How Becoming a Doctor Works

Medical School

Now you're in medical school. In 1998 there were 69,340 medical students in U.S. medical schools (57% males, 43% female). Medical school is very difficult -- I'm sure you don't have to be warned about that. In order to get through medical school you must be dedicated to learning and have excellent study skills. If you can retain the information presented to you, not just memorize and forget, you will be highly successful. You will need unparalleled time management skills. Time is a luxury not to be wasted. Just as in college, TV is an enemy. Learn to do several things at once. Also learn when to take a break from it all.

Most of the day is filled with lectures, labs and small group activities. Some medical students end up missing lectures because they fall behind in their studies. However, many medical schools have a note taking service that transcribes lectures. These are then distributed to everyone so that they can be reviewed at any time. Try not to fall behind. Once you fall behind it leads to cramming for tests, and crammed material is forgotten quickly. The problem is not the difficulty of the subject material -- it is the volume. And it just keeps coming. Evenings are filled with many hours of studying.

What drives a medical student to study so much? This is a complex question. Medical students, by nature, are competitive people and always want to do well. Many realize that they will someday have the awesome responsibility of saving peoples' lives, and they take this responsibility to heart. Some fear that they will someday have a patient and have no idea what is wrong with him. These thoughts can give you cold sweats.

Medical schools are not in the business of trying to get you to flunk out. They selected you because you because they felt that you could handle the work, and they will help you succeed. As a result, you'll be happy to know that over 95% of the students entering medical schools do end up earning their M.D. degree.