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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

USMLE Step 1, the working formula!

This is my experience of USMLE Step 1 that I am sharing with you guys hoping some of you might find something useful in it. I will try to keep it to the point. :)

Kaplan except for pathology for which I used Goljan and Microbiology for which I read Made Ridiculously Simple once and then First Aid +uworld notes. The Kaplan's Microbiology notes are too detailed so decided not to study that. I had used MRS in my third year as well so it was an easy choice. One thing we usually tend to ignore is the ethics part of the exam. For that, I studied this small book by Conrad Fischer called "100 cases you're most likely to see in your exam". Very useful book, helped in all USMLE exams.

Video Lectures
Personally I am not a great fan of the videos, but they DO help a lot. They are not our typical class lectures. Specially with subjects like neuroanatomy, genetics and behavioral sciences, they were really helpful. I skipped the video lectures for pathology and microbiology. Some of the lecturers talk very slowly, for that I would speed up the video to 1.5x, would save up some time and make it less boring. I watched the videos with my first read. I would give a quick read to a few pages in the book, then watch the video and write down stuff on the book.

Kaplan Qbank:
Personally I don't think its that high yield. Yes it helps but I felt that I could have done without it. If you want to save up money than do this one offline. I did it along with my second read of Kaplan.

USMLE world:
This is the real deal!!! Some questions are actually tougher than the real exam. The interface is EXACTLY the same as the exam so when I was taking the exam, I felt very comfortable. I did all questions once, used the notes utility that comes within the interface as I am really good at typing which saved alot of time. Then I got those notes printed and read them again and again. I got two months subscription and did two blocks a day, which would hardly leave anytime for reading any other material. These days most people do it offline from the books. You can do that, but even after that I think one should use the online version to get familiar with the exam's interface. Plus you get to see the slides, radio images and scenarios based on heart sounds.

First Aid
Very useful! I did it after uworld along with uworld notes. I reserved it for the last month and this along with the uworld notes was the only material I studied in the last few weeks.

Self Assesment:
Once you are done with studying the books and uworld, its time to test yourself. I took NBME twice. One immediately after I finished uworld and second after revising uworld notes and First Aid. These days uworld has a self assessment exam as well which, if bought along with the qbank, costs just 10 dollars. NBME is pretty accurate in predicting your score. Uworld self assessment generally overestimates your score by 10-20 points.

Actual exam:
Honestly speaking I found it easier than I was expecting. Very few recall questions. Some concepts were repeated. Micro and Pharma, very straight forward and easy! Physiology very tricky, specially graphs and all those isolated preparations questions. Loads of questions from anatomy, specially upper limb's nerve supply.

Kaplan +Video lectures
Kaplan + Kaplan Qbank
Usmle world
USMLE World + First Aid

Best of luck to all you test takers!!! Have faith in yourself! Its very doable. Feel free to ask any questions, I'll be happy to answer.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Medical Mnemonics? Yes please!

Medicine is a series of never ending recall material. Specially subjects like pharmacology and microbiology, where there are probably more recalls than concepts. Most medical students find mnemonics very handy for such circumstances. Considering almost everyone has a smartphone these days, its good to have a mnemonics app installed and here is our recommendation for Androiders.

           The app has a database of more than 1500 hundred mnemonics! The design is simple and smooth. There is a quick search on the main screen which makes it pretty convenient to find what you are looking for. You start typing and the list is modified accordingly.

           You can also add your own mnemonic. You mnemonics are saved with the "by User" tag so next time you want to see all your own mnemonics, just type "by user" in the quick search box. Other than that, you can edit or delete mnemonics as well, so basically you have full control, all for free!

           Another feature worth mentioning feature is the "Mark" option. While viewing a mnemonic, if you feel you might want to review it later, you can just check the checkbox labeled "Mark" right below the mnemonic. You can then access all your marked mnemonics from the main menu.

          So basically its a very handy app for medical professionals and is totally free which no locked features unlike most other such app on the play store. Worth a try!

Friday, April 5, 2013

H1B visa application -Step by Step

So the time is here when IMGs go crazy runing around trying to figure out how to work their way through the complicated visa paperwork. Here is a simplified step by step application process for H1b visa.

1. Get the contract and contact the lawyer:

Once you have signed the contract, the next step is to get in touch with the lawyer. Usually most programs will recommend their own lawyer. But it doesn't really matter which lawyer you hire, as long as you know the one you are hiring is not a scam, to avoid which, go by recommendation. Its always a better idea to use a lawyer that has worked with the same program before, that will speed up things and he or she would know who to get in touch with. Typically the lawyer fee is around a thousand bucks. If the one your program recommends is too expensive, you can always use a cheaper one.

2. Send documents to your lawyer:

Initially the lawyer will ask for a copy of the contract only. Then he will send you a long list of documents. This list typically includes copies of your passport, your previous visa, I 94 if any, ECFMG certificate and copy of your medical degree.

3. The LCA:

Once the lawyer has all the documents in place, the first step in the application is filing the LCA. This step ensures that the employee is not violating any labor laws. The application is free and typically takes upto two weeks to complete. Once the LCA is approved, the lawyer then send the LCA and other documents to your program to get them signed by the PD.

4. State License:

Some states require you to have a state license before you can get an H1 visa. So be sure to sort that out with your program coordinator.

5. The H1B petition:

Once the lawyer receives the signed LCA from the program, its time to file for the H1B petition. The regular petition costs around 800 dollars and can take upto 3 months! But if you apply for the premium processing, they promise to give you an outcome in 15 days. If for any reason your case is not processed in 15 days, your fee will be refunded and your case will still be treated as a premium case! Usually its processed in less than a week! So if you are short of time, its always a good idea to go for the premium processing.

Legally, the employee cannot pay for the visa and the employer has to pay. In case your program is not covering the visa cost, you have to find a third party to pay it! This is called donation in legal terms. It can be anyone, your parents, your siblings or a friend, just not you yourself.

6. Approval and form I 797:

Once the petition is approved, the USCIS will send the approval notice/form I797 to your lawyer who will then send that along with a copy of your petition application to you. The lawyer might ask extra money for sending it via DHL or FedEx. Be ready to pay around a 100 bucks as the petition application is a huge bungle of papers! Upon receiving the documents, next step is to apply for the visa at the local embassy. You have to fill out the online form DS 160, the same as you did for your B1/B2 visa. Its pretty straight forward and take 15-20 minutes.

7. Interview at the US embassy:

The interview is pretty straight forward. The usual questions are:
Why did you apply for the H1b visa?
Which hospital is it?
What will be your job?
Did you take all the USMLEs? (Duh!)
What did you do in your previous trips to the US?
How long is your contract?

There might be a few weird questions like which medical school did you go to or what was your CK or step 1 score. I guess they do so to make sure its the same person or to cross check with the information on file. Usually they won't look at any documents but its good to be prepared. The usual set of documents would be:

Form i797
Copy of Petition application sent by the lawyer.
Educational documents
USMLE Score reports
Documents related to your previous trips to the US like LORs
Financial documents- though not really important but still, to prove you have enough cash to buy yourself tickets.

The good thing about H1B is that you don't have to prove strong ties to your home country, which is the most common reason for refusal of B1/B2 and F1 visa. So H1B for medical residents is almost always approved. 

8. The 10 days rule:

Legally, you are not allowed to enter the US more than 10 days before the start date of your contract. This creates an issue when the orientation starts earlier than the start date of the residency. For example, if your contract starts from the 1st of July, the earliest you can enter the US is the 21st of June. But if your orientation starts from the 23rd of June, you literally won't have time for anything! So make sure you discuss this with your program coordinator and request them to put the orientation start date as the start date of the residency.

Good luck everyone! I hope I didn't miss out much. :)