Saturday, September 26, 2009

Best things I learned in medical school

I'm in a contemplative mode and thinking about the lessons I learned in med school. Also, I am writing a novel that is loosely based on my med school experiences. So these kinds of things are fresh in my mind. Please feel free to add to my list.
  1. Many of the patients you "treat" will have taught more future physicians than you have seen patients. Their lessons are valuable. Treat these "frequent flyers" with respect.

  2. The most important, and hardest thing to learn is the difference between sick and not-sick. Everything else is largely irrelevant.

  3. Think of your med school friends not as fellow students but as future physician peers. In other words, be as professional in med school (and in social media such as FB and Twitter) as you would on the wards.

  4. Stress is contagious. Stay as far away from groups of med students when studying. Pick one person to study with, and avoid the library at all costs.

  5. There is always someone above you. Achieve your goals but don't lay your happiness on getting to the next level or else you will be forever unsatisfied. Because when you are a first year med student, you are at the bottom. But when you are a first year resident you are also at the bottom. When you are a fellow, the attendings are above you. And when you are a new attending, the older attendings/medical directors are above you. If you own your own group, there are bigger groups than you trying to steal your contract. Everyone has their own stresses at every level of life. Enjoy where you are now and continue to challenge yourself from within; not as a comparison with someone else.

  6. Just when you think you've seen everything, something else happens to blow your mind.

  7. Compassion is the most important quality in a physician. Anyone can memorize facts from a book. But if you don't truly care for your patients, you should go into banking or some other profession.

  8. If you feel like the walls are closing in on you, and you can't handle the stress, and that you are the only person who feels this way-take to heart the fact that you are not alone. Everyone has felt this at some point in their career. If you experience this, reach out; you will be surprised at how many others are in the same boat.

  9. Don't ever be so overconfident and think you know everything. Nobody knows everything. And if you did, it would not matter, because tomorrow everything you know will be proved wrong by a new study. Instead acknowledge that there are some things you might not know and be open to learning new things. Ask questions. Don't ever pretend or "fake it." It is okay to look up information. Even surgeons study an anatomy text just before going into a surgery. That isn't admitting a weakness. The ability to know one's limitations is actually a strength.

  10. Remember the idealistic reasons you went into medical school in the first place. Medicine can be difficult, but never lose sight on what brought you here.


  1. Great post, Ilene! I especially like point number 7. With maturity, I hope our more junior colleagues of today will become more compassionate, less apathetic, and more 'thinking'. It is they, these physicians of tomorrow, who will be caring for us when we are old and grey.

  2. Good luck with your book. I enjoy your blog and your insight.