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Remember to Step Back from Medical School

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Medical school has made the last two years of my life some of the best yet. I’ve gained so much knowledge and experience. I really did not think it was possible to process so much information in such a short timespan. I’ve built relationships that will last a lifetime, and I definitely feel like I am where I am supposed to be. Since I completed my undergraduate degree in my hometown, starting medical school was my first time moving away from home. Since I had lived at home those four years, it was very easy for me to go to family events, visit my grandparents and stay in touch. Luckily, I’m close enough to drive a couple hours to get back home, but with the medical school schedule, that doesn’t happen very often.

With the mandatory events and study schedule of the first two years, to the time needed to put into clerkships in third year, it seems as though sometimes life gets put on hold. I can recall not long ago having conversation about this with one of my roommates. Choosing this field means that you miss family events, small and large. Sometimes I feel like I’m an expected “no” to some gatherings because of my schedule. I’ve missed nights out and nights in, birthdays and showers. In the grand scheme of things, it’s all worth it because I am doing what I love, but what I learned recently is that sometimes the best thing to do is to drop everything and go home.

I recently experienced the loss of a family member from out of town. It was sudden, and he was young. It was a shock and I knew my parents were devastated. After I was told when the funeral arrangements would be, it was clear that I would have to miss a day of clerkship in order to go home. I talked to my parents and they understood if I couldn’t come and said everyone else would too. There was something in me, though, that told me I just couldn’t miss it. I had missed so many family events over the past two years, and I knew that I would miss plenty more in the years to come. So, I went home and drove out of town with my parents and grandparents to attend the funeral. It was a tough weekend for so many people. I saw relatives I haven’t seen in a long time, and even many of them were surprised to see that I had made it. Having the chance to pay my respects to my family, be a support for my parents and grandparents and say a proper goodbye to my loved one proved to me that I made the right decision.

I love being a medical student, especially now that I am in third year and out in the real world. Having the opportunity to apply the knowledge and utilize the skills I gathered in my first two years is very rewarding. I knew going in to medical school that the time commitment was a large one, and I would miss out on things happening with family and friends at home, and that’s okay. People understand. However, I think it’s an important reminder that even though being professional, present and on time are very important, sometimes you have to take a step back. Even if it’s just for a weekend, or a day, you can gain a little extra perspective and remind yourself of all of the other important things in your life. The medicine will be welcome you back with open arms when you return.

Julia Tullio is a third year medical student, currently in her second clerkship at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She has no conflicts of interest to disclose.

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