Picmonic + Anki

Does an MS1 Really Need 4 Years of Picmonic in Med School?

Dr. Shehran Islam as an MS1

Many years ago, if someone were to tell me there was an opportunity to have a tutor help me in med school, I would have scoffed at the idea. “Med students don’t need tutoring. We’re smart, and we work hard.” Now, if that same someone were to advertise a tool that would follow me from an MS1 through my 4 year student career, make me laugh, help me remember difficult diseases and fit in my backpack, I would think it was some sort of smart, funny med school elf sent from St. Nicholas himself. Well, that’s how I like to think of Picmonic. The Medical Elf on the Shelf that sticks with you. Feeding you the answers through humor, memory techniques, and even the occasional song.

When I was a naïve MS1 in 2008, I would have to cross reference Robbins, First Aid, BRS, Wikipedia and UpToDate to thoroughly understand a topic in med school. Essentially, I was using 4-5 different resources to digest a newly-learned disease, laboring my way through campus with a backpack stuffed with a stack of books and my laptop. New problems plague younger Medical students; not enough likes on Instagram, Amazon Prime price increases, class lectures that can’t be played faster than 2x. Whoops, I left  out the most important one: resource overload.

Where should you go for concise information?

There are amazing resources all over the web. Youtube videos, Michigan’s anatomy website, student doctor network. The list goes on. The only difference is that I find myself reading the same information, written differently. Still written in paragraph form, or explained with video diagrams alongside a textbook narration. It’s important to find study methods that are effective for your style of learning, as quickly as you can as an MS1. This will ultimately save you a lot of time and headaches in the long run! 

In 2010 when I was scribbling images, pictures, diagrams and stories to help me study for med school, I found that I was re-learning information I had already seen. Why was I just now, 2 months out from boards, writing these funny stories about pharmacology?

Picture-mnemonics, ended up really working for me. Picmonic proved it with research earlier this year, too. Any regrets? Yes. Not having a time capsule to propel me into the future so that I could have brought Picmonic back and saved even more time studying. From day 1, I would be laughing my way to Step 1 success, and would be so much less stressed than I was all those years ago.

So what about after boards?

My first course of action before 3rd year was to celebrate my Step 1 victory and brain-dump everything I had ever learned. It was a great feeling, except for the fact that I forgot almost everything I had worked so hard to remember for boards. I felt lost trying to recall drugs I had known by heart 2 months earlier, coming up blank as I was rounding with residents on inpatient psychiatry. The bigger shock was that there was so much old basic science from MS1 and 2 years which came into play when rounding on patients in addition to the new clinical information I had to learn. It doesn’t shock me to hear that the new version of Step 2 CK includes many more biochem and Step 1 topics.

Looking back, I’d be lucky to have a mobile app like Picmonic  and review pertinent drugs or diseases as I was walking to different patient rooms. Not only does it work as a great reference with on the go access to hundreds of medications, Picmonic has been adding even more 3rd and 4th year picmonics.

I knew that! Why couldn’t I recall it right away?

It’s so different on clinicals, you’re put on the spot 90% of the time, being pimped by an attending. “What are the FRIENDS of a fistula?” Oh god, I remember reading through this last night. “Okay, do your best to make a pensive thought and stall,” you think to yourself. Follow this with stammering and more blanking. The whole team is staring at you. In sets the embarrassment, followed by the fear of a poor evaluation. I knew that! Why couldn’t I recall it right away?

Now picture the same scenario, but this time you have  an image to fall back on, a Picmonic with the characters from “NBC’s Friends” showing you this information as an interactive fistula. You answer questions with the confident, jovial countenance of a gunner with perfect aim. The attending smiles and writes into his notepad. Your med school colleagues pee their pants in amazement.

Picmonic, making your contemporaries look like they showed up on game-day unprepared since 2013.

So… what else?

Picmonic is still creating new medical mnemonic videos constantly. Plus, if you happen to find a topic they don’t cover, you can create your own using the Picmonic Creator tool. You can even access Picmonics created by others in the community! With more content being released all the time, you’ll be covered from MS1 until Step 2 and beyond. 


Written By Dr. Shehran Islam

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