A Tarrant County Physician Student Article
by Brittany Shah, OMS-II
This piece was originally published in the January/February 2022 issue of the Tarrant County Physician. You can read find the full magazine here.
Deciding to become a doctor meant comparing myself to numbers my whole academic career. In high school, I put my self-worth in my class rank and SAT score. In college, my sense of self relied heavily on my GPA, MCAT score, and volunteer hours. Getting anything less than an A (which happened more often than I would like to admit) sent me into a spiral of anxiety. I found myself scouring through online forums such as Reddit and Student Doctor Network to see where I stacked up to my peers. I would compare my GPA and MCAT score to the acceptance data provided by schools to determine if I was truly worthy of applying to that school. The uncertainty and stress of being a pre-medical student caused me to value numbers over relationships, but I told myself that one day, it would be worth it.
The sad reality was that in an effort to succeed, I had isolated myself emotionally and physically. These numbers I was chasing had come at a cost – I had become so single-minded that I had conditioned myself to study alone. I found class, study groups, and review sessions pointless because, in my mind, I was counting the hours down to when I could be alone at my desk, studying how I thought was best.
I started medical school in 2020 during the height of the pandemic. I had a positive mindset going in, but the first semester was one of the hardest times of my medical career. The forced social isolation stripped me of any sense of drive. I started missing class, my mental health declined, and my grades reflected my inner turmoil. The propensity for self-imposed seclusion that I had developed came back with a vengeance and worsened my cycle of apathy and misery. I struggled silently.
Things did not get much better during my second semester, so when I saw a classmate post about forming a study group called “Booked Up Together” over Zoom, I figured it was at least worth trying. As dramatic as this sounds, there was a little voice in my head telling me that I needed to admit that my way was not working, and I had to try something different. Let me tell you – I am so glad that I listened to that side of myself. Time that would have normally been spent alone in my room was now filled with friends quizzing each other and breaking down lecture material in a way that was easier to understand. Joining Booked Up Together was hands-down the best decision I have made since starting medical school. I started going to class, my mental health improved, and my grades got better. I became friends with warm and genuine people who helped me see the importance of not going through school alone. Study group became a safe space – I knew even on my bad days, there were people who understood and related to the pressure and stress.
Healthcare is multifaceted. As physicians, we will work together with different specialties and healthcare workers to ensure our patients receive the best care possible. While we are told that medicine is collaborative, the journey through medicine often feels solitary. I suppose it seems obvious now, but it is vital to protect our humanity while going through medical education not only for ourselves but for our future patients. For me, studying with my classmates reminded me that medicine at its root is a collective field, and while it is easy to get swayed by numbers and resume building, it is also important to remember why we decided to become physicians in the first place. What worked for me might not necessarily work for someone else, but I believe finding an avenue to collaborate is a beneficial way to stay connected with that part of yourself. Medical school is hard but going about it alone is even harder.