By: Luke Byerly ~Copy Editor~
If you ask a pre-med student why they want to become a doctor, you’ll probably get a variety of answers. Some might say they want to help people, others might say because their parent did it and many might honestly tell you that they don’t know.
As a pre-med major, I came in knowing that I want to help people, but it took me two years to realize that I wasn’t actually learning how to help people. For the first two years of my academic career, I learned how to stress and slide through my lab classes with minimal effort.
It wasn’t until the second semester of my sophomore year that I discovered I wasn’t really learning anything meaningful to me or directly applicable to the real world.
When I started my internship at a research lab, I started it because I wanted to improve my application for medical school, not because I was actually interested in research.
I expected to come in, perform the same experiments that we saw in general biology lab and breeze right through the job. Little did I know that I learned nothing of application to research in my lab classes.
Now, this is not an article to blame any of the science departments at Xavier. Xavier’s science departments are great, and the professors will do just about anything to help students get to wherever they want to go. The real problem is students.
A large number of pre-med students, myself previously included, just study the facts. They have a reason for this memorization, and it’s called the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT.)
While the MCAT actually tests a student’s ability to apply the facts that they’ve learned in their classes, pre-meds don’t understand or expect this. They do understand, however, that they need to learn a daunting amount of information in the three years before this test.
A lot of pre-med majors expect that if they memorize the material throughout their science classes, and do well in those classes, then they will do well on the MCAT. But memorizing facts isn’t learning.
It wasn’t until I was forced by the primary investigator of my lab to apply the knowledge from my biology classes that I understood that I learned nothing. I realized that all of the biological processes and chemistry reactions that I had memorized meant nothing if I couldn’t take them and apply them.
After realizing the issue that I forced myself into, I got upset. However, once I learned how to apply my knowledge, I got motivated and happy. In fact, I was so satisfied by my work at my lab, that I considered dumping medical school and doing research instead.
After all, both are ways to help people and I was getting real world hands-on experience with research, while becoming a doctor is so distant that it almost feels like a dream.
However, most pre-meds aren’t forced to apply what they learn until they take the MCAT, and even then their only motivation for applying their knowledge is for a seven-hour test. My intentions are not to dissuade anyone from becoming a pre-med student. In fact, I’m still fighting to get into medical school myself. Instead, my intentions are to persuade premed students to find a better motivation than the MCAT.
Yes, the MCAT is important, but so is your sanity. If you’re constantly motivating yourself with the threat of a seven hour test or the prospect of becoming a doctor five to seven years down the line, then you’ll run out of motivation and sanity on a short term scale.
Instead, learn because you love the process of science. Ask your professor why or how an experiment was first accomplished. Learn more about how a process is related to medicine.
If you can find an application for what you are learning, you will be more satisfied in learning reactions, organic molecules or even physics equations. Being a doctor will only make you happy if you get there with your own sanity and motivation intact.