practical and business aspects of medical practice, things one can’t learn from a textbook. I feel this experience would help prepare me not only for the pediatric aspect of my Family Medicine career, but also Irene’s and my goal of eventually opening a private practice in the future.

Preventive Medicine

Because I am particularly interested in preventive medicine and patient education, a personal goal of mine is to develop my teaching skills in health, and so I’ve been experimenting with new, fun ways to teach my patients to eat right and exercise. When I first started working at the clinic, whenever I saw an overweight child, I would merely point to a picture of MyPlate on the wall and explain verbally to the parent how they should be feeding their child, but I found that this method did not make much of an impression on the parents, let alone the children. This week, I decided to do something different, and headed to Dollar General and bought a huge stack of paper plates and a pack of cheap crayons for a dollar each. When it came time to explain MyPlate to a child (and his or her parent), I pulled out the crayons and a paper plate, and drew the food groups on the plate. I had the child list and categorize the foods that they liked onto the different parts of the plate. I then let them keep the colorfully drawn and customized plate to serve as a visual guide the next time they fix themselves a plate of food when they eat. I find that this is much more interactive and effective than just talking, and the kids (and their parents) love it, and get to take a souvenir home with them from the clinic.

Macon Volunteer Clinic

I work Mondays, Tuesday, Thursdays, Fridays, and every other Saturday. Because I have Wednesdays off, I recently decided to do volunteer work in the community, and found an organization that I admired. With the support of donations, grants, and volunteers, the Macon Volunteer Clinic (MVC) provides free medical, dental, and eye care to uninsured working adults who cannot afford insurance. Most of the staff here, including nurses, doctors, and technicians, volunteer their time to care for patients. Some volunteers are retired professionals, while others are students who want to gain experience. Many of the doctors who donate their time here are family practitioners, and seeing their mission and dedication to the people in the community inspires me so much. As I do not have a medical license yet, my tasks at the MVC are limited, but I feel whatever I do here is for a good cause. I bring patients in, measure their vitals, and do brief interviews to fill in basic details on the EMR and charts for the doctors to see. Next week, I will volunteer at the front desk, and learn how that part of the practice is run. The team at MVC is full of good-hearted people and so far I really enjoy volunteering here.

The Next Step

Almost immediately after I found out I’ve passed the Step 2 CK exam, I have started studying for my next exam, Step 3 of the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam (final part), which I have to take by the end of my intern year of residency. Step 3 will be a two-part exam split between two days. Each day will be eight hours, with a total of 480 multiple choice questions and 12 computer-based clinical case simulations. While Step 2 CK tests you on the diagnosis and initial management of medical conditions, Step 3 tests you on your clinical judgement (how you evaluate a patient’s severity) and decision making in three types of settings: outpatient, inpatient, and emergency. I feel Step 3 will be a mentally and academically demanding exam, and because of this, I think it’s better not to delay studying for it, especially since Step 2 CK is still fresh in my head. Between applying for residencies, working full-time, volunteering, studying, and spending quality time with family back home and with Irene on the weekends, I’ll be quite occupied before residency starts.

28 comments to In Transition

  • Jacinta

    Hey Benji!

    You’ll be getting a message from me soon (not now since I’m studying for my first ever shelf exam!). Just wanted to give you a HUGE CONGRATS and a friendly hello! and give Irene a big hug for me =)

    • Benji

      Thanks Jacinta! How’s everything going with you? I hope you are doing well and best of luck on your first shelf exam!

      • Dee

        Hello, do you have any or all of your NOTES from medical school? I am nervous about passing the USLME step one and two. I am also ambitious about wanting dermatology and or gyn. What are some of your tips. I am currently working at a Hospital as a Secretary, at night and I volunteer at a Dr’s office doing clerical work. I am nervous of what I will learn, know, if I am competitive. What advice can you give me, I’m older 28, and feel that I am not retaining the information as I once was, and as well I want to asimply do well. HELP please.

        • Benji

          Hey Dee,
          I don’t have all my notes from med school. Are you in med school already? If you are, and are serious about your work, shouldn’t you have notes too? 28 is not old, and definitely not old enough to have memory retention difficulties or cognitive decline.

  • Will

    Congrats on passing step 2 buddy, it’s always nice to get that one over with. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “2 months, 2 weeks, 2 pencils” for step 1, 2, and 3. Just saying, don’t burn out already because you’ll do fine.Good luck down in Macon!

    • Benji

      Thanks Will! Definitely not burned out yet… the exciting part’s just getting started! I hope you’re enjoying Portland and all the best to you!

  • Naing

    Big congrats Benji. Wish you all the best for you and Irene.

  • SS

    Hello Benji!! Congrats on your success and future endeavors!! Thank you very much of sharing your experience on the island with us!!

    I have two questions. Do you know of any one that went to American University of Antigua (AUA) and their experience? Also, how much GB did your iPad have/what would you recommend to keep all your powerpoints in one place? Thank you, and congrats again!

    • Benji

      Hi SS!
      I have met students and graduates of AUA before and many are doing well in residency. I personally have never been to AUA so I can’t say anything about the experience. However, AUA’s website has student blog articles you could check out. As for my iPad, it has 64 GB and it was more than enough space to store all my powerpoint slides for class. The best program to use is iAnnotate PDF… Highly recommended!

  • SS

    Thank you very much!! I have two follow-up questions.

    Would you recommend the wifi + cellular or wifi only iPAD? Did you have a cellular plan on your iPad while on the island or were you able to easily connect to wifi?

    I also noticed in one of your videos you recommended Notarize/PaperPort Notes (it seems awesome!). Does iAnnotate PDF allow you to perform the same functions and is better or did you use both apps? If both, what did you use iAnnotate for?

    Thank you very much in advance Benji! I appreciate all the advice!

    • Benji

      Hi SS,
      I used wifi only because the cellular data would not work on St. Maarten. There is wifi on campus so there should be no problem connecting to wifi.

      Yes, I did a video of PaperPort Notes, which is great because it’s free and it also records audio along with annotation. However, I ended up not re-listening to a lot of the lectures, and so I didn’t find this function (which I say is it’s main unique feature) that useful, at least for me. I’d say overall iAnnotate PDF is a superior and more useful program because of its versatility, and superior search and organization functions, despite not having the audio recording capabilities of PaperPort Notes. Even today, I continue to use iAnnotate PDF to reference my old notes, because it’s easy to search for keywords, and organize files into folders, whereas I don’t use PaperPort Notes at all.


  • Josiah

    Hi Benji, thanks for all your posts. I’ve been following your blog for a few months, and congrats on getting your MD.

    I have a couple questions. On the notes tab at the top, how comprehensive are your notes per topic? Do they constitute almost all the notes for that subject?

    • Benji

      Hi Josiah!

      Thanks for reading my blog. Good question. The short answer to your question is no. Those notes are the notes I typed up personally to help me study when I took the classes. Most of the information in the notes are based off of what I hear from lectures or what I read from the professors’ powerpoint slides. Some notes I’ve written are more “complete” than others. For all of them, I mainly wrote notes on things I felt I needed more help on, and so a lot of the easier concepts or things I felt I already knew, I would more likely have left out. There are also subjects like anatomy where typed notes cannot replace studying via a dissected cadaver or looking at illustrations. And of course there is human error… I’m sure there are things I’ve missed from lecture or didn’t write down in the notes, etc. Also, the curriculum for the classes at AUC may change from semester to semester depending on who is teaching it. Because of this, MCB Block 1 of one semester may not necessarily cover the same things as MCB Block 1 of another semester. Therefore, if you wanted to use my notes, I’d recommend studying according to the topic, rather than studying according to the blocks in which I’ve organized my notes. My notes should be used as a study supplement, rather than a replacement for the value one gets from going to class and talking to the professor during office hours.

      Here are the notes I feel are most helpful or “complete”:

      Anatomy Block 2
      MCB I Blocks 3-4
      MCB II Block 4
      Med Micro Blocks 1-4
      Pharm I Blocks 3-4
      ICM Physical Exam
      ICM Interview

      All the best,

  • Josiah

    Thanks Benji. I have been accepted to SGU in August and am going there. I just wanted to review a few topics. Good luck on finding the right residency for you.
    All the Best,

  • JA

    Dear Benji,

    Thank you so much for this blog! It has been really helpful and interesting!

    I am confused about the timeline you are on. I believe that you started at AUC in Sept ’09. Wouldn’t that mean that you would already be in residency? Or is the schedule for finding a residency at AUC different from the U.S. (where students apply for residencies during their fourth year)?

    Best of luck to you as you move forward!

    • Benji

      Thanks JA,
      Good observation on the timeline. In order to apply for the 2013 match, I would have needed to finish all my coursework and graduate by July 2013, but because I had to retake a course during my fourth semester, my graduation was delayed by a semester, which meant I couldn’t make it in time for the 2013 match, but the 2014 match. Failing a course was my biggest regret and mistake in med school, but I was determined to not get discouraged. I retook the course and honored it, and afterwards, honored every one of my rotations during clinicals. I hope you won’t have to experience this. All the best to you!

  • Good job Benji! Getting that experience from your father is a big plus because you have one-on-one attention. And congrats on your success, I’m almost done with my rotations as well, and I hope to get residency and eventually practice in Georgia.

  • Danyelle Butts

    Wow, I am very thankful for your blog. I am also from Macon,GA. I graduated from West-side high school and I finished my undergrad at Texas A&M-University Commerce. I am currently a 1st semester Med student at American University of St. Vincent. I would love to know any tips that you may have for USMLE Step 1 prep

    • Benji

      Hi Danyelle! It’s great to hear from another person from my hometown (woohoo)! I went to Central High School, class of 2001. Congratulations on your acceptance to AUS! How do you like St. Vincent? I’ve always been curious about that island and school.

      As for tips for Step 1, just remember that when you study for your classes right now, you ARE studying for Step 1. Focus on doing well on your classes, learn the medicine, and not worry specifically about Step 1 until in your later semesters. Although it is helpful to study review books like First Aid and do Qbanks for Step 1, most of the questions I got on Step 1 I got right because I remembered stuff from class, rather than remember seeing it in some Step 1 review book. So I say it’s very important to learn the stuff from class well.

      If you haven’t already, check out my post about preparing for Step 1:

      Best of luck!

  • Danyelle Butts

    St. Vincent is very beautiful. I love the view from my house. It is truly breath taking!
    Studying here is has been great so far because it is not too much to distract you from your studies, yet enough exploring and learning to keep it exciting. Thank you so much for your advice and help.

  • Fahd

    Hey Benji, Hope intern year is treating you well. Was wondering if you could shed any light on good study aids for step 3. Thanks 🙂

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