Thoughts on Beginning Medical School

The original intent of this blog was for me to share my experiences as I made my way through the medical school application process and then through medical school itself. While I’m certainly glad that the application process is over, I hope that my thoughts have helped those of you applying to or considering applying to professional health programs. With that said, it’s now time to shift toward that second subject - in August I donned a white coat and began my time as a medical student at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine in Oklahoma City.

I’ve been in school for a couple of months, but we’ve already completed one course (covering some basic science that we’ll need to know for later courses) and we’re nearly done with our second (gross anatomy). I feel like I’ve also learned a lot about the dynamic of a medical school class. I’ll add a disclaimer before this article: since I’ve only just started, I am nowhere near knowing everything about how to succeed in medical school. Nevertheless, I’ll share a few thoughts that I have had so far.

My first piece of advice for the newly-minted medical student is to do something that most of us type-A personalities aren’t used to doing: relax! The application process is stressful and I think it’s hard for very competitive students to turn off that drive to get a leg up. But by and large, my medical school class is much more laid back about academics than I expected. We all want to do well, of course, but that doesn’t translate to isolation or cutthroat competition. We work together to do the best we can and help each other succeed. Residency applications are much more holistic than medical school applications; most programs expect some baseline level of academic achievement but then weigh heavily each applicant’s individual experiences, including research, community service, and leadership. A weakness in one aspect of the application can certainly be made up by excellence in another aspect. But I’m getting ahead of myself! A more relevant reason to dial back the competitiveness is to get along well with the members of your class. Many of these people will be your future colleagues, so wanting them to do the best they can is certainly in your best interest! As I said above, working together has been a big part of my experience so far. We have spent long hours at school teaching each other difficult concepts. Which brings me to my next insight.

I am happy to confirm that what I suspected is true: it’s a lot more fun to study things that you’re interested in! While general education classes are invaluable, I am finding it much less grueling to put in long hours studying than I have in years past. Part of the reason for this is that I realize the things I’m studying today will serve as the foundation for my medical practice. In gross anatomy, for example, we correlate each group of structures to its relevant pathologies. I now know why ear infections occur more often in children than adults (the increasing angle of the auditory tube) and why only certain parts of your hand go numb when you hit your funny bone (they are those portions innervated by the ulnar nerve). I expect the same relevancy when we take pharmacology next month and as we progress through each body system over the next two years. The alarming amounts of time that medical students spend studying don’t feel nearly as bad as you might think, especially when surrounded by like-minded peers and material that you’ll be using for the rest of your professional life.

I think my last point goes along with my first, but whereas the first point merely involved how to think about medical school, this one involves how you actually spend your time. Balancing schoolwork with everything else is, I believe, the key to sustaining academic success for four years. Just like undergrad, medical school doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it is important to spend time developing yourself as a person outside of coursework. Doing so will make you a better provider. The students that make up my class have incredible talents and diverse interests that are still a part of their everyday lives. They were selected for our class not only for their academic success but also for these talents. Balancing school with life also ensures that you can sustain your study habits for a full four years. Medical school burnout is a real thing (and is to be avoided!), and efficient study habits will ensure that you both do as well as you can in school while continuing to live your life.

If you have any questions about my experiences so far or want to contact me for any other reason, I’m available at I’m looking forward to continuing to engage with HOSA members through this blog. Until next time!