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  • Henry Liu

The Premed Paradox: Why the Undergrad years are so difficult

I recall here a very interesting conversation which I had with a good friend of mine. I was asked what made the premed track difficult. It is a mystery to no one that being on the premed track is not for the faint of heart or the undedicated. The long hours spent hitting the books are all in hopes of finding the elusive acceptance by an institution founded on the mantra of saving the human life. But why is this the case? The classes undertaken are often the same as those of the biology and chemistry major, and yet, the same complaints are not often heard from those who are not on this path. This puzzling question is one which can have several answers, but at its core, I believe that it is due to a fundamental difference in how time is rationed. You see, as a science major on a graduate school track, it is expected that the student studies hard, earns good grades, and conducts research. A little community involvement would not go amiss, but is certainly not a prerequisite to success. However, for the premed, not only do those following criteria need to be met, but there is also the expectation of physician shadowing, clinical volunteering, clinical experience, and studying for the MCAT. All of these are not in lieu of the former, but rather are expected to complement the incredible grades and research you will need to produce. Now, there is no set definition of success for admission to medical school, but it is generally accepted that that the list provided is a rough guideline. At the end of the day, what makes the premed track hard is not only the inherent difficulty of the material (although this does play a role), but the sheer volume of extracurricular activities which are no necessarily required, but highly suggested that one partakes in.

At this point, a question was raised regarding the value of all this. Is it really necessary for someone to jump though the metaphorical hoops just to gain what is essentially a ticket for a decent job? My answer is an unequivocal yes. The medical profession, although seemingly at its base, a “job”, is in reality so much more than that. Doctors routinely touch the lives of people during highly difficult times. If as an undergrad, a candidate does not demonstrate the necessary maturity, empathy, and determination to persevere through, then what hope does the patient have of his or her doctor doing the same when lives are potentially at stake? These are not traits we are born with, but rather ones that must be nurtured and developed over time through direct experience. The premed track was designed with this one goal in mind, to see if those who aspire to don white coats have what it really takes within to accept the responsibility that comes with it. In that, I view it as not something treacherous, but something beautiful. To all those who are with me on this journey of discovery, I wish you all nothing but the best of luck and great success this semester.

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