Don't Be Stupid: 5 Gift Ideas for an Incoming Medical Student

          So you’re excited about the fall.  You’ve gotten that acceptance letter and, almost as quickly as it came, you sent in your formal acceptance of matriculation.  You dream you’ll be assisting in medical procedures and major surgeries.  I'm talking, when that head doctor requests, “Hemostat!” you just know you’re going to be the best “hander of equipment” ever! You can’t wait to freely and openly give your opinion on what your team should do to treat that ICU patient.  I mean, you did just stay up all night reading up on his care and the pathophysiology of his disease, so that will be a no-brainer.  You’re so confident in your ability to answer those questions on the first day of class.  After all, you got all A’s in undergrad, so this will be a piece of cake, right?

          Listen, I’m by all means not a dream killer.  But your expectations of medical school may or may not be far off if what you believe is the above (unless you are already a medical student, in which case, you have already had the red carpet of doom laid out for you).  The reality is, you will be studying probably for mmmmmm, I’d say a ball-park figure of about 22 hours, 36 minutes, and 18 seconds every day.  (This is not a point of discouragement, trust me, there have been those before you who have done it, including me, and there will be those after you! If we can do it, you can too!) On top of this small time “blimp” of, once again, ball park figure of 22 hours, 36 minutes, and 18 seconds in your day, you are going to have to balance being broke.  Your tuition, your books, your constant slew of fees for exam after exam after exam, your medial equipment, and you living expenses…yeah, need I go on? I’m sure the point has been made that the bill will add up.  And listen (or read, rather), I really do hate to keep bringing this up, but with that 22 hours, 36 minutes, and 18 second time gap in your day everyday, most do not have time for a real job.  So with no real way to counter the pure robbery of medical school, your financial cup shall runneth over.  

          With that being said, although I don’t have ANYONE in my family in the medical field, I’m a frugal Freddy, and caught a tight hold to this wind of pure robbery before I even set foot in my medical school.  So my first tip, is to actually use this time to ask for REAL gifts! A lot of you guys are graduating college, graduate programs, research programs…whatever the case may be.  For graduation, do not… I repeat, DO NOT ask for foolish gifts! Sure, you deserve gifts for your accomplishments thus far.  But that Apple TV, game console, that trip to a tropical island.... all can wait! Now I’m not saying to call up everyone you know and ask for a graduation gift.  I mean I ain’t tacky.  But for those people that actually ask, don’t feel obligated to say, “Oh nothing.” You deserve help! Below are some gifts that are perfect for incoming med students!


1. Gift Cards... Galore!

          Me stocking up on gift cards throughout medical school was both and understatement, and a blessing.  I had gift cards to all my favorite and local healthy eateries, gas stations, and clothing stores.  Look up the location of your medical school / the medical school where your potential gift receiver will be going and find HEALTHY restaurants near it, and buy gift cards to these places! Working all day and studying all night actually requires A LOT of energy, and can cut back on time at the gym.  Keep yourself / your gift receiver healthy and full of energy!

          I didn't have a car in medical school, but I always asked for gas cards to fill up a tank should I ever have needed to use someone's car, or for whenever I came home for a vacation and needed to drive mine.  Needless to say with gas prices being the way they were for the past 108,345 years, these came in handy.  If you or yours will be living in an area with a metro-rail system, a trip card is a life saver.  Trust me! It definitely was mine.  Got a birthday? A reload on that trip or gas card would be nice!!!

          Gift cards to a clothing store will never be a bad idea.  Now I’m not talking to Abercrombie or Wet Seal, I mean to places like Jos A. Bank, The Limited, Express, etc. for professional clothes.  This will come in handy for clinical skills practice lab, and preceptorship rotations in the hospital. 

2. Textbooks and Study Guides

          Now you may not know exactly what will be needed before you even go to med school, but some common books you will need your first two years are First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 Study Guide, Robbins Pathologic Basis of Disease, Pathoma Fundamentals of Pathology, and the Bible.  Yes, you will need Jesus.  During your third and fourth year, Case Files and / or BRS (Board Review Series) Study guides will become closer friends to you. 


3. Purchase a Step Exam

           A picture is worth a thousand words.  Well, your step exams are worth and will cost you thousands of dollars.  Not...kidding.  So, the above picture is ideal.  Now the step exam won’t come for a while, but this could be a promise from the gift giver him / herself.  No better response to, “What do you want for graduation?” than, “Just prayers for now and pitch in for a step exam when the time is right.” Now just bear in mind that these exams range up to $1000-$2000, so this gift from a few people for their prayers to get you to the actual exam, and then funding a small portion of the exam itself, wouldn’t hurt.  


4. Exam Question Bank

          This will be just as important as the exam itself.  UWorld and Firecracker (board exam question banks and study guides) will usually cost a pretty penny, so once again, a promise from a few supporters when exam prep time rolls around would not hurt.


5. Medical Equipment

          I say this with caution, because you yourself or potential recipient may not know what he or she wants to go into.  And even if he or she is, there is a high chance that this may change.  However, you can never steer wrong with a simple stethoscope.  You could even be fancy and throw a sappy inscription in there; just be mindful that your potential med student may go into a field where their stethoscope could end up collecting dust, or worse, lost (I just lost mine… I’m a loser).  So, I would save the inscription for the medical school graduate.  I would suggest a clipboard from  They are all the rage in the hospital.  You can chart your patients' notes, and have all your conversion factors and quick references at hand.  Perfect for any med student, incoming and current!

          Hope this list of goodies helps some of you gift-askers and gift-givers out! I have some more ideas for the medical school graduate, but you have four years until that point (unless you are already in medical school).  Either way, stay tuned!

   ***Any images used may or may not be solely my own, and no plagiarism was intended.***