A few days ago I received a message: “Any advice for incoming med students?” As an old, wise, seasoned, now-second year medical student, I know everything. Just kidding — I fumbled my way through first year like everyone else, and just like you will too. No piece of advice allows you to opt out from the challenges of medical school year one. My advice isn’t the “normal” recommendations incoming medical students receive. You ...

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Dr. Eugene Gu. He is -- was -- a surgical resident at Vanderbilt University. His resume exemplifies academic perfection: valedictorian in high school, undergraduate degree from Stanford, medical degree from Duke, surgical residency at Vanderbilt. He also founded his own research company. Not once throughout the span of his academic or professional career would one have any reason question his capability or competency. But several weeks ago Vanderbilt fired him, citing “performance” issues. Why? Because ...

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A few days ago I learned about a different manifestation of imposter syndrome. The “usual” one, of course, shows up as, “I shouldn’t be here because I’m not qualified or smart enough to be here.” The one that was confessed to me a few days ago, however, went like this: “I shouldn’t be here because I don’t know what I’m doing here.” They explained how it seems that everyone is filing away into ...

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Learned helplessness. It’s a psychological concept marked by a perceived loss of power, and it’s prevalent in medicine. We are taught early on how little we are in this colossal world. We are told what to do, when to do it, and what we will get for it. Our objections go unheard or—worse—ignored. Let me quote a paragraph from The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz:

They were conducting a series of experiments on basic ...

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In medicine, there is a key group of people we seem to be excluding: introverts. I noticed this twice at the recent AMSA convention. It made me realize how often our culture in medicine rewards the boldness, loudness, and confidence so often associated with extroversion. The first instance was after my talk. I was answering questions from a group of people when someone came up, handed me a note, thanked me, then walked ...

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There is no glory in defense. Fans don’t notice it. The most perfectly-executed defensive play results in a non-event; that is, the other team doesn’t score. Then everyone forgets about it, and the game moves on. But there is an art to defense. It is reactionary in nature: You must read the offense and anticipate what’s coming. You have to study the opposing players one-by-one, so you know their strengths and ...

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Someone who I care about deeply messaged me today: “I think I’m done with surgery.” This person, a surgeon, feels like his potential is elsewhere. There are more opportunities, different challenges, and fulfilling experiences in other places and he is ready to explore. I told him that he inspires me. But I am in medical school. So how could someone leaving the medical field be inspiring to me? Because inspiration does not come from a job description or a fancy ...

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Medicine has been called an anti-mentorship program: In that trainees tend to find a vast amount of physicians who they don’t want to be like, rather than finding tons of inspiring ones who they do want to emulate. So how do we navigate this? How do we, as trainees, isolate and latch onto the physicians who are full of energy, life, and potential? Who are excited about what they do? Who have brilliant ways ...

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I recently collected anecdotes from women in medicine who have noticed the same thing I’ve noticed: We’re not as comfortable here as our male counterparts. Despite progress, medicine remains a patriarchy -- an “old boy’s club” -- and the women in this world are frequently reminded of this status quo. In collecting these anecdotes, I’ve noticed two main themes for the type of advice and comments women receive. The first one speaks ...

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I pulled into my driveway at 1 in the morning after spending eight consecutive hours in the library. I shut the engine off and allowed the music to continue. And I didn’t move. And then I started to cry. Initially, I resisted the tears, then conceded to the overpowering emotions so desperate to escape. And for ten minutes, I sat in my dark car in the cold at 1 in the morning ...

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