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An Open Letter to All Medical School Aspirants: What You Need to Know about the Path of Medicine

Submitted by on November 2, 2014 – 7:58 PM

moonEach year, medical schools worldwide receive hundreds and thousands of applications. Last year, the Association of American Medical Colleges recorded up to forty eight thousand applicants. From these thousands of applicants, only about forty percent of them know what it takes to study medicine and choose it for the right reason.


While in medical school, students complain of an inability to cope with the heavy workload. Some later on realize that medical school is not for them. Both of these categories of medical students contribute to the increasing rate of medical school dropouts. They often leave with a regret of not knowing why they ever chose to get a medical degree in the first place. The purpose of this article is mainly intended to inform all medical aspirants of some things that are needed to be known, before starting any medical application.


You do not need to be very intelligent to study medicine. This is something some medical aspirants will not agree with. In truth, there is nothing like the “smarties” or the” genii” or the “extremely intelligent” in medicine. Of course, that does not mean anyone can just be a doctor. You need to have a certain degree of intelligence-popularly called “average intelligence”.


In medical school, there is no shortcut to passing your exams except by learning and studying. You don’t have to be super intelligent before “blasting” your exams. When you get into medical school, you will notice that most of your classmates are more intelligent than you. But after some time, you will see yourself being at the top of your class, far ahead of the ones who claim they are extremely intelligent, and then, you will really agree that medicine is not all about being intelligent.


Obtaining a medical degree is hard. You may not know how hard it is to get a medical degree until you experience medical school. It may be harder than you think or as hard as you think. But one thing is certain; obtaining a medical degree is hard.


The path to becoming a medical doctor is long and rugged. Becoming a specialist doctor takes about eight to fifteen years of medical training starting from the first year in medical school. General practitioners or non-specialists spend about four to seven years in medical school.


Nowadays, all medical doctors want to become consultants. The years you will spend receiving medical training will probably be the most difficult years of your life. You will receive lectures for about eleven hours or more daily. You will also find yourself studying for long periods of time.


Sometimes, you will wish there were thirty hours or more in a day instead of twenty four. You will study the way you have never studied before.  You will not be getting the long holiday breaks your non-medical friends get. You will probably be in school for the whole calendar year.


Do not make money a priority for studying medicine. Sometimes I hear most medical students and aspirants say “even though medical doctors were to be the lowest paid income earners, I would still be a doctor”. Please do not deceive yourself. Nobody would want to study medicine if it was not a well-paid job.


But the main point is this; do not let money be a priority. If you were to be asked about your reasons for studying medicine, money should be your least reason. Medical doctors are well paid, at least, on the average. But the pay cannot be compared to the daunting training they pass through.


If you carry that mindset of being rich as a doctor into medical school “you will always feel like; medicine is not worth all the struggles”. If you want to be rich, then try go into politics, business or information technology.
Pride “goeth” before a fall. This is a general proverb you might have come across a number of times. This proverb applies perfectly to medical school. If you are a medical aspirant, usually at the top of your class in high school or undergraduate, often times bragging about it and arguing to prove your superiority over others and you carry this character into medical school, you will fall like you have never fallen before.


Medical school is one place you will never want to prove you are the most intelligent. Those of them who want to announce their intelligence usually score low marks in examinations. In medical school, you have to try to be humble. If not, not only will you fail your exams, you will also attract the hatred of your fellow medical classmates.


You have to be open to learning and recognize that you can always make mistakes. Only with this, will you be able to improve on yourself. Being humble does not take anything from you, it only lifts you higher.


Finally, you need to have the three “Ls” for you to succeed as a medical student and doctor. The three “Ls” are; love for medicine, love for learning and love for people. You need to have these three vital tools if you are to succeed in your medical career.


You need to love the field. You need to have a curiosity for it. You need to have a hunger for it. You also need to be open to learning.


Medicine is a life-long learning course. For you to decide to be a medical doctor, you need to be devoted to learning each day of your life. The fact is that as far as you are in medicine, you never stop learning. Also, you need to have a love for people. You need to have a feeling to help people when they are in need.


As a doctor, your patient is the most important person to you. You have to be able to relate with your patient. Treat him or her as yourself. You need to be social if you are to succeed in your medical career.


Hence, it is important to note that as you go through medical school, your three “Ls” will tend to dwindle. Do not let that happen. Any time you notice you are losing interest, look for good friends to talk with and try to pick yourself up again.


With all these, I believe you now have some background information concerning the medical field. It will also interest you that these words I wrote here were not coined from personal experience but from research and answers I got from medical students and practitioners.

A German-born US physician and author, Martin H. Fischer once said, “Medicine is the one place where all the show is stripped of the human drama. You, as doctors, will be in a position to see the human race stark naked-not only physically but mentally and morally as well.” This may sound easy, but it is not as easy as you think. The path to being a medical doctor is a very difficult and rigorous one. You need to be prepared academically, mentally, socially, financially, morally and physically.

About the Author: Igbe Silas Oghenetega, is a medical student at Ambrose Alli University, Nigeria. He can be reached at [email protected]

About this article: This article is competing for the JPMS International Medical Writing Contest 2014.

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