5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Medical School!


My name is harris jackson and I’m a first year emergency medicine resident.

Today I want to talk about five things I wish I knew before starting medical school.

Let’s jump right in.

Number 1 is Self-Studying

When I first started medical school I found it surprising how much self-directed studying there was.

In one of my videos, a lot of you guys asked why the lecture halls were so empty and the reason is medical schools are moving in the direction recording lectures so students can watch the videos at home at their own pace.

It’s not uncommon for medical students to “miss” class and study at home.

And unlike in high school or college, where one professor might be in charge of teaching a class and writing the exams, in medical school, there were several different professors and doctors coming in to talk about what is often their speciality or research interest.

So lecturers didn’t necessarily stress what would be on our board exams.

This means that a lot of the board studying is done your own.

A lot of you guys ask me how to best prepare for medical school and I think the best advice is to develop good study skills and habits, no matter what you’re studying at your level.

I think having a good set of tools for memorization and comprehension will come in handy at all levels of learning.

Number 2 Medical school is EXPENSIVE.

ESPECIALLY in the United States.

But it’s hard to actually grasp the magnitude of cost until you look at your loans at the end of medical school and see that you are literally in hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

The average med student in 2017 graduated with close $200,000 of debt and 14% per cent of them have debts exceeding $300,000 in education debt including pre-med debt.

Needless to say, going into medicine means you will be delaying true financial independence for a long time.

Some of the things you can do to minimize this debt burden is by lowering your pre-med or undergraduate debt as much as possible.

So if you have several choices in where to go for college, I would definitely keep this in mind.

I would say the same is true for the most part when it comes to choosing your medical school.

You will likely have a similar quality of education at one US medical school versus another so definitely keep cost in mind when you are choosing a school.

Number 3 is Support system is everything

When it comes to training in medicine, you’re really in it for the long haul.

Your medical training doesn’t end with 4 years of medical school- it continues throughout residency which can last up to 7 years in certain specialities.

So you may not be thinking about family or having kids right now, but you might be in your late 20s and early 30s while you’re still in training.

I once spoke to a female neurosurgeon who had FIVE kids.

When asked how she manages everything she said it all comes down to having a supportive partner.

I want to echo that sentiment and stress how incredibly important it is to have a partner who understands the demands of working in medicine.

I have a great partner who knows that my hours are long and often inflexible.

It doesn’t always mean our schedules line up perfectly but just knowing that he understands puts me at ease even when my schedule gets crazy.

Number 4 You will still have time for things outside of medicine

Probably the most surprising thing about medical school was how much time I actually had to develop new hobbies and pursue other interests.

Of course, it takes a bit of time management and prioritizing but it’s definitely doable.

For example, fitness and YouTube are relatively new hobbies that I picked up while still in medical school.

I know many of my colleagues have picked up and continued their hobbies of traveling, reading, photography, and even runway modeling while in medical school.

I would say it’s even encouraged that you look beyond the world of medicine to develop yourself as a well-rounded person.

At the end of the day, we work in a profession where we talk to and relate to patients and having a broad knowledge about things OUTSIDE of medicine will make you a much better doctor.

Number 5 is Imposter syndrome

In the beginning of my medical school career, we were given a talk about Imposter syndrome and how a lot of us, even the best of us, deal with it.

Personally, there were times when I totally felt like an imposter at my medical school and even now at my residency.

I think it helps to know that other people also feel the same way.

Especially in medicine, it’s impossible to know everything and we tend to be pretty hard on ourselves.

My advice to you is the same one Sheryl Sandberg had for her readers in Lean In: fake it till you make it.

If you don’t feel like you have the confidence, fake it and act as if you’re the most confident person in the world and slowly you’ll start to believe it yourself.

Another advice is to be kind to yourself.

Like I said, we can’t possibly know everything.

We will make mistakes.

I think it’s best to accept and acknowledge our gaps in knowledge, apologize when we are wrong, and try the best we can.

In cases where medical necessity intersects with the legal system, medicolegal experts offer the best qualifications to clarify the issue and help the court arrive at a fair and reasonable solution.

That’s all we can do.

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