It’s not until you reach the summit that you realize how high you’ve climbed. — Unknown
I’ve used that quote many times to describe to others how it feels to graduate medical school and start residency. I very often think about how going through four years of medical training has catapulted my maturity, commitment, and work ethic. As an alumnus, I currently interview potential applicants for a seat in my alma mater’s MD program. Nearly every time I interview, I recall my own medical school interview and then hang on for the roller coaster ride of memories to come. I realize I walked into medical school a boy, and emerged a man.
My time in the basic sciences was filled with lots of wonder and exploration. In addition to learning how to study (again), first year brought with it lessons in home repair, personal nutrition, and self exploration. During that year I reassessed my career decision endlessly… maybe I should’ve become an engineer or a pharmacist. I had to dig deep to continue on rationalizing why I was working so hard to accomplish a goal that seemed impossibly far away.
A quick glance at the amount of student debt that I was accumulating was always a good pick me up to continue studying medicine. In hindsight, however, if there was one thing I would have done different during this time, it would have been to put more emphasis on personal relationships. I realized I frequently let my study anxiety get in the way of spending time with friends that I would have for a lifetime but would rarely see throughout our time in school together.
Clinical rotations for me were a smack in the face, if you will. Finally, I saw what my job would be like; that I wasn’t just going to be studying for the rest of my career. During this time I was definitely working harder, but it was more enjoyable and different from the first two years. I took all of my basic science knowledge to the patients’ bedside and tried to prepare for my residency. I worked on my interpersonal skills to increase patient compliance and I made professional relationships that would later help me get a residency. I did my greatest personal growth during this time as I tried to integrate favorable characteristics from my mentors at the hospital.
Overall, each year brought a new perspective and shed a new light on how my career would play out. As the years passed, I grew personally, academically, and professionally. I even married the love of my life during my 4th year of medical school!
If you are starting your first year, buckle in and hang on for the ride. You’re going to do a lot of growing up in the next four years!