Medical School Q&A

We thought it would be fun + helpful to sit down and answer all of your questions about medical school! I broke it down into questions for Eli, questions for me, and questions for both of us. Whether you’re in medical school, a med school significant other, thinking about applying, or just are curious what it’s like, I hope this is helpful to you!

Questions For Eli:

Have you always known you wanted to go to medical school?

Whenever I was a senior in high school I did some shadowing in the operating room at my local hospital and really fell in love with medicine. Since then, other than a few fleeting thoughts whenever times got really hard, I have always wanted to be a doctor.

Did you get into medical school right away or take a gap year?

I was actually extremely lucky and was able to get into a pre-admissions program at my school. So I didn’t have to apply to any other medical schools and matriculated into medical school right after I finished my undergrad.

Do you feel like your undergrad major helped prepare you for medical school?

I am sure it did, but it sure didn’t feel like it lol. I was a bio major and that definitely helped get all the med school prerequisites in, as well as helping me gain a pretty decent fundamental understanding of the science. But, the analogy that you hear pretty regularly whenever you start is that med school, “is like trying to drink water from a fire hose” and that’s pretty accurate for the first year especially haha.

What would be most helpful for you after a long day of studying?

I think it is a little different for each person because people recharge differently, but for me I always wanted to spend time with Peyton doing something we enjoyed together! Most of the time that was just watching a show together or just walking the dogs for 10 or 15 minutes. Something that doesn’t take a lot of time but still allows us to be together.

I also think not having anything else to do when I come home is super helpful. Like if Peyton has already taken the dogs out and little things like that. It allows me to just hang out with my family and relax for a bit.

What specialty are you planning to do?

I am planning on applying to ophthalmology! You can have a huge impact in someone’s life by helping with their vision and the eye is super cool 🙂 the surgeries are really amazing and intricate which is something I love too!

Is medical school as hard as they say?

Yes, next question. Haha jk, it’s really person specific but for me it’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever done by a wide margin. There’s just so much extra stuff to do on top of trying pass your classes like doing research, trying to get leadership positions, doing well on step 1, impressing the department of the field you are interested in, etc. And then you have to do all of this while trying to maintain relationships with the people you care about as well as take care of yourself too. I think the highs and the lows of experience in medical school were both more extreme than I was expecting.

What keeps you motivated?

I feel like there’s a bunch of stuff! First, I think that being a doctor is going to be amazing, not always easy, but an incredible profession to be a part of, so that motivates me a lot. I have also always been very goal oriented, so always having a class to try and get honors in or a step 1 score to shoot for can motivate me to really work hard. Lastly, I want to make myself and my family proud and that can really get me through some difficult times 🙂

How many hours a day do you have to study?

I would say that I work on school stuff most hours that I’m not sleeping. It definitely depends on how efficient I am, but some days you can be as efficient as possible and still not get everything done. I try and do one fun thing with Peyton every night, but I feel like there are quite a few nights a week where that doesn’t work out :/

How do you manage your time?

I really love being organized so I plan out most days with both the calendar and reminders apps on the iPhone/Mac. I feel like by doing that, most days I am able to get everything done and not miss anything! Having something enjoyable to look forward to always motivate me too!

How often are you able to help with chores, dogs, shopping, etc?

Peyton is the freaking best you guys (I promise this is me and isn’t her lol). I know you all probably already know that, but she really is amazing. I try to help whenever I can, but that’s somewhat infrequent. She does almost everything around the house and takes care of the dogs (including being busy running her own business). My only chore is making the coffee each night before we go to bed, because that’s the one chore she hates for some reason haha.

Do you feel like you ever get a break?

This is a hard one. I feel like the most truthful answer is no. I am not sure if it’s just the way my mind works, but I just struggle to turn off the mindset I have to have to get through med school. The truth is I’m kind of always thinking about something med school related, whether it be research, residency, etc. It’s really hard and it can be exhausting at times, but you just have to make a concerted effort to spend time with family and do fun things to recharge!

How do you make time for Peyton/family/friends with such a busy schedule?

It is definitely a difficult balance that I’m still figuring out! A lot of my close friends don’t live near me, so I end up not spending much time with friends. And I really love my classmates, but I kind of made the conscious decision that with any free time I had, I wanted to spend it with Peyton. My family lives 3 hours away so whenever we see them I’ll carve out a chunk of time that day to spend time with them, but most days I will talk to one of my parents on the phone while I am driving to or from school. It’s a great way to keep in touch with them while also being efficient with time you can’t use to study!

How hard was the MCAT?

It was definitely a grind! I was lucky that I was able to have a pretty easy semester during that time, so I was able to study a lot! That is the first mentally grueling exam that you take on the pre-med/med school track, so it takes a lot out of you!

What is the hardest part of medical school?

I think the hardest part is trying to balance everything. It is awesome to excel in med school, but if you have to sacrifice all the relationships with the people you love most, then it’s not worth it. You will 100% have to make sacrifices in school, but knowing where to draw the line is really tough and incredibly important.

Is medical school worth it?

I would say yes! It is definitely a little harder for me to see as many positives as I will see the further I get in my career, but even now I look back and think on all I’ve learned in 2 1/2 years and it’s amazing to me. Having the ability to treat someone when they’re sick really is such a privilege. Whenever people have a medical problem, for the most part all other things take a backseat to that. Although I haven’t had a ton of experience treating patients just yet, during my clinicals I have been getting to apply knowledge from pre-clinicals to treat real people and it’s a pretty incredible thing 🙂

Did he use Anki? What did he find was the best way to study in preclinical years?

Yes, I absolutely love Anki! Peyton is laughing rn because she knows how passionate I am about Anki lol. For everyone that isn’t familiar with it, Anki is a flash card app that uses spaced repetition to maximize efficiency when learning (look it up!). Anki was a huge component of my preclinical years studying and I’ve done my daily flash cards pretty much every day since starting med school. I used a premade Step 1 deck for my preclinical years and I’m using a premade Step 2 deck for my clerkships!

What’s a typical day in your life look like- preclinical and clinical?

Pre-clinicals: I would typically wake up at 6 or 6:30, get a cup of coffee, read the Bible, and pray for 30 minutes. I would have lecture from 8-9am and then some group activities called Patient Based Learning (PBL) from 9am-12pm where we would work through cases of actual patients and try to get the diagnosis by ordering labs, imaging, etc. then I would come home, grab some lunch, and hang out with Peyton for roughly an hour or an hour and a half. After that I would study until dinner at ~8pm, which we sometimes ate together and sometimes didn’t. Depending on the day and how much studying I had left, I would sometimes have a volunteering activity, study until bed, or relax the rest of the night. It is worth noting that your pre-clinical schedule is pretty variable so most days differ from the others!

Clinicals: Similar to pre-clinicals, this is pretty variable and highly dependent on the rotation you are on. But for most clinic-based rotations we would start at 8am and end from 5-6pm. Sometimes you would have an hour break for lunch, sometimes you wouldn’t have a break for lunch, depending on how the morning clinic went (or if you did a c-section over your lunch hour which was common for my OBGYN rotation). But, I would typically wake up at 5:30 AM, drink a cup of coffee, read the Bible, and pray for 30 to 45 minutes. I would then try and do a little bit of studying before I left for clinic. After I got out of clinic, I would typically eat dinner with Payton and catch up on how her day went. After that, I would usually have a little bit more studying to do, as well as having some research to get done, so doing that would get me to ~9pm. Some nights I would be done after this, and others I would have to study until we go to bed at ~11pm!

Do you get FOMO having to study so much?

Definitely! More so now than I did in my first two years (I’m in my third year now), but it’s tolerable. I think that it is really important still to do fun things you enjoy in med school, because if you completely deprive yourself the FOMO will be huge.

When are you finished?

I graduate May 2022 and then hopefully on to residency in July 2022!

Tips to start preparing for Step 1 and how to keep a relationship alive?

Step 1 studying is definitely the most grueling time of the first two years. I really focused a lot on questions after I sped through some content review and I think that helped a lot. As far as step 1 and relationships, it’s really difficult on both parties because so many sacrifices are being made on each side. I think it is important to know that it is temporary and for each person to do as much as they can to help the other. For Peyton, she took care of even more chores than she typically did. And I really tried to be as efficient as possible so that I would have some time to spend with her each night. But we both knew that each side was really doing as much as they could and that mutual respect goes really far I think.

Any tips for future medical students?

I think it is important to really make sure it’s what you want to do! It’s such a huge decision and there’s a lot of time and money invested in the schooling so you have to be as sure as you can before you really take the leap! Whether that’s reading online about med school, shadowing different physicians, or talking to family/friends who are med students or physicians, you have to do everything you can to make sure it’s the right call because it’s a big decision!

Questions for Peyton:

Is there anything you wish you knew before Eli entered medical school?

Eli is so into researching things ahead of time and preparing for things that I feel like he set me up to know what I was getting myself into! The long hours, the limited free time, etc. I think one thing that surprised me was away rotations- he’ll do a few months of away rotations next year and he’ll be gone for about a month at a time. He probably explained that and I forgot but it was a shock when I first learned he’d be gone for a bit!

Do you ever feel stressed for Eli?

Yes- especially with Step 1. I just cannot imagine the pressure of taking one test and spending months and months only studying for one thing. I do not do well at all under pressure and could never be in his shoes. Test weeks and boards exams I think I’m more nervous than he is haha. I have the utmost confidence in his abilities but I’m still a nervous wreck around big exams!

How much should I expect my spouse to be home?

Eli is home a lot but most of the time he is home he is studying. I would say he has one free weekend afternoon/evening a week and maybe 2-3 nights when we’re able to either cook dinner together or watch an episode of TV. Other than that, the first two years of school he was studying the rest of the time, even if he was home. Of course you get break weeks and some holidays in there! 3rd year has been better- he’s in rotations now so it’s really specific to the rotation how much he’s at the hospital, how much he needs to study, etc.

How do you balance quality time with your husband but also give him time to study?

There’s definitely a learning curve with this. I can need a lot of quality time with him to feel happy. He really is my best friend and I just want to spend 24/7 with him which is very needy I know haha. Plus we live in a city where I don’t know that many people and work from home. So for awhile, Eli was my only friend nearby but also super stressed and busy aka not a lot of time to spend with me. Lots of tears, communication, and compromise has gotten us to the point where we both feel like we have a good balance. I’ve learned to go for walks and call family members/friends when I’m feeling lonely. He’s given up more of his very limited free time in order to spend more time with me.

At the end of the day, we’re a team and in order for us to be the strongest team possible, we have to be understanding of each others situations. I’ve learned to take a step back and think if there’s something I can do to make my situation better before asking him to give up time. It’s made me more independent which is great. Just try to be as understanding as possible and open in your communication about what you actually need.

What surprised you most being a physician spouse?

I think the constant unsettled feeling I have. I feel like in our 20s, we’ll never truly feel settled into a home. Maybe a lot of people would like the idea of moving around a lot, the uncertainty of residency, etc. But I crave consistency and routine. Change is really hard for me so the idea of constantly starting over in new cities is scary. I obviously knew this would be our situation but at 22 it seems kind of exciting- oooh maybe we could live at the beach! But now as we’re getting older I want to be able to settle into a home and lay our roots down. I wouldn’t have thought this would bother me the most a few years ago but it’s definitely a challenge now.

What to do for your spouse during test week?

Leading up to it, planning one fun thing the weekend before to get their mind off of test week is super helpful. A human can only study so much. So even if it’s just watching a show together and not talking about school for a bit, I think that’s helpful! I always tried to give Eli stuff to look forward to that week- like his favorite show or favorite meal.

I did small little gifts every morning ( he had a week of tests every 8 weeks the first two years) with his favorite snacks, coffee, and a little fun item I had found. Just something cute that could make him smile.

Also encouraging him to do things for his mental health like going for a walk or laying in bed with the dogs.

Encouragement, coffee, and snacks basically haha.

Do you get lonely?

Definitely. Not as much anymore because I feel like I’ve found a lot of things to occupy my time. But I went from living with 3 girlfriends in undergrad to moving in with Eli as he started medical school. It was a hard transition for me, accepting that he was under a lot of stress and super busy. F

Questions for Both of Us:

What was it like getting married during medical school/why did you get married during medical school?

Peyton- It was pretty hectic! We got married the weekend after Eli’s last test week of his first year. I was supposed to go to grad school and only had a two week break when we booked the venue/all the stuff. I decided the summer before not to go to grad school and pursue Choosing Balance full time. But we couldn’t change the wedding date. So I did 90% of the wedding planning and Eli did the best that he could. It was so. dang. stressful. Lots of tears and poor Eli had to take like a 6 hour test the day of our rehearsal dinner then hop in the car and drive 3 hours. We got married during medical school because we’ve been dating (with a few breaks) since we were 16 and knew we were ready for that step!

Eli- Things really only get crazier/busier after you start medical school and you get the summer off in-between your first and second years of school. So that is the time whenever a lot of med students get married! Planning the wedding during the first year of school was definitely a challenge. Ask Peyton who planned most of it… haha. The day before our wedding, I had an eight hour exam. So I finished that, then drove three hours to our wedding venue for our rehearsal dinner (almost missed it lol), then got married the next day. A lot of that week leading up to it felt like a blur, a lot of studying/planning and not enough sleep, but I never thought I could be as happy as I was that day. No regrets 🙂

Are you ever jealous of your non medical friend’s relationships?

Peyton- I would say I definitely get envious of the time they’re able to spend together. Everyone has a lot going on in their lives but I sometimes see people doing fun things like going on weekend trips or binging a show in an afternoon and wish that we had the time together to do that. But I love our relationship and I think having less time together makes the time you do get more special! I try to always come back to the fact that I am so content in the relationship we have so why wish things were different than they are.

Eli- Yeah, and I think that is pretty normal! It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking you would be happier doing something different, but at the end of the day, Peyton and I are both doing what we love and although there are a lot of difficult times, we are both extremely happy with our relationship (at least I am lol) and what we are doing professionally. Peyton and I really are best friends (I had a lot of time to work on that whenever I was in the friend zone haha) which makes it even more difficult, but I think we both do a pretty good job of prioritizing each other, so we have minimized the lost time spent together as much as possible.

What is the biggest piece of advice for a medical student dating a non medical student?

Peyton- As the non medical student, the best advice I can give to a fellow spouse/partner is to let the small things go and focus on the big things. Have faith that your partner is doing the best they can under their circumstances. That means not yelling at them when they forget to take the trash out AGAIN and trying to not pick fights at the small stuff. Their time is precious so don’t waste it on small, silly issues. Definitely don’t let real issues build but maybe don’t yell about them leaving their shoes out or not hanging up their coat for the millionth time haha.

Eli- Make them a priority as much as possible. There will be plenty of times in school/residency whenever you don’t get to spend as much time with them, you have to work/study late, etc. but if you make them a priority whenever possible, that will show them that despite how busy and tired you are, you value them so much that you would go out of your way to do things for/with them. As long as you have a significant other that knows how hard you are working, that will mean an incredible amount to them and will show them how much the relationship means to you. One thing that I had to work on is listening to the problems that they have going on in their life. Whenever you are in med school, everything seems to revolve around med school. All of your problems, successes, etc. is related to med school. But it is easy to forget that people have lives going on outside of your journey through med school, so making sure to listen and not disparage them is important

How do you make sure you still have time for each other?

Peyton- I love to plan activities for us! Picnic, hikes, movie nights, fun meals, etc. I think planning something and giving it to him to put in his schedule helps so much! And planning something that we’re both looking forward to!

Eli- You really have to make quality time together a priority. Whenever you are pretty busy like we both are, it is so easy for the day to slip away from you. So unfortunately it is a little bit more difficult to be spontaneous, but you really have to plan out a lot of the time you spend together. I think as long as you prioritize that time, there is definitely enough time to for each other!

If you made it to the end of this, I’m impressed!! Huge shoutout to Eli for taking time to answer these questions with me! Hope they were helpful!