What to Expect in Your First Year of Medical School

As I enter my second year a little older, a little wiser and a lot better at parallel parking, I look back at my first year and think, “Wow, I really regret buying 1,000 shares of Facebook’s IPO.”

But I also think back to the time just before I started medical school, when my white coat was still body-fluid-free and Grey’s Anatomystill sounded like a terrible show on ABC.

Now that the Class of 2017 is officially on campus getting orientated, I’ve found it the perfect chance to reach into that ratty old dumpster that some people have called my brain, shake out the summer pool reading and Netflix TV show binges and try to remember what life was like as an entering first-year medical student.

So, in no particular order, here are six things that you can expect in your first year of medical school at UCSF.

1.     You will be amazed at how many facts your brain can absorb.

When you finish Prologue and look back at that 1,000-page syllabus, you might feel a little in awe over how much material you just covered in a mere two months. Remember this feeling when you receive in your Inbox 10 pages of pharm cards with drugs, mechanisms and adverse effects to memorize.

2.     You will be horrified at how quickly you can forget it all.

When you walk into your preceptorship the week after your cardiology final and your preceptor asks you three drugs you might want to give that patient with hypertension, don’t freak out if it takes you a few seconds or minutes to answer him. You’ll learn it again come Boards time.

3.     You won’t be able to imagine life without Pass/Fail.

Gone are the days of curves, grade deflation and calculating how many points you can miss on the final and still pull off that “A.” You might still do some quick mental math on how many points you can miss to comfortably get a 75% (you’ll probably want to leave at least a 5% buffer), and then decide to finish the test early and get some gelato.

4.     Your non-med school friends and family will grossly overestimate how hard you’re working.

And it’s mostly true. Just don’t feel obligated to mention that Monday night concert you scored $12 tickets for, or those Tuesday 8 a.m., 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. lectures when you “overslept,” freeing up time to go for a run in Golden Gate Park followed by brunch. I think I consistently got more sleep in my first year in medical school than I did in undergrad, and I don’t regret it one bit.

5.     No matter how awkward your interview with that patient went, just know that a past, present or future classmate has had it worse.

I can’t ethically tell you the stories that I want to tell you here, but don’t worry; you’ll have plenty of your own by year’s end.

6.     Don’t be surprised if you find it hard to leave work at work.

My friends and I once tried a game where we agreed to collectively slap the first person to bring up any med school-related topic in our conversations. Let’s just say a lot of mulligans were taken that day.

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