Alumni Interview, Medical Student, Part 2

Hello! Today we are following up in our series of question and answers for Virginia Tech alumni who have gone on to become successful as a health professional student. The first series in our installment is Laura Simon, a 2013 Virginia Tech graduate who is currently in her third year of medical school at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine-Greenville. Read Part 1 of her story in the archives from Wednesday September 16th!

Laura Simon, Part 2:

What do/did you enjoy most about medical school?

“The relationships with your fellow students are very important. You are all going through the same difficulties – no one thinks it’s easy, so don’t kid yourself that you’re alone in your suffering. My fellow students are great people and very fun to be around. I enjoy interacting with them and the professors and clinicians I work with.”

What surprised you the most about medical school?

“Everyone tells you it’s difficult and the hours are long – but you still aren’t prepared for it. The hours you put in are ridiculous, and there is a massive amount of material. You cannot learn it all, something many students have trouble dealing with. Get past that!”

What made the medical school you chose the right fit for you?

“I felt like I could make an impact at my school, because it was new (I’m the 2nd class to start at USC SOM Greenville). I enjoyed the interview process and liked everyone I interacted with. Greenville is my hometown, and I love the area. The school is beautiful. I felt like the approach, direction, and curriculum of my school was awesome, and seemed to fit with me. I was impressed and so excited when I got my acceptance. I was excited when I got accepted to the other schools I applied to as well, but Greenville just felt the most at home for me.”

Did you have to change any of your study habits when you entered medical school?

“Yes, your study habits will change. Group study is encouraged at my school, which has many benefits. I found it difficult to study with a big group all the time, because I would feel lost, behind, and get stressed out. I decided to do a majority of my study alone, which was how I studied at VT. I have study sessions with 1 or 2 classmates or ask others questions. Your method of studying changes many times throughout the years; you use different methods for different subjects, and the first 2 years are different from the second. There’s too much information to write everything down, which is something I did a lot in undergrad. Review books and flashcards are my best friends.”

What memory stands out the most from your first few weeks of medical school?

“We started gross anatomy in the first few weeks; it was stressful, but awesome. In gross anatomy, you get to work on your first “patient” and really see how the body looks. It’s amazing!”

What obstacles did you overcome in your medical school journey?

“I think many students go through a period of time where they question their decision to enter medical school – what did I do? This came very early for me and was difficult to get through. I continued to work hard, sought out advice, and stuck with it, and I eventually adjusted to my new life. I didn’t want to give up; I wanted this life! I got through it, and although it’s still stressful, overall I really enjoy medical school. I learn a lot and have fun.”

Did you have any fears going into medical school?

“Would I survive? Would I make good grades? Would I be good at being a doctor?  I still have these fears!”

What helps you manage your stress and stay motivated?

“I am motivated to do well for myself and my patients. I want to be a good doctor when I graduate. I exercise and make time for other things I enjoy. This is a necessity to keep your sanity.”

How do you balance the demands of medical school with additional obligations and challenges?

“Everyone will tell you medical school is demanding, challenging, and stressful. With my background in balancing swimming and school, I knew it would be difficult, but I figured I could handle it. You cannot truly gasp the challenge that medical school brings until you’re in it. It is tough! That being said, as a current 3rd year, it’s worth it! You learn to adjust to the workload and develop a good work-life balance. You might pass through a period of time where you question yourself, but it will pass! I study for many long hours, but I make sure to leave time for hobbies and socializing without thinking about the hours of study I am missing. This takes practice, and isn’t easy at first. I’ve managed to somewhat maintain my fitness level, see movies and TV shows, and recently got engaged, so I am planning a wedding too! I think the most difficult thing is maintaining normal health and life things, like car maintenance, cleaning your house, etc. it’s difficult to make appointments when you don’t want to skip class (1st and 2nd year), or don’t know what your schedule will be like (3rd and 4th year).”

If you had the opportunity to talk to a potential medical student, what would you tell them off the top of your head?

“When you get to medical school, make sure you do you! Do what you need to do to succeed and take time for yourself to enjoy your life. Do not be concerned with how others are managing their time or how they are studying; they may look like they aren’t having trouble, but everyone struggles! It’s difficult for everyone in some way or another! And enjoy this time. It may be tough, but it’s an awesome experience that flies by!”

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