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What would you tell your yonger self in the earlier years of medschool?


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I think the importance of looking into specialty selection early on has been well covered here. As the medical training process tends to condition people to jump through successive hoops, I'd also give some thought to the longer term scenario - your values in work and life, and how that would translate into the type of career you would like to have and where (for example, if you have any special interests you might like to pursue, or if a particular location is important to you - so you can lay the groundwork and incorporate that into your decision making).

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Make a budget and worry about money, but not too much :) I guess this only applies if you're self-financing through a line of credit - if you have tons of money from some other source then I guess don't worry at all.

I paid my own way through my line of credit, and I was attentive to not racking up massive debt - I lived in a cheaper city, rented a cheaper apartment, didn't take any expensive vacations.  But I still ate out when I wanted to, bought other things that I wanted.

I think it's important to strike a balance - medical school is hard and there's no need to deprive yourself of small luxuries from time to time.  At the same time, I think it's a mistake to conclude that you'll pay it back as staff and blow through money without thinking.

Just my two cents based on my own financial principles.

I personally was frugal mostly but did not formally make a budget and I wish I had.  Would have been helpful I think.  I use a budgeting app called Back in Black that I like because it doesn't actually connect to your bank account - you enter everything manually which feels safer to me.

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  • 10 months later...

 

keep an open mind, the worst thing you can do is have tunnel vision on one specialty because you have carms-anxiety from day one, this is the the rest of your life, take a step back and reflect more.

Understand the full extent of the "opportunity cost" of medical training.

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don't be afraid of making mistakes. Yes it's important that you work hard and try your best, but it's ok to stumble a bit in med school because it's a new field for everyone and nobody will be perfect, and everybody will find their niche to shine. Just because another person excels in one area doesn't mean you have to follow them and do the same thing. 

Also your classmates are your most valuable assets. You may not agree with their views or share the same interest but you can always learn something from them, and the more you get to know them the more you'll benefit later on. I know it's easy to form small cliques and stick with people you are friends with, but once a while make an effort to go reach out to people whom you don't know well.

also don't give up your hobbies. rather than just piling more time onto studying or research or whatever, try to better organize your time table or find more efficient ways of studying so you can always reserve some time for activities outside of school. Find people whom you can build synergies with for schoolwork (see previous paragraph).

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 - this is more a "what I would tell my younger self".  Be warned.

Most of adult life & career is like a computer adaptive test: early behaviour/choices around senior high school/undergrad generally matter much more than later decisions - it's much harder to change course the further along one goes and often with much less opportunity if one hasn't reached the pinnacles of success.  

Don't be afraid to chart your own course and please do seek help if not emotionally well - believe in yourself and your abilities.  Missteps are more costly than accomplishments.  Opportunity, like wealth, is not equally distributed - stay positive and work hard.   Choose peers wisely and don't be afraid of solitude - use that for self-development.  

 Embrace excellence as a means in of itself, regardless - be strong enough to realize that the now is temporary and fitting in will come - with this attitude in mind changing course is a lot easier.

Finally, no-one knows it all - truly listen with an open mind, but only take major decisions that you can own - better to fail on your own terms than someone else’s .

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Great idea for a thread.

Don't believe the people that say it gets worse as you advance. In undergrad, people say med school is worse. In pre-clerkship, they say clerkship is worse. In clerkship, they will tell you residency is worse.

Its not that things necessarily get substantially better, it is just different. Different positives and different negatives.

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6 hours ago, MDinCanada said:

the worst thing you can do is have tunnel vision on one specialty because you have carms-anxiety from day one, this is the the rest of your life, take a step back and reflect more.

I definitely know this is going to be me, can you explain this a bit more? I feel like if you are shooting for something competitive, like optho or plastics you really don't have a choice, now do you?. All of your competitors will have been gunning since day one of MS1. 

I think if you know for sure you don't want anything hyper-competitive then this advice applies, but this doesn't work for everyone.

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50 minutes ago, MasterDoc said:

I definitely know this is going to be me, can you explain this a bit more? I feel like if you are shooting for something competitive, like optho or plastics you really don't have a choice, now do you?. All of your competitors will have been gunning since day one of MS1. 

I think if you know for sure you don't want anything hyper-competitive then this advice applies, but this doesn't work for everyone.

You can still go ham for a speciality but consider other specialties along the way. Meaning do observerships/go to talks about other specialities and be open to the new experiences during clerkship, may change your mind. Plus what you feel as an observer may/will be different as a clerk, which will be different as a resident, etc.

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20 hours ago, LostLamb said:


freeze eggs/sperm and / or embryos. 
 

too many people I know have gone through fertility issues (stress?).

Anecdotally, I’ve heard this also :( one of my preceptors on elective was saying that many of her colleagues had/have fertility issues requiring REI. She wondered if it was the stress, too. Makes me a little bit nervous about the decision to delay!

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My advice is that you know more than you think you do, and you’re a valued and helpful member of the team. :) If you have a concern about a patient, advocate for them, because sometimes by virtue of spending the most time with them, med students pick up on things other members of the team may not have. Be confident and don’t be afraid of making mistakes or doing things wrong - it’s inevitable and part of learning. And enjoy the ride, while also caring for yourself and trying the best to keep up with self care!

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Please note that my medical school experience was very different from 99.9% of other CMGs as I completed a MD at a French-speaking medical school starting with only basic French (including reading/listening/speaking/writing) which I generally found to be a nightmare both personally and professionally.  I had learned elementary French when I was young in an English-speaking part of the country.  So most of my advice to my past "medical" self is centered around the choice to accept the offer and the period just before medical school as I think my actual behaviour/effort/decisions were generally reasonable during medical school given my context and understanding of my situation.

Since it was a PBL curriculum, there was little "in person" interaction or "immersion" until clerkship which meant during pre-clerkship  either trying to read/understand very detailed, academic, medical French or somehow summarizing and translating voluminous English material into French on my own - both of which I found very difficult based on my knowledge of French.  I needed to put in extraordinary effort for lackluster results.  During clerkship, I eventually became more comfortable with working professionally in French, but my adaptation was difficult with heavy consequences.

If I were committed to going to the school, then I would tell myself to quit the summer work that I had already committed to (teaching MCAT material) as well the advanced physiology course that I had enrolled in and instead to try to go to summer French immersion at a place like Université St Anne's.  After the summer immersion, then I would try to assess whether my French were strong enough to actually begin studying medicine at the school - if not, then I'd try to negotiate for a deferral for a year to attain the requisite level of French     

If I weren't committed to matriculation and the above options weren't available, then I'd tell myself to attempt to try to decline the offer as in my journey I don't think the endpoint justified the price that I had to pay on multiple levels (personal, financial, time/effort,,..).  It would have been financially quite challenging, but since I had "guaranteed" interview chances the following year, based on the "IP" admission policies at the time, then those would have likely represented my best chances at medicine.  Otherwise, I would tell myself to reassess and possibly move on to other career opportunities.  

Note that maybe I'll look back one day and have a different opinion. 

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21 hours ago, indefatigable said:

Please note that my medical school experience was very different from 99% of other CMGs as I completed a MD at a French-speaking medical school starting with only basic French (including reading/listening/speaking/writing) which I generally found to be a nightmare both personally and professionally.  I had learned elementary French when I was young in an English-speaking part of the country.  So most of my advice to my past "medical" self is centered around the choice to accept the offer and the period just before medical school as I think my actual behaviour/effort/decisions were generally reasonable during medical school given my context and understanding of my situation.

Since it was a PBL curriculum, there was little "in person" interaction or "immersion" until clerkship which meant during pre-clerkship  either trying to read/understand very detailed, academic, medical French or somehow summarizing and translating voluminous English material into French on my own - both of which I found very difficult based on my knowledge of French.  I needed to put in extraordinary effort for lackluster results.  During clerkship, I eventually became more comfortable with working professionally in French, but my adaptation was difficult with heavy consequences.

If I were committed to going to the school, then I would tell myself to quit the summer work that I had already committed to (teaching MCAT material) as well the advanced physiology course that I had enrolled in and instead to try to go to summer French immersion at a place like Université St Anne's.  After the summer immersion, then I would try to assess whether my French were strong enough to actually begin studying medicine at the school - if not, then I'd try to negotiate for a deferral for a year to attain the requisite level of French     

If I weren't committed to matriculation and the above options weren't available, then I'd tell myself to attempt to try to decline the offer as in my journey I don't think the endpoint justified the price that I had to pay on multiple levels (personal, financial, time/effort,,..).  It would have been financially quite challenging, but since I had "guaranteed" interview chances the following year, based on the "IP" admission policies at the time, then those would have likely represented my best chances at medicine.  Otherwise, I would tell myself to reassess and possibly move on to other career opportunities.  

Note that maybe I'll look back one day and have a different opinion. 

Thank you for sharing. I imagine you do feel quite proud to have gone through medical school while also learning French "on the side". 

I am hoping for some advice on a similar-ish situation. I have a B2 level in French and I am currently studying it here and there (podcasts and a course heavy on vocabulary). I know my weak spot is writing and grammar. I'm currently in year 1 of medical school but would like to achieve a level that will allow me to do some clerkship electives in Quebec and possibly residency. Do you have any advice on how to improve while being in medical school? You can also DM me so we don't highjack this thread. I would really appreciate some guidance since I think this situation is a bit niche!

 

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On 4/2/2021 at 11:37 AM, dooogs said:

Thank you for sharing. I imagine you do feel quite proud to have gone through medical school while also learning French "on the side". 

I am hoping for some advice on a similar-ish situation. I have a B2 level in French and I am currently studying it here and there (podcasts and a course heavy on vocabulary). I know my weak spot is writing and grammar. I'm currently in year 1 of medical school but would like to achieve a level that will allow me to do some clerkship electives in Quebec and possibly residency. Do you have any advice on how to improve while being in medical school? You can also DM me so we don't highjack this thread. I would really appreciate some guidance since I think this situation is a bit niche!

 

I'll answer this post here, but we can continue the conversation via DM.

Honestly, I think what you are doing is more akin to learning French "on the side" which is a better way to do it.  

French was up front and centre for me and my adaptation was extremely difficult with enormous career consequences as I mentioned.  I think I did have a chance to better understand the wartime adult immigration experience of my maternal grandparents - not only the language difficulty, but also the loss of professional and social standing: for instance, it was beyond bittersweet to do really well in English-speaking electives at the beginning of clerkship, but then struggle to adapt in French and then have all that excellence essentially nullified (I had hoped some equity could be applied as an acknowledgement of the linguistic diversity and challenges that many adults face in our nation as well as the sometimes bitter divisiveness of language).  I obtained generally strong letters of recommendation from every single elective (all done in English) and I had one francophone preceptor offer to write a letter in a core near the end, but none of that really mattered.

In terms of French, it depends on what you want to do.  If you want to do surgery in French, then language should not be that much of an issue except maybe the social aspects (e.g. camraderie).  If you want to be a French pediatrician with outpatients and write consult letters to family physicians then it will be much harder - and you will have to work on writing and grammar.  

My general advice would be to "live in French" as much possible - it sounds like you have a good baseline, probably better than mine.  If you watch TV, then try to watch French shows (e.g. medical dramas), read French newspapers, listen to French music, French roommates..  I think the Université of St Anne immersion experience could be excellent too.  

Psychologically, and practically, working in French is generally still difficult for me for the reasons that I have stated above - maybe one day it will be different.  In a sort of bizarre symmetry, I now understand the sentiment that led to Quebec’s stringent language laws - I feel I paid a very heavy price for my adaptation efforts at a critical career point.  Feel free to DM.  

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1) Get involved with extracurriculars, student council, intramurals, or whatever you enjoy during pre-clerkship. Clerkship is a busy time, and by then it can be harder (but not impossible) to get involved with extracurriculars that will strengthen your CaRMS application when the time comes. 

2) Keep your options open in pre-clerkship and don't narrow down your specialty interests too soon.  I was planning on applying to a surgical specialty, honed in on that early, and then realized in clerkship that there was a non-surgical specialty that I enjoyed a lot more.  I may have realized this sooner if didn't have such tunnel vision early on! 

3) Enjoy the ride and trust the process! 

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