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The End of MS-2: 1/2 MD, Step 1, And The Loss of A Classmate

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Today is the day I finished my MS-2 year at IUSM. Im feeling shocked, amazed and burnt. Second year was by far the most challenging year of my medical school career, and indeed, of any school year I have ever had. After 59 exams, I have to say I am burnt out to the max. Most of my friends at other schools said second year was easier than their first year, but here at IU, second year was a make or break year. Since day 1 we were bombarded with tons of info, a lot of busy work, mandatory meetings, medical conferences, mandatory clinics, special training, projects, volunteer work, and a constant reminder about Step 1. Today I feel blessed and grateful that over the last 10 months I have been able to learn so much, overcome a lot of adversity and challenging situations.

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Overall, I have no words to describe this feeling after being done with my MS-2 year. Looking back I can only say that apart from hard work and sacrifices, having the support of my girlfriend and my friends here at IUSM got me through the journey. Unfortunately, this was not the case for one of our classmates who a month ago passed away. Medical school sure is overwhelming, and we are constantly reminded about the importance of constantly studying, preparing for exams, about the importance of Step 1, yet our profession seems to forget that we are also human beings who need physical and social support. Yes, we do have counselors and advisors but all they ever say is to keep pushing, to take a day off and look out for yourself. Nonetheless, as I read the news more and more now days, there is always a doctor/resident/medical student death happening across the country on a monthly basis and it breaks my heart. At times I wish I could have reached out more to my classmate, or have engaged her more in our outside of school activities and all, but I realize that it goes beyond on. We are in an atmosphere where we are constantly reminded that failure is not an option; we have been at the top of our class since undergrad but we fail to realize that in medical school we are with the best of the best.

I have sometimes found myself bummed out. I work hard, I sacrifice sleep, my family, my personal life, to devote myself to studying and being the best medical student I can be. However, sometimes my exam grades don’t show it. Most of my medical school career I have been a mid 80s to low 90s kid, which it isn’t bad, but it can sure bum anyone out when you give it your all and still don’t perform as good as you want. It is even worse when you score below 80 and you start comparing yourself to other who are doing better, and not only that, but you also have advisors and counselors constantly reminding you about the importance of grades etc. Hence, something I have learned is that I can’t listen to these people. Sometimes all advisors and counselors know is numbers and statistics. They also compare people based on numbers and not individuality or background and it is that what can drive a lot of students to end their lives. We are reminded on a daily basis the important of success and how failure is frowned upon and it is that pressure that some people can’t handle. Nevertheless I think this mentality and approach in our medical community is wrong. From my stand point of view, even though failure is not an option, it doesn’t mean you can’t fail or that you are doomed. To me, failure only provides someone with an opportunity for growth; failure provides you can opportunity to learn why it occurred, how you can do better, and most importantly, how can you use that circumstance to do better and not fail again.

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As most of you have read, I come from a different background. Some may call it being “disadvantaged” or as the AAMC calls it, I am “disadvantage and under represented minority”. Yes its true, and yes I have seen how i am challenged on a daily basis in my medical training: I have to study twice as hard as my peers, I need to look to outside resources to grasp a better understanding, and many times I seek help from my classmates or even from professors themselves. Yet, sometimes my grades don’t reflect the vast amount of handwork and sacrifice I put in. Thus, it sure can be disappointing and super stressful. Nevertheless, I have come to realize that grades nor numbers define who you are, specially in medical school. I have realized as stated before, I am among the top 2-3% of all undergrads, and specially here at IU, a lot of my classmates come from a lot of Ivy League schools and top undergrads across the country while I just come from Florida International University. So over the last couple of months, I have come to realize that none of these grades, or ratings or scores matter to me anymore. What truly matters is that I give all my effort, all my sacrifice, and most importantly, that I learn to be a great physician. One of my attending physician recently told me this, “Paul, when you doing a sternotomy to fix a tetralogy of Fallot, your patient doesn’t care whether you got a pass in Anatomy or a High Pass or Honors, what they care is that you know your Anatomy, that you have giving your everything to know and understand the pathophysiology of their case and that you have prepared more than enough that can trust you with heir lives”. It was then and there when I realize that nothing else matters more than giving your all to your education and being the best you can be without letting numbers or rankings or step scores define who you are.

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Last week during my final ICM trauma radiology lecture, one of the best professors I have have, Dr. Gunderman, told us that “the people who make a differences and discoveries to change medicine are not the ones who always get A’s, that just means they can regurgitate back facts from a book”, but that it is the people who are “devoted and work hard to really understand and want to make a difference” that impacts our medical society.

Thus, today, as an uprising MS-3, I am confident that I will not just make a good physician, but a great physician. I have worked so hard and sacrificed so much this past year and even though our school only gives us 3 weeks to prepare for the USMLE Step 1 exam, I will continue to work harder and sacrifice even more. No matter what the end result of my Step 1 will be, I will not let any number, any grade, or any comment by anyone define who I have become today. I am proud to be where I am at, and I know that i continuously feed my hunger for success and starve my fears.

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To all you guys who ever come across this post, my advice is to continue to work hard, never give up, brush off the negative comments, take things with a grain of salt, and never look bad! I know you mind can tell you to give up, that your tire, your body may feel like it can’t no more, you might be physically, emotionally, and mentally tire, but if you can believe and have faith in yourself, then the best is yet to come! In a few years from now, your hands will hold the life of another human being and that my friends is priceless!

 

PS:

For anyone interested in the epidemic of doctor, residents and med student suicide, Ive provided a great link below! Feel free to share #MakeADifference

http://www.idealmedicalcare.org/blog/how-to-graduate-medical-school-without-killing-yourself/