As a medical student, how many times has this happened to you? You’re at some social function, or talking with friends/family, and get asked “Hey, since you’re in medical school, I was wondering if I could ask you about…” They then describe a vague complaint that bothers them, but not enough to actually formally go to a doctor, and they want your diagnosis. Also, chances are what they are describing is something you haven’t really learned in medical school. You give the best advice you can, but advise them to see a real doctor, and they leave unsatisfied.
I feel like these strange little social interactions illustrate the vast difference between what people think we learn in medical school vs. what we actually learn. I recently saw an image that illustrated this perfectly (credit: reddit.com, user jvttuls). Most people go through much of their lives without ever having a major hospitalization, only seeing their doctor for runny noses, rashes, or other common afflictions. Their knowledge of medicine is also variable and dependent on the news of the day: weight loss treatments, that new drug they saw on TV, etc. Therefore, they expect our knowledge to be built around their idea of what healthcare is. Meanwhile, medical school is focused on learning about and treating the conditions that actually cause major morbidity and mortality. These differences come to a head during conversations like the one above.
The facts are, 1) people will continue to ask for unofficial medical advice throughout the rest of you career, and 2) no one will ever come up to you asking about the pathophysiology of Stevens Johnson Syndrome. Therefore, the best we can do is continue handle these situations in a professional manner, and provide education to our friends and family without stepping beyond our bounds.