5 Tips for First Year Medical Students

Image: Anna Jurkovska/Shutterstock

Dear First-Year Medical Student,

First off, congratulations!

You did it. You made it here.

All the hard work, sacrifices, tears of grief and tears of joy have led to this moment. Every person has their own journey to the world of medicine. Perhaps you knew when you were 10 years old that you wanted to be a pediatrician. Or maybe you’ve been working as a high school English teacher before deciding you wanted to explore healthcare. Maybe you took the MCAT and applied right away, or you worked for a few years and did a post-bac. Whatever path you’ve walked and whatever steps it took you to get here, congratulations.

You are about to enter a crazy, challenging, wonderful world of highs and lows and everything in-between. It’s exciting, thrilling, humbling and exhilarating.

From one med student to another, I hope to share some nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned.

1) Give thanks.

To me, it’s a gift to be able to learn anatomy and physiology, the way the human body works, and how it can heal. Not everyone has the opportunity to attend medical school. This is also a road where you probably had support — someone to guide you, telling you to keep on going. So go ahead, call your parents to say thank you, text your friends who helped you get through orgo, Facebook message your high school AP Bio teacher (I did!)…give thanks for the people in your life who helped you in any way reach where you are today.

2) Work hard.

Medical school can often be described as a marathon. Yes, there’s a lot of material, and you might find yourself “drinking from a hose”…but it’s good to learn it well — after all, you’ll be applying your knowledge to helping someone’s life in the future. Establish a strong foundation now, that way you can tackle the clinical years and care for your future patients.

3) Rest hard.

Take time for yourself to recharge. Over the years, I’ve realized more and more what it means to rest well. Every person seeks this in different ways. (For example, you might find me eating ice cream with friends or reading a good book on a Saturday afternoon.) Do things you love to do, and do the things that give you joy. And definitely sleep well, so you can be refreshed for the next day. (When third year comes, you’ll be waking up at 4:30 am for your surgery rotation…so take advantage of the pre-clinical year schedule and get your 8 hours of sleep!).

4) You’re on a team.

Everyone is coming from varied backgrounds and walks of life. Each of us has visible and invisible things that we’ve experienced and are experiencing. And yet, we all share a similar goal: to learn how to care for patients. Cheer on another one, encourage each other, build one another up. We are in this together.

5) You matter.

Maybe you might find yourself doubting and wondering if you’re meant to be here. You might wonder if this was all just a mistake. A lot of us, at one point or another, have been tempted with these thoughts. I hope you will remember that your presence matters. You have a purpose, and you are not here by accident.

As I’m typing these things down, I’m speaking to my own heart, too, exhorting my 3rd-year self with these good reminders. (A full disclaimer, I still have a long way to go and haven’t been board-certified in anything, so please feel free to take these musings with several grains of salt! Plus, there’ll be many more nuggets of wisdom you yourself will be picking up along the way.)

But if there’s one thing I want you to get out of this letter, it’s this: you are not alone. If you ever need anything —someone to talk to, someone to eat a meal with, a shoulder to cry on or a laugh to share — we’re here, and we’re all rooting for you.

Welcome to the team.

Anna Delamerced is a medical student at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. She was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio and enjoys exploring the crossroads of writing and medicine, and listening to patients tell their stories. She is also a 2018–2019 Doximity Author. This post is dedicated by the author to the author’s brother, who is starting his first year of medical school.

More from Op-Med