3 Things I Wish I’d Known as a Pre-Med
June 14, 2017
I’ve finally made it! I officially achieved my dream of becoming a doctor as of May 26, 2017. If you’ve been with me since my medical school acceptance, you know that this has been a challenging, yet rewarding road. I’ve come a long way since I got my acceptance letter, and today I would like to share three things I wish I’d known while I was still a pre-med student.
1. Resilience is your best trait as a pre-med
If I had been told in 2006 that I would have to apply to medical school three times before I got in, I might have quit trying right then. Or maybe I would have carried on exactly as I did, working over the course of six years to better my application and reapplying until I finally got in. Fortunately, I didn’t know all of the challenges that lay ahead when I first started on my medical school journey. However, as each obstacle arose, I tapped into my inner pool of resiliency and kept going.
Resilience is one of the most important qualities to have as a pre-med, in medical school, during residency, and as a physician. Whether it’s bouncing back from sub-par performance on an exam, or trying intervention after intervention to help a patient whose illness isn’t responding, the will to push through difficult times is an invaluable asset. Medical schools and residency programs acknowledge that resilience is a key feature in an applicant because no matter how great a student/physician you are, at some point you’re going to get knocked down and need to get back up again.
2. Empathy is just as important as intelligence
As a pre-med student, you might get the impression that doing well in school and scoring high on standardized tests are the most important aspects of becoming a successful physician. Without empathy, however, your intelligence won’t go very far with patients. Think of all of the complaints you have heard from patients about their physicians—they don’t listen, they move through the visit too quickly, they just want to prescribe something and be done. All of these issues, at some level, stem from patients feeling like their doctor doesn’t empathize with their situation.
Even if you don’t naturally express empathy, there are simple ways that you can change your practice to show empathy for your patients. While it will likely never raise your grades, empathizing with your patients—taking time to listen, understand, and reflect on what they’re saying—will make you a better doctor.
3. You are good enough to become a doctor
This is a sentiment I cannot stress enough. Almost every medical student, resident, or physician has this internal kernel of doubt about whether they are good enough, smart enough, or tough enough to be where they are in their career. The official name for this phenomenon is “impostor syndrome” and it affects everyone from Maya Angelou to Emma Watson. In medical school, it can be difficult because your peers are magnificent overachievers with great test scores and cool extracurricular activities who seem to get more accomplished in a day than you did in all of the last month. The secret is that most of them—your classmates who are impressive paragons of humanity, that is—are also worried that they’re not good enough.
I wish that someone had addressed this rampant feeling of worthlessness right at the beginning of medical school. From the day I walked up to the table at orientation and thought, “I’m sure there’s no nametag here for me—I’m obviously here by mistake,” to the times I passed exams in school and thought, “Well, they can’t kick me out yet!” this feeling of waiting for someone to discover that I didn’t belong was pervasive throughout my medical school experience.
You may not always be able to avoid feeling like an imposter, but hopefully one day when you’re faced with a challenge think you’re “not good enough,” you’ll know you’re not alone. Best wishes on your pre-med journey!
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