“Am I smart enough to be a doctor” and “am I smart enough for medical school” are two questions nearly everyone with aspirations of donning the white coat will ask themselves at some point in their journey.
Growing up, we constantly hear about how smart you have to be to become a doctor. We hear about how hard medical school is. We hear about how much dedication is required to pursuing this career path.
Often, the ones who take the premed route are the high school superstars – they take AP & honors classes, they rock their ACTs and SATs, they’re the valedictorians, and they’re the students who did their homework every night, never received a detention, and have followed a perfect trajectory towards medical school since day one of kindergarten.
If these are the future doctors of the world, does the average student stand a chance?
I am here to tell you, from personal experience, the truth about how intelligent one must be to succeed in medical school and become a physician. If you’re a high schooler debating pursuing premed in college, a current college student on the premed track second-guessing if you have what it takes, or a first year medical student dismayed with your lack of early success – you need to read this post.
In medical school, half the battle is figuring out how to study. And more specifically, what to study. In the first year, we are constantly trying to figure out how to make sense of all the information thrown at us. We are fed daily doses of lectures and PowerPoints and problem sets and assigned readings. A major skill that all medical students must hone is their ability to differentiate between important and irrelevant – low yield vs high yield. We need to study smarter, not harder.
And in second year, all students are trying to get an edge in studying for boards. You will receive weekly emails with discount codes for various board review resources which always come accompanied by some flawed research that states, “You NEED this product to get into your dream residency, 265 STEP 1 GUARANTEED if you follow our plan for the small price of your monthly rent”.
(See my list of 4 Essential Medical School Study Resources that Every Student Needs for the essentials)
We are overwhelmed with resources, so we need to decide carefully which ones we spend our ever-increasing loan money on. We all love Sketchy, First Aid is obligatory, and Dr. Sattar is a medical school deity, but one overlooked study resource is Boards and Beyond. I’ve sampled Doctors in Training, watched some Kaplan Lectures, and experimented with First Aid Step 1 Express, but none of these sources compare to the quality and price of Boards and Beyond. Yet when I suggest it to classmates, they look at me with confusion because they’ve never heard of it. This needs to change.
This aint your typical Tumblr-appealing fall playlist full yawn-inducing acoustic indie songs tailored to the Pumpkin Spiced Latte crowd. As you must know, when I’m not reading about diseases and other medicine related stuff or slamming beers after an exam, music is a major focus of mine and has been for my entire life. Certain songs, albums, and even particular sounds are associated with the crisp cool air of the autumn season.
The two months or whatever of the autumn season is probably the only time in the calendar year I’m happy to say I live in a non-tropical climate. Something about the fall is so introspective, nostalgia-inducing, and eerily atmospheric.
Here’s a collection of my favorite songs that perfectly capture the fall atmosphere. (click the song titles for a link to each song)
As a premed, medical school was some mythical abyss that one descended into and rose four years later as a doctor. Like in The Dark Knight Rises when Batman goes into that pit, where he must train his mind and body to escape and conquer Bane. But instead of the batsuit and badass fighting skills, we supposedly emerge with expertise in medicine and a long white coat. Idealistically, medical school was a place of enriching education, state-of-the-art futuristic facilities, where one went and suddenly learned how to become a doctor.
I have friends at eight different medical schools in the United States – some I talk to weekly, others I see once or twice a year. Naturally, we talk about medical school. We rant about our administrations and curriculums. We rave about the things we love about our schools. I don’t hate my school, but it’s far from perfect. There are aspects I love, and others I hate (read more on that here). We have time-wasting mandatory activities, some pretty bad lecturers, and of course, we evaluate, evaluate, evaluate to death.
I have a dream. It goes like this…
Recently a user on Reddit asked me if I had any day-to-day advice for success and happiness in medical school. Novel question no doubt, I thought about for a second and realized – hell yeah I do.
When I give advice to medical students on my blog, I’m usually thinking of the big concepts:
This is all good stuff, if I may say so myself. However, I often find myself thinking, damn, this is a good piece of advice I can give to my readers, but it’s not important enough to write an entire post on. So, I’ve decided to do something different. From this day forward, I will be Tweeting a daily small tip with the hashtag #dailydose to help you improve your day-to-day life in medical school. In this post, I’ll preview a few of those tips. If you find them helpful, follow me on Twitter for more: @JordanSoze
I know, I know. There are probably hundreds of these very same articles online. Every website about anything has 10 types of people you meet in ________. Types of people you see in the gym, types of people you’ll befriend in the nursing home, types of people you meet in AA, types of people you meet in prison, and so on. But I don’t really care and I will do this anyways.
It’s that time of the year again. The air begins to cool and slip into a crisp autumn sweater. We have football on Sundays. Coffees and beers infused with the seasonal spices. And of course, thousands of premeds are transitioning from the easy going days of undergrad to the wake up call of medical school.
I seem to always preface these sorts of posts the same way, but I’ll do it again – I had no idea what was going on when I first entered medical school. I didn’t know what to study. I didn’t know where to study. I didn’t know how to study. I was a Florida boy experiencing my first northern winter. A small-town kid thrown into the big city. I was out of my element. I was lost and confused. So when I read posts from other first year medical students going through the same trials & tribulations, I can’t help but feel the urge to reach out and give advice.
So, if you’re a first year medical student overwhelmed with resources, studying day and night, and not getting the scores you’d hoped to achieve – take a deep breath. It’s alright. The first few months are getting for getting acclimated. If you feel like you’re putting in more time studying than you ever have in your life only to yield subpar results, this post is for you.
The phone is ringing, surprised as it’s early. It was my mother.
There was a long pause. An eerie silence. Usually when my mom calls me, she’s perkily asking me about my classes, berating me about yet another unpaid parking ticket that came in the mail, or complaining that my little brother hasn’t mowed the grass recently. Mom stuff. But this time it was different. There was a pause. Maybe a few seconds. But those few seconds were enough for me to realize that something was off. Something was wrong. Instead of her affectionate and sometimes nagging voice, all I could hear was the sound of my air conditioner blowing in the background.
She said his name.
I wasn’t there with her. But I could hear the tears. My mom usually speaks with energy, whether that energy comes from being upset with me for doing something stupid or eagerness to talk about visiting her friend, it doesn’t matter – there’s always a certain energy in her voice. When you know someone like that, shit, the first person who ever spoke words to you when you were a potato fresh out of the oven, you know when something’s up. You know every normal vocal inflection and what it means. I can read her like a book. Her typical emotions are stressed, excited, frustrated, and loving. But this was different. When I heard her say his name, I knew there were two emotions running through my mother’s soul, audibly permeating through her voice – anxiety and sorrow.
If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that I entered medical school without a clue as to what was going on. I had no older med school friend, no mentor, and nowhere to really go for advice. Hell, I wasn’t even on Reddit back then. As such, the first time I heard someone mention First Aid, I was like… What? Why would we need to buy an entire text book on first aid stuff like bandaids and CPR? Laughable, I know.
My biggest issue during the beginning of medical school wasn’t a lack of effort, but rather not knowing how to study for medical school. Do I read textbooks? Do I attend lectures? Do I take written notes? I’ve since highly refined my study strategies and discovered countless resources that were essential in my journey from clueless med student with average grades to confidently in the top of the class.
1:35 p.m., August 20, 2017
I’m really depressed right now. Not in like a serious way, but more in a melodramatic snap-out-of-it sense. I’m back at school. Sitting in a coffee shop. Hungover as hell. Sipping coffee. Reading Reddit. Pondering what will happen in tonight’s Twin Peaks episode. Thinking about writing. Writing a sentence then deleting it. Reading a paragraph of First Aid then quitting. Ruminating over my plan for the forthcoming year. Daydreaming of being back at Bonnaroo or on the beach or getting wasted all day in Chicago. Doing nothing.
One may wonder, why Soze, why are you sitting in a coffee shop mindlessly browsing the internet on the day before you start your second year of medical school when you should be at home snoozing and nursing that hangover of yours? I’ll answer for ya – In my joyful summer of hedonism, I was at home away from school for almost three months. Consequently, I completely neglected to pay my electric bill for my apartment in the summer. And what do ya know… I come back to get settled into school yesterday, and my electricity is turned off! Ain’t that funny.