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“You’re Not as Smart as You Think You Are”

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Name: Alex Diaz Bode

Med School: University of Miami, Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine

Year: Third Year*

*Though now a fourth year student, these questions were answered as a third year.

1. What technology is essential to your study routine?

GoogleDrive! I write all my notes using GoogleDocs so I can access and add to them from anywhere. This allows me to add or review my notes anywhere, regardless of if I have my laptop on me or not. It’s really made my backpack a lot lighter and helped with productivity in terms of being able to study effectively when there’s some downtime on the wards.

2. What is your #1 study tip?

Take breaks where you remove yourself from your study environment when you notice your attention is lapsing. It’s much more efficient to take a 15-minute study break to go walk around outside rather than spend 30 minutes re-reading the same paragraph because you’re mentally fatigued. I find that I return much more refreshed and ready to focus if I take those quick breaks while studying.

3. How do you keep yourself motivated or get out of study ruts?

I like to keep my eye on the end goal. Yes, the mechanism of action of a psychotropic drug I’ll probably never prescribe can seem esoteric, but when I remind myself that this is simply a step to get to where I want to be, I am much more motivated to approach such topics. Sometimes I’ll browse websites related to the field I am interested in, or research residency programs in that field in order to get myself excited about the future and motivate my studying.

4. What would your classmates be most surprised to learn about you?

I went to culinary school before I decided I wanted to go into medicine.

5. What unique extracurriculars do you pursue outside of medicine?

It’s no surprise to my classmates, but in my free time, I collect and preserve venomous spiders. I also give talks to school kids about how useful spiders are, their adaptations, and how to identify harmless ones in the environment. Physicians often overdiagnose spider bites (especially recluse bites), so I have a presentation for doctors as well!

6. What book would you recommend to all medical students?

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. It sums up how we deal with death, dying, and aging in this country. Regardless of what specialty you enter, you will deal with manifestations of an aging population and Dr. Gawande’s book is great food for thought.

7. What would you been doing if you weren’t in medical school?

Running my own restaraunt and teaching cooking classes to community memebers.

8. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in medical school?

You’re not as smart as you think you are. Being surrounded by so many talented and bright individuals has shown me that I’m never going to be the smartest kid in the room, and it has also made me okay with that. By having such a humbling experience, I’m not as worried about getting an answer wrong, or trying my best and coming up short. It’s really taught me how to exit my comfort zone and enter each day trying to learn, instead of trying to be perfect.

9. What was your most memorable “first” experience in medical school?

Getting to dissect a human body for the first time. It’s not only where I fell in love with anatomy, but also where I fell in love with my dissection partner who is now my fiancée!

10. How can medical students better support each other inside and outside the classroom?

Stop talking about school all the time. I think true human connection where you know someone for who they are as a person, rather than who they are as a student, is really what creates camaraderie. Talking about school just stresses everyone out, while talking about your new dog, or asking how the date you went on last weekend went is just so much more personal and real. It helps take your mind off of stressful things like school (which we’re always thinking about regardless) and focus on the real important thing: being a human being and living a happy life outside of the classroom/wards/lab/what-have-you.

11. If you’ve started rotations, which rotation has been your favorite? Is it what you expected it would be?

Radiology. Although I’m interested in the field, I figured it would just be watching a resident read studies all day with minimal interaction. In reality, I got to see some amazing pathology, interact with the residents a lot, and feel like I learned how to identify important pathology on some studies which is important when you’re on the wards waiting for a read.

12. How do you use virtual lectures?

I use them to learn about research and topics in certain specialties. Most societies will have webinars specifically geared towards medical students that are a great way to learn about certain specialties that you may not get exposure to in your curriculum. They’re also great if you’re set on a specialty and want to learn more about a certain topic within that field. I also have used virtual lectures to become more proficient in certain research techniques and study types that you may not learn about in depth in medical school.

13. How was the experience of transitioning to the wards?

I was really fortunate in that I had an absolutely amazing team on first rotation. The residents knew I was a wide-eyed third year who had no idea what I was doing and would inevitably ask a bunch of stupid questions. Luckily, they were awesome and taught me a bunch. I think the biggest learning curve was coming to terms with the fact that you will not have structured time to study for the shelf exam and you need to create that time by carving it out of night/weekends and any other time you aren’t on the wards.

14. What patient will you never forget?

I had a patient during my trauma shift who was a young woman in her early 30s that came into the trauma bay in full cardiac arrest. The EM residents pushed me to the front and told me to start full chest compressions. I will never forget just how cold the patient was when I pushed on her chest, the laxity of the chest after breaking her ribs from compression, ultimately the feeling when the attending called the time of death. It was my first experience grappling with death firsthand, and it took a while for me to reconcile that medicine isn’t always pretty, and you have to walk a fine line between being emotionally invested in your patients and not driving yourself crazy.

15. Do you have any tips for being on-call?

Don’t be surprised if your call day ends up being longer than you anticipate. On one of my clerkships I had a 7p-7a call, and then a day of mandatory didactic lectures from 10a-3p. I ended up taking a nap in the backseat of my car since I couldn’t realistically get home, sleep, and be back for didactics within 3 hours. Maybe keep a spare pillow in your trunk so you’re prepared.

16. What is the best advice a resident/attending gave you?

I had an attending who recently told me “Life isn’t just about medicine and getting good grades.” I think in a field where we train for ages, and around every corner is some metric that pits you against your classmates it’s easy to forget that there’s a life outside of the walls of the hospital. That life doesn’t care about what your step 1 score was, if you got AOA, or if you’re top 10% or bottom 10% in your class. And ultimately, it’s that life outside that really matters at the end of the day.

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