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What Did You Wish Someone Told You Before Starting Med School?

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Med-1 here also: Make a list in your head to know what are things that you really treasure in life and would compromise your quality of life if you couldn't do them (be it working out, reading a book, spending an evening a week with non-med friends, etc.) and keep doing them in medical school. You will probably feel like med school is taking over your life at times but if you have other things going on that you consciously make time for, it will make your life really much more enjoyable. Obviously things will get busy while in school but remember that you cannot know everything and it's really *REALLY* not worth it to panic over the volume of material that you see, nor is it worth sacrificing your sanity just to study all the details, so having something that is important for you outside of school can give you some respite and maximize your motivation.

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CC3 here. Should be studying, but this is a welcome distraction.  

 

I've got a long list but here's my top ten. 

 

1) Social circles/dynamics, especially at a large school, are not that important. It might feel that way in M1/M2 when you're in the classroom setting, but people are rapidly segregated and social dynamics change immensly in clerkship and beyond. Don't invest too much into making sure you show up at every party or accept every invitation for a social event.  It's low yield unless you for some reason, it's something that you value immensely as a person. Eventually the high school setting disappears and people are left to fend on their own. 

 

2) That being said, in a large school, inevitably cliques will happen. Accept it as a law of nature, just like oil and water. Find your clique, have a group of close friends that you feel comfortable with and understand your values. Treasure your friends outside of medicine. Your friends in med school will be the ones laughing/whining with you, and your friends outside medicine will help to keep you feeling like a "real person" who isn't worrying about a patient's eGFR at 2 AM.  This is high yield and has been reiterated by many med students and residents before me. 

 

3) Be passionate about something in medicine, and follow-through with it. If you're interested in a speciality, and you know that speciality is something you most likely pursue, be proactive about it.  Go do research, present and publish publish publish. Meet faculty and residents. Buy books in that specialty and read outside of your classes.  Ask for opportunities. Question yourself consistently about why you like the speciality - if you have a good answer most of the time that you personally feel comfortable about, it's most likely right for you.  Shut out the haters or people calling you a "gunner". 

 

4)  If you're not sure what you're interested in you should be spending even MORE time than the guy/girl doing #3 exploring in your M1/M2 years.  There are a lot of people that aren't "sure" and says "I'll wait till clerkship to decide", and near the end of clerkship they still don't have an answer that they're happy about.  Well, there are a lot of specialties that aren't covered enough in clerkship or covered at all. You might be missing out, and you won't be able to retrospectively blame anyone but yourself. It's your responsibility to do career exploration. Use your school's resources, and again ask for opportunities. Find your passion in medicine - remember what you interviewed here for. 

 

5) You should be doing a sport. You need to exercise as a med student. The number of hours holed up neurotically studying is not good for anyone's health, let alone yours and you are not the exception. Start making exercise something you're passionate about it.  Solitary or team based, it doesn't matter so long as it's a regular part of your routine. Do it starting first year. Not asking you to get ripped or swole, but get out there and sweat and have fun. It'll fight off the fat and depression.  Very high yield stuff here. 

 

6) Sometimes it's easy to say "yes" to too many people, and forget about self-care. Learn how to politely say no, especially when you don't have much to gain from the encounter and there is a power differential. It will help immensely later on. When asking for opportunities, it's easy to get shut down sometimes. Be persistent, try again or ask for advice from someone. Grow a thick skin. 

 

7) Ask for help when you need to, especially for mental health. If you're struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, please seek help. Talk to your friends and family, or your school counselling services.  Other people might seem happy on the outside, but everyone in medicine has thought about quitting at least once - I know I have. You're not the exception. 

 

8) P=MD. P =MD. P=MD. Pass, move on with your life. You have better things to do with your time, like spending time on yourself or your loved ones. P = MD. P =MD. P =MD.

 

9) As much as people think that their speciality or subject area is God's gift to the planet, it is not.  This is why people carry pagers around. If you're interested you will revisit and develop your own approach to the material. If not, know enough to pass, show some (polite) interest and move on with your life. 

 

10) Read Ralk's blog. Some good stuff there. He's more articulate than I will ever be, and it has good pearls/perspectives on med life and education. 

 

11) if you don't agree with any of the above, just remember this: "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

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Try not to be discouraged by people in the years above you, clerks, residents, attendings - telling you that life only gets busier/pre-clerkship is the chillest part of medicine. It is true that life does generally get busier. But it's easy to look back and think your past was idyllic in light of your complicated present. It wasn't. Preclerks are busy and clerks are busy and residents are busy. Don't let your troubles be belittled by those who have forgotten them, and don't refrain from seeking help because you feel you "should be able to keep up".

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10) Read Ralk's blog. Some good stuff there. He's more articulate than I will ever be, and it has good pearls/perspectives on med life and education. 

 

Thanks for the endorsement :D

 

Excellent post and excellent recommendations, couldn't have put it better - you're far more articulate than you're giving yourself credit for!

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8) P=MD. P =MD. P=MD. Pass, move on with your life. You have better things to do with your time, like spending time on yourself or your loved ones. P = MD. P =MD. P =MD.

 

This This This

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Would you mind elaborating on this?

 

It's far easier to write the USMLEs (American boards) as you go through your training then to wait until you have a reason to go to the US (for a job, fellowship, or possibly even residency). For anyone willing to move south, or for those pursuing specialties that may give them a good reason to head across the border for fellowships or work, it's generally a good idea to write the USMLEs as you would if you were at an American school (eg Step 1 after pre-clerkship). It's far from being something everyone should do, but depending on your career goals, it can be something very worthwhile to consider.

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My advice to those who are about to start medical school would be to find a good source of motivation. Build your interest in medicine, science and the human side of it. Read books, read stories, continually rekindle your love for medicine. At the end of the day, one needs to know that Medicine is more of a marathon than a 100m race. There will be low times, filled with uncertainty and self-doubts. Struggles come in many forms e.g. poor grades, disrespect from friends, patients and even your superior. Don't let people bring you down. Listen to criticisms and know that they are said to encourage you to be a better and stronger doctor. Know your limit; do not succumb to pressure, take a step back if you are finding it hard to breathe. Take a break and go on holidays.

 

As one progresses through medical school, many get stuck up in their knowledge and stop listening to their non-medic friends. Always keep an open mind. Learn from others. be humble and be nice to others.

 

One last thing; I wish that someone had to me how difficult medical school is! and how rewarding it can be!

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It's far easier to write the USMLEs (American boards) as you go through your training then to wait until you have a reason to go to the US (for a job, fellowship, or possibly even residency). For anyone willing to move south, or for those pursuing specialties that may give them a good reason to head across the border for fellowships or work, it's generally a good idea to write the USMLEs as you would if you were at an American school (eg Step 1 after pre-clerkship). It's far from being something everyone should do, but depending on your career goals, it can be something very worthwhile to consider.

How many years is USMLE Step 1 valid for?

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Based solely on being med-1: put in less effort studying in the begining of the year to maintain the motivation till the end of the year.

I actually wish I had studied more throughout the year. I studied about 2 hours a day for the first couple months and found that it was quite manageable. Later in the year I decided to cram instead, which made things very stressful when I actually did decide to start studying.

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