Remaining Enthusiastic in Medical School

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You’re done with your first semester of medical school. Grades could be better… CV is pretty empty… still uneasy about the future… and you’re missing the days when you were easily at the top of your class. The dream of going to medical school has now become a daily burden. The noble act of caring for others has become a nuisance. And worst of all, you’re beginning to forget what awaits all medical students at the end of the journey.

A relatively small percentage of “pre-med students” actually matriculate to medical school, and among them, even fewer attend their first choice. I think about those in Haiti, the poorest country in the western world, with a patient to doctor ratio of ~4000:1. After the recent earthquake, that ratio become all too obvious with thousands of injured citizens in need of medical treatment. I’m sure a lot of the Haitians aspired to become physicians, but due to a lack of institutions and resources, they sadly had to cut their dreams short.

This brings up an unusually prevalent yet disturbing dichotomy – so many medical students are gung-ho about healthcare, but after embarking on the arduous journey, they resent it with as much passion as they originally expressed in loving it. I think it’s safe to say that at some point, every medical student will feel varying levels of doubt in their choice of profession. So how do we overcome this?

It’s obviously no easy task and is highly dependent on an individual’s personality and ability to change. I’ll share three of the ways in which I retain my enthusiasm (and warrant the laughter of some classmates). 😀

Interview Day

There’s something about a bunch of incredibly intelligent albeit anxious group of pre-med students which just makes me… happy. They represent the purest form of enthusiasm for me – eager to get started, loving the research they’re doing, following doctors on a routine basis, and genuinely being interested in the future of healthcare. Maybe it’s because I was in their shoes a year ago that I can relate to them, but it’s still a refreshing reminder of the enthusiasm circulating amongst pre-meds for the career. I still can’t express how excited I get when even international students contact me seeking advice about their career. I try to remain humble (after all, how much do I really know as an MS-1), but it makes me warm and fuzzy inside. 😀

Neurosurgery

I’m fortunate enough to attend a medical school in the same city as my undergrad, so the relationships I built during my three years at HBU can carry over to medical school. Watching neurosurgeries takes me away from medicine and puts me into the excessively inquisitive mindset I had growing up. Oh, how does that work? What kind of software does that run? That scope is $500,000!? I’ve been fortunate to have a mentor who goes out of his way to introduce me to his colleagues and explain the reasoning behind each of his decisions. During one of the pre-ops, he asked some of us what the first thing we should do when patients wake up after verifying their response to stimuli. We quickly responded with phrases like “administer anti-seizure meds!” and “make sure the inflammation is reduced!” In reality, the answer was as simple as – “feed him.” Yeah… after an eight hour surgery… I’d be hungry too. It’s the simple (humanistic) things we tend to forget as we’re engrossed in medical facts.

Talk About Medicine

I wouldn’t dare do this with a fellow medical student (unless I wanted to be falsely labeled as a gunner or just “weird”), but it’s fun to talk to people outside of medicine about your goals. Neurosurgery and technology are the two most important subject fields for me, and I intend to be “that surgeon” who enjoys utilizing the latest and greatest in surgical innovation to improve microsurgery outcomes while minimizing risks. I can go on and on about this uniting of my interests, and it’s a timely reminder of why I’m in this journey to begin with.

Quite frankly, I’m sure there will be a point in my career where I want to quit, but in the grand scheme of things, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. There are countless others out there who would give anything to be in my shoes, so I owe it to them to excel in this privileged position. 🙂

How do you remain enthusiastic?

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