Spend anytime as a med student and you’ll notice very different breeds of people. Some have endearing quirks, others are just plain strange. Either way, med school stereotypes, of which there are quite a few, abound.
Personally, I straddle quite a few of the 21 characteristics on this (by no means exhaustive) list. It’s largely inspired by European medical schools but has some of the American med school influences thrown in for fun too. Obviously it’s not meant to be taken too seriously!
Where do you see yourself stacking up?
This person would literally nail themselves to the cross for a patient, teacher or colleague. Always on the look-out for opportunities to help a fellow human, no matter how menial the task, their empathy and warmth are reviled rather than celebrated by the students made to look bad around them. Do-gooders are often forgiven though as they’re less “look at me” and just naturally compassionate.
The snake has all the pretentions of the do-gooder while having none of their virtues. Promises to be kind and empathetic but is always the first to stab you in the back. Does everything for show.
Also popularised as “the ghost”, you probably don’t even realise this person goes to your med school. Skipping out on lectures from day one, perhaps you only ever caught a brief glimpse of them once in a hospital elevator. Nobody knows much, if anything, about this person at all.
Popularised by US-based med students as the annoying student who sits at the front of class and overzealously participates, the gunner has shifted in meaning a little. Nowadays it’s used more to describe the super hard-working nerd who’s always prepared.
Every class needs someone close to the role of ‘the gunner’ to depend upon.
This guy/girl looks after cats. And will one day be consumed by them. They seem to know your every move and are keen to let you know it.
They also show an inordinate interest in your personal affairs without ever volunteering anything of their own.
You really wouldn’t want this person as your doctor.
The proselytizer has an odd fixation with pop culture and rarely mentions medicine in any context. Has a keen desire to infect everyone around them with some obscure niche reference. Spends a lot of the time wondering why they’re in med school and not playing in a band somewhere.
This person can’t go more than a couple of hours without sharing medical-related memes or uploading something new to Instagram. Keen to show off their status as a med student at a subpar med school, they’re not the greatest of students but look the part.
Can usually be tracked to GPS-level accuracy by following them on Instagram. You always know where they are as they have a pathological need to document every moment of their life. Including their last bowel movement.
Really couldn’t care less about becoming a doctor. Just want the dollar to flex.
Forced into it by parents or family, this person would rather be anywhere else than med school. Once had dreams and aspirations for adventure that have since been crushed by the endless onslaught that is med school exams. Parents check-in daily to make sure they haven’t escaped or ran off with their money.
Most likely to graduate resentful.
The Elder Statesman
The mature student who’s been around the block and learned a bit about themselves. Keeps on top of their studies and isn’t too phased by the chaos around them. Has more in common with the average patient than their colleagues.
Wonders when it’s all going to end.
This person has prior medical training and with it a pathological need to remind everyone around them. Comes with a repertoire of a maximum five vaguely interesting stories related to their time as a back alley paramedic. The colleague you’d put the most trust in on the wards.
The Borderline Addict
Commonly found populating bars or clubs, this student flits between inebriation and sobriety on the regular. Generally know their pharmacology – and adverse drug reactions – first hand. Everything else is a little hazy.
The Humble Genius
This student professes to not studying much and living a pretty balanced lifestyle only to smash every exam that comes their way. They clearly have an effective strategy at play but want to downplay any efforts they’ve gone to fine-tune it. The student you’re most jealous of.
The snitch loves to report back to professors or the administration about fellow students’ not acting professionally or taking short-cuts on exams. The kind of person to request the use of respondus (anti-cheating software) in a final, primarily to enjoy the sick satisfaction of watching other students suffer.
The Max Effort Cheater, Minimal Effort Studier
The creative efforts of this student, and the levels they’re willing to go to cheat, are nothing short of amazing. Their strategy for cheating reads like a heist movie with several moving parts. With a plan so complicated and time consuming, you wonder why they didn’t just use the time for studying effectively in the first place.
The bro is more into their sporting or gym endeavours than medicine. Aspires to be a surgeon obviously. Has very little time for drama or med school politics.
The Dude Bro
Like the bro but less intelligent. On the brink of failing but convinced otherwise.
The Anki Bro
Literally won’t shut up about the digital flashcard app Anki, their number of reviews and how reading the assigned textbooks is way overrated.
The It’s Never My Fault
This student fails to see reality and the fact their own incompetence is at the root of it. Blames poor test taking on the teachers, questions, computer systems or anything else. Just never themselves.
The Well Rounded
The person with a life in med school who spends equal time studying as they do chilling with friends and indulging in their hobbies. Scores well enough in exams but has no pretence to do any of the ego or prestige medical specialties. Looking for that lifestyle medicine job; most likely a future dermatologist or GP.
The Doesn’t-Know-What-To-Do-With-Life, Let’s-Do-This
Probably has a parent in medicine and hit a cross-roads figuring out what to do. Never particularly wanted to become a doctor but wasn’t exactly put off by the idea either. Kind of ran out of ideas and inspiration so half-heartedly commits to medicine.
Where Do You See Yourself?
Med students are a diverse bunch but it’d be lying to say they’re far from some of the stereotypes above. I recognise myself in at least ten of them!
Which one are you most like?
Image Credit: Ani Kolleshi at Unsplash
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.