Most future Indian doctors have spent some time wondering what it’s like beginning a career in medicine in the US. Attending medical school, matching for residency, and practicing medicine itself all seem like a bit of a mystery. To help answer some questions you might have about starting a physician career, we asked a few Doctors of Medicine (MDs) to share their experience in medical school and beyond.
1. Being a medical student is as much work as a full-time job
While some pre-meds are used to balancing a part-time job with school, it’s in your best interest to focus fully on your education as a medical student. “The fact that I was no longer able to maintain employment due to how rigorous medical school is was a total surprise to me,” says Dr. Jenya Kaminski, a St. George’s University (SGU) graduate and emergency medicine resident physician at Nazareth Hospital in Philadelphia, US.
The good news for students who attend SGU is that they’re able to access various forms of support through regular features of the MD program’s curriculum, such as themed office hours and small group sessions. Other support services are also available.
2. You’ll gain perspective while pursuing a career in medicine
Effectively treating patients from all different backgrounds is an important part of pursuing a career in medicine. Medical students who attend an institution that’s committed to promoting diversity in health care may have an advantage in this area. For over 40 years, SGU has graduated over 20,000 physicians including 559 from South Asia, based on the number of students who have completed the Doctor of Medicine (MD) program from 1981-2022.
Dr. Jeremiah Madedor, an internal medicine resident physician at Spectrum Health based in West Michigan, US, and St. George’s University (SGU) graduate, mentions that he met students from all over the world at SGU.
“You meet these diverse people, and they change your outlook in life and how you see things,” he says. “And that’s really important for your patients.” This isn’t just opinion, either. Research continues to show that a diverse health care workforce leads to better patient outcomes.
3. You have to weigh numerous factors when choosing a specialty
Pursuing a field you’re passionate about is absolutely important, but you also need to think about where you see yourself, what type of schedule you prefer, and whether you have other responsibilities to take into account. Dr. Kaminski points out that pursuing a time-intensive surgical specialty, for instance, might not make sense for someone who has children.
“What lifestyle really suits you? And what’s important to you?” she offers. “Ultimately, it’s very personal.” She also notes that contacting SGU graduates to hear their perspectives on what they like about their specialties was incredibly helpful in deciding that emergency medicine was right for her.
4. You’ll grow and strengthen meaningful relationships
Even the most career-oriented person is bound to make lifelong friends in medical school and residency. There’s something about the shared experience of studying for licensing exams, completing clinical rotations, and going through residency that encourages students to form meaningful connections.
“I matched with an awesome group of people,” Dr. Kaminski says. “They’re all coming from very different places, but we all have the same goals and similar values.” For SGU students, this helps deepen relationships among classmates. Dr. Madedor loved everything from the food to the culture on the island. “I’m hoping to go back to Grenada sometime in the future with my friends because it’s an amazing place,” he reflects.
5. You’ll discover you’re capable of more than you thought possible
Nearly every pre-med student recognizes that medical school is challenging. The surprising element, however, is realizing that you’re able to continue pushing yourself when it feels as though you can’t learn any more.
6. You’ll become an even better student after medical school
Medicine is one of the best career paths for those who enjoy constantly learning new things. In fact, medical school is really just the beginning of what will be a lifelong education.
“Looking back on my notes during third and fourth year, they can’t really even compare to my notes now,” Dr. Madedor says. This is significant because there’s more at stake once you’re a resident.
“Your responsibilities as a resident compared to your responsibilities as a student are tenfold,” Dr. Kaminski says. “And it’s tangible because you’re now signing orders and prescriptions. You’re under supervision, but nonetheless, you’re the one making those choices and clinical judgments.”
7. Friends and family might start to come to you for advice
One of the most noticeable shifts that occurs once you’re beginning life as a doctor is that loved ones will likely come to you for medical advice. Family members who never before thought to ask your opinion on whether they should seek treatment for something could now find your perspective to be invaluable.
“You definitely take on more of an educator role in a way because they now view you as an expert in the field,” Dr. Kaminski says.
8. Being a good person is as important as being a good doctor
Having excellent hand-eye coordination, an eye for details, and impeccable time management abilities are all essential physician skills. Great technical abilities will only get you so far, though. Ultimately, it’s the way that you’re able to empathize with and comfort patients that really matters.