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3 Things I Learned About Myself in Medical School

January 7, 2016
Kevin Yang

To discover your medical specialty, first discover what makes you special.

In medical school, you learn a lot…about yourself.

It’s official—I have survived the first four months of my third year of medical school. The transition from studying for the USMLE Step 1 to working on the wards has rendered me quite sleep deprived. But overall, I can say being a third year medical student is absolutely awesome.

As a medical student, I’ve gotten to work with some phenomenal physicians, participate in some amazing operations, and have been blessed with wonderful patients. In this whirlwind of four months in the hospital, I am beginning to discover some things about myself that will undoubtedly guide me throughout my career in medicine and help me narrow in on my medical specialty:

  1. I enjoy chaotic situations.

It is not so much that I enjoy chaos but more that I enjoy bringing organization to unorganized settings. Some of the physicians that I respect most in medical school are those who have the experience and confidence required to take in data from a bustling OR or trauma bay and calmly optimize the team’s efforts. They seem to thrive or at least be unaffected by the inherent stress of the environment, benefiting their team and their patients. I, too, aspire to be the calm at the center of the storm.

  1. I want to learn people’s names.

In addition to my relationships with patients and physicians, I enjoy getting to know the other staff members I pass in the hospital hallways. Few things brighten my day like the OR manager greeting me with a huge smile and a double thumbs up, a scrub tech discreetly passing me the next surgical instrument, or a nurse slipping me some sutures for practicing at home. As a medical student and after med school, I know that I will be spending the majority of my time in hospitals, and every familiar smile makes those hospitals feel a bit more like home. Not to mention, I get lost pretty often, so nothing is more comforting than a nudge in the right direction from a friendly face.

  1. Gratitude keeps me sane.

I had a pretty rough week in the middle of surgery, which is a pretty grueling medical specialty. I was sleep-deprived, had two overnight calls, saw a patient die, and was late to the hospital one morning despite arriving at 4:15 AM. By the end of the week, I was a self-pitying mess. Each of those elements will likely be unavoidable in my future career, especially if I choose surgery as my medical specialty. One thing that I hope to better incorporate when in the depths of those rough weeks is time for mindfulness and reflection. I am incredibly grateful to get to do what I do every day.

I love taking care of people. I love learning from genius physicians. I love my classmates. That one bears repeating. I really love my classmates. The people around me and the things that I have experienced in these four months of med school alone inspire me to be better. If I can take the time to be grateful for how much I have gained, my stressors lose much of their magnitude.

I’m still not entirely sure what medical specialty I should choose. My list of options has grown considerably since starting third year of medical school. Though I am apprehensive about having to decide on a medical specialty rather soon, I am confident that there are many choices I can be happy with. I very much look forward to discovering more about myself and specialty over the next eight months of med school.

How well do you know yourself when it comes to your study habits and learning style? Prep for the USMLE with Kaplan, and choose from a variety of study options to meet your needs.  



Kevin Yang Kevin Yang is a fourth-year osteopathic medical student with an interest in psychiatry. He has been working for Kaplan since 2012 in teaching/tutoring/mentoring for the SAT, ACT, MCAT, and USMLE. In his spare time, he enjoys reading science fiction and fantasy novels, and he also has interest in writing, computers, and video games.


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