“The biggest hurdle is getting into med school and you’ve passed it,” I heard this congratulatory message repeated during orientation from those over 40 years of age behind their zoom screens. This is the beginning of a dream and the end of years of hardwork, of taking on extra research projects and internships and of competing to be better than your peers so that you’d make it in. And they’re right. Once you enter med school, the storm dies down and you can now start to truly see those around you as friends instead of competition. Sigh.
You watch lectures on your bed and come to class to take tests but the tests aren’t graded. Seniors pass down notes and google drives while alumni drop their emails to help you plan your career. This camaraderie and goodwill was a breath of fresh air to me. Is this how the world would be if we all stopped fighting and started helping? This extra help is much needed if you were to survive through medical school, the profs repeat. Counselling, availability of helplines and listening ears are made aware of for the near future. It’s almost a foreboding, those who have been through it simply waiting for the fledglings to be crushed by the weight of medical school. I’m not letting this get to my head.
Toxic medical school culture is known and personally, I think it is an exaggeration. I don’t know if I’ll be proved wrong but for now, I’m taking things slow and steady. If you’re curious, weekly, I watch 25hrs of lecture, attend 15hrs of class, read through book chapters for 5hrs and take 3 tests a week. It’s only the first 2 weeks of school and it is set to accelerate next month. Class time is allocated for test-taking and asking/answering questions in our teams of 6. Med students are nerds and being in a room full of nerds unleashes the curiosity within us without worrying about waiting for others to catch up. We master the content that is tested for exams but we also have a thousand questions that go beyond the required lectures. We cite research papers in our answers to other teams’ doubts. Med students go in-depth which sometimes leads to rabbit holes we drop into, discussing difference between compassion and sympathy instead of looking at the big picture. That episode really got on my nerves. It can also turn into a debate where people state they are right and they do so with facts and logic but that still creates awkward tension. That’s the energy but hey they still have good hearts.
I am excited but also anxious of what I’ll be facing soon. I hope to update this blog to keep a little timeline of major milestones of med school. The Profs also said self-reflection is an important tool you have to master for med school. Wish me luck!