Entering the first year of medical school, MS1’s believe that they have some idea of what they are beginning. We are inundated with information about medical school starting in our pre-med or post-baccalaureate years, and the application process heaps even more onto our plates. Along with this, we have stories passed down by older friends and relatives who have already started or gone through the medical school experience. When we finally get to school, we think nothing will surprise us.
Needless to say, this naiveté is quickly shed after the first week of classes. We soon realize that we have much to learn, and very little time to learn it in. Some of these lessons occur in the classroom, while others remain more personal. After having gone through most of my first year, I have some surprising lessons.
Here’s my Top 5:
1. The amount of material you learn in a short period of time is amazing.
I was an immunology major in college. I took two semesters of lecture and one semester of lab to qualify for this major, on top of all of the other pre-med requirements. My immunology course in medical school was three weeks long. The medical school course covered more material than my core undergraduate major classes in 27 fewer weeks.
You learn so much in medical school so quickly that it is at times mind-boggling. While you do adjust somewhat to the coursework, you will still be amazed at how much you are expected to know from every day of class. Some people deal with this by studying all day, while others procrastinate and spend the days leading up to the exam stress eating pounds of chocolate. Either way, you get through it and come out more knowledgeable (and slightly heavier) than before.
2. Medicine has its own language, and it makes no sense at all.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, is put into layman’s terms. You can’t say “elevated heart rate”, you must say “tachycardia.” You can’t say “shortness of breath”, you must say “dyspnea.” You can’t say “low platelets,” you must say “thrombocytopenia.” That last one is my personal favorite. The ridiculous nature of this system is apparent to everyone, but since it’s been entrenched in the medical community for so long, it continues onwards. Have fun, future medical students.
3. You become desensitized to gross masses/fluids/images.
Menstrual fluid? No big deal. Oozing pus from a skin lesion? Not interesting. Penile sischarge? Just another Tuesday in the infectious disease/STD clinic. Teratoma? Well, that one is still rough. If you haven’t seen a teratoma, I’d suggest you google it (not at work, definitely NSFW).
4. Everyone is smarter than you.
I’m amazed every day by all of my classmates. They are all so accomplished and humble. One of my classmates is a published author (of a real book, not a research publication). One is a pilot. Another, an investment banker before beginning medical school. My college days of playing too much Xbox Live, while impressive for sheer immaturity, pale in comparison.
What I’ve really come to realize, however, is that you can learn a lot from viewing how others reach success. I’ve picked up many good habits and behaviors by just observing how my accomplished classmates go about their lives. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
5. Medical school is truly life changing.
For how much everyone complains about medical school, no one can deny that it is life changing. You learn so many interesting things, and all of them are relevant in positively affecting the lives of others. You meet so many interesting classmates and mentors, forming a motivating and comforting community. Most importantly, medical school teaches you about yourself. You learn that you are capable of so much more than you previously thought, and that you can deal with any challenge. All of these lessons and experiences are, quite literally, worth the price of admission.