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The Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting Medical School

Updated: Aug 7, 2022

By Dr Ammena Zahabi


Telling people you’re studying medicine glorifies the career of being a doctor without acknowledging the path to get there. You get told you’re brave and you enter your first day of university thinking this is it, this is how I learn to save people… This is before the realities of mundane lectures commence, before you make your friendship circles, and before the countdown to the end of the degree begins.

Studying medicine was the best decision I made for myself. This piece is just a little insight on things I wish I knew before

commencing medicine, both as a degree

and as a career.

1. It’s not all about helping people from the get-go

  • Medical school involves a torturous few years of lectures and exams. You have to get to grips with the basics before you start going out and seeing patients

2. It’s completely okay to not know what speciality you want to go into

  • Some people know and some people don’t. That is okay! I haven’t decided yet, and there is no need to feel pressured just because some people have a career plan. Medicine leads to a lot of career paths so until you have some insight, there is no need to urgently decide

3. It is NOT an episode of Grey’s Anatomy

  • It’s a LONG run before you see patients, and figure out what’s wrong with them and nothing goes as smoothly as you see on this show

4. It really doesn’t matter where you study

  • No university is going to make you stand out – the curriculum is different everywhere so there is no standardisation! All that matters is that by the end you’re a competent, safe practising doctor

5. You won’t be the smartest in your class and that’s OKAY.

  • Medics are high-achievers and there is a lot of competitiveness between the lot of you. At the end of the day, you’ll all be sitting the same exam and as long as you pass your exams, you’ll get that degree along with everyone else

6. Wanting to study medicine, studying medicine and practising medicine are not the same thing

  • The idea of studying medicine often is better in your head but once you’re in, you have to go through all the hurdles of sitting through lectures, to following doctors on clinical placements to graduating to come out of the other end to be able to practise. They are each a unique experience.

7. If you collected all your tears from the times you’ve cried from when you have been stressed, you could fill a bucket (do not try this at home)

  • Medicine is stressful. Nobody loves exams, or the fact that the rest of your future depends on them. We all go through it. Exams are a necessary evil. It’s important to talk about how you feel, and it’s okay to cry as long as you get through the rough patch

8. Studying medicine doesn’t mean you’re smarter than everyone else

  • A lot of medics lack common sense. There is a misconception that medicine is harder than any other degree and therefore you must be really smart but in reality, that is not the case

9. You don’t have to live and breathe medicine

  • You’re at uni! Go have fun! Make friends, join societies, try new things. This is meant to be the best 6 years of your life so go and find a crowd you can wind down with

Though it may not feel like it, time flies during medical school. There is a lot to learn both academically and socially. Be patient and take it one semester at a time and try to ENJOY it.

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