Surviving chiropractic school part 2: Parker

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Hi-ho, this is Kermit thee Frog here–back for more, eh?  Just can’t get enough of my charming…I’d say face but you only know me by the typewritten word.  Well, I’m still feeling kinda helpful, or perhaps pitiful, for me chiro student brethren.  I feel like you’re gonna need all the help you can get.  The previous post covered that which is relatively common to all chiropractic schools (and admit it, MD students–a lot of it holds true for you too), but now I’m going to shine the spotlight specifically at my Parker brothers and sisters and speak directly to you.

It’s nothing totally earthshattering or profound, but I figured I’d share some more gems that are a bit more particular to our school.  Not to edge the rest of you out, however, as this isn’t a Parker Proprietary Blend or anything, and some of this may also be applicable to those of you struggling through a different school.  Read on…

1. Write down only the main ideas or points that the prof says.  This is easier said than done, because sometimes, everything the prof is saying seems important, and it’s tough to separate the wheat from the shaff.  Taking a few minutes when you get home to re-write your notes seems silly, but it allows you time to chew on what was said in class, look at what you wrote down, and straighten the jumbled information out into a couple of broader sentences that better encompass the main idea.

2. Keep up with the material.  If you don’t, it will get away from you.  Every day you don’t study, it becomes exponentially harder to play catch-up later.  It’s not an insurmountable task, though.  Keeping up is easy.  Study 15 minutes per class per night.  Don’t panic–you’re not studying for all 8 to 10 classes every night, just the lecture classes (or labs) that met that particular day.  And all you’re really doing is reviewing the information covered that day. If you’re feeling ambitious (or lost/desperate) as the tri progresses, review the past couple of lectures or the main ideas from each subject covered to stay on top of your game.

3. Don’t write off Biochemistry, Embryology, or Neuroscience.  This should go without saying, but we graduate too many people who still haven’t grasped the concept of being a doctor and the responsibility it entails.  Why should you care about these subjects in particular?  Well, it’s like this: Biochemistry is the study all of the major chemical/metabolic reactions going on in your body.  Your adjustment drives them and they also in turn influence how effective your adjustment is.  Neuroscience is the adjustment itself.  Ever wonder why you’re moving the bone?  Ever wonder why it has the effects that it has?  Ever wonder why some people respond well and others get worse during your course of treatment?  It’s all about neurological pathways.  You’d best learn them and be able to explain them (in simple terms…please–I’ve seen too many new docs or inters bog the lay public down with technical explanations and after about 20 seconds this glazed look takes over and you’ve lost them and it’s painful to watch–so stop).

And Embryo?  Well, that’s the study of how all this came to be.  We may develop, but what we learn in embryo never really stops while this adult body just takes over; the processes you learn about persist and continue to mold and shape who we are as adults, as individuals, as human beings.

4. Parker kiddos, you will definitely want to stay on top of certain classes.  I have to add some fine print here: 1) I’ll probably forget some because it’s been a while.  2) There has been a Musical Professors phenomenon in recent trimesters, so a lot of the professors we had for different classes aren’t the same ones that are there now; thus, all bets are off.  As far as I know, though, Tri 1’s Systemic Anatomy is still a force to be reckoned with, and so is Embryology, especially the part where they cover the developing heart and blood vessels.  In Tri 2, it’s Biochem.  In Tri 3 it’s ESAT (Extra-Spinal adjusting).  In Tri 4 it’s Physical Diagnosis and Clinical Orthopedics (do not underestimate Clin Ortho!!).  In Tri 5 it’s Lab Diagnosis (which is now, unfortunately, an elective–take it!), Thompason/Upper Cervical, and Functional Assessment Protocols.  In Tri 6, it’s Kearsing’s Physio Therapy 1 and Activator.  In Tri 7 it’s Sacral-Occipital Technique (not that it’s hard, just lots of little details).  In Tri 8, it’s Applied Kinesiology and Rad Exam Technique (a lab-only course). Whatever you do, do not let these classes get away from you!  Some of them seem easy (except the two Tri 1 classes) and thus are easily underestimated.  It’s easy for them to spiral out of control.  Don’t be that guy pulling out his hair at 1am the night before the lab practical.  You can’t possibly cram it in a night.  It’s too much, and you’ll only drive yourself insane.

5. Do not, on the other hand, let Michael Hall (Clinical Neurology and two other waste-oid classes that carry different titles but do not deviate from the same opinionated, ego-rich dribble that ends up wasting a total of a year of your time) scare you into thinking his classes are hard.  His tests are basically patterned after what is actually his own one-track-mind and the four things he thinks are uber-important.  Don’t fret.  I was freaked out before his first exam and I studied hard, starting like 5 days out.  During the test, I freaked more, because the questions were nothing like I’d studied.  Oh well.  I answered them and moved on, quickly realizing that it did absolutely no good to study for his tests.  Come the last test we had, I studied maybe a couple of hours the night before.

Guess what: I scored a whole 2 points lower on that test than I did the one I spent 5 days studying for.  And studying for his class only got easier (and thus more brief) in subsequent classes we had with him.

6. Speaking of studying…if it helps, form a small study group.  Make sure you choose your candidates very carefully.  They have to function at about the same maturity level and they have to have a similarly serious commitment toward their education.  Keep it very small; the smaller, the more manageable (especially in terms of personalities and covering ground while studying), and with fewer people it is easier it is to coordinate schedule-wise.  Meet in quiet places, where spouses will not be blasting Sunday football games from big screen TVs through thin apartment walls.

7. Get a laptop.  I recommend this with caution because it can easily be a double-edged sword.  While it’s awesome for taking notes fast (thus getting more down) and looking up websites the prof mentions for further information, it also provides a welcome, inviting distraction especially during boring classes, that can spell your demise.  All I can say is this: use it wisely.  There are classes you can–and classes you can’t–afford the distraction.  I should also add the footnote that some profs are becoming increasingly strict about laptop usage in class; some are going to far as to ban their use altogether.  Laptops may eventually become a thing of the past if people in your class can’t handle them with maturity.  Seriously, don’t be obvious about your online Texas Hold ‘Em. Keep the Mafia Wars and Facebook discreet and at least look up every once in a while, pretending to pay attention.  Keep your class notebook out and write something down from time to time.  Above all, don’t be disrespectful or blatant.

8. Sit on the neurologically correct side of the room.  While everyone has right brain and left brain function, most people have an imbalance between the two, where one side of the brain functions more efficiently than the other.  The weak side is no match for the strong side, and the strong side is allowed to run wild.  This has consequences that can be bad anyway, but for our purposes, let’s just suffice it to say that sitting on a particular side of the room stimulates one side of the brain more.  I don’t remember all the particulars, but if you’re a right-brain-dominant person, you want to sit on the left side of the room (anywhere in the left half is fine) and vice versa.  Apparently you’ll retain more.

9. Try to take tests with the same environment that you studied in and vice versa.  I know people who studied on weekends, at the same time of day and in the same order as their classes were, for reinforcement.  Come test day, if you ate breakfast or had a coke before you learned the material in class, don’t skip breakfast or forego the coke come test day; re-create the same internal biochemical environment before the test.  Apparently it maximizes your odds.

10. Speaking of test-taking, don’t change your freakin’ answers!  Chances are, whichever answer you gravitate toward is the correct one, and you know this neurologically/subconsciously.  Mark it and move on.  Seriously, if you dwell on all your possible choices any longer than that, you will literally talk yourself out of the right answer…and directly into a wrong one.  Only change an answer if you know for an undeniable fact that the first answer you picked is wrong and you can prove to yourself why the new answer is right.

11. Get involved.  Go to clubs, go to the gym.  Make friends.  One of the things I wished I would have done is get more involved.  I regret that I was going through a Phase my first two years or so of school and that I didn’t really open up until my third and final year.  I had much more fun, though, once I did.  By then, we were all burned out and didn’t care, and it was like we were all back in high school again.  I went to Nutrition Club during Tri’s 1-3, and we started the Carrick Neuro program in Tri 4 or 5, but I never went to any parties, sold any T-shirts, or volunteered to help with anything.  I didn’t start really hanging out with anyone until Tri 6 or 7.  I didn’t discover the gym until Tri 8.  We finally started shadowing a field doctor in his office at the beginning of Tri 9.  Don’t make the same mistake.  Reach out.  Have a ball.

12. Ask questions, pick brains.  Especially those of your profs and staff docs.  Do remember not to take everything they say as the absolute last word on any one thing, though; what they have to say, no matter how expert their opinion, is just one viewpoint.  They’re going to tell you what worked for them (or didn’t).  But your circumstances may be quite different.  Your specialty, target patient niche, scope of practice in your state, state laws, tort reform, etc, may all be different than those of the people whose brains you’re picking.  And regardless, you’re not them and they aren’t you.  So take what they have to say as information, because it ain’t their first rodeo, but understand that theirs is not the only way.

13. If you have a question about a procedure or whatever, don’t rely heavily on what other classmates have to say, especially those from other trimesters (as they may have had different profs for the same classes, or they have the same profs but those profs decided to change things up a bit for your class), or those from different clinic pods or even different staff docs.  What one staff doc expects and the rules/procedures that s/he sets may be waaaay different from yours and thus what another student has to say may not even remotely apply to you.  Don’t waste time or risk sacrificing credit; get your answers straight up from your current prof (in class) or staff doc (in clinic).

14. Beware these people: anyone who speaks at a Lunch & Learn or a PSPS.  We’ve learned over the years that these people do nothing but reinforce the outdated, misleading, inaccurate, and downright often-gimmicky rhetoric that our school likes to spew.  I find a lot of the presentations to be unscientific, patronizing, high-pressure sales tactics that don’t do anything to progress the profession.  The only people I saw that were worth anything are: Dr John Donofrio who guest-spoke in Chiro Philosophy 1 (of all classes) in Tri 1 and then again at PSPS last year; Dr Fuhr, who developed the Activator instrument and its technique, at a Lunch & Learn; and Bill Esteb of Patient Media, who talked some actual sense at an assembly (an utterly mindbogling rarity) 2 years ago.  I also did see Dr Michael Perryman give an Orthomolecular Biology (read: herbs & nutrition) seminar and another doctor give a neuro-embryo-devlopmental seminar, both at PSPS last year as well. Other than that, though, literally every other Lunch & Learn, Wednesday assembly, and PSPS have been a waste since about Tri 2, and I am glad Tri 9’s are exempt from participating in any of it (although they’re not quick to tell you this).

15. You will only get out what you put in.  This goes for studying, getting involved in extra-curricular activities, everything. Lunchtime clubs are free, so go. Read your textbooks, or books that the prof recommends.  Practice on your classmates.  I regret that I was preoccupied with my massage therapy business (gotta make time for every client and make money, after all) and I didn’t focus enough on school.  I studied enough to get by, and I coasted through some classes.  I was OK with getting B’s and C’s and some A’s.  But I know now that I could’ve done much better.  Now, I’m having to play catch-up, in a lot of areas.  I’m having to pour over books to finally understand that which I should’ve learned in class.  I’m having to seek extra help in palpating and adjusting because I didn’t practice enough before.  I’m having to branch out and pretty much make friends with my classmates for the first time.  I’m having to workout more because I didn’t put any time into self-maintenance and my body went to hell.  You reap what you sow; so sow some good seeds already. 🙂

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