Pharmacology Class Review and Study Tips

This is a long post and I wrote it when the electricity went out at 1 AM last night. Thank GOD, my laptop had enough juice to keep my busy.  It was pitch black outside when the electricity went out and at 1 AM it’s not a good idea to go out alone in Bonaire.

Pharmacology, in MD3, is the hardest class in Saint James School of Medicine. It’s not hard in terms of understanding concepts but it’s hard due to the amount of information a student has to comprehend and memorize. Students have to study for Pharm and on top of that they have to study for Pathology I class and Microbiology. Each of those three classes requires a good amount of dedication but Pharm requires the most amount of dedication.

Dr. B teaches Pharmacology at 8 AM so, upcoming MD3 students, you better be awake for this class. Dr. B also teaches Embryology class for MD1 students, as mentioned in an earlier post. Pharmacology takes Physiology, Microbiology, and some Pathology concepts and incorporates that with the use of drugs. If you thought Histology was hard in your MD1 class, wait till you take this class, it will boggle your mind.

The block tests for Pharmacology are all clinical based. Dr. B wastes no time in giving out straight forward questions; he gives you clinical scenarios and asks you which drugs are best for the patient to take. Block one test is the easiest test, you will learn the foundation of Pharmacology and which receptors trigger which reaction in the human body. Block one test is easy once you understand the concepts backwards and forwards. Block one exam has to deal with more Physiology so you can figure out the answers on the test if you know the basics. Block 2-4 tests have to do with memorizing drugs, their classifications, their modes of action, their adverse effects, and their uses for whichever diseases.

Dr. B does confuse the class from time to time when he breaks down what we need to study for SJSM’s block tests and what we need to study for USMLE Step 1 exam. Honestly, I could care less about USMLE Step 1 at that time; I’m more concerned about passing Pharmacology than studying for USMLE Step 1. After teaching us a concept he mentions the chances of it being on Step 1 exam in percentage wise; and this confuses us even more with all the volume of information we already have in our hands. However, Dr. B is extremely knowledgeable in his field and he teaches very well. From block 2-4 his teaching is a bit off due to the subject but he will take the time to help you if you don’t understand. If not all I still remember a good amount of Pharmacology taught to me.

When he comes into class he will waste no time waiting for everyone to quiet down. Dr. B will start lecturing over the noisy class. Usually the people in the front rows quiet down and the people in the back are the ones who take time being quiet. He will keep an eye on who on attends class and who conducts well on his tests.

Attendance is a big factor in Dr. B’s class. If you come to class everyday and pay attention or study once you get home then you will pass. If you miss his classes then you may as well pray that you get high scores in his tests. Pharmacology is a difficult subject and most people in the class gets around 70s or above and that’s considered good because it’s a two semester class packed in one. Pharmacology concepts are condensed to be taught in the 16 months curriculum of Basic Sciences. In the last block test I wasn’t that worried about Pharmacology because my good attendance helped me out. I passed all of my previous tests so I wanted to concentrate on other subjects which I was weak on. There are other people who’s grades were very low but since they attended his class, it showed their effort, Dr. B showed them mercy and they passed. If a student has poor attendance and did porly on tests then he/she will have no help if his/her final score is not a passing mark.

Study Tips
Pharmacology is mostly about memorization and, just like histology, repetition is the key. You should get stacks of notebook paper and write and re-write the drugs over and over again until they are stuck to your head. Studying the same material everyday will store the information in your long-term memory. Dr. B’s slides are a bit all over the place because there is so much information on there but he will not test you on all that information and nor will they show up on USMLE Step 1. One way to study well in his class is using Kaplan Pharmacology book as a guide. You should highlight, on the book, what is on Dr. B’s slides so you can easily study for his tests without trouble. Dr. B will also point out the “drugs of choice” for certain diseases; make sure you learn that hardcore because those are easy questions. Most of his questions ask you what is the best choice so more than one drug can be the answer, but when it comes to the drug of choice (“DOC”), then only one drug is the correct answer.

Study Tips for the New MD1 Students

New students are already flocking Bonaire with their excitment of studying medicine with dedication. If you’re an MD1 in two to three weeks onward you’re going to ask yourself what did you get yourself into. The amount of studying you have to do is ridiculously crazy. The amount of information you have to retain is so massive. You will have to study like you never studied before in your life. I’m an MD4 now and it’s been over a year since I studied in SJSM and in the following post I will tell you how to conduct your studying habits so you can do well in these medical school exams.

Medical Ethics
Medical ethics is the easiest class in MD1 and it seems like a joke to most people and to me it was. However, you still need to look over the material at least 2 times to do well. In order to do well in that class, pay attention to Dr. D or whoever is teaching. I don’t want to write out any full names of any teachers online, but if you have the Serbian teacher Dr. D, a very smart man by the way, then you should read on. Pay attention to what Dr. D is teaching. Make sure you write down the case studies he presens and discusses in class. He will test you based on those case studies and know the components of what is what. If there are any definitions, understand them, apply them in case studies, and then memorize them hard-core. Read his slides at least twice and you should be fine for his tests, it’s not hard as the other classes.

Gross Anatomy
Anatomy class is demanding, but it’s not impossible to get an A. If you’re good at memorization by picturing things then this class should be a breeze. Anatomy is mostly about memorizing the different bones and muscles of the human body. Also, you have to know the nerves and which muscles they work with. Anatomy tests are based on the lecture in class which is a major part and the practical test which is the minor part. The Board Review Series Anatomy book is the guide for this class. In the back of each chapter do those practice questions; if you can answer all those practice questions then you should not be making anything less than an A. In Anatomy lab, pay attention to what the instructor tells you to study. And keep your ears open to which muscles the instructor mentions and study that hardcore, and also study what the “clinical significance” is of whatever he mentions.

Dr. B, the Pharmacology teacher who teaches in MD3, also teaches embryology. In his class don’t even look at the text book. Study from his PowerPoint slides, it has everything you need to get an A in his tests. His tests are straight forward, however all of his questions are clinical based because all the USMLE Step 1 questions are clinical based. The Fall 2010 class is the largest batch of students in SJSM history so he may or may not give a review before the test depending on time, but if he does give a review PAY ATTENTION to him. In his review he will tell which slides to ignore and which slides to study. I can’t stress enough when I tell you DON’T study from the text book; STUDY HIS SLIDES.

Histology class is the most demanding and the hardest class of MD1. The dean of Basic Sciences, Dr. K, teaches this class and he expects a lot from his students. When I was an MD1 he told me and my class “you’re all MDs, you have to struggle”. Therefore, you can get an idea of what you’re about to go through. For me I spent 80% of my study time for Histology and I did well in my first test because I put so much effort into it. Just like Embryology slides, you need to study from Histology slides. The test comes directly from the slides. Histology class has so much volume of information that you may or may not be able to study everything. The key to studying Histology is repetition. If you read a slide don’t spend 30 minutes on it trying to memorize it, move on to the next slide after reading and understanding it once. Go through an entire set of slides once and then do it over again. The more repetitions you do the more the information will stick to your head, and that’s the key in studying histology; repetition is the key.

Just keep in mind what I wrote above. Don’t deviate from it because I went through MD1 last year and the teachers have no changed so most things have stayed the same. I wrote this post to help the new MD1s and it is your choice to follow it. Good luck and I hope you will enjoy this semester with us as you study and begin your medical career.