According to Dr. Kumagai, something “fundamentally changed” in us the moment we got our acceptance letters to the University of Michigan. Upon hearing this, my first instinct was to reject the notion. Afterall, wasn’t I the same girl I’d always been? –i.e. your standard bio major with a natural aversion for compound synthesis (I’m looking at you orgo!). A poker enthusiast and a videogamer (current goal: getting through Modern Warfare on veteran). A former member of the high school Academic Challenge team whose sense of balance during puberty can best be characterized as…unfortunate. But above all, a girl who sees the problems in the world but can’t help but believe that things can and will be better. In sum, your classic dreamer/idealist extraordinaire who spends a little too much time with her head in the clouds.
All I’m saying is that there’s a comfort that comes with knowing exactly who you are. But 3 weeks into school, sitting in Dr. Kumagai’s opening lecture for our Family Centered Experience (details on this later), I couldn’t quell an overwhelming sense of discomfort. That’s because, the more I thought about Dr. Kumagai’s words, the more I felt the truth in them.
This was medical school. MEDICAL SCHOOL. I’d spent a good portion of the last few years of my life fighting to get to this point. Medical school had always been like some distant prize at the end of a grueling marathon–a road encumbered with lab practicals and NMR diagrams (I’m STILL looking at you orgo!), guarded by gunners and gated by weeder intro classes. A roller coaster of emotion from the June 1 opening of AMCAS all the way into the thick of the interview season (a point at which, by the way, I had to downright fight the urge to just ask schools flat-out if I was a) accepted or b) should start seeking alternate residence in my parent’s basement for the upcoming year. Don’t they know how grueling that wait is??)
Sure, you can make the grades, do the research and ace the MCAT–but even when you do everything right (and who actually makes it through doing everything “right” anyway?) there is still that piece of you that doubts if you really have what it takes to make it in. So when you do…
I can say now that I didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself into. Let me be clear, though, that med school has not diminished my passion to be a doctor. To the contrary, since arriving, there has never been a point in which I doubted my decisions–both of a school and of this profession in general. But in terms of the day-to-day life of being a medical student–including the emotional weight that comes with realizing that one day people will look to you for answers–it changes things. It’s impossible for that knowledge and impending responsibility not to start to change you too.
What’s it like to be a medical student at the University of Michigan? I will do my best to convey my version of the answer to that question in the coming months–but I would be remiss if I didn’t let you in on one little secret: If you’re like me, you probably thought that the biggest journey ended when you got your first acceptance letter. Despite being only 7 weeks in at this point, I say to you, get ready for a new kind of journey altogether. You most likely haven’t seen anything yet…
How’s that for a dose of reality!