3 Myths About Medical School

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1. You’ll never have time for anything else but studying.

Don’t get me wrong, there will be periods in your medical school career where it’s not reasonable to do more (studying for exams, boards, 3rd year), but so far everyone I’ve talked to at my program still has a life and are getting things done with their education. People in my class run half marathons and other random events, go to theatre, coach soccer, married and some have children. For myself, I still have time to schedule in events (saw Atul Gawande speak last week) and crank out a post or two, go out for walks around the park etc.

Though, medical school was giving me a good stomping at the beginning with the course load (had 4.5 courses at the beginning plus out patient clinic hours) you eventually learn how “you” can get on with it, and well you just get on with it. This isn’t to say medical school is easy either, it’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever attempted, but it’s certainly doable without ruining your personal life. Some parts of medical school are difficult because of the conceptual parts, but some most of it is just knowing when you have to brute force learn concepts in order to make the conceptual part intelligible — and you have to learn to find the balance between it all and your time.

2. Medical school is full of gunners, waiting to slash your brake lines so you don’t make it to the final on time…or at all and will ruin your life.

Whereas, some people adopt a definition of the person who wants to be “the best”, I believe a gunner is someone who while trying to be “the best” while hoping everyone else is beneath them is rubbish. If there is anyone in our class like that, they’re doing a stellar job at hiding it. Usually, people post/share their own study guides and charts, or useful links for the whole class to see. There are study group cliches, but it’s pretty easy to get invited, make, or to crash any study group you see. Maybe different programs will have different experiences, but most of my friends at other medical schools feel the same way about their class in general. The gunner talk is a sticky subject, by definition being the best means you’re better, but in a team (medicine) being the best individual is less important than the team being at it’s best. Wanting to be at your best, that is being better than you were before, is what I think most medical students strive to.

If anything, I feel people were a lot more Lord of the Flies tribal in undergrad than now in medical school.

3. You’ll never use that premed stuff in medical school.

You’ll never sit down and calculated a long winded titration problem again, that much is true. Nor will you try to figure out the coefficient of friction between the IV lines and the hospital bed pulling the line tout. No, you won’t sit down and calculate how many ATP and FAD molecules will result from burning 90 grams of sucrose, nor will you ever be asked again to show the conjugation on retinol. But, it’s tacitly expected that you could understand the concepts (or main ideas) in all of your first year of medical school and into the future. I don’t need to write out each molecule’s Lewis structure in metabolism, but understanding Lewis structures and organic chemistry make the information easier to digest conceptually while I brute force memorize steps. You’ll definitely never be as detailed orientated with the steps, but you need to have a broad understanding — it’s all about the basics. Le Chateau still comes back as the Bohr Effect in blood as does ferromagnetism when talking about oxygen carrying ability of heme. You’ll never really strip away the science from life, because life is science in action.

So, to pay homage to all of those hard working premeds: all of your hard work is for not. But, don’t worry if you’re admitted into medical school you likely have the skills and dedication to finish it even if you have an eternal hate for the prerequisites. In fact, most of the things you’ll need to be a good doctor will likely be much later in medical school and into residency. So, on one hand in the scale won’t play out day to day in our futures — no one calculates the amount of joules imparted into the cyclist who was struck by a trunk in trauma, but understanding the concepts makes it easier to explain to the cyclist he’s lucky to be alive because doubling his speed quadrupled the punishment on his tattered body as raced down the hill. If anything, your understanding of science will always carry you on the concepts and being able to explain things to others effectively (assuming you also have communication skills).

With that said, back to studying for me (see the first myth).

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