Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be in medical school? In this edition of Student Insights, we asked current students to share their medical school journey thus far.
The Good: I’m in an encouraging atmosphere in which I can continue my journey to becoming a compassionate and insightful physician. It’s an honor to explore every facet of medicine from dedicated doctors and professors. These experiences have allowed me to learn a lot about myself and the needs of underserved community
The Bad: The hardest part I’ve found is how time consuming classes, clinicals, and overall studying has become. Time management has become such an important skill!
The Unexpected: I was surprised by how many long-lasting friendships I have formed while in school. I have an amazing support system!
The Good: All of us have a fascination with the human body. Medical school provides the otherwise inaccessible resources to explore the physiology behind our own anatomy.
The Bad: The commitment to medicine demands sacrifice not normally seen in other careers. The field requires you to balance your personal life with your occupational goals.
The Unexpected: It is humbling to be a colleague of such an extraordinarily diverse group of individuals, all of whom contain the intelligence, dedication, and passion necessary for the field of medicine. Also, be prepared to learn to enjoy the smell of formaldehyde in the anatomy lab!
The Good: You can still have a life! Learning your work-life balance is the most important skill of M1 year. Once you gain your footing, you can still see your friends, watch TV before bed, cook dinner every night, and do all the other things you used to do before school started!
The Bad: You will always smell like the cadaver lab…. even when you don’t think you do. I recommend a travel size perfume bottle.
The Unexpected: As scary as the cadavers are at first, they ultimately become your best learning tool for gross anatomy. After a few dissections you become extraordinarily comfortable in the cadaver lab. By the time you get to brain or genital dissections, the cadaver is your best friend.
The Good: Even the title of medical student makes other human beings more comfortable sharing with you sensitive information about their health, bodies, and innermost personal lives. Countless conversations later, I continue to be mystified by the mantle health professionals bear – the charge and privilege to do right by others in their most vulnerable capacity.
The Bad: Medical training is rigorous and demanding in a multi-dimensional way – there is the grind of the classroom setting, long clinical hours, and pressure to perform. This scientific, perfectionist culture leaves little room for the arts, reflection and the acceptance of error. As stress levels elevate, this “lacking” can weigh on your resolve and endurance.
The Unexpected: As a poet, introspective character, and spiritual individual, I had challenging moments during cadaver lab and while interviewing patients. Either you dissociate yourself from these visceral experiences, or you associate. I associate as much as possible in a professional context because the “human element” makes me a better healthcare professional, and because I never want to lose touch with that aspect of myself.
The Good: Considering the racial health disparities that plague this country, it is imperative that schools train more physicians of color. As a young black woman, it’s an honor for me to learn how to care and advocate for the people in our communities.
The Bad: There is a lot of medical knowledge that we need to digest in a short amount of time. It’s very easy to fall victim to “imposter syndrome” when you are in medical school.
The Unexpected: Although I’m a busy student, there is still time for me to live a life independent from medicine. There is still time to enjoy your favorites activities, discover new hobbies, and spend time with family/friends. It’s all about balance!
The Good: The amazing connections you make with patients. Even as a student, you have the privilege of helping others through their most difficult endeavors, physically and emotionally.
The Bad: You can always study more. There is really no end to the amount of information to know, so you need to take it upon yourself to make time for family and friends.
The Unexpected: There isn’t an ounce of competition in my medical school class. On the contrary, everyone is extremely kind and wanting to help one another succeed.
The Good: The best part would definitely be the constant intellectual stimulation in that all the topics we’ve covered thus far have pushed me to constantly search for more info just out of pure curiosity. Learning something new every day fuels me!
The Bad: Ironically so, the same reasoning behind “The Good” is a double-edged sword in that there is so much information available that it can be extremely overwhelming.
The Unexpected: Transitioning into thinking like a physician has forced me to completely revamp my approach to studying material in that I quickly realized that undergraduate strategies are not as effective for knowledge acquisition at this stage. For instance, I discovered that I am much more of a visual/kinesthetic learner in medical school whereas in undergrad I was strictly in the read-write/auditory group.
The Good: Finally working towards something that I’ve wanted to do for so long is a genuinely wonderful feeling. Earlier today, I was able to interview a patient completely on my own for the first time, and although it seems relatively simple, it was such a great experience. I’ve learned that the balance between classroom time and clinic time is crucial.
The Bad: As much as I love my other 159 classmates, it can be a little redundant seeing the exact same people constantly because there are so few of us. On top of that, my schedule can make it somewhat difficult to balance friendships/relationships with people outside of school, so sometimes I can feel stuck in a “med school bubble.”
The Unexpected: I honestly go out more now than I ever did in college, and trust me that’s saying something!
The Good: Learning is more refined now, both the process and the content. I keep in mind that everything I learn is for my future patients and not just a letter grade. Additionally, there is so much time in the day (really, there is), and you decide how and when to make time for the people or things that are important to you. Essentially, you learn to find balance.
The Bad: Anatomy Lab can leave you smelling traces of formaldehyde on your person/clothes/hair for hours after you’ve left. I think sometimes I imagine it, but I’ve had a couple instances where I thought I smelled it as I ate chicken, which was unpleasant.
The Unexpected: I have always thought that, once I entered medical school, I will have reached my end-goal. However, as a first-year medical student, my thoughts have increased and expanded into thinking about specialties, hobbies, travel, and generally life after medical school.
The Good: There’s an intangible connection I feel when interacting with patients from the South Side of Chicago. Being able to set an example for my city’s youth is one of the most powerful motivators I’ve experienced.
The Bad: An issue that arises is that there isn’t enough time to get involved with everything I find valuable for my future life and career goals. I have found it critical to assess what is most important to me in order to direct my efforts.
The Unexpected: Most would agree that medical school is no walk in the park. However, the overwhelming support from my classmates and the school administration has helped to make this challenging journey an enjoyable one.
The Good: Meeting people from all over the country and the world. Medicine draws an incredibly diverse group of people who all have a similar passion. I have met people who had very different upbringings from my own who challenge me to expand my beliefs. This, in turn, prepares me better to serve a diverse population of patients.
The Bad: The constant studying and endless memorizing of the first two years can get really exhausting, which I am sure is not surprising to anyone. It can be challenging to remind yourself what you’re doing all this for, especially when you’re surrounded by people who are exceptionally smart and over-achieving. Life-work balance is key and something I really struggled with in my first year.
The Unexpected: Medical school will ask you to throw your comfort zone out the window. You’ll have completely serious conversations about things that would have made you blush a few months before. You’ll also be in the hospital seeing patients on your own before you know it. It’s a true learn-as-you-practice experience, which I didn’t expect. I really believe it’s the only way to do it, though.