The 5 stages of Medical School: Acceptance - Melanin Doc
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The 5 stages of Medical School: Acceptance

The Kübler-Ross model is popularly known as the five stages of grief. Even though it’s been represented in modern culture as model of depression, the model was originally designed to postulate a progression of emotional states experienced by terminally ill patients after diagnosis. The five stages include:

    1. Acceptance
    2. Denial
    3. Anger
    4. Bargaining
    5. Depression


These five stages can be experienced in any order, multiple times. For my blog series, I want to tackle to Kübler-Ross model/5 stages of grief and relate them to some of the major stages of medical school:

  1. Acceptance = Pre-med
  2. Denial = First year adjustments
  3. Anger = Boards & beyond
  4. Depression = Empathy & third year
  5. Bargaining = 4th year Interviews 


Today we are tackling: Acceptance: The Pre-Medical Journey.

As a pre-med, all I focused on was doing everything I could to gain a medical school acceptance. I volunteered, I led organizations, I shadowed, I passed my classes and protected my GPA at all costs. At that time, I did not realize that these experiences also helped shape me into a better person. As a pre-med we are constantly competing at a level that make most people call us “gunners”. We may spend more of our college lives in the library than parties and often we make sacrifices others do not have to. A question I am asked often is “If these choices are worth it?” I am here to tell you yes even though being a pre-med is one of the most difficult parts of the physician journey – it is worth every sacrifice.

During the pre-med stage you are not only growing as a student but often as a person. Many students are 17-23 years old, a time where most of us are still “finding ourselves” and “discovering who we are”. Imagine compiling organic chemistry with the struggles of outgrowing friendships, our first heartbreaks, and being homesick and you can imagine why this stage is such a hard one to overcome. Simultaneously, very few people are being candid about the struggles they face and this leads to many feeling alone. Well welcome to my TED talk – we are struggle and fail at some point. Just keep going. 

During this stage of the medical journey, it is important to remember why you started. Find a group of like minded students and support each other. When you have difficulties ask for help. When you can not locate an opportunity keep knocking on doors. Organic Chemistry and Physics are hard but you are tougher. And if none of those tips work try following this list of “Pre-med Tips & Tricks” I have collected over the years from my experiences and my friends and family: 

1) Finding Yourself 

This is a tough but necessary tip I give to pre-medical students. This is a very personal tip that is dependent on everyone’s individual beliefs and life experiences.  Before medical school, there is a lot of free time to hang out and have fun. One thing I have learned while being here is: commitment. To truly succeed in medical school, there are many sacrifices medical school students make. Some of my classmates have families and some students have no support systems living near them. We often miss important births, weddings, and even funerals in order to study for test and meet deadlines. It gets hard sometimes because there are a lot of requirements that no one really tells you about before medical school. As a result, finding yourself and knowing what works for you is a great way to prepare for the pressures of medical school coursework. Figure out how you study best, what motivates you, and what makes you happy. It is very important to know your priorities before you start so you have a game plan and can be successful from day one. 


2) Networking 

To me, networking is one of the best ways to propel your goals further. One of my favorite quotes from the late Maya Angelou is  “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” I have learned the most about the application process from other people. Once I learned what I needed to do, I applied myself differently.There is nothing like a first-hand experience but it never hurts to hear how someone else handled a situation. I have enjoyed getting to know professors, doctors, and students all over the world from networking. Often, there are conferences, medical groups, and social media opportunities that can introduce students to influential leaders. For example, one of the doctors that wrote my letter of recommendation was part of a student organization I participated in. She was a D.O. and I believe her influence has helped me be successful thus far. Everyone does not need a mentor, but to me a great mentor can truly be life-changing. 


3) Diversifying Your Experiences

There are many Biology and Chemistry majors applying to medical school. I think this is great for people who love Chemistry and Biology! On the other hand, there are Art, History, Economics, and other majors every year that not only get into medical school, but some of the top medical schools in the country. This is why I think it is a great idea to have many different experiences on your application. Do what you love! Please get the highest grades and MCAT score possible but also consider other opportunities for your application to stand out. Were you the leader of an organization? Did you travel abroad for a semester? Were you a medical scribe? Did you organize a benefit for a cause? Or even better, have you been volunteering somewhere for years? All of these experiences further tell your story. Put it on your application !

All in all – stay calm and keep on. There have been thousands who have come before you – lean on them. Explore the MelaninDoc site further and reach out to those you read about. And eventually, as you keep doing the work and keeping on you will master this stage and gain a medical school acceptance.

Dr. Ashley Roxanne is currently a Family Medicine resident in Atlanta, GA at Morehouse School of Medicine. She is an Osteopathic Medicine physician with interests in research, Geriatrics, and preventive medicine. You can read more about her journey through med school, life, and travels around the world a www.drashleyroxanne.com  or check out her growing podcast at www.podcasts.apple.com/real-medicine-with-doctor-rox 

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