Medical School Without an Anchor
Updated: Mar 23
Marie Hanna I 19 August 2019
Marie completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Florida before graduating from the UF College of Medicine in 2019. She is currently a first-year resident studying obstetrics and gynecology in Virginia.
The first semester of medical school was a very personal experience for me, as it is for many students. It was filled with an unimaginable number of highs and lows. As the semester progressed and the workload got heavier, the number of lows started to surpass and overshadow the highs. I couldn’t figure out why I had suddenly started to drown. Undergrad wasn’t easy, but I never felt the weight of anxiety as I did in my first semester as a medical student. Sometimes it was hard to breathe, sometimes mom got an earful and/or tears over the phone, and sometimes I got into bed feeling miserable and alone.
It felt isolating. Was I the only one struggling? Was I the only one that was so lost? Suddenly, I was surrounded by brilliant people with inspirational life stories, in addition to incredible talent and skill. That was it. They call it imposter syndrome. Why was I in medical school? How and why did they choose me? I was obviously nothing compared to my peers.
Everyone says, “No worries, everyone feels this way in their first year!” Their words of comfort echoed in my head and failed to fill the emptiness I felt. When I finally recognized that I needed something more, I reached out to my classmates. I hesitated though, I didn’t want them to see or know that I was struggling.
Most people start medical school with a certain level of pride. Proud that we’ve gotten this far, proud that our parents are proud, and proud of the hard work we’ve done to earn that spot next to our peers. It was a humbling experience to recognize that I was struggling. It was humbling to bring myself to talk to my classmates and verbalize the emptiness I felt for months. Nothing makes me happier that I did.
I took a leap of faith and entrusted my struggles to individuals I’m now proud to call friends. I didn’t feel so alone anymore; they brought me back from the dark hole I had hidden away in. Quiet prayers and words of support replaced thoughts of inadequacy. I realized that I was trying to make the journey without faith, which had fallen by the wayside—along with my sense of self—as classes intensified.
Faith was something I grew up with. It wasn’t something I cherished because it was an old habit. Church on Sunday, a few services during the week, youth meetings, rinse and repeat. It wasn’t until medical school that I recognized the treasure it actually was. It became my anchor, along with the people that brought me back from the endless loop of negative, self-deprecating thoughts.
To the students who are struggling every day, to those who have lost sight of their goal, try and remember that someone is out there who will listen to you. You are loved by someone, no matter how much you feel that you’re alone. Never think your problems are unimportant, but always remember that your God is bigger.
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and dominion forever. Amen.” I Peter 5:10-11
“I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in the right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble.” Proverbs 4:11-12