6 Life Lessons from My (Almost) 4 Years of Medical School

Wow, it is almost the end of 4 long years of medical school. It has been one hell of a ride so far — a ride that I would not like to repeat. If my former self stared looked at me now, he would stare in total disbelief.

I expected to learn how to become a doctor — which I did learn. But I picked up a few unexpected lessons about reality along the way …

Lesson #1. Medical school is overrated.

Everything you learn in school can be learned online. On multiple occasions, whenever I asked questions, the doctors responded with the catch-all command, “Look it up.” If I could look everything up, why do I even need school?

The only reason why I’m still in school is because state law requires it. If I can become a licensed doctor without medical school, I’ll be outta here in a jiffy.

Lesson #2. You cannot disregard incentives.

The very first class I had in medical school was professionalism. The objective of professionalism is to instill ethical fibers into the being of each potential doctor. (Personally, I don’t think someone becomes moral because he knows more. Just as a fattie doesn’t become skinner by attending a course.) The professor tried to point out how easily doctors are “bought.” All it takes is a fancy pen and a daily supply of coffee for doctors to prescribe a particular drug over another option. $4 a day was all it takes. His original intention was to persuade us not to be so gullible.

I didn’t learn that lesson. Instead, I learned that you can get your way, even with the tiniest of incentives. So why not take advantage of it?

Lesson #3. Medicine is all about money.

No matter what applicants may write on their personal statements about helping people, money matters. Why do you think there are so many more specialists than primary care doctors? Incentives — namely money.

When my school merged with another university (which I will refer to as “R”), instead of Rutgers (as intended), you can bet that a substantial amount of money was involved to sway the decision. A certain powerful and extremely rich person wanted his way, and got it. After the merger was voted into place, I’ve heard that the president of “R” got a raise of $200,000+ per year (in addition to the outrageous amount he already makes). I guess that explains my school’s crazy, in-state tuition: $40,000 per year. (Four years ago, tuition was “only” $25,000. Imagine what it will be 4 years later.)

Insurance companies. Pharmaceutical companies. Hospitals. Lawyers. Schools. And even doctors. Everyone related to the medical industry wants money.

As a side note, people say if you wanna make money, don’t become a doctor. That is total BS. There is a secret to making a lotta money as a doctor. One makes $300,000 by working only 15 hours a week. Another charges $250 per hour and is fully booked. However, most doctors won’t find out the secret until it is too late. (And no, the secret is not fellowship.)

Lesson #4. Trust no one, especially administration and politicians.

The way my school merged with “R” was quite crafty. Six months before the vote (NJ government had to approve before the merge can happen), the dean told us that our school was going to merge with Rutgers. At first, students were against it. But then over time, we accepted it. But the real intention was to merge with “R.” No one told us of the truth until 1 week before the vote. All of the students were vehemently against it when we found out, but we were caught off-guard. How do you fight something so big in so short a notice? A group of 30 students appeared on the local news to plead our stance. It was a valiant fight, but money’s persuasive power was just too great for a group of kids in short, white coats to overcome.

Deceit, keeping mum, and misdirection is the name of the game. Just remember to take baby steps when lying, so it is easier to get your way.

Lesson #5. Everyone can be manipulated … if you push on the right button.

Everyone has a weakness. If you watch Dexter (the TV show), you’ll notice how a sociopath can be so charming. Say the right words, look the right way, and people will not suspect a wolf under the glowing smile.

Most medical students learn to “charm” doctors by flattery, having common interests, etc.

On most occasions, it is better to be nice, to fit in, and to get people to like you. But sometimes, you may have to unleash the inner wolf — something that few medical students are capable of doing. The wolf needs to be calm under threats and to think straight under pressure.

During a certain rotation, an administrator had it out for me — ever since the first day. I was going to let it go, because I am alright with people not liking me. I tried acting sweet, but it didn’t help. Her endless complaints to my school eventually got me into trouble; I almost had to make up a certain rotation.

I confronted her. I don’t wanna get into details and get into trouble. But I made her cry and got her to recant her complaints. I dare say that our relationship was cordial after the incident.

Lesson #6. As a man, women instantly find you attractive when they knows you’re a doctor.

Women like to marry up. Getting married to a doctor is the epitome of marrying up. The trick is to let someone else introduce you as a doctor. It is douchebaggery to say, “Hey, I’m Alex … a doctor.”

(However, being a doctor may not work so well for women seeking relationships.)

One of my girl friends introduced one of her friends to me, an attractive girl. When my friend introduced me as the doctor, her friend’s eyes widened. From there, it was easy to captivate the girl for the rest of the night. We sat facing the gentle waves of the Hudson River, bathed in the moonlight, surrounded by the cool relief of the summer night. I spoke sweet nothing into her ear. She was hoping that she finally landed the one.

It didn’t last.


I don’t know why I wrote this, especially with such a Machiavellian slant. Maybe I get to boast. Or maybe I get to finally tell the truth that has been bottling inside of me, to whomever wants to listen.

I was listening to ItaloBrothers – This Is Nightlife (which is a modern remake of dance classic, Sash! – Ecuador), when I suddenly had the inspiration to write. Before medical school, I essentially immersed myself around dance songs. It is kinda nice to relive old times. That … reminded me of my New Year’s resolution, which I want share with you:

I wanna be my old self — the Alex before medical school. More specifically …

1) I wanna get fit, like before.

2) I wanna tear up the nightlife abroad, like before.

Hopefully, I can have a life before residency starts.

Addendum: I got into trouble for this post. Click here to see what happened!

For more medical school stories, visit the About Alex section and look for “Blast from the Past (Stories of My Medical School Days).”

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