Impending exams and flash napping

Catey Harwell, MS2

Student wellness initiatives are really gearing up here on the Health Science Campus (HSC) thanks to the election of two new student wellness officers (thanks Rachel and Justin!) and their collaboration with Student Affairs (thanks Tony!). With Step 1 looming in the not too distant future for every second year, a session teaching students how to “flash nap” seemed appropriately timed. For those of you not familiar with flash napping, it’s about taking 10-40 minutes to “intentionally, efficiently, and effectively nap.”

The antithesis of the flash nap is the so-called “crash nap,” which I know all too well. Although I’ve never been much of a napper, there are those times when I get far enough behind on my sleep that I can do nothing else but crash in the middle of the day – typically after a big exam or more recently as a result of jet lag. I wake up 1+ hours later feeling like I’m moving through molasses. My thoughts are slow and I know that any chance I had at being productive the rest of the day are out the window.

Flash napping offers us a chance to savor those mid-afternoon slumps (I know I’m not the only one to get those!) and come back feeling more focused, alert, and able to handle whatever life throws at us. That sounds like a great plan to me, especially for those six weeks in April and May when my life is going to be absorbed by the monotony of Step 1 prep. I guess I better get practicing so by that time I’ll be a professional-level Flash Napper!

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A Typical Day as a Second Year Med Student and New Mom at ULSOM

Allison Lyle, MS2

Hi! My name is Allison and I am a second year medical student at ULSOM. In the summer after my first year, my husband David and I welcomed our first child, a daughter named Natalie, into our family. I wondered (worried, really) how a baby would figure into my second year, with a heavy course load as well as studying for the USMLE Step 1 exam; after some trial and error, we fell into a routine that seems to work well for all three of us.

This is what a typical day looks like for me:


Natalie is usually awake by now, and she’s a pretty good alarm clock for me. While David gets ready for work (which for him is over an hour north of Louisville), I get Natalie’s daycare bag packed and my backpack and lunch together. If I’m running on schedule, I’ll start laundry or run the dishwasher, and set something out to thaw for dinner before I leave, which frees up more time in the afternoon and makes life much easier for me once I get home.


This is usually the time I drop off Natalie at daycare and make my way into school for the day.

7:00am to 5:00pm

During the daytime hours, I’m usually on campus in class or studying in the unit lab, the lecture hall, or the library—all of which were recently renovated. During the lunch hour, I tend to use this time for myself, by either attending a student organization talk, reading medically-related articles on blogs, or even reading a book just for fun to clear my mind from what I worked on in the morning.

Our class schedule varies day by day. I tend to cherrypick the classes I attend this year moreso than I did last year; with Step 1 rapidly approaching, it’s not enough to study or review what we are learning in class for the next exam, so I try to make the most efficient use of my time by using free time or even classtime going over current information, reviewing lots of practice questions, and integrating my knowledge with First Aid, a resource nearly all medical students use to prepare for Step 1. Most classes at ULSOM are not mandatory, and all are recorded on the Tegrity system so we can review lectures at our convenience, which includes speeding them up. The Tegrity system is a great way to catch information I missed in class, to clarify information that wasn’t clear in the notes, or to experience for the first time (which I had to rely on frequently while I was pregnant during first year!).

During second year, usually on Mondays, we have mandatory classes known as TBLs… sessions for Team Based Learning. (This is one class that stays fairly consistent, compared to the rest of our class schedule.) These consist of 10-15 question, individual quizzes that cover information we learned the previous week, and generally combine information across disciplines, such as Pathology and Microbiology or Pharmacology. The goals of these quizzes are to assess our knowledge and identify the gaps—which we then discuss in our small groups of 6 students as we take the same quiz together. Once we submit the group quiz, we go over any rough areas as a class, highlighting areas that there may have been some difficulty or clarity issues. At the end, we take another quiz together in our small groups to assess how much we have learned during that TBL time. Overall, I enjoy this experience; I find it immensely helpful to hear how others solve problems, which helps me to remember things better for the block exams, which for us are generally once a month.

I am asked quite frequently about how I manage to be a med student and a mom—it can be pretty challenging, but by keeping a schedule and sticking to it, second year so far has gone pretty smoothly. One lesson I have learned during my time as a student has been that making adjustments to find out what works best for my family and me is essential. This realization is what has lead me to stick to my 7am-5pm schedule even on days when I don’t “have” to come to campus; I come anyway, I stay the allotted time and keep focused on the task at hand, and everything has been working great for classes as well as family time.


By 5pm I pack up my belongings for the day and head home to pick up Natalie from daycare. This is the time I generally use as “me” time—playing with my daughter and getting her ready for bed, finishing dinner, and spending quality time with my husband. At night, I generally review the day’s material, work more practice problems, review First Aid, or work on side projects that interest me, such as my research project for the global health distinction track (one of four such distinction tracks offered by ULSOM).

Because my daughter has to be picked up from daycare before 6pm, I try to squeeze in any volunteer or shadowing/precepting hours between the 7am-5pm window. This isn’t always feasible, so I am lucky to have my parents nearby. Having the backup in case I am running late or stuck in traffic is a lifesaver for this medical student!

Friday nights:

Fridays are a lot different from the rest of my time during the week. This is the designated “Date Night” for David and myself. I’m a firm believer in resting to regain my focus after a long week, and this is one great way to maintain my personal interests outside of medical school. Even during first year when we would have the occasional exam on a Monday, I never regretted spending this time away from the books to reconnect with my husband and daughter.

By the weekends I am usually exhausted, but overall, I love life as a new mom and second year medical student at ULSOM!

“You’re gonna do just fine Doc”

Evan Torline, MS2

As I popped off the cap of the needle and flashed my eyes from it to the patient sitting in front of me, I became acutely aware of the great responsibility I have as a student of medicine. As a second year medical student, it’s not every day I get to shed the pile of books I’m studying and get busy with actual clinic activities, like giving flu shots, but this day was different.

I have the opportunity to co-direct one of the free student-run clinics here at school, and this fall we were able to secure enough flu vaccines for our patient population. The patients we see are all part of half-way house programs in Louisville, so we decided we would pick a day and set up a flu clinic on site. The weeks leading up were filled with excitement as we prepared and practiced how things would be organized (I even practiced giving my first shot to another director who had never had one before). It would be a day of firsts for most of us, but we soon got the hang of things as we set up our equipment and discussed our plans. One thing I really enjoyed about it was the ability to discuss and explain things to the patients. As they were lining up we got all kinds of questions, everything from, “What’s a flu shot?” to, “I heard those things give you seizures.” I thought to myself, “Hey, here’s a chance to actually use and share the information I’ve been learning.” It was an experience, though a small one, that edified the work I put into learning information that can sometimes seem trivial.

Eventually, my first patient came over and sat down. I introduced myself and what I would be doing. As I proceeded to deliver the vaccine to him, I asked myself, “Am I ready for this?” After giving him his shot he looked at me and said, “Hey, you’re pretty good at that. You’re gonna do just fine Doc.”

A big thank you to Dr. Wheeler for his guidance and oversight, and my fellow student directors Emily Knittle, Dhruv Sharma, Cliff Freeman, and Ashley Lee.

AAMC Learn, Serve, Lead 2014: A Weekend in the Windy City

Catey Harwell, MS2


The conference started out early Friday morning for Rudra and me with a day of OSR meetings – that is the Organization of Student Representatives, which is the student branch of the AAMC. The OSR is subdivided regionally into a Southern OSR, which ULSOM is a part of; Northern OSR; Western OSR; and Central OSR. These meetings are a great opportunity to meet students from other medical schools and learn about what things they do differently, what works well, and what things could be improved.

A few of the topics we discussed include similarities and differences of TBL at our respective medical schools, research during medical school, and methods of informing students on health care reform. We look forward to bringing the ideas we gathered from meeting and talking with students from other schools back to ULSOM. We are always on the lookout for cool and exciting projects to introduce back at home.

I also learned about “milestones”. For those of you not familiar with milestones as I was, the idea behind it is just the same as those used to evaluate developmental progress in children. They are being used primarily in residency to evaluate resident performance in the six ACGME Core Competencies. These are: patient care, medical knowledge, practice-based learning and improvement, interpersonal and communication skills, professionalism, and systems-based practice. Duke University is exploring ways of integrating milestones into the clinical curriculum at their school. To learn more about milestones, information is available on the ACGME website.

Allison arrived in Chicago from Cleveland where she was doing an away rotation on Friday night. It was great to have the whole team together again! Saturday morning we all attended a terrific session during which Alan Alda, who starred in the TV show M*A*S*H, discussed his effort to improve communication skills of scientists and health professionals with the public through the creation of the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University (more information here: He had some great stories to share about some not so great experiences that he has had with physicians. He even got the audience involved on more than one occasion! In one demonstration, he invited someone from the audience to come up on stage and tap out the rhythm to a well-known song. An astonishingly small percentage of the audience was able to recognize the song based on this woman tapping it out. His point was that even though something may be clear to us in our head (just as when the woman tapped out the rhythm to the song), the person we are explaining something to may think it just sounds like a bunch of words that don’t make any sense together and is totally unrecognizable.

Alan Alda presenting at AAMC Learn, Serve, Lead 2014


Saturday afternoon we ventured to “The Bean” in Millennium Park and met up with the OSR reps from University of Oklahoma. The Bean was crowded, but it made for a great photo op! Breakfast for lunch was also the order of the day so we packed it in at Wildberry Pancakes, a popular breakfast and brunch spot in the city.

From left to right: Allison Hunter, MS4; Catey Harwell, MS2; Rudra Pampati, MS3. In Chicago at “The Bean” (officially named Cloud Gate) in Millennium Park.


Sunday was finally our day to present our poster on updates to the College System. Despite the short 45-minute time slot and the poor resolution on the monitor (this was a new method of poster presenting for all of us I think!), we drew some great interest from representatives from other schools. Many schools seem to have implemented something similar, but few have extensively integrated aspects of clinical advising, vertical mentorship, community outreach, and student wellness initiatives.

We also had just enough time before returning to Louisville to stop by the Firecracker booth for some study tips and caricatures!

Caricatures courtesy Firecracker!