What Is Medical School Biochemistry?
The first real medical school course I ever took was biochemistry. (The first medical school class I ever took was professionalism, during orientation.)
So what is biochemistry? I’m not really sure how to describe it, but I know it when I see it. Wikipedia says it is the study of chemical processes in living organisms, but that is not really helpful.
The best way to describe it is to tell you about the topics I learned in class. The class only took one semester and we covered:
- DNA & RNA synthesis
- protein synthesis
- carbohydrate metabolism
- fat metabolism
- protein metabolism
So in this class, you will be studying (and definitely memorizing) lots and lots of enzymes and pathways. That was not my idea of fun, but I did feel the class got better towards the middle and end.
As for the beginning, when the class focused on synthesis, I do not remember much. I guess it was very traumatizing to memorize all those polymerase I, polymerase II, and whatnot. So my brain is repressing the experience.
How to Succeed in Medical School Biochemistry Class?
For the first half of my biochemistry course, I did not do too well and my average for the class was below a 70, which is dangerously close to failing. I was not used to the rigors of medical school. I totally underestimated how much memorizing I had to do. (The constant memorizing is one of the reasons I hate medical school, but I will save that for another time.) I did not have a solid study method. And I could not understand the professor who was teaching protein synthesis. He has a heavy foreign accent.
The tides have turned once the class transitioned from synthesis to metabolism. I was actually interested in the topics. Since I am very interested in fitness, the stuff about metabolism appealed to me. I actually put myself in ketosis for a month to achieve a lower body fat. And I knew exactly how to do it and why it is possible — thanks to medical school biochemistry.
With an increased interest in the subject and lots of hard work, my final score for the class was in the upper 80s. I started from the mid-60′s and ended up in the upper 80′s. So what is the secret?
It’s All About Repetition
It was after doing poorly in the beginning of biochemistry that I began to experiment with skipping classes. The professor gave out wonderful, colorful notes, which sometimes covered even more than what he presented in class. So I just skipped class and read his notes.
So what I did was to study the notes and then draw out the pathways. During the week before the exam, I would draw out the pathway from memory every day. And by the time the exam came, the pathways and the names of the enzymes were all in my head. This class is all about memorization.
Looking back, the class is not very hard at all. It is annoying, but not hard. If I was to do this class all over again, I would skip class. Study the notes. Draw out pathways. And even do some practice problems. That is it!
- skip class
- memorize the enzymes and pathways
- do practice problems
Additional Medical School Biochemistry Resources
I have not used any additional resources for the medical school biochemistry class. As I said earlier, the professor’s notes were pretty good. I did try out the BRS Biochemistry book mainly for its practice questions but I would not recommend it.
If you really need an additional resource, I would recommend First Aid for the USMLE Step I.
It presents the high yield facts in an outline form. And if you use it during your studies, you’ll go through First Aid faster when you are preparing for the boards.
You can read more about my review on First Aid in the medical school books section.