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Book Review: So You Got Into Medical School… Now What?

A Guide To Preparing For The Next Four Years

Like all my book reviews on this site I only talk about the books that really stood out to me and which I feel are vital to read. I’m 37 years old and already an attending physician… why talk about Daniel R. Paull’s book titled So You Got Into Medical School… Now What? A Guide To Preparing For The Next Four Years?

I did alright in medical school but have to admit that I wouldn’t go through that experience again – until I read Paull’s book. He is now doing his orthopedic residency and the things he wrote in this book about medical school and preparing the to-be-med-student is incredible. Only a person who is really observant could have picked up on so much little stuff while completely owning the big picture of medical school. So, kudos to Dr. Paull who soon will be rolling in some ortho-dough.

I’ll start with my overall impression, I read this book over the course of a week and the writing style was so easy to follow and fun/clever to read that it was always a pleasure to pick it up. The writing is engaging because he throws in little anecdotes and spends just the right amount of time talking about everything.

I connected with this book because if I had the opportunity to read this book before going through medical school I would have certainly not struggled as much as I did. Paull talks about studying styles and why it may have worked great for you in college but may fail you in medical school. Another really awesome topic is long-term retention vs short-term retention. I’m sure Dr. Paull is never again going to examine a prostate (at least in his exam rooms) but I bet you he is exactly the kind of guy that even 20 years later will recall what you would look for if you had to finger someone’s walnut.

He is doing much more than giving the future medical student an outline of what’s to come. He is helping the student understand the concepts which he actually talks about as one of the best ways to learn… concepts vs facts. My sister was always a fact-based learner but I was always the concept-guy and I think she would have struggled less in pharmacy school if she had read Paull’s book (damn you Dan, where were you when we needed you??).

His section on Studying Efficiently is worth the price of the book alone. I am willing to bet that plenty of attendings out there think they have good study technique but may not know why… being able to explain exactly what defines efficient studying can make a huge difference. These are skills that you can then take and scale up to other endeavors in life. And his thoughts on note-taking, brilliant. I was among the furious note-takers the first year and man, that hurt me so much! I finally got too lazy to take notes and that’s when I really started absorbing the lectured material. I’m not going to give more away but I definitely think that any dental student or pharmacy student would also benefit from reading this book.

The Study Anxiety section was also really poignant, explaining how you can shoot yourself in the foot because you can’t even get started. This is easy to relate to investing… taking that initial step can create so much anxiety that docs put that shit off until age 50 or 55. I love the little story that he starts out before delving into this topic… again, an easy reading book with just the right amount of information.

I went to UCLA for medical school and back in 2001 the first 2 years were strictly didactic. Many medical schools are still that way though some are tying in a lot of clinical scenarios. Paull spends half the book, appropriately, on the clinical years. The didactic years aren’t hard to figure out… it’s the time management, study habits and stress control that’s important there. The 3rd and 4th year are hectic for medical students and he gives great ways for students to arrange their rotations and talks about sub-I’s which are critical for those competitive specialties. I chose Family Medicine so all I needed to do is show up (sorry Paull).

He talks about Step 1 and Step 2 CS/CK in the book which is important for any student. I like how he put the three tests into perspective when it comes to the weight they carry for the residency selections committees. “Indeed, the best way to prepare for Step 1 during the first two years of medical school is simply to learn and retain the information presented in class as best you can.” This is why in the beginning of the book he talks about the ‘cramming’ student and the ‘non-crammer’. The fact that he is an ortho resident gives him a bit of authority when it comes to studying for Step 1/2.

We all remember our residency interviews, the traveling, the scheduling and the questions that were asked. What stood out the most to me and my colleagues is that we never got asked what we thought we were gonna be asked. In my own personal interview-tour for some reason my years spent living in Germany were of high interest. Dan shares what particular topic from his CV came up the most.

I reviewed this book because I think it makes for a great gift for anyone considering medical school. Furthermore, all of us have to retake our boards and the anxiety that attendings face when it comes to this is shocking. The study habits, techniques, and the explanation of self-created barriers make this book a valuable tool for even us more-seasoned docs who have to face that dreaded board re-certification exam.

Dan was gracious enough to send me this book for free. If you’re interested in this copy I’ll send it to you for free, leave me a comment below if you’re interested. Furthermore, he is running a deal through Amazon so if you would like to purchase a copy please send me a message or leave a comment and I’ll put you in touch with him.

3 replies on “Book Review: So You Got Into Medical School… Now What?”

Hi Dr. Mo,

I am preparing for taking my board re-certification exam and was about to just skim over this blog post but was sucked in when you started talking about anxiety related to taking tests (again)… i would love to get a copy of this book, which I would then pass on to a medical student to-be once I am done reading this!
Thanks for considering.

send me an email and I’ll get the copy out to you. I feel for ya regarding the anxiety, I was pretty impressed with the study techniques in this book, hope it helps.

Dr. Mo

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