First-year medical students in University of Michigan College of Medicine They will soon embark on their journeys as future doctors. Their first step in the process will be marked by the school’s white coat ceremony, a tradition in which each student is given a white coat and a stethoscope.
However, the beginning of any life-changing experience can be filled with fears about the future. So, Michigan Health LabSpeak kindly to four of our medical school faculty about why they pursue medicine and what advice they can give aspiring clinicians.
Stephen Jay, MD, Interim Assistant Dean for Teaching Medical Students
Not every school has a white coat ceremony, so I didn’t get a chance to try one until I took part in the tradition as dean of UM College of Medicine. However, I can say that even then, all the feelings and emotions I had on my first day of school, and throughout my medical school journey, came back. It is always unusual. Hope, excitement, and mild anxiety (for those who struggle with the unknown) are always present.
When I think about the reason for my decision to pursue medicine, I think it was a combination of being a science nerd and wanting to connect more with people. I realized that as a doctor, I would get to know others and be a part of their lives. Medicine seemed like the only thing in my youth that connected all these things that I enjoyed so much.
My advice to our incoming medical students is that this trip is like no other. Nobody walks alone, so be sure to count on the people around you as a support system. There will always be big successes, big challenges, and struggles along the way. But be open and take care of those around you, while allowing them to do the same. You will learn from this and find that you both carry it.
Christina Gallagher, MD،, an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine in Michigan
In my 8th grade language arts class, I was assigned a “Destiny Project”, where I was assigned to write about my future career. I decided it was my “destiny” to become a plastic surgeon because I wanted to help burn victims and other people with physical abnormalities. After I attended medical school, my major changed to family medicine. However, my call for help never wavered.
My message for incoming medical students is: There may be times, especially during the first year, when you think, “This is hard. Is all this studying really worth it?” Well, I promise. Your answer will come like a bolt of lightning the first time you see gratitude in your patient’s eyes.
Christina Chiang, MD،, an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine in Michigan
When I was younger, I knew I wanted to pursue a career that would lead me to opportunities that I could make tangible – and positive Differences in the lives of others. I also wanted to find a career in which I could travel abroad to help communities on a global scale. Medicine includes all of these things.
I think it is important for our aspiring physicians to always remember what drove them in their pursuit of medicine. Find a way to relate everything you do and/or learn to this foundational goal. Medical school is tough, for all kinds of reasons, but trying to see the way into the madness can help you keep going.
Also, make sure you enjoy the greatness of learning from your peers. You can only gain insight from listening to and learning from their life experiences and perspectives and being humble.
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Finally, the standard in medical school is pretty high, as it should be. Patients will eventually trust you for their health and sometimes their lives. However, students entering UM Medical School are chosen because we believe in their potential to succeed. We are always here to support them on their journeys.
Jason Kahn, MD, is an assistant professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at Michigan Medicine
I loved science in both high school and college, as well as teaching and tutoring. I realized that the medical profession would allow me to use science on a daily basis. It will also provide me with an opportunity to work with people and integrate teaching into my daily life.
On top of that, my dad was a nephrologist, and I remember joining him in the hospital or in his office growing up. I was noticing the relationships he had with his patients and how well he knew them. They were always so grateful for his patronage. He really wanted me to be a chef because he loved eating! But he was very proud of me when I decided to go to medical school.
Believe it or not, medical school and residency pass very quickly. So I advise this new semester to consciously take some time to think about life and take care of themselves. Take time to grow your knowledge base and skills, and also to grow your circle of friends. Some of my medical school classmates are still my best friends to this day. And they were instrumental in helping me during the pandemic.
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Always stay curious. Almost everyone at UM Medical School wants to help you succeed. So, ask for help when you need it. Offer help when you can. You are here for a reason and you have what it takes to become a great doctor.
I always remind myself that being a doctor is an incredible privilege. We meet and work with many different people. I love getting to know my patients beyond their diagnosis. This is especially useful for me because it gives me a chance to become a better doctor.
While medicine will become routine for you at some point, our “world of work” is often a very confusing and intimidating place for our patients. remember this. And always try to be kind and compassionate.
Even on your first day as a medical student, you can give something to your patients. I love this quote from Edward Livingston Trudeau and try to embody these words in my work: “I treat sometimes, I relax often, and I always relax.”