Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Physiology: Guide to First Year Medicine



To be honest I didn’t even know what Physiology meant when I started First Year! It’s the science of the function of living systems and is an endlessly fascinating subject. It’s essentially learning about how the body works on a mechanical and biochemical level.

In my opinion physiology is probably the most relevant part of your Foundations in Medicine modules (FM100x) to practicing as a doctor as it allows you to almost visualize the problem or mechanism of illness and then hypothesize about how to resolve it on a scientific basis. Because everything in the body is positioned and structured where and how they are for a reason, physiology closely ties in with anatomy and that’s why it’s a huge plus that they are taught in an integrated manor. Physiology is also incredibly useful in your Clinical Science and Practice module (CP1002), the teaching of which is mainly based on anatomy and physiology.

In addition to lectures you will also have Physiology lab practicals which also act as tutorials for the module. Personally I found the powerpoint and .pdf notes from the practicals more comprehensive and helpful than the actual lecture notes so I strongly advise using them as a vital study aid. Also note that there are mini-tests at the end of these practical (True/ False/ Don’t Know type questions) so I advise studying before the practical and paying attention at the end of the tutorial (however these exams don’t count towards your final grade).

When it comes to physiology books at some stage you will be told to buy Fox’s Human Physiology and I regret falling into that trap. Firstly you won’t use it that much and secondly there are other physiology books far better than this one. Most people like Berne & Levy’s Physiology, Guyton & Hall’s Medical Physiology or Boron & Boulpaep’s Medical Physiology. It’s better to just check these books out in the library and see which one suits your learning style best. These books would set you back a lot of money so if you don’t mind reading off a screen when you can’t get the book in the library I know that you can get a lot of free .pdf versions of these books online and if you can’t find them I’m sure a friendly second year could help you out.

Like the other components of the FM100x modules you will be examined through multiple choice questions (MCQs) at the end of the module and again at the end of the year. The format is a question followed by one correct out of a possible five answers.

FM1001 – Introduction to Human Physiology

As this is your first module, the content isn’t that difficult however you may find yourself having to adjust to the new way of learning in university so it is important to keep up with it as you go along (In fact that is the best way to get you through first year instead of leaving things until the last minute!). In this module you will cover basics like body water, transportation, nerves and muscle. It may be beneficial to find a good revision book to help you get a firm understanding of nerves and synapses and neuromuscular junctions etc. for this module in particular. I found Medical Physiology of Lippincott’s illustrated Review Series good for me and also the lab practical tutorial notes.

FM1002 – Cardiovascular, Haematological and Respiratory Biology

This is the most enjoyable part of physiology in first year in my opinion. However there is a lot more material in comparison to FM1001. I think the title of the module is pretty self explanatory as to what you’ll be covering so I won’t go into that but I will say that it is important to get a grips with reading ECGs early on as a lot of people had some difficulty with them. An excellent website for learning about ECGs is: http://www.ambulancetechnicianstudy.co.uk/card.html#.UFWpY41lRcQ
I found myself going back to this site again and again during the course of the year so it is well worth your while checking it out.
Another thing to note is that not all lecturers but there notes up online on blackboard. We discovered that in FM1002 Respiratory Physiology where we had to take down all the slides during the lecture so it is vital you attend as the notes are very good and essentially all you need to study for this module.

FM1003 – GIT, Nutritional and Metabolic Biology

For many reasons I found this the most challenging and difficult part of first year physiology. Firstly you are following the course of your dinner from start to finish and everything that happens to it along the way. It is a very long and complicated with many different controlling factors that interplay with each other at various parts of the digestive system. Secondly the lecturers in this module expected a good deal of extra reading to be done in addition to the complex and confusing lecture slides. The exam questions where also quite technical in comparison to previous exams so if you can dedicate proportionately more time to FM1003 Physiology I strongly recommend it. For this module Boron & Boulpaep is the go to book.
So I hope this helps you in some shape or form. Good luck in your studies and exams and I hope you enjoy first year! I’d be more than happy to help if anyone want’s more info.

Michael Hanrahan (Class of 2016).

info is relevant to UCC.