Being in medical school means that your colleagues are a group of super-accomplished and smart people. There’s two ways to look at this. One view is that in such a group, students will push themselves to succeed. The flip-side view is that medical school is filled with a bunch of “gunners” (gunner is slang for someone who shows off how smart they). The truth is a mix of those two.
So how can one stand out as a medical student? Two things. First, you have to work hard so that you can give the best care to your patients. And second, you have to stay curious. The structure of medical school in some ways de-emphasizes those two things, because the first two years of medical school don’t focus on either of them. It’s mostly classes where you learn and memorize enzymes and physical exam procedures. However, once you get to the 3rd year and start seeing patients, these goals are back front and center.
I took a class once about managing conversations with patients taught by one of the Deans at our school, and he started by reading a letter of recommendation that a student received. Paraphrasing the letter, it stated how the medical student went above and beyond by coming in on weekends to check up on the patient, formed a deep relationship with the patient, and the family invited the medical student to the patient’s funeral which he attended. These were the kind of physicians, the Dean said, that our medical school aspires to train I would argue that learning to care for patients is the key mission of a medical school. We forget this, because there is so much technical information to learn for our job. However, one has the rest of our careers to learn the deep knowledge base of any individual field, and whether you are in the 25th or 75th percentile of technical competence at the end of the 4th year of medical school is likely to have little correlation to how competent a physician you will be in 10 years (pure speculation on my part, would love to see data if it exists). Hence the importance of curiosity; since what you learn after medical school should far outstrip the body of knowledge learned in the 4 years of medical school training.