My first year of medical school is over, and my second year is fast approaching. I’m sitting comfortably during my summer off, relaxing and playing video games without feeling guilty that I should be studying instead. As with most life changing experiences, it wasn’t exactly what I expected. The curriculum wasn’t as difficult as it was time consuming; the difficult part about memorizing tons of bacterial or viral diseases is the extremely limited time frame with which you have to commit everything to memory. The atmosphere was also very different than what I was accustomed to. During college, students clawed all over each other to get to the top. When nearly every course is graded on a curve, the best way for you to do well is for other students to do poorly. It’s a terrible system that fosters animosity and cutthroat attitudes. In medical school, the competitive atmosphere is much less prevalent. Students are more willing to help each other because, ultimately, better studying means better physicians.
Regardless of how much studying or how many degrees you earn, I don’t know if you can ever be ready for an experience like medical school. It’s often said that trying to soak up as much knowledge as you can during your medical education is like trying to drink water from a fire hydrant. Again, it isn’t really the subject matter that makes studying difficult, but rather the time with which you have to do it. As interested as I am in learning as much as I can to prepare me for a career in medicine, it’s difficult to get motivated to study piles and piles of flashcards. At least during this first year, success seemed to hinge on rote memorization skills.
As far as the curriculum goes, an undergraduate and/or graduate education in the basic biological sciences is certainly helpful in preparation for medical school. Still, it seems ridiculous to me that a course like organic chemistry is a universal prerequisite to admittance when a student really only needs to know the most basic principles. Courses like anatomy and physiology, which are not required at many undergraduate institutions, would be infinitely more useful. Waking up at 4:00AM just to drag myself to the anatomy lab before class was certainly one of my least favorite parts of last year.
I imagine my second year will be fairly similar. Go to class, come home to study, sleep, repeat. We’ll see how it goes. Exciting stuff.