Birthday Gift for sister
July 23, 2009 11:52 AM   Subscribe

Hey, my sister is turning 21 and she just finished a 4-year undergraduate degree and has been accepted in Med School in the fall. What cool gift can I get her (possible Med School related) Thanks
posted by happydude123 to Human Relations (30 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:58 AM on July 23, 2009

When my roommate decided to go pre-med, she was really excited to get a quality stethoscope from her parents.
posted by Nickel at 11:58 AM on July 23, 2009

Yes, a good stethoscope ($200-400) is the prototypical useful/status doctor accessory, but she won't need that for a couple of years. Long before that she'll need to read, read, take notes, study, read, run around, study, take more notes, run somewhere else, read, and study some more. And also read a lot. The first couple years are more biology than medicine, anyway, so typical college gear is most useful.

So: Good pens and moleskins, an iPhone or a netbook for notes and connectivity on the run, a nice portable reading lamp, a coffee-or-tea maker (and a portable thermos cup), and any of the other things that people need to keep organized (Daytimer?) and active.
posted by rokusan at 12:01 PM on July 23, 2009

(I don't know the good stethoscope brands, only that there's a lot of difference in performance and prestige between some of the cheap ones they sell on campus and the professional ones.... I bet there are some MeFi MDs who can help with that info though. She'll also lose at least one, so be ready for that.)
posted by rokusan at 12:03 PM on July 23, 2009

If I'm ever in the position to give someone a gift for med school, my inspiration will be right here.

A nice fountain pen with a note that says something along the lines of:

When you find yourself scribbling your comments in a patient's file, or prescribe medication for another, remember this fountain pen and the patience it ensures. Take your time, for it's always well-deserved.

idk, something like that.
posted by Precision at 12:15 PM on July 23, 2009

Stethoscopes are SO cliched. Get an articulated skeleton instead.
posted by The Michael The at 12:20 PM on July 23, 2009

You could check with the school to see what is required for first year students (probably on their website), and also whether or not the school will provide those things. Some type of PDA (palm, WM, apple) is really useful, you could get one of those if not provided by the school or buy some applications for it. I was happy with Skyscape, there are other companies producing this type of content as well.

A comfortable bag for hauling around books/laptop/other stuff is nice. A variety of coffee-making appliances was pretty key for me.

Happy shopping.
posted by sero_venientibus_ossa at 12:22 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

So, when I was ready to start med school, my father got me a stethoscope and a black bag. The stethoscope was great. The black bag has been sitting on a shelf for years.

I'm not saying that a stethoscope isn't great. It is. So is a super-nice pen, but trust me, you don't want to take a super-nice pen to a hospital, and fountain pens may not be compatible with multi-copy forms (pressing too hard could hurt the nib).

One thing that I've given to friends who have graduated medical school is a copy of Osler's Aequanimitas. This is a speech that William Osler gave upon leaving the University of Pennsylvania for Hopkins. It addresses a quality that I've found to something that I've always seen in the physicians who I admire most - the ability to remain calm in the midst of crisis, and the ability to leverage that calm to continue to do what is best for the patient. For me, it is defining characteristic of a great physician.

This speech, among others of his, is included in a book called Aequanimitas with other Addresses to Medical Students etc. The book used to be given to graduating medical students for decades as a gift from Eli Lilly (the drug company).

You can still find orignal copies of the book on eBay. I think that it's a nice, classy, unique gift for someone who is going into medicine and who would appreciate the history of the profession and the ideals that it used to aspire to.
posted by scblackman at 12:28 PM on July 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

People say nice things about the Cardiology 3 for med students, not too expensive either. This is both a nice symbolic gift and a practical one since school will require her to own one soon. Be careful though, lots of people think this same thing! The most expensive piece of exam glam that I remember people buying was a PanOptic Ophthalmoscope, which runs $450 to $700 based on the whims of the gods (I see students selling used for MUCH less - gotta get that ramen somehow).
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:32 PM on July 23, 2009

Just for clarification: The fountain pen is meant to be symbolic. I don't for a second think that any doctor is actually going to use a fountain pen when writing prescriptions.
posted by Precision at 12:36 PM on July 23, 2009

I'd get stuff that's useful, and tech stuff is always useful. A laptop, a laptop bag, an iRex reader, etc. Pens are overrated, and I say that as one who got a nice Mont Blanc when I got into law school. I never write by hand these days!
posted by dhn at 12:40 PM on July 23, 2009

What about checking their text book list and purchasing one of the biggies she'll use for years? Say, Robbins Pathological Basis of Disease or, Cecil Medicine.
posted by haunted by Leonard Cohen at 1:37 PM on July 23, 2009

I'm assuming that you don't have $300 to spend.

How about giant plush microbes?
posted by fontophilic at 1:51 PM on July 23, 2009

if you're looking for something cheaper and more of a gag gift how about Mental Floss's 'Med School in a Box' maybe paired with a nice bottle of good alcohol.
posted by Caravantea at 2:13 PM on July 23, 2009

I would buy her an Adam Rouilly Male Skull. It looks awesome as a paperweight/sculpture/shakespearean prop; it's useful when she has to learn head and neck anatomy; and it's only $250ish.

If it has to be a stethoscope, the Littmann II was the standard at my med school, and it's only $86.
posted by roofus at 2:21 PM on July 23, 2009

Some incoming med students are given a nice stethoscope from an alum or the school. I would find out from the med school is this is the case.
posted by Flacka at 2:32 PM on July 23, 2009

Legal drinking age + Med School? I think I have probably the best gift idea ever:
Crystal Head Vodka ($83 from their website)

The bonus is the Dan Akroyd / Alien Conspiracy twist!

You can thank me later.
posted by carpyful at 2:58 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

How about a visible woman kit, complete with paint and brushes? A bit too literal, but she might enjoy it.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 3:10 PM on July 23, 2009

I am starting medical school this fall.

Honestly, I would have loved it if someone had bought me a stethoscope without having to ask (my SO is buying me one, but I had to ask). It depends on the school, but a lot of incoming students actually are supposed to have their own stethoscopes. I was told that the Littman Cardiology III or the Master Cardiology (both can be had for under $200) are preferable.

Barring that, there are many other things I would have loved. Assistance moving. House warming gifts (a new bed? a desk? kitchen ware?). Is she moving to a new area for medical school? If so you could look into putting together some sort of nice "Welcome to ____!" gift. If she's like the majority of medical students, she's in a lot of debt now. Practical gifts are awesome (though do pair them with something fun and frivolous too).

There are any number of really good books about doctors, most of the good stuff being non-fiction memoirs. I would have loved one of those too. I gave my best friend, who's also an incoming medical student, a memoir of a female neurosurgeon, because that's what she wants to be, and I wrote in the front cover congratulating her for making the decision to apply and saying I thought she was going to be an awesome doctor (which I do). She was very happy and loved the book and the note.
posted by quirks at 3:31 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you're looking to give her a textbook, it's almost certain she'll need a Netter's Atlas of Anatomy. The stethescope and ipod touch are both good suggestions, but might not get much use (at least for medical purposes in the case of the ipod) until her 3rd and 4th year clinical clerkships. Honestly, the one thing I found most in demand when I started med school was money. Everybody thinks, oh you're going to be a doctor, you're going to be rich, but that big salary is years and years away, tuition is expensive, and financial aid is NOT generous. Maybe give her a gas or grocery gift card, offer to help with rent or utilities for a certain amount of time, etc. It might not be the most creative, but it will be appreciated.
posted by alygator at 3:33 PM on July 23, 2009

Oh! Also, an idea might be a fun shopping spree for some more professional clothes and scrubs. Nothing says sisterly fun like a trip to the mall.
posted by alygator at 3:41 PM on July 23, 2009

What is your message to her? "Get out there and get earning"? Or "I love you, sis, whatever you do"?

I would buy her something personal, maybe quirky, but referring more to shared experiences or interests than to medical school. In addition you could offer practical support such as promising her the textbook of her choice each year (if you can afford it).

But I think the message should be clearly about a special relationship, not about valuing her for starting training for a good job. I admit that an expensive stethoscope can be presented as "I want to support you", but it could become a bitter gift if things don't work out for her. "You can do it" is good, "Your family expect success" can be an unfair burden.
posted by Idcoytco at 3:41 PM on July 23, 2009

I had to purchase both a stethoscope and ophthalmoscope - and that was just for years one and two of medical school. Both were expensive enough - and used enough - that I wish that some nice soul would have gifted me with them. The other thing to consider is that, while financial aid budgets typically allow for some money to be spent on books and supplies, books are expensive and one might have to sacrifice higher-quality supplies for affordability. It's a shame, because good instruments can really make a difference when learning how to use them. This might vary by school, but I would imagine that it's pretty much the same across the board. Besides, everybody will need a stethoscope, but she will decide which books she wants to study from.

I splurged and bought myself a nice stethoscope - Littman Cardio III. I can't say enough nice things about it. If you buy it at her school's bookstore, you might also be able to get the bit that lets you order the personalized nameplate, which adds a tiny bit of security. It's harder for the attending to accidentally run off with your stethoscope if it's got your name on it.

My ophthalmoscope is of considerably lower quality, and I found that I had to go to school to practice with theirs, in the practice labs, anyway. If you can't afford to buy a good one, like a Welch Allyn, then don't bother with it.
posted by honeybee413 at 3:42 PM on July 23, 2009

I am thinking that this book might be a nice touch. Sort of a preemptive strike against a common complaint about doctors. Somewhat humorous. I mean, I'd laugh if I received it and was going into med school.
posted by bz at 6:32 PM on July 23, 2009

This might be nice, too. Depends. It is a lifelong treasure to anyone who is scientifically minded.
posted by bz at 6:37 PM on July 23, 2009

Good shoes! Seriously! Maybe a couple pair. Dansko is what many wear, I linked to an outlet that has 2nds (purely cosmetic imperfections). This way you might be able to get her a few pair. They are on their feet a lot. It seems many get stethoscopes as gifts. Many have iPhones, so an iTunes card might be an option for medical apps. (I personally love my Medical Spanish app since I work in a area that has a high percentage of population that doesn't speak English) You may want to ask her what she needs.
posted by 6:1 at 7:33 PM on July 23, 2009

sharkfu: "Ipod Touch to be used as a medical PDA?"

It's quite limited as anything other than a note taker because of its lack of keyboard, encryption/remote admin/wipe, and the medical app base is very restricted compared to Palm or Win CE/WM.

I recommend getting them the Bates' Pocket Physical Exam book. This will help out with the clinical skills courses immensely, and it comes with a PDA (Palm/Windows, maybe Apple these days?) version as well. Or a neuro kit, with a cute hammer. These are always fun to play with.
posted by meehawl at 9:25 PM on July 23, 2009

Good advice here so far: I heartily recommend the Littman Cardiology III (has a regular diaphragm and a bell/pediatric diaphragm). The Ophthalmoscope is not as useful--rarely used as an inpatient, and outpatient sites typically have oto/ophthalmoscopes hanging on the walls. If you do get one, get a Welch Allyn for sure. A Panoptic scope from Welch Allyn is money but, as one can expect, costs a lot.

What I wish I had got when I started med school? A good coffee maker with a timer, quality & rugged thermos, cash/money for various random expenses that pop up.
posted by scalespace at 5:35 AM on July 24, 2009

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