“Do you like medical school?”
Well yeah, sure I do. But that isn’t a simple yes or no answer. Sometimes it flat out sucks. Sometimes it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. I’m not going to sit back and tell you that memorizing muscle insertions for hours upon hours is a heart-warming joy of mine. Nor will I tell you that studying the human body every day is a miserable soul-crushing boot camp.
For hours, I can rant about and I can rave about medical school. Here, I’ve taken some time to reflect on what I love and what I hate about this stage in my career. Don’t listen to the idiots who only complain and act like they’re in some sort of academic hell. They’re either being dramatic and histrionic or they’re not here for the right reasons.
I have my complaints as well, but for every complaint, I can name something I love about medical school. Let’s start with the bad:
10 Things I Hate About Medical School
1. Bullshit Mandatory Shit: 8 a.m. small group learning activity every week? I could’ve learned more in fifteen minutes at home than I did sitting here for two hours daydreaming about Chipotle and sleep. Dean’s hour? Oh, you mean sit in the back of the lecture hall and laugh at people’s idiotic questions (90% of them) and listen to entitled snobs bitch about the bad coffee in the student center. Four hour seminar on healthcare? Quality Reddit time. Mandatory
infomercial presentation on the latest board prep course that’s totally gonna get me a 270 on Step 1? It took me a 5 minute Google search to learn that your product is not worth the cash. In medical school, your time becomes so valuable. When it’s wasted, you will be annoyed.
2. Gunners: “Ugh I’m gonna fail so hard” (translation: I’m well prepared but may not score in the top 10%). Found a great study resource to learn a current, difficult topic? Make sure to keep it secret and not tell anyone! Class is almost over? Great time to ask 5 loaded questions so that the professor knows I’m here and I’M SMART. While there are many cool people in med school, there are a select few who will earn a spot on your hate list along with Adolf Hitler and your middle school crush who rejected you and broke your heart.
3. Bad Professors: With the cost of medical education, I firmly believe it should be a rule that all professors must undergo a vetting process to ensure that there is a minimal standard of presenting slides with comprehensible English. No joke, last year we had a lecturer, who not only couldn’t speak or present in an organized and clearly understood manner, but his powerpoint slides didn’t contain a single grammatically correct sentence. It was a joke. And I’m not just talking about foreign professors with accents – some of them can be the best teachers. I’m talking about the Ph.D/M.D. who spends 15 minutes of his lecture time talking about his research, takes 10 minutes going into irrelevant, minute detail for one disease, yet skims over high-yield stuff in 3 minutes, and leaves you with zero take-away on what you need to know. But they’re allowed to teach because they’re “experts in their fields”. Thank God for Pathoma.
4. Missing Fun Things: Nothing is more demoralizing than getting a call from a good friend to go drinking for the weekend as you have an exam coming up wagging its finger in your face and tauntingly saying, “no fun for you”. Med school doesn’t care about birthdays, anniversaries, or any other important day outside of Christmas and Thanksgiving. You’ll miss the old days when several times a week you’d meet up with your buddies and get drunk without a care in the world.
5. Questions about Medical School: Listen, until third or fourth year when I’ve received my board score and rotated through a variety of specialties, I don’t know what kind of doctor I’m going to become. Do I like it? For short – sure. For a longer answer, read this post. Is it hard? Well, yeah – read this. When I’m with people outside of medicine, I become a redundant drone of stock-answers. I should print out business cards with the link to Soze Media’s Med School section.
6. Debt: Unless you’re one of the fortunate few with wealthy parents who could afford to foot the $200,000 (that’s lowballing it) medical school bill, you’ll be living on borrowed money which will need to be payed back with ever increasing interest. It’s doable if you’re smart and have an aggressive repayment strategy, but you’ll have to sacrifice a solid chunk of your early paydays to escape the debt. And if you decide you don’t like medicine after a few years, the debt is kind of like knocking up some chick after a one night stand – a $200,000 mistake. Which ensures that you’re chained to medicine for life.
7. Delaying Payday: One of the more depressing aspects of going to medical school is seeing friends graduate with business and engineering degrees, coming fresh out of undergrad with solid salaries. Instead of getting paid, you are still paying for four more years. You don’t have to eat ramen every night, but you certainly can’t afford to take certain trips and you don’t have the mental freedom to drop $100 at the bar without flinching like your newly employed friends can.
8. Specialty Stress: It isn’t as simple as “I want to be a dermatologist” or “I want to be an ENT surgeon”. No, no – at the end of medical school, you must go through yet another stressful application process. You have to worry if you have enough research, if your board scores are high enough, and if you’re a competitive applicant or simply throwing up a half-court shots when you apply to a competitive specialty. Plus, you know… figuring out what you actually LIKE. With such a wide variety of specialties, finding the right fit is pretty much the most important task you’ll ever face in life. What if you decide to go the surgery route but end up hating the O.R. and hellish residency? What if you decide on Emergency Medicine but burnout from the nightshift after five years? What if you go OBGYN and realize all your colleagues are miserable and angry? What if you kill the boards, get into Derm, but soon learn that seeing 25 teens with Acne every day isn’t your idea of fulfilling? I just don’t know, man.
9. Cynical Attendings: I understand that you’re mad you chose family med, the majority of your patients have a viral infection that you can’t even treat, and you’re frustrated with the changes in the healthcare system, but picking on medical students is straight up lame. Dealing with the cynicism of certain doctors is one of the most loathsome aspects of med school. Sift through these jerks and gravitate towards mentors who love what they do.
10. Not Having Time & Losing Touch: Two weeks later, I realized that I’d received four straight unanswered texts from someone I considered a very good friend. I’d become so consumed with studying that I didn’t even have the decency to text back. It’s shameful. But sometimes, it happens. School takes over, and if you aren’t careful, it can be very easy to blow off people who are important to you. Time will go by when I realize I haven’t talked to some of my best friends in months. Throughout the journey, you’ll realize that you really don’t have time for everyone. The important people will always be there, but some friends will fall to the wayside. That’s life, but med school accelerates the process. You’ll have less time to spend with your significant other. You won’t see your family for longer stretches than you’re used to. You’ll often be isolated with lectures, which is why it’s important to make friends in school.
10 Things I Love About Medical School
1. Challenge: As JFK once famously said, “Why does Rice play Texas?” Rice plays Texas because Texas is a challenge, and even if they lose, playing Texas will make them a better team. In the beginning, med school can seem overwhelming and you’ll feel that you don’t have enough time to study, let alone process and retain all the information. By the end, you’ll realize that you’ve become way better at studying, more efficient with your time, and your cognitive abilities have skyrocketed. I thrive on stress. So when an exam is coming up, you lock in, study your ass off, and kill it, you’ll feel like Dr. House.
2. Learning Cool Shit: As I’ve written about before, one of my favorite aspects of medical school is that while you may be learning a large amount of difficult material, it’s all mostly interesting stuff. No more humanities or pointless plant biology classes – just zeroing in on information that is pertinent to your future career. Our bodies are high functioning machines of evolutionary excellence, full of electrical circuitry, feedback loops, hormones and pathways and cascades. Since I was seven years old I’d always been wondering about the physiological process behind erections, and now I know. I also know where babies come from, on a very detailed cellular level. And the treatment’s we’ve come up with… You can repair a heart valve my making a hole in someone’s inner thigh? You can robotically operate on a kidney like you’re playing a video game? Dope. As I always preach, love what you learn.
3. The Real World Can Wait: Although I do hate the fact that I won’t cash in all of this training until I’m like 30 or so, I love being a student. Medical school is just that – school. My biggest responsibilities are studying and passing a test? That’s whats up. I don’t have a structured job? If I hate a boss (professor) I can look forward to never seeing them again after the month-long block? I can go to class in gym shorts? I’m not responsible for someone’s life (yet)? I can grab a case of beer and go to a house party all day like I’m 20? Hell yeah. There’s no age limit to a good time. While it may be harder, medical school has a lot of similarities to college, and to that, I raise my glass of cheep beer.
4. Skipping Class: Sure, there are mandatory classes and stupid group activities, but most medical school lectures do not require attendance. They are streamed onto a media site for your viewing pleasure. This means that even though lectures are schedule from 8 to noon, I can sleep in, make some breakfast, pour myself a cup of coffee, and study all day from the comfort of my bathrobe at my kitchen table. I can even study naked all day if I were so inclined.
5. Job Security: Despite all the cynicism regarding the advances in healthcare, insurances and policy, if you graduate from medical school, you’ll always have a job. Even if you finish dead last in your graduating class. Sure, if you decide on becoming a pediatrician you may not be able to afford your dream Ferrari, but you’ll never be struggling to eat or worrying about getting laid off.
6. Outside Resources: Despite the saddening amount of poor lecturers, the beauty of medical school is that you could probably never watch a single lecture and pass. Just know what the topic is and research it. Pathology? Pathoma has you covered. Bugs & drugs? Sketchy videos are golden. Physiology? Just read Costanzo! We are blessed to attend school in the internet era. If you have a professor who didn’t explain the coagulation cascade well, there are Youtube videos that will teach it to you. If you want to make flashcards but don’t want to get carpal tunnel from writing all day, use Anki. Shit, even if you have a single question on a topic, type it into Google and you’ll find a myriad of helpful links with clear answers. Learning from a single lecturer or book is more ancient than flip phones. It’s so damn easy to learn medicine in this age. Take advantage of outside resources.
7. Variety of Specialties: While choosing one specialty stressful, it’s almost a good problem to have. If you kill the boards, the world of medicine is your oyster. If you never want call and love fast-paced energy, go Emergency Med. If you want a stable lifestyle and long-lasting relationships with patients, go into primary care. From robotic operations, to helping people with mental illness, to becoming an expert in a specific field like cardiology, there are many flavors of medicine. There are so many different responsibilities and lifestyles amongst medical specialties. Just try to find the one that you can see yourself doing in thirty years.
8. Saving the World: Joking. But really, entering a profession in which people will look to you for advice, guidance and help when they’re at their most vulnerable is why we’re here. Now, I’m not in medicine to cure cancer or because I get butterflies in my stomach every time I help someone, but knowing my career won’t be based on swindling people out of their money or mindlessly churning away at a corporate 9-5 cubicle, is satisfying in itself.
9. “Chicks, Money, Power, and Chicks“: You’ve gotta love Dr. Cox. While this famous quote from the star of Scrubs may be hyperbolic, becoming a doctor is something to be proud of. Anyone you date will joyfully boast they’re dating a doctor to the scrutinizing parents. When someone at the bar asks you what you do, there is honor in saying you’re a doctor. And although girls won’t be throwing themselves at you just because you have a picture in your white coat as your Facebook profile picture, it definitely adds 1 point to your attractiveness. While it may not be the career-monolith that it once was, no one will ever think you’re a loser. You are training to become a respected member of society and an expert in the field of medicine, and no one can take that away from you.
10. That First Post-Exam Beer: We started with challenge. And with every challenge, there is reward. After you’ve spent an entire week shacked up in your apartment with coffee and endless lectures, dropping the pencil, walking out of the exam and straight to the bar the enjoy the refreshing carbonated taste of a cold beer is one of the more satisfying feelings on this earth. While the title of this entry is about cracking a cold one, the point is that when you spend the majority of your days consumed with medical school, everything non-medically related becomes a reward. When you finish your studying early and take the evening to lie on your couch watching Netflix, you won’t feel lazy, you’ll feel glorious. You learn to appreciate the little things. Like finishing your first year and beginning your last summer break – having an entire three months to sleep in, drink five nights of the week, spend time with friends and family, write these posts, veg out and lie on your couch all day watching movies, unlimited quality time with the girl, weekend trips, music festivals, and everything else that is glorious about this summer – it doesn’t feel lazy, or wasted, or irresponsible. It feels like a reward.