“I’ll be there in five minutes”, I said. I hung-up the phone and my heart skipped a beat.
Around me, it was just another day. A group of people were waiting at a near-by bus stop. Others were moving in all directions. On the surface everything seemed normal, but for me this was going to be a day like no other.
I turned and starting walking down the busy high-street, past the library and the bank and the café. I walked past the fish and chip shop, to which I had donated most of my pocket money over the years. A whiff of scampi made my stomach groan. But I had higher priorities right now.
I reached the final corner and turned. There was the car in front of me. I strode over, opened the passenger door and sat down. My mum was in the driver’s seat. I tried to read her facial expression. It seemed reserved, perhaps deliberately so, but I couldn’t trust my intuition. I needed to see it.
She handed me the white A4 envelope with a red shield stamped in the top right-hand corner. I saw it trembling slightly in my hands. For what felt like an age, I fumbled to open it. I grabbed its contents between my thumb and forefinger and freed it from the envelope.
Two seconds passed and then a tidal wave of emotion crashed against my body. I had glanced the only seven words I needed to see.
"Your offer of acceptance is conditional upon…”
In that moment, it felt like all my hard work until that point had paid off. I’d made it. My life was never going to be the same again.
Okay, okay - a little melodramatic, I know. Allow me the artistic licence. The day you received your offer may have been more or less dramatic than my semi-fictional depiction but for all of us it’s a memorable day and the start of a new chapter of our lives.
The following six years provided amazing experiences but also tough challenges. Medical school raised a lot of questions and I spent a lot of time searching for answers.
I saw people sacrificing so much for a career in medicine and asked if this has to be the case. I spent long, unproductive periods on the wards and asked if there was a better way. I memorised the brachial plexus then forgot it again.
I explored how we can maximise our impact as doctors and came across some uncomfortable truths and perspective-changing ideas. I spent countless hours on scientific research without gaining much before realising a better approach. I asked myself how to know whether medicine is the right career for me.
I was surprised to find that there was no central resource offering guidance on these sorts of ‘bigger picture’ questions. There are plenty of textbooks detailing academic content, from the workings of the endocrine system to mechanisms of drug action, and there are many guiding resources outside of the context of medicine. However, there are no medicine-specific books which combine a wider-scale, ‘meta’ approach with practical, down-to-earth advice.
As a result, I spent a lot of time during my degree collating ideas and information from disparate sources across different disciplines and asking how this collective wisdom can be applied to medicine. This was time-consuming but made my medical school experience more enjoyable, fruitful and fulfilling.
Earlier this year, my younger sister received an offer to study Medicine. I have a strong desire for her to have a fantastic time at medical school and set herself up for a successful and fulfilling career. As no source of medical wisdom, of the nature described above, existed, I decided to make one for her and for all other medical students. And thus, this book was born. I hope that it enhances your medical school experience and your medical career.
Chapter 1 contains my toughest medical school experience and outlines two techniques for finding the optimum balance between work and play.
Chapter 2 draws on interviews of top-performing Cambridge University students, cognitive science research and over five hundred hours of personal teaching experience to outline four fundamental principles for learning faster.
Chapter 3 shares four ways to make the most of time on the wards and explains how to use the techniques of world-class performers to hone the skills required for medicine.
Chapter 4 explores how a future doctor can maximise their positive impact, find a career path they love and master their niche. I outline an effective approach for undertaking high-level self-education in any area, related to medicine or otherwise.
Chapter 5 explains where most students go wrong with scientific research, the best approach to take and a method for generating great ideas.
Chapter 6 explores how to develop excellent written and oral communication and the benefits of doing so at medical school.
There are also 'bonus chapters' with suggestions for dealing with medicine and life when it gets you down, what to do if you’re not sure whether medicine is right for you, memorisation techniques and great wisdom from experienced doctors.
Continued in Chapter 1.
This is a chapter from The Modern Medical Student Manual. A full list of chapters are below:
- Introduction: From That Day To This Book
- Chapter 1: Medicine from Fifty Thousand Feet: Perspective, Targets and Limits
- Chapter 2: The Fundamentals of Fast Learning - Part 1 and Part 2
- Chapter 3: Mastering Clinical Medicine - Part 1 and Part 2
- Chapter 4: Increasing our Impact (and the power of Self-Education) - Part 1 and Part 2
- Chapter 5: A Scientific Approach to Research - Part 1 and Part 2
- Chapter 6: Commanding Clearer Communication - Part 1 and Part 2
Plus Bonus Chapters:
- Bonus Chapter 1: If Medicine Gets You Down
- Bonus Chapter 2: Is Medicine Right For Me?
- Bonus Chapter 3: Memorisation Techniques (by Dr James Hartley)
- Bonus Chapter 4: Learning from Others in Medicine