Tips to My Third Year Self: Christina & Jake Mutch

Why get answers from one fourth year, when you can get answers from two? Christina and Jake Mutch think back to the beginning of third year, to offer you five tips for doing great as you start your next clinical rotation.

1. OnlineMedEd. OnlineMedEd. OnlineMedEd.

Do it. It’s free. It’s solid. Dr. Williams coaches you on the rules of practicing medicine: how to go from a differential diagnosis to a plan.  This works, because the concern is less bombarding you with every detail, and more making you effective in the exam room.  OnlineMedEd is a game-changer, and you should take full advantage of it.

2. Go beyond the basics.

Jake and Christina's Tips For Third YearsThat said, don’t stop at OnlineMedEd.  Once you start developing a good base (which is by far the most important part of third year), fill in the gaps with UpToDate.  UpToDate only exists to bridge you from a review source to a primary resource.  Where OnlineMedEd is breadth of knowledge, UpToDate is depth.  You need both to move forward.  But what about Cecil’s, you ask?  Cecil’s is great as a reference when you want to add details to fundamental knowledge.  If you’re doing a presentation and need to know a bunch of details, Cecil’s your man.  But before you bank a decision on a textbook, check the corresponding national society’s guidelines to make sure you’re current.

For example, if you want to know how to work up dysmenorrhea:

  1. First watch the video in OnlineMedEd
  2. Then search UTD/Clinical Key/etc
  3. Finally, check the AAFP or ACOG website for their stance on the issue.

Some national organizations are better than others (read: some give guidelines away for free.  This is usually the case).  But let me be clear: the whole point of all this research is that when you’re on the wards, you’re prepped and ready to ask your attendings better questions.  When they see that you’ve done your homework and know more than the the average student, they’ll start teaching up to your level, and you’ll get far more out of each rotation.  This is where true learning happens.

3.  Always have a small notebook.

The reason is twofold: it not only demonstrates an engaged interest to your attendings, but also gives you a space to write down what you need to read about in the evening.  Yes, you’re giving yourself homework.  But this is good work ethic, and it sets you apart from the pack.  The hard work now in knowing more than the bare minimum will pay dividends on boards and again when fourth year starts.

4. Write down small anecdotes from each rotation.

I ran into a pediatrician who, to stay inspired, always kept a Moleskine containing a series of memorable patient encounters from his time on the floor.  During the harder moments, I’ve found that maintaining a list like this reminds me of why I’m here, and why I should continue moving forward.  Looking backward, those anecdotes were the stills on a storyboard telling me what type of doctor I would become.  For example, because I had inadvertently selected many encounters to write down that were centered around taking care of women and children, re-reading those experiences solidified my desire to pursue Family Medicine, over Internal Medicine.  Tracking those memories helps you not only narrow your specialty choice, but practically, it also makes for talking points on interviews, key stories for your personal statement, and useful highlights for your recommendation cover letter.

5. Find a student mentor.

You are not the first student who has tried to land a residency after medical school, so don’t be afraid of asking for help.  During the fall, find a fourth-year who wants to pursue your desired specialty.  Given their recent first-hand experience with auditions, they will be able to answer specific questions about residency programs and will prove to be an invaluable resource on how to best-approach the application process.  Their tailored recommendations and insights can then serve as a filter for which programs you would like to apply to as you progress to fourth year.  A candid conversation with a fourth-year mentor early on this year could also save you hours of anxious traipsing through medical student forums for answers next year.

Thank you both!

Christina and Jake, thank you so much! We really appreciate you paying it forward and helping out the newest batch of third years.

As always,  this an ongoing series, so you can also read Trish’s advice, and if you’d like to contribute your own tips add them here in the comments! You can also message us on Facebook, send us a DM on Twitter or contact us so we can interview you!


Pixie is happiest reading with a cup of tea in hand. She enjoys women’s health, adolescent medicine, painting and polymer clay. For more info, see her much longer bio on the author page.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.