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This article discusses a few of the many resources out there that a Pre-Med student can take in order to refine their understanding of topics they will cover in Medical School. I will review some popular courses that can be helpful for you in Med School.

Starting Medical School is a lot like learning how to drive a car.  There are a lot of new things that you may not be used to and there will be inherent apprehension as you being both for the very first time.  When you start Medical School, you are no longer cruising along the residential streets at 25mph but instead, you are thrown onto the interstate and expected to travel at 70mph.  The pace can be overwhelming and intimidating and there is no great way to prepare for it.  

The best approach is to just buckle up and try your best to keep moving along but there are some resources that can make this transition slightly less stressful.  Trying to master Anatomy before you start Medical School, or any class for that matter, is a foolish venture because you will have no reference in order to map the connections in your mind. Tracing the anatomy along a cadaver is much more solidifying than buying Netter's Anatomy and drawing out the pictures.  Nevertheless, there are some interesting and fun courses that you can take for free online in order to ease your transition into this new chapter of your life.  In this article, I will present the Top 3 Free Online Courses that you should take if you are on a Pre-Med track.  

Number 1:  Anatomy and Physiology:  A Free Web Course hosted by Carnegie Mellon

There is no point trying to memorize Anatomy before the start of your school year but it is wise to familiarize yourself with terminology that you may have never heard of before.  That is why this course provided by Carnegie Mellon is a useful endeavor for you to take before you start your first day of Medical School.  During the course, you will have a basic overview of complicated topics that you will focus on during your first years in Medical School.  This can be useful because even a basic understanding can help you take all the information in faster.  

If you have a vague understanding of the layout of a city, it is easier for you to navigate through unfamiliar roads when you are trying to reach your destination.  The same holds true in Anatomy lab.    

This course is divided into 4 subcategories that will help improve your understanding of Anatomy and Physiology before you start classes.  They are the Structure and Function of the Body, Homeostasis, Levels of Organization and the Integration of the Systems.  The system is designed to provide you with interactive practice, targeted theoretical training, opportunities for practice questions, and an interactive 3D anatomy interface so you can manipulate and pick out structures.  These tools are spread out over 13 different units so you will be able to target specific topics like the Muscular System, Cardiovascular System, and even Lymphatic System to name a few.  

As I have stressed already, it is not possible to learn Anatomy from a computer screen but using a system like this can help a young student visual some of these pathways.  When you are manipulating a cadaver, there are often anomalous structures or it could be difficult to identify smaller components like the lymphatic system so having an image already in your head of what to expect will be a good way to give yourself a general understanding of the theme.   

Two More Useful Free Online Classes for You to Consider 

Number 2:  Health Behavior Change at the Individual, Household and Community Levels presented by Peter Winch at Johns Hopkins University 

This is an interesting change-of-pace course that should be an enjoyable and relevant experience for most Pre-Meds out there. Unfortunately, Medical Schools vary on the number of hours that are spent teaching things related to Epidemiology but this is where a lot of the causes of a disease or a condition can be found.  The types of behaviors you engage in now, whether that could be exercising regularly now or trying fad diets could have an adverse effect on your health and predispose you to a number of health risks within the next decade.  

In Medical School, one of the highlights of your studies is dealing with Epidemiology for two reasons;  it's easy and it's relevant.  It is fascinating to learn how some of our choices can increase our relative risk for diseases by multiples of 5 and any additional information from this course could greatly impact your message to a patient when it comes time to educate them on their conditions.  Unfortunately, the United States is horrible as a whole in teaching patients about preventative techniques to ward off ailments in their future. Instead, it is much more of a reactionary system where your treatment begins after a significant health incident.  For example, in Europe, it is common to educate patients from the age of 20 about the risks of fatty diets to their health and have annual control visits and medical intervention if necessary to prevent a heart attack from happening.  In the US, however, much less effort is placed on the preventative ways to reduce the risk of heart problems and patients often receive their first line of treatment in the operating room.  The same holds true for patients not able to control their weight but use bariatric surgery or liposuction to shed the 200 excess pounds they are hauling along instead of meeting with dietitians routinely and constructing exercise programs to follow. 

Studying this prior to Medical School can ensure that you are approaching Medicine with a broader outlook on healthcare so you can educate a patient and benefit society as a whole as soon as you start seeing patients.  

Number 3:  The Stanford Mini-Medical School 

This is a great course to shed light onto what to expect when you get into the grind of Medical School.  Stanford University offers free on-line webinars that a student can enroll in and listening to lectures from esteemed professors in the Medical community.  These mini-courses change during each semester so a student can cover a variety of topics and learn about interesting or valuable research investigations that are being done to improve healthcare globally.  

You are able to cherry-pick through the lectures and decide what lectures are more specific for your interests.  You will be able to eye-witness what a classroom experience is like in Medical School so you can have some idea of what to expect.  The professors are experts in their field and present the material in a very easy-to-understand format so you will master a concept quickly.  

I have used the Stanford on-line course myself and can attest that it will be worth your while.  The professors are entertaining and are able to expertly weave material that you may have learned in your Undergraduate studies into how it practically applies to Medicine.  

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