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Great Gifts for Med Students

14 Great Ideas for Everything From Stethoscopes to Posters and Games


Got a new med student? A medical school grad - and new doctor! - or someone heading into pharm school? Here's a list of 14 great gift ideas, everything from stethoscopes to arty posters, medical thrillers and a bacterial version of Magic: The Gathering. All perfect gifts to bring to any med school graduation party.

1. A Call Bag

Doctor's bag
Courtesy Sanja Gjenero, Stock.Xchng Photos

There's no denying the retro appeal of a leather doctor's bag, but how many docs do you know who make house calls? What your med student, intern or medical resident needs most is a call bag - a duffle or sports bag that can carry spare clothes, deodorant, toiletries, granola bars and other necessities for nights on call.

2. Stethoscopes

Stethoscopes, which can cost $100-$300, are popular med school and med school graduation gifts, but there are several caveats to consider. Some med schools give them to their students. Some schools have very specific requirements. And if your child is contemplating, say, cardiology as a specialty, he may have some requirements of his own. So this is a generous gift that will require some research. That said, you'll likely want to choose a cardiology-grade stethoscope. The Littman Cardiology III is particularly popular among medical students, although not everyone likes it. (Never having been on the listening end of a stethoscope, I cannot say yay or nay. But the Littman recommendation is based on med student discussion forums.)

3. Arty Medical Posters & More

Courtesy Roll and Tumble Press

Etsy.com, the eBay for arts and crafters, carries an ever-changing array of arty, one-of-a-kind gift items, including several with decided med student appeal. My current favorite item is a letterpress poster by Roll and Tumble Press, an Arkansas-based letterpress company that makes handmade posters. This one (pictured) depicts a human body with red and blue veins and arteries, and a "You are here" sign  - the perfect mix of anatomy and heart.  It sells for about $25 - the frame is up to you - with a week or so turnaround time for printing.

4. Teddy Bears and Stuffed Ebola Viruses

Courtesy GiantMicrobes.com

Some families head for Build-A-Bear to get their new med student a fuzzy teddy bear doctor - then stuff some twenties into Dr. Bear's paw. But new med, pharm, dentistry, veterinary and nursing students may get a big kick out of a stuffed microbe, because nothing says "We're so proud of you!" better than a giant plush E. Coli, Ebola or Streptococcus. (You can compare prices on those here.)

P.S. That's a petri dish full of stuffed common cold microbes in the photograph. Pity the real things aren't nearly as cute.

5. Pandemic, the Board Game

Oh sure, you can give your med student an Operation board game for kicks. But this intense, cooperative, adrenaline-fueled board game is tailor made for science and medicine buffs - although everyone else will love it too. Players take on the role of CDC scientists racing to quell multiple plague breakouts, before pandemics erupt on a global scale. Don't worry, it's only the entire fate of the human race in your hands.

6. The Healing Blade

Courtesy Arun Matthews

Aimed squarely at scrubs-garbed Magic: The Gathering fans, this new game was designed by doctors Arun Mathews and Francis Kong, with an interest in medical education and games. The result is The Healing Blade, in which sorcerers and heroes - all named after real-world antibiotics, such as Erythromycin and Ampicillin - battle the Lords of Pestilence. The game was launched at the American Medical Students Convention in Anaheim, Calif. in March 2010, winning raves from the American Medical Association and students alike. It promptly sold out, and by May 2010, the manufacturer was madly printing more. For more info and a peek at more of the very cool game cards (pneumonia-fighting Tobra is pictured), visit the Healing Blade website.

7. Clever Gifts of Cash

Photo by Jackie Burrell

Money may not be the most creative of gifts, but it's the most welcome, especially by hard-working, cash=poor students. But whether you write a check or hit the bank for crinkly green bills (Euros, rubles or whatever currency is most apt), you can exercise a little creativity in how you present the gift. An old-fashioned prescription bottle can hold a rolled up check, for example. And Dr. McSwine, a paint-your-own piggy bank craft project, rocks at gift time.

8. Gift Card for a 24-Hour Diner

iStock Photo

Gift certificates to restaurants and coffeehouses close to the med school or hospital are thoughtful, sure-to-please gift options - especially if you find one that's open 24 hours. And you can't go wrong with a well-loaded Starbucks, VISA or American Express gift card.

9. "Contagion" Blu-Ray

Courtesy Warner Bros.

A raging epidemic that wipes out half the planet and ... Gwyneth Paltrow? Say it isn't so! "Contagion" hit theaters last fall - and some of us may never venture near even a marginally sick person again, let alone someone who blows on our dice. Available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Compare Prices

10. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Courtesy Broadway

Rebecca Skloot's non-fiction volume recounts the tale of Henrietta Lacks, a 30-year-old African-American mother and tobacco farm worker whose death from cancer in 1951 launched untold medical discoveries, including the cure for polio and advanced AIDS research. Her cells, dubbed HeLa and taken without her family's knowledge, were the holy grail of science, the first human cells that actually grew in a lab. And this book, which appears on many university summer reading lists as well as my "Great Books for 20-Somethings" gift list, will knock the socks off anyone interested in medicine, science or social justice issues.

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