The relevance of Boards scores is that I got a frantic Facebook message from my med. school friend’s husband. I know that I’m not her only medical school friend, but I think that I might be the only one that her husband knows because he usually texts me or emails me when he thinks she needs advice or someone to talk to.
Yesterday's message said:
CAN YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN BOARD SCORING TO ME??? CALL OR TEXT ME AT XXX-XXXX PLEASE!!!
I actually thought that my friend might have bombed, and thus, her husband was trying to find something encouraging to say. As it turns out, they had a pact that they wouldn’t open her score until he got home from work, but he cheated. He wanted to mentally prepare before he got home.
I texted him a very brief description of what a “good” score is, as well as what score she said she was aiming for. Apparently, she never shared any of this information with him (which I find a little weird, considering that she gave him her login information, but OK...) Anyway, the good news is that my friend scored 2 points higher than her ideal score! And lo, her husband could safely buy flowers on the way home and look forward to a night of happy dancing/margaritas/sex…whatever they did to be celebratory.
Apparently he had been really distressed about not knowing what her score meant, because two minutes after I texted him, he called to personally thank me for the explanation.
“She’s going to be so happy!,” I said. “She said that she thought that she failed, but everyone says that. I knew she didn’t fail.”
“Yeah, I know,” he said. “She’s been randomly bursting into tears for weeks now. She basically has no self-confidence anymore.”
And right there is when I stopped short. Because I’ve heard those words verbatim before…directed at me.
I know that I tend to write about all of the flowery or funny things that The Lawyer and I experience, but the fact is, we do fight. Recently, most of our fights have been about medical school.
Obviously, it’s a stressful experience for everyone involved, but our problems have stemmed from the fact that medical school has demoralized me in a way that I never could have imagined. I often feel like I’ll never succeed in medicine or anything else in life. Sometimes, I wish that I never went to medical school at all.
Like a lot of other students, I go to class, study an inordinate amount of time outside of class, and still do average or mediocre on exams. I’m not nearly close to being in the top 10% of my class, and even after repeating a year of medical school that I had already passed, I still haven't honored a single class!
For many years, I thought that it was just the idiosyncracies of my particular medical school, but I’m not really sure. I’ve succeeded at most things in my life, proven that I can get into and graduate from other difficult schools, had a great (other) career, gotten offered book deals, etc. and hey, I got into medical school, right?
But, what happens when you get into multiple medical schools on your first try, but then don't succeed once you're there? What does that mean?
And, because I’ve repeated that year of medical school, I’m continually reminded by the deans that I’m a “remedial” student. Every opportunity or situation that comes up reminds me of it. Plus, it's not just like someone is calling me remedial. I've had to stand before committees three times now, as part of my remediation, and say that I'm not good enough, smart enough, hard-working enough, or knowledgeable enough to "get" things like my classmates do. One of the deans even made me tell the committee that I just didn't have the science background necessary for medical school.
Except, who started doing research at age 13? Who went to a very prestigious science university in Baltimore on a full academic scholarship? Who worked in healthcare for three years before starting medical school?
It's true that I was a writer before medical school, but if I didn't have the science background to succeed, then why did they admit me?
What is ironic is that I usually do exceptionally well on things outside of school. I’ve gotten sparkling recommendations and comments from the few clinicals I’ve had. I’ve entered medical essay contests and won. I was even the only student chosen to present with a bunch of residents at a research conference this spring.
But, the “remedial” moniker remains and nothing compensates for it. I sense that nothing I do, aside from graduating (or honoring--which I apparently can't ever do), will remove it.
In my relationship, there has been a definitive change in the way that I view myself and almost a fatalistic view of how things are going to turn out. This has resulted in many tears and anxiety. Because I am so verbal, The Lawyer has to listen to me prattle on about it endlessly, and usually, he gets mad.
He’ll shut down, walk away, and say that there’s nothing that he can say to me, because I won’t believe it. He says that I have no self-confidence in myself and he gets frustrated because I won’t agree with him when he tries to talk positively or say that it's just a "fluke" or "a bad exam" or "temporary."
In my eyes, he’s minimizing what I’m going through and focusing on the Red that he knew high school so many years ago—the one who excelled at almost anything. The current Red always feels frustrated, behind, and incapable of doing well. Then, I get mad too, because who is he to tell me how I should feel? Why can’t he just be supportive, instead of assuming that what I’m saying is overdramatic--especially when he agrees that 90% of what medical schools get away with would never fly in law school?
So, maybe that’s why my friend’s husband logged into her account to check her score before she did.
Maybe this isn’t a problem that’s just happening to me. I do know that medical school has changed me in a very dark, negative way and I’m not sure if that’s ever going to go away. I’m waiting for my clinicals to start in August before making any definitive judgments on that, but I do know that I'm no longer the person that I was—and sometimes, it's a really hard thing to reconcile.