*Closed for now* Ask a Med Student!

Hi guys! I’m currently a 4th year medical student and I actually have a bit of free time in my schedule right now. So I wanted to make this thread as a place for you to ask medical/doctor questions that you might have for your story! This includes what medical school looks like as a student, how things might work if you have a character in the hospital or giving birth, or even medications and diagnoses.

Of course, disclaimer: I’m a student, which means I only know so much. And, of course, even if I were a doctor, if you actually have a medical issue, you should get that checked out in person. This thread isn’t supposed to be to get free medical advice; it’s to help with your writing! And finally, even though I may know some medical things, it doesn’t mean I know what the experience of having that illness is like. So, for example, I can tell you how a doctor might go about diagnosing/treating someone with ADHD, but I can’t really tell you what it’s like to have ADHD!

I was wondering if you had to pass an entry exam before beginning your studies? If so how did you prepare for it?


Hi! So I’m a medical student in the United States, and most of the time, you do have to take an exam to be accepted into medical school (there are a few exceptions to this, but it’s pretty rare).

The exam is called the “MCAT” (the Medical College Admissions Test). When I took the exam, there was a biology/organic chemistry section, a chemistry/physics section, and a reading section. Since I’ve taken the exam, they have also added a “Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior” section.

I actually signed up for a Kaplan test course before I took the exam. It was a group-style class, where you paid for books and were given homework assignments, and then you met up in person and went through questions together as well as concepts. I also did a few practice exams on my own (the exam is over 7 hours long now!) The class was decently pricey, but I thought it was helpful. Other people will just buy prep books and study on their own.


Do you know what treatment (Preferably one that a person could do at home) would be for a person with first degree burns that put snow on it?

I read that putting snow on burns would make the burn worse.

First degree burns are actually the mildest type of burn, so I’m not sure if you meant that. But a first-degree burn is like when you put your hand on the stove for half a second or you burn yourself with a curling iron really quickly. To treat those, you put your hand in running cool water for a few minutes (not something freezing or super cold like snow because that can cause frostbite). You can take an over the counter pain medication for the pain. And to help prevent scarring, put on an ointment (like Neosporin) and a bandaid.

Let me know if you actually meant something really serious, like a third degree burn. For those, if it’s bigger than like the size of a quarter, you need skin grafts for it to fully heal. And actually, third degree burns can sometimes not be painful, because they’re so deep that they’ve killed the nerve that senses pain!



I guess I sort of combined first and second degree burns, so is there much of a difference with second degree burn treatment. And just to be clear, the burns are on the shoulder areas.

Ooh second degree burns are a little worse than first, but can still be treated at home. They just burned a little deeper into the skin, so when they heal, you’ll get a blister. But otherwise, it’s similar treatment to first degree: run in cool water for like fifteen minutes, put on ointment, and cover it up with a bandage for best healing. And don’t pop the blister!


Is it okay if you put hydrogen peroxide on it? My character also has minor cuts along the burns.

So actually, we don’t recommend putting hydrogen peroxide on cuts because it actually can harm your skin and delay healing. For cuts, it’s really just recommended to run it under water for a while!

Same with burns. Hydrogen peroxide can harm the skin and delay healing. So if your character knows a lot about medicine and first aid, they’d probably skip the hydrogen peroxide all together. But if they’re just a normal person and using hydrogen peroxide because that’s how they were raised (and honestly that’s how a lot of us were raised), it probably wouldn’t do anything super bad to the burn. But it just wouldn’t be as good as just using water.

(You can also use mild soap on wounds)


Thank you so such, I’ll also keep this in mind for RL. I can’t thank you enough!

Glad you found it helpful :slight_smile:

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Hey! I had a question! So, when it comes to dilated cardiomyopathies, I heard they can be passed down genetically. Can a 31 year old male who had it since birth stay alive? Is that logical?

Also, I’m wondering which congenital heart defects don’t require surgery (rather medicine), yet can cause death if you don’t take medicine regularly.

No, I’m not trying to murder someone :joy:

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Hi! First of all, thanks for letting me brush up on my cardiomyopathies :stuck_out_tongue:

So yes! Someone with a genetically inherited cardiomyopathy can still be alive at age 31! Actually, I just found a paper where the average age of diagnosis for the patients in their study was actually 31.8! So, it’s very likely that your character is still alive and pretty healthy. They might have just started having symptoms of the disease.

As for your congenital heart defects question… so for dilated cardiomyopathy, if you start getting signs of heart failure, you treat with heart failure medications (ACE-Is like lisinopril, beta blockers like atenolol, and diuretics like furosemide). It can also cause arrhythmias of the heart (where your heart doesn’t beat in a normal ba-dup ba-dup rhythm) and you need to take medications for that as well. While some people may opt to get a heart transplant to cure it, that’s a big decision. So one scenario I could see is someone using medications to treat this illness while maybe waiting for/deciding to get a heart transplant, and then get sick of taking all their meds, stop taking an antiarrythmia medication, and then essentially their heart goes into an abnormal rhythm, they require CPR, etc etc… and they could die.

There’s another condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. This is also inherited. Unlike in dilated cardiomyopathies (where the heart wall is floppy), in this one, the heart muscle is too thick. You actually can hear a murmur when listening with a stethoscope. If someone has this disease and has symptoms, they also should take medications. Not taking them can cause the disease to progress, etc. However, the interesting thing about HCM is that patients can also suddenly die if they do extreme exercise. They actually tell these patients not to play sports! In Italy (where soccer is a huge sport), they actually screen potential soccer players for this, because they don’t want players to suddenly die while out on the field!

Finally, you can inherit arrhythmia syndromes where you don’t have anything physically wrong with the shape of your heart, but on a molecular level, things don’t work perfectly, so you’re at risk for getting an arrythmia and suddenly dying. An example for this is called “long QT syndrome.” All of these patients should take a beta blocker, as well as watch out for certain medications that can “lengthen their QT” and essentially cause an arrhythmia. If they don’t take their medication, they are at a higher risk of getting a fatal aryhthmia.

Soo… this was a long, rambling post. In general, I think your best bet for killing off someone who was born with a heart condition who didn’t take their medication is to give someone an aryhthmia disorder, since arythmias strike fast and kill quickly. Structural issues with the heart (like cardiomyopathies) can also cause arrythmias, as can things like long QT syndrome.


Bumping in case anyone else has any questions!

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If you are in the intensive care, unconscious, after a head trauma, are your family and perhaps friends allowed to see you, touch you, talk to you, etc.? Or do they get to stare you through a glass window, longingly, their tears falling silently to the ground while their hands slide against the glass?


Hey, two questions.

  1. If you were to insert a six in blade into someone’s back just below the rib line how fast would they likely bleed out/ succumb to other complications?

  2. How long do you typically have to clear someone’s system of a poison with sedative-like characteristics? This is under the assumption that they definitely took too much for any medical purposes.

Asking for a friend, thanks.

(P.S. I need this for writing)


In the ICU, your family and close friends are definitely allowed to come in the room, sit with you, touch you, etc!

The only time they aren’t allowed in is if a procedure needs to be done; then the staff might tell your family to wait outside in a waiting room while the doctors do it. :slight_smile:

Hope that was helpful @Phedoria!


Thank you very much for your answer :slight_smile:.

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Hi @Spookyspackles! I guess it depends on what you hit with your blade! If you hit the spleen (which is located on your left side near your back, right around the level you’re talking about), you could definitely bleed out because the spleen is a high vascular organ (has lots of blood vessels). That said, it can take two hours to bleed out from that.

If you aim a little higher and get in between some ribs, you can get something called a “tension pneumothorax.” Essentially, air gets trapped in the space between your ribs and your lungs (you could also get blood building up in that space, called a “hemothorax.”) As the pressure builds, you can’t inflate your lungs well, and you can suffocate to death. This could cause death within 30 minutes.

And of course, if you stab someone a lot, you’re likely to hit more things and have someone die faster.

As for “clearing poison”–I guess it depends. If the poison causes sedative-like properties (aka slows your breathing), the number one thing doctors are doing to do is try to get you to start breathing again. Heroin/opioids are an example of this. If you are found down and they expect an opioid overdose, first they’ll give you a med called Narcan (naloxone) which can immediately reverse the effects of the opiate. If that doesn’t work and you’re still breathing really slowly (aka depriving your brain of oxygen), the goal is to get you to the hospital ASAP and intubate you! Intubating is when they put a tube down your throat and hook you up to a ventilator to force you to breathe. That’s the more important thing–even more important than “clearing the poison” since a lot of the times, you just have to wait for it to wear off. How long you have sort of depends on how slowly the person is breathing: if they aren’t breathing at all, this needs to be done immediately (like 3 to 5 minutes) before they become brain dead. If they are just breathing a little slowly, you have a little more time.

Hope that was somewhat helpful!


This thread is a godsend, thank you so much!

If you twisted someone’s arm up in the back and then suspended their weight from that arm, what would give? Muscle? Tendon? Bone? Or would the arm pop out of the socket?
I tried googling, but seriously, I think I’m on some kind of list now. :joy:

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