How to avoid becoming a gunner in medical school


gunner: a pre-med or medical student who is ambitious to a fault. They often throw other students under the bus, put their accomplishments and grades on display, and generally make life miserable for any student who they perceive to be a threat to their own success. In short, they are what Hermione would be if she was a Slytherin.

On my blog, I am fairly vocal about my disdain for gunners. They are the people who made me feel like I was not good enough to be in medical school. They had me convinced that I was going to be a terrible doctor just because I struggled to learn all the steps of adrenal hormone synthesis.

Look, most pre-meds and med students are at least a little type A. That’s what helped them achieve. But when allowed to go unchecked, Type A personalities can mutate  into nasty little gunnerrhea inducing pathogens who seek to destroy the happiness and emotional well-being of everyone in their path, all for the sake of their own advancement. However, there is hope for a cure. Yes, gunnerhea is a preventable disease!

So for all the Type A’s out there who wish to avoid becoming a  gunner, I offer these suggestions:

1. Keep your grades to yourself. No one cares about your grades except your mom and other gunners, and the other gunners only want to know so they can brag about their better grades.

2. Don’t ask other people their grades. If they want to tell you, they’ll tell you.

3. Don’t even ask “was the test ok for you” or “are you happy with the test?” If the person didn’t do so well, you’re embarrassing them by even asking. What if the test wasn’t ok for them? Maybe they’d like to keep that information to themselves.

4. Don’t answer a question unless it was asked directly of you or of a large group. Answering a question asked directly to someone else only makes you look like a douche.

5. Do not ever ever ever ask a fellow student a question you already know the answer to. Leave the pimping to the professors. The one exception is if the student asks you to quiz them. And even then, don’t be a jerk. They’re not asking you to prove your knowledge to them.

6. Keep a strict 3 question limit in lectures. Even 3 is pushing it. Save the rest of your questions for your own time. And don’t you dare even BEGIN to ask a question in the last 5 minutes of lecture.

7. If you’re on wards, don’t stay after your fellow classmates leave unless they are all cool with it. In that same vein, if everyone decides to come in a little late or skip a lecture or whatever, you go with the team’s decision.

8. Learn the concept of teamwork. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Help your team members out and it’ll come back to you. Don’t give them help when it’s needed? Well, don’t expect anyone else to ever help you on one of your bad days.

9. You do not always have to be the team leader. Let someone else make the decisions for once, and don’t complain about them once they’re made. Go with it.

10. Don’t ask people “is such and such a good board score? Do you think it will get me an anesthesia residency?” Quit playin’. You know you’ve done all the research and you know you got an amazing score. So just tell your mama and let her be happy for you.

11. Don’t put down other people’s career choices, and don’t think for a second that your choice is “the best”. It may be best for you, but it’s worst for someone else.

12. Don’t brag about how much you do or don’t study. No one cares. Really.

13. Be nice when you correct other people’s wrong answers. Be gentle, don’t be a jerk. One day you will have to correct a wrong assumption or idea that your patient has, and whether you’re nice about it or not may determine whether they choose to follow your suggestions for their health.

14. If you’re wrong, don’t keep fighting for your answer. Cry a river, build a bridge, and get over it.

15. Don’t throw people under the bus. Making other people look bad makes you look even worse. So keep your snide comments to yourself. Don’t say them in front of attendings or professors.

So there you have it, folks, a prescription to treat gunnerrhea. Follow it well.

“Wayfaring MD” is a family practice resident who blogs at her self-titled site, Wayfaring MD.


View 13 Comments >

Most Popular

✓ Join 150,000+ subscribers
✓ Get KevinMD's most popular stories