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Staying Motivated: Advice from Current Medical Students and Physicians

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Pursuing a career in medicine is an incredibly noble and rewarding career path, but it is challenging and rigorous. Sometimes the journey to medical school can seem overwhelming and daunting. But you’re not alone. Current medical students and practicing physicians have all experienced the highs and lows of preparing for and applying to medical school and remember what the process was like.

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Pavan Mehat, University of British Columbia, 2020

“I remember when I first began meeting with the pre-medical advising staff at BU, they would always bring up gap years, and in my naiveté of youth, I was adamant I would go straight from undergraduate studies to medical school. I am so glad I did not! In our society, it seems as if we are conditioned to rush through everything as fast as possible. However, I am glad that I took the time and space to make the right decision for myself. It also gave me the opportunity to grow and continue to mature as a human being. My biggest advice to any aspiring physicians out there is to realize that we all have our own timeline. Do NOT compare yourselves to others, we are all ‘ahead’ and ‘behind’ someone else. Do not run anyone’s race but yours!”

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Yasaman Ataei, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, 2020

“First and foremost, make sure you love medicine and want to pursue it for the right reasons. Unlike many other careers, medicine requires long years of training and many personal sacrifices. In fact, I think medicine is a lifestyle as well as a career. So choose wisely! Secondly, the medical school application is a very demanding and stressful process which needs patience and persistence. The key to success is to stay positive, work hard, and continue to improve yourself as a person and as an applicant. Also don’t forget to take a break from time to time, have fun, and take care of your psychological well-being.”

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Jason Han, MD, Integrated Cardiothoracic Surgery Resident, University of Pennsylvania

“Try not to set up ‘If__, then__’ statements in your life. ‘If I get into the medical school of my choice, then everything will be fine.’ ‘If I get into the fellowship of my choice, then I will be happy for the rest of my life.’ Thinking in this way can make your career too goal-oriented. You’ll be too busy pursuing one milestone after another, never feeling satisfied with other countless accomplishments and blessings that come along the way. Instead, try to find experiences in medicine that qualify for ‘even if’ statements. ‘Even if I do not get my top choice, I would be happy to do this work every day.’ ‘Even if the salary is not as high as in other specialties, I would feel fulfilled in my life’s work.’”

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Kelly Cawcutt, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Infectious Diseases and Critical Care Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center

“Medicine is not an easy path. It takes work to earn and maintain your education, but it also takes work to take care of yourself and the non-medical portions of your life, as medicine will penetrate all areas. It is not the same as another job where you can easily pivot to a different career. However, it can be one of the most gratifying careers and decisions in life. Do not choose your career based on prestige or salary. That will not sustain you. Choose what fulfills you. Choose what you are called to do, but do not give all of yourself to medicine every day.”

Visit our collection of Inspiring Stories to read the full interviews and more advice from medical students, residents, and physicians.

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