The nice thing about becoming a doctor is that the path is laid out in front of you. College, Med School, Residency, Attending. Obviously it’s not easy, but as long as you do what needs to be done at each stage, the process is quite simple. A lot of people seem to think that once you get into medical school, the path is set in stone and you don’t have to do anything else. The reality is that medicine is not the field it used to be. Yes, doctors are well paid and have good job security but it’s not nearly what it was. Residency spots are decreasing as the amount of medical students is increasing. And after completing residency, you still have to find a job just like anyone in “the real world”. Job location, job pay, a lot of these important things are suddenly out of your control. Most pre-meds just want to get into medical school and most med students just want to match to residency anywhere. Although this mindset is great for making progress on paper, you need to think more in depth. As you go through this process, you are also becoming an adult and growing as a person. Things like job location, pay, scheduling start to matter a lot more as you introduce family, mortgages and all that adult stuff into the equation. So what does this have to do with socializing in medicine?
The reality is that your classmates will eventually be doctors somewhere and disperse all over the country. Down the road, when you’re looking for a job or something unexpected happens, they will have say in whether to hire you or not at their institutions. The same is especially true for upper year students. These guys will be your direct superiors if you match at the same institution. I’ve been told by some chief residents in certain highly competitive specialties, that some of the residents don’t even read the applications, and only go by what they thought of the student during their elective, previously knowing them, as well as their reference letters. I’m not here to talk about if this is fair or not so don’t shoot the messenger.
Medicine may be different from most corporate jobs but some of the same themes remain; who you know matters. People hire people on, or choose them to match based on who they know, like and who fits the with the vibe of the program. Now obviously, this is after you already do well in medical school and on your USMLEs. Those things get your foot in the door, but what separates you after that is more often who you know than what you know.
This doesn’t mean to go around trying to make everybody your best friend or to lose touch with you who are as a person. It’s simply something to keep in mind and know that it is important to make the effort. More important than anything else is to never be rude or burn any bridges. You don’t know what consequences this can have down the road, so never make short-term decisions that could harm you. Try to be at least somewhat social and go out to class events or organize some things with your friend group.
Don’t approach every interaction as “what can I get from this person”, genuinely try to build a connection with everyone and get to know them. There’s certain people you will vibe with and others you won’t. Stick to the ones you naturally get along with and try to strengthen those bonds. Join clubs so you can be around other people with common interests and do things together. Do shadowing with residents to get to know them, and potentially ask to be involved in their research if you are interested in that field. You can sign up for intramurals if you would like and get to know people that way.
However you decide to go about this, just remember basic principles that you were taught as a kid. Treat people the way you want to be treated, be kind to everyone, first impressions are everything etc. Medicine is a great field but it has many flaws. This corporate culture style of doing things can be good or bad depending on what kind of person you are. Again, don’t shoot the messenger but just take from it what you will and try to make the best of it.