Many people have said that the second year of medical school is the hardest and most grueling year of all. I’ve heard countless people tell stories of how busy, exhausting, and completely consuming 3rd year is, but it is always followed up by the statement, “But I’d take just about anything, including getting hit by bus, over 2nd year.”
To be completely honest, this was in fact one of the most challenging years of my life for reasons that extended far beyond the rigorous course work that we were faced with each and every day and the ever-looming presence of Step 1 (the exam that makes even other medical licensing exams cry themselves to sleep out of fear).
HOWEVER, I can honestly say that despite the challenges that we faced this year, I will look back on 2nd year with fond memories and a never stronger sense of the presence of God’s guiding hand in my life. Let me take you through a quick whirlwind tour of what the end of this year was like and what made it so challenging, but I promise there’s a light at the end of the tunnel so keep reading!
From January on, the only thing that 2nd year medical students across America have on their minds is Step 1. This is the mother of all exams; it is 8 hours long and covers all of the content that we have learned in the first 2 years of medical school – anatomy, physiology, cell & molecular biology, immunology, behavioral science, biostatistics, preventive medicine, biochemistry, pharmacology, pathology, pathophysiology, psychiatry, and neurology. Now this test wouldn’t be such a big deal if it didn’t have so much weight toward which field of medicine we will ultimately be able to enter. It’s basically the MCAT of residencies and our scores will either make us eligible for competitive specialties like surgery, ophthalmology, radiology, or not. The saddest part, in my opinion, is that students who may excel in those fields because of their clinical skills and passions may not have the chance to experience those professions because this exam holds so much weight in residency applications. This was one of the things that I struggled with the most near the end of the year. I watched countless classmates, who I know will be incredible healers struggle beneath the weight of the pressure that this exam places on students. The tensions were certainly high and at times the morale was low, however, I can say that the silver lining through it all was learning to trust more in the fact that God has called us to this place to serve in a profession that he will placed us in. If he has gotten us all this far, then surely he will see us through to the end.
Despite the challenges that we faced during 2nd year, I promised that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel. Medical school is a process that is so much more than simply learning how to be a doctor; it is a process that challenges people at the very core of who they are and I can honestly say that I have enjoyed that challenge. I’ve been stretched and forced to grow in ways that I could have never imagined. I have been required to search for the true reasons why I chose to enter this profession. I have made the best friends of my life because of the common struggles that we have faced together. I have been inspired to grow in my walk with God. I have learned more than I ever thought was possible. And I have been humbled by the realization that I will never be able to learn everything there is to know about the workings of the human body. Although the process has been challenging, frustrating, and seemingly impossible at times, I now stand on the other side of the first two years of medical school and can say with confidence that I wouldn’t change anything and would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to thank the incredible people who helped make this year both meaningful and enjoyable!:
My study buddies, Scott and Justin. We met both years for 2 hours almost every night, 6 hours every Sunday, and ran through at least 45,000 flashcards – about 15,000 cards times a minimum of 3 repetitions. I couldn’t be more blessed or more thankful to have had them by my side through this journey.
My fellow “Carrelers,” Keri, Krisalyn, Melissa, Stephen, James, David, Linden, Casey (not all of whom are in this picture). I spent my afternoons studying with these wonderful friends in the Study Carrels of Alumni Hall throughout 2nd year. I have been continuously inspired by each and every one of them and have been spiritually and emotionally uplifted by each of their friendships.
Dr. Werner, our famed professor of Pathophysiology and the Dean for Medical Student Education to whom we owe our gratitude for continuously inspiring us to never stop learning and to be the absolute best physicians we can possibly be.
And my classmates, who I love with all my heart! Coming to Loma Linda and joining these incredible, talented, brilliant, God-fearing, and all-around absolutely wonderful people was the best decision of my life!