The UMSLE Step 1 Experience…And Life Thereafter
21 Days, 16 hours a day, 336 hours and 6000 practice questions later….I can say that I am officially done with Step 1 and MS-2. All in all, studying for this exam, and for MS-2 in general, was perhaps the hardest journey of my life. People always said that the hardest part in the process was getting into medical school…and oh boy are they wrong! I think staying in medical school and working hard, specially second year here at IUSM has been the most challenging journey in my life (and I have gone through a lot of stormy journeys lol).
Nonetheless, once exams were over May 12, I knew I only had 3 weeks to prepare for this exam. I had no idea what to do, I was totally freaking out because everyone always talked about how step 1 defines your life, your future aspirations, and will set you for your career ahead. Hence, the stress was too real. School did not help either. For one, I petition our school administration for an extension, I wanted to switch my vacation month which was last, with my first rotation, family medicine, so that I could have 3 extra weeks to prepared. Deep down I knew that standardized exams had always been challenging for me, I never had a problem passing, but I was never at the top percentile. Hence, I wanted to be able to prepare as much as possible, but administrators shut me down. They said that doing so would be considered favoritism since I was not failing anything and getting good grades in classes….what a bummer. Hence, I took to doing what I only know how to do best in life, work hard and sacrifice all.
Every day nevertheless was a struggle. Fighting with my bed, pillows, and covers each morning was perhaps the hardest. I was getting about 6-7 hours of sleep on a daily basis but I felt like it was never enough. Each morning my body felt beaten, as if an 18 wheeler had ran me over….twice. I think there was a point halfway through the three weeks where I literally felt like I would not be able to wake up and keep going. It was then and there where I hung on to dear life, to my dreams of becoming a surgeon, a great physician, and reminding myself that no only was I caring the Salazar family on my shoulders, but the entire Hispanic/Latino community in America. On those mornings where i just couldn’t get up, these were the motivators I used, along with praying to God, texting my friends, family and girlfriend for moral support.
Another awesome thing I learned to do was to read motivational quotes each morning. Wether it was a bible verse or a quote my someone, I learned that doing so helped my morale. In effect, these quotes about hard work, motivation, and success pumped me up. I have learned that being positive, speaking positiveness into your life and into existence goes a long way. I think one of the hardest things for us as human beings is being able to re-new our mind. We always let a bad exam score, a bad grade, a bad situation, dictate how we feel long term, but if we learn from those feelings and experiences taking them with a grain of salt, we turn them into a positive.
Thus, this was my way of life for 21 days. Day in and day out, just kept the grind alive. I also have to give thanks to my wonderful girlfriend who would come and cook for me and made sure I took breaks every now and then. In addition, Mike, Andrew, and of course my mom and dad, were there for me. This is where I think having good friends and a great support system makes a huge difference. Sometimes you want to throw in the town, give up, and eff it all but having great friends, significant others and family makes a difference.
June 6, 2016, 830 AM….D-Day! I had slept 8 hours, woke up feeling great and ready to rock-n-roll. Most importantly, I think I was more excited to get this exam out of the way. Even though I would have liked more time to prepare, after 21 days I felt like the torture was too much and I was pumped to get it over with. After settling in, checking in and being directed to my exam station, it all began…the most dreaded 8 hour exam with 280 questions standing between me and an Island in the Caribbean. The exam itself went by pretty fast, in fact, I felt like time was just flying. I did 2 sections, took a break, another 2 sections, then lunch, another 2 sections, took a break, and finally the last section. I was amazed at how fast time went. During my practice exams I always had about 5-7 minutes to spare but in the real exam I was barely finishing without any time left to go back and review my marked questions which was a bummer. However, by the time 545pm rolled around I had finally finished. I was officially done, with mixed feelings: I felt overwhelmed, in distraught; I felt I knew a lot of the information yet I felt like I had done horrible…later I found out that all my classmates felt the same and I was relieved hehehe.
Overall, this was a crazy experience. From bringing to end, second year of medical school was hard. It required a lot of work, a lot of effort and sacrifice. We had 10 classmates drop out, 1 lost their life, and many others failed and will be repeating this coming up year. On top, preparing for Step 1 in 3 weeks was even harder. Nonetheless, I have to say hard work pays off. To me, as well as to many of us, nothing has ever come easy nor has it been given to us. Yet, working hard and fighting for your dreams and aspirations can and will take you a long way. Today I am 1/2 MD, but most importantly, I have grown as a person, as a human being, as a student, as a physician in training, as a brother, as a friend, as a son; and I have defeated the odds and nay sayers. God Bless America!