8 things I wish I knew before my first year of medical school

Darian Dozier is a blogger and medical student.

In May, I completed my first year of medical school as an osteopathic medical student. The year was long and difficult, but I survived — and I’m much smarter, more confident, and curious than when I started. 

For other aspiring or fellow current medical students who are anxious about the highs and lows of med school, here are eight lessons I learned during my first year of medical school and what I wish I’d known earlier.

1. Raise your hand

It’s easy to feel intimidated and apprehensive about raising your hand and speaking up. But what bothered me more than potential embarrassment was not raising my hand when I knew the answer, and someone else getting the answer right. 

I hated that fear kept me from showing how hard I was working, so I started raising my hand more and taking chances. If I was wrong, the worst that would happen is I’d be corrected and learn from my mistake. And when I was right, it gave me a chance to stand out and validate my own work ethic.  

2. Go see your professors

Building up the courage to have a one-on-one can be nerve-racking, but going to see my professors helped me out of many tough situations. I went to their office hours to ask questions on confusing topics, and built good relationships with many of them. Most professors are eager to help and be a resource to their students, and getting to know them is one of the most underrated approaches to doing well.  

3. Lean on your classmates 

I’ve heard horror stories at other schools where the competition is so high, students sabotage one another. I was so nervous about this that for the first three months of school I kept a safe distance from my classmates. I didn’t ask for help or participate in group notes. 

But the curriculum was brutal and I missed social interaction, so I started working with my classmates on notes and asking them for help. This allowed us to lean on each other’s strengths and learn together, and was a great way to bond and form friendships. 

4. Be prepared

Darian Dozier

Time is money in medical school, and being unprepared means wasted time. If I waited until class time to view the material for the first time, or showed up to meetings without having notes prepared, I felt scrambled and rushed. 

On the other hand, I always did my best during the weeks where I did the pre-reading, reviewed my notes from the previous weeks, and stayed alert in class, so I was able to ask questions and really engage.  When I showed up to meetings ready to go, I was more productive and able to accomplish what I needed to. 

5. Stay in your own lane 

When you’re in a space where it seems like everyone is miles ahead of you, it can be hard to not get caught up in the comparison trap. My sorority sister told me, "Don’t get caught up comparing yourself to others who might be cheating." 

I liked what she said, not because I thought my classmates were cheating, but because it reminded me that I had no idea what was going on in other people’s lanes. I only needed to stay in my own and focus on what was going to benefit me. 

6. Be flexible

Medical students are the most high-strung individuals I’ve ever met — myself included. Getting into medical school is so demanding and meticulous that it can be hard to just let that go. But you should: You may fail an exam or get rejected, and it’s OK. Be flexible enough to handle the good, the bad, and the inconvenient.

7. Just say no

There are so many opportunities in medical school between the many organizations, research projects, and volunteer opportunities, that saying no was a real challenge. I like to be a part of everything, and hearing, "This could look good on your CV," was a real selling point. However, being OK at many things isn’t as impactful as being great at a few things.  Whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s worth your while. 

8. Don’t forget to live

My instagram bio is, "A med student living my best life" because being in medical school doesn’t mean my life is over. I still have fun, go out with friends, and travel. I make time for my relationship, friends, family, and writing. Find a balance that works for you, and do your best to enjoy every day.

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Darian Dozier July 2, 2021 at 09:06PM

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