Medical School Hypochondriac

It doesn’t matter whether you were a germophobe before coming to medical school, or if you prescribed to the “rub some dirt in it”  philosophy.    When you go to medical school, you become a hypochondriac.  You spend all day, every day, learning about signs, symptoms, and diseases.  After awhile, you find yourself thinking “I’m tired.  Maybe I have anemia/hypothyroid/chronic fatigue syndrome?”

It can (and will!) happen to anyone.  There you are, minding your own business in class, and the professor is describing a disease that you definitely don’t have….except, what if you do?


Calm down, self.  Logically if you had leukemia/Goodpasture’s/Addison’s/Etc… then you would have symptoms.  But wait a minute, isn’t one of the symptoms “fatigue?”  You are tired all the time.  Cheese and crackers–you are probably dying!


Ok, Ok–pull it together.  What are the other symptoms?  You weren’t listening to the professor, so you don’t know.  Quick, Dr. Google probably knows!  Dysphagia–you know, some times things go down the wrong pipe.  Its probably a tumor.  Coughing–you cough all the time!  In fact, now your throat feels kind of scratchy.   How has no one else noticed how sick you are?


Instead of taking notes on the rest of the lecture, you get onto webMD and learn all you can about the disease that will one day cause your tragically short life.  How sad for your friends and family to have to watch you struggle nobly with this vicious illness.


The internet says that your downfall was caused by a genetic abnormality and most patients present with severe symptoms.  It is a testament to how strong and stoic you are that your symptoms are so mild.


Goodbye, cruel world! One day they will tell your story in this very medical school.  The professor will stand before the class and tell your sad, sad story.  “If only we had caught it earlier,” he will openly weep.  “She was the best of us all….”  Wings of the hospital will be named after you.  A scholarship will be set up in your honor.Your picture will hang–

Wait a second–this disease is caused by a chromosomal abnormality and is associated with mental retardation.  You totally don’t have that.  You are the smartest person you know!  In fact, you don’t even have those symptoms you thought you did.  You never cough, and everyone is tired in medical school.   You are alive.  Amazing!


After that near death experience, you can sit back, relax and pay attention to the next lecture.  Of course, the next professor will probably tell you about another disease and the process will start all over again.





The Tests That Shall Not Be Named

Question:  How do you know if you are a second year medical student?

Answer: If you are terrified at the very mention of Boards.


Being a second year medical student is disconcerting for a couple of reasons.  The first is that professors assume that because you are a second year, you are prepared to be dumped back into school with little warning.  Personally, I could have done with a little coddling–much better than the “40 hrs of school with three quizzes and two labs right off the bat” approach this year began with.

The second reason is that people keep talking to me about Boards.  In case you didn’t know, to be a doctor you have to pass a series of horrific tests known collectively as “Boards.”  You might also know them by the names COMLEX or USMLE, for osteopathic and allopathic schools respectively.  At the end of your second didactic year of medical school, you take Step one of your boards (Step 2 is before fourth year, and Step 3 is before you start a residency).  Your Step 1 board scores play a role in determining what residencies you are able to get.  In a little under a year, I am going to be taking an 8 hour, 400 question test that will determine my future in medicine.

I'm not scared--you are scared!

I’m not scared–you are scared.

In the five weeks since school has started, the administration has spoken to us several times, as well as two separate board prep companies trying to sell us material.  STOP TALKING TO ME ABOUT BOARDS.  I get it.  My entire future rests on my performance. Stop trying to freak me out.  The worst part is that everyone agrees that you shouldn’t start studying until about 6 months before you take it–roughly January.

It feels like people keep running up to me telling me to panic about a future event, but stop me when I try to do something about it.  Its like a strange game of “red light, green light” where even if I get a green light, I have to stay put.


But at the same time, as much as I want to study (to get rid of the anxious “your whole future is riding on this” feeling), I am also really lazy/busy with school and don’t want to do any extra studying.  Seriously, med school.  Stop giving me stuff to do.  I hate to say it, but I might be getting just a little bit overwhelmed.


So if you talk to me in the next year and I seem worried about something, you can pretty much guess what it is.  Boards.  Ugh, just typing the word gave me chills.  My new plan is to simply avoid talking about COMLEX or USMLE at all–Hence forth they shall be known as the tests that shall not be named.  Now excuse me while I live the rest of the year in blissful ignorance of the terror to come.


Advice for Past Emma

Having just begun the second year of medical school, I find myself thinking about my experiences this time last year.  One year ago I packed up my things and drove ten hours through four states to move into an apartment that I had not actually seen yet and was excitedly awaiting a week of orientation activities.  Currently there are roughly 175 new KCOM medical students doing the same thing right now.  And as a wise and experienced second year, I have a few pieces of advice for Last Year Emma, and all the first years like her.

1) Make time to do things you enjoy (and don’t feel guilty about it).  There will always be something to study.  If you studied every moment you were awake for your entire med school career, you would still have new things to learn.  Don’t go out every night, but set boundaries and try not to let school completely overwhelm you.


Rory gets me.

That may sound like bad advice, but if you don’t you will end up burned out and hating school.  We all have times when this happens to us (finals, anyone?) but it is best to avoid if possible.  Trying to care about school and absorb information when you are miserable is, well, miserable.

2) Speaking of taking study breaks, make sure to sleep!  This is especially important right before tests and finals week.  You will think to yourself, “You know, if I study until midnight, then get up again at five AM, I can get more done tomorrow!”  No.  No you cannot.  You will be tired and cranky and then you will drink 5 cups of coffee and still have a headache.   Do not be the first year who pulled an all-nighter before walking into his first exam, and then promptly fell asleep in the middle of the test.  You will not be able to get 8 hours every night, but make an effort to get an adequate amount of sleep as often as you can. It will not only make you more productive, but it will keep you happier as well.


3) You won’t get all A’s and that is ok.  In fact, its better than ok.  Do you know what they call the physician that got a C in Physiology?  Doctor.  This is an entirely new level of education.  You are going to drown in information and be expected to regurgitate it.  Do the best you can do.  Aim high, but don’t beat yourself up if you have a test or two that brings your grade down.  Your ability to be a good doctor does not depend solely on your ability to graduate in the top 10% of your class.

Don't worry--This only happens to 10 or 15 medical students a year :)

Don’t worry–This only happens to 10 or 15 medical students a year 🙂

4)  Do things that scare you.  Yes, medical school is daunting, but that is not what I am talking about.  I was excited about medicine, but I also let several opportunities pass me by because I was nervous.  There is a difference between learning about something in a classroom, and performing that activity in the real world.  For instance–and you should feel free to laugh at me for this–I have a weird fear of giving people shots. I don’t mind starting IV lines because you do that slowly, but there is something disconcerting about stabbing someone with a needle.

This summer I spent time in Northeast Missouri doing a clinical preceptorship at a primary care facility.  Basically I shadowed the physician and got a chance to apply the skills I’ve learned during my first year.  One of the nurses found out that I was nervous about giving shots and made it her goal to make me give every shot that the doctor ordered.  Now I’ve given shots to everyone from adults to children, and while its still not a comfortable experience, giving shots no longer bothers me.

Getting outside of your comfort zone is one of the most important aspects of learning, no matter what your career path.  Giving shots is just one small example, but the principal still applies.  Often I make excuses not to do things because I am afraid of failing or looking like an idiot.  But at some point you have to set aside this fear and accept the fact that you might look a little bit foolish when you try something new.

Now go out and enjoy your first year of medical school!



How To: Summer Break

Congratulations!  You have successfully passed your first year of medical school!  This would be the time to celebrate, if you weren’t so exhausted.


But don’t worry!  Now your summer break has OFFICIALLY started.  You can go home, see your family, and do absolutely nothing!  There is no greater joy than waking up at 6:30, realizing that it is summer and that you don’t have to study, and then going back to sleep.


The best–and only–way to utilize your lamentably short summer vacation is to refuse to do anything.  This may confuse people because up until this point you have filled your summers with jobs, internships, and research opportunities.  However, you already got into medical school, so you don’t have to do that stuff anymore.  Read all the books you want!  Catch up on all the TV you missed (why did you end, Parks and Rec?  WHY?!?!)


 Caution:  all your unmarried medical school friends WILL get married during your summer break.  I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you, but you have entered that time in your life, where all of your friends are getting married.  You will be invited to many weddings, some of them on the same day.  Conversely, you might be one of the people getting married.  In that case, mazel tov!  Soak up as much time as you can with your significant other–once school starts, you might never see them again.


Its what brings us together today…

Speaking of your friends getting married, you might have to see your friends.  If you are an introvert like me, this may be difficult for you (i.e. you want to see your friends, but you also want to be alone forever).  Suck it up–you love your friends.  There is no one else who gets your weird jokes and you will regret it if you forget to make plans just because you are lazy.  You can thank me later.


Last, but certainly not least, do not (I repeat:  DO NOT) study during your precious time off.  I know you have been trained by medical school to have a near pavlovian response to books.  Every time I pass a library, I have to physically suppress the urge to take notes or study something.  Do not give in!  There will be plenty of time for studying when school starts again.  So just kick back and enjoy yourself! You deserve it.


Stress Spiral

I never thought I would be that girl.  You know, the one that worries about getting enough points in a class to pass.  But this last semester, I found myself going into finals with a C–the horror!–in one of my classes.  I wasn’t failing, but the final exam counted for so many points that I started to get concerned.  Last semester I went into finals worried that my grades would drop, but unconcerned about failing–the finals didn’t count for more than 10% of my grade, so I only needed a handful of points in each class to pass.  This semester was a little different, and because the finals counted for so much more, they were much more stressful.

In the case of my low grade, that particular class had very few points offered, which meant the final exam counted a great deal towards my final grade.  A few days before the final, I counted up how many points I needed in order to pass and I panicked.  It seemed like I needed so many points that I would surely fail.  I was under so much stress that I spiraled until I was sure that not only would I fail this class, but that I would be made to repeat my first year of medical school.


I will ruin the surprise right now and tell you that didn’t happen.  In fact, looking back I feel incredibly foolish for freaking out as much as I did.  At one point I was crying in the study room while my perplexed boyfriend–bless his heart–tried his best to remind me that I am intelligent, I knew the material, and wasn’t going to fail.  As much as I fretted and panicked, I ended up with good grades.  I got a high C in the class I was worried about, but otherwise got B’s.  Its embarrassing the amount of stress I gave myself over an outcome that didn’t come close to occurring.

It was a terrible week, imagining the worst about something that didn’t even happen.  I am usually fairly calm, and am proud to say that other than this particular week, I do a really good job of keeping my stress to a minimal.  However, that week I lost it.  I don’t know how, but I went from having a normal healthy amount of anxiety, to panicking about having to repeat my first year of medical school (an outcome that would have required me to actively try fail).


I was not doing badly enough that failing should have been such a worry to me, but I lost myself in irrational “what if’s”.  Its hard to successfully manage stress when you are barely sleeping, studying 16 hours a day, and can’t maintain your normal schedule.    And after a long semester of stress slowly building up, I was met with a final week of trying to relearn all that material. I guess I should have seen my minor freak out coming!

We get bombarded with information, day in and day out.  We are tested constantly.  The hardest thing about medical school isn’t necessarily the complexity of the information, it is the shear volume of it.  With only a few days to reacquaint myself with the information before the final, I began to feel as though I would never get through it all.  This only added to my anxiety as I shut myself in the library and overwhelmed myself with information from past exams.


But after all that worry and heartache, my grades were fine.  I spent so much time last week in a panic, and it was absolutely not worth it.  I work hard, and in general, I get great grades.  This semester, I got a C.  The world didn’t end.  I’m still going to be an amazing doctor.  I’m never going to stop trying my best, but never again am I going to let my stress level spiral out of control like that.

I’ve been home on break for a week now, and I’ve done nothing but read novels and re-watch episodes of Parks and Recreation.  It has been glorious.  I really didn’t realize how stressed I was until I had the time to just do nothing.  I know that I can’t have this kind of freedom during the school year, but hopefully I will be able to hold on to some of the perspective.  I don’t want to be one of those people is miserable in medical school because I put too much pressure on myself.  I’ve got a few weeks of summer to recover from the stress of my first year of medical school–hopefully that is enough time to refuel before starting the next semester.  But in the mean time I will just relax and bask in the satisfaction of being 1/4 a doctor!

How to Study

  1. Its Saturday, which we all know means “uninterrupted day of studying.” You wake up later than you mean to, because you either a) were a gunner and stayed up late on Friday night studying or b) took a mental health evening and stayed up watching Disney movies until 2 AM.  Better make yourself a big cup of coffee to wake yourself up and a good breakfast to fuel your studying.                                                                 anna
  2. Oops! You get distracted watching Saturday morning cartoons while you eat breakfast and an hour goes by. Oh well, better get your notes out and start some intense studying.  But your desk is trashed from constant work during the week.  Honestly, it would be difficult to study under these conditions, so you HAVE to take twenty minutes to tidy up your desk.    cleaning
  3. In the course of cleaning your study area, you trip over the dirty clothes that cover your floor.  That’s a safety hazard–you could have seriously hurt yourself!  It would be irresponsible of you not to pick them up and wash them.  It will only take a few minutes to throw them into the washer.                                        GIF-Doing-laundry
  4. Now that the clothes are in the dryer, you could start studying, but you only have an hour before you have to interrupt your studying again to get the clothes out of the dryer. Besides, you noticed that your shower was getting a little gross.  How could you possibly focus with a dirty shower?                                                         brock
  5. Now that you think about it, the kitchen is still unkempt from breakfast.  And how long has it been since you cleaned your stove top?  That’s unsanitary. Better take care of that quickly.     colbert
  6. Clothes are out of the dryer!  Might as well save yourself some time and fold them now.  And look, you can watch Modern Family reruns while you do!                                                                                                                                       laundry
  7. Now its lunchtime and you’ve worked up an appetite with all that hard work.  You could make a sandwich to eat while you start studying, but you’ve got some hamburger meat that will go bad soon if you don’t use it.  It won’t take that much more time to whip up some lasagna.                                                                           pooh
  8. And the kitchen is messy again.                                                           snowwhite
  9. No more nonsense!  You’ve wasted the morning and now it is time to buckle down.  You get out your computer to access study materials, but while you are there you might as well check your emails.  Also, you should check facebook.  Hey–I know what you are thinking, but this isn’t irresponsible!  Checking the class facebook page could alert you of important things that you need to know about!  But somehow you fall down an internet spiral and end up looking through entire albums of your friends’ pictures.  When did she cut her hair?  Also, everyone you know is having babies–is something wrong with you?                                                                                                                                                       mylife
  10. Ok, pull it together!  You are smart and funny and in medical school–unless you fail out of school because you never got around to studying.  Focus!                          pro1
  11. Hungry again.                                                                                                                                                                                                     food
  12. This is the worst—you’ve been studying for two hours and you’ve barely gotten through two lectures worth of material.  Nothing is sticking.  Better make some coffee so that you can focus.                                              adventuretime
  13. Study break!  But no facebook–you know what happened last time.  Just pop over to youtube for a few minutes and watch a funny video.                                                                                                                                                                   break
  14. 30 minutes of youtube later, you are hungry again because you watched a video listing the thirty best donut flavors.  You are starved, but you don’t want lasagna.  You look in your pantry and realize you have no study food–no wonder you couldn’t focus!  Who could possibly review biochemistry without M&M’s and potato chips?  Better make a snack run.                                                                                              snacks
  15. An hour and $50 later, you are back at home with unhealthy food stuffs, ready to study.  You are going to be so productive, except you started eating Cheetos and get orange stuff all over your fingers.  You don’t want to make a mess, and you don’t want to constantly wash your hands every time you need turn a page, so you wait to start studying until you finish the bag.                                                          cheetos
  16. And now that you have eaten something salty, you want something sweet.  Where did you put those cookies?                                            cookie
  17. No more distractions!  You sit down, blast the study music, and focus on your notes.  Its slow going at first, but the next thing you know you look up at the clock and its midnight and you’ve looked over most of the material you meant to cover today. Good for you!  You are crushing the medical school thing.                                                                                                studying
  18. Time for bed–you want to make sure to get a good night’s sleep so you can do this all again tomorrow!

Thank You Jimmy Kimmel

Fair warning:  this blog post contains pro-vaccine opinions. 

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I was incredibly sad to hear that we would be loosing both John Stewart and Steven Colbert in the coming year.  Where will I get my news?    I find the loss of these programs particularly upsetting because there is a special kind of truth that comes from satire, and in my opinion both Stewart and Colbert did a wonderful job of presenting difficult and dividing issues in a way that made their viewers think.  I’m bringing this up because the other day I saw a clip from another TV host–Jimmy Kimmel–that did a fantastic job of using humor to get a message out (á la The Daily Show).

The Anti-Vaccine movement has been attracting a lot of media coverage recently, what with the Disney measles outbreak.  As a medical student and future doctor, I have a vested interest in this debate (if you can really call the issue a ‘debate’).  It baffles me that people would want to put their children in danger.  I don’t understand why we are still having this discussion, but apparently there are those that are still confused.  And as physicians (not famous people), I’m sorry to say that the medical community doesn’t have the popularity to get the word out as much as say, I don’t know, Jenny McCarthy.  At the end of the day, it really comes to which side is yelling the loudest, and unfortunately the anti-vaccine movement often wins in that arena.  Which is why I appreciate this unsolicited support from someone like Jimmy Kimmel.  Its humor makes the clip a form of entertainment, but the seriousness of the message still shines through.

There are two big reasons why I love this video (and a dozen more small ones that I won’t bore you with here).  The first is that Kimmel addresses what I think is one of the most important arguments against the anti-vaccine movement (besides potentially saving their life):  that it puts other children in danger.  Yes, feel free to argue that your healthy child can probably survive measles and get their immunity ‘naturally’.  But what about people with impaired immune systems?  What about children with cancer, genetic immune deficiencies, or those that are too young to have developed an immune system?  Your child could pass on the disease to someone who might not be able to fight it off.  Besides, its not just the immunocomprimised that have potentially life threatening reactions to these diseases.  Regular, seemingly healthy children can get encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) from chicken pox, or hearing loss, pneumonia, or subacute sclerosing encephalitis from measles (yes, the measles that you are so unconcerned about).  Children die–we have forgotten this fact because with modern medicine, the number of childhood illnesses has fallen so much in the last century.

The second reason that the video brings up is the implied mistrust of doctors that inherently comes with the anti-vaccine movement.  Twelve years of obligatory school, four years of university education, four years of medical school, and 3-??? years of residency and fellowship to become a doctor and you still don’t trust our medical knowledge?  The main argument that I seem to hear from the anti-vaccine community is that Doctors and Scientists are ignoring the evidence against vaccines (possibly for our own gain?).  First, any evidence that suggested danger in vaccines has been disproven over and over again.  Do you think we looked at information that suggested we were harming people and said “Eh, its probably fine.”  No.  We have invested time, money, and effort to make sure that vaccines were safe.  And then when we proved that they were, we kept checking, because the safety and well-being of others is kind of our job. Besides, as a former professor of mine once said:  Scientists never agree on anything.  We like to argue.  There is always someone willing to oppose your ideas.  The theory that all of the scientific community has come together to deceive the public is absurd–we are not nearly that organized.  Second, vaccines are the single most important medical development of the last century.  As the video states:  “Do you remember that time you got Polio?  No–because your parents got you vaccinated.”  Walk through a really old church grave yard sometime.  Look at all the graves of children and remember that death in childhood was heartbreakingly common even 50-100 years ago.  Vaccines have allowed us to stop many of these common, devastating disease outbreaks that previously swept through the population.  When I suggested that a child get vaccinated, I’m not twirling my evil mustache, laughing maniacally to myself about my evil plan to cause the child harm.  I am taking the best medical evidence out there and giving the child the chance of a better, healthier life.

So thank you, Mr. Kimmel.  It is a wonderful thing to see you using your fame and reach to advocate for such an important issue.  I hope you continue to do so in the future.

10 Reasons Why You Should Date a Medical Student

It is difficult to maintain a relationship while in medical school.  I am certainly not arguing with that.  There are times when school has to come before almost everything else, which means sometimes celebrating your anniversary might have to wait a week until your significant other is done with an exam.  But despite the apparent difficulties, I think there are many perks to dating a medical student, so I thought I would share them with you today.  Just so you know, this list was approved by Pierre, my slavishly devoted French boyfriend, so you know it must be true.

1)  We will give you amateur medical advice.


That mole on your back?  Probably cancer.  Or just a freckle.  Honestly, we don’t know.  But we will tell you our opinion anyway.

2)  We will inform you every time we see a medical inaccuracy while watching television.


Did you like Grey’s Anatomy?  Then I will apologize in advance for yelling at the TV every time they do something medically inaccurate.  Scrubs is the only exception.

3)  We are easy to please.


Food is one of my favorite parts of the day.

Food is one of my favorite parts of the day.

If I come home and there is dinner on the table, its the same as if you took me out to a 5 star restaurant.  If you do the dishes after then I will probably marry you.

4)  If you are dating an osteopathic medical student, you get periodic massages.


Yes, we call it “osteopathic manipulation,” but that is really code for “my back hurts, will you fix it for me?”

5)  We are super funny.




I’m seriously hilarious.  You are welcome.

6)  We will help you stick to your diet.


Trying to loose that last 5 pounds?  I’ll talk to you about cadaver lab during dinner–you won’t want to eat anything.  Wanna hear about the time I scooped fecal material out of my cadaver’s intestines?  The time someone accidentally flicked a glob of fat down my shirt and it got in my bra? What about medical conditions like anal-vaginal fistulas?  Take your pick–I’ve got more.

7)  We will challenge you (in a constructive way).


In case no one has told you, it is boring to date someone who doesn’t challenge you.  No worries about that if you date a medical student!  You will constantly be learning new things–besides, we are pretty passionate about our interests which tends to be infectious.  And feel free to challenge us as well–we are excited to learn about the things that interest you, too.

8)  Your parents will love us.


Seriously, we are so much better than that artist/musician/English major your brought home last Christmas.  There was an audible sigh of relief when you introduced us to your family.

9) We have good listening skills.

"And how does that make you feel?"

“And how does that make you feel?”

Our professors are desperately trying to imbue us with a good “bedside manner”, and we will practice these skills on you.  Oh, you are frustrated with me? When did this frustration start? Has anything made it better or worse?  If you had to describe your symptom with a number on a scale of 1-10 (1 being yogi level zen and 10 being lifetime movie murder special), how would your rate your frustration?

10)  Intelligence is attractive.


 This reason needs no explanation.  Intelligence is incredibly attractive.  Period.  End of discussion.


So there you have it, folks.  Ten whole reasons why dating a medical student is the way to go. You’d better run out and snatch up a medical student now, because we are a hot commodity.

First World Medical School Problems

I am extremely grateful to be in medical school.  I understand how truly fortunate I have been in my life–not just in regards to medical school, but with friends, family, and experiences–so please excuse me while I talk about the inconsequential things I complain about all the time.

I try to be an adult and not whine, but lets face it:  Sometimes whining is cathartic.  I just finished a long, arduous exam and I have been a little bit whiny since I got my grades back.  But even as the petty complaints are coming out of my mouth I understand how stupid they sound.  So I thought I would tell you guys a few of them and see if you all experience these thoughts from time to time.

I spent hours studying the venous supply to the lungs, and they didn’t even ask about it on the quiz!  If they weren’t going to ask a question, why did they emphasize it in class?

troy book

Yes, this one may seem specific to medical school, but I think there is a broader, underlying problem.  I have the tendency to complain about having to learn/perform tasks that never get recognized publicly.  Who cares if I didn’t get to answer a question about it.  I need to know this material whether it shows up on a test or not.

I had to spend two hours cleaning and doing dishes yesterday.  I wish I could just come home after a block exam and not have to do anything.


Who keeps breaking into my apartment and making messes?  It’s clearly not my fault. I want my apartment to be clean, but I don’t want to be the person to clean it.  First of all, this is silly because I should be thankful for my wonderful (very cheap) apartment.  Second, I don’t have a husband or kids to clean up after.  How bad can my messes actually be?  Then, sometimes I have the opposite problem:

 I couldn’t study last night because I was busy Binge Cleaning


I don’t know if anyone else has this problem, but sometimes when I should really be doing something else (like studying for my lab practical tomorrow?)  I talk myself into cleaning instead of studying.  Its really a “lesser of two evils” type of thing.  But then I’m behind on my studying because it was absolutely imperative that I clean EVERYTHING before I sat down to learn the cervical vertebral techniques.

That professor asked us a question on a test that he said in lecture that he wouldn’t test over.


This is the other side of the “I studied something that wasn’t on the test” coin.  Yes, it is frustrating if you get a question on something that you were told you didn’t need to study.  But they presented the material–technically they can test me over whatever they want.  I have the tendency to work myself up until I am blaming the professor for my grade in that class and then I have to sit myself down for a stern talking to.  If I missed a question its not because the professor didn’t cover it in class; its because I ran out of time, assumed it wouldn’t be tested, and ignored that section of the handout.

Now that I am in medical school, I never have any free time, I’m behind on all my TV shows, and I never get enough sleep.


This one is not only something I complain about on a daily basis, but one of the most foolishly whiny things I say.  Medical school–like most things in adult life–is difficult and requires me to work hard.  I would be legitimately unhappy if I had to be lazy all the time.  Not only that, but I actually love everything I’m doing.  Its almost like saying “It is so horrible that I have to learn things in this fantastic school that I was lucky to get into, to eventually reach the career I want, and attain every goal that I set for myself.  My life is so hard.”

Missouri is SO COLD. I freeze practically every time I leave my house.


This one I won’t apologize for.  Missouri is freezing in the winter, and I find being cold unacceptable.  Which also leads to:

I’m sleepy and cold and I don’t want to get out of bed to go to early morning classes/lab/patient rounds.


Again, I’m incredibly lucky to be going to this school.  But some days it seems like the hardest thing in the world to be productive, especially when attending classes isn’t mandatory.

I hungry, but I have no food actually prepared.  Now I have to go to the store/cook stuff.


I actually like to cook, but there are times when I want to eat right now.  Where is my personal chef who has dinner prepared for me after a long day of studying?  I’m hungry just thinking about it.

So those are some of the things that I complain about when I’m being whiny.  I feel like this list is pretty standard, but I’m sure I missed something.  Feel free to fill in any holes in my list if you guys think of anything 🙂

Medical School is not the Most Important Thing in my Life

My week did not go according to plan.  Over the weekend, I planned a week filled with classes, labs, meetings, and studying.  A few days later I was boarding a plane to go back home and attend a funeral.  I have spent much of my time this last week making travel arrangements and trying to shuffle my medical school obligations around.  It has reminded me of something that I rarely think about:  How truly low medical school falls on my list of priorities.

“Whhhaaat?” you say.  “But Emma! You love medical school–you never come home anymore because you are so busy with those obligations.  How can it be low on your priority list?”

Easy.  Medical school is very important to me, but I’m not even sure it breaks the top five important things on my list.  And I think this sentiment is universal for other professions, schools, and responsibilities.  Here are some reasons why.

Medical school is not more important than my friends and family.  I will never tell someone I love that I cannot help them because I have class.  There is no amount of assignments that could make me ignore the needs of a friend.  This is not noble or self sacrificing–it is simply the right thing to do.

Medical school is not more important than my health.  It would be easy to run myself into the ground, staying up all night studying for every quiz.  But I would be running on fumes.  If the difference between passing a 5 point quiz is more than 2 hours of my potential sleeping time, it is not worth it.  Now, major tests are a bit of a different story, but you get the picture.

Medical school is not more important than my happiness.  Medical school is difficult and I am not perfectly happy every second of my day.  But I am satisfied in the work that I am doing.  I am truly fulfilled by my studies.  I am not belittled by my peers or professors.  But if these things were not true, I would not sacrifice my emotional health just to become a doctor–I would have to re-evaluate.

These are things that have been true no matter where I was in my life.  And I think its important to have your priorities firmly established.  Otherwise, when a situation arises, its hard to know the right thing to do.

It is easy to get confused.  Right not–to me–medical school is one of the most overwhelming things in my life.  I spend most of my day studying to do better in school.  It is almost all that I talk about.  So when a situation comes about that jeopardizes my school commitment, I always pause.  If I am threatening my studies by binge-watching all the seasons of scrubs (except that last season, which was terrible), I should possibly reconsider. But if I need to skip school for a family emergency, then I shouldn’t be too hard on myself.

Because there is more to life than studying.  Being a good human being outweighs being a medical student any day.  No matter what you are doing with your life–whether you plan to go to graduate school, or are involved in a demanding job–its important to understand what you deem to be important in your life.  If I died tomorrow, I won’t regret the times I didn’t study.  I won’t wish that I had worked more.

I know that these decisions will get harder as time goes on.  Soon I will have to balance the needs of my patients against my obligations to family and friends.  When I have children, how often will I have to miss their activities because I have to work?  How can I let my patients down if I have to leave town to take care of personal business?  The situations that I encounter in the future will become more intricate and ambiguous–I have no control over this.  The only thing that I can do is remember the things that are most important in my life and try to make decisions accordingly.