UMHS AMWA PANEL ON PREPARING FOR MAINE: (left to right): Rupinder Bhella, Derrick Alger, Melissa Alvarez-Peña, Jonathon Creary. Photo: Tamar Saintil
UMHS AMWA PANEL ON PREPARING FOR MAINE: (left to right): Rupinder Bhella, Derrick Alger, Melissa Alvarez-Peña, Jonathon Creary. Photo: Tamar Saintil

Editor’s Note: We asked UMHS student and UMHS AMWA member Leanna Ritchie to write the following guest blog post about this week’s on-campus event, a panel discussion on preparing for the 5th Semester, Introduction to Clinical Medicine in Portland, Maine.

“It’s all a Balancing Act”
By Leanna Ritchie

To start the week off right, the UMHS chapter of AMWA (American Medical Women’s Association) held a student panel discussion, “AMWA-Student Panel: Preparing for Maine” on Monday, July 14, 2014 with four students: Derrick Alger, Rupinder Bhella, Melissa Alvarez-Pena, and special guest, Jonathon Creary. This day corresponded nicely with the distribution of the Maine “Welcome” packet to our last semester students. The majority of the speakers are current basic science students studying hard in their last semester on the island. Jonathon completed his basic science program in December 2013. Then he moved to Portland, Maine, where he completed the Kaplan program and a preceptorship in Hematology-Oncology. After writing his STEP 1 exam on June 25, Jonathon is currently waiting for his exam grades with good spirits.

Each student provided a different perspective for the audience. Derrick, and until recently, Jonathon, are in the MED program, and Rupinder and Melissa in the EBS program. In addition, both Rupinder and Jonathon were able to provide important information for the VISA application process, as Canadians. Heralding from Canada, Iowa and New Jersey, this panel of students provided motivating advice to an audience of approximately 50 individuals. Their information elucidated many on the process of Maine and STEP preparation.

Let’s begin with the final MED4/EBS5 semester. For ICM, it is important to review your notes from Physical Diagnosis. The instructors and physicians expect that you arrive to hospital prepared, appropriately dressed and with a positive attitude. Do not expect to know all the answers.

“The most important thing to remember with hospital is to have an open mind,” said Derrick Alger.

 GETTING THE INSIDE SCOOP ON 5TH SEMESTER:  UMHS students with panelists (left to right, front row): Rupinder Bhella, Derrick Alger, Melissa Alvarez-Peña & Jonathon Creary. Photo: Tamar Saintil

GETTING THE INSIDE SCOOP ON 5TH SEMESTER: UMHS students with panelists (left to right, front row): Rupinder Bhella, Derrick Alger, Melissa Alvarez-Peña & Jonathon Creary. Photo: Tamar Saintil

Each day in hospital will differ and for students those variations are exaggerated. Do not get discouraged as everyone around you is in the same boat feeling the same anxiety. Your final semester on island will be a so-called “balancing act,” as described by Melissa. You will not have enough time each day to cover all of the material from that day. Therefore, it is imperative that you pay attention in class so to absorb as much information as you can in that moment.

What to Expect in Portland, Maine

It is important to remember that Maine is a time for both class review and self-review of basic science material. According to Jonathon, the Kaplan review program is a very valuable resource. It is a 5-week program that runs 6 days per week from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm. Although it is intensive, it will cover all subjects, including biochemistry, microbiology, physiology, immunology, pathology and pharmacology. Of course, not all students may find the program to be beneficial, but it is an excellent opportunity and resource supplied for us. Ultimately, try to find a study method that works for you and stick to it from the beginning.

While in Maine, your time is divided into 10 weeks of ICM2, including a preceptorship and 5 weeks of Kaplan review. There is an entrance exam upon arrival to act as a gauge for your current knowledge and application level. At the end of the four months, there is an exit exam that must be passed in order to book your STEP 1 exam. It is important to note that not everyone passes their exit exam the first time. In which case, the student must rewrite the exam at the beginning of the succeeding Maine semester. After Maine, it is up to you to schedule your STEP 1 exam. It is recommended that you draw up a study schedule so to prepare to cover all of the material. In addition, Jonathon recommended training yourself to eventually answer over 300 practice questions a day. Since the STEP exam is 322 questions over 8 hours, you must train your body and mind to remain focused and productive for that entire length of time.

Many unanswered questions were finally addressed regarding preparation for the semester in Maine, study tools for STEP and American VISA applications. The speakers were able to eloquently outline the preparation process. All of the students were very positive, if not a bit harried from recent Block 2 exams, but it was, once again, another motivating discussion from our fellow classmates. It is important that we gain motivation from one another, especially in the most desperate of times. You are not alone in this journey. You have a great opportunity before you, so use it. Thank you again to our student panel and attendants.

“Do not be in a rush to get out of here. Enjoy your opportunity to learn as much as you can, now.” – Rupinder Bhella

UMHS AMWA Contact Information

If you have further inquiries, please feel free to contact AMWA at umhsamwa@gmail.com

Visit Leanna Ritchie’s blog, “Kitts M.D.: Trials and Tribulations of a Med Student at UMHS,” at http://kittsdoc.weebly.com/

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