Author: Guest Author

Why Most Medical Students and Doctors are Hypocrites (And How We Can Change)

Why Most Medical Students and Doctors are Hypocrites (And How We Can Change)

  • Author: Guest Author

Why Most Medical Students and Doctors are Hypocrites (And How We Can Change)

Social Histories

If you were to sit in on any routine doctor’s visit, you are bound to hear a few common questions. “Do you smoke? How much alcohol do you drink, if any? What is your diet like? How much exercise do you get weekly?” These are questions we are trained to ask as early as the first week of medical school. We are taught to treat not just the conditions a patient presents with, but also inquire about their overall health and instruct them on ways to improve it.

Addressing negative social habits that can impact patient’s health is a recurring theme throughout medical school.

My classmates and I have learned how to recognize drug addiction and drug-seeking behavior, how to determine if our patients were alcoholics, and effective ways to counsel people on healthier diets. As much as we future doctors know what qualifies as “good” health, and how to attain it, I wonder how closely we follow our own advice.

Medical students work incredibly hard, studying for hours on end for very difficult exams, as well as spending long days in the hospital without pay. With this amount of dedication, certain things are almost automatically erased from our lives. Sleep deprivation is the first thing that comes to mind, and I am constantly aware that this will only get worse when I start residency. Though the field of medicine has made great strides in ensuring that residents have work hour limitations, and the days of sleeping in the hospital all weekend are largely behind us, the amount of work still leaves many constantly fatigued. We counsel our patients to have good sleep hygiene, and often attribute lack of sleep to problems with mood, concentration, and general quality of life. But what about us? We set ourselves up for failure in these areas when six hours of sleep is a good night’s rest.

Doctor Non-Compliance

This lack of good sleep directly leads to an increase in the amount of stress we put on our bodies and minds as students and physicians. Let’s face it: medical school is stressful. This is a point that needs no clarification. Passing exams, getting honors on clerkships, and resting all of our hopes on a few board exams is pressure nobody enjoys. The stresses that come along with a career in medicine are certainly matched in other fields, but most other professionals do not spend their days advising their clients to avoid stress. How ironic is that? I have seen the effects stress can have on people, including my classmates: dissolution of relationships, family strife, and depression, to name a few. While we tell our patients to go easy on themselves when they are having trouble in their personal life or at work, we do not afford ourselves the same luxury.

The last, and possibly most important, area that I notice physicians and other healthcare professionals not taking their own advice is in our indulgences.

Long hours, high student debt, and a relatively low salary can restrict medical students and residents from having the healthiest habits in terms of diet and exercise. When you have to round quickly on patients and get to the OR by 7 am, it is not uncommon that all you have the chance to eat is a light snack or coffee. Throughout the day the demands of the patient wards may prevent you from having a real meal, and the vending machine seems like it may as well be a Michelin star restaurant. In spite of this, I am constantly impressed by a small subset of my peers who manage to make exercise a focal point of their day, whether it be at 5 in the morning or 10 at night. Many of us—and our patients—do not have this will power or motivation, and will collapse into our beds the second we have a minute to do so.

Other indulgences include drugs and alcohol, the unspoken hidden addictions many doctors struggle to control. The House of God provides anecdotal evidence:

“the classic novel where residents take swigs out of a flask at work and aim to be inebriated as often as possible when off the clock. This is a work of fiction, but it is based in reality.”

Physicians are often incredibly vulnerable to addiction when it comes to alcohol and drugs. It may be because we self-medicate, thinking we can recognize a problem more easily since that is what we were trained to do. Hence, we quickly and easily enter the world of self-denial. It is not uncommon to hear stories of physicians overdosing on prescription drugs or attending AA meetings. This is nothing to be ashamed of, and it is always good to get help when it is needed. However, the pressure placed on us not to have such problems—and to hide them if we do—makes it harder to identify and treat addictions when they do exist.

Some Of Our Own Medicine

We should strive to be the best versions of ourselves always, but also recognize that we are not above the maladies that may afflict our patients. If a patient states they are struggling with work and feel they need to drink more lately, it is okay to recognize that you as a doctor have experienced that problem too. When you advise your patient to cut back on the booze, take a day off work, and get better, remember that can be an option for you as well. The next time you ask your patient if they are downplaying a problem, ask yourself the same question. It is just as important to care for yourself as it is to care for others. Remember, just because there’s no lecture on it in med school, doesn’t make the problem any less real.

 

Jessica Celine Morgan

MD Candidate  |  Class of 2017

New York University School of Medicine

Medical School Rejection? You’re in good company

Medical School Rejection? You’re in good company

  • Author: Guest Author

Medical School Rejection? You’re in good company

As the end of the medical school application cycle comes around, a number of applicants are comfortably settling into the idea of choosing one school among the handful of acceptances they’ve received. Many, many, many more applicants, though, are finding themselves in a strange limbo full of medical school rejection and wait lists.

“Is it too late to start applying for jobs after graduation?”

“Where am I going to live?”

“How did this happen?”

I, myself, was one of those students during my first application cycle, and the feeling is all too familiar. The uncertainty, the dread, the disgrace, and the anxiety slowly set in as graduation rolled around the corner. After it became apparent I wouldn’t be attending medical school in the fall, I reran the numbers over and over again in my head.

“With my MCAT and GPA, there should have been X% chance I would get in. Factoring in Y and Z, my percentage range should have been near X%.”

But that’s not how it actually works.

Behind every application is a dynamic, smart, and qualified scholar that seeks to devote their life to the service of others. Inside every admissions office difficult decisions are being made in order to fill a limited number of seats. And because of the large disparity between these numbers, many qualified applicants spend their springs coping with rejection letters.

With the increase in applicants and the trend towards more post-graduate matriculates, fewer first-time applicants are getting in right out of school. The competition is tough, and each person applying has an amazing life story, much like yours. That’s okay. If you’re driven to become a physician, you should not be disheartened; instead, put your gap year to good use.

Call the schools you didn’t get into and find out what your application could use. It may be difficult to hear, but it will give you the chance to improve your application. Also, take the time to diversify your skills and pursue your interests outside of medicine. I used the time to join a community orchestra, work with the physically and mentally disabled, run some marathons, do some scientific research, play some Pokemon, volunteer in a high school, and get married.

If you’ve made it to the application stage, you’re in a very fortunate subset of people who wanted to become physicians. You’ll get there. Keep going.

 

Guest Post  – By Dan (University of Minnesota Medical School – Class of 2021)

What Next? Finding Power in Powerlessness

What Next? Finding Power in Powerlessness

  • Author: Guest Author

What Next? Finding Power in Powerlessness

​Wednesday, November 9th was a strange day. As I passed a tree on my way to class that morning, I paused. It was a tree I’d seen every day for over a year, yet that morning it seemed different. The result of the night before had shaken my core and forced me to question even the smallest truths I knew to be true. I am an immigrant, a person of color, and have lived in America for 22 of the 24 years I’ve been alive. I’ve been a citizen for almost a decade now. But Wednesday morning, as I stared at that familiar tree, I felt suddenly unwelcome in the place I call home.

​Election night was a roller coaster of emotions. I flashed back to every moment in my life where I felt judged by the color of my skin. I thought about being teased over my lunches in elementary school, snide remarks overheard on the streets, and being pulled aside for further screening in security lines as my mind raced to make sense of the night’s proceedings. But in that moment, there was no sense to be made. With every fiber of my being, I felt as though my very existence had been judged and then rejected outright. I found myself at my friends’ doorstep in a complete meltdown. I felt the tears streaming down my cheeks, the knot tying ever tighter in my stomach, my legs that threatened to give way every moment I stood and my chest pounding as I trapped every scream I wanted to let out.

Words hurt. And the words that have been spoken this year have left me scared. They have left me feeling vulnerable. But more than anything, they have left me feeling devalued and dehumanized.

So here I was, Wednesday morning, unable to focus, unable to concentrate, and unable to grip reality. I sat with a friend in the library as he told me that his parents were afraid to go to their Mosque on Friday. I had no words of reassurance for him. All I could do was be with him and let him know that he wasn’t alone.

In the midst of this chaos, I turned to the place where I didn’t feel alone. I turned to the incredible privilege of being in medical school and sharing that experience with over 100 truly special classmates.

The diversity in our class is inspiring. Almost two-thirds of my classmates are female and three-quarters of us identity as members of a minority. Our diverse student body promotes culturally competent care, partakes in a variety of holidays and religious events and shares the flavors of their unique cuisines with all. I am now more thankful than ever for being a part of this bastion of inclusion. This is what has kept me together these past few weeks. As a class we have grieved. We have been disappointed. We have faced a bitter irony that couldn’t be more apparent. Here we were, giving so much passion and energy to someday heal a country that had just hurt us all.

Wednesday morning was cathartic. No one had to say a word. We cried, we hugged, and we lifted each other up. We were used to commiserating together over the typical struggles of medical school, but this time it was different. This time we were truly healing each other’s souls. We told each other we belonged, that we were wanted, and that we would keep each other safe.

Medical students are creatures of action. We are hardwired to find tasks that need to be done and to finish them with ruthless dedication and excellence. For better or for worse, it is likely the reason we ended up where we are today. Thus, to see a group so rooted in action be moved to a state of powerlessness therefore was especially sobering. As we slowly recovered from the gut punch, however, everyone’s minds turned to what actions we could take. As tough as it was to think about school and exams, we recognized that we had a responsibility because of our positions as medical students.

One of my classmates asked a faculty member what can we do to change things. How can we have an impact? Her response was “get your degree.”  She is completely right. We have been handed an enormous opportunity. We have the option to let this event break us and send us down a spiral from which we may not recover. Or we can stand up and recognize that we have the chance to be leaders and to serve our communities. To speak for those too scared and vulnerable to speak to themselves. And to work to heal them. Most importantly, we can use this occasion to remind ourselves just why we entered medicine in the first place.

I work in a free clinic that serves a number of immigrants from Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and the Middle East. I have seen firsthand the impact this year’s events has had on my ability to provide quality care. I’ve had patients ask me if our clinic would close down depending on the outcome of the election. My classmates have seen patients whose depression and anxiety is rooted in the Islamaphobic hate speech they have encountered. I have met clinic volunteers who are afraid of speaking their native language in public. Recently, our clinic encountered a different message. People have called our clinic to say that our patients don’t deserve the care we provide. But this just means we work harder. That we continue to provide support and care to those who come to us. We must stop feeling powerless and understand the role we can play in the future and beyond.

I am not completely there just yet. I am still processing. But I know this moment will be a call to action. With Step 1 looming and the burden of academic burnout weighing me down, this shall be a moment of clarity and rejuvenation. I know my work is now more important than ever before and the stakes are too high. I do not shirk this responsibility, rather I embrace it, taking solace in the strength my classmates offer. I am excited for what the future holds and I will be ready for the work that lies ahead.

-2nd Year Medical Student at UC Davis School of Medicine (Guest Post)