Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi, the Dean at Weill Cornell Medicine recently wrote an op-ed about medical school burnout. Obviously, an op-ed from the dean of a top medical school will carry more weight than just about everyone else.
In the op-ed (see the link above), Dr. Choi questions how, “medical education is somehow turning smart, gifted, enthusiastic applicants into exhausted and unhappy students who become interns, residents, and physicians at increased risk of depression and burnout.” He addressed the high rates of depression across medical students as well. If you’re wondering what other countries are doing to address this issue, unfortunately, a benchmark will not make a quick, simple fix. Quite simply, 47 countries report higher rates of depression in medical school students than the overall population.
The glimmer of hope in the op-ed is the growing availability of free, confidential mental health care at medical schools across the country. Students taking advantage of these services are receiving medication and talk therapy. Furthermore, many report the experience helps them develop their empathy. After all, there’s nothing quite like being the vulnerable patient to make future doctors more fully appreciate the role of empathy in medicine.
Even if you feel that you are 100% physically and mentally prepared for medical school, it still wouldn’t hurt to give added weight to schools that offer these mental health care services. Unfortunately, you can never predict when you yourself may need help. We have talked to alumni clients who have told us that watching fellow students burnout has actually had a negative impact on their own mental health. And, in conclusion, we would like to reiterate that if you have any emotional issues, please seek out professional help right away to ensure things can’t spiral out of control. And always remember not to underestimate the value of a strong support system. Particularly when you’re in the midst of a grueling medical education!