The Summer Before
The lame duck period, as I have come to call the summer before medical school, is really your last taste of freedom as an individual. Sure there are those 8 weeks between first and second year but most of that time is devoted to studying for Step 1 or the COMLEX, trying to earn that extra beer money and checking out hospitals for 3rd year and residencies. So really, that vacation comes down to two hurried weeks of friend and family interaction in which most of you will be bombarded with medical questions from your relatives. As for me, I have been working since June 2007 in my local hospital as an endoscopy technician. Endo-GI is a wonderful field if you can get past the idea of showing tubes up and down peoples orifices. Its procedural medicine at its finest. Without a doubt a well compensated field with one of our Doc's just bought his "fiancee" a 35K engagement ring and 90K wedding band (compensate much?). Regardless, I work side by side with the doctor/surgeon and a wonderful group of nurses who insist I pay them $50 and hour when I open my practice. In my situation, taking a year off and gaining more clinical experience was by far the best option while getting paid. I also did some scant volunteer work at a local free clinic and shadowed two D.O's. I would highly recommended taking a year off between undergrad and medical school as it gives you time to relax, connect with old friends, and most of all get paid and live some sort of a natural life. Most of the doc's I work with say if they did it again they would have taken a year off. I for one have become a beer aficionado of sorts, I have also gotten myself into some sort of shape (i'm orbish at the moment) and have picked up the game of hockey.
Most advice given for your last summer is to not touch anything to do with school and rather explore the world. If you can afford airline prices, I would suggest picking up a copy of Europe Through the Back Door and travel abroad. Nothing can cleanse your mind and spirit like gaining a new perspective on the world. I took this advice and caught up with two good college friends, one who lives in Honolulu and another in Nashville, TN. Other advice I can pass along is to chase down a hobby you never really had the time for (ie-RC planes, flying real planes, underwater basket weaving etc.) Just get out and get your mind off of books, school and research related. Many students who enter medical school are certified EMT's. Like working in a hospital a great way to learn on the side while getting paid. Do an internship with a medical examiner, follow around your PCP if you desire, just do not pick up a textbook. I have already alluded to some light reading (HOG, TDNH, MSC) which may give you a better idea of whats ahead, but don't pick up an anatomy atlas and memorize away. For those who simply cannot wait to go to school and must study something, read up on biochemistry. Yep, that dredge of a topic is very complex and I know I will need all the help I can get at it. Learn about pH, acid-base stuff and metabolic/respiratory alkalosis and acidosis. It won't be fun, but that's my suggestion to you.
Have I killed this point about not reading texts? Yes. Good
For those who are going straight from college to undergrad, man do I pity you. You graduate, receive complimentary monies and have to turn everything around while you look for housing, roommates and other necessities in the city in which your school is located. I found roommates and a house already (June 7th, wohoo!) which seems to be ahead of the curve for most of my class. You also have to decide between an apartment and a house. I choose the house route because I like space and need a place to store most of my crap. Those who find apartments are usually the students who prefer to live alone as apartment space is limited and need that solitude to study. I am not one of those people. I am renting, not buying as I do not wish to pay taxes as I have no idea what I am doing financially.
There's another topic for discussion. Many students turn to loans or wealthy grandparents to fund their medical school education. Since my one grandfather currently drives an old-school Buick Roadmaster (with wood trim) I went with the loans. There are two major federal loans which I applied for. First is the Stafford loan. The Stafford Loan is a federal loan which can either be subsidized or unsubsidized. There is a maximum you can take out for the subsidized loan which usually amounts to a little over 40K a year. This may not seem like much, but this usually covers most tuition bills and you do not have to pay any interest or make any payments until 6 months after you graduate. The unsubsidized Stafford loan allows you to take out more money but as a hindrance you must pay interest on the loan (I think...) The other major federal loan is the Grad Plus Loan. This loan can cover all of your expenses as you can take out any amount you want. Yet, you pay interest on this loan (interest rate is higher too!) and make payments every month until your loan is payed in full. Mind you these explanations are very broad and if you need help consult you family's (or your own you rich bastard) financial planner to work out and decipher the details.
In summary: take a vacation, don't read anything medical and maybe gain some clinical experience.
Until next time
Whoop Whoop Whoop,
*I know shit about money so take everything I say about finance with a HUGE grain of salt