Friday, February 6, 2015

Reflection on the years of medical school

People say that M1 is the worst year, and it keeps getting better. I think that's simplistic.

M1 was the easiest year. M2 was the most fun. M3 was the most enlightening. M4 has been the most important.

M1 was easy. I knew how to study effectively (thanks, TAC), I didn't party much, and I took out enough loan money to live a simple and comfortable life. I'd already seen all of this material in high school or summer college classes, so I really relaxed that year--lots of time for prayer and (as you can see from the blog history) cooking, blogging, and biking.

M2 was fun. I knew my way around the medical school, I was an even more efficient student, and the material was finally all new and medical. It wasn't much more of a courseload than M1, and I got to present a poster at a CMA conference.

This dressage horse's lip has been cut 
by her bit. Src: Writing of Riding
M3 was...enlightening. It started better than M1 and M2 (since I started on psychiatry, family med, and peds), and it was a real rush to see patients and be in clinical settings. But things changed as I rotated through OB/GYN, medicine, and surgery (the three rotations with residents and hard schedules). I began to learn how workplace drama, gossip, and unresolved personality issues can spoil happiness in a residency. I learned more about my traits and vices that tear down a peaceful life: perfectionism, vanity (about how I appear to others intellectually and morally), lying (about what I know) and envy. All of these survived M1 and M2 because I had enough time and privacy; now they were exposed and wreaking havoc. These all lead to anxiety, which kills love. On top of clerkship angst, I was also very concerned with the approaching future and what God desired for my career. I got a wake-up call about how much stress I was under when I was diagnosed with UC. At the end of M3, I felt broken.

Src: Dressage Academy
But M4 has been the most important. During M4 I've solidified and processed the lessons of M3. During a hurricane, there is no time to think about flood damange and conservation of angular momentum; afterwards, you can clean up the wreakage and improve your meteorology. Glutted with the worry of M3, I finally realized how disgusting it was. I now refuse to live that way. Therefore, M4 has been pride/perfectionism rehab, and the planning phase to prevent residency from becoming another M3.

I've also learned as an M4 what my particular calling is within medicine. This came in large part from the formative process of interviewing, which was a batting box for my refusal to prescribe/abort/sterilize, as well as a time for me to see what really fit. I've also started to do some of the things I really love: research, teach, and study NFP and women's health.

What will residency be like? I know I'll be working around 80 hours a week. I know I'll move services (go from gynecology to obstetrics to oncology to nights...) every month. In those two ways, it will be like M3. But I categorically refuse to rise to the level of anxiety I allowed during M3. I'd prefer to be the lowest resident in the class than to do that again. Since my faculty know me and have four years (instead of six weeks) to assess me, I hope that I can relax and be unafraid of mistakes and ignorance. I hope I can make enough time for prayer and recreation, friends and family, and take care of my health. To my surprise, medical school has prepared me in more than one way to be a doctor: I'm intellectually ready, and I've been morally broken and built up to learn how to live a demanding life with joy.

(Sorry to the horse people for mixing dressage and jumping in my metaphor.)


  1. What a beautiful reflection - I quite enjoyed reading your thoughts and assessments of the past med school years. I am struck by your wisdom in realizing the truth of your experiences - that is not easy to do. My prayers for you will continue as you begin the next phase - may God continue to bless you, dear sister in Christ.

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