What does it take, really, to start from scratch as a freshman medical student to becoming an MD? Known for their perseverance and intelligence, I collaborated with PLE 2017 Board Topnotchers, Dr. Karl Avilo and Dr. Jan Monzon, and picked their minds about life and medicine. They also got to answer your not so ordinary, 1st year Medicine FAQ, so stay tuned for that in the end!
I’ve never been this excited, finally I can share this piece to kick start the year with you!
First content of 2018, and we’re off to a great start! 🙂 Let’s hear their story!
AN OPEN LETTER TO MY FRESHMAN SELF
As you open this letter, you may have just received the news that you’re finally accepted into medical school. You could not contain your excitement because you’re finally seeing the beginning of a dream.
All the hard work and hours you spent studying for NMAT, squeezing in time in between patient monitoring in the wards when you were still in Nursing school, tirelessly repeating exam drills in the MSA NMAT reviewer and enduring the whole process of applying at WVSU while reviewing for the Nursing boards have finally paid off.
I wrote this as a newly passed physician who just finished taking his oath. As the start of a new chapter in my life begins to unfold, I can’t help but reflect on how much I have grown as a person in the last 5 years of medical school, clerkship, internship and Physician Licensure Examination.
I have learned a lot of life lessons the hard way and I hope that you will not commit the same mistakes as I did. Here are the lessons that you should always keep in mind:
Medicine is a marathon, not a sprint.
During the next 5 years there will be a lot of challenges. You will always question why you even took up Medicine in the first place. You will always doubt your brain capacity and whether it will be able to handle the sheer amount of information to be learnt in such a short span of time.
Trust yourself and know that if others made it through med school, there’s no way you will not. Push through. It will be a long and winding journey, but it will be all worth it.
Start early and put in the work.
Your preparation for the PLE and your career as a lifelong student of medicine starts the moment you open the first page of your anatomy book. Most of your time when you are walking your way home will be spent mulling over the life choices you have made.
Every single exam will make you feel as if your best effort will never be enough. Every single exam will make you question whether you will be able to use all this information in patient care. I’m telling you right now they all will.
You may be tempted to think that you may never encounter a rare case of a genetic disease so you need not memorize the essential History and PE findings. Be patient. The time will come when a 14yo male will come to the OPD accompanied by his mother with the chief complaint of repeated seizures since childhood without any prior consult.
The patient will barely understand your question “Kamusta ka na?” and his mother will tell you he is somewhat “bobo.” He will have papular lesions all over his nose and a raised patch on his right lumbar area. You will jump in excitement and quickly say, “Tuberous Sclerosis!” Oh, that feeling of fulfillment when you diagnose a rare genetic disease and help hasten the diagnosis and management of a patient.
You will never know everything. But learning something new every single day will take you closer to to that seemingly impossible pursuit of knowing everything. And that pursuit will give you great joy. Learn to embrace the struggle. There is beauty in it.
Study for your future patients. Study for your family members and friends who will always ask you for medical treatment for their common cold to their antihypertensive medications. Don’t study for the sake of grades.
“Always live in awe of the glorious mechanism of the human body. Let that be the focus of your studies and not a quest for grades, which will give you no idea of what kind of doctor you’ll become.” Patch Adams.
Never forget family. There will be a lot of times that you will feel overwhelmed by the immense amount of transes to study and memorize. You will find yourself spending more time studying while losing time for your family. As the stress piles up you will become burned out.
You will question why you’re doing this torture to yourself. But calling your mom and talking to your dad will remind you that you’re this for them. They will never understand what you’re going through medicine, but even the most cliche advice your mom will give you such as
“Kayang kaya mo yan, Anak”
will renew your strength and will get you through the week.
Always struggle to find meaning in everything you do. If you’re doing it for something bigger than yourself, for your family, friends and everyone who believed in you, you will realize that you can get through anything life throws at you.
Figure out three things that are most important in your life and work to keep them intact. Everything else will all be of less importance. In your case it will be God, family, career.
Find your second family in med school.
Choose people who you can trust and who trust you. Talk to them as often as you can, especially in times of distress and discouragement. Often you will know that they are finding it tough too. Knowing that you are not alone in your journey will give you the courage to continue.
You will find someone who will be of greatest help in your medical school journey. She will change you as a person and you will never be the same again. Love her and take care of her.
Relationship with God.
God will be your greatest Friend.
You will feel abandoned by Him. You will feel cheated. You may feel he is distant. But Faith is not based on feelings. You will eventually know His presence. You will recognize His love for you when He gets you through the greatest challenges of life and He always will. “The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:37
Congratulations on finding your way to where you are now. Know that the road ahead is very long. There are many turns, detours and bumps but the journey will always be worth it. And no matter how hard it will get, remember to make no regrets.
- Nobody would want failure, but no one truly fails if they learn from stumbles. Take failures positively, so that they propel you towards further growth. You’d be surprised at how these low moments in your life can be potent catalysts for betterment. Rather than losing sleep over a hiccup, see it as an opportunity to learn and emerge a better person.
- Pay attention to every detail. You will save lives someday, every little thing counts and might make the difference between life and death for someone someday. However, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture! Some of these details don’t have to make sense now but they will, soon.
- Lend a hand whenever you can, and appreciate the help others give, too. Saving lives is also all about teamwork, synergy and cooperation. Be a good follower just as you would be a good leader. And ultimately, be an example of the good that you want to see. Strive to make a difference!
- Don’t be passive because opportunities escape those who just sit and wait. You are in medical school to learn.You alone will set the pace of your metamorphosis.
- Believe that you can achieve, because everything starts with a positive mindset.
- Advocate a deep sense of learning. Don’t settle for memorization when you can go for understanding, integration and synthesis.
- Be humble and come into terms with your own ignorance because only a cup that is emptied can be filled.
- The process is hard, but it is, for a good reason. Don’t frown at examinations or schoolwork — these aren’t meant to tire or overwhelm you! Rather, they should bring out best in you. Just as body builders have to endure long, painful hours in the gym to attain their desired form, future doctors have to sweat it out, too.
- Stay true to yourself, and to others. Keep your integrity; ward off the bad influences.
- There are no shortcuts. Taking an easy turn robs you from the very valuable experience of going through the medical school journey, and this means you are cheating your future patients too.
- Find your passion, know your purpose. Write it down, or revisit it in your mind from time to time so that when it gets rough you will stay idealistic. Remember, never settle for something less, and that includes the doctor you want to be.
- Someday, as you go further down the road, share your experiences, your wisdom and even your failures to the others who have just begun. Encourage others to do the same. A single ripple of kindness will easily spread; a single gesture of goodness will go a long way.
Bonus: 1st Year Medicine FAQs
Did you ever went to school coming unprepared?
Jan: Depends on what “unprepared” means. But yes, there are plenty of times I go to school and attend lectures without pre-reading on the topics. In most of those times, I chose sleep or relaxing over studying as too much of the latter may also lead to burnout.
Karl: Yes, every single day. You will never know everything and you have to accept that. But learning about the mechanism of a drug and how it works to decrease the chest pain of a patient will make all the seemingly boring information all worth it.
Night study routine during 1st year.
Jan: I would read other, usually lighter sources and references on a given topic, take a break (play video games, watch short clips), then proceed to read the prescribed material, or the lectures/handouts, then take more breaks as needed.
Karl: Classes during 1st year, usually end around 3-5pm. I would have my daily afternoon run around the Iloilo Sports Complex and have my dinner along my way home. I start studying around 6-7pm and retire to bed around 11pm and wake up 6am. You have to have an adequate amount of sleep (~7hours) to be more productive and more attentive the next day.
What is one dream you have yet to accomplish?
Jan: “Take part in an impactful public health reform on mental health that makes its significance very tangible in every aspect of every person’s daily life, both in our country and across the world.”
Karl: To be an established Interventional Cardiologist or a Medical Oncologist.
What’s the most exciting thing that’s happened during 1st year?
Jan: I got to handle and dissect a human brain.
Karl: When I met my girlfriend. Haha. But academically, when I started reading Harpers Biochemistry and Guyton Physio. The many curious questions I had when I was in premed were finally answered by those books.
Who was your favorite 1st year professor and why?
Jan: Dr. Michael Van Haute. The topics he taught were among the hardest ones (Acid-base handling of the renal and pulmonary systems, signal transduction, biochemistry of hormones, neurotransmitters, among others), but he delivered very informative lectures that likewise offered plenty of insight into the pertinent clinical correlations.
These helped everything make more sense and thus facilitated long-term learning for such otherwise “dreaded” topics.
Karl: It had to be my Biochemistry professor. He had a monotonous voice when teaching, but I really understood Biochem from him. I really believe that Biochem fueled my desire to learn more about Medicine and made me enjoy studying it.
How did you handle depression brought by Medicine?
Jan: The journey through Medical school comes with a lot of ups and downs. My general approach to the nega-moments would be to see them as opportunities to learn and grow from. Mistakes teach us a great deal. Instead of dwelling on the frustrating aspects of the journey, I tried to see every bump as a necessary hurdle for us to be the best doctors we can be.
Karl: I sought help from my professors and friends. I consulted one of my Psychiatry professors and he helped me resolve my idealistic and unrealistic expectations with myself. Talking with my friends and my girlfriend helped me to know that they, too, are having a tough week and that you’re not the only one experiencing those feelings of inadequacy and depression.
How did you balance leisure and medicine?
Jan: Leisure is essential to have a well-rounded or holistic experience in medical school. I didn’t have any rules when it comes to this. Both should come naturally. I relax when I feel I need to. And when I would study, I made sure I was studying because I truly wanted to, not just because there’s an exam, or because it is a “requirement”.
Karl: I had a really hard time balancing the two. When you enter medical school you have to accept that medicine will always compete with the other aspects of your life. Early on I decided that I want to be the best medical student I can be and I know it entailed a lot of sacrifices. I have sacrificed family time, hanging out with my friends, watching movies. But those sacrifices all paid off. “We all can be masters at our craft, but you have to make sacrifices that come along with making that decision.” — Kobe Bryant
Instead of topics like “How to ace the boards” or “Tips and Tricks for PLE”, I thought it would be much refreshing to hear stories and introspection of real people, on how they have conquered, got their back up, and finished strong the tough journey of medicine.
I hope this post, (you guys, who’s thinking of quitting or giving up now) even in the smallest way possible, has inspired and helped you. If you’re having a difficult time, remember that they were once like us. It is still a long way to go, but know that you also have come this far! Let’s keep pushing forward! “You may not see it today or tomorrow but you will look back in a few years and be absolutely perplexed and awed by how every little thing added up and brought you somewhere wonderful — or where you always wanted to be.” — Brianna Wiest
They are the strongest people I look up to, not because of the accomplishments they have achieved, but because of how they have worked hard, and conquered adversities of life and medicine. I am essentially lucky to have known them. 🙂 Thank you so much Dr. Karl and Dr. Jan for co-creating this with me!
Thank you so much for reading! It took me a while to publish this content, but I hope you enjoyed! If you did, do Share! 🙂 Together let’s continue to inspire and empower each other. Spread the love for medicine!
Have a fruitful new year! Stay awesome Dok! 🙂
From my 1st content last March, to now that a new year has approached #HELLO2018, you guys have been the biggest plot twist of my 2017. I cherish the unending support you have poured on this avenue! This was made not only thinking of (future) doctors, but for everyone who has big dreams. This novel channel was created for you. Thank you so much for all the love!
I hope you liked this new year’s special! To more real life contents and collabs before clerkship! 🙂
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