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Words of Wisdom for First-Year M.D. Students

wisdom wordcloudEditors’ Note: Each year around this time, new M.D. students find themselves grappling with the nuances and challenges of medical school. They have plenty to think about in terms of where to go, what to do and how to do their best. For many first-year students, it’s reassuring and helpful to hear the thoughts of those who are farther along on the path. That’s why we asked several second-, third- and fourth-year M.D. students at Einstein to share a few words about who supported them, what they have found most helpful along the way and what they wish they had known before starting medical school.


Help, for me, has come from an abundance of places. Of course, there’s a special kind of love and support only friends and family can provide. There’s also unique and necessary care from classmates and colleagues as we expand our skills and knowledge and process new and challenging emotions. I can’t overstate the importance of mentors, deans and professors; their constant presence around medical students adds a stability and certainty to their words. I needed the assistance of residents, nurses, physician assistants and other members of the hospital staff to learn the nuts and bolts of the inner workings of the hospital. Last but not least are the people who do so much of the hard work of making a medical school and hospital run: administrative staff members, food service personnel, audio/visual techs, security officers—they always seem to offer me a smile, a joke or an inspirational message at just the moment when I need it the most! For all of this, I am so grateful.

Kara S

Kara Stoever
M.D. candidate, class of 2018



I wish I had been told, when I started medical school, that it is okay to feel overwhelmed! There is a lot to come in your first year at Einstein—academically, professionally and personally. Learning to be there for your patients while still making time to be there for yourself can be really challenging, but it’s important to give yourself permission to feel the weight being placed on your shoulders. As you continue through year one and beyond you will learn how to distribute the weight so carrying it feels more manageable. Keep reflecting on the time you spend in medical school. Where did you find joy? What surprised you? What made you feel uneasy? What left you awe-inspired? Staying in touch with your experience will help you absorb all that comes your way. Keep in mind: it is important to reach out for help when the going gets hard, but always remember you belong here and you can do it!

Hope Miodownik

Hope Miodownik
M.D. candidate, class of 2019



Having work-life balance is more than just a catchphrase. Taking the time to figure out what grounds you in medical school is vital for your academic success AND your personal happiness. For me, being in touch with friends and family has been really important; they help remind me that there is a world outside of medical school! I also am dedicated to finding time to work out, since exercise is good for the body and the mind. I’m a member of the New York Botanical Garden, and I love visiting, exploring the grounds and enjoying nature. Participating in things that bring me joy, momentarily distract me from my studies, and keep me grounded has been an essential part of my medical school success. I encourage everyone to find things that relax and rejuvenate them.

Catherine Coughlin 2Catherine Coughlin
M.D. candidate, class of 2019



My advice for the class of 2021 is that nothing is more important than one’s mental and emotional well-being. This is the time to enjoy your hobbies, to go to parties, to seek help when you need it and—most important—to make friends! Of course, studying, working hard and doing your best are important (we are all type A personalities), but being happy and maintaining a holistic lifestyle are also important. Medical school can be a long and arduous journey; don’t forget to stop and smell the roses!

Shacelles Bonner 2Shacelles Bonner
M.D. candidate, class of 2019



  • Keep a calendar. I find gcal intimidating, so I have a planner filled with my illegible handwriting.
  • Sample different clubs, study groups, interest groups! Don’t settle. Avoid overcommitting; if you’re someone who inevitably does that, think about what actually makes you feel happy rather than a chore.
  • Plan community-building events with the people you work with; you’ll get to work and play at the same time.
  • Find and get to know people with interests different from your own.
  • Act as if you belong in a space, group or club; over time, you will find that you do belong.
  • Do a little every day—don’t get behind on lectures! Even if you don’t go in for class, try watching the lecture in real time at home. Let the anticipation you have for a social or club event, or being able to go away for the weekend, be motivation to get work done.
  • Meditate! This is a struggle for me still, and much easier said than done, but do try it out.

Ai-Xin Chen 2Ai-Xin Chen
M.D. candidate, class of 2020



I wish I had known, before starting medical school, that success was more about finding what works for you than about being the best at any one thing. I looked to my second-year peers for suggestions on all sorts of things, from how to study more effectively to how to make the most of free time outside school. I think organization and taking time for myself to travel and relax have been the most helpful things during medical school. What really surprised me about medical school is how much free time you can have if you make an effort to be organized and stay on track with schoolwork!

Conor Fowler 86w

Conor Fowler
Class of 2020 president



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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rob Burnside September 9, 2017, 10:56 AM

    Though I’m a retired firefighter/paramedic, not a physician-in-training, I respectfully add one very important thing: don’t be unduly afraid of making mistakes. They will occur regardless. When this happens, learn what you can and move forward. And, for the truly curious, I’ll tell you how a medical error actually saved my life.