The conversations among my fellow MS1s have evolved dramatically over the last three months. Mid-August, we were energetic and extremely excited to start this next chapter of our lives. For some, putting on the white coat was an expectation since childhood. For others, like myself, this was an unexpected, yet exciting, career change.
We all walked into orientation ready to take on the world! Why wouldn’t we be thrilled? We beat thousands of qualified applicants to get to our white coat ceremony. We were the elite applicants that made it through the years of pre-med coursework, months of writing that perfect application, and nerve-wrecking hours of interviews all over the country. We were not just going to be medical students, we were going to be the best medical students.
I remember speaking to second year medical students during that first week of orientation. Many of them said, “P equals MD. All you need to do now is pass.” My classmates weren’t ready to hear that. We were used to excelling in everything we did. Why would medical school be any different? Honoring everything was the goal at that point.
Once classes began, we started to realize this would be much more difficult than we expected. We worked harder than we ever did as undergraduates, but many of us barely passed. After the first block of exams ended, I began hearing some of my fellow first years chant, “P equals MD.” At that point, I still wasn’t convinced. Along with many others, I still was willing to sacrifice friends, family, and my sanity to reach for that “H.”
After three months and two sets of block exams, many more have joined the chant. But now, I hear the phrase differently. When I first heard “P equals MD,” I thought that meant giving up on excellence. I thought that meant we were no longer trying to become the best medical students and future doctors of the world. I realize now that we do not need to strive for high grades to become good doctors. We need focus on learning the material and thinking like physicians. We also need to remain the well-rounded individuals that were accepted into medical school.
Yes, many of the students that honor the basic sciences learn the material well and will become good physicians. But there are some who will study to ace the exams and miss the practical applications in the process. They will be focused on the short-term, and some will lose their sanity in the process.
Our medical careers are a marathon of learning. This is not a sprint. We will be learning material for the rest of our lives. Because of this, we need to adapt from our hardcore pre-med attitudes and adjust our learning pace. We will be faced with challenges in balancing our medical careers for the rest of our lives. We will only thrive, however, when we open our minds and learn to adapt.