What is Medical School Like?

Many premedical students focus on getting into medical school. They shadow physicians and have an idea of what being a physician is like but typically, have different ideas of what medical school is like.

The following is a breakdown of medical school realities. As a physician, I have experienced the sleeplessness, the long ardous hours of studying, the multiple stops at Starbucks, etc. This is the reality of medical school. Medical school is not difficult, per se. It's the massive amounts of knowledge you need to learn in a short period of time that makes medical school one of the most challenging professional schools out there.


Many types of medical schools exist. The typical medical school focuses on the lecture format while new medical schools are focusing on problem-based learning modules.The problem based learning method consists of a group of med students working together to solve a patient case. A physican-moderator typically sits in to guide the group and create the dynamic of the group.


Life as an MS-1 (Medical Student 1) is the most difficult year of med school. Here, you are presented with one of the most challenging medical school classes known to humankind: GROSS ANATOMY For many of you who want to watch a good movie about medical school, check out the 90s movie "Gross Anatomy"--yep that's the title! :) It exactly depicts medical school gross anatomy.  Gross anatomy has 2 components: lecture and lab. Lecture is typically lasts for 1 hours while lab is about 4 to 5 hours. Some medical schools have gross anatomy everyday while some medical schools opt to break it down to 3 times a week. The course itself can last three months or one year. Again, it depends upon the medical school. Here, you will learn the wonders of the human body from the cranial nerves, brachial plexus and mediastinum to the femur, humerus and orbicularis oculi muscle in your eye. I'm not gonna lie, gross anatomy is a tough class. You have to keep up with the reading or else you will be behind. Study in groups if you like learning with a group of people.

Histology is the study of human cells in the body. This, too, consists of a lecture and lab component. Oftentimes, you will take histology and gross anatomy together especially if your medical school is systems-based. This means that all your classes are divided up by body system. For example: Month 1 may be about the cardiovascular system, Month 2 may be about the gastrointestinal system and Month 3 may be about the reproductive system and so on and on....

Lab consists of looking at slides in the microscope. I loved histology but didn't appreciate ross anatomy until I was done with it!

Ever watch Dr. G Medical Examiner? Yep, pathology class in medical school is sorta like pathology in medical school. You look at histology slides of say an infarcted heart (heart attack) and know by inspection that it is a damaged heart. This, like most medical school classes consists of lecture and lab.

Biochemistry is sorta like organic chemistry but better. Don't panic, you don't have to distill any liquids in lab or draw any funny structures... as this class is primarily lecture-based. You may have to memorize the Kreb's cycle and glycolysis cycle.

Year 1 of medical school consists of mostly basic sciences courses. I listed only the major classes of medical school most premeds think about...but medical school also consists of medical ethics courses, OSCEs in which you learn the physical exam and more

Year 2 of medical school is typically clinical-based. Here you will learn about most of the diseases...here's a list of a few...

1. myocardial infarction (heart attack)
2. pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs)
3. DVT (deep vein thrombosis )--blood clot in the leg
4. rheumatoid arthritis
5. congestive heart failure

and the list goes on...

This is when medical school turns to real medicine.

Consists of clinical rotations. Here you will become part of the medical team.

A medical team typically consists of an attending (senior doctor), residents (doctors-in-training) and interns (1st yr residents). As a medical student, I'm not gonna lie, you're at the bottom of the totem pole. Some doctors will make that well-known while others are very nice.

You will rotate through the many clinical specialties such as Internal Medicine (adult medicine), pediatrics, ob/gyn, psychiatry, etc. Here, you will get a taste of what kind of doctor you will become. Your team will grade you on your performance during your rotation. Unfortunately, this can be a bit biased. However, national tests are administered at the end of your rotations to factor-into your grade.

Year 4
Year 4 of medical school is much like year 3---but a bit more specialized. You can delve into the specialties of medicine even more. For example, if you liked internal medicine---do a gastroenterology, cardiology or rheumatology rotation. Grading is the same as in year 4.

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