Dr. Buck Parker: Academic Struggles to an ‘A’ Student

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Dr. Buck Parker: Academic Struggles to an 'A' Student

Session 291

Today, Dr. Buck Parker shares his journey from struggling during undergrad to succeeding in medical school. Dr. Buck is a general surgeon who specializes in trauma surgery, and he talks about his journey today. He also talks about his online course, Secret Study Hacks.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[02:20] Dr. Buck’s Initial Interest in Medicine and Surgery

Buck’s dad was big on hunting when he was younger; in fact, Buck began hunting at age 10. Then he got into big-game hunting. As Buck was seeing the organs of the animals, his curiosity grew. By age 19, he saw a documentary about surgeons, which he thought was the coolest thing in the universe. Ultimately, being a surgeon is what he has always wanted to do.

Being a surgeon is what he has always wanted to do.Click To Tweet

Early Difficulties with School

Not getting good grades in high school, Buck only went to college because his parents told him to. He didn’t think he’d do well. He was a biology major, but he didn’t really believe in himself. He was just partying, and he barely went to class.

It was during his second semester that he got a 1.7 GPA and his parents told him they weren’t sure if they’d continue to shoulder his college expenses. After failing chemistry, he knew he had to do something. So he started studying in organic chemistry, but he admits not to have done it right. Obviously, he still wasn’t doing well on the tests.

Working with a Tutor Turned Things Around for Buck

Then he decided to get a tutor for physics, and the tutor taught him the basics of studying, how to prepare for exams, etc. Buck got the highest grade in the class for that first physics exam! They literally didn’t believe him, thinking he was cheating. But the same trend went on test after test. This built his confidence.

After acing physics, I felt like I could do anything.Click To Tweet

[09:45] The Culture of Studying

After medical school, Buck started reading books about productivity and studying. He explains that studying is very cultural, in fact, even micro-cultural, which means on a family level. So for instance, some parents pass on the habits of studying to their kids, whereas others don’t. If you didn’t grow up in a family where studying was the norm, often you need to make effort to adopt that culture of studying.

The more I read about studying and study habits, the more I think it's very cultural.Click To Tweet

[12:15] Going to Medical School Outside of the U.S.

The counselors at college that he approached totally brushed him off when he asked about medical school. But Buck had a family friend from India. That family friend told Buck he could go to any school outside of the U.S. as long as he comes back, and he’d be eligible to get a residency.

So Buck went to med school internationally. Looking back now, he wishes he could have researched a bit more and found a better school. There are programs in the Caribbean that are strong, though.

Pursuing Surgery as an International Medical Graduate

As an international medical graduate, Buck wanted to do surgery and nothing else. During interviews, he would be asked about his backup plan, but he was dead set on surgery. Period. And so when asked what he’d do if he didn’t get in that year, he told them he’d still apply next year.

It's not so much that I was confident—it's that I only had one goal.Click To Tweet

Not Having a Plan B

There’s data that shows form a psychology standpoint that if you have a plan B, you’re less likely to put everything into your plan A. With Buck, he didn’t have any Plan B, and he stuck with Plan A the whole time. He put all of his efforts into that.

Buck thinks the reason people ask you for a backup plan is that they want you to be okay. But what they don’t realize is by doing that, you’re sabotaging the person. They want you to be safe, but they’re actually sabotaging you.

The most unsafe thing you can do is go after something you don't want. You're guaranteed to be miserable.Click To Tweet

[20:15] Dr. Buck’s Study Habits During Medical School

Once he was doing really well, his study habits didn’t really change a lot. Everything was just amplified. He says you end up incrementally improving.

But as for the big strategies like studying every day, reading before class, or making some associations in your mind—all those things were premed strategies that Buck took into medical school. All he had to do was refine what he did for medical school.

[Related episode: Study Habits and Tips for the Premed Student.]

[22:27] The Biggest Study Mistakes Students Make

Dr. Buck believes that students tend to underestimate the effort it will take to get a certain grade in a certain class. So you don’t study much for the first few weeks, and then you end up needing to cram for an exam.

Another problem for many students is that they can’t delay gratification. So what’s happening around them can distract them from sitting down and studying.

When something is further away, we don't feel the importance of it. We just have this natural bias as humans toward the immediate.Click To Tweet

As humans, we don’t feel like we need to worry about something that’s due in two months. So we have to bring that two months away to today. Develop a kind of “healthy paranoia” in your studying because if you can develop that, then you’re super focused to get it done today. And tomorrow is the same thing, and so on.

Develop a kind of 'healthy paranoia' in your studying where you feel like you need to get it done today, even if the test is months away.Click To Tweet

Sticking to a Study Schedule

The easiest way to approach a big study goal is just to break it into small chunks and pick one to be what you’re going to do today. Some days, you get more done while other days, you’re going to get less. Overall, try to keep that schedule.

Buck admits he rarely kept to his schedule in medical school, but he was still so far ahead of everybody else, he was still doing well.

There's so much information to learn at once in medical school, but it's going to be even more at once if you take a break.Click To Tweet

[27:20] Why Is Studying So Hard?

Buck things the reason studying is so hard for people is due to a culture where we’re just not taught, or that our micro-cultures have not delivered that while we were younger.

Studying is really not pleasurable for most people. Not everybody is willing to delay gratification to study more. But you have to go through all this pain right now in order to get to your goal and be able to treat patients.

You have to go through all this pain right now in order to get to your goal and be able to treat patients.Click To Tweet

Creating a Mindset Change with Secret Study Hacks

With Secret Study Hacks, Buck’s goal is to inculcate in students the belief that it’s possible. A lot of students he talked with were speaking as if it wasn’t possible. So the first step is a change of mindset.

The second step has to do with building the correct habits and learning about habits and how our brain works. We have neural pathways, and our brain basically has automated programs. If you can build the automated programs to study the right way, then that will come much easier. And you won’t have to spend a lot of energy choosing between studying or not; you will no longer have any choice.

Once you've built the habit of studying all the time, there's no choice point. This is just what you do every day. It doesn't cause you pain.Click To Tweet

Next, figure out how you can get yourself to do that even if you don’t want to do that. Again, think about how you’re going to fix your mindset. Hack your thoughts and emotions so you’ll be able to complete the needed tasks with less pain.

[31:14] Secret Study Hacks: Motivation and Environment

Dr. Buck stresses the importance of staying motivated throughout the day. What’s going to keep you in your seat when all your friends want to go out?

What's going to keep you home studying when all your friends want to go out?Click To Tweet

Lastly, your environment affects how you make decisions, how you study, and how can hack your brain in a performance sense. Buck says Nutrition has a lot to do with that, and your surroundings play a role, as well.

[32:20] Resources for Mindset Change

Dr. Buck recommends the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Buck says if he had known about it earlier, he could have set up much better habits for himself during residency, which was really hard for him. If he understood how his brain worked a little bit better, he wouldn’t have had to go astray so many times.

[Related episode: Top Habits and Attitudes of Humanistic Physicians.]

[33:30] Final Words of Wisdom from Dr. Buck Parker

Anybody with an average IQ can go into medicine. Buck was in a position where he didn’t think he was smart enough to go into medicine, but he learned that it’s not really about that. It takes dedication and the right strategies to pursue medicine. Anybody can do it. But you have to be able to study correctly first. Stay motivated and have a purpose.

[34:23] Review of Buck Parker’s Secret Study Hacks Course

Buck gave me free access to his course. Let me do a quick review of the course. So you will find some videos on the site and you will notice how Buck breaks down everything he has learned about studying. You’re paying to expedite the process of reading all the books he has read and learning the takeaways he has learned.

The great thing about Secret Study Hacks is that they’re all condensed into a course that Buck has put together for you. At the time of this recording, the program costs $97/year, and with that, you get access to the course and some other add-ons and bonuses including weekly live calls with Buck and a membership to their Facebook group.

If you need help studying and you find you don’t have the time to go out and read all these books about studying yourself, perhaps you can subscribe to his program for a year. It’s up to you.

I’ve asked students about Buck’s course, and they said it wasn’t new information but it was all gathered together and packaged up nicely, so you get it concisely and quickly versus going out and reading all the books yourself. Plus, you’re getting it from somebody who has been through medical school and knows what you’re about to encounter. So he’s framing everything around that.

Go to medicalschoolhq.net/studyhacks to sign up for Buck’s program.

Links and Other Resource