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Tuesday
Jul062010

Guest Post: Skating On Without Support

This is a guest post by Erin Breedlove who blogs at Healthy, Unwealthy, and Becoming Wise.

Chances are that you’re here reading the wealth of information and advice here at Pre-Med Hell because, well, you want to become a doctor, and you’re a pre-medical student.

Typically, there are two categories in which pre-med students find themselves. The first category contains the students who want to be doctors because that’s all they’ve ever thought about becoming, and they’re usually pretty academically conscious. In addition to that, they’re the people that the average students consider the “nerds”. Also in this category, we find students who have parents with exceedingly high expectations for their student, and being a doctor, as stated by much of the general public, is one of society’s highest regarded status symbols and professions.

In a category all to their own are the students who want to become doctors due to personal life experiences. It may be that a member of this particular group has a medical condition that has landed them in the hospital or in the presence of medical professionals for the majority of his/her life. The decision to become a doctor is derived from the fact that it’s what they know. It’s how they’ve lived. They have firsthand knowledge of protocol, policies, procedures, and all those others terms that are vital to successes as both a patient and a doctor. It’s a valuable skill and perspective, to say the least.

Finally, there are the students who are a mixture of all three of these categories, and they’re just plain passionate. Reading medicine-related texts and blogs and every piece of information that they can is pure joy. Yes, they are academically strong students when they apply themselves, and because they have the passion to bring a life of health and wellness to the people that they will serve, they are willing to do whatever it takes.

Regardless of with which category you find yourself identifying, there is one thing that is vital. Support. Support from your family, from your friends, from your fellow students, and from your professors. You want people to be proud and to take pride in the things you’re doing, but what happens if they don’t?

This process is one that I liken to skating. When you first lay your eyes on rollerblades as a child, you’re fascinated. “Shoes with wheels? How cool is that?” This budding stage is similar to the one that you experience as a very young child and starts when you begin regular visits to the pediatrician for vaccinations and for well-child exams. You look, you watch, and maybe you say something for a brief time. You’re scared of the unknown, so you avoid it. Maybe accept it, maybe reject it, but for now, you put it down, store it away as an experience, and you move on.

As you get older and roam through toy stores, you understand that those wheels are made to help one glide across the pavement so that you can have some fun with your friends whenever you lay your eyes upon the interesting contraptions, much like when young children realize that going to the doctor helps you to stay healthy and well. Little by little, you begin to interact with the doctor and to understand that when he/she pulls out the otoscope and ophthalmalscope, he’s/she’s not meaning to hurt you. He or she is actually trying to help you!

And now it’s time. You’ve reached your eighth birthday, and your parents take you for a stroll down every aisle of the toy store, and once again, your eyes become fixated on those things that you now know they call “rollerblades.” Should you tell Mom and Dad that you want them, or do you think they’ll be hesitant to say that you can have the roller skates? Either way, you’re taking the dive. As Dad creeps up behind you in the aisle, you whisper, “Hey Dad! I have the perfect gift someone could give me for my birthday this year! I want those roller skates!” “Oh no,” Dad hesitates. “I’m not sure that those would be the best things for you. You might fall.  You might hurt yourself, and what about all this rainy weather we’ve been having?” Your eight-year-old head doesn’t register the fact that your dad is saying the things that he is out of protection for you. He doesn’t want you to waste a gift on something you might not be able to use, might not enjoy, and because your dad thinks you just want them because you’ve seen them in the store, he thinks it’s lust. He thinks you’re not old enough to learn yet or that you have some more growing to do.

When most students tell their parents that they want to be doctors, this is a similar reaction. They know how much schooling it requires, and they know that it’s a lifelong commitment. Though your dad may have roller-skated before, he still doesn’t know your true ability because of one simple fact: You haven’t done it before, and you haven’t tried them out. He may have gone to college and done the whole “pull an all-nighter to study for a test bit” but unless your dad’s a doctor, he hasn’t been through the rigors of pre-medical and medical education. They offer their opinion on the fact that you may or may not have had a strong liking or ability in mathematics or in science, but it’s hard to know when you’re not living with your parents full-time anymore. It’s hard for them to understand that your abilities and focuses change in college!

So what happens if you don’t get the support you need? You simply skate onward. But how? There are three simple suggestions I have that might help.

  1. Find a group of people who you know and trust that they will support you no matter what. My support comes mainly through medical students and doctors on Twitter, but I’ve also found a huge amount of support among my close friends and certain members of my family. People are key.  They hold you accountable and give you just enough of that “pride medicine” you’ll need to continue on the long journey.
  2. Read all you can about medicine, about specialties that interest you, and ensure that you get your “fix” each and every day. This really applies to any pre-medical student, but for those of us without support, it can be difficult to discuss our passions with our families if they’re not in support of us. So read. Blog. Tweet. Do whatever you need to do to get your passion out in the open so that it can be supported.
  3. Be realistic. Understand that while you don’t have to be a top-notch student in the maths or sciences that you will take as a pre-medical student, you must have the drive, determination, and persistence that it takes to make it through the mostly arduous coursework. It may assist you in gaining the support of those who don’t support you yet by proving that your grades, work ethic, and determination are strong enough to help you achieve your ultimate goal of becoming a doctor.

Most of all, it’s important to skate on, even without support, on your quest to becoming one of the most respected professionals of today’s society!

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Reader Comments (1)

Great post, Erin. It's very hard to find like minded people with such a rigorous scholastic goal. Not only in college, but in the sciences too. Pre-med has to be one of the most rigorous GPA wise with tough admissions (though the other ones aren't trailing far behind).

The hardest part about the pre-med lifestyle for me isn't so much sitting in a room all day or studying so many hours a day. I've gotten used to it and will continue to do so. It's mainly that I hadn't found people that understood for a really long time. As you said, people try and give their support with what they know, and I as many others I'm sure appreciate it, but it's better when someone really knows. Thankfully, I found Pre-Med Hell and everyone that came with it and I also found a club on campus. With those two things, it's been a better journey, more enjoyable.

I would also add that it might be helpful to find a club, pre-med club on campus. Find link-minded people. You may not find that one person who will always be there for you but at least you'll find people heading in your direction.

July 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

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