To the freshman of the UP College of Medicine

I'm in my second year of medicine, and I still don't know squat. I have yet to work for real in the hospitals, but I think I know a few things—many I learned the hard way—that can probably help you, the young medical student, course through your First Year.

On books to buy
If you're not the type who needs to read books in order to understand, don't buy too many books. 95% of the time, transcriptions, with all their flaws and shortcomings, will suffice. But you must have books to survive, though. I recommend the following, in order of importance: Netter (a must-have atlas during dissection), Wheater's (a great help in coursing through histology), and Guyton (the shorter physiology book). Buy your books either from Phi or Mu, whichever is cheaper. They give the lowest prices during the first few days of class. And don't feel pressured that other classmates have a complete set. At the end of the sem, they'll probably regret wasting their precious money.

Atlas of Human Anatomy: with Student Consult Access (Netter Basic Science)Wheater's Functional Histology: A Text and Colour Atlas, 5th EditionTextbook of Medical Physiology: With STUDENT CONSULT Online Access

On lectures
Instead of staying in the cozier interactive classrooms in undergrad, you'll be confined to a huge, impersonal auditorium with 159 other people. Paying attention to the lecturer will be difficult. Many of them will rattle off 200-plus powerpoint slides in an hour, and you'll end up exhausted without really understanding anything. Eat a hearty breakfast, borrow the previous year's transcription of the lectures, take down notes if it helps you, watch out for pointers from the teachers on what will come out in the exam, bring a small pillow to cushion your neck and back, and listen actively. If the lecture doesn't make sense to you at all, don't be afraid to fall asleep. Conserve your energy for the night ahead, so you can do a self-study on what have been discussed in class. And don't talk while the lecturers are talking. The professors are established and revered medical doctors in the country, so give them the respect they deserve.

On studying
The good thing about med school is that it forms your study habits by force. Some people like studying weeks before an exam; others are effective crammers. Know your strengths and work with them. Use colorful highlighters, annotate and scribble on your transcriptions, and ask smarter classmates around if you don't get it. Get a decent sleep (in my case, I can function optimally with 5 hours of shut-eye), and don't stress yourself unnecessarily. Also don't feel over-confident just because you graduated with Latin honors in undergrad. In medicine, everything goes back to zero.

On dissection
Apply petroleum jelly on your hands before putting double gloves on. That will keep your hands from smelling like your cadaver. Exercise speed, but not to the point of damaging necessary structures. Take extra care in exploring the head and neck. Keep your cadavers clean. If you don't, you'll run the risk of seeing maggots the next time around. Also study the cadavers around you. Read up before you dissect, and dissect purposefully, not aimlessly. If you have no background in anatomy, don't be afraid to ask your classmates for help. The Physical or Occupational Therapy graduates are extremely well versed in these stuff.

On making friends
Make friends with your classmates, especially those whose names are close to yours in the alphabetical list. Establish genuine friendship. They'll be your companions in your preceptorials, small-group discussions, and dissection. And don't be too judgmental. Be open to meeting fresh faces and wild personalities. Many of them will speak English like pros, some may exhibit clinical behavioral disorders, and a few will be relatively mute. Remember they're great and fun people, and they're so much like you. You'll learn so much from them.

On joining organizations
Give yourself time to do things other than studying. Join organizations that will help you grow, not just because they're prestigious or have a long history or your undergrad friends are in it. Be extraordinarily discerning, as these can take utmost control of your time if you don't watch it. If you enjoy what you do and you're not hurting yourself or anyone, continue with it. Make sure, though, that you set clear-cut boundaries.

On taking some time out
Med school will take away most of your time, but don't let it do so completely. Sure, you may have to say "no" to college reunion dinners or movie dates with your old friends, and that will feel unfair. Here you are, still studying while many of them are already earning. At this point, though, remember your goal—not just to be a doctor someday, but to be a great one. Sacrifices are necessary to achieve something of value. Be encouraged that God will see you through, there's always a patch of bright light across the darkening skies, and there's great company in misery.


The post has been inspired largely by Carlo Timbol's Unsolicited advice for a St. Luke's Med School freshman and, believe it or not, The Prince by Machiavelli.


  1. Finally, I've been able to read this. I always enjoy your posts, Lance. :) God bless on your second year!

  2. "Also don't feel over-confident just because you graduated with Latin honors in undergrad. In medicine, everything goes back to zero."

    nor should one feel pressured to excel. but it doesn't mean one should slack off. isang bagay na di mo maintindihan ngayon ay baka maging isang bangkay balang araw sa hospital.

    really good post lance!

  3. "If the lecture doesn't make sense to you at all, don't be afraid to fall asleep. Conserve your energy for the night ahead,..."
    100% agree! :p

  4. I love this lance!!!

    "don't stress yourself unnecessarily.." because med will inevitably bring you stress already =))

    GREAT JOB! hope they all get to read this!

  5. Checs, finally the DNS has been reconfigured. I'm sorry for the hassle.

    Ado, unnecessary pressures to always be on top can drain all the fun. I think it's enough to do your best every time.

    Scott, yet another motivation to doze off, eh?

    Coy, thanks! It's great how you put it that way.

  6. "In medicine, everything goes back to zero."

    grabe ka talaga lance, dapat neto pinopost sa bulletein ng LU 3 haha

    good luck to us

  7. "In medicine, everything goes back to zero."

    grabe ka talaga lance, dapat neto pinopost sa bulletein ng LU 3 haha

    good luck to us


  8. kuya, i was baffled because the link of "the prince" directed me to the Prince' [the singer] album in amazon.. hahaha.. nice post.. mike

  9. Thanks for that, Mike. Will correct it ASAP.

  10. KB, kung ipopost man doon, gusto side-by-side sa mga "biik" chronicles mo.

  11. Thanks. Your blog entry helped in easing off the apprehension :)

  12. I'm an incoming first year, thank you for this :)


  13. I'm glad it has helped you in some way. I hope I bump into you soon.

  14. You are heaven-sent, do you know that? I chanced upon one blog that did nothing but freeze my already cold feet. Your entries saved me from doom. Of course uncertainties are still there, but your words of encouragement and unbelievable faith in God have helped me focus on what is important. Thank you, Lance.

    I'm a 24-year old incoming freshman (PLM-CM).

    1. That's a good school, PLM. I hope you enjoy med school. It is as hard as they say it is, but if God calls you to be a doctor, it's going to be worth the sacrifice. God bless, Kristina.

    2. Right. And as long as your blog is there to entertain me during dull hours, I'll be fine. :D God bless you and your family.


Post a Comment