Monthly Archives

November 2017

Medicine Residency

How to Pass a Test in 10 Ways

Test taking is one of those things that you are either really good at, or have to try really really hard to be good at. I personally never had a problem with exams until I started taking standardized tests. Studying for the SAT, MCAT, and Medical Licensing Exams have all been associated with such negative emotions, that I have tried to block them out from my memory completely. That being said, over the years I have developed a system that works for me, and using that system I have passed all of the required tests to get to where I am today, including the Internal Medicine Board Exam!

If you are like me and get super stressed out over tests, this article is for you. And if you are one of those people who aces every test without trying, I envy you more than you know. These are my general steps to preparing for any big exam, and at the end I will include a paragraph about studying specifically for ABIM. So without further ado, here’s how to pass a test in 10 ways.

1. Make a Schedule 

When you start preparing to study, it’s best if you have a set schedule. Know how many pages you need to read each day to get through a specific book, or how many questions you need to do to get through a specific Q bank. Doing this will keep you on track and let you know if you are falling behind schedule. I like to have a list of things to do each day so that I can check them off when they get done- this makes me feel like I accomplished what I needed to. You can also add a few things to the end of your schedule for that week, so if you have extra time you can get those out of the way as well.

2. Be Realistic 

Going back to #1, while it’s important to have a plan, it’s also important to set goals that are achievable. Don’t make your schedule so jam packed that you end up not completing your tasks for that day; this will stress. you. out. To help decide what is realistic and what isn’t, spend one full day studying before you make your entire study schedule so that you can gauge how long it takes to complete each task. By doing this, you will have a better idea about how many things you can give yourself to do, depending on how much time you have to study that day.

3. Don’t Rush Yourself  

If you end up giving yourself too many tasks for one day and you realize that you aren’t going to get through them all, don’t rush yourself. If you try to cram things in anyway, you won’t be putting as much effort into actually learning the material, and chances are you wont remember the content as well. What I do in these situations is take the tasks I know I won’t get to, and tack them onto days where I might be able to shorten my lunch break, or add an extra study hour on to one day. This will give you some extra time to spend on those topics without speeding through them completely.

4. Stick to a Few Methods 

When I first started studying for standardized tests, I thought more was better. More books, more question banks, etc. The more I could read the more knowledge would be stuck in my head, right? Wrong. What ended up happening was I would half-ass studying most of the material without taking the time to actually learn it. Since then, I discovered that the best way to study was to stick to one of each method; One text book, one Q bank, and one supplemental “written” notebook. By doing this you eliminate the stress of multiple sources giving you different information (which happens pretty frequently) and you can focus on getting through the material multiple times (instead of reading multiple sources only once).

5. Do What Works For You

By now, you should have a general idea of how you like to study. For me, flashcards never really helped, but answering questions, reading the explanations of why I got it right (or wrong), and taking my own notes, does. If you know that studying on your own is better, and you are less productive in a group setting, don’t waste your time trying out something new. For me, I like studying alone for the most part, but reviewing the material with someone else for a few hours at the end of the day. I feel that this reinforces what I read earlier and helps it stick better, but everyone is different, so at this point in the game stick to what you know works best for you.

6. Take a Review Course 

I did this for the MCAT, but not for any of the Steps, so when someone recommended it to me for my IM Board Exam I was a little skeptical. I can now confidently say it was one of the best decisions I made. Having someone (who is highly experienced and knowledgeable in that area) tell you what they think is important for you to know for an exam is definitely helpful. By doing this, I was able to focus on the “high yield” material, and weed out some other topics that were less important for the exam. Ask around for opinions on different review courses you can take, and make sure the one you sign up for is legit. I used Awesome Review for my IM Boards and would highly recommend it to future test takers.

7. Pick a Good Study Spot 

Location, location, location. Probably one of the most important things to me when it comes to studying, is where I am studying. My #1 goal is finding places that are both conductive to studying and also offer sustenance, because my life typically revolves around when my next meal will be. Other things that I take into account when picking a good study spot are: 1. Whether or not there is WiFi available, 2. Do they serve good coffee? 3. Is there enough space to sit and spread out my study materials? 4. Are there enough outlets in case I need to plug in my laptop, and my cell phone, and my headphones… (you get it), and lastly, 5. What is the ambiance like- my go to is usually well lit with some noise, but not enough to be distracting.

8. Give Yourself Breaks 

No one can study for hours straight and still feel sane by the end of the day without taking breaks; and I don’t mean just to eat and to sleep. When making your schedule, make sure to include time slots for breaks so that you can refresh your mind. You can either put breaks in at specific times (for ex: 30 minutes at 11 am), or after you complete a specific task (like little rewards). My breaks usually consist of taking a walk to get more coffee, sitting outside and enjoying some fresh air, or watching endless videos of animals on Instagram. Whatever you do, make sure to set a timer so you know when your break is up and it’s time to get back to grind mode.

9. Do Things to Relieve Stress 

Aside from adding short breaks into your schedule, there are other things you can do to relieve stress. My main one is running. When I’ve had a long day of studying, I throw on some work out clothes, my favorite running shoes, the right playlist, and just run. Whatever it is you’re doing, whether its working out, catching up on some T.V., or preparing a nice healthy dinner for yourself (just some of my other favorite stress relievers), try to be focused only on that, and not to think about anything you learned that day. I promise when you’re done you will feel so much better.

10. Just Some Extra Tips

There are a few other things I have learned over the years which have helped me stay in the zone while studying. If you are planning on studying somewhere that doesn’t serve food, pack your own lunch. This will eliminate time wasted wondering where you have to go if you get hungry (or hangry), or time wasted packing up your study area to relocate somewhere else. Next, come prepared with whatever tools you like to study with. For me, this includes colored pens, highlighters, white out (since I’m OCD), a notebook, and chargers. Make sure you have these things with you before you leave the house so you are not stranded without them all day.

ABIM prep: When I realized it was time to buckle down and start seriously preparing for the ABIM (American Board of Internal Medicine) I did all of the steps above. I scouted out good study spots, made my schedule in advance, and signed up for a review course that was recommended to me. I read through all of the MKSAP books from January through June, and finished just before my review course. Afterwards, I had another two months to go over the review course material twice, and do as many questions as I possibly could. I only looked at the MKSAP books again when I needed a supplemental material to test questions or my review course notes. Fast forward to now, two months later, and I found out I passed. No more exams for 10 years!

As I stated earlier, everyone is different and my methods might not work as well for you, but overall these 10 steps can pretty much apply to anyone taking any big exam. I hope this article helped you, and if you have questions or need some other advice, don’t hesitate to reach out to me (as some of you already have).

Good luck and good studying!



Health and Wellness

The Art[naturals] of Self Love

To me, how well you care for yourself should reflect how well you will care for others. As a physician, it’s important for me to eat well, exercise, and be healthy on a daily basis, not only for myself but for my patients. When you feel like you can conquer the world, you totally will. That brings me to the next thing; aside from good skin care, I place a fairly large emphasis on my hair care routine. There are so many tips I could give you guys that I have learned over the years about what to do for longer stronger hair (not to mention it totally helps that my mom is a hair stylist), but I’ll start with the basics.

I wanted to share the new shampoo and conditioner duo I have been using with you all because I believe that a good wash regimen really is the basis to healthy locks. I think what you put on your body is equally as important as what you put in your body (check out my natural deodorant post for more info on that topic as well).

With that said, finding good, natural, hair care products isn’t always easy. The Artnaturals Argan Oil Shampoo and Conditioner set originally caught my eye because of the all natural ingredients. Aside from that, it is paraben free and sulfate free (both have shown to be damaging to hair, especially colored hair), and as an added bonus, it’s produced in Morocco (where my Grandmother is from!).

Once I actually tried the products, I really fell in love. The shampoo is lightweight and smells like heaven in a bottle (it’s hard to put my finger on the exact scent but really, it smells like cleanliness, and heaven). I followed the instructions and left it on for a few minutes and only had to do one wash and rinse for my hair to feel like it was completely clean. The conditioner smells like a refreshing piña colada, with hints of vanilla and coconut, and is a nice lightweight formula.

Once I rinsed it out my hair felt ridiculously soft. I will say I was impressed with the way my hair dried on its own, and even better when blow dried. There was no greasy oily residue that some conditioners leave over, and yet my hair still felt silky smooth. I have used the shampoo and conditioner numerous times now and I am impressed with the outcome every time.

Over the past few weeks I have gotten several direct messages about what hair products I use, and how I get my hair to grow as long as it is, so I figured I would start by sharing the basics. I am working on a separate blog post where I will discuss some other tips and tricks about hair care (and hair growth secrets), but for now I highly recommend trying this stuff out. They have some other products on their website (an Argan Leave in Conditioner and Argan Thermal Shield) that I will be purchasing to add to my regimen, so I’ll keep you posted on those as well!


Food Recipes

Smokin’ Hot (and Delicious)

I don’t know how many of you are loving this new Instagram poll feature, but I totally am. The first time I tried it out was to ask you all if you wanted the recipe for my new favorite pasta dish, and most of you said yes (to the other 8% who said no, explain yourselves). So this recipe was crafted in an attempt to recreate a meal my boyfriend and I had on our recent trip to Greece (if you want to read all about that, check it out here).

We were at Katerina’s Restaurant and Cocktail Bar in Mykonos and asked the waitress what she recommended from the menu. She told us that every time someone orders the Farfalle pasta, the smells are so great that she has a difficult time bringing it to the table without eating it herself. We were sold, and that was also probably one of the best decisions we made on our trip (aside from reserving a balcony seat at Katerina’s, months in advance, for the incredible sunset view).

The Farfalle pasta dish came with smoked salmon, sun-dried tomatoes, and a creamy smokey sauce that was such an incredible combination of flavors. After several weeks home from Greece, and a few other pasta dinners later, I realized that what I was really craving was that farfalle dish. I went back to the menu online to get some ideas, but they don’t give out any of their secrets (I don’t blame them).

I googled “smoked salmon sun-dried tomato pasta” and found several recipes, but none of them really sounded exactly like what I was looking for. I decided to take a few tips from the recipes I found, and use some of my “Food Network” acquired cooking skills to try and come up with a recipe myself.

After two separate attempts, I got the exact flavor I was looking for. This dish has the perfect amount of smokiness, creaminess, and deliciousness, and I even altered the recipe to make it as healthy as possible (so I can make it once a week without feeling too guilty about it). You should be able to find most of the items at your local grocery store, but I went to Fresh Market for the smoked salmon because theirs is hands down the freshest and best tasting (to those of you in the Mid-West, I know Whole Foods has a similar, packaged version of the wild [or farm raised] smoked salmon called “Whole Catch” which you can use as well).

When making the recipe, I stuck with the Farfalle type of pasta, aka the one that looks like little bow ties. I did this A. to keep the trend going of the dish we had in Greece, B. I find that it holds onto the flavor pretty well (you can also use Fusilli to get the same results), and C. It’s pretty. Obviously I bought organic, whole wheat pasta (again, to make myself feel better) and I used the general rule of thumb of 3 cups of uncooked pasta per serving (for two people), but you can use a little more if you want some leftovers. Cook the pasta according to it’s package instructions, and while the pasta is cooking you can tackle the rest of the steps.

First, I cut up the sun dried tomatoes into small little pieces and minced the garlic. I bought sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil to avoid using any extra oil in the recipe. I added the sun-dried tomatoes and the minced garlic to a deep-ish skillet over low-medium heat and let them saute together for about 1-2 minutes. Next I added all the liquids; the cream, broth, and white wine, and raised the temp to bring it to a boil. Once boiling, I reduced it to medium again and let it simmer for 4-5 minutes. If the sauce doesn’t thicken to your liking, add 1/2 tsp of corn starch (which I did) to get the right consistency.

Now you can add in your smoked salmon, which I just cut into small chunks. Heat the salmon through (you will see it change from dark to light pink) and continue to stir so the flavors get incorporated into the sauce. By now your pasta should be done, so drain it, and add it to your sauce-salmon mixture. Top it off with the lemon juice, grated cheese, dill, and any other seasonings (I just added a touch of pepper) and mix well. Let it sit for 4-5 minutes to heat evenly (stirring occasionally), and serve. I made some steamed asparagus quickly during those last few minutes and my dish was complete!

Side notes: 1. Because the salmon is salty to begin with, make sure the broth you purchase is no sodium (or very low sodium) to avoid extra saltiness, and don’t add salt until you taste the dish prior to serving. 2. If you can’t find Smoked Gouda, you can use Parmesan (that’s what the other recipes used, but it didn’t give me the rich smokey flavor I was looking for). 3. Top off your dish with some dill to make it look extra fancy.

I hope you guys enjoy! Let me know what you think in the comments below!



Smoked Salmon and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
25 mins

This is the recipe for the BEST pasta dish I have ever had, and I am now sharing with you all. The ingredients listed are for two servings (two people), but you can halve it for 1 or multiply it for bigger dinner parties (orrr to keep for leftovers). Enjoy!

Servings: 1 2
  • 3 cups Uncooked Farfalle Pasta Whole Wheat
  • 2 cloves Garlic - Minced
  • 10 pieces Sun-Dried Tomato in Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup Regular Cream
  • 1/2 cup White Cooking Wine
  • 1 cup No Sodium Chicken Broth or Veggie Broth
  • 8 oz Cold Smoked Salmon
  • 2 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 2-4 tbsp Chopped Dill
  • 1/2 cup Grated Smoked Gouda or Grated Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto *optional
  • 1 tsp Corn Starch *optional
  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions.

  2. While the pasta is cooking, mince the garlic cloves and chop the sun-dried tomatoes into small pieces. Add both to a deep skillet over low-medium heat and saute together for about 1-2 minutes while stirring.

  3. Add the liquids; the cream, white wine, and chicken broth, and raise the temperature to bring it to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low-medium again and let it simmer for 3-4 minutes.

    *If the sauce doesn't thicken to your liking, you can add 1/2 tsp of corn starch (which I did) to get the right consistency. 

  4. Cut your smoked salmon into chunks, and add it to your sauce. Heat the salmon through (you will see it change from dark to light pink) and continue to stir so the flavors get incorporated into the sauce.

  5. By now your pasta should be done, so drain it, and add it to your sauce-salmon mixture. Top it off with the lemon juice, grated cheese, dill, and any other seasonings (I added a touch of pepper). Mix well. 

    *I also added a bit of sun-dried tomato pesto for some extra flavor. 

  6. Let it sit for a minute or two to heat evenly, and serve!

Recipe Notes

Side notes:

1. Because the salmon is salty to begin with, make sure the broth you purchase is no sodium (or very low sodium) to avoid any extra saltiness, and don't add salt until you taste the dish prior to serving.

2. If you can't find Smoked Gouda, you can use Parmesan (that's what some of the other recipes used, but it didn't give me the rich smokey flavor I was looking for).

3. Top off your dish with some dill to make it look extra fancy.