Before entering medical school, I had heard all sorts of comments about how hard it would be. One analogy heard over and over again was that it was akin to “drinking from a fire hose.” Others said was “orders of magnitude” more difficult than college. These comments painted the picture to me that not only was there huge amounts of material to cover, but also that only a select smart group of people could ever hope to survive. In my own experience however, I disagree with these comparisons. Intelligence only has a marginal impact on medical school performance – given the right tools, nearly anyone can succeed.
It’s true that the amount of knowledge to be learned is rather large. Anatomy, physiology, pathology, clinical medicine, and more, all within a few short years. Yet, learning in medical school is different than learning in college. Medical school is literally your job –you’re not involved in a half-dozen student organizations, you’re not working part time at that coffee shop, you’re not partying every weekend (unfortunately). Therefore, there’s actually plenty of time to work through all that material, so long as you don’t procrastinate. As anyone who has taken that 25-unit semester knows, you can’t leave all your studying until the day before finals – you’ll need instead to study a little bit, every day, for weeks in advance.
Therefore, a much better analogy I have found for medical school is that it is like eating a stack of pancakes a day, every day, for four years. Nearly anyone can eat a few pancakes in one day. However, skip a day or two, and the plates stack up until it becomes an impossible task. Therefore, success in medical school is much more dependent on perseverance, work ethic, and dedication. It also requires a strong support system – methods to cope with physical and mental stress, and people to cheer you on during difficult times. After all, those pancakes aren’t going to eat themselves.