It is truly incredible, the things our bodies and minds are capable of doing in an incredibly short amount of time. I went from living in my parent’s home in NJ, watching a lot of TV, doing what I like when I like, to living in Grenada, West Indies spending a combined ~10+hrs in lecture and studying every day, still trying to find time to cook and work out and not lose my mind. I love every second of it.
People will tell you that medical school is the most difficult experience you may go through in your life – that you will work harder and sleep less than you have previously. Although this may all be true, do not be fooled. This is not just a transference of undergraduate work to simply spending more time on each subject. Each subject is revolutionized. In undergrad, my single greatest complaint was that some courses, core requirements, and assignments were irrelevant to what I wished to do in the future, and that these requirements were occasionally preventing me from spending more time with relevant material.
^ my stack of textbooks
I was so worried when I saw on my schedule for Term 1 the typical schedule of:
– 8 hrs Anatomy
-5 hrs Biochemistry
– 4hrs Histology
– 1 hr Bioethics
To my undergraduate-trained eyes, I saw:
– hrs wasted doing rote memorization
– hrs wasted memorizing chemical structures and cycles that I would not need to know as intimately as they were taught
– hrs wasted staring at cells and once again learning (as I have, it feels, learned every year) about translation and transcription and what a Golgi body is & does
I was deeply mistaken. EVERYTHING that I’ve learned has been strongly connected to clinical case studies and actual doctoring! I’ve already explored the human body through cadaver prosection, ultrasound of standardized patients, and basic patient physical examinations. Every molecular reference or tiny nerve mentioned in class is rooted in reality using pathological examples, or demonstrated injury or disease. To my great delight, I was actively learning ~10+ hrs a day and loving it!
So to those nagging nay-sayers in the back of your mind as you sit nervously twiddling your thumbs the summer before medical school begins, shout “no! I will love school! I will triumph because it is interesting and stimulating because I am in the end-game. I am learning about what I love and creating the building blocks for the rest of my life!”
The first week I was overwhelmed. My brain was being fed more information than it had had in a while, and then I was expected and compelled to study even more outside of class, as well. I walked around campus in a haze – you could tell us first-week first-termers apart from our classmates by the scent of coffee wafting behind us as we sleepily stumbled from class to study hall to class to library, only jumping in bed somewhere in there like we were kids playing “don’t touch the lava!”
This second week, however, has the start of anatomy lab and actual competency begins to cautiously approach us. We start joining surgery club or AMSA or orphanage groups and go cliff-diving and eating non-junk food and remembering to brush our teeth because we’ve finally thrown off the heavy blanket of exhaustion and self-doubt. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is but a brief respite from exhaustion and self-doubt: the key component of Term 1 is a recurring cycle of Panic and Mastery, but the glimpse behind the curtain dangles just enough of a carrot to keep us plodding along.