Personal Development

Medical School, Personal Development

A Letter to Myself, as a First Year Medical Student


A letter…to me,

It’s me, or I suppose, a tired-er, slightly older version of you  It is August 2017 and another eventful summer is winding down. Over the last two weeks, most of the medical schools in Canada have been gearing up to welcome their incoming classes and it got me thinking about you and your first day. You were so excited and with good reason – the next few years of your life are going to be some of the very best, but also some of the most challenging. So while we have some time, let me go over a few tips I wish I had known on my first day.

You are going to meet and make some of the greatest friends. During orientation week, you’ll connect with a few people and wonder how these relationships will evolve over time.  You will also be hopelessly day dreaming about your old city and social network. Take the visits and time that you need to grieve the ending of that chapter, but know, that you struck “friendship gold” with the group you met during your first week. This group will be your comedy show when you are feeling down, your ride when you are lost, your teacher when you are confused, your pseudo-therapist when you are angry, and your DJ when you feel like dancing. Soak up every minute, friends like these don’t come around often.

Take risks (within reason). There are an unbelievable amount of opportunities waiting for you. Medical school will be one of the most supportive and engaging learning environments you will have ever been in. So get outside of your comfort zone and try something new. You’ve never been outside of North America before – maybe now is the time. Ever considered India? Also, keep an open mind when setbacks happen or plans fall through, because they can and they will. These changes will land you in some pretty surprising and interesting opportunities which you may not have had otherwise.

Learn to set boundaries and say no. This is something we still continue to struggle with (Sorry!). I know how badly you want to make everyone happy but, sometimes, it comes at the expense of your own happiness. You do not have to do every extra-curricular activity you hear about (If you know that you are not into general surgery, why agree to do a massive chart review?!?). You do not have to attend every social function to maintain your friend group (Would you really want to be friends with someone who held missing trivia over your head?). Finally, and this is a biggie, you do not have to go on a date with anybody who doesn’t treat you well. Period. Draw those lines and stand behind them. I got your back.

There’s no easy way to say this one – you will struggle with your mental health, like, really struggle. At times, it will feel like there’s no hope of getting better. You will want to push everyone away and sleep for inhuman amounts of time. You will pass up meals and wonder if you will ever truly feel happy again. Don’t worry – you will. At the time, you will feel downright empty, scared, and alone; but you’ll come to realize just how many people you have in your corner. You are so loved. Go to yoga, take that nap you’re itching for, ask for help, hug the people who stood by you, and breathe. Take ownership of this illness and recognize it for what it is: an illness. It will help you become a better physician, and more importantly, a better person.

You are already concerned about what specialty you will do and where you will go for residency. Pause, take a deep breath, and know that everything will work out. I am not going to give you any spoilers as to how it ends (where’s the fun in that?). It will be a challenging process, you will cry on more than one occasion, and you will write an obscene amount of CaRMS letters. But you are so much better for it and so much more confident that the choice you made was right for you. Make sure you have lots of Reese’s Piece’s on hand.

Oh, and one more thing, when you get Tinder – and stop rolling your eyes, you do inevitably get Tinder – don’t chicken out on swiping on that handsome Occupational Therapy student – that story ends pretty cool.

Give Tucker pets and kisses as often as you can and I will see you in a little bit,

You (circa 2017)