Best Foot Forward #3.5: A Response
After my last post where I interviewed fellow med students about their answers to the question "What do I wish I would have known before Med School?" I received a message from a IG friend @amandalynnporter with a detailed response that stood in opposition to what was said in the previous post. Amanda is an M2 at Mayo Medical School, and if you have Instagram, she is a great follow!
I appreciate her response because as a premed student, you should listen to a few different opinions. Just like picking a specialty for residency, everyone a different opinion for you regarding what to do for the rest of your life. To me, knowledge is found when you take in a body of information from multiple perspectives. Let's see what she has to say!
After reading Mr. MedSchoolMoney’s post about what other students wish they knew before starting med school, I can’t lie – I was pretty taken aback. I don’t identify with a lot of the particulars mentioned in the post, which is why I wanted to write in a few comments of my own. I really appreciate his post and that others are willing to share their opinions with students – as it’s most valuable to hear the experiences of others who have gone before you.
What do I wish I would have known going into medical school? Probably a lot of intricacies that are better learned by trial and error, but there are a few big things that I think are important to consider when considering medical school and also when preparing to enter a medical school career.
I’ll hit on a few points that were mentioned in the previous post and a few that weren’t.
“I wish I’d known how much of life I’d miss out on.” – I think it’s important to remember that these comments are HIGHLY dependent on what school you choose, what your school’s geographic area looks like (do you have to commute long distances preventing you from studying more hours, are you working, what extracurriculars have you taken on? –things like that.) I don’t feel like I miss out on a significant amount of life. Life happens – sure. You’re right – I don’t have the life of my neighbor who is a real estate agent. He and his wife have weekends off and they travel to different states to hike with their dog. I study. I chose that. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t get to go golf on Thursday evenings after class occasionally, that I don’t go to movies on Saturday night with my boyfriend, or that I don’t regularly attend church on Sunday. I still was in my mom’s wedding, I threw her a bridal shower three states away, and my family sees me often. Is it tough? Hell yes. But I make it work because this is the sacrifice that I’ve chosen. But also, my school’s curriculum and selective program has made it flexible for me to do these types of things whereas I don’t know the schedules at other schools. So – just keep in mind that these comments may not be true for everyone.
“I wish I would have known to study for Step 1 right out of the gate.” – Totally disagree. I think stressing about a test that is two years away will drive you crazy. Again, this will probably be school dependent based on how well your curriculum teaches to Step 1. If your classes align with the content well, then you won’t have to do much extra studying. Yeah, I have followed along and annotated my copy of First Aid along the way, and I guess you could call that “studying” for Step 1 – but I don’t think buying UWorld out of the gate is the right choice. I did buy USMLE – RX and use their 360 package to do flashfacts and their qbank, which significantly raised my test scores. But again, testing at medical schools will be highly variable. My school uses only National Board of Medical Examiners subject content tests. Some schools have exams written completely by their professors. It’s HIGHLY variable. You need to be really cognizant of that when you are deciding on a school and even when you’re interviewing – ask these questions!! –What type of content do your classes teach? What do your exams look like- are you tested on minutiae or broader concepts? How do your students perform on Steps? What is the wellness status of your students? – They should have all of this data for you!!!
I think I would also tell my pre-med self that this marathon WILL have challenges that may seem insurmountable – and for those challenges it is important to have a support system that is not involved in the medical world to back you up. This has been integral to my success as a student – coming home to a non-medical professional who I can vent to, who supports me, and who can tolerate my stress and work level. It is also taxing on your support system to have you leeching off of them – remember to thank them, give them gratitude, and listen and support them as well. Friendship and love is a two way street and you CANNOT burn the bridges or bite the hand that feeds you. Maintain the important relationships in your life, no matter how difficult it is to find time to do so. They are monumental to your success.
My last piece of advice to my premed self would be to open your eyes, lean back, and take in the sights. When you get to medical school, it does have a honeymoon phase. But I think it can last your entire medical school career if you let it. Sure, there are going to be bumps that distort your honeymoon and leave a sour taste in your mouth – but if you really keep a broad interest in everything you’re doing, you will maintain your love and excitement for all things medicine and all things medical school. Keep reading up on the weird things that interest you even if they don’t necessarily pertain to class, keep digging for the pathophysiology of the disease, even if it’s easier to memorize the straight path – because in the end you will only benefit. You will gain a broader understanding of the subject matter, you will retain the information longer and better, and you will have a comprehensive foundation of medicine moving into residency. You will forget a lot of what you learn in medical school, that’s just the sorry truth. But when you hear these things again, they will come back to you quickly and you will easily be able to build upon them. You will pull out a random fact that is buried deep in the rolodex of your medical knowledge and it will feel SO good.
Medical school is fun. It’s exciting. It’s challenging. It’s new every day. There are ups and downs but it’s manageable and you get through it by the grace of God.
I sincerely hope this helps.
Amanda is an M2 at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota.
You can find her on Instagram @amandalynnporter.
Mr. MedSchool Money: Thank you, Amanda, for sharing your perspective and for taking the time to write out your thoughts during your busy 2nd year schedule. For our readers, it is important to know that the students I quoted originally, I quoted from Instagram, so they did not have quite as much of an opportunity to flesh out their full thoughts (with the exception of me, of course!).
A brief note about the Comment tool I use- Disqus. It is a bit more cumbersome to make an account than to be able to reply immediately, but I have really enjoyed using Disqus and I think you will too. Give it a try and let Amanda and I know what you think of her response!