Cardio… ? *cue romantic music* But really, it’s been my favorite block in medical school thus far. Cardiology is intimately intertwined with pulmonology, but for the sake of consistency and targeted study tips, I will address them separately here on my blog. You can read my tips for pulm/respiratory in my pulmonology post.
I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy application-based learning, and that’s all this class really is (big contrast to neuro). I barely spent any time memorizing – most of my study time was spent running through various pathology scenarios and following the path of blood flow, pressure-volume curves, and EKGs. Once you understand the basic physiology, the rest is figuring out how to apply it to different situations. From there, all you have to do is practice. (Okay I guess I’m making it sound super easy, which it totally is not. It’s one of the hardest blocks. But if you like to do practice questions more than you like flashcards, cardio is gonna be your cup of tea.) Ugh, I wanna go back. I seriously can’t wait for pass two, when we learn more cardio in second year.
My best tips for studying cardio:
- Draw things out. Use a white-board or blank sheets of computer paper and draw out the pressure-volume loop, various EKG findings, Wigger’s Diagram, etc. Label them, color them… work with them until you can actually visualize them in your head.
- Speaking of Wigger’s Diagram, know this like the back of your hand. Here’s a good, thorough video explaining it.
- Get super comfortable interpreting EKGs, especially the rate and axis. Here is a good website for practice.
- Good books: Rapid Interpretation of EKGs and Netter’s Basic ECG
- Armando’s hand-drawn tutorials are bomb. Here’s two links where you can find his cardio tutorials: 1, 2
- Dr. Najeeb is also the bomb.
- First Aid for the USMLE – I always recommended this with each systems course, simply to follow along and use it as a supplement, because you may want to annotate your hard copy. This way, when it comes time to study for boards, you have a condensed version of high-yield notes.
- If you learn better talking things out, this is the class to do that in. Get a study group and run through various scenarios and pathology. Honestly, even if you don’t normally study in a group, you may want to give it a try for this class. Since cardiology is such a conceptual-heavy system, it helps to talk through all of the down-stream effects of changing a variable. And your friends may have a different perspective than you, which will help you paint a complete picture. For example, what happens when you increase heart rate? Well, not just one thing. Your increased heart rate decreases your ventricular filling time, which then decreases your preload… and so on. It helps to put these pieces together with other people.
- PRACTICE QUESTIONS. Do the questions in the back of your textbook… make up questions and quiz your friends… do whatever you gotta do, just do not go into a cardio test without practicing first.