Hey everyone! It’s been too long since my last post and I apologize for the long hiatus. Many things have happened in my life, since my last post and It’s great to be back on here doing what I love to do the most: write. As some of you know, I decided to embark on this crazy journey towards medical school last year, and I’m back again to enlighten you all on what my M1 year was like.
As I stare outside the window of my kitchen, I can see the rising summer heat permeating through the south Jersey horizon. Unfortunately, another summer is slowly coming to an end and these last nine days mark the end of my last free summer for the rest of my life. I know, it sounds tragic, but the fact of the matter is that as a medical student and future physician, the days of having a free summer are going to be a thing of a past. But I don’t mind, because it only means that I’m taking one step closer to achieving my life long goals. Now back to the story of my M1 year.
A lot of people wonder what medical school is like and to put it in the most reassuring way I can; It’s like being in a perpetuating realm of quicksand. With every swift movement of your extremities, you sink even faster and faster, until you’ve vanished. Medical school is a place like no other; A place where the top of the top attend. For a lot of medical students in high school, they were the top of their class, with good grades, and top-notched GPA’s. In college, they did the same as well, and continued to ascend academically. Well, close your eyes, and imagine the brightest college students across the globe sitting in one room, aspiring to be physicians. A room full of mostly, type A, perfectionist, people pleasing, and ‘genuine’ individuals. And now, add evaluations, teams, standardized exams, a rigorous curriculum to the mix, and what you get is a war. A war to see who is number one. But this war isn’t one of physical strength or manipulation, but one of the mental kind. Medical school is the war of the wits. A war to see who is the smartest, has the highest grade, has the most community service hours, is liked the most, and will get the highest board score. And If I’m being honest, I wanted to win that war, when I first started my M1 year. Why shouldn’t I? I did go to nursing school for four years and worked as a registered nurse for two years. I graduated at the top of my class, and saw things that none of my peers would see until they graduated medical school. So why not me?
But then the quicksand of medical school pulled me in, and it pulled me in deep to the point where I was lost. I can remember the first day of lecture at medical school. The first lecture was about the nucleus and I remember sitting there thinking that this was a joke. As soon as the second lecture came on, let’s say I came back to my sense. Let’s say that things went from 0-100, real quick! (kudos if you got the drake reference). To make matters worse, this first block of medical school was genetics, and all I could tell you about genetics at the time, were pea plants and punnett squares. For the first time in my life, I was learning too much information at once; and I couldn’t handle it. I thought I was losing my mind. Two hours of lecture, then two hours of lab, then two hours of research articles, then two hours of team based learning, and this was only for one day of the week. But despite the chaos going on inside me, all my classmates appeared calm, and almost un-phased by the work we were dealt. At this point, I thought something was wrong with me, and maybe I wasn’t cut out for this. And I let this mentality haunt me into my first exam. As a result, I did not do as well as I’d hoped and it crushed me. I was even more lost than I was before and I was so annoyed.
But then I decided that I was going to do something different, moving forward. I was no longer going to try to be a soldier in the war of the wits, and focus more on the bigger enemy: MYSELF. I was the one who doubted myself; I was the one who let the ambiance around me dictate my mentality; I was the one who had unfortunately lost myself. And I was destined to find myself back. So for the next block, which was biochemistry; I did things different. I woke up earlier in the morning, went to school earlier, read more, and put in the work. I gave every ounce of energy into that block, and I didn’t care if I looked odd to my classmates. I decided to avoid my classmates and stay in my lane, because only I know what works for me. And while I was taking that second exam, I knew I found my swagger back. And when I got my results, I knew that the work I put made a huge impact for me. So moving forward, I decided to stay in my lane and focus on my one goal: And that’s being better than the person in the mirror. Each day, I will strive to improve myself and be the best I can be. My competition aren’t my peers, but my competition is the person staring back in the mirror. And time after time, I’ve broken myself, to only build myself up again to be stronger and more resilient.
Yes, a lot of what I write may sound cliche and corny, but this is what the medical school life is like, at least in my opinion. It’s not as lavish, and carefree as many think, but its more demanding than I would have ever thought. I think the biggest difference for me, is realizing that from this point forward, I would be in charge of my own education. Gone are the days when you could sneak to the professor and whine, ‘This wasn’t taught in lecture, so I’m not responsible for knowing it.’ Why? Because in the field of medicine, there are no excuses. We’re all responsible for knowing as much as we can about everything possible that is health related. Do I know everything? Absolutely not! But my M1 year has put me in a position to become one step closer to my goal of becoming an even more well rounded physician.
But all in all, every block in medical school has its lists of demands and its a never-ending cycle of early mornings, late nights, skipped meals, and perpetuating stress, as you try not to be consumed by the quicksand. I was fortunate enough not to be consumed by the quicksand during my M1 year, and as I stand on platform 1.9 and three-quarters; I’m optimistic to begin my M2 year on the right foot. With the biggest exam of my life and career coming up in the next 10 months, USMLE Step 1: I’ve got to be sure to be on my game and not take any days off. As the amount of information I have to learn piles on, the quicksand becomes deeper and deeper; But I’ve learned something from my M1 year thats proven to be quite useful. Control the controllables, and the rest will take care of the rest.
For my incoming M1 readers or prospective pre-med students, there are a few several things that I recommend for surviving medical school. First and foremost, NO READING during the summer before. There’s no point. Trust me! And chances are, you don’t know what you’re reading. Number two, use the USMLE First Aid book in coordination with your blocks. This will be one of your main resources during your Step 1 exams, and being familiar with it early on will make your life easier come the end of your M2 year. Next, learn the material well, the first time! If you can’t teach the material to a grade school child, then you don’t really know it. Don’t BS yourself into thinking that you know the material, because in medical school exams, concepts are heavily tested. So if you don’t understand the basics concepts, chances are your scores will reflect. Those are the basic tips I have for all my incoming medical students, but if you have any other questions, feel free to ask. Understand that the first year of medical school is for you to discover what way of studying works for you and figure out a system.
So there it is! I can see the M2 train coming down the platform. Goodbye to summer and farewell to the last free summer of my life.