Welcome to the second edition of The Jugular’s advice segment, “Heart to Heart”! This isn’t just any run-of-the-mill advice column; here you’ll find advice and answers that have been expertly tailored for the bustling lives of us meddies. 

In honour of the very much current exam season (sigh), the Jugular family wishes to spare you the accompanying package deal of disheartening, self-doubting, staring-at-the-ceiling-in-a-self-hating-daze phase by focusing on *surprise surprise* studying! Thank you to everyone for submitting your wonderful questions, and hopefully, this serves as a gentle reminder that patience and kindness to oneself are just as important as to others. <3

I feel like I put in so much time into studying and staying up to date with uni work, but I’m not getting the results to show for it 🙁 I know crammers who do better than me. What’s wrong with me?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with you! Being a med student means being surrounded by blinding intelligence and within this beautiful bunch of smartasses (we say this lovingly), everyone approaches studying in a different way. You have those who try to work consistently, those who cram and scram, and those who play it real risky at the end of each term (y’all know who you are).

The human brain that you and I both have is an insatiable machine set to default on comparing our self-worth to those around us, through the number of achievements or possessions that one has, and that modus operandi is damn hard to switch off! Although it’s a useful social reference to see how well (or how badly) we are behaving compared to the rest of the people in our world, it can lead to unhealthy places: jealousy, superiority, or even a deep-rooted dissatisfaction with the life path we are carving. Don’t be so hard on yourself; it’s more than enough knowing that today you were a better, more productive person compared to yesterday. Make it a playful competition against your past self, rather than a self-loathing one against that one kid in your class with staggeringly high grades!

The hardest thing to accept, however, is that the time we spend studying won’t always translate equally into a high EOC mark. There are tons of reasons for this, most of which are beyond our control. First up, each course contains an obscene amount of information, and the EOC is only 100 marks. Realistically, a large amount of content that you learn simply won’t be tested (happens to us all the goddamn time!). It can definitely feel demoralising because all that time and effort you dedicated seem withered and somehow pointless BUT that is just not true! Never lose sight of the fact that we are all studying not JUST to test well but to become a whole kickass generation of hella good doctors!

Secondly, some people are able to process more information in a shorter period of time (aka cramming). That doesn’t mean you have to be able to do that too. We’re lucky in medicine to have our academic standing be of lower importance for the future. There’s plenty of other skills that make us competent, e.g. practical exams, empathy, communication, etc. On top of that, you’re still gaining some crucial skills: discipline and organisation! You’re gonna need these a lot when it comes to both future doctoring and life in general, so the time you spend now is anything but wasted.

Finally, just keep in mind that academics are important, but they don’t define who you are! There is so much more to you than your grades and don’t even dare insult yourself by thinking otherwise! Do your best, but don’t let that stand in the way of everything else life has to offer (so much, oh so very much more!)!

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Do I need to get HD if I want to be a surgeon? (from a concerned 1st year with big dreams)

Well, we’re no surgeons, but the short answer is no (or at least, not yet)! Surgery is by far one of the more competitive and demanding specialities, and having a strong base of knowledge will no doubt be important when it comes to both doing your job well and competing against your peers.

However, keep in mind that med school is a marathon, not a sprint. There’s plenty of keen beans that try and get a head start, but there’s a lot more to get out of your uni experience than HDs. One of us had the pleasure of speaking to a UNSW graduate with several years of experience in plastic surgery, and she was all about having as much fun as possible in her early years! Towards the end (phase 3), however, was when she decided to buckle down and go for glory. Similarly, Dr Emily Granger, a cardiothoracic surgeon superstar one of our writers had the honour of interviewing last year, strongly encouraged giving yourself the opportunity to explore and get a realistic outlook of the world during medical school, especially during later phases (electives, here we come!).

In short, it will always be helpful to do well in uni, regardless of what path you’re trying to follow as a doctor, but it is far from essential. Don’t hide your curiosity, don’t be afraid to boldly express your interests, seek new experiences concerning that one/those particular career path(s) you feel most strongly about and judge whether you like where this whole thing is taking you! You’ve known yourself for quite a long time and now is the time to put this very extensive knowledge to use by finding ways to make this whole journey fun and enjoyable rather than being stressfully defined by academic achievements!

Last thing before we leave you (sadly): check this article if you feel compelled to find out a bit more about what later surgical training entails!

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Why do I always feel like an imposter/the dumbest person in the room in Med?

It’s ridiculously easy to feel like you don’t know anything in med. All it takes is one person quoting some gibberish Latin or reciting parts of a lecture that you don’t even remember watching to make you feel like you’re falling behind. The thing is, you’re really not. Yes, there are definitely some people in medicine that know more than the rest. It’s not like they were born with it though: they’re passionate, dedicated and spend their time on gaining this knowledge.

However, it takes very little to construct the illusion of knowledge. If I read a lecture an hour before coming into SG or a tute, I’ll remember enough information to answer most questions. Anyone who hasn’t read that lecture will probably feel like they know less than me, which might be true for that point in time. But the only thing separating me and them is an hour of work. Everyone learns at a different pace. It doesn’t matter if other people figure stuff out faster, as long as you’re moving at a rate that fits you, you’ll all be on even footing when it matters.

One weird way of looking at the scenario where you feel like the dumbest person in the room is that this is a great (if not the best) place to be because there is only one way from here: up. It means that you have a chance to be curious and to learn from other experts (in this case, knowledgeable students or teachers) who may share with you insights you wouldn’t have opened yourself up to if you already thought you were the smartest person in the room. It means that you will make many mistakes, of which you will eventually rectify and bring those learning experiences with you for a very long time.  

To make your thinking go a bit more wack, did you ever stop to think that others feel the exact same way you do but are just ridiculously skilled at hiding it?

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That’s all for now, folks! BUT if you have any questions, queries or concerns and you want a little outside opinion, you are more than welcome to ask us anytime at https://docs.google.com/…/1FAIpQLSdb-qXhwWL…/viewform

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