Thanks for inspiring me to try for an MD [may be MD-PhD]! You all are very nice and very supportive.
However, I have always wondered…is MD curriculum much more demanding than grad school of engineering…do you have to put in more than 8-10 hrs a day [which I have never done]…what if you feel tired and it shows up…what if you fall sick…what if you have to take a semester off…
In gard school I was very relaxed. I only had to take 9-12 hrs a semester. Once I also took a semester off.
How did you find the new world? Was it very difficult to cope first?
I know I am asking childish questions…but believe me I am very childish …
Do tell me all about your experience.
Thanks and best
I want to know this stuff as well. One doc told me the pre-med years are the hardest. I hope he was right, but who's to know. One day at a time is how I'm doing it.
You're not asking childish questions at all. They're important questions.
I find that medical school so far (this is only my first year) is more rigorous than my years in graduate school for physics. But definitely note the word rigorous. Graduate-level physics work was definitely more difficult. But the medical school curriculum is more voluminous and moves at a faster pace. Every single day there are hundreds of new pieces of information thrown at me and I always feel like I haven't quite learned the stuff from the day before. When things come up for review I feel like the answers are at the tip of my tongue but it takes a while to retrieve that information (and I often just have to give up searching my mind and start searching my notes or textbook). In physics graduate school it was as if everything was added to a cohesive unit of knowledge – things supplemented each other and the mathematical skills were slowly increased as the physics work became more and more difficult. In medical school I just feel like I am being presented with a huge bowl of facts and the cohesiveness I took for granted in graduate shcool is missing. Of course, this could just be what I get at my medical school and perhaps at other schools it is different. On the other hand, my performance in medical school is better than it was in graduate school (although I was never really that passionate about physics but was just studying it for the intellectual challenge). I love the topics of medicine much more.
As far as time committment, it all depends (and again, I'm just a first year so I can only comment one the basic science stuff we're doing right now). Some weeks I'll put in 4 to 8 hours of studying a day on top of the 8 hours of class I might have that day (we have a lot of class first year so that we can start clinicals 2nd year). Some weekends I'll put in 20 hours or more of studying. Other times I study an hour or two after class, and take all day Saturday off putting in some hours on Sunday. Sometimes it's more, sometimes it's less than I put in doing graduate school. The one thing I know is that the time I spend studying in medical school feels more important than the time I spent studying in graduate school.
It wasn't too difficult to cope at first but it definitely hasn't been easy. At first I felt a little dejected because my performance in medical school was just not up to the standards I had come to expect for myself while I was completing my post-bacc courses (back then anything under a 95 percent was a poor performance…now I'm very pleased to get an 85 percent). But I've now come to the realization that I'm still doing well and to accept that I'll just have to accept how I do. If I know I've worked hard, what different is it in my final grade. I'm learning stuff (and to me it's stuff that matters compared to physics) and it feels good. And then it turns out that I'm still in the top half of my class in one of the top schools in the country…how could I complain about that.
As far as taking a semester off, I know it is possible at my school. Some people have even taken a year off. They are pretty accomodating to be sure that you don't burn yourself out. They want to graduate fine physicians, not burnt-out psychopaths.
Having been through both graduate school (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) and Medical School, I found medical school to be more rigorous in terms of the sheer volume of information that must be mastered. In graduate school, I had plenty of time to think critically and to analyze data, design experiements etc. I was in the gym at least three times per week and did a fair amount of middle distance running. In medical school, the hours were long and there was much to be mastered in a very short period of time. My wonderful fitness routine went by the wayside and I gained about 65 pounds over the four years.
The interesting thing about medical school is that you adjust to the material very rapidly. You will have days where you spend 10 or more hours studying. No matter what system you work out to handle the material, there are times when you have to run the study grind. I used to lock myself in the Gross Anatomy lab over night for some wonderful study sessions with my partners. We kept blankets and pillows in our lockers for naps. We learned some good anatomy on those sessions and supported each other. On my third Gross Anatomy exam, we had over 500 clinical scenarios to be mastered. The clinical scenarios did not include the pure gross anatomy structure questions and things that might be asked on a lab practical exam. That was one class; there was also Biochemistry, Introduction to Patient Care and Psychiatry to be mastered at the same time. We easily spent more than 40 hours per week in class.
Things have changed since I did first-year but the study time hasn’t gone down to any appreciable degree. If you fall ill, you take the time off and join the next year’s class. One of the students in the class two years ahead of me develped meningitis with the dreaded Waterhouse-Friderichsen Syndrome. He ended up in Intensive Care at Baltimore Shock-Trauma over the Christmas Holidays. He wrote a very moving essay about the experience and started with the sentence " Christmas Eve 1998 was the last day that I walked on my two feet". He ended up losing both feet and nearly his life but graduated a year ahead of me and is now a second-year pediatric resident in Baltimore. When he walked across the stage to pick up his diploma, he received a rousing standing ovation that lasted 5 minutes by the clock. Will (William Dash, M.D.) joined me on Pediatrics and Surgery rotations during my third year (and his fourth year). He was a joy to work with and helped me get over my huge case of first clinical rotation nerves. I helped him ace the General Surgery pre-board exam.
The thing that surprised me most was that I could learn to study and work when I was tired or sleepy. I learned how to take short breaks when I find my concentration waning. I learned when to take a short nap and when to get up, walk and recite as I learned. I have a large white dry-erase board that I used to diagram concepts or anatomical structures. I learned to color-code material from a friend who was dyslexic. I learned how to put in the disciplined study on a day-to-day basis and not get behind. I never had to do anything like that for undergrad (Analytical Chemistry/Math or Grad). In the words of my medical school dean, “Medicine is a very demanding and very unforgiving mistress”.
Thank you letting us in on the medical school experiances. I have some more pre-med work to do, and I'm looking forward to moving on.
If you had it to do all over would you, and why?
It sounds to me like a lot of positive growth has taken place in your lives in many ways.
This is fabulous information. Thanks so much for sharing!