Give Yourself a Break #illumedati

Hey everyone, it’s Whatever Wednesdays and I don’t really have a topic for today. So today will be a short post about how you need to give yourself a break.

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As you may know, I hang out on Twitter and kind of browse what is happening in the general medicine community. Since the match has come and gone, things have been focused on Finals (for Pre-Meds and Med Students). In particular the 2nd year medical students are in hardcore study mode for Step 1.

I remember those days.

I think you’re going to hear over and over again that “it’s not the end of the world” if you don’t do as well as you want. Recently, there was a message from a mom to her overachieving daughter that went viral.

Moms are the best.

However, I think this may be different for those of us on “The Track“. I think that for many medical students, they will be their own harshest critic. I know I was.

So, here is a more likely scenario. You studied hard, perhaps harder than you ever before. All your preparation, all your blood, sweat, and tears was for the highest score possible… and you did well-ish. But it wasn’t as high as you wanted… and you feel like it’s not good enough to you.

Your friends and parents won’t understand. They will love you regardless and tell you how great your score is. However, in the back of your mind, you think about question #112 and how it could have been B or C. Was that the question that held you back from your full potential?

Give yourself a break.

The relentless pursuit of perfection is probably well ingrained in everyone striving to be a doctor. It may be hard to accept now so soon after the test, with disappointment on your face and maybe tears in your eyes… however…

Even if it’s your biochemistry final, or the MCAT, or the USMLE Step 1… It’s still just a test.

In the grand of scheme of things that will constitute your life’s work… it’s really not even a speedbump.

I know this because I’ve lived it (so far).

I still remember my Ochem mid-terms and finals. The content was just so difficult for me that it gave my anxiety to even try to study it. Try as I might, and studying as hard as I did, I still failed to do well. At that time, Ochem was My Everest… However, looking back, those short two semesters in college are not even a speedbump in my story. I only mention them here for illustrative purposes.

Failure is the mother of success.

My dad told me this quote back when I was having trouble in college. I even remember that we were sitting at a Carl’s Jr eating lunch when he told me. Then he told me:

If being a doctor was easy, everyone would do it.

He’s right.

Every doctor has a story.

The path to being a doctor, and the life of a doctor are both not easy. I think every doctor has a story. I think every doctor has had some difficulty or hardship that they had to go through. This difficulty could run the gamut of being physical, emotional, mental, financial, etc. etc.

I think every doctor has a story, you don’t just decide “I want to be a doctor” in college and then fast forward 10 years and BAM, you’re an attending physician. There will be bumps along the way, mountains to climb, harsh conditions to endure.

I think that’s the single most important personality characteristic that is common to doctors in general. The ability to endure.

Fun fact: In medical school I used to run for exercise, so I bought some NikeID running shoes, they were less expensive back then, maybe around $80? This was kind of a splurge purchase for me, but I felt it was worthwhile. What I liked about it was that you could customize the colors and also add a little phrase to the side (or back) of your shoes. If I recall correctly, mine were a combination of gray and blue… and what was the phrase I choose?

ENDURE – I chose that phrase because that’s how I felt during medical school, it’s a marathon not a race.

Let’s refocus:

For those of you studying for USMLE Step 1, which is still considered the most important test when it comes to your medical career, some of you may be disappointed in your score. Perhaps your actual score ended up 10 points less than all three NBME tests you took. Or maybe it was 7 points less than all those practice exams you took.

I understand… mine were too.

I’m here to tell you that a few points one way or another probably won’t be the deciding factor as you apply for residency.

Do residencies use USMLE Step 1 score filters? Yes. Yes they do, especially for very competitive residencies. However, this means you can’t rest on your laurels and just have the residency programs try to “scout you”. If there is a particular residency you want, then you will need to apply broadly and be flexible with where you to go. If there is a particular program you want to go to, then make the effort to do an away there or find some other way to get past “the filter”.

You’ll have to hustle.

You will also need to prepare yourself to not get the residency you want, and either strengthen your resolve to do a prelim year and reapply, or have a backup in place.

I was lucky. It’s just a speedbump in your story.

When you are an attending, you will look back on these times before you were Dr. Smith and be glad that you were able to:

Give Yourself a Break.


Every doctor has a story with their own speedbumps along the way and mountains to climb.

The Everest you climb today won’t even be a speedbump by the end of your story.

When you don’t do quite as well as you want, give yourself a break.



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