Sunday, January 13, 2013

Is PA school fun?

Yes! Well it can be, if you make it fun. So far my class has organized some fun events. Here are some of the fun stuff we have done:
- color run
- interprofessional bowling night
- potluck parties
- monthly birthday celebrations
- Clippers game
- conferences
- lunch/dinner/ drinks together
-fundraisers- group dinners, pie throwing contests! 
See PA school is not all studying all the time! At least it should not be. Balance is important, exercise keeps you sane, sleep is a necessity not a once in a while thing. I think it is important to keep in mind that you may learn about a lot of new topics or diseases during your first year but remember that this is not the last time you are going to see the stuff. You will see a lot of it again during clinical rotations (I think, if I don't see them in clinic, I will come back and edit this part). You will see things again and again, don't beat yourself up if you don't get everything the first time! You are going to have to look over things again and again, try and lay down a solid foundation and then add layers of knowledge with each re-visit /review. 

On that note happy studying! But go for a run first you will absorb more when you study after!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Top 5 Resources for the first semester!

This is a post I had originally created for a friends blog but thought I should post it here too. In the future I am planing on adding more about how I use Evernote. Enjoy! (Sorry for some of the weird spacing I originally created it in Word and have had some trouble w/ it copying over.)

Before I started at USC, the program decided to go as paperless as possible. With this decision, there have been a few hurdles but many benefits! It has challenged us (the students) to modify our learning strategies and for some implement new note taking strategies. Thanks to my super smart classmates, I was introduced to several great electronic resources. Here is my top 5 Resources that got me through this semester.

5. Mindmeister allows you to create “mind maps”, like those though thought maps you may have had to make before writing an essay when you were a kid. You can create a free Basic account, which allows you to create up to 3 maps, share, collaborate and import. These maps can get quite large! I would suggest using the map to organize and summarize large subjects. You can minimize and expand different sections, which allows you to not become overwhelmed with all you have to learn.  You can also get it on your iPad, iPhone, and Android devices. When your maps get really large, you can easily use the search feature in the bottom right corner to find whatever you are looking for!

<= Search Function                       

You can also add connecting arrows, which helps unite important facts or concepts.

Quizlet and Study Blue are two great flashcard applications. Both offer free accounts, flashcard sharing, and very easy to use features. I used Study Blue in undergrad and switched to Quizlet once I started PA school only because the class ahead of us had used it and we could easily find and use the flashcards they had already set up. Study Blue is available on your Apple, and Android devices and in the Amazon app store.  For Quizlet I downloaded the Flashcards Deluxe app to my iPad and I am easily able to access my Quizlet flashcards. You can also uses theses apps to make picture flashcards that can come in very handy for your dermatology and radiology module. Tip: always make sure the flashcards you are studying are correct and accurate!

3. Your local whiteboard!
I know this is not very high tech but it’s a valuable resource that I think many students tend to under utilize. For me I used it in reviewing and drawing out anatomy and physiological processes. Near the end of the semester I also used it before we would start a module to help me plan out my attack for that specific module. Plus, using the whiteboard allows be to only have to carry around white board pens instead of notebooks and stacks of papers. Here are some examples of how I used it:

2.  YouTube
I did not start using this GREAT resource until my last module and I have no idea why. There are probably millions, maybe even billions of videos on the Internet and there are many for each disease we have to know. After reading our go to text book I would do a quick search on youtube and try to pick out a good video that would help me review or remember the disease. I would also copy and past the movie link into my notes on that disease that way I can use it in my review later. I found this especially helpful when dealing with very visual topics or ones that I had little previous experience. Give it a try and you will be surprised! (Just don’t get stuck on youtube watching those videos of surgeries, or I&D videos for too long). Plus they now have youtube for your iPad and iPhone and Android devices.

1. My friend and classmate Josh Miller introduced my to how useful Evernote can be (he also gets credit for introducing me to Mindmeister).  Evernote is where I keep all my lecture notes, objectives and just about everything related to school.  I pay for a premium membership, which allows you us to upload almost an endless number of notes per month and when each slide of a PowerPoint is a note there can be many notes in a month. It also allows you to access your notebooks (you can create various notebooks for different subjects) offline. So when your traveling or your power goes out you can still access all your notes. Other advantages of using Evernote include:
  • Automatic backup of your notes (while connected to the internet) (can you imagine your computer dies that weekend before a big test and there goes all your note!- THIS HAPPENS, do not think you are the exception!!!)
  • You can download Evernote on you iPad, iPhone, and android devices. That means you have access to all of your notes all of the time!! Only us study hungry PA students can understand this kind of excitement. I have take advantage of this on many occasions (waiting in lines, while someone else is driving you, at dinner when your significant other is not looking you can double check which CN are innervating your face).
  • You can easily organize all of your notes. Note can be organized into notebooks and tagged with a tag. For example if your professor spends a lot time on a certain subject/slide or flat out tells you need to know this, you can tag the note with “Memorize” or “Need to know”. You can also use the tag “clinical” which will help you before you go clinical rotations when you go back to review. Once you start to accumulate many notes with the same tag across many notebooks you can easily view them choosing to view by the tag instead of by notebook. This also you to create connections across different subjects.
  • Each note has a link that you can put in other notes to help you connect the dots of various subjects or important ideas.
  • One of my favorite features is the search function. When someone (or yourself) can’t quite remember what the certain thing was, you can do a quick search across all notes or within certain tags or notebooks and QUICKLY find that answer. Without Evernote this could take you minutes to sometimes hours!
  • Evernote also have a great blog with helpful tips and tricks. As well as a several other apps that you can use in conjunction with Evernote to enrich your experience.

I know this may sound scary to try and use any or all of these resources but I promise you that they are all very user friendly and easy to learn. I use Evernote heavily and it probably deserves a whole blog post of its own. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What is an "Objective"?

When I started PA school the idea of an "Objective"was explained several times. I remember several of us being confused on just how much detail to include, what resources to take from, etc. Do we have to make one of these objective tables/sheets for each disease or disorder? I am going to try my best to explain what an objective sheet is and how you should make it your own.

For our Topics In Medicine (TIM) class we cover  disease (dz)/disorders per module (ex. psychiatry, infectious disease, etc). To help you learn all the dz you can create an objective sheet for each you are required to cover. An objective sheet can include the following:

  • Name of the disease:
  • Essentials of Diagnosis: Key clinical things that point you to said dz
  • Definition: keep it simple!
  • Epidemiology
  • Etiology
  • Pathogenesis
  • Physical Exam: (I usually put both signs and symptoms and physical exam findings)
  • Labs: which to order and results
  • DDX: Differential Diagnosis
  • Management/Treatment
  • Prognosis
  • Pearl- you will learn the key words for a dz and this is where I would write them down. (I also choose a large font and highlight them!) Another great thing to include are images (which are almost essential for dermatology). I also found youtube videos very helpful! 
You can add or delete sections as you see fit. Also, don't worry (or spend hours looking for information) if you do not have information for each section!! The main book/lecture you are using main not provide information about the epidemiology of a dz don't worry! Get the information you need down in an organized fashion so you can go back and review it! 

Some people don't make an objective sheet at all! So do not think this is a must it is just an option, a tool to help you while in PA school (and beyond)!  With time you get a better idea of what you need to include and what you need to leave out. It can be a painful process in the beginning but I promise it will get better! 

If you do a different style objective sheet or something completely different please share!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Balance and PA school...trying to balance

PA school is challenging no doubt about it, but maybe not in the way you think. For me, the content was not difficult, it was intellectually stimulating, fun, at times a little dry but there are somethings you just have to memorize/know. The hardest part was adjusting to a new routine, and figuring out how to study best. One of the long time faculty members emphasized to us not to change our studying habits and keep up what we have been doing in undergrad. (Remember that is what gets you to PA school). Myself and others have tried different methods of studying despite what our ridiculously smart professors tell us. I feel confident after having used this semester to test some different things out to say those ridiculously smart professors were correct. You methods of studying will probably not change much, maybe the integration of a few new things here and there but nothing major. Your time management abilities/skills will get better whether you like it or not.  Here were some of my non-content challenges and how I have tackled them:

  • Commuting... before starting PA school my commute was really non-exsistent. I liked with in 20 mins of both my school and work. The longest drive I had was to my girlfriend living in San Diego but that was only about every other weekend, and I could time when I left so the traffic was not bad. Now that I am driving roughly 50 miles round trip each day I have to school the commute has gotten serious. During the first few weeks of school it really took a toll on me. I HATED sitting on the freeway in the morning knowing I could be driving 80 mph and be at school in about a half hour but with TRAFFIC I was stuck. (I think the US government good use the LA traffic as a form of psychological torture on prisoners they are trying to get information from.) 
    • So how did deal with this new debacle... I spent some time looking up different ways to school (freeway or no freeway), got up a little earlier (which means I get to school before most people and get in an hour or two of quite study time), stayed at school after class to avoid traffic going home. I would bring at least lunch or dinner and if I was really prepared I would bring enough food for both. TIME.. eventually I adjusted to the drive found a better route to school 
  • Exercise... I started CrossFit before PA school and loved it! I also thought I could totally fit this in around school. Well, there is reality (ironic given the name of the box is CrossFit Reality). Between the commute, studying and trying to sleep and eat exercise was put on the back burner. I think during this first semester I went a total of 3 times.... that is embarrassing! I did exercise on my own but it was often a short run at 11, 12, or sometimes even 12:30 at night. Not the safest thing in the world but sometime you just have to run. 
    • Now that I know what school requires, and I have gotten a better commute down, I am really out of excuses for not going. This semester that plan is to go to a CrossFit class at least 2x week and when I can't get there I have gotten a few new toys for my home CrossFit gym. 
  • Long Distance Relationship... it is not easy! BUT I was not alone. There are several other people in my class with there significant others on the other side of the U.S. so I can't really complain. But at the same time, I can argue that each relationship is unique.
    •  For us (my girlfriend and I)  I did a good job of warning my girlfriend of what PA school was going to require of me. (If you can, I would take your partner to an information session or least sit them down and look them in the eyes and say this PA school thing is going to take some time away from you and I). My girlfriend and I also planned date nights w/ no discussion of "weird diseases". Some weekends we just met for dinner half way between San Diego and Long Beach, that way I was able to still have the weekend to study and I did not loose much time traveling. When I would go down for the weekend I take the Amtrak train, which allowed me to study and w/ free wifi I could still access all my notes and books. It is not easy but with some planning and understanding of the needs of your partner, PA school and a long distance relationship is possible!

As far as the content of PA school the thing I found most challenging was pharmacology. The people that come up with drug names must use some random letter generator and then when they get something that looks like a word they go with it. Memorizing drug names, mechanism of action, side effects and other things related to drugs was not easy, but it is manageable. 

If you have any questions or want to share obstacles you have faced while in school feel free to leave a comment.