The Struggles Of Being A Medical Student
College Life |  Source: @rjkhemlani

The Struggles Of Being A Medical Student

What they don't tell you about being a med student.

So you want be a med student? That's wonderful. As someone who currently holds the title of "med student", I just want to enlighten you on the amazing things no one ever talks about before you start your journey.

1. Applications will run your life.
You have to apply for practically every program out there. That's right. You have to survive several rounds of elimination from other program wannabes.

After that, you'll sit in front of several people that will question your life skills, fortitude, and personality. It's like the Hunger Games of Health except there is more than one winner and nobody dies...hopefully.

2. Get ready for paperwork.
Let's say you survived the grueling cut. Congratulations! You now have to fill out enough paperwork to make a lawyer cry. I'm not joking.

After all the interviewing there is still a ton they need you to fill out. Everything from patient privacy policies to background checks to parking agreements are all in your future and must be completed immediately. Enjoy your victory with some good, old-fashioned writer's cramp.

3. Drug tests and physicals will test your patience.
So you want to party and have a good time to celebrate your amazing achievement right? Just keep it clean because drug test, physicals, tuberculosis test, bloodwork, and a butt ton of shots are in the not-so-distant future.

If you hate getting poked and prodded like I do, then this is going to make you so happy. Oh, and it has to be done before you can even set foot upon campus. Good times.

4. The textbook prices suck.
I understand that textbook prices in general are terrible, but these med books that no one has a used copy of or can even find are insane.

Odds are you'll knock down over $200 to learn from Power Point slides and lecture notes. Glad I sold my leg for that book; really worth the investment.

5. You shall not sleep.
A lot of people say they have to pull an all-nighter to pass some final for a class they never paid attention in. You don't sleep because you honest to God have no idea what the actual heck is going on in the classes you religiously attend and study for.

This is especially true if you want to maintain some tiny amount of a social life.

6. It is hard.
The classes are long, the teachers are strict, some subjects are impossible, and who can remember the spelling for half this junk? PNEUMONOULTRAMICROSCOPICSILICOVOLCANOCONIOSIS IS A FREAKING WORD PEOPLE. Have fun remembering the spelling on that one.

Even with all this crap that you have to deal with, one thing stays very true...IT IS WORTH EVERY SECOND OF IT!! There really is no better felling than helping those who need it. The patients find a way to tug at your heart through all the chaos of school.

So grab your coffee, bring on the debt, and get ready for the struggles that are headed your way for an amazing career.

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Spring Semester: Nothing To Sneeze At

As told by a student with seasonal allergies.

January
My mind wasn't running as fast as my nose was in my January term class on book publishing and promotion. A January term (or J-term), for those of you who are blessed not to have this option available at your school, is an extra class students take over the course of two weeks. It's optional, but highly recommended. (By professors. Not me, except for the study abroad one I took last year in England.)

I couldn't tell if my sniffles were from a cold or allergies. It was hard to say for certain. My immune system probably took a hit at some point from all the homework I had for this one class. (We're talking about eight hours of homework per night for two weeks.)

One morning I got up and looked into the mirror. "I look like death."

A more accurate depiction would've been: "I look like Rudolph."

At least he looks cute.

February
For my first official class of my final semester, I stuffed a box of tissues into my backpack. Not one of those cute plastic-wrapped purse-sized sets with only seven tissues in them. No, a fucking huge box of Kleenex.

I wish I could've gotten away with telling my classmates and professor I brought them because I was emotional about this being my last semester. But with the petroleum jelly I'd applied around my red, chapped nose, it was pretty clear I was sick or had allergies.

Definitely allergies, given the fact climate change is real and the weather was far too nice for early February. Way too nice.

March
Spring break is here, and somehow I've been stupid enough to not purchase any Claritin. One of the perks of being home over spring break is access to my parents' wallets. Well, not that's open access or anything. But I'll actually be able to afford a month's worth of the stuff with their help.

Claritin isn't the strongest allergy medication out there, but at least it doesn't knock you out like Benadryl does.

Seriously, that stuff is used to tranquilize dogs and cats. No joke. I've learned many things from working at kennels, and that's one of them.

Maybe I'll go with the steroid shot option. I hate shots, but let me tell you, three years ago I got a steroid shot for my allergies, and within minutes, I immediately felt relief. I could smell again. Maybe not the best thing since I was working at a kennel, but what a relief it was to be able to breathe!

The steroid shot was the best thing that has gone into my ass. And I'm pretty selective about what goes in there.

April
I'm sure everyone's heard of the Bayer aspirin regimen. Well, if I didn't get the steroid shot, I'll be on the Claritin (realistically, Walgreens' creatively named generic brand Wal-Itin) regimen by this point. If I'm not, people will hate me during finals for sniffling in class. Seriously, don't be that person. Fewer things are more annoying during a testing period than a person who's trying to keep snot in their nose.

Bring a box of tissues. Yeah, you'll look ridiculous, but chances are someone else might need them, too. I know I'm not the only person suffering from seasonal allergies.

May
By the time I accept my diploma, my allergies will be at their peak. But at least I'll be able to get away with saying I was crying.

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Med School Students Give The DL On Being Pre-Med

Deciding if it's right for you.

Most people, at one time or another, optimistically thought they might be a doctor. Or, at the very least, had a relative tell them that they should consider a career in medicine. During my days at Cornell, it seemed like every year a new freshman class would enter with half of the cohort claiming to be "pre-med".

While many people initially think pre-med is right for them, different options and obstacles (I'm looking at you organic chemistry) may challenge the projected career path. Others, who may be well into college, might start considering medical school and feel trapped; starting late could mean graduating late, taking post-bac classes, or feeling way behind.

With med school as such a popular attraction, it's logical that so much uncertainty surrounds the decision making process.

Jeanie and Alain both graduated from Cornell University in 2015, and are in their first year at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Below they both answer the questions prospective and current pre-meders probably have on the process of pursuing and attending medical school.

What is the best piece of advice you have for taking the MCAT? And for applying to schools?

Alain: Study however works best for you, but make sure to leave enough time for practice tests! When you do the practice exams treat it like the real deal: be diligent about timing, not looking at your notes, keeping your phone out of sight, etc.

My strategy was content review for four weeks with one practice test per week mixed in, followed by two weeks of mostly practice tests with occasional content review mixed in - but again, nothing is set in stone, find your formula.

In applying to schools my best advice is to think a lot about the things that might not seem as important at first glance. Things like location, housing, grading policy, etc. It's easy to pick schools based solely on academic prestige, but at the end of the day, every school teaches the same stuff, and residency programs really don't care all that much (if at all) where you got your MD.

What will vary school-to-school is your quality of life - and this is where the other aspects come in. Will you be close to family/friends? How is the weather? Is there enough outdoor adventure to be had? How about the living, is it shared-room dorms or apartments? Do you want to live on or off-campus? Can you afford to live in this city? Are pre-clinical years pass/fail? How are tests administered? Is the class ranked?

Jeanie: For the MCAT - pace yourself and take breaks. It's less about the hours you study, and more about the productivity you have in those hours. For applying to schools - apply early, and apply far and wide.

As for building your list of schools to apply to, keep that long and broad, as there often seems to be no true rhyme or reason when it comes to medical school admissions. You want to be the one to ultimately narrow down options -- try to avoid making them too narrow to begin with.

2. What is something you wish you knew about med school before applying? Before attending?

Alain: Applying to med school is expensive. Each primary application costs between $70-100, and most schools charge you another $50-100 for secondary applications too. Add to that the cost of traveling to interviews, staying in other cities, and buying yourself some formal clothes, and you could total well into the thousands. All before you even know if you'll get in. If you can, try to save up some money so you won't have to go into debt before you even get to med school.

Jeanie: I wish I knew a bit more about the timeline of the application process - it can last for a year or longer from application preparation, through interviews, to final acceptances. It is helpful to be aware of these expectations so that you can better manage what you will be doing during that year, whether that be working, traveling, or taking classes at school.

Before attending medical school, take some time to get to know your new home. Everybody adjusts to medical school itself in different ways and at different paces, but if you spend some time beforehand to become familiar with your local grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants, you'll help to quicken the adjustment to this new phase of your life.

3. What is the biggest misconception you had about med school before actually going?

Alain: I definitely thought that med school was going to be 100 percent work 100 percent of the time. I thought I would be stressed every day of the week. And while it is certainly not easy, you will learn to manage, and believe it or not, to have fun. Like anything new in life, it's a transition. But you can do it and will do it - and there is ton of help out there if ever you are struggling.

Jeanie: I was concerned that I would feel overwhelmingly stressed and that medical school would take over my life - and that is absolutely not the case. While school can certainly be busy and at times stressful, medical school is not the end all be all, and there IS time to explore, have fun, and take advantage of your twenties. Make sure you prioritize that!

4. What is something you love about med school? Something you hate?

Alain: Something I love: the wonderful classmates I have. Everyone is incredibly kind, collaborative, and hard-working, which makes for an awesome learning environment.

Something I hate: LOANS AND DEBT.

Jeanie: I absolutely love the people - both the faculty and medical education, as well as my classmates. Everybody is truly invested in you and your success and the collaborative atmosphere is very refreshing, particularly when coming from a large and relatively intense undergraduate university. I wouldn't say there is anything I "hate" - I will say that it's not the happiest feeling to not have an income, especially if you've taken time to work before medical school and now lack that cushion. That can be stressful on the day-to-day, but ultimately it all works out, and you can work with your medical education team to sort through any issues that may arise.

5. What is the best piece of advice for deciding if med school is right for you?

Alain: You have to love learning. If school is not your thing, maybe consider another career path.

Jeanie: Experience, experience, experience! Shadowing and taking advantage of other related opportunities are the best way to envision the ins and outs of any field. Longer term experiences, on the order of weeks rather than days, will be even more helpful in terms of envisioning whether this is the type of work that would interest you long-term. And don't just shadow physicians! Take the time to explore the broader healthcare field - nursing, hospital administration, research laboratories, etc are all related fields that you may find interest in as well!

6. What is the best piece of advice for surviving med school?

Alain: Balancing schoolwork with personal life in medical school is very different and very challenging at times. Everybody struggles at some point - don't be afraid to ask for help!

Jeanie: I try to avoid the phrase 'surviving' med school, which sounds somewhat ominous. Some of my best memories - both school and non-school related - have happened during my time in medical school so far.

Don't lose the forest for the trees - remember the big picture of why you are in medical school, even when you are neck deep in physiology or biochemistry. It's extremely unique to have four years in which your only responsibility is to learn and take advantage of amazing opportunities. Take time for yourself and remember that being a medical student is an awesome and impressive accomplishment - but it by no means has to define you! Enjoy it!

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Tattoos In Medicine Are Real

Tattoos aren't tacky, they're salvation in ink.

Facebook is a wonderful place. You can find news snippets, lock them away in your brain for future conversations, and then just keep scrolling. Most of these Facebook posts boast about crazy places to eat, highlight biased views of political events, or just let you know that some famous person somewhere just did something controversial (looking at you, Kathy Griffin.)

Usually these posts get ignored, and for fair reason. You don't really need to know every detail about an event to talk about it, you just need to be informed.

Every now and then though, you stumble across something so incredible, or incredibly stupid, that you have to look further. I recently fell down a rabbit hole started by this video, which explains these new "medical tattoos" that track all sorts of things! These "things" being levels of chemicals within our bodies. From color-changing pH sensors to sodium sensors that glow in UV lights, Dermal Abyss easily swaps out ink for more useful technology.

However, they are still in their testing phases, and there wasn't a whole lot of research on the web. I did eventually find a link to the original site, where the team "Dermal Abyss" discusses how glucose sensors could ease the daily lives of diabetics. A glucose sensor tattoo could remove the need for blood sugar tests that require a finger prick.

While that's all amazing, it is still in the future, and I happened to find even more forms of medical tattoos that already exist! Though they are not as interesting as injected biosensors, these tattoos serve their own, important purposes.

For instance, there are medical alert tattoos that signify a disease which could change the way someone is treated in a medical emergency. Someone with a severe allergy, with this type of tattoo, may be able to get Epinephrine administered more quickly, or someone with diabetes who is having an insulin reaction can be treated more rapidly, as well.

There are also scar tattoos that are used to cover surgical or self-inflicted scars. I believe this aspect is especially important in terms of self-harm, since it allows someone who once had an issue to move past it, and change the marks on their skin into something positive.

Another form of tattoo has been used for creating a new, false nipple after a mastectomy. Post-mastectomy, the breast can become discolored and so re-pigmentation through tattoos is also used.

I was shocked by how many ways tattoos are used in medicine, especially when they are still looked down upon in society. How can something that allows you to reclaim your own body and make it your own, or potentially save your life, be seen as an example of delinquency? Why is it that having a tattoo makes you less employable when it is no different than a piece of jewelry that you can't take off?

Hopefully, if and when these biosensor tattoos make it to production, tattoo stereotyping will end.

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Medical Specialist Jobs That Aren't Worth Medical School

Even though you probably make bank doing them.

As an English and Ecomonics double major, I watched my pre-med friends endlessly endure the suffering they force you through before even going to medical school. I started thinking, ya know, there are some doctors who have some really horrendous jobs. What would propel someone to want these careers?

1. Podiatry.
What looney tune wants to be around stanky feet all day? Maybe I'm biased because I absolutely loathe feet, but your entire career is dedicated to such a disgusting part of the body.

Have fun pulling out ingrown nails and prescribing toe fungus medicine. I mean, really, they must have seen some naaaasty ass feet in their day.

2. Pathology.
At first glance, pathology doesn't seem that bad, as it's defined as the study of diseases. But a pathologist also has to do autopsies on dead bodies. NO THANK YOU. Do not sign me up for that one.

Someone's gotta do it though, so I appreciate them taking the hit, but I will not be the hero of that situation.

3. Geriatrics.
This is a bit mean-spirited of me, but there are some huge downsides to being an old-people doctor. You take a job knowing that your patients are going to die.

I'm just imagining a doctor recommending the best type of Depends to a patient, and softly cursing to themselves, "I went to Harvard Medical School for this bullshit." Diapers on babies are one thing, but on fully grown adults...

4. Proctology.
There is not enough money in the world to get me to be a proctologist. You are literally a booty-hole doctor!

The inner strength it takes to be able to do a rectal exam is something I will never have. On a daily basis you make sure that someone's butthole is healthy. That means two things:

1) You know what an abnormal asshole is like, and you have to continue to deal with it until it's normal and...

2) if someone's is totally normal, that's a super exciting thing. Could you imagine that lifestyle? This is a person who you take one look at and you're like, "That guy has seen, there is a darkness in those eyes."

To all those students out there aspiring to be doctors, thank you for doing the work the rest of us don't want to.

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Struggles of a High School Overachiever Turned Average College Kid

Those were the days, I tell ya.

Gone are the days of the Honor Roll and lettering in Varsity sports. College is a bigger pond...or an ocean and you're just a little fish now. It's a big adjustment when your best used to make you the best and now it just keeps your head above water.

You went from captain of your sports team to getting cut from club.
I know college athletics are a bit more...challenging than high school sports, but this is a huge adjustment. Throwback when you used to start the games in high school and now you barely get playing time in intramurals.

Your planner was once a neat, well organized safe haven.
My planner is covered from top to bottom with the endless shit I have to do. There are physically not enough hours in the day but it's either fail the class or work through every meal.

Straight A's are a long gone thing of the past.
What I wouldn't give to see straight A's on my transcript right now. In high school, I'd be sobbing if I got a C. These days, I'm still sobbing when I get C's but it's because I'm so thankful it's nothing worse.

You used to babysit for your math teacher, but your calc professor doesn't know your name.
It's a huge adjustment going from your teachers saying, "How's your mom's new job going?" to, "Yes, purple shirt in the back?"

The flu was once a valid reason to skip class, but now you'd rather go to Chem on your deathbed.
The days of "playing sick" are so behind you. Now it's time to cry if you have a fever and have to skip class because for the 50 minutes you miss, it'll take two weeks to catch up.

You were the president of multiple clubs and now you can barely stay awake to do homework.
It was a lot easier to load up your plate in high school. Key Club, Honors Society, Debate, you name it, and you still had time for Monday night TV. Not anymore.

You never needed to nap, now you plan your life around them.
In high school, naps were rare and not necessary to function. In college, they are a mandatory part of the day.

Mom never let me have coffee, now it's in my blood.
Remember when, "coffee will stunt your growth" was your mom's catch phrase? Now you pray that one day someone will invent an IV drip of espresso so you don't have to waste time in the coffee shop line.