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Weekly Weigh-In: Medical School Surprises

Welcome to PDr’s Weekly Weigh-in! Every week, we ask medical students and physicians to answer to some of our most frequently asked questions about being pre-med, applying to medical school, and working as a healthcare provider. This week’s “Weekly Weigh-in”: What’s something you didn’t expect about med school?

The Collaborative Learning Environment
– Evan Shih, MS1

The thought of a stereotypical pre-medical student conjures up images of a cutthroat know-it-all, resistant to helping a fellow student unless something is in it for him or herself. Having completed my undergraduate education at a large public university, I definitely encountered my fair share of “gunners”. I expected that those pre-meds who gained admission to medical school would be the elite of those gunner students, and that competition would only grow more fierce and stressful. However, once medical school began, I quickly realized that to my surprise, the medical school environment possessed none of that competition.

Instead, I found a community that was both collegiate and collaborative. Most students in my class form study groups, where they can teach one another concepts and share mnemonics that help us learn better. We Dropbox PDFs of textbooks to each other, email out study guides from older students, and send flashcard decks that we’ve created online. Our Facebook group page is always filled with educational YouTube videos, study guides, lecture summaries, practice tests, and words of encouragement. Maybe it’s the pass/fail system that has replaced the rivalry with harmony, or maybe we’ve gotten the bigger picture in our head, but having this type of collaboration with my classmates is one less stressor that I’m thankful I need not worry about in medical school. 

||Read: Finding Identity Outside of Medical School||

It’s Similarity to High School
– Edward Chang, MS1

What I didn’t expect about medical school is that it is a lot like high school. Since our class is small and we all take the same exact classes, medical school feels like a beefed up version of high school. As soon as school began, people started to form cliques mainly based on ethnicity. People in our class started dating each other and partying together. It’s just funny because unlike undergrad especially if you went to a big school, there’s no way to run away from the people around you.

I am overgeneralizing of course but experiencing this made me realize that everyone will always be looking for community. And people are just comfortable with others who are similar to them. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it but it’s just something to look out for when you do apply and enroll.

||Read: Weekly Weigh-in: Favorite Aspect of Medical School||

Faculty Members Going the Extra Mile
– Evan Laveman, MS1

One thing I didn’t expect coming into medical school was the willingness that UCLA faculty and physicians had to teach outside of the curriculum. I felt that every time we received a talk from a doctor within the UCLA health system, whether they were a resident or the head of a department, they displayed an interest in teaching students even more outside of the classroom. It was very common for them to end a lunch seminar or lecture with “and if any of you want to learn more or shadow me, here is my email.” I took many of them up on this offer, and was able to receive some direct education from some amazing physicians, and expose myself to parts of medicine that I otherwise may not have been able to see until residency. I thought that as a first year I wouldn’t be taken too seriously and that I wouldn’t have access to these opportunities, but the doctors I’ve encountered, shadowed, and learned from have treated me with a lot of respect, privilege, and responsiveness that gave me several valuable clinical experiences throughout my first year.

||Read: Weekly Weigh-in: Med School Interview Tips||

Support of Student Well-Being
– Emily Singer, MS1

Transitions are exceedingly tough, and the move to medical school – whether straight from undergrad or from the working world – is no exception. I did not expect that my school would be so sensitive to how difficult this adjustment can be for us. From offering medical student-only psychological services, tutoring, and organization help to funding “wellness” events like group dinners and puppy therapy during exams, the school really aims to ensure our emotional stability, growth, and success alongside our acquisition of medical knowledge and skills. This brand of “fuzzy” support enhances the school’s ability to deliver academic support. I am extremely grateful for the hand-holding that UCLA has provided me through this transition, and I would encourage applicants to ask about “wellness” and/or “mental health” programs that a school offers on campus tours during interviews.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ProspectiveDoctor.

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