Medical students: Don’t take the easy way


Dear fellow students,

I am addressing you today as a comrade, a peer, as someone who shares your concerns and understands the pressure and stress you experience in medical school. It is true that medical schools attract very similar kind of people: Medical students are smart, hard-working individuals who are striving for excellence and achievements. They want to help the sick, the poor and the needy and cultivate a sustainable change that is rooted in a deep intrinsic motivation, for a better future to all people. It all sounds positive and beautiful until students begin to feel the pressure imposed by the hectic schedule in medical school, the endless nights of studying, the exams, the projects and the burnout.

As days pass by, each student begins to see his peer as a threat to his/her place on the honor list, a threat to his/her chances of matching into a better residency program or to a competitive residency spot. Competition, fueled by burnout, begins to dismantle the bonds among students to the point that it becomes every person for himself/herself. As the insecurities grow, students will care about preventing others from outperforming them, instead of caring about working harder and improving themselves. They will seek any easy way out provided it will put them ahead of others, and they will progressively forget the essence of the medical profession and why they chose this path in the first place: Medical school will appear more like a battleground where the “survival of the fittest” rule prevails.

Opportunities to take an easy way out will present themselves, and you may be tempted to do a wrong deed in your quest to do the right thing. At the end of the day, we tell ourselves (as if trying to find a justification for what we feel is wrong) we are humans and are prone to do mistakes. We are sometimes blinded by burnout and by competition to the point where we engage in actions that we would never have imagined we would do, actions that are opposite to our virtues and what we believe in and actions which we later on deeply regret. These actions continue to haunt our conscience and make us hate looking at ourselves in the mirror: I have been there.

Always remind yourselves why you are in medical school and believe in your abilities to overcome difficulties. Your life may not seem as easy and as simple as that of your friend in business school, but you must not surrender to the pressure, no matter how big it is, and you must not look for the easy way out. Engaging in any form of academic dishonesty acts will turn your lives into a misery and will make your days horrible and your nights even worse, because deep down you know that your so called (fake) victory was built on the ruins of others, because you know that you have let your mentors, your teachers and your parents down. This is one of the hardest things to accept. Beyond all else, letting yourselves down will inflame overwhelming guilt and shame, and it will damage your lives and careers beyond repair.

Do not compromise your ethics no matter how tempting it may look, and remember that the best years of your lives are still ahead of you so do not stray into inappropriate places en route to success. It is not worth it.

The author is an anonymous medical student. 

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