Medical school attracts very similar kind of people. Most of us are high achieving, intelligent people with the common goal of helping others. It is beautiful to think of all of the potential patients we could serve working together. Applying to medical school and medical education often suppresses that potential.
Somewhere in between all of the courses one must take to enter medical school and the dreadful MCAT, it becomes a number game. I remember during my application process to medical school I started to think of myself in terms of my GPA and MCAT score. I started to look at potential places to learn in terms of whether or not I would be a competitive applicant. I realize now that I should have been evaluating if their philosophies aligned with mine.
Once in medical school, I continued the numbers game and kept thinking about how my exam scores weren’t as high as my classmates’ or how I wasn’t doing as many extracurricular activities as those around me. As medical students, we often worry about how we will appear to future residencies even if we’re years away from applying. Too often, we equate our self worth to our performance on standardized exams. We start comparing ourselves to classmates and others in medicine and kicking ourselves for not being as good.
During second year of medical school, I became closer to a group of classmates that supported each other and took away that feeling of competition. I began to realize again that we were all learning not to compete with one another, but to help our future patients. From study guides to late night calls, we helped one another realize that we weren’t alone. We created a support system that let go of all of the jealousy and competition. I will never forget feeling anxious before a microbiology exam and a classmate sitting with me for an hour before and calming me down when she could have been studying.
Not everyone in medical school is as fortunate as me to have a support system in their classmates. I have heard stories from my best friend who attends another medical school of how classmates often make each other look bad in front of attending physicians just to better their own name. Other friends in medicine have expressed their fears about talking about their test scores because they worried they would be looked down upon with jealousy for doing well.
My call to action to medical students everywhere is this: stop the competition. We all struggle with the same insecurities and should support one another rather than tear each other down. We can achieve a fostering and friendly culture in medical education if we let go of the competition and jealousy. We must start supporting each other through this malignant process. We are not defined by our CVs or test scores, but rather our desire to become healers.