As I approach the final few months before graduating from medical school (fingers crossed) I can’t help but wonder what a roller coaster of a ride this has been. The time really did fly. But, not fly like wow that passed really quickly, more like; Wow, I’m getting old! Time flew!
These past 4 years have been life changing. I think back to my first anatomy class and meeting some of my closest friends for the first time. We all thought we were super cool going to anatomy lab with our brand new scrubs on thinking this was going to be just like Grey’s Anatomy. I still remember taking my first medical school exam and going through something like 500 pages of material in 3 days. When our Dean told us medical school is like drinking water out of a fire hydrant, he wasn’t kidding. It was actually more like drowning in a pool of water while a fire hydrant blasts you in the face.
There’s this quote that I find so true, “No one looks back on their life and remembers the nights they got plenty of sleep.”
I cant even count the number of all nighters I pulled in fee hall (our really ghetto study area) with my friends. I still laugh at the number of times I was playing ping pong at 5 in the morning with my buddy Jose the night before a exam. We would study in separate rooms then one of us would walk into the others room, and give “the look”; you know the look you give your friend, its a unspoken look and they know exactly what’s up. Yeah that was like every 2-3 hours between studying. It was a “yo, time for me to whoop your ass in pong” kinda look. Of course, I always opened up a can of whoop ass. Sorry, Jose.
I can remember so many times where I was stressing hard, flying through material, sometimes sitting my butt in a chair for 14 hours a day just studying. I would sometimes do the math to figure out how much time it would take me to get through all this material before the exam and how many hours of sleep I could allow myself. It’s actually terrifying thinking about all the close calls I had as a med student and to be honest it’s a miracle I have made it this far. Seriously, ask any of my friends.
If you asked me if I had to do it all over again, would I? I would immediately answer with no without a single shred of hesitation. Actually, It would be more like F&%#^ NO. I don’t have enough hair as it is and i’m honesty not sure I know how to study anymore after 4th year.
But, was it worth it? Yeah, I think it was.
I get to do something that very few people have the privilege of doing. Doctors are leaders, they are pioneers, and they are advocates for their patients. It takes a special person to dedicate so much of themselves to this profession and to their patients.
I have survived medical school up to this point, and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family and my friends. I have made some lifelong friends, shared some incredible moments with patients, lost a good amount of hair, had a few panic attacks and still in the midst of a lot of uncertainty. But, it feels pretty damn good to be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve been hearing about this damn light forever, I was beginning to wonder if it even existed.
If I had to give any advice to those embarking on this path, I would leave them with these 3 things to help them survive medical school.
1. BE AS DEDICATED TO YOURSELF, AS YOU ARE TO YOUR STUDIES.
It’s going to be tough, and medical school can take a toll on you mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Be kind to yourself. Treat your body right, have support, take breaks and put things into perspective whenever you can. This is a long road and taking care of yourself is going to take just as much effort as medical school is. Have hobbies outside of school, get your priorities straight and make some very serious commitments to yourself. I can’t emphasize this enough.
2. BE BRAVE.
There is a lot of fear in this journey. Mostly from the endless amount of uncertainty at every corner. There will always be a exam. There will always be a score. There will always be a problem that arises, weather in your personal life or school life. You’ll be mounting a lot of debt. You might even fail a exam or a class and it’s okay you will learn from it. I think this is what hurts us the most as students. This constant judgment and uncertainty of what will happen if we are not perfect. We are constantly being judged by our scores, and then by our attending’s in the clinics and sometimes you will just get fed up with it. Medical school is a game, and you just have to play the game without letting it cripple you. You can’t always be stressed about an exam because there is always going to be one coming up. If you just do your best everyday, it will all be fine. Surviving medical school is not difficult, but it takes a lot of hard work. You have to be consistent with your studies and put in the time. If you show up everyday and do the work, you are going to do just fine, I guarantee it.
3. KNOW YOUR WHY.
Know why you are doing this. To survive medical school you have to have a reason that pushes you every day. Figure out early on what it is you want to do with your career. The sooner you know, the more motivation you will have in school. I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do until the beginning of my 4th year, and I know if I had that vision in place sooner I would have been much more motivated throughout my studies. Having a end goal and vision to help you through the tough times is so important and while it may not always be clear and it might even change, its smart to take time to explore your career options early on. Start creating a vision for the future and remind yourself of the reason you are going through all of this.
Surviving medical school has been just that, surviving. Putting one foot in front of the other every day. Showing up everyday and doing what needs to be done. It’s a unique experience and it definitely shapes you into something different than what you once were before medical school. There are a lot of highs and a lot of lows. Embrace the good times and know the bad times will pass.
About the author:
Rami Wehbi is a fourth year medical student and founder of New Age Doc’s. He completed his undergraduate education in Human biology at Michigan State University and continued there for medical school. In his spare time he enjoys working out, biking, outdoors adventures and cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Follow Rami on!