By Millennial In Medicine
Jasmine - "LifesKirbyRoad" 1st Year Pediatrics Resident
Last week, in the midst of studying for the first exam of second year, our quartiles came out. Now, for some of you not familiar with the med school dynamic, your quartile is your grade put in line and compared with everyone else’s. You can either be anywhere from the “top” of your class in the first quartile or the “bottom” of your class in the fourth quartile.
And as if I did not need any more stress of trying to understand how to differentiate all the different rashes in derm, the quartiles coming out was another thing to secretly stress on. And if any one else is like me, you check your quartile the same way you check your test score, in a nice secretive area where no one can look over your shoulder and get a glimpse.
The truth is, as med students, we tend to fall into this trap of acknowledging our worth in the amount of A’s we have, the research that we can get published, and our STEP score (a huge licensing exam that basically determines your “fate” in residency). But is THAT our goal? Is our goal just to be published, to be at the top of our class, to succeed in academia? While a part of me is screaming YES inside, a larger part of me knows that’s not why I am going into medicine.
Medicine has not yet achieved its state of perfection, it is a growing field with still a lot of to be understood. So why am I trying to achieve the perfect academic profile?
And I admit, last week when I found out my quartile, I did a little happy dance because I was in a “better” place then I thought I was. That happy dance, however, meant that there were others who were not in the quartile they envisioned themselves to be.
While I wholeheartedly believe it is great to do well in school, I believe that we are not only striving for just that. Chasing perfection comes at a price. It comes in the disappointment we feel of getting our first C, the inadequacy of not being able to answer an attending’s question on the wards, that deep deep sorrow we will not be able to accept, when we lose our first patient sometime in the future, even if it is not our fault.
These standards of perfection, that have brewed since the beginning of our pre-med years and are wrapped in the subconscious state of competition has given us a false perception of what it is to become a doctor. Learning medicine shouldn’t feel like you are inside a pressure cooker. You want to learn from your mistakes now, so that when you are faced with a difficult time in your career, you would know how to pull yourself up and do what’s best for your patient.
If anything I have learned so far in med school is that medicine is not a linear track, void of complexities. Heck, LIFE IS NOT A LINEAR TRACK. For anyone pursuing their dream, Give yourself time to learn, make mistakes, and understand them. The only one you are competing with is yourself. Your own path, your own success, is your road for you to define it.
And that to me, matters more than any quartile….