Tuesday, June 17, 2008


One pre-tenure opinion that I will openly voice is this: I am sick and tired of the current generation of medical students whining and moaning about their education.

I know that you, Gen Y, are different from my generation but there are still basic principles about medical education that I will take to my grave. Over my dead body, so to speak:

1. How do you, a first-year medical student, know what is relevant? Please stop whining in your pre-clinical years that you can't see the relevance. Granted, we will teach you some things that aren't directly relevant but ... Because you are supposed to be the cream of the crop then perhaps you may start to appreciate that we are teaching you learning for the sake of learning. Believe me, it will serve you well in the future.

2. I am amazed that a Professor can stand in front of you and teach you something about the human body and you respond by wondering how it will apply to your as-yet-undetermined specialty. Aren't you, as a junior medical student, simply fascinated by the human body? As in, every aspect of it? You aren't? Really? Then why, may I ask, are you studying the human body in preparation for your future career?

3. Yes, I know that your generation lives life through YouTube and the like. That doesn't mean that you have any special privileges in disrespecting the people who have donated their bodies to your education. It is WRONG for you to record their remains in any manner at all. Full stop.

4. You are a medical student. If you are a medical student for the right reasons then you will be learning (not memorizing(!)) for the benefit of your future patients. Stop asking me if "this will be on the exam". It will be "on the exam" for the rest of your professional career. Grow up and understand this simple fact.

In short, you may all take a lesson from Jennifer's latest post. And if her latest post isn't enough then feel free to go back and read her archives. She's not striving for perfection -- because I think that she knows it impossible -- but she's the kind of physician that I want at the other end of the stethoscope that examines me now and in my final moments.


Anonymous said...


damn - i wish you were teaching me.

Hilaire said...

Ditto - brilliant. Especially the part about it being on the exam for the rest of their career...perfect, perfect, perfect. I wish I could use that on non-med students, but the stakes are a little different. :)

Lily said...

This is fantastic. If only every medical student was forced to read this on their first day then I wouldn't be surrounded by such a crowd of grumpy halfwits.

Bardiac said...

#3 is pretty creepy.

Otherwise, I'd guess about 90% of us need a kick in the rear every so often. Me too, alas.

Pieces of Mind said...

You mean there are students who actually think it's OK to take pictures of cadavers and then post them on MySpace?

I know a lot of young people who are really great - smart, hard-working, engaged, etc.

But there seems to be much more of a sense of entitlement. Families are smaller so kids have their own rooms and little luxuries such as dance lessons, elite sports camps and their own car - stuff that wasn't affordable to larger families a generation ago. The expectations they have for their lives are just different.

I think the rising cost of medical school is something that should concern all of us. I worry that pretty soon the only ones who'll be able to afford it are the kids who come from well-off households. And we need physicians who maybe have had to struggle a little bit in life, who have some understanding of what many of their patients are up against.

Many of the medical blogs contain a lot of judgment about the lower rungs of society. They make me wonder, where's the empathy? Where's the psychological insight into other people's lives and values? Are they really that blind to the individuality of their patients?

Gaah. What a sermon. :(

Keep on doing what you're doing, Dr. K - educating their hearts as well as their heads. And I hope you're having a great summer. :)

Midwife with a Knife said...

I agree. Number 3 is pretty terrible. Certainly everybody gets demoralized at some point in medical school; it's just too much information to be able to really memorize it, but the exposure to so many things is necessary to an understanding of physiology.

Gregory House, PA-C said...

Not that I don't agree with learning as opposed to memorizing, but I remember that that's exactly what my organic professor told us to do. I listened to her and tried to learn, while everyone memorized with those damn flash cards. Memorizing won. Hardcore.

Vitum Medicinus said...

I strongly agree with the fact that medical students should not be recording remains of body donors. This does NOT happen at my medical school; along with virtually all of my classmates, I am strongly in support of my faculty's oft-stated policy that bringing cameras into the lab is grounds for dismissal from the program. While you can be upset at the students for doing this, there's also a lot to be said for not giving the students the opportunity.

In response to this post I wrote a bit more on the differences between the doctors of today and the doctors of tomorrow on my blog.

Anonymous said...

Personally I find that a lot of students are only concerned with passing, rather than doing well. The only incentive seems to be to not finish last, which isn't all that difficult in a class of 280 apathetic student types.

Anonymous said...

crap! dr. k, you really cracked the whip on this one! I'm almost afraid to admit that I am guilty of one of those sins you have mentioned ever so eloquently... and no I have NEVER brought a camera into the dissection lab. I think you can go to jail for that down here... or so the professors lead us to believe.

Anonymous said...

Amen, sistah! It always appeared to me that the whiners spent all their time whining, and left no time for studying. Then they did poorly on their exams, and had to whine about that! The viscous circle never ends!