Medical School: Will It Make or Break You?

Do you enjoy reading? I sure hope so because you’ll want a cup of coffee for this entry. It’s going to be a long one! I’ve been a slacker since my last post and soaking up Matt’s “normal” schedule during this OMM rotation at the local clinic. During this time of having him home at a “normal” hour, aka 5:30, we’ve been granted more time together than we have since our summer trip to Asheville. I will not lie when I say I am soaking it all in because I know when his surgery rotations start, the wife gets kicked back to the curb, at least for four more weeks.

Getting kicked to the curb may sound harsh, but it’s the honest truth. Med school is an experience like no other, and for those who have been in it long enough, you’ll realize two things: It will make you or it will break you. When Matt first started in July 2014, we were petrified. We weren’t yet married and had packed up our entire world into one Subaru (I don’t call it The Beast for nothing) and a 20 foot U-Haul. If we didn’t last, guess who was packing up The Beast, grabbing her cat, and hauling her butt back to PA? To make my already anxious self even worse, I heard a statistic at orientation for SAA (more information to follow) that roughly 85% of couples do not make it through the medical school process, whether it’s the first four years or residency. Where that speaker got that statistic I have no idea. Are there couples who won’t make it? Sure; I’ve witnessed it and it sucks. Talk about getting kicked to the curb. However, there are even more couples who make it, and it’s wonderful when they do.

Tonight was the first meeting of SAA (Student Advocate Association), the organization on campus designed to promote inclusion and a friendly community for significant others and spouses of medical school students, for the 2016-2017 school year. I have been active in the organization since I moved down here and can honestly say I’m glad I joined when I did. Having others to vent to and cry with who know exactly what you’re going through is fantastic. At the meeting tonight, there were some women there whose husbands are both first and second year students, along with myself and another whose husbands are third year students. Boy, do they have a lot to look forward to. Being in a room with young women who are just now diving into this experience made me reflect on how far Matt and I have come since we moved down here.

The President of the group this year shared the following paper with everyone in attendance, and it couldn’t be more accurate.

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Although every single one of these is accurate, the one that I find the most applicable to me is #8. When we got here, I was so set on working with the elderly, making big bucks since I deserved it with a Master’s degree, (I should have known that wasn’t going to happen in West Virginia), and keep every single friendship I had in high school and college. Well, guess what? I’m not working with the elderly, I certainly do not make big bucks, and friendships have come and gone. You, as a medical school spouse, will grow just as much as your partner, except in a different way. Question things. Make new friends. Get out and do stuff you’ve never done before. I would have never known how much animal rescue and advocacy would mean to me if I hadn’t started volunteering at the local humane society. I wouldn’t have known that I want to settle down in the mountains somewhere if I had lived in the same state all my life. Most importantly, Matt and I now know we can handle anything. Throughout our time here, we have been handed a lot of cards; a lot of crappy ones, that’s for sure, but also a lot of good ones. I feel we’re stronger than we would be if we had married and stayed in PA because we weren’t ever tested. Although I could choose to hate medical school for many reasons, allowing my husband and I to draw closer is definitely not one of them.

Below are photos throughout our two years in West Virginia, obviously including our furry companions. Our second wedding anniversary is next week (October 18th!!), so I’m also kind of sappy and overly excited. It’s awesome to see my best friend work hard to achieve his dream of becoming a doctor. When he earns the title D.O. in May 2018, he’ll have deserved it. Through it all, I’m forever thankful that medical school isn’t breaking us, but instead making us into better humans, a better couple, and overall, giving us a better marriage. Love you future Dr. Matthew Smith!

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