How Hard Is Medical School, Really?

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Session 355

Dr. Allison Gray joins us today to discuss the very common question about medical school and how hard it is. Do you have to be really smart to get through?

Hint: You can do it!

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[02:40] The Future of Med Diaries

If you’ve been wondering, the Med Diaries, which is home to four different podcast shows, has been put on hold for a while due to Allison’s recent life changes.

Med Diaries has been created to provide a platform for premed students, medical students, residents, and physicians to share their thoughts and feelings.

In each of the stages of your journey in medicine, you are experiencing different things and having different challenges. You need a place for you to share these in an anonymous way. No pressure. Just a safe space for you to share things.

Stay tuned as Med Diaries is coming back soon – now better than ever with both Allison and me to host the show. Call 1-833-MYDIARY and select the specific podcast where you want to leave your feedback and leave a voicemail.

Also, is opening up in the Colorado area. Dr. Allison Gray is one of the doctors there. Search the area and see if she’s available for you to shadow her.

[12:45] Medical School is a Whole Different Ball Game

Allison recalls that she realized how medical school was a whole different ballgame immediately on Day 1 right after orientation. 

She went to New York Medical College and they did a very quick review of Microbiology and Biochemistry. Allison basically had a good training set up for medical school. She was ready and she knew what it was like to study every week. She was studying all the time.

Especially for ESL students, you need to be able to write, read, and practice comprehension. But Allison went to McGill University in Canada. She didn’t have to take any English classes, social science, or history. All she had to do to graduate was do all sciences everyday. That said, she didn’t get any break from studying, especially if you want to get a reasonable GPA at McGill.

'Med school is hard and if you tell me that med school is easy, there's something wrong.'Click To Tweet

Medical School Is Hard

Medical school is hard. And even if you’re brilliant, it’s still not as easy since you still have to learn things like empathy. You have to learn how to juggle life and do all the other things that go into becoming a physician and not just being book-smart and doing well on the exams.

Allison points out that it’s helpful to go to a rigorous school. If you’re starting at a community college and that’s where you need to get to the next step, that’s okay.

'The more rigorous your college experience or your premed classes, the better prepared you're going to be for the rigor of medical school.'Click To Tweet

[Related episode: Why Is It Hard to Get into Med School as an International Applicant?]

[18:40] What’s So Hard About Medical School?

What are the specific reasons that people find medical school so difficult? Well, there are a few things.

Drinking From a Firehose

No matter how smart you are or how great your studying skills are, the volume of what you’re required to take in from day 1 in medical school is enormous. It’s like drinking from the firehose and it comes to you very fast.

So is it hard or just a lot? There’s the material which is all the subjects that are taught different ways in different medical schools. They’re important to look into.

There are also different types of things you need to learn in medical school. Some schools will have you start seeing patients from Day 1. Aside from learning the material, you need to learn empathy and how to take care of patients. You learn how to do a public exam and break bad new. You learn how to suture.

'Life happens when you're in medical school.'Click To Tweet

Balancing Your Life While in Medical School

Many students may also have families and children when they’re in medical school. Some may have spouses or long-term relationships with people. And life happens. Part of the big challenge in medical school that makes it hard is learning to balance life.

Please listen to Episode 251, where we had Sarah Epstein, a Marriage and Family Therapist and her husband is an emergency medicine medical resident at that time.

[Related episode: Balancing Family Life with Being a Premed and Medical Student]

[24:46] Are You Smart Enough for Medical School?

The question really boils down to whether you’re smart enough to get through it. This is actually what’s at the core of what people are asking. Allison makes a valid point saying that you can’t just be smart to get through medical school. You have to have other traits which include perseverance. 

You also need a lot of grit. I’ve talked with a lot of admissions committee members about overcoming obstacles. And they want to see that you’ve lived your life.

'There are ways to expose yourself to things that are challenging and uncomfortable that will allow you to start to grow that grit.'Click To Tweet

Allison pretty much grew up in a very sheltered environment in Massachusetts. She has never challenged herself in her ability to take in something else. And she wanted to be scared and go out of her comfort zone. So she ended up going to McGill University. College was hard but great. She also had a lot of life experiences that gave her the grit.

So just because you grew up in a small town doesn’t or a sheltered environment, there are other ways to challenge yourself. Go and work in an emergency room.

Traits You Need to Succeed in Med School

Even though medical school is hard, you don’t have to be a genius to get through. You have to persevere. You have to be disciplined. You have to be humble and be a team player. You have to be empathic.

'The cornerstone of being a good physician and a good medical student starts with empathy.'Click To Tweet

Other traits you need to have are good attitude, enthusiasm, having a sense of humor, and confidence. Now, there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. So it’s really important to understand that you can’t just be book smart. Listen to Episode 7 for more information.

Some questions you can ask yourself: What is your life experience today? How thick is your skin? Where is your level of grit? How smart are you? Look at all these things.

[Related episode: 10 Traits You Need to Succeed in Medical School]

[31:30] Looking for an Amazing Premed Experience?

This is a conversation that I’ve had with a student about the University of Colorado Wilderness Medicine Program.

It’s a three-day hands-on learning experience where you get to learn about emergency medicine, physiology, anatomy, etc. The connections you make from the program will hopefully last a lifetime. This could also help you with your applications and your premed journey.

If you’re concerned about the cost, you can actually fundraise the cost of the program. There are people who are willing to help you out with things you’re passionate about and that are going to help you in your future career goals.

Text WILDMED to 44222 and get a link to the course and a $400 off coupon code.


Meded Media

Med Diaries

Episode 251: Dating in Medical School: What You Need to Know

Episode 07: 10 Traits You Need to Succeed in Medical School

Check out Allison’s upcoming podcast:

University of Colorado Wilderness Medicine Program

Text WILDMED to 44222 and get a link to the course and a $400 off coupon code.