Between second and third semester, I took a block course – Behavioral Sciences. This is a fairly benign course. The psychiatric disorders are the largest emphasis but do not ignore ethics and biostatistics.  They are actually some of the easiest questions on exams but, because people do not prepare for them, they appear difficult and time-consuming. For the psychiatric disorders, what really helped was “diagnosing” a real or fictional character with each disease based on their behavior; i.e. a Histrionic Robin Williams, or Narcissistic “House.” This makes it fun and memorable.

Pathology 1 should be called Pathophysiology. It is a super-integrative course that tells you the “why” of medicine before you learn the “how.” The purpose of this class largely won’t be clear until fourth semester Pathology 2 and ICM courses. However, it is important to understand its concepts because if you understand that the signs of inflammation are rubor, calor, tumor, dolor and functio late, you will know the clinical signs of any condition ending in “-itis.” It is important to know your professor. Since Dr. Krishnanand loves Robbins Pathology, my advice for this class is to do likewise.  Whatever is important to him in that text should be important to you. If you follow that rule, you should be successful.

This brings me to Microbiology/Immunology. This duo can be likened to Biochemistry/Genetics of second semester in that the former is harder, and the latter is often neglected. I am not familiar with the way these classes are taught now because I learned them from Dr. Dipeolu – an extraordinary teacher who sadly passed away. Before third semester, I was scared of Microbiology – the only feedback I heard from upperclassmen was that it was “super hard”.  After a few weeks of feeling intimidated, I realized that the difficulty is just a matter of perception.  Sure, there are a lot of bugs, but if you focus on the diseases, it becomes simpler.

Tables and flow-charts were my friend for this class. I categorized everything based on diseases and investigations needed to determine their infectious causes. Immunology is like genetics in that knowing the PhD version of why immunoglobulins work may not be useful, but understanding that a defect in intracellular killing will lead to a disease manifested by certain infections will get you the right answer on USMLE. Take a dedicated approach to your learning. When the time is right, you will realize it was worth it. After third semester, you will start to see the 1st finish line in this multi-tiered marathon – getting off the island!