advice for incoming first year medical students

Congratulations to all you incoming first years!! It really is such a great accomplishment that you’ve made it this far. Welcome to the beginning of your professional career! It’s going to be quite a ride and you’ll probably go through an entire spectrum of emotions on a daily basis but it really is all worth it if you’re here for the right reasons.  Below I’ve included some advice on how to prepare for the first year of medical school.

Some resources I found to be really helpful were:
  1. First Aid – It helped me put everything into the context of the “big picture.”
  2. Essential Anatomy – The app is really helpful for visualizing the muscles and studying origins/insertions/function/innervation/irrigation, especially when you’re not physically in the anatomy lab.
  3. Notability or OneNote – Most of my classmates used either Notability or OneNote for taking notes but I’m not that tech savvy and I learn most when I write things out. And since most of our lecturers used PowerPoints or PDFs of the lectures, I took notes directly on those in class and made one page handwritten outlines for each lecture at home afterwards.

The best way to figure out study methods/materials is to talk to second years in your program. Study methods vary greatly depending on if you’re on a block schedule or if you’re taught by subject. Remember that what works for someone else may not work for you and that’s completely okay. And also remember that there will be times (sometimes every day) when you feel like everyone knows everything and you’re the dumbest person in the class. Let me tell you a secret: everyone in your class feels that way, even the gunners. Don’t let it freak you out. Just do you and help out your classmates when you can. Ask for help when you need it. There’s no shame in needing others. Most medical schools are very different from the “every person for themselves” mentality that most of us are used to from undergrad. Sure you’ll have a couple of those annoying people but for the most part you work as a team so learn to lean on your cohort when you need it.

I think preparing emotionally for your first year is probably more important than preparing for the academics. First year of med school is a huge transition and you’re not really going to know what it’s like until you’re actually in it. I would highly recommend against studying this summer before school starts. Enjoy your summer off! Some things I think you can do to prepare emotionally for this upcoming year:
  1. Support System – Spend time with family/friends and make sure they’ll be there for you as a support system. It’s really important to have people outside “this world” to remind you that life is bigger than med school and that you really will be okay. You’re probably going to be missing out on a lot of family gatherings, etc over the next few years so make sure to spend time with your loved ones before starting school.
  2. Readings – A few books I recommend reading either throughout first year or the summer before: What Doctors Feel by Dr. Danielle Ofri and Body of Work by Dr. Christine Montross. I think both of these texts do a good job of contextualizing the transitions you’ll go through as a physician in training. I found anatomy lab to be both difficult as a subject but also emotionally taxing and Dr. Montross’ book really helped me work through a lot of that so I could get the most out of lab.
  3. Motivation – Write down why you’re pursuing medicine as a career and have it available to you at all times. Your personal statement might already do this for you but I would recommend adding to it. One of the biggest challenges on this extremely long road is staying motivated. It’s a career where most people become jaded and end up becoming the doctors they looked down on as premeds. One way to avoid this is to constantly remind yourself of why you’re here. I’m here because we want to help God’s people heal. Sometimes God’s people won’t want my help. Sometimes when I’ve been staring at my laptop studying for 8-10 hours a day, I forget all about God’s people. But I have to keep reminding myself because none of this matters if I lose why I’m doing all this in the first place.

If any of you have more specific questions, I’m happy to answer. You’re all going to do great things and always remember that you were chosen to be here. It was not an accident or a stroke of luck. You worked hard and you’re here because you’re meant to be. Remember how much you have to contribute to the world.

“If you have an innate ability to be a good listener, then be willing to listen, whether a person is close to you or not. And if you aren’t meant to be a counselor, then find out what you are good at and give that back to the community. When you don’t, the rest of us lose out on the blessing that is uniquely you.”
— Imam Khalid Latif

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