Now that I've stepped out of all that, I realize that those feelings are more related to the huge challenge of the whole endeavor (whether med, law, or graduate school), and not a given program. I'm sure that a high-level political candidate has similar feelings come election time or a military commander.
Some of my professors tried to “humanize” the process. They invited us to dinner in their homes, supported our extracurricular efforts to set up health screening clinics in low-income neighborhoods, and tried to make our basic science courses more relevant to working with patients. But sitting where I am now, as someone who teaches medical students and who loves helping others as a doctor, I can understand the challenge they faced. Given the fire hose of information medical students must learn in just four years, how does one ever gently take a sip?
Despite my teachers’ efforts, I was about as miserable in medical school as I had ever been. I felt alone. Neither I nor my classmates could admit to failure, and the last thing I wanted to do was to let anyone but my closest friends know just how unhappy I was. Success in medical school was the first step to a future of helping others, and I was not about to jeopardize that.
Last week I had dinner with two former classmates from that time. We had not seen each other in over a decade, and after catching up on personal news and reminiscing about gross anatomy lab and our first nights on call, one of them said quietly, “I hated med school. I wanted to quit.”
I don't know how, but being a student is much more stressful than working as a teacher. The Sisyphean task of gaining mastery over something will always require challenge and sacrifice. The best formula is to simply do one's best, which is to say, lower one's standards.