Sometimes as a busy medical student you often feel like you’re on the verge of a mental breakdown. Personally though, I try my best to look at the positives. Medical school quotes? Help me do exactly that.
Providing a nice reminder that we’re not the only ones going through what seems like an eternity of hard-study, the insight of others provides the perfect study break.
So here’s a whole bunch of my personal favourites. Ones that I think help capture medical student life; both the positives and the negatives, quite well.
And if you’re not a student? Maybe these can help provide a little window into what our lives can sometimes feel like too.
The following are taken from a mix of Reddit, Quora, Pinterest and several books. I also threw in some med-school memes to help brighten things up too!
#1 “Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity”
Hippocrates, the father of medicine, came up with this. A good notion to ponder.
#2 “You don’t have to be brilliant to be a doctor. You have to be hard working and have good character. That’s what makes good doctors”
I think a lot of people lose sight of this as it’s much harder to measure in comparison to grades on a test. Nobody can take your work ethic and character from you.
#3 “When you feel like quitting think about why you started”
Hopefully you had a good reason. If not concentrate on the future. What it’ll mean when you’re done.
#4 “Somebody’s life will be in your hands one day. Study like this”
That one knowledge gap you skipped over in a moment of laziness? Could make all the difference in an emergency.
#5 “Don’t worry about the 1000 steps. Worry about the next step and everything will fall into place”
This not only applies to studying but your life outside of school to. Learn to love the process. And don’t get overly attached to the outcome.
#6 “A doctor is a student until he dies, once he considers himself not a student anymore, the doctor inside him dies”
Ultimate growth mentality. Something you’ve got to have if you want to make it in this world.
#7 “The moment you think of giving up remind yourself then and there that you’ll be a doctor not just by name, not for a prefix, not for the money but for the sake of humanity, for the sake of a better world”
There has to be a reason why other than any superficial desire. Without that the struggle becomes so much harder.
#8 “Don’t let one bad grade define your abilities. It’s a minor setback. How you choose to overcome it, is what sets you apart from the rest”
You are not your grades. You are the person who’s able to bounce back and just keep going.
#9 “Medicine is more than a career. It’s a lifestyle”
It had to be considering the sacrifice.
#10 “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”
I wanted to keep this strictly medical school related. But I couldn’t resist this quote from Gandhi. Well worth considering as you get closer to the end.
#1 “I went to medical school because I wanted to ask the big questions. Do we have a soul? Does God exist? What happens after death?”
This is a quote from the author and alternative medicine personality Deepak Chopra. I’m sure we’ve all asked ourselves this at one point or another. Especially in the anatomy labs with the cadavers etc.
#2 No one teaches you how to think about money in medical school or residency. Yet, from the moment you start practicing, you must think about it. You must consider what is covered for a patient and what is not”
Atul Gawande, US surgeon and author of the famous Checklist Manifesto, gives some serious food for thought here. Something I also recommend all medical students think about at some point; especially as they can starting earning money during medical school.
#3 “One goes through school, college, medical school and one’s internship learning little or nothing about goodness but a good deal about success”
This is from British-American anthropologist Ashley Montagu but serves as a good reminder on what our studies are about beyond medicine.
#4 “You can’t get through medical school if you don’t have a strong will and a strong constitution”
It’s all about not giving up and continuing to push forward. As this quote by physician-turned-comedian Ken Jeong says.
#5 “Qualities you need to get through medical school and residency: Discipline. Patience. Perseverance. A willingness to forgo sleep. A penchant for sadomasochism. Ability to weather crises of faith and self-confidence. Accept exhaustion as fact of life. Addiction to caffeine a definite plus. Unfailing optimism that the end is in sight”
Maybe you didn’t know the author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini, was a long-standing California-based physician in a previous life.
#6 “Medical school education and post graduate education emphasize thoroughness”
Attention to detail is very important if you want to make it through medical school exams. This quote, from American oncologist Ezekiel Emanuel, says exactly that.
#7 “My best friend in medical school was a magician. And we were shown an X-ray of a sword-swallower, and I tried it and failed. Then I got a sword-swallower as a patient, and he taught me”
Swedish physician Hans Gosling met some strange people in med school. Can’t say I’ve met any sword swallowers myself yet. And I’m not quite ready to try.
#8 “Nobody had ever told me junk food was bad for me. Four years of medical school, and four years of internship and residency, and I never thought anything was wrong with eating sweet rolls and doughnuts, and potatoes, and bread, and sweets”
Robert Atkins, of Atkins Diet fame, clearly didn’t take his hygiene and nutrition classes seriously enough.
#9 “I never had a conscious fear of death, but I did have a conscious fear of sickness. By the time I completed medical school, that fear was gone”
Can’t say this is working for me (not that I’m finished yet). Probably why you need Sherwin B. Nuland, author of this quote, as your surgeon (and not me).
#10 “Students undergo a conversion in the third year of medical school – not pre-clinical to clinical, but pre-cynical to cynical”
Not sure if American doctor Abraham Verghese, who this is attributed to, still feels this way.
#1 “Studying medicine is like drinking from a fire-hose”
This is one of the most popular quotes I hear summarising the experience of information over-load in med school. For those of you not familiar with what it’s like attempting to drink from a fire-hose? Here’s a video for you.
#2 “Med school is where you learn who not to send your family to”
This is pretty apt when you’re in the med school bubble, looking around at your colleagues and thinking about who you’d trust or not! Lazy medical students? Could be near the top of this list.
#3 “When people ask, “How many more years of studying do you have?” And you’re just like “till death do us part”
Definitely feeling this now I’ve reached the half way point. The needle? Still barely feels like it’s moving toward graduation. And it’s probably the most common question I get!
#4 “Medical student: living on massive amounts of caffeine, sugar and ramen noodles and foregoing sleep to become a “better health professional”
The hype is real. Most medical students live like this. Just trying to get through the semester as best as they can.
#5 “It’ll be better next year”
Funny from an ironic stand-point. It’s what you tell yourself in the summer break. Before reality hits and things get crazy again. Kind on a par with; “I love finals!” Said no medical student. Ever.”
#6 “When I went to medical school, the term ‘digital’ applied only to rectal exams”
This is a quote from American cardiologist Eric Topol. Who seems a bit disgruntled he missed out on the Instagram era.
#7 “Everyone wants to be a doctor, but no one wants to study no damn medicine”
I equate this to the med student profiles I see on Instagram. All dressed up and looking the part but with exams still outstanding. We all want to get to that end goal. But the process? Got to get through that first.
#8 “Finish last in your league and they call you idiot. Finish last in medical school and they call you doctor”
I love this one because it’s a brutal reminder of all the unnecessary competitiveness in med school. Grades? Don’t really matter. We’re all pulling in the same direction. All of us with the end goal in sight.
This quote is credited to Abe Lemons, an American College basketball coach.
#9 “If you want to succeed in med school, just two things – don’t fall in love and don’t fall behind”
Sage advice here. And two factors that can make an already complicated time – being in medical school – all the more complicated. Still, there’s been a few success stories of people doing both!
#10 “When you’re ready to quit just remember how good you’ll look in that white coat”
Sometimes it’s the little things that keep you going. More for my American readers maybe (European healthcare systems don’t call for the white coat). But substitute white coat for bomb ass briefcase and formal wear.
#11 “Med students in afternoon lectures are like renal tubules in acute tubular necrosis. They lose the ability to concentrate”
Bit of an inside joke here (useful if you know your kidney physiology) but a familiar feeling none the least. Perhaps another reason why you should skip medical school lectures?
#12 “I dreamed I died and went to hell. Then I woke up and realised I was in medical school”
Hell better than med school? Not so sure. But kind of get the point. Especially when faced with a crazy finals period with no end in sight. Purgatory has never seemed so real.
#13 “Be the doctor your parents wanted you to marry”
One for the kids in med school who maybe don’t really want to be there. I’m not one of them but I can feel their pain.
Hey, it opens doors in dating though! So I’ve heard…
Related: 21 Med Student Stereotypes; The Snitch, The Do-Gooder, The Anki Bro & More
#14 “It’s annoying when engineering students call themselves engineers. You never hear medical students call themselves doctors. Or art students calling themselves unemployed”
Hits home this one. Especially as I’m a former arts student who’s turned to medicine later in life.
#15 “Medical school is like eating an elephant. You just have to do it one bite at a time”
Some days I feel like I’d rather be eating an elephant.
#16 “This is nothing like Gray’s anatomy”
When medical school feels nothing like what you thought it would. Especially compared to all the cool shows you used to watch on TV.
Except the drama and the stress of course. And zero of the glamour.
#17 “I’ve got a dream, that’s worth more than my sleep”
Similar to the purgatory feeling, this is one also commonly floating about on the meme boards.
#18 “I gave up my life to learn how to save yours”
Sacrifice for the greater good. The medical school narrative we all tell ourselves. But will the juice be worth the squeeze? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
#19 “There will always be light at the end of the tunnel, except in medical school it’s a train called boards”
#20 “Studying in med school is like making love when you’re drunk. You never actually finish, you just keep going until it’s not worth it anymore”
Tactically saved this one until last. If it resonates with you though? Well, I’m glad that you get it.
The quotes outlined above? Sure, some of these are dramatic. But they’re also uncomfortably close to the truth too!
If you want more funny stuff (and really like lists of 40) check out: 40 Best Medical School Memes of 2020.
You’re not done with that study break yet.