Monday, November 29, 2010

Med Student Gifts 2010: What To Buy Your Favorite Almost Doctor

As you know, medicine is a 24 x 7 x 365.24 job (yes, you have to be that precise, if not moreso). Over the years, the distinction between workday and day off blurs and then eventually fades into nothingness. If you're on service (on a rotation where you are caring for patients who are admitted to the hospital), then you have patients, and whether you have the day off or not, you are taking care of them. This metamorphosis in mental thinking begins in medical school, especially in the third year, as green medical students hit the wards. Thus, it is incumbent upon their friends and family to remind them around the holiday season that there is life outside the hospital, and the most lasting reminder may be a thoughtful gift. Haha, or at the very least, you can give them the gift of a few extra hours of sleep by buying them something useful they would not have bought otherwise.

There are always classic gift ideas - something fancy, or expensive, or at least shiny. But, in 2010, here are some med student gifts that may be particularly timely. To be helpful, there are two sections below: the gift-wrappable gift and the stocking stuffer (items less than $50). Happy shopping!

Samsung Galaxy Phone

Yes, everyone and their mom wants an iPhone 4, and while it certainly is a remarkable phone, the Samsung line might just be slightly better. The first phone to be released simultaneously on all 4 major US carriers (the Epic 4G on Sprint, the Captivate on AT&T, the Vibrant on T-Mobile, and the Fascinate or Continuum on Verizon), the phone can take advantage of 4G networks when offered and also has a keyboard in some variants (Score: Galaxy 1, iPhone 0). Internationally, the phone is known as the Samsung Galaxy S i9000. The international version features support for SIM cards, for that global health warrior of yours. Featuring the Android OS from Google, the phone is remarkably expandable through OS and app upgrades. The phone can even replace your digital camera and Garmin GPS systems with its turn-by-voice navigation and 5 to 8MP cameras.

Specifically for the medical student, there are many useful apps for medical school available on Android, including Epocrates, Harrison's, and Pocket Medicine. The Google Translate app can also assist you in communicating with patients for whom English is not their primary language. As far as having a phone that is on multiple networks, the ubiquity of the phone makes it easier to share accessories and apps regardless of which network the individual is on. In my opinion, this is the phone of the future.

The Apple iPad

The leader and the standard in tablet PCs for now, the Apple iPad is quickly revolutionizing how people interacts with their PCs. Although the Samsung Galaxy Tab is soon to be released, the iPad is the clear leader in this space. For the medically-minded, imagine reading your medical textbooks all on one slim digital reading machine with full color illustrations and the ability to digital annotate and search the text. Have a question about what you just read? Go online with the swipe of a finger and find the answer instantly.  Bored? Listen to some music on iTunes or play one of the thousands of games available through the App Store. I cannot imagine medical education in 5 years without every student having some device of this nature. Why not provide your favorite junior doctor with one now?

Apple MacBook Pro

The last laptop I purchased (a Dell Inspiron 600m) back in 2005 was meant to get me through med school. And it did - but sadly it is no longer up to the task for residency. So, I decided to go back to my first computer love: Apple. I know, I know, I panned the iPhone above, but there is just no comparison for laptops. Once I decided to check out the Mac, I went to an Apple Store to take one out for a spin. I was quickly sold - but not on the Apple Store. Here's a big tip: buy your laptop online. Why? Well, I bought a 13" MacBook Pro, which retails for $1200. In the store, I would have to pay a total of $1320 including sales tax. What did I do? I went online to *in the store*, logged in, bought the same exact laptop, the 13" Apple MacBook Pro, for $1149, period. No sales tax! I saved $170 this way, enough to buy an extra iPodprinter, AND iLife software. Great - a nice deal, but why is this the right laptop for a medical student?

Simple: it rocks. Haha, so you probably need more data. As a medical student, one must often put together presentations on the fly, either describing a disease or a patient history. The MacBook Pro is a multimedia machine. Any medical student can quickly throw together a rich multimedia presentation on, say, renal physiology, in 30 minutes or less with the computer right out of the box. Not only can you make the presentation, but you could present it as well on the 13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy widescreen display with support for millions of colors and 1280x960 resolution. Basically, the screen looks really really nice. Anything a medical student would need a computer to do, this laptop can do.

For the techie med students, the laptop is actually a Unix box and easily dual boot Windows using software like VMWare or Parallels Desktop (note: you'll need your own copy of Windows to do this). Setting up a web server is also a snap with the built-in software and Perl support.

With the lightweight and long battery life and easy to use built-in WiFi support, the laptop can follow the future doctor anywhere in the hospital, or anyplace out in the world where patients need assistance. The laptop provides not only a link to the collected medical wisdom of the world, but also a tool to add to that body of knowledge and improve medical care globally.


The classic medical student gift, a stethoscope is a doctor's trusty friend through decades of service to humanity. I remember getting my first stethoscope as a birthday present during my first year of medical school. That Littmann Cardiology III served me well during many long nights, running to codes, or rounding the next morning on patients with all kinds of heart and lung problems. A good stethoscope is like a good dog in the hospital: a faithful friend and a constant companion. No matter which stethoscope you get for your loved one, make sure it is one that they will be comfortable using. For more information, check out: What Is The Best Stethoscope To Get For Medical School?

Stocking Stuffers

Perhaps your favorite white-coated do-gooder has all the big ticket items they need to make the world a better place. A sentimental gift can still put a smile on their face and mentally put them in a good place, helping them help others.

Giant Microbes: Neuron

They're plush, they're cute, they're the thinking person's stuffed creature - Giant Microbes! Haha, I'm not the world's biggest stuffed animal / creature fan but I gotta give the creator points for coming up with this idea. Along with the neuron, there's the E. coli, common cold, MRSA, mononucleosis, and many others! Find out which one makes the most sense for your favorite walking/talking petri dish. Yea, you better make sure they wash their hands before and after laying their hands on this gift!

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer

The long days and longer nights, the endless studying, the incessant pimping (ask your gift recipient what this is if you're curious) - all of them wear on the medical student. If you want to help them stay motivated, I recommend reading Mountains Beyond Mountains, an excellent book by Tracy Kidder documenting the journey and career of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Harvard trained physician working in Haiti. Per Wikipedia, "Paul Farmer (born October 26, 1959) is an American anthropologist and physician, the Presley Professor of Medical Anthropology in the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard University and an attending physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. In May 2009, he was named chairman of Harvard Medical School's Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, succeeding his longtime friend and collaborator Jim Kim. He currently resides in Kigali, Rwanda. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease. Farmer is one of the founders of Partners In Health (PIH), an international health and social justice organization."

The book details Farmer's evolving thinking, starting as a young man entering college at Duke, to a physician-in-training who realized Dr. Martin Luther King's fierce urgency of now and decided to devote his life to serving the world's poorest while maintaining the standards of the world's richest. This quick but engaging read will help raise the forlorn med student's sagging spirits during this season of giving. Gift Card

From my prior gift guide "Practical Gifts For Medical Students," I noted that "The reality of medical school is that any medical student will have to study A LOT. To do so, this requires textbooks and review guides. An Amazon gift card will help any student easily purchase the texts and reviews they need, which can be a significant cost of medical education for a student, after tuition." Still true even years later - a gift card makes an excellent stocking stuffer. You get to set the price; they pick the gift; everyone's happy with the exchange. The difficulty with buying niche gifts is often that one is unsure what gift would work best - a textbook? A Wii Console to relax after clinic? A gift card lets the doctor-to-be decide what gift is best (my guess - the Wii!). Teehee, seasons greetings everyone!

Updated 2015-12-20

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dale Dubin's "Rapid Interpretation of EKGs" PDF Preview

This is an updated post of an earlier post detailing how to preview Dale Dubin's Rapid Interpretation of EKGs on Google Books. After doing some more research, I came across a pdf version as well - see below. Disclaimer: visit the site and download the pdf at your own risk.


I'm sure some of you came across this site while looking for something related to Rapid Interpretation of EKGs or Dale Dubin. Well, the book is a good primer on understanding EKGs, but some of may have your doubts before investing in a copy. 

If you want to preview the book before you purchase it, check out Rapid Interpretation of EKGs at Google Books. The preview will show you roughly 70% of the pages in the actual 6th edition, published in 2000. Google Books also has many other medically-related books that you can try-before-you-buy. If you like what you see, check out the full latest edition: 

Still not convinced? Check out the pdf version at Free E-Book Downloads. While good to peruse, I would still recommend purchasing the full book version of Rapid EKGs so that you can take notes on it as you learn. EKG interpretation is a visual skill; therefore, you should be actively sketching notes to yourself in order to clarify the points made in the book. Additionally, once you have annotated the book yourself, you can add to it as you learn from subtle EKG techniques from experienced cardiologists. Note: you can search for other medical books in pdf form on this site as well! Happy EKG interpretating!

Updated 2015-12-20

Friday, November 26, 2010

USMLE Step 1 2011: Start Preparing Now

Many of you have arrived at this blog looking for information about USMLE Step 1. If you are planning on taking this exam in 2011, the time to start preparing is NOW! This advice is especially true if you are a foreign medical graduate or international medical graduate.

Everyday, I receive emails from foreign and international medical graduates asking me about who, what, where, when, why, and how to study. Ultimately the answers are pretty simple:
  • Who To Study For USMLE Step 1: Honestly, you should study yourself! What do I mean by that? If you have been following this blog, you'll know that I have often recommended that you purchase a general USMLE Step 1 review book such as First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2011 (First Aid USMLE) and annotate it with your own learning as you proceed through your basic science courses. Using this technique, when it comes time to study for Step 1, you are not reading some unknown professor's notes, but rather your own in a language you can understand.

  • What To Study For USMLE Step 1: First Aid for the USMLE Step 1, 2010 (First Aid USMLE) is everything you need to pass. Seriously. But, in detail, you should be studying all the basic information of biochemistry, molecular biology, and general physiology. Pathology and pharmacology are also covered, but you will not be expected to apply this knowledge (ie, there are no questions about patient management).

  • Where To Study For USMLE Step 1: Wherever you feel comfortable. General study advice is that you should avoid studying in areas you otherwise use for relaxation, such as your bedroom, in order to avoid conflating work with relaxation psychologically. A quiet, well-lit, comfortable study space with nearby access to water, snacks, and a restroom is ideal. Try to minimize the number of distractions around you. Personally, being close to a gym was also helpful such that once a study, I had a healthy study break just there waiting for me on the treadmill.

  • When To Study For USMLE Step 1: NOW! Well, don't go too hardcore just yet, but this is a good time to start planning your study schedule, especially if you are planning to take the test in January or February. Most people will be taking the test in May or June, but does not hurt to start early. Also check out my post about suggested USMLE Step 1 Study Schedules.

  • Why To Study For USMLE Step 1: To get into the residency program and specialty of your choice, duh.

  • How To Study For USMLE Step 1: See my prior post about my USMLE Step 1 Study Schedule which details strategies for studying as well as possible schedules

Good luck preparing! Feel free to email if you have any questions!

Updated 2015-12-20


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