With less than 30 days until I walk across the stage and receive my diploma, I have reflected a lot on the last four years of medical school- many things about medicine and many things about myself. I wish I had the ability to go back and give myself some words of advice. If you are in midst of the first couple of years of medical school, I hope you can take away some insight if you relate to any of the following:
- You are not a number: This is hard to believe when the entire purpose of medical school is to learn and do well not only on class exams but most importantly, board exams. The four years of medical school culminate into one application into residency and within that are a bunch of numbers that determine what specialty and what hospitals you can apply to. You’ll spend hours wondering why you didn’t get those two questions on an exam right and sometimes your mind will drift into this bubble where you tell yourself that you’re not good enough. Take a step back and look at the big picture. At the minimum, you will be a doctor. But what good is being a doctor if you’re not happy? Reach out to professors, friends, family, and counselors when need be. Exercise even if it means skipping a PowerPoint that day. Take care of yourself and realize that your mental health should come before any test.
- Ask for more: It is very easy to be passive in rotations that you’re not interested in but there are always things you can do and learn to help you in the specialty you do want to do. Reach out to your preceptor, attending, or resident and ask if you can suture, talk to a patient, or discuss XYZ. It also helps to remind yourself that you are paying for your education and not only is it a waste of your money but a waste of your time. You can really convince yourself to do a lot when you realize both of those things!
- No, don’t start studying for boards too early (among other things): This tip is pretty specific but it falls into the general advice that you will always feel like you’re not doing enough compared to your classmates. Funny enough, one of the most asked questions I get around January is, “When should I start studying for Step/Level 1? Because my classmates said XYZ.” My answer every time is that you will always hear things from your classmates and the way that they’re doing things is always the “right” way (in their eyes). Listen to your upperclassman because they’ve been through it all and also, do what makes you feel like you’re 100%.
- Invest in a Crock Pot: Girl, you should’ve invested in this DAY ONE. What a lifesaver during boards! Buy ingredients for multiple meals, Crock-Pot them, and freeze.
- Don’t underestimate how much effective hard work is: There will be a point during audition rotation and residency application season where you will be hard on yourself and doubt whether you will ever get into your specialty of choice. Never underestimate who will witness your hard work. Always stay in touch with residents or program directors and send “love letters” or “letters of intent” to those programs you love the most. Show up early and stay late. Be nice to nurses and scrub techs because they will make or break you in the OR. Above all, you can look back during this process and know that you put in 100% regardless of the outcome.