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First Year Medical School: Reflections from a Second-Year Einstein Student

The transition from college (or from a career, for nontraditional students) to medical school can be intense. It certainly was for me. In the months leading up to orientation, I read dozens of blogs and articles to try to learn what med school life was truly going to be like and to prepare myself for the challenges ahead at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Albert Einstein College of Medicine Orientation 2014

Orientation event last year featuring Einstein’s Class of 2018

Those resources can be valuable, but for me, it all seemed so hypothetical that I could not anticipate what to expect. When orientation finally began and that first class was just one week away, I realized I remained clueless.

So, during orientation, I peppered everyone in sight with questions to get some hard intelligence about what life in medical school would really look like. Based on that feedback and my own experiences during the first year, here is a short list of things I found to be true about life in medical school. I hope new first-year students will find these observations useful.

Yes, It’s a Heckuva Lot of Work
I’m sure there are a lucky few who breeze their way through, but for most of us, over the next four years, we will work harder than ever before. What does “a lot of work” mean? Think many, many, many hours spent struggling to master complex concepts. For most, it’s a far greater academic and time-management challenge than any they’ve faced previously.

You CAN Do It
Yes, you absolutely can. Remember, your acceptance required a level of personal, professional and academic scrutiny that few careers demand. At Einstein, the admissions team is composed of some of the most seasoned, experienced professionals at any medical school, and those professionals selected you because they are 100 percent certain that you will succeed. Realizing that gave me some peace of mind during orientation, and it should do the same for you.

It’s Fun!
It’s definitely fun, for at least two reasons. First, few things are as complex and as fascinating as the human body. Sometimes, while brute-force memorizing things such as the complement cascade or glomerular pathologies, you find yourself pausing with awe and wonder at the sophistication and beauty of the human body. This might sound hokey, but it happens to me all the time. The second reason is that, since free time in medical school is quite precious, med students know how to have fun. From parties and dances to skit nights and field trips throughout New York City and beyond, medical students know how to live it up.

You Are Part of Something Special
Here I’m not talking about the medical profession; I’m talking about your peers. If your medical school class is anything like mine, your peers will be extraordinary. Mine are talented, passionate and quite humble. They inspire me nearly every school day to be a better learner, a better aspiring physician and sometimes even a better person. I have never before had the honor of being part of a cohort of such impressive people. Candidly, I often wonder whether I am of the same caliber as my peers—but hey, every train needs a caboose.

During medical school orientation, take advantage of your exposure to the upperclassmen, deans and administrators who are around to learn all you can about life at Einstein. They are there to help you. While learning all you can, enjoy yourself, get to know your classmates, relax and prepare for that first day of class, which will be here before you know it.

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  • Hillary Decastro September 3, 2015, 9:44 PM

    Dear Paul J,

    This blog was absolutely helpful, not to mention the examples were very vivid. Recently I was going through a crisis were I am not sure if i should go to pre-med school or to finish pre-law.
    not until very recently I found out about jesus christ and came to realize that my true calling was medicine. Although having many friends my first years of pre-law who were going to become nurses, i did not listen. I ignored that feeling that I had. I was going through a tough time deciding, meditating, and choosing a path, which got interrupted for financial reasons.
    Anyway, my head needed some clearing up to do. I needed to sit down and ask myself, ” Is law school really what i wanted? “, honestly it was but only because I am aware of the cost of medical school so I WANT to make sure i have the financial back bone to deal with it. Everything ended up pointing the way of finishing Pre-law school and still I had in the back of my head, ” UM i should just go to nursing school and then med-school” sounds a bit radical but it is still there.

    For all that it is, I find myself wondering what it would be like to just drop law school and do what i really WANT which is saving people’s life.

    I shall see what the future brings…

    Hillary Decastro