How much (outside of school) should a medical student be doing?

May 18, 2013
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The title says it all. For background, I am an MS2 at a mid-tier M.D. school who is doing above average academically. I am also involved here and there in clubs/organizations and am even a "leader" in a few, while doing small amounts of clinical research on the side (unknown if will result in pubs though--at least a poster I am hoping). I feel more below average in the category outside of academics, however. I am more Type B than Type A. My interest is only psychiatry.

I am asking this because, when I started medical school, I thought and expected that life would become much more of a genuine pursuit for me and my peers and less about just beefing up CVs (unlike being a pre-med). Part of me thought "Alright, we're in, let's put the past tendencies and behaviors behind us, lets get through the tough academic and clinical stuff, do some outside of school stuff, become doctors and get into residency without needing to be too fearful of the future since medicine is oh so secure!"

Instead, my balloon has exponentially been popping since I started medical school, as I see my fellow medical school classmates become members and leaders of any organization/club they can get ahold of, starting as many clubs/organizations as possible. Many of my classmates are focused on being the best. It shows in that many of them started studying for Step 1 during MS1. There's quite a bit of false altruism for one's peers as well from what I can see. Much of what transpires amongst my community feels done out of insecurity and fear while ultimately being focused on one's own gain. There's always the genuine ones, of course, but I am blown away by this more self-centered and insecure mentality that many medical students seem to be increasingly taking towards their education and career--which leads to an obsessive and neurotic approach to opportunities, involvements, academics, research, etc. It's also contagious, because it makes me think I am doing something wrong perhaps! Part of me wants to believe that living this way isn't how it has to be.

I started medical school super chill and was glad to be done (or so I thought) with the facades and pretenses that being a pre-med so often entails, but have slowly found myself becoming tempted to regress and catch this infectious desperation that I am detecting in the medical community (at least the one I am in). I wanted nothing more than to just finally do what I really liked and loved and not too much else that fell outside of that category.

I have scoured the NRMP, and I was also surprised in the statistics reported, not just for STEP 1, but for research and work and volunteer as well.

Many, especially the Rad Onc., Ortho., Optho. and Derm. hopefuls, will say "Oh, your interest is psychiatry? It's not competitive! Look what I and others have to do, so stop talking." Nevertheless, I am hoping to be taken seriously, as I am still feeling intimidated and insecure, wondering if I am doing something wrong. Medical school is filled with Type A's, and I feel like I have too much Type B in me at times. Being Type A is painful and exhausting to me. The future seems very hard to predict, and things don't seem very clear.

Shall we talk about medical school culture and also try to clarify what medical students should and should not be doing? Is anyone else experiencing what I am talking about in their respective medical community? Whatever you read that you felt struck by, positively or negatively, feel free to respond.
 

JuneBugg

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May 10, 2012
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Coming from a third year medical student who is now on clinical rotations...do what makes you happy (after you spend time studying, obviously...I'm strictly talking free time). If that means sitting on your couch and drinking a beer, go for it. If that means volunteering at the animal shelter because you love animals, then do that. Play soccer or volleyball or whatever interests you. I did fine in medical school and my licensing exam scores were above average. All without annoying the sh** out of my classmates like the gunners at all medical school do.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF and don't try to be the most perfect individual in your class. You're going to go crazy.

Message me if you ever want to talk. Don't compare yourself to anyone.
 

Psai

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"Instead, my balloon has exponentially been popping since I started medical school, as I see my fellow medical school classmates become members and leaders of any organization/club they can get ahold of, starting as many clubs/organizations as possible. Many of my classmates are focused on being the best. It shows in that many of them started studying for Step 1 during MS1."

Those kids are lamers. Just do what you want to do, don't do things because other people are doing it. Fear of being left out is huge with the popularity of facebook but program directors want good residents. They want people that they can work with, have a conversation with and can train. They don't want people who start clubs just to put something on their resume because they are huge tools
 

Moko

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TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF and don't try to be the most perfect individual in your class.
Pretty much this. I truly believe that medical school is a time for all of us to be honest with ourselves about our aspirations and career goals. The number of extra-curricular activities, honored rotations, and even the residency that we ultimately end up in don't define who or how successful we are as people and future physicians (though unfortunately many still do think this way). When people shift their thinking from "being the most competitive applicant" to "being the best doctor I can be", it's amazing how outlooks and productivity can improve as a result. As others have mentioned, do things that'll make you happy and satisfied :).
 
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sloop

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Third year, here. I'm also interested in psychiatry and get the frustration at people saying stuff like "it's only psych." I have done very well so far in med school so I get that it feels demeaning and you don't want to sell yourself short just because you're interested in psych.

On the other hand, they have a point to some extent. If your only goal is to be a psychiatrist and you don't have much preference as to what program you go to, seriously just do whatever you want. You go to a U.S. med school. If you don't fail things (and even then . . . ) you can basically be a psychiatrist. Even if you do have a preference: with the exception of a handful of programs, an average U.S. allopathic grad is going to be writing his own ticket.

And even if you want to go to a very competitive program . . . whatever. Do what you care about and don't worry too much about it. Life is too short to worry about that stuff. If you are an achieving person who is genuine and cares about things, people will want you.

P.S. I know how you feel with the people starting to study for Step 1 during MS1 or even the beginning of MS2 and feeling left out. Everybody starts talking about a boatload of resources and how they're using them when the test is way far out. It stressed me out too. I can tell you with confidence, though, that you don't need to do this to score well. I didn't touch a QBank until like 4 months out from my test and even then Step studying took a back seat to classes until my dedicated. For all the dickwaving the hopeful ortho boys and derm kids might do, I did better than most of them. Don't sweat this stuff, just focus on classes.
 
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cbrons

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The title says it all. For background, I am an MS2 at a mid-tier M.D. school who is doing above average academically. I am also involved here and there in clubs/organizations and am even a "leader" in a few, while doing small amounts of clinical research on the side (unknown if will result in pubs though--at least a poster I am hoping). I feel more below average in the category outside of academics, however. I am more Type B than Type A. My interest is only psychiatry.

I am asking this because, when I started medical school, I thought and expected that life would become much more of a genuine pursuit for me and my peers and less about just beefing up CVs (unlike being a pre-med). Part of me thought "Alright, we're in, let's put the past tendencies and behaviors behind us, lets get through the tough academic and clinical stuff, do some outside of school stuff, become doctors and get into residency without needing to be too fearful of the future since medicine is oh so secure!"

Instead, my balloon has exponentially been popping since I started medical school, as I see my fellow medical school classmates become members and leaders of any organization/club they can get ahold of, starting as many clubs/organizations as possible. Many of my classmates are focused on being the best. It shows in that many of them started studying for Step 1 during MS1. There's quite a bit of false altruism for one's peers as well from what I can see. Much of what transpires amongst my community feels done out of insecurity and fear while ultimately being focused on one's own gain. There's always the genuine ones, of course, but I am blown away by this more self-centered and insecure mentality that many medical students seem to be increasingly taking towards their education and career--which leads to an obsessive and neurotic approach to opportunities, involvements, academics, research, etc. It's also contagious, because it makes me think I am doing something wrong perhaps! Part of me wants to believe that living this way isn't how it has to be.

I started medical school super chill and was glad to be done (or so I thought) with the facades and pretenses that being a pre-med so often entails, but have slowly found myself becoming tempted to regress and catch this infectious desperation that I am detecting in the medical community (at least the one I am in). I wanted nothing more than to just finally do what I really liked and loved and not too much else that fell outside of that category.

I have scoured the NRMP, and I was also surprised in the statistics reported, not just for STEP 1, but for research and work and volunteer as well.

Many, especially the Rad Onc., Ortho., Optho. and Derm. hopefuls, will say "Oh, your interest is psychiatry? It's not competitive! Look what I and others have to do, so stop talking." Nevertheless, I am hoping to be taken seriously, as I am still feeling intimidated and insecure, wondering if I am doing something wrong. Medical school is filled with Type A's, and I feel like I have too much Type B in me at times. Being Type A is painful and exhausting to me. The future seems very hard to predict, and things don't seem very clear.

Shall we talk about medical school culture and also try to clarify what medical students should and should not be doing? Is anyone else experiencing what I am talking about in their respective medical community? Whatever you read that you felt struck by, positively or negatively, feel free to respond.
Your first misconception is that extracurricular interest groups "beef" up your CV when in fact they do not. So you should only do as much of these as you actually enjoy since it will not mean anything for residency.
 

mimelim

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Research in any specialty, competitive or not will look good and will matter for top tier programs. Outside of that, nobody cares what your ECs are like. Anyone gunning in that direction is wasting their time and/or trolling other students into wasting their time.
 

atomi

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ECs stopped being important after high school. Yes, they were important for getting into college because they showed you had a personality and could do things on your own and wouldn't quit 1 month in so you could go back home and live with your mom. They were marginally, if at all important for med school, with the majority carrying over activities and beliefs still held from just 4 short years ago. For residency applications, I would argue they can actually be deleterious. A good resident commits the vast majority of his time to work and studies. They are typically permitted to have a singular outside activity to which they contribute a pitiful amount of time and effort that could never accomplish anything significant and typically is a vestigial remnant of the former person the resident used to be. There's the former concert violinist who now plays for 30 minutes once a week, never anything new. There's the bodybuilder. He looks fit for sure, but he can only lift a third of what he could 8 years ago. There's the world traveller, who gets to spend 10 glorious days a year as far away as possible. Towards the end the answer to "what do you like to do in your free time" usually becomes "Sometimes I get to leave early and see my son play baseball. That makes me happy." It's sad because it doesn't have to be like this (as I've seen in Europe), but it is.

All that rambling for the answer to your question how much should a medical student be doing outside of school? Not much. In fact, nothing at all is usually well accepted.
 
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