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 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 amazon.com *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 iPod, printer, 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?
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.
Amazon.com 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!