Best Practices for Students

Pro Tips for Osmosis

Neil Bhavsar


May 31, 2019

Editor's Note: This video and transcript have been edited for clarity.

Neil Bhavsar: Everyone, welcome to Best Practices here at Medscape Medical Students. I'm Neil Bhavsar, your representative, sitting down with Dr Rishi Desai from Osmosis. Thanks so much for sitting with us, Dr Desai.

Rishi Desai, MD: Thanks a lot, Neil. I appreciate you taking the time to chat with me.

Bhavsar: Can you tell the Medscape Medical Student community a little bit about the philosophy behind Osmosis?

Desai: The word is probably where I'll start. Osmosis is the movement of water from places of high concentration to low concentration. The idea is that we learn not just from one place. It's not like I'm a teacher or faculty, and I teach Neil, a med student, ideas. Neil has lived a rich and complex life and can probably teach me a lot of stuff too. The idea is that we all learn from each other in all directions.

We have a vertical family, right? You're in med school, and maybe there's a fourth-year student you look up to. Maybe that fourth-year student looks up to a resident, and they look up to a fellow. That's your vertical family. You've got a horizontal family: Those are all of your classmates, your peers, people on your level of learning. We imagine that the learning can happen horizontally, from peer to peer. It can happen vertically, up and down the chain. If you don't have a good network that goes in both directions, you often don't learn optimally.

That's kind of the idea behind Osmosis. We want learning to happen in all directions and at all times. It doesn't have to happen when I'm sitting at the bedside. Learning doesn't happen when I'm in the classroom. It happens when I'm thinking about it at the park or on a weekend. When I'm sitting in the bathroom, I might be learning or thinking about something. You learn all the time from everyone, and that's Osmosis.

Bhavsar: What are some recommendations for students on how best to use Osmosis that they may not have realized already?

Desai: A lot of people watch our videos, and that's what we're often known for. I think our videos do symbolize a lot of the great parts of Osmosis. I think the thing that people don't realize are the platform features. So let me just spell a couple out.

One, you can answer a question. You get it right or you get it wrong. Based on spaced repetition, Osmosis then sends you the stuff you should be doing every day. It's a good habit. That's the first thing: Build a good habit. Start using spaced repetition. Number two, start thinking actively instead of passively. Do questions. Do questions every day. When I think spaced repetition, I often think flashcards. With questions, you're being a little more aggressive in terms of tying information together. That's the next thing I would do. The third thing I would do—instead of just consuming, consuming, consuming—is produce. Make something. Make up flashcards. Make a question. You'll learn it much better than just consuming. You can get really good at consuming videos, flashcards, and questions. Maybe you can do a thousand questions and maybe you'd get a great NBME score. You'll get a better score if you start producing. Produce questions for yourself that you have to answer 6 months from now or a year from now. Send some to your peers. The platform allows you to do that, too.

Bhavsar: These are all things you can do on Osmosis, on the website?

Desai: Yes. Basically, a couple of med students sat around a number of years ago and thought, "Hey, how can we make this medical education thing better?" We looked around at the learning sciences and said, "There is this information out there on how to learn better. Why don't we actually build something to make this work?" Everything I'm talking about is not theoretical. You can actually sit down at Osmosis and do those things. You can do flashcards, questions, spaced repetition, and produce content. You can do all that stuff.

Bhavsar: As medical students, we have a pre-dedicated period and a dedicated period before the boards. How should the student use Osmosis during lecture time and during a dedicated period?

Desai: Pre-dedicated is when you're just trying to essentially create a good foundation. You create a good foundation by making sure that you dive deep into topics. You ask "why," not just understand the fact that some syndrome happens. You ask yourself, "When, embryologically, was that heart developing that then later developed some sort of an issue? At what stage was that occurring?" Test yourself. Make sure your foundation is solid so you can say, "Oh yeah, it was around week 14 that that would happen." That's number one. That's pre-dedicated—having a really solid foundation and feeling comfortable. You know when you're uneasy about a topic, like "Oh God, biochem. I really have to think about that." Think about those things pre-dedicated.

In dedicated, probe your weaknesses. Say, "Okay, I know I'm weak in these areas or I think I could be weak. I'm going to probe those areas. I'm going to do a lot of questions in renal because I feel like I'm pretty weak there." Probe those weaknesses and actually start spending time reading those answer explanations. That's where you should spend all of your time: reading answer explanations. In the pre-dedicated period, I would spend most of your time doing flashcards and actually learning. If you learn from videos, that's a great place to go. If you learn from reading, that's great; we've got notes and things like that. You spend more time in notes, videos, and flashcards when you're in pre-dedicated. In dedicated, I would spend time with answer explanations.

The bonus would be post-dedicated. It's great to be dedicated to an exam, but it's better to be dedicated to your patients. I'll tell you that I thought the same way when I was a med student. I thought, "Alright, I have my exam. I'm going to try to rock it and then I'm done. I'm good to go." I can't tell you how many times I look up stuff every single day. Now I'm quick as a rabbit looking stuff up. I can find stuff pretty fast. I would challenge any med student to find something and practice. I do it just about every day. You've maybe practiced for 2 years. I've practiced for about 18. Now I'm really fast at it. Just remember that this is a skill. You're 2 years in, and that's good. But you're going to have to do this for 18, 20, 30, 40 years. You're going to be looking things up every single day. "I don't know things"—that's good; that means I have to look it up. Just remember that there's a post-dedicated set of decades that you have to plan these good habits for as well.

Bhavsar: There's definitely a lot of wisdom there. I think a lot of us don't really think about that on a day-to-day basis.


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