Med school balancing act

Paras MehtaBy Paras Mehta, MS3

For anyone getting ready to start medical school, the following assumptions seem to be universally accepted:

  1. You will study more than you ever have in your life
  2. You will have less free time than you are used to having

There will also be countless stories (rumors may be a more accurate term) and parody videos about medical students studying for insane amounts of time, eating meals laden with junk food, and drinking enough coffee and energy drinks to wire-up even the laziest person.

While the two above assumptions are probably true for most people, do not let the exaggerated stories and videos frighten you as you begin medical school. Yes, you will have to study more, but you will quickly learn to be efficient and learn more information in shorter amounts of time. You are going to get through medical school, and you are going to become a great doctor. And if you manage your time relatively well, you will be able to do this without any need to overdose on caffeine or pull all-nighters.

And yes, you will have less free time, but it will feel more deserved and rewarding if you utilize it correctly. At Baylor College of Medicine, we had several physician lecturers who emphasized the importance of maintaining ‘balance’ throughout medical school. In my experience, this was the key to reducing stress and enjoying medical school.

By balance, these lecturers meant that we should devote some time to activities unrelated to medical school (thereby keeping a balance between academic and non-academic aspects of our lives). This can involve making phone calls to family members, exercising, cooking, hanging out with friends, or reading for leisure.

For example, I found a group of friends in medical school with similar interests and hobbies. Nearly every Friday during pre-clinicals, we played basketball in the afternoon and ate dinner at a restaurant in the evening. Whenever there are big sporting events, we watch together at someone’s house. For everyone’s birthday, we do something unique. We have even gone on two trips out of the state during our breaks. When we have activities such as these to look forward to, studying becomes more enjoyable and productive, and medical school is not nearly as daunting and stressful as many students are taught to believe.

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