Year in Training: 1st year medical student
Medical School: University of Illinois College of Medicine Urbana-Champaign
Specialty Interest: Orthopedic surgery/Undecided
Undergraduate Major: Anthropology
Undergraduate Minor: Biology
Follow Nelson: @nn_fit on Instagram
What's your story?
My name is Nelson Nwumeh. I am a first year medical student at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Urbana-Champaign. I am an alumnus of Washington University in St. Louis where I played football all four years and majored in Anthropology and minored in Biology.
I have wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember. I was born in Nigeria, and the 7 years I spent there really opened my eyes to the need for medical professionals in the world. Simple and extremely treatable conditions go untreated and either burden or claim lives every day because there are not enough doctors and resources in places like Nigeria.
I will provide much-needed healthcare to them when I am a doctor. This has been my strongest motivation. It has pushed me to persevere through the hours of studying needed to get to this point, and it will continue to do so until I am able to achieve my goal.
What has been your biggest hurdle thus far and how did you overcome it?
My biggest hurdle has been getting into medical school. As an undergrad, I was involved in numerous extracurricular activities including football, local volunteering, an honor society, and more. With such a heavy load, my lack of time management put a tremendous strain on my academics, and as a result, my GPA and MCAT were not where they needed to me.
I took a gap year to do research and work as a scribe in order to boost my credentials, but after receiving 13 rejection letters, I realized that my undergraduate GPA and MCAT were a bigger roadblock than I previously thought. Luckily, with my 13th rejection, there was a catch. I was given the opportunity to apply to a post-baccalaureate program.
This particular year-long program granted automatic acceptance to the medical school upon successful completion which meant achieving a certain GPA. I applied, and I was lucky enough to be one of the few students accepted. There were about 15 pre-med students in this year-long program and we took the same classes as first year medical students.
I worked harder than I ever had before, and most importantly,
I figured out how to study for long-term retention of information.
Thankfully, I made it through the grueling program and here I am, a first year medical student who has successfully passed his first set of medical school exams, and is gearing up for the second set.
If nothing else, I want my story to be a reminder that past failures do not determine your future. Instead, learn from those failures and never give up.
Best advice for pre-med students.
As I said previously, don’t let your past failures hinder your future success. Let those failures serve as motivation.
I was a poor academic student in undergrad because I did not realize the dangers of poor time management. I was able to excel in the post-baccalaureate program once I learned to manage my time AND found my learning style. I am a visual and kinesthetic learner so I remember diagrams and pictures, especially if I make or copy them by hand. Knowing this has helped me tremendously.
For those of you who are gearing up for the MCAT, the name of the game is repetition:
Go over your notes repeatedly and on a regular basis.
Do as many practice problems as you can while making sure you understand the concept of the question as well as why the incorrect options are so.
How do you study?
I should preface this by saying that at my school, class is not mandatory. The only mandatory things are certain team based learning activities (TBL), labs, and obviously exams. I say this because for some people, like me, time is better spent self-studying.
Lectures are recorded so instead of sitting through hours of lectures each day, I stay at home and listen to them. I find that this works better for me for several reasons:
I am able to play the lectures at a faster speed (usually 1.5x).
I am able to pause and look anything up that I do not understand rather than getting lost during lecture.
I can take as much time as I need to annotate my notes and really think about specific concepts as they come up in lecture.
In order to be successful without going to class, your time management has to be A+!
Since there can be up to 5 lectures each day, you can easily get 10+ lectures behind if you are not careful. At my school, the lecture videos are released within an hour post-lecture, so I try to listen to each on the day it was given.
While I listen to a lecture, I use an app called Notability on my iPad to thoroughly annotate the PowerPoint slides corresponding to that lecture. Notability allows you to upload the lecture slides and annotate directly on them. Often times, professors further explain graphs, charts, and concepts during a lecture. I make sure I understand that information by rewriting it on the slide in my own words. The benefits of this are two-fold:
I can explain something in my own words, which helps me remember it better.
Revisiting an intimidating PowerPoint slide is a lot more manageable when you have your own annotations to guide you.
After listening to lectures and annotating the lecture slides, my next task is to tackle the Learning Objectives. Professors list a set of objectives at the beginning of each lecture which correspond to material that is most important to know, both for the class and for Step 1 (a national board exam medical students take after their second year).
I aim to write out the answers to the learning objectives in my own words. I frequently go back to my annotated lecture slides to help me, and I even copy and paste key slides onto my Lecture Objectives document.
Although the two strategies above make up the bulk of my studying, this last step is often the most important:
Questions, questions, and more practice questions.
Professors and TAs always provide some practice questions. Also, there are many text books and Step 1 review books which have excellent questions. The Board Review Series (BRS) books and Guyton & Hall Physics are some of my favorites. I usually do the questions relevant to the current lecture topics, and I discuss them with a fellow classmate.
So there you have it. My study strategy. I want to emphasize that although this works for me, it might not necessarily be the most effective method for you. I urge you to try different strategies and create your own custom routine that incorporates all of the methods that work for you.
What are your #doctorgoals?
I have not chosen a specialty yet, but I am very interested in orthopedic surgery. This field deals with repairing injuries and conditions of the musculoskeletal system. I have always been a hands-on person. I love the idea of manually repairing things in a patient and in doing so increasing their quality of life. My primary goal as a doctor would be to establish clinics both here in America and in Nigeria that help the underserved.