The Secret to Studying Physiology

I am often asked about study habits, supplements and just general approach to learning medicine. Of course, I always say that I can only tell you what worked for me and that it is so important to spend some time understanding how you learn before approaching this subject for yourself. There is no answer for this question that is not wholly subjective.

That being said, I do think there are certain fundamental concepts in med school that we all must deal with in some fashion or another. The variance lies in how we individually tackle those concepts, not the concept themselves. In retrospect, one of those is physiology.

Physiology was one of my favorite classes. I thoroughly enjoyed delving in to how the body essentially regulates itself and maintains homeostasis. Its easy to understand, too, how a solid understanding of physiology is an important building block for pathology and pharmacology, both. I threw myself into the details of all these complicated systems, and that was my mistake.

Don’t lose sight of the forest to see the trees. It is my opinion that first, you must understand the concepts in physio. Do you get what positive and negative feedback is? Do you understand why they would be used in their application? In what states do we want to raise blood pressure? How about changing the pH of various organ systems? What does it all mean? How do these processes help us maintain homeostasis?

Once you can answer those questions, you can then fill in details. We raise our pH by blowing off carbon dioxide. We can raise blood pressure by enacting the renin-angiotensin system. These things don’t mean anything, though, unless you already understand why we want to do it.

This might seem like an obvious answer to a difficult question, but so often the right answers are. Get the why, then fill in the how, and you will find physiology to be a much easier class.

Oh, and make sure you can read graphs really really well.

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