Wednesday, November 12, 2008

If I were a first year med student right now, I would...

As a third year med student, I was involved in some sort of group discussion session with first year med students. All of us older, wiser third years were offering advice to the first years in the form of "If I were a first year med student right now, I would..."

I had just finished a particularly grueling internal medicine rotation and I was feeling fairly disenchanted. When it came to be my turn, I said, "If I were a first year med student right now, I WOULD QUIT."

Everyone kind of stared at me in shocked awkward silence, then quickly went on to the next person.

But you didn't come here to read that kind of advice, so I'll give you some revised sagely advice from an even older and even wiser me: I wish I had taken a year or two after college to see what else was out there, instead of going straight through to med school.

It seems like the happiest people in med school were the ones who were in their mid-20s when they started out, instead of 22 like I was. They had taken a few years to see what else was out there and realize that it wasn't for them. Oddly enough, some of the people who were significantly older seemed to be just as disgusted as us young'uns, possibly because many of them had families that med school was taking them away from.

This is my graphic representation*:

I wish I had taken a couple of years off. At least then I could stop romanticizing all the stuff I didn't end up doing. Maybe I would have realized that being an actuary (i.e. calculating insurance rates for companies) isn't such a fabulous career, despite how nerdishly excited I get over making a graph (see above). And I could have written that novel I always wanted to write... about the compelling protagonist with an obstacle to overcome, where some friends become enemies, some enemies become friends, and at the end my main character is richer from the experience... (you get the idea)

*Graph not based on actual data


  1. By all means take time off between med school and residency. (No matter what...finish med school). It has nothing to do with age (I was almost 30 and that was a long time ago) but you clearly need some time to find yourself. Don't be ashamed. It is your life and you should do other, work, play. If (When) you return you will be committed and will enjoy the rest of the journey. Follow your need to do other things first.

  2. I know this post is a little older, but I feel very strongly about it.


    I took time off after college, and thought it was going to be 6-18 months (graduated in December), but it ended up being 32 months. I traveled, lived in two countries, slept on many, many couches, flipped burgers and read books (none of which were textbooks).
    I started school this past August and I'm amazed at how differently I see things than I did in college.

    My one piece of advice: even if you don't want to/can't afford to take time off, DO get a job that you consider menial, even if it is just for a month the summer before school starts. Flip burgers. Whenever I get overwhelmed and unmotivated and think I can't do it, I think back at my smelly, greasy self, working 8-14 hour shifts at McDonald's...

  3. For what my little opinion is can still write that novel. ;-)


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