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What I Was Thankful For This Thanksgiving

Ben_3Ben Bryner -- I had some time off last week to celebrate American Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving because it is one of those common-denominator holidays that includes everyone. (Well, it's easy to feel a little left out as a vegetarian, but it’s still not bad.) This time of year is obviously a good time to reflect on the blessings of family and friends, home and food, and the other important things. And if you're interviewing for med school or residency, it's also a stressful time where you might be thankful for a few different things than most other years. Here is a partial list of things I'm particularly thankful for on the interview trail:

1. Interviews. Although they're expensive and the arrangements are stressful, it's nice to have them. And as far as the actual interviews go, the ones I've had so far have been surprisingly low-key and enjoyable.

2. Stain removing solution. There are plenty of lunches and receptions with awkward eating arrangements on the interview trail that make this a must-have.

3. Stock questions. Sometimes the only thing that gets you through a late-afternoon Q&A with residents is a good stock question. Just as a good pile of snowballs is essential to a post-Thanksgiving snowball fight, developing a list of questions you want to have answered about every program is a wise move.

4. The patients I've learned from. Most of the questions in these interviews are about me as an applicant. These get pretty repetitive and aren't that interesting from my perspective. But sometimes an interviewer will ask about a memorable patient, or a more specific situation where it also makes sense to bring up an experience with a patient. And to me, this is a more interesting avenue for discussion than my research or volunteer experience or my year in Cirque du Soleil (okay, that last one would be interesting if it were true). Discussing memorable patients in an interview has basically the same rationale as Grand Rounds or other conferences that center around individual patients: that disease processes and therapies are only so interesting in isolation, but become much more comprehensible and captivating in the context of an individual person.

Not just while interviewing, but as a medical student in general, patients are the thing I am most thankful for. When you get down to it, access to patients is the whole rationale for building teaching hospitals and affiliating them with medical schools; patients are one of only a few elements of medical education you absolutely couldn't get by without. Last year at this time I reflected on how patients reminded me of Squanto, and I stand by that analogy even if nobody else thinks it makes any sense.

So these are a few of the things that I appreciate at this time of year. While you’re eating that turkey sandwich I’m going to go refill my supply of stain remover and stock questions before I hit the trail again.

December 2, 2008 in Ben Bryner | Permalink


I am a bundle of nerves! My grade 12 results will be out in 2 weeks time. i wonder if they wil b gud enough for me to keep the my place to begin medicine next year in South Africa. I wonder if i will regret going into medicine. wil i b a gud doctor? advice please

Posted by: | Dec 4, 2008 12:48:37 AM

Even though over here in Australia we don't really have Thanksgiving, I still take the time at the close of the year to remember the good and bad points of the year and be thankful for all of it. Although your blog was quite comedic, as always, it did remind us to be thankful for what has happened over the last 12 months.

And to the South African (?) person worried about their grades, don't stress - nothing can be done now that the School year has finished! You will just end up making yourself sick with the waiting if you let it effect you. If you don't get in straight away with your grades from High School, there are other ways into Medical School. You can do a year of University to bump up your grades and then reapply. That is what I had to do and I certainly won't be the last to do it. If you are worried that you will regret doing/won't like/won't be good at Medicine, try to gain unpaid work experience in a Clinical setting. It is the best way to get a feel for the job. Good Luck to you either way!

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Posted by: Amy | Dec 17, 2008 3:25:02 AM

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