Spring 2016 Dean’s Prize Winner

Congratulations to Lisa Gridley, the Spring 2016 recipient of the Yo San University Dean’s Prize. The Dean’s Prize is awarded to the student achieving the highest score on the MATCM Graduation Exam. Below Lisa shares tips, tricks and wise words about getting through the program.

What are your tips for achieving high test scores?

To start, I think it is important to not miss any classes.  Pay attention, take notes, and stay current with the material.  Then when it is time to start thinking about the big exams like preclinical, grad, nationals, and CALE…START EARLY.  There is simply no way around it.  You must study.  Again and again.  Review the material.  Read the books.  Write out notes and charts.  Find patterns in the material.  Take review courses.  Take sample tests.  And when the time comes and you take the test, there won’t be any more stress because you are ready.  You have put in the time to earn the knowledge.  Nothing of great value should come easily.  This is life long study and practice.  While we are in the Master’s program, this is our foundation for our own journey into the practice of the medicine, which will continue to evolve in our understanding.  It is important to have the best foundation laid in order to build a great and strong house.  So, take the time to study.

What are your success habits?

Whatever I do, I try and do it well and with my whole heart and attention.  Through many years of practicing yoga and meditation, I feel that has helped build the ability to focus and have sustained concentration. So, I highly recommend Qi cultivation and meditation.

Do you have an ideal place to study?

Yes!  For the first few years at Yo San, I really enjoyed spending long hours at various coffee shops within a 10 mile radius.  There are many cute little places that made it “exciting” to try something new, yet also comforting since I knew that I could stay for hours without feeling awkward.  I like the coffee shops because they often have the energy of people studying or working on something they find interesting.  I also like to people watch, and this also makes it a good place for me because it is important to take frequent short breaks, yet be able to get back on track quickly.  The last year I have changed my habits to mostly studying at home which I used to find very difficult because for some reason the moment I would sit down to study, 10 minutes would go by and my mind and then body would go to task on deep cleaning or organizing the house…hours would go by and the house would be clean and files meticulously put away, but not much studying accomplished.  So home study only worked for me much later in the program.

Do you utilize study groups?

Occasionally yes, and they have been helpful.  For heavy duty study periods, like preparing for the preclinical, I studied 6 to 8 hours a day for 3 weeks over Christmas break in coffee shops with the amazing Sandra Hung.  For us, that worked out well because we reviewed on our own, writing out notes and charts next to each other, and then would summarize to the other out loud explaining what we learned.  It also made it quicker to clarify depending on who understood or remembered a particular aspect better.  It made it more fun and easier to put in long dedicated hours.  So yes, I think study groups are very helpful, but it does NOT take the place of all of the individual work one has to take the time to dedicate.  Start studying, reading, reviewing, and organizing the material early, like starting the trimester BEFORE the big test you want to take (that would equal roughly 6 to 7 months of regular review before the test), and then for the extra boost get in with your study buddy or small group.

Any tips regarding achieving a school/life balance?

Haha.  Good luck!  This has been challenging for me! I worked 20 to 30 hours a week for the first 3 years of school, have a wonderful boyfriend and full-time school.  This made it hardest to find time for me.  But, I guess in a way the whole program is something I am doing for me so I can help others and have a career doing just that.  So with that logic, in a strange way, school has been a lot of “me” time, and I have really enjoyed being a student.

I think I went up and down with periods where I felt overwhelmed and frazzled, sometimes letting the pressure I put on myself to get the best of me.  To get and keep me grounded, I found refuge in always going back to the basics…healthy routines of getting to sleep at a reasonable hour so I could wake up early enough to have time to exercise in the morning.  Exercise has really helped bring in more energy throughout the day, especially because of all of the time spent sitting in classes and studying.  So whatever kind you enjoy, I highly suggest finding the time to keep it up.  While I enjoyed learning different Qi exercises in the program, my main Qi cultivation practice continues to be an at-home practice of Sivananda Yoga, so when I also made time to do the asanas and breathing exercises, I noticed a big difference.  Also eating healthily so I had the proper fuel for my mind and body…however, I have to admit I made it a point to indulge when I needed to ease the stress.  And making sure to make my loved ones the priority by taking time at the end of each day where I could set the studies aside and enjoy time with just them.  A happy home has been a great support through all of the school stresses.  And I always found peace when spending time outside, breathing fresh air and taking a nice walk whether it was in the neighborhood, on the beach, or on a hike in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Oh, and I can’t forget the benefit of weekly acupuncture treatments!  While I kept this practice on and off throughout, I highly recommend it regularly. Not only has it helped keep me in balance, but before I was even in the clinic portion, I gained understanding through getting treatments from many different interns under different supervisors and experiencing it through a patient’s eyes.  I consider this part of my education, but it has also helped my overall health tremendously.

I also think while being a dedicated and serious student is necessary, it is equally as important to relax and smile and enjoy this beautiful journey and gift of learning the Tao of Chinese medicine, in all its infinite simplicity, diversity, and complexity.  And don’t worry, some of the material will come naturally and other parts take time to marinade…in the famous words of the ole 1988 song by Bobby McFerrin, “In every life we have some trouble, but when we worry we make it double. Don’t worry, be happy now.”  So, enjoy the ride and know mistakes, missteps, and life challenges are bound to come up, but keep your smile and dedication. Everyone’s journey will have their own unique approach, so always check in with yourself and your spirit and see if you are feeling connected and fulfilled. Be honest with yourself with what is working and what needs adjusting.  Yo San is a great community with wonderful students and staff, so if you need help there will certainly be some support to guide you if you need.

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