Recognize the Need to Change Course, and then do it

By Luke Murray

Recognize the Need to Change Course, and then do itI have lots of different regrets about my time in medical school. I should have tried more things professionally, personally, and socially. I can’t tell you how many nights I sat in my room thinking I would go out that night or call someone up to hang out but thought, “I need to get to bed in a hour so I don’t really have time…” So instead of actually spending time with someone for an hour, I’d watch YouTube videos for the next two hours. In hindsight, I should have made this mistake once or twice, wised up, and then spent that time with friends or even strangers – anything really. But I didn’t, and the naturally isolating experience of medical school remained so for much of my time there. I left a lot of memories and potential friendships on the table during those years.

Another regret has to do with the way I studied. Like my social decisions, I should have known and admitted something was wrong much sooner than I did. I didn’t do well on my first quiz in anatomy just a few weeks into medical school (I failed it, actually). At that time, my strategy was to be as thorough as possible with each pass through the material, to just make sure my eyes saw as large of a percentage of the content as there was for them to see. As an obvious consequence, I only got through the material a couple times (if I was lucky) before a test. I did poorly, again, and then vow that I would study even harder, be even more thorough, next time around. No paradigm-altering changes, just doubling down on an obviously losing strategy, thinking that ‘time spent’ was the only variable that needed tweaking. I continued to stay in the bottom of my class, until my second time through my second year.

I had just studied for an insane amount of time (even for a medical student) in preparation for a test. Actually, I spent much of a family Christmas vacation studying in the hotel instead of touring the aircraft carrier my fighter-pilot dad used to land on, something I hate that I missed out on to this day…and I did WORSE than I had done on the previous test. I was desperate, and frankly, terrified that I might not make it – not to mention starting to question if I had a legitimate learning disability. I finally let myself try something new (basically, less thorough and more frequent passes over the material). I drastically changed my approach, and it led to…you guessed it: better scores. A lot better. Actually, I scored well into the top half of the class on the rest of the tests I took that second year.

The regrets I have all seem to stem from the same pattern – something wasn’t working and I either changed it too late (in the case of my study habits) or I didn’t change it at all (my social life). What medical school rut are you stuck in? Let me tell you from experience – if you don’t admit that you’re in it and then have the courage (or, in my case, the desperation) to do something different to get out of it, you won’t.

And halfway through residency you’ll be looking back on medical school with some completely avoidable regrets.


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