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Going From Failing to Thriving in Med School

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One Doctor’s Journey to Her Dream Career

This article kicks off a series by Dr. MJ, a graduate of an eastern US allopathic medical school who worked closely with STATMed Learning. Here, she shares her personal struggles and the steps she took to succeed in med school. This series aims to give a voice to what it’s like to struggle in med school and help share strategies to rebuild your self-esteem and regain your equilibrium. 

From Dr. MJ:

I had wanted to be a doctor since the 5th grade. I read a Reader’s Digest article about a pediatric neurosurgeon and decided that medicine would be my path. What I did not understand at that age was how rocky this path would prove to be. 

As a college senior, I applied to med school but was wait-listed. So, a few years later, I tried again and was accepted — my dream was finally coming true. But, when classes began, I realized I was in trouble. The sheer volume of the material was like nothing I’d ever seen before, and I had no idea where to start. The other first-year students I knew were initially overwhelmed, but they quickly found a rhythm. Everyone told me that I’d be fine. But I knew I was in trouble.

Year One: The Struggle 

So, I took action. I went to my professors for help, and they directed me to a second-year student who was at the top of her class. Although she tried, she really didn’t know how to help me. I tried going to other classmates, but they had their own work to do, and I didn’t want anyone to figure out how dire my situation actually was. I felt utterly alone.

The dream I’d held for over a decade was becoming a nightmare.

All year my grades were either outright failing or eeking out passing marks. After my last exam, I had no idea if I would pass my first year. At this point, I was too drained to care about the outcome. After grades were released, I discovered I had passed, but barely. This left me with three options:

  1. I could go back and hope my second year is better.
  2. I could quit and do something else with my life.
  3. I could return to school but find a way to do it differently.

Every time I considered the first option, I remembered Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity, doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different result. I knew I couldn’t emotionally endure another year like the last one. So, that was out.

So, I could quit and chalk it up to the fact that sometimes things aren’t meant to be. Maybe being a physician wasn’t my path after all. I definitely didn’t want to be miserable for three more years, and my friends and family were encouraging me to do something else with my life. But, this wasn’t just quitting a job. It was giving up a dream. And I wasn’t ready for that.

So, that left me with option three: return to school but find a way to do it differently. I started researching my options and stumbled on STATMed Learning. I enrolled in the 10-day course that was conveniently scheduled to begin in a few weeks. 

The Study System That Helped Me Succeed in Med School 

I had some trepidation. What if my deficits were too severe? Once the course got underway and I started understanding the mechanics of studying, things began to turn around. Through the class, I learned a lot. I discovered strategies to make my studying more effective and efficient. I learned to approach large volumes of material strategically instead of my previous method of panicking. But I also found out that I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only person struggling to succeed in med school. And I started to believe that with this new way of studying, I might persevere.

While Einstein’s wisdom about insanity helped me take the leap to try a different approach, it was another quote that resonated during the STATMed Class. 

“Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” 

This quote from health care quality improvement expert Dr. Paul Batalden rang true. Even with hours of studying, the way my old system was designed, I was always going to get the same results. It wasn’t about not trying hard enough. It wasn’t the hours I was logging. If I wanted better results, I needed a better system. That was why I needed the STATMed Learning program. By myself, I could not accomplish that change. But with the program’s help, I could.

Interested in learning more about our study strategies? Explore our blog and YouTube channel for more strategies and insights.

Year Two: New Methods, New Results

I went back to school for my second year with much more confidence. But I couldn’t silence the doubt that I still may not be able to make it through. The year even started out a bit rocky. I was adjusting to the increased volume of material and trying to use the new study methods. I kept working on the new skills I learned. Gradually, my grades started to get better and better. Then classmates started to come to me with questions about the material because I knew it so well. At the end of the year, I passed everything by a wide margin. 

A few years after that painful start, I was a med school graduate and matched into my first choice for a residency program. I can say definitively that none of it would have happened without STATMed Learning. More than anything else, I am grateful that this program came into my life when it did and gave me a second chance to pursue my dream of being a doctor. 

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone!  Give us a call today to learn more about how the STATMed Study Skills Class can help.

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