Category Archives: Medical Schools

Top 10 reasons I’m glad to be in medical school

A friend of mine e-mailed me this blog entry awhile ago. Titled “10 things you need to give up to become a doctor,” the piece describes “your free weekends,” “your desire to change the world,” and eight other similarly positive items as areas of life that medical students need to sacrifice on their path to becoming a doctor.

As I read through this entry, my mood grew increasingly dismal. By opting to go to medical school, had I really committed myself to a lifetime that, according to the author, would be devoid of creativity, good health, big dreams, and more? I refused to believe that was true.

So, instead of dwelling on aspects of my life that may or may not be compromised on my path to becoming a physician, I want to highlight parts of my life that have been enriched by my medical school experience thus far. Here we go: The top ten reasons (organized loosely by importance) that I’m glad to be in medical school:

10. Four extra years of free two-day shipping via Amazon Student
I’ve ordered everything from tuning forks to trash bins – and I look forward to myFUTURE purchases being delivered via drones. Thanks, Amazon!

9. Daily dose of cheaper-than-Starbucks caffeine
For everyone paying $2.95 for a latte at Starbucks, be jealous! Stanford medical students get $2.70 lattes (+ an extra 25 cents off if you bring your own mug) at the Med Café every day.

8. 24/7 gym access
The 4th floor of Li Ka Shing is strictly for medical/bioscience students only and houses study rooms, a lounge, and a gym. Not that I ever have the urge toWORK out at 4 AM, but if I wanted to, I could!

7. Having friends come to me when they’re sick and feeling like I can diagnose them
Friend: “I’m feeling a little sick.”
(Five minutes later)
Me: “Actually, come see me again in like 4 years.”

6. Sleeping in scrubs like it’s no big deal
Because, really, they’re the most comfortable pieces of clothing I own.

5. Living life on pass/fail
It feels like this is the first time in my life where I’ve been given the freedom to learn at my own pace, in my own style. There are very few assignments in medical school, and as such, we can take the material presented to us and decide for ourselves how to master it. I can’t describe how incredibly refreshing this approach is.

4. Being on a text-message basis with role model physicians
Following my first patient encounter, one of my advisors texted me, saying: “You are a skilled, empathetic interviewer. I greatly enjoyedWORKING together yesterday and look forward to more experiences.” Needless to say, my advisor’s thoughtful, compassionate words completely made my day.

3. Full-length white coats
At Stanford, medical students receive white coats that are just as long (i.e. up to our knees) as coats worn by MDs in the clinic – a constant reminder that there are no hierarchies: We are part of a single medical team, with theSHARED goal of caring for someone in need.

2. Being surrounded by inspired, motivated classmates
From founding non-profit organizations to creating World Health Organization reports to winning international awards for their research, my classmates are among the most accomplished, friendly, and down-to-earth individuals I have ever met.

1. Finding meaning every day of my life
Whether it’s through a patient visit, an anatomy lecture, a morning at pediatrics rounds, or a standardized patient encounter, I’m reminded every day that what I’m learning is directly linked to caring for others.

Hamsika Chandrasekar is a first-

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7 Habits of Highly Successful Medical Students

Congratulations! You’ve made it through O Chem, survived your MCAT, traipsed around the country to every interview you could fit in your budget, and received that elusive acceptance email. Once you take a moment to celebrate, you will realize that the real challenge lies ahead. Medical school serves as the launch pad to your career and excelling there can open the door to opportunities. Whether you want a career in academics or private practice, psychiatry or radiology or orthopedic surgery, doing well in medical school is critical to getting into the residency that will get you there. But how do you “do well”? “Study hard and do well in your clinical years” was advice I heard a lot, but hardly pointed the way to success. Now, as a fourth year medical student, I realize there are certain key habits of the successful medical student. I wish I could claim all the habits for myself – rather, they are an amalgam of what I’ve learned and what I’ve observed in others. They can help lay the foundation to your successful future.

Habit 1: Learn how you learn. Then just do it.
Medical school can be a bit of a shock. We all know it will be hard, requiring long hours, but the sheer enormity of knowledge we need to master (or at least make a passing acquaintance with) can be overwhelming. You will need to figure out how you learn best, and most efficiently. Is it taking copious notes in class? Drawing pictures of dissections? Re-listening to lectures on your iPhone while out for a run? I was a solitary studier all through college, poring over all the required reading and taking notes. I tried to continue this pattern in medical school. This worked fine during the first term, which was largely a review of basic science principles I knew well already. However, after getting my results back on the first anatomy exam at the start of our second term, I realized something had to change. My response was to join a study group. While I might have avoided my areas of weakness when studying alone, in a group, we’d be sure to go over all those annoying branches of the brachial plexus. This is a habit that will help you beyond medical school. The field of medicine is one of life-long learning. We will constantly need to update our knowledge of our field by reading journals, attending conferences, and discussing interesting cases with our colleagues.

Habit 2: Look beyond your books.
You may feel like you need to study 24/7, but if you never leave the library, you will miss out on a lot your medical school has to offer. Join clubs, get involved with student government, sign up for a committee. Not only will you contribute to the culture of your medical school and help make it a more enriching place for other medical students, you never know what connections you might make. One of my peers who joined the student government found herself rubbing shoulders with many faculty, including department chairs. When she decided she was interested in radiology, she was able to set up a time to have an informal chat with the department chairman, as she already knew him. By being involved, you will be learning how to network and establish connections that will serve you throughout your career.

Habit 3: Give back.
We all spent time in our pre-med years scurrying amongst volunteer experiences in an attempt to become a better applicant, er, and to give back to the community, of course. Don’t stop with that acceptance letter. Medical school provides lots of opportunities; you have a chance to contribute to the community, make connections, develop new skills and, yes, they can go on your residency application. I served as a co-director of our student-run free clinic. It not only gave me a chance to work on my leadership skills, but also helped me discover that I enjoy the administrative aspect of medicine as well, something that impacted my career decisions.

Habit 4: Be adventurous, both professionally and personally – you never know where it may lead you.
What you may not realize at the beginning of medical school is how quickly the time goes by and how soon you will need to be making decisions about your specialty. Early exploration can be invaluable in helping you make your decision. The summer between first and second year, another of my colleagues had the opportunity to do a research project with the ophthalmology department. Although it wasn’t a specialty she was particularly familiar with, she liked the people she was working with and threw herself into the project. She found her passion and is now starting her ophthalmology residency. Many medical schools offer opportunities to go abroad. Even (especially!) if you’re not an international traveler, these can be great experiences, exposing you to other medical cultures.

Habit 5: Recognize your own strengths (and weaknesses).
To get into medical school, you’ve likely been at the top of your class most of your life. The thing about medical school is that all of your classmates have as well. And, when grades come out, not everyone can be at the top of the class. For me, this moment was rather sobering – and demoralizing. Allow yourself not to be really good at everything. Work on your weaknesses so they don’t become your Achilles’ heel, but don’t dwell on them. Instead, feed your strengths. Nowhere in my Dean’s letter does it say, “And she is not so great at anatomy.”

Habit 6: Establish a circle of mentors.
Some schools have formal mentoring programs, connecting students with faculty or senior medical students with junior medical students. Take advantage of these. If your school doesn’t have one (and even if it does), be on the lookout for others who may serve this role – you’ll meet many if you follow Habit 2. For me, my mentors come from various backgrounds and fields – a radiologist, a pediatrician, a psychiatrist, a bench scientist and a number of more senior medical students, to name a few. Other medical students can provide invaluable advice on issues they recently dealt with, ranging from how to study for boards (“Make a schedule!”) or how to survive surgery (“Always eat breakfast!”). Faculty mentors help to provide perspective; they’ve seen many students go through the ups and downs of medical school and can give a broader view, or at least assure you that how you’re feeling is not unique. That time back in first year when I did poorly on my first anatomy exam? It was one of my faculty mentors who encouraged me to join a study group. Now, sorting through residency programs, my mentors have helped me weigh my options and look at my priorities.

Habit 7: Take time for you.
You are more than medical school – you were before and you will be after. Take time to nurture your relationships, with friends, family and significant others. You may feel all that you are up for after a week of courses is studying in your pajamas interspersed with watching cat videos online, but take a real break and go grab coffee with friends. Take care of yourself. Go to the gym, cook a real meal on occasion, take a walk. Your life should not go completely on hold while you are in medical school. Finding that balance is critical for your career. A friend who graduated last year was weighing his options for residency, including going to his “dream” institution. In the end, though, he realized he would be happier going to another institution that would keep him close to his family and friends. Now, as he slogs through intern year, he is buoyed by his support system. Give yourself the chance to flourish and your career will as well.

Internal Med Residency 1

101 Things You Wish You Knew Before Starting Medical School

Simple enough, here are 101 things you wish you knew before starting medical school.

1. If I had known what it was going to be like, I would never have done it.
2. You’ll study more than you ever have in your life.
3. Only half of your class will be in the top 50%. You have a 50% chance of being in the top half of your class. Get used to it now.
4. You don’t need to know anatomy before school starts. Or pathology. Or physiology.
5. Third year rotations will suck the life out you.
6. Several people from your class will have sex with each other. You might be one of the lucky participants.
7. You may discover early on that medicine isn’t for you.
8. You don’t have to be AOA or have impeccable board scores to match somewhere – only if you’re matching into radiology.
9. Your social life may suffer some.
10. Pelvic exams are teh suck.
11. You won’t be a medical student on the surgery service. You’ll be the retractor bitch.
12. Residents will probably ask you to retrieve some type of nourishment for them.
13. Most of your time on rotations will be wasted. Thrown away. Down the drain.
14. You’ll work with at least one attending physician who you’ll want to beat the **** out of.
15. You’ll work with at least three residents who you’ll want to beat the **** out of.
16. You’ll ask a stranger about the quality of their stools.
17. You’ll ask post-op patients if they’ve farted within the last 24 hours.
18. At some point during your stay, a stranger’s bodily fluids will most likely come into contact with your exposed skin.
19. Somebody in your class will flunk out of medical school.
20. You’ll work 14 days straight without a single day off. Probably multiple times.
21. A student in your class will have sex with an attending or resident.
22. After the first two years are over, your summer breaks will no longer exist. Enjoy them as much as you can.
23. You’ll be sleep deprived.
24. There will be times on certain rotations where you won’t be allowed to eat.
25. You will be pimped.
26. You’ll wake up one day and ask yourself is this really what you want out of life.
27. You’ll party a lot during the first two years, but then that pretty much ends at the beginning of your junior year.
28. You’ll probably change your specialty of choice at least 4 times.
29. You’ll spend a good deal of your time playing social worker.
30. You’ll learn that medical insurance reimbursement is a huge problem, particularly for primary care physicians.
31. Nurses will treat you badly, simply because you are a medical student.
32. There will be times when you’ll be ignored by your attending or resident.
33. You will develop a thick skin. If you fail to do this, you’ll cry often.
34. Public humiliation is very commonplace in medical training.
35. Surgeons are *******s. Take my word for it now.
36. OB/GYN residents are treated like ****, and that **** runs downhill. Be ready to pick it up and sleep with it.
37. It’s always the medical student’s fault.
38. Gunner is a derogatory word. It’s almost as bad as racial slurs.
39. You’ll look forward to the weekend, not so you can relax and have a good time but so you can catch up on studying for the week.
40. Your house might go uncleaned for two weeks during an intensive exam block.
41. As a medical student on rotations, you don’t matter. In fact, you get in the way and impede productivity.
42. There’s a fair chance that you will be physically struck by a nurse, resident, or attending physician. This may include slapped on the hand or kicked on the shin in order to instruct you to “move” or “get out of the way.”
43. Any really bad procedures will be done by you. The residents don’t want to do them, and you’re the low man on the totem pole. This includes rectal examinations and digital disimpactions.
44. You’ll be competing against the best of the best, the cream of the crop. This isn’t college where half of your classmates are idiots. Everybody in medical school is smart.
45. Don’t think that you own the world because you just got accepted into medical school. That kind of attitude will humble you faster than anything else.
46. If you’re in it for the money, there are much better, more efficient ways to make a living. Medicine is not one of them.
47. Anatomy sucks. All of the bone names sound the same.
48. If there is anything at all that you’d rather do in life, do not go into medicine.
49. The competition doesn’t end after getting accepted to medical school. You’ll have to compete for class rank, awards, and residency. If you want to do a fellowship, you’ll have to compete for that too.
50. You’ll never look at weekends the same again.
51. VA hospitals suck. Most of them are old, but the medical records system is good.
52. Your fourth year in medical school will be like a vacation compared to the first three years. It’s a good thing too, because you’ll need one.
53. Somebody in your class will be known as the “highlighter whore.” Most often a female, she’ll carry around a backpack full of every highlighter color known to man. She’ll actually use them, too.
54. Rumors surrounding members of your class will spread faster than they did in high school.
55. You’ll meet a lot of cool people, many new friends, and maybe your husband or wife.
56. No matter how bad your medical school experience was at times, you’ll still be able to think about the good times. Kind of like how I am doing right now.
57. Your first class get-together will be the most memorable. Cherish those times.
58. Long after medical school is over, you’ll still keep in contact with the friends you made. I do nearly every day.
59. Gunners always sit in the front row. This rule never fails. However, not everyone who sits in the front row is a gunner.
60. There will be one person in your class who’s the coolest, most laid back person you’ve ever met. This guy will sit in the back row and throw paper airplanes during class, and then blow up with 260+ Step I’s after second year. True story.
61. At the beginning of first year, everyone will talk about how cool it’s going to be to help patients. At the end of third year, everybody will talk about how cool it’s going to be to make a lot of money.
62. Students who start medical school wanting to do primary care end up in dermatology. Those students who start medical school wanting to do dermatology end up in family medicine.
63. Telling local girls at the bar that you’re a medical student doesn’t mean ****. They’ve been hearing that for years. Be more unique.
64. The money isn’t really that good in medicine. Not if you look at it in terms of hours worked.
65. Don’t wear your white coat into the gas station, or any other business that has nothing to do with you wearing a white coat. You look like an a**, and people do make fun of you.
66. Don’t round on patients that aren’t yours. If you round on another student’s patients, that will spread around your class like fire after a 10 year drought. Your team will think you’re an idiot too.
67. If you are on a rotation with other students, don’t bring in journal articles to share with the team “on the fly” without letting the other students know. This makes you look like a gunner, and nobody likes a gunner. Do it once, and you might as well bring in a new topic daily. Rest assured that your fellow students will just to show you up.
68. If you piss off your intern, he or she can make your life hell.
69. If your intern pisses you off, you can make his or her life hell.
70. Don’t try to work during medical school. Live life and enjoy the first two years.
71. Not participating in tons of ECs doesn’t hurt your chances for residency. Forget the weekend free clinic and play some Frisbee golf instead.
72. Don’t rent an apartment. If you can afford to, buy a small home instead. I saved $200 per month and had roughly $30,000 in equity by choosing to buy versus rent.
73. Your family members will ask you for medical advice, even after your first week of first year.
74. Many of your friends will go onto great jobs and fantastic lifestyles. You’ll be faced with 4 more years of debt and then at least 3 years of residency before you’ll see any real earning potential.
75. Pick a specialty based around what you like to do.
76. At least once during your 4 year stay, you’ll wonder if you should quit.
77. It’s amazing how fast time flies on your days off. It’s equally amazing at how slow the days are on a rotation you hate.
78. You’ll learn to be scared of asking for time off.
79. No matter what specialty you want to do, somebody on an unrelated rotation will hold it against you.
80. A great way to piss off attendings and residents are to tell them that you don’t plan to complete a residency.
81. Many of your rotations will require you to be the “vitals b****.” On surgery, you’ll be the “retractor b****.”
82. Sitting around in a group and talking about ethical issues involving patients is not fun.
83. If an attending or resident treats you badly, call them out on it. You can get away with far more than you think.
84. Going to class is generally a waste of time. Make your own schedule and enjoy the added free time.
85. Find new ways to study. The methods you used in college may or may not work. If something doesn’t work, adapt.
86. Hospitals smell bad.
87. Subjective evaluations are just that – subjective. They aren’t your end all, be all so don’t dwell on a poor evaluation. The person giving it was probably an *******, anyway.
88. Some physicians will tell you it’s better than it really is. Take what you hear (both positive and negative) with a grain of salt.
89. 90% of surgeons are *******s, and 63% of statistics are made up. The former falls in the lucky 37%.
90. The best time of your entire medical school career is between the times when you first get your acceptance letter and when you start school.
91. During the summer before medical school starts, do not attempt to study or read anything remotely related to medicine. Take this time to travel and do things for you.
92. The residents and faculty in OB/GYN will be some of the most malignant personalities you’ve ever come into contact with.
93. Vaginal deliveries are messy. So are c-sections. It’s just an all-around blood fest if you like that sort of thing.
94. Despite what the faculty tell you, you don’t need all of the fancy equipment that they suggest for you to buy. All you need is a stethoscope. The other equipment they say you “need” is standard in all clinic and hospital exam rooms. If it’s not standard, your training hospital and clinics suck.
95. If your school has a note taking service, it’s a good idea to pony up the cash for it. It saves time and gives you the option of not attending lecture.
96. Medicine is better than being a janitor, but there were times when I envied the people cleaning the hospital trash cans.
97. Avoid surgery like the plague.
98. See above and then apply it to OB/GYN as well.
99. The money is good in medicine, but it’s not all that great especially considering the amount of time that you’ll have to work.
100. One time an HIV+ patient ripped out his IV and then “slung” his blood at the staff in the room. Go, go infectious disease.
101. Read Med School Hell now, throughout medical school, and then after you’re done. Then come back and tell me how right I am.

Medical School Requirements

There are no set-in-stone requirements for every medical school. Many medical schools will make exceptions or emphasize different courses and topics in their admissions process. However, there is a basic set of courses and examinations that is commonly accepted as basic medical school requirements that will be considered by nearly every school.

With the development of the new MCAT, planned for release in 2015, there are additional courses that are recommended. These include psychology and social sciences, which will be tested in new sections on the longer MCAT.

Most often, an initial screen of applicants is done by computer to ensure that basic things like courses taken, GPA and MCAT scores meet a desired minimum. After that, it’s all about the person and not the numbers. Consider what makes a strong medical school application, and adjust yours accordingly. The medical school admissions process is a mix of science and art. To get an idea of how competitive your MCAT scores and GPA are, try our Medical School Searchtool.


The commonly accepted coursework requirements for medical school include a minimum of 1 year of:

  • General biology
  • Physics with lab
  • General chemistry (inorganic chemistry) with lab
  • Organic chemistry with lab
  • Calculus
  • English
  • New – Sociology
  • New – Psychology

If you are planning to do your premedical coursework after you get your undergraduate degree, you can take these courses at nearly any four-year college.


Medical school admissions are competitive, so you need to have a strong GPA. A GPA above 3.5 is preferrable. A GPA below 3.5 can somtimes raise a flag, especially if you attended a school famous for grade-inflation, like Harvard. While things might have changed a little at Harvard, there is still the impression that everyone gets a minimum 3.3, so the GPA cutoff might be more strictly enforced.


Your MCAT scores are important. They say little about you as a person, but they are given substantial weight by medical schools. The sections of the MCAT are similar to the required coursework: physical sciences (physics and inorganic chemistry), biological sciences (biology and organic chemistry), verbal, and a writing sample.

It has been estimated that 70-80% of all medical school applicants have taken an MCAT test prepcourse.

Baccalaureate Diploma

You need a college degree. BUT, it does not have to be in the sciences. In fact, for some schools a science degree is a negative – Johns Hopkins, for example. You need to show medical schools you are passionate about something. That you’re willing to spend four years, study a topic you love, learn it, and be able to build on it. Selecting a college major should not be about getting into medical school, it should be about study what you love to think about or do.

Research – optional

If you do enjoy science, then research is one way to show you’re serious about it. If you’re going to do a research project as an undergrad, start early. Freshman year is not too early to start. That gives you a year or two to learn the ropes, then a year and a half of serious work before you get to present your work in your medical school interview. Choose a respected faculty member doing research that interests you. Work hard. Read. Understand what you are doing and why you are doing it. You should be able to explain and defend your work to an educated scientist who doesn’t work in your field.

Physician shadowing – optional

I’m personally not a big fan of shadowing a physician. It doesn’t show much committment, and suggests you’re just interested in getting into medical school. If you’re truly not sure you want to get into medicine, then shadow a physician and find out what it’s like. Don’t expect a “shadowing experience” do carrya lot of weight on your application.

Volunteer service – optional

The impact of volunteer service on your application will depend on the quality of the service, and your committment to it. Is this a one month, two-times a week thing organized by someone else, or is this a project you’ve involved in for several years and are taking a leadership role in. How does this project affect you, and how have you made a meaningful contribution to the project.

Remember, medical schools are looking for people who are willing to take the time and effort to make a serious contribution. That contribution can be in a volunteer program, an academic pursuit, research, or even sport. You just have to show that you are willing and capable of working hard enough to accomplish an important goal.

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