A LOT has happened since my last post. I successfully finished basic sciences in Grenada, took my Step 1 in August and started clinical rotations! It’s been a long ride to get to this point. I never thought I would see my last day in Grenada after 2.5 years! 5th term was a lot to handle. Not only are there rigorous courses, but there isn’t a lot of time afterwards to prepare for the USMLE Step 1. Remember to fill out all the paper work early to apply for Step 1. I didn’t realize I needed a passport sized photo for my application and ended up getting them done on the island. Another thing is there are a lot of health requirements to start clinicals such as titers and what not that needed to be done. I wish I had started those before my 5th term, because they took over a week to finish and get results. 5th term is comprised of 3 main courses: pathophys, pharmacology and introduction to clinical medicine (ICM). Of the 3, I found that pathophys was the toughest since it’s basically a course to review all the material on Step 1. This course involved a lot of reading First Aid as well as old lecture notes. It’s also worth almost the same amount of credits as path 4th term so you definitely should not slack off. Pharmacology wasn’t as tough, only because our class was curved. If not for the curve, I probably would’ve had to spend a lot more time studying. I definitely think Pharmacology was one of the most organized courses at SGU. I wish I could’ve put more effort into the course. Last but not least, ICM. This course involves weekly visits to Grenada’s hospital. This course taught us how to interact with real patients, and taught us real examination skills. Some weeks going to the hospital was a great learning experience and then others it was a drag taking the hot bus all the way to the city. Overall, I found this class interesting, but no where compared to US hospitals. At the end of 5th term, there are 2 comprehensive exams required to graduate. The BSCE and NBME. These exams were basically easier versions of Step 1. The exams are easily passable with a bit of studying and keeping up in your courses for 5th term.
After 5th term, I decided to stay on the island for a couple more weeks to study for my Step 1. This exam is a requirement for all US residencies and to begin clinical rotations. It was probably one of the most important exams I’ve ever taken! It was a stressful 6 weeks on the island of self studying before I took my Step 1! This was probably the best decision I’ve ever made since I didn’t have to spend time flying home and looking for a place to study. It however, does get extremely lonely seeing everyone leave. Everyone has a diffemt method of studying for this exam. I found that studying First Aid was not enough for me so I used a combination of lecture notes, Kaplan videos, first aid and UWorld. Looking back, if I had to do it again, I would’ve probably spent about 80% of my time doing questions and 20% actually studying material. SGU actually does a really good job preparing students for the Step 1. I think that if I had actually retained the information I learned in the last 2.5 years it would probably have been enough to at least pass the Step 1. After 3 long weeks of waiting, I finally got my score! PASS! I could not have been more excited.
In August I started my clinical rotations in NY. SGU has a lot of different sites for clinical rotations. They let you chose your top 3 preferred states and then after that it’s based in luck. Luckily, I got my first choice hospital. Clinical rotations are so much different than basic sciences. First off, everything you learned from book goes out the window when you see a real patient. I started with a Psych rotation and was thrown into the ED on my first day. I had no idea what to do. Eventually I figured out my way around the hospital. I wasn’t expecting to like Psychiatry, but it was actually a great first rotation. I learned a lot about taking a good history, but nothing about physical exams. Each core rotation is 6 weeks unless it’s Internal Med or Surgery which are 12 weeks. At the end of each rotation, there’s a shelf exam which is basically written by the creators of Step 1. Therefore, the questions are tough, but they are curved extensively. Besides Psych, I’ve now done rotations in both Geriatrics and Internal Medicine. Geriatrics is not a core rotation, but my hospital did not have any family medicine rotations. I had a great time doing my Geriatrics rotation. It was an amazing introduction to Internal Medicine. The patients were kind and didn’t mind being questioned by a student. If not for my Geriatrics rotation, I would’ve definitely not have even considered doing Internal Med in the future. I found Internal Med to be a lot of paperwork and much less actual medicine. Most days I was requesting records from other hospitals or writing notes on the computer. The rotation varies from hospital to hospital, but I did find that it was a lot less hands on than I was expecting. Nonetheless, it was a relaxing rotation that left a lot of time for studying. I learned a lot from the attendings and residents. I’m now onto my Peds rotation, so updates to come soon!