Contemporaries, Attitude, and Gratitude: Making the Most of a Medical School Experience

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During the third year of my undergraduate studies I remember hearing horror stories about what my future would be like if I were to be accepted into medical school. Discouraging phrases such as “It is like trying to drink water from a fire hydrant,” “I hope you’re able to swim with concrete shoes on,” and “You will study like it’s finals week every single week … a nap will become the highlight of your week” came from peers, teachers, and counselors alike. I even remember later, while at the peak of my stress during the application process, hearing someone say, “Getting into medical school is the easy part.…” Needless to say, I felt doomed.
However, like many people in my generation, I was able to find some solace on the Internet; hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs have been written by aspiring and current medical students, venting their similar worries that all seemed to revolve around the same central concept: “Surviving medical school.”
Today, I advocate the contrary—I want to write about enjoying medical school. It is my hope that this entry finds and inspires undergraduates, medical students, and physicians alike, each of whom can all too easily find themselves second-guessing a career in medicine.
I am now a first-year medical student at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. My classmates and I have already finished an entire class, learned how to take a complete patient history, had five exams and various quizzes, and are now neck-deep in anatomy (we are actually currently covering the deep neck, no pun intended), and I have never been happier! There have been many opportunities to become stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed, but these are not the sentiments that have reached me. Instead, I have been overcome by a sense of delight and privilege. Why? Well, I can only speak from my own situation, but I believe the notion of being able to enjoy an experience (medical school, and for that matter, life in general) starts with who we surround ourselves with to share in a given experience—our contemporaries. At Loyola, the common denominator amongst contemporaries is “being there for others.” We all came to this school because we want to be there for those who need it most, and, during these first two years of medical school, before we have the clinical skills to be considered apt enough to help a real patient, we turn to helping each other.
If medicine, or “being there for others” as I have termed it above, is truly what you want to do, you will be able to find each new endeavor a gratifying one, rather than something to resent, throughout the journey of learning how to heal. This, combined with an entourage of compatible and caring colleagues, can indeed enable you to enjoy the challenging experiences inevitably encountered in health care and its training process.
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