It has been about one week since I took my last M1 final exam, and I have done nothing but relax and not think about school; which I admit, has been difficult and almost foreign after a year of nonstop studying, but extremely necessary. During this past week, I took some time to ruminate on important lessons that helped me to survive my first year of med school that I thought would be helpful to incoming medical students:
- Accept that you will experience failure, academic or not, in some form or another.
- Change your mindset. I always knew that medical students were extremely intelligent and hard-working, but I did not imagine that all 170 students in my class would be that way. Working and living with some of the smartest young adults in the country is an adjustment itself. If you are accustomed to being at the top of your class, you will definitely have to change your mindset and understand that performing at the level of your peers is already an achievement.
- Find a solid group of friends. This I cannot stress enough; I definitely would have not been able to stay grounded or sane without my closest friends in medical school. Spending time with them was the best part of any week, and I am eternally grateful for their support and love when the going gets rough.
- Develop mentorship. Whether it is a physician, an academic adviser, or a professor, it will behoove you to have a mentor to turn to for life and academic advice, and offer encouragement when you find yourself in situations of uncertainty.
- This one’s for the girls; ask female physicians about their experiences in the healthcare field. Perhaps it is because I’m particularly passionate about women empowerment in medicine, but I love hearing stories from other female leaders about their successes and the barriers they encounter. It is so encouraging hearing how far feminism in medicine has come, and enlightening to learn from others who are currently working in this realm.
- Be patient with yourself. I beat myself up quite a bit in the beginning for not understanding the demands of medical school (having been out of school for three years, I think it took more time than average for me to adjust), and doubted my capabilities as a medical student. After a few exams and learning what is expected in terms of studying, I am doing better. I wish I had known earlier that it might take a while to understand what learning style and studying methods work best for you as an individual, so I could have saved myself a lot of stress.
- Self-care and relaxation are CRUCIAL. Do not give up doing leisurely things you enjoy; continue to invest in your hobbies and incorporate them into your schedule. Escaping from school/studying and taking time for yourself is a necessary part of medical school.
So there you have it, some fundamental takeaways from the first year of medical school. Of course, these are only a few of the many, but they are certainly the ones I would keep in mind as an incoming first year.