Medical Student Answers

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Medical School Life

298560_10150801814470019_614820018_20969132_7230741_nEver wondered what medical school life is like? What are the pluses and minuses? How much free time is there? Do people date each other? Here’s a virtual medical student panel. The responses came from both anonymous and self-identified first year medical students at UCSD.

How much free time do you have each day as a medical student? 

I would say about 2-6 hours depending on the day. On a weekday when we get out at twelve and do not have an additional activity, I probably study for 5 hours or so and then have the rest of the day free. On a day when we get out at 5pm or have an additional activity like a shadowing experience, free time is harder to come by. The weekend before an exam is obviously very busy, but most weekends allow for a a good amount of free time.

Is the coursework much heavier in medical school as compared to undergrad? It’s different. On the one hand, it’s much more directly and professionally relevant, so in a way it’s easier to get motivated to study. On the other hand, the analogy to “taking a drink from a fire hose” can sometimes feel very true. Medical school coursework is very much about having perspective, and compared to undergrad, it is necessary to be able to integrate details into big-picture concepts. Critical thinking and depth of mastery of the material is important, as is knowing yourself and your study strategies. It is helpful to have a willingness to change things up and be flexible about adopting different learning styles.

Are you able to still pursue your own interests? 

Yes! It all comes down to prioritization and time management. You must know your values and your priorities, and you must also understand the value of your own time so that you can manage it appropriately (which also means saying no to some things). School is of course the number one priority, but my classmates and I find time to pursue outside interests and passions, some of which are really diverse and interesting. A lot of people play sports, go to church in the community, bake, raise families, etc. To use myself as an example, I volunteer at the county animal shelter and with a local dog rescue; I also go running/swimming/weight-lifting on a regular basis; and I am also involved with activities on campus that I am passionate about, such as SoM mentors, organizing events to educate my peers about social justice issues and community service, Spanish Club, and teaching health/wellness classes at an inner-city high school.

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What is your favorite part of medical school? 

I love the clinical experience (free clinic, preceptorships) we get, especially in the context of all the “doctoring” concepts we’ve been learning. Aside from getting to see patients and really feel like you’re making a difference, it’s nice to reinforce medical and sociological concepts that you’ve been picking along the way. Last but not least, it’s a great way of familiarizing yourself with all those drugs out there. – Rohit Majumdar (MSI)

Working with patients at Free Clinic and gaining experience there examining, interviewing and learning treatment plans is both rewarding and enlightening. The patients REALLY appreciate you being there and just listening to them. It’s a completely different way to learn than within the classroom and most of what I learn there I will probably never forget. –Brian Champagne (MSI)

Meeting and being surrounded by extremely motivated and inspirational people. If being in medical school is your passion, you will find that you will relate to the students and faculty in medical school no matter how different your backgrounds may be because everyone wants to be there just as much as you do. To me, medicine is about helping people and relating to people. Even as a student, you will find this compassion everywhere. -Joanne Ho (MSI)

What is your least favorite part? 

The knowledge that I won’t really be working for another eight years while my friends are already working full-time in industry. – Rohit Majumdar (MSI)

What’s the most challenging part of medical school for you?

The realization of just how much time and energy it takes over the long haul before I get to practice. It is absolutely essential to have a reason to be there, and to remind yourself of it when times get tough. You will have to prioritize school, often by cutting down on other fun activities. But it will be all worth it on the other side. -Rylee Scott (MS1)

With the exception of post exam days (and sometimes hours), there is always more to study and work on. With this in mind, it’s easy to feel guilty for spending time having fun as a medical student. In reality, medicine has an infinite amount of information and presentations of illnesses, so we will never know everything. It’s been a challenge for me to be comfortable with being out of control of the material and often times a little behind. The key is to make realistic academic and non-academic goals that will allow you have be happy and manage all of the material reasonably. -Brian Champagne (MSI)

Do medical students end up dating other medical students often?

Often as medical students, all you do is hang out with other medical students! You’re with each other for hours in lecture, studying together, and usually hanging out on weekends for social events. So one can see that it can be common, and not necessarily unsurprisingly, for med students to date one another. But, with that being said, realize that we are all colleagues and relationships can cause complications. We want to remain professional and maintain good relations with all our classmates.

Is it hard to date a person outside of medical school?

Relationships in general are difficult to handle during med school,but are very manageable in the first couple years as long as you keep in touch. Some of my classmates whose significant other is in the city can definitely find time to spend with him/her. Many classmates are married and live with their partner close to campus. Though many days, especially right before tests, are filled with studying, they are quite happy.
Others have long distance relationships which are quite difficult to maintain. That being said, many of my classmates have found a good balance. If they are driving distance, some people visit every couple weeks. If they are further away, most people have developed a routine of talking on the phone and keeping in touch. Personally, my girlfriend is in another country and will be for the next 2 years. But we have been doing well because we understand each others schedules and try to make time for talking. Knowing that I’ll have a phone call to look forward to usually keeps me motivated to stay focused and study efficiently.

How is medical school different from what you expected? 

Upon entering medical school, I was prepared for my life to be put on hold for four plus years to solely dedicate my self to studying medicine. In reality, I am still very much living life while being a medical student. I am still able to keep up with the things I am interested in outside of school, can still hang out with friends, make time for family and think about things that don’t involve systems of the body. In fact, all these things are strongly encouraged! I’ve even added to my list of interests as I meet new people and explore new extracurricular activities.