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The Top 10 (Annoying) Questions My Family Asks During the Holidays

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With the holidays coming up, family functions are inevitable and who doesn’t love family gatherings?! However, if you’re in medical school these are the questions you can expect your family to ask as soon as you sit down at the dinner table. Be prepared.

10. “Is med school like 'Grey’s Anatomy'?”
No we don’t have apocalyptic events occurring nonstop.
I am not dating my gorgeous attending and we are not planning to start a family together.
On call rooms are actually used for sleeping.
However, I do have a Christina Yang to my Meredith and there is most likely a short female surgeon I am terrified of.

9. “How’s residency going?”
sigh This is such a common question. “I’m not in residency, but I am doing rotations. I know, it’s easy to get the Rs confused.” I'm doing research and rotations, which is definitely confusing folks.

The path to becoming a doctor is extremely puzzling, even for people who are just starting medical school. How many years are you in medical school? And then you become a resident? Do residents get paid? So when can I call you a doctor, after medical school or after residency? All of these questions are very common from family members that don’t understand the process. Try to have one sit down with all of the family members and explain the process. At the very least someone will remember at the next family function and can explain to the rest of the family.

Or the complete opposite...

8. “So you’re like pre med?”
OK don’t insult me here. I just spent four years (give or take) grinding my way through undergrad. I’ve endured countless pre-reqs and exams and the terrible MCAT to get to this point. In four years, I will be a doctor, a tired and overworked zombie of a resident but a doctor nonetheless. Respect me and my education level. Just give them an eye roll and move on.

7. “I can’t believe you’re going to be a doctor, you really like seeing blood?”
What?? Seeing blood is the LAST of our problems. I mean there are traumatic events where seeing gross amounts of blood can be disturbing but you’re not talking about that, you’re talking about little blood draws. Do you know how many crazy things I see on a regular basis? Helping deliver babies, colostomies (nothing like a pile of intestines laying in front of you), changing wound dressings, nec fasc, disimpacting patients. You should say, “I can’t believe you’re going to be a doctor, you like disimpacting patients??”

6. “You’re not working out as much as you did in undergrad, huh?”
Yes, I may have gained a little weight or lost a little muscle because I can’t be in the gym as consistently as I was before. Haven’t you heard the phrase “Med school is like drinking from a firehose?” Life is stressful right now and while I appreciate your concern I know I look a little different. However, it is important to maintain a healthy work-life balance so I will add working out to my new years’ resolution list.

5. “Do you have a doctor boyfriend/girlfriend yet?”
If I did wouldn’t they be sitting next to me right now? Pickings are slim! I repeat this is not "Grey’s Anatomy". A significant other doesn’t come with the acceptance letter to medical school. Some people do get lucky and find their soulmates during orientation week, go on to couples match together and become the quintessential doctor couple. The rest of us are probably going to find people who are not in medical school or we’ll just get a bunch of cats. Right now, I’m focused on important things, like my USMLE exams.

Or if you do have a significant other…

4. “When are you two going to get married?”
Well, you see Grandma, the way my medical education is set up...
There’s no convenient time within the medical field to get married and start a family. The first couple of years of medical school we’re trying to get a gasp on handling the workload. Third year we’re loaded with rotations that may or may not give us one or two days off per rotation. Fourth year, we’re focused on matching into residency and planning a wedding demands its own time and special attention. Finally, once we get to residency who knows if we’ll even be in the same city! In which case, we need to decide how we want to start off our marriage and if we’re alright living apart for several years. As you can see, all of these thoughts can be very stressful and it’s easier to avoid them for now, so we’ll let you know.

3. “When can we expect a discount on doctor visits?”
Guys, logistically what does this even mean? I’m pretty sure you can’t call up Blue Cross Blue Shield and tell them to enter a Cyber Monday family and friends 20 percent off code. My medical career is not a Groupon. Also, let’s keep my speciality in mind. It may not apply to everyone. If I want to become a cardiothoracic surgeon, I’m not doing surgery for free and more importantly I hope I don’t have to see you for that type of problem. Usually when I get asked this, I chuckle and don’t respond verbally. What am I supposed to say?

2. “When can you start writing prescriptions??”
Nope. Stop right there. I am not writing you a script for Percocet. I am not writing you a script for medical marijuana because it just became legalized. I’m working too hard to get this degree and my medical license for it to be taken away. P.S I don’t even get to start writing prescriptions until I’m a PGY2!

And the number one…

“So I have this pain right here and…”
Hey Uncle Chris, while I’m flattered you think I’m smart enough to actually diagnose you (and depending on my year in school, I actually may be able to diagnose you) I think you need to see a doctor. Someone who has not only completely medical school (which I have not), but someone who has also competed residency and has years of experience under their belt. Not someone who read about this a couple weeks ago and may or may not have actually seen this in person before. God forbid I give you terrible advice and your condition turns for the worse. I would not like to be at fault. Nor would I like you to blame me for your condition worsening.

You can expect this question at every family function, outside of family functions and will most likely occur for the rest of your medical career. Be respectful and proceed with caution. You can completely ignore the question or you can steer them in the right direction if they’re completely clueless. While this can be annoying because you’re focused on eating and being with your family, it is flattering they value your opinion.

Happy Holidays! Let us know which questions your family asks you!

Kamali Thompson is a med student, fencer for team USA and a 2018–2019 Doximity Author.

All opinions published on Op-Med are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of Doximity or its editors. Op-Med is a safe space for free expression and diverse perspectives. For more information, or to submit your own opinion, please see our submission guidelines or email

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