Reflections on my first year of Medical School !
Year One of Medical School is done! *Exhales loudly*
This year, I:
- Moved across the country alone.
- Found an off-campus apartment in NYC (with horrible credit and a convincing smile :))
- Learned some really dope stuff about the human body and disease.
- Worked with a cadaver.
- Passed tests. Failed tests.
- Cried more than usual.
- Ran out of money way too many times.
- Made some new friends.
- Experienced extreme loneliness while being homesick.
- Had to be medically excused from school during my first block.
- Lived through many snow storms and an extra long winter.
- Experienced my first real long distance relationship.
- Learned how to get rid of doubt and started to boss up.
- Started a blog. Hosted a giveaway.
- Went to Copenhagen.
- Stayed connected with friends and family.
- Went to a medical conference.
- Passed all my classes.
- Dove deep into myself--discovered more about myself and my abilities.
This has been a FULL year. I would not have wanted it any other way. Full of life, loss, love, and support. I want to try to articulate my experience as clear as possible. Here are 4 thoughts from my first year as a medical student:
Fake it till you make it.
I have been saying this for years now, and it has been working for me. It also hasn't let me down, so I am sticking to it. Fake it till you make it is my favorite saying because you never actually feel ready while in medical school. This is how I passed all my classes, all my OSCE's, experiences at my preceptorship, etc. No one gives us a manual as medical students that tells us what the recipes to success and what absolutely not to do. They give you a week of orientation. Throw some presentations at you, and say hey, your first test is in a week and a half, good luck! Like whereeee they do that at?!
Well. Since there isn't a formula, the only thing you can do is actually try. Try to learn how to study, how to perform on tests. Try all different methods until it works for you. Apply yourself. Take that ass to the library/ coffee shop and put in some good work. The night before my first test I called my boyfriend and was freaking out. "How could they do this to us so soon? I'm not ready! I need another few days!!" Exam day, I was shaking my head the whole time, no way I passed. NO WAY. Got my score back and of course… I passed. Not at all honors, but I clearly knew enough.
As long as you put in the work, and have applied yourself, it really doesn’t matter how you feel. Let me repeat: it does not matter how you feel! I never felt mad confident, ever. But you will do well. You are making it happen. Because you put in the work. And after a while, the fake becomes truth.
2. You are allowed to believe in yourself.
Till this day, I do this weird defense mechanism thing where I tell myself I am not smart. The psyche is weird. I think because I am not a traditional science lover or molecular geek I have to rationalize how I am in this field in the first place. So when I say I am not smart, I am able to allow myself room for failure. I was able to keep my ego nice and fluffy because I did not feel smart. But one thing I am proud of is my work ethic. I can stay up all night and day to make it happen. Even with this strange rationale I've been using for years, it creates room for infiltrating and uncontrollable doubt in myself (like there is a limit to how much hard work I can put in). When my work ethic runs out that's when my fraud will be revealed. It's scary and every exam I would think "this test is going to be the one that’s going to take me out!" After a while, I realized I was saying this before EVERY EXAM. Everyone around me started pointing it out to me-- GIRL, YOU SAID THAT LAST TIME. YOU WILL BE FINE. And yes. Every time I was fine. Cognitive dissonance is hilarious isn't it? Like who am I really trying to fool here? Myself? My peers? My dad? Idk. But I started to see the irony and this whole defense mechanism thing wasn't doing anything for me but giving me more wrinkles and love handles. I texted my girlfriend Rachel one day after one of the hardest exams I had in med school (Cardiology test for physiology and biochemistry -_-) and after receiving my grade I texted her: "I am smart, and I am that bxtch". She replied "Duh." That was that. We are literally allowed to believe in ourselves. We are allowed to call ourselves smart even though we do not look, act, or think identical to what we are told scientists are supposed to be. Just because it's different doesn't mean it ain't right. I earned my spot like everyone else did. And I continue to prove that I deserve that seat in my class like everyone else did. I started to allow myself the patience to remove self-doubt this year. It sucks it took me 25 years to start believing in my intelligence. But I am here hyping myself up more than ever. Who else gunna believe in you?
3. Do you, boo boo.
This is something I have been growing through since my middle/high school days. It has unfortunately still carried over into medical school. Follow your own journey and be your own person. Literally, do you. I remember trying to fit in with every type of person except my own. In high school, I tried to be the white girl, the latina girl, the tomboy, reserved, timid, and it was honestly pitiful for a while. During college, I found my voice, stopped pretending to be anything other than who I am now, and it has been so freeing. Now that I am in medical school, it is not so much about the molding of my personality to try to "fit in" but it's all about what we: should be doing" as medical students. This culture of the one-size-fits-all model of a med student is extremely limiting and isn't representative of the reality of medicine. There is medicine, which we are learning now, the didactics, the books, the stuff you just got to know. Then there is the art of medicine- and that is where you and I come in. My own personality, experiences, context, humor, and culture lend to the creativity and creation of the foundations we are learning. I study a unique way, I do exams my way, I utilize my free time in a certain way, and I perform excellently. That may be totally different than what your class is doing, and that is also totally valid and okay. If you have been on a journey of self-discovery and nonconformity, it doesn’t stop just because you are in medical school. There is a strong culture to try to make medical students homogenous and I truly believe this will do more harm than good. The art of medicine requires your individuality. As medical students we should be learning about our personal selves in order to transfer this successfully to our art. Celebrate your uniqueness and do not hide it, even in your pre-clinical years.
4. Best and worst parts of medical school?
To be honest, the content we learn is not hard in itself. Some of the classes I was taking in undergrad (physics, calculus, and organic chemistry) were more challenging content-wise. The issue with medical school is the volume of information you have to know in a short period of time. People have described it as trying to drink water out of a fire hydrant. With volume, comes a lot of hours of studying outside of class. On average, outside of class time (which is usually 9am-2pm/4pm depending on the day), I spent an average of 60 hours/ week studying additionally to be successful. (But that's me yall know I'm not smart and gotta put in extra work, jk jk jk). Seems daunting with numbers laid out loud like that, but that is not even the worst part of medical school. The worst is when you are questioning if you even really care about doing it anymore. When I care, it is easy! I have no problem sacrificing Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to do nothing but study for 16-18 hours a day. That is when it is the easiest and (slightly) fun. It's when you don't care anymore, and there is no motivation left to keep you going. And then you make the mistake of going on social media and seeing your friends and family all together while you really do not care. Wow I am 25 years old and in the library on a Saturday afternoon, is this what life has come too?! That's the worst. And honestly, I could not control it. I tried different ways to get out of these "bleh moments". Sometimes it was interacting with patients during my preceptorship. Sometimes it was talking to friends and family on the phone. Sometimes writing/blogging. Sometimes going to workout. Sometimes going to party in the city to get it out. Sometimes literally sit there and do nothing but get a big bottle of wine and eat cookies. Whatever you got to do, just be as aware as possible and acknowledge that it's real and okay. Snap back in and get to work.
Best moment of medical school! This is going to sound so lame but it was the only thing I can think of that made me feel like "Yaaaasssssssss Kamilah" so much I start twerking in the mirror by myself in my room.
It was our first in-house exam in physiology on Renal (kidney) and Respiratory system (lungs). In my post-baccalaureate and undergraduate I took physiology and basically passed on the curve. I never understood what the heck I was doing- especially when it came to learning about the kidney and lungs. So when I found out my worst subjects were put together on our first exam of block two I was freaked out. We had 2 weeks before the exam, and a huge snowstorm hit the city so I was snowed in for the weekend. I set up shop in my living room, turned on a good music playlist. Had a huge glass of wine and started practicing on practice tests. All by myself, I just started rocking out and going. The first five tests I was failing them miserably- but I didn't allow myself to get frustrated. I took my time trying to understand every question I was getting wrong, and right (googling, texting, posting on facebook, going back to old lectures). After 8-10 hours of practice tests, it was around 10pm, and I got my first 100% on my practice. Next test, high 90%'s. Test after that was 100%. I did it. I freaking did it. I was so happy, slightly tipsy, I started dancing all over my room while the snow continued to fall outside. It was definitely a moment of self love and pure joy. That was all me baby. Needless to say, I scored above average on that test. That moment resonated with me for the rest of the year. I know if I need to, I can. Just gotta sit down and go to werkkk.
After a year of learning tons of stuff, I still feel like I have NO idea what I am doing. But. The first year is definitely doable bruh! It doesn’t get easier, you just get better. For all the rising first years that are about to start, you will do so good! Fake it till you make it. Make sure get rid of self-doubt and allow belief within yourself. Do you boo-boo, and have fun. SO much fun. Take your time, at your own pace, and you can definitely do it. So excited to see what the second year has in store.