Med School: US vs. India

I found an interesting article on Medscape, titled “Inside India – The Path to Becoming Doctor”:  Click Here

It got me thinking about my recent summer experience in India. The article pretty much summed up the stark differences. A mere first-year medical student, I learned from the doctors there how their medical training was like.

  • Entering medical school is based completely on entrance exams – No traveling expenses, no interviews, no need for lists of extracurricular activities, no questions about your motivation for becoming a doctor, no personal essays, no criminal background checks, no die-hard & extensive application process. In the US, the applicant is under insane stress, from taking the daunting MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) to conducting revolutionary research to passing the interviews. I clearly remember the last years of college dedicated to research, volunteer work, and academics. After the grueling MCAT trials, I wrote textbooks of personal essay drafts, a general one and supplemental ones that were school-specific. Finally, I completed all the components of my AMCAS application, assuring myself everything was perfect to the bone. Then, I prayed for interviews, the final leap into medical school. And a reason to shop for nice business attire and take a break from school to travel, from Niagara Falls to Chicago.

  • Medical school begins right after high school – Which means, I’d be a doctor already if I were in places like India. Or China and Taiwan.
  • Just over 5 years of training and you have your MD – Yep, I’d be a doctor at 22 already, and not 26. That’s not including at least 4 years of post-graduate training =/ At least in the US, medical students come from an array of backgrounds. Four years of undergraduate studies and college life allow for diversity, maturity, exploration, and fun, because medical school is a serious commitment. It will become a trial of endless studying hours, exams, and clinicals. For me, I had the best time at NYU; I loved the social scene, the vibrant city life, and my friends. As much as I worked hard in the laboratories, the classrooms, Bobst library, Palladium gym, shopping in Union Square, or running down Broadway for class, I had fun and also wanted to get a job. I balanced multiple student jobs, and I wanted my first real pay check. That would only come after another 10 years under the institution known as medicine. I am falling into the smaller and smaller percentage of students going straight to medical school after college. More and more are taking time off to do research or volunteer work. I managed to do everything I needed to do during college; I was ready for the next chapter. I have more personal growth to do still, as I find myself naive and innocent many times. And I don’t think I can imagine myself beginning medical school at the virginal age of 17 … That really is young. To conclude, while I would like to be a sprouting doctor at a young age, I am happy with the American system of medical education.
  • Classes are mandatory – The surgeons and doctors in India laughed when I told them classes aren’t compulsory. For first year at Stony Brook, only Biochemistry and Anatomy were mandatory. It was frenetic, coming in early and sitting through stupid Biochemistry clicker questions. Then the afternoons were Anatomy lectures and dissections, which usually did not end until 5pm, or even longer depending on review sessions and pinnings. The rest of the year, because classes were not mandatory anymore, people started disappearing and snoozing at home. Still mandatory were Foundations lectures, which were the “How to Be a Good, Compassionate Doctor” lectures. They were entertaining and relaxing, for I mostly lounged on the Internet =) I became a victim to my demons, sleeping more than studying. I attended lectures here and there, when I felt motivated, which was most days. Second year will unleash my worst demons; apparently, lectures are not as organized or interesting, and of course, not mandatory. I’m seriously contemplating on self-studying at my leisure next year and skipping early classes. And also fitting in work, gym, TV, dramas, and food. I’ve already bought simplified, review-type textbooks with silly pictures and mnemonics and notecards for Microbiology and Pharmacology, the killer classes of second year, aside from more Pathology. Yay =/ Oh yea, and there’s also the looming shadow known as the Boards.

Oh Boy... I need picture books for med school

We Got Married (Korean reality) - All 100++ episodes (and ongoing), and more Asian TV =/ Bad distractions...

  • Lucky ducks, clinicals start 2nd year – At Stony Brook at least, clinical rotations start 3rd year. American medical schools offer electives, specifically catered to students’ personal interests and endeavors. India… no electives. They’re missing out on the interesting stuff…
  • On anatomy dissections and cadavers – Where do the bodies come from? Are there donation programs and anatomical gifts? The flashing answer is no… Back to the first question, then how do students in India learn anatomy? Well, according to the doctors there, cadavers come from unclaimed bodies of beggars usually. India’s culture and religion values keeping the whole body intact for journey into the afterlife. Same idea in most Asian countries. There’s no benevolence in donating one’s body for the name of scientific research. There’s only the grief and wish that loved ones have a safe trip into the next life. So in India, the police turn over dead bodies found on the street. I think back in the old days, there were also grave robberies, like in the US during the 19th century. Perhaps it still goes on now too. Either way, there’s a shortage of cadavers for anatomy dissections, so normally 20+ students take turns on a single body. At Stony Brook Med, we have tight-knit groups of 4 students per body, while at some schools like Buffalo, it’s more like 8, the capping limit. Here, the learning is more interactive, as everyone has a chance to be up close with a scalpel and dig through fat.
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