What Is Medical School Microbiology?
In microbiology class, you will be learning about the different organisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc.) that cause diseases. And when I say learning, I really mean memorizing. For each pathogenic organism, you will have to know their class (i.e. gram-positive cocci), their virulence factor (or what components of the organism causes the disease and evades the human body’s defenses), their distinguishing factors (i.e. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is blue-green and gives off a grape-like odor), and the diseases they cause.
Considering that there are hundreds of infectious organisms, the amount of materials you have to learn and memorize is staggering. I am currently preparing for the COMLEX 1, the first of three national medical exams for osteopathic students, and I just finished covering medical school microbiology on my own. And all I have to say is that microbiology is basically just intense memorization. At times, I wish there was technology to implant a chip in the brain to retrieve data. Anyways, back to the subject.
Microbiology in My School
As brutal as the subject is, microbiology is actually one of my favorite classes in medical school. Although the amount of information to memorize is quite large, the teacher was amazing. My conclusion regarding any class in medical school is that it is the teachers that make the subjects interest, not the other way around.
I could tell that the teacher dedicated a lot of effort into making sure the students understood the materials.
In the teacher’s slides, there were lots and lots of pictures and very few words. If the teacher is talking about gram-positive cocci bacteria, she would have a picture of it. She also used the funny and sometimes outrageous images from Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple in her presentation. (Read the additional resources section for information on Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple.) The various pictures helped me to remember the information.
I also appreciated the practice questions. Again, these helped to reinforce what was taught in class.
As a side note, this may or may not be unique for my school, my immunology was combined with microbiology. So the subject for the first block was for immunology. And the rest of the year was dedicated to the bugs.
How to Succeed in Medical School Microbiology?
I did well in class. But looking back, the teacher eased the class into the material. The first few exams had tons of hints to point us towards the right bugs. In the later exams, each question had only two pieces of information to help you arrive at the right answer. So I had to memorize almost everything about each bug to do well.
I did go to almost every class, but looking back, it is not required.
What I would recommend you do and what really helped for me is to make charts. It is much easier to memorize from a few pages of charts then to look through several hundred slides. So after every lecture, compile the information into a chart using Microsoft Excel. Take a look below to see what it could look like.
Like most medical school subjects, success in microbiology can be had with enough practice questions. As I previously mentioned, my teacher provided ample practice questions. I basically just memorized from my chart and did the sample questions before every exam.
- make and memorize from charts
- do practice questions
Additional Medical School Microbiology Resources
I did not use any additional materials beyond what the teacher has provided. But others have used additional resources, so you may want to check it out.
Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple is a highly rated book that many medical students use throughout their classes and when preparing for boards. My teacher has used various images from this book in her slides.
Even so, I did not use this book, so do your own research before you buy it. The main reason I did not use the book is because it is about 400 pages of small, condensed words. It just is not my style because it is too inefficient. The pictures are really creative though.
This article is part of the How to Survive Medical School series. Click on the link if you want more tips and hints about surviving academic hell.