Sunday, December 24, 2006

Vikas Bhushan and Tao Le Bring You: First Aid For USMLE Step 1

Updated 2015-12-06

First Aid is a concise guide for preparing for the USMLE Step 1 examination. Having recently taken a National Board Exam (which is very similar), let me tell you: this book is invaluable. If you are just starting med school, browse through this book as you go through your classes. Take notes in it as you see fit. By the end of your preclinical education, you will have a great summary of all the key points from the first two years!

Seriously, it sounds like the standard "Be a good student" (like "Study hard" or something) that no one really does, but this is my one big regret from my years in preclinical courses. I really wish I had started taking notes in First Aid from day one instead of procrastinating and only starting with 2 months before my board exam. Don't be dumb like me!

Rev 2020-02-28

Atul Gawande: The Man Behind "Complications"

Updated 2015-12-06

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone reading this is having a happy holiday.

As you may have noticed from the quote on the sidebar, like many students, I am a fan of Atul Gawande. For those of you who haven't read this book Complications, it is a great book describing the life of a surgical resident. However, even if that isn't your field of interest, the book is still an engaging read with a sober look at the harsh realities and present state of medicine and medical education. If you're interested in the book, check this out:

If you've already read the book, or just want your Christmas present, well.. here it is: Slate articles written by Gawande before he got big. They're still quite interesting, even if a bit dated. Enjoy!

Update: Gawande has also been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1998. Many of Gawande's New Yorker articles form the source material for his books.

Rev 20200228

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Practice USMLE Step 1 Questions

Sorry I have been MIA. I have had 3 straight weeks of finals. Anyway, at the end of my exams, I had to take a nationalized board exam, similar to the USMLE Step 1 exam. Some of you might be facing similar exams. A good resource for practice questions is the USMLE site itself. On this site, there are 2 sets of practice questions of 150 q's each. Some of the questions repeat, but it is good practice in order to get a sense of the type of questions, and how questions are answered using a Computer-based exam. Good luck!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Doctor Strangelove Meets Johnny Mnemonic

So, like it or not, we all use mnemonics. I am sure you have come up with some great ones yourself, but they tend to take some time, no? Ever wonder what other people have come up with? Check out Medical Mnemonics. Cool, huh?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Egocentric 19th Century Physicians

... also known as, why is everything named after old dead white guys? Just kidding, but ever come across a disease name or triad, and have no idea what it is about? If so, check out Whonamedit, a website that is a basically a database of physician names, and the diseases or triads named after them. For example, remember Charcot's triad? Remember the *other* Charcot's triad? If not, check out their entries: here and here.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Med Students Have Lives?

Well, some of us apparently do. Check out this collection of blogs to see what other med students are up to: Blogs of Medical Students

Another good blog with some good ideas is Student-O-Medicine

What does that A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. mean?

No idea what FAMMM is? Unsure about HNPCC? Check out Acronym Finder. This website is basically a database of all commonly used acronyms. To make your life even easier, add a keyword for 'acronym' to your Firefox browser (see previous posts about keywords).

Google Images Keyword

Making a keyword for searching Google Images is a smart move. To do so, first access Google Images. Then, in Firefox, right click on the search box, and select 'Add a Keyword for this Search...' from the menu. Name it something like "Google Images Search", and choose a keyword like 'image'. From then on, to search for that path image of pancreatic islets, simply type the following into the location bar:

image pancreatic islet


Congenital Heart Disease Site

Yale has a great website about congenital heart disease. The website contains images and descriptions of many congenital heart conditions, as well as specific cases that you can read about. To access the site, click the title of this post.

Update 11/28/2016: It seems Yale has taken their website down unfortunately. The University of Minnesota also has a helpful website on the same topic, but it is more text heavy:

Firefox Keywords

Firefox has a great feature that allows you to turn any searchable website into a 'keyword.' How does this make your life easier? Well, say you want to search for a term on Wikipedia. You would type in ',' find the search box, type the term in (say, 'Tabes dorsalis'), and then hit enter. That's not a lot of work, but it does waste some time. Instead, with a keyword, you simply go to the location bar, type:

wp tabes dorsalis

and that's it! The keyword 'wp' is pre-programmed in to Firefox for Wikipedia, so it instantly knows to search Wikipediea for that term. More to come on how you can unlock the power of keywords.


Sure, IE is the most popular browser out there, and perhaps the new IE7 is a marked improvement. However, Firefox is a tried-and-true browser that is fast and easy to use and has great features for med students.

Why does the browser matter, you may ask. Well, let's say you have just performed a search for articles on H. pylori infections. There are 10 promising results. Firefox lets you view each one in a tabbed window, simply by control-clicking (clicking while holding the 'Control' key) each one. This may not seem that great, but it greatly cuts down the time and the clutter necessary to do web searches. If you do not have Firefox yet, simply click on the button in the panel on the right and try it out!

More Firefox features in future posts...


Wikipedia is a great resource for any medical student. It is basically a large collaborative free encyclopedia on the web. It is maintained by thousands of editors worldwide. Fortunately, many of these editors have an interest in medicine, so many articles have detailed, fairly accurate information about medical topics. Of course, if you want a definitive answer, you should use a textbook like Harrison's. However, for quick queries, such as "What is Werner-Morrison Syndrome?" (click for the answer), Wikipedia is a great resource. Future articles will describe how to use Wikipedia even more efficiently.

About This Blog

When I started this blog, initially I envisioned it a place for quick posts on tips and tricks I picked up while studying during medical school. However, over time, the posts came to include interesting medical stories I came across as well as my opinions on various matter. Some of the more popular posts involved me trying to answer questions that the resources I studied from did not seem to answer completely. Not too surprisingly, other people had similar issues as well.

Over time, several topics seemed to take precedence. In particular, taking the Step exams starting with USMLE Step 1 occupies much of the US medical student's mind. For those of you who have already taken Step 1, perhaps you could comment and contribute your insights to help make the posts better. Equally important are USMLE Step 2 CK and CS as well as USMLE Step 3. Ultimately though, all the tests are studying are a means to... well, first another means: residency. But that serves as a means to the end of a meaningful career in medicine. 

Thanks again for stopping by and reading. If you have any suggestions or ideas for posts/topics (or heck, want to submit one yourself), contact me via the contact page or by email at scrubnotes[at]gmail[dot]com.

Update: You can now follow us on twitter at

Saturday, November 04, 2006


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Last Revised: November 28, 2016


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