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The comedian Louis C.K. once said, "A 55-year-old garbage man is
a million times smarter than a 28-year-old with 3 PhDs. Especially
smarter than him, because this idiot has been thinking about 3
things for, like, 15 years. He's worthless." Crudeness and
hyperbole aside, I believe that many of us medical students could
benefit by carefully applying Mr. C.K.'s opinion about the value of
real life, nonacademic experience to our medical education.
Most of us would agree that the first 2 years of medical school
are grueling. There is an enormous amount of information that needs
to be covered, and to prepare for USMLE Step 1 and clinical
rotations, we are right to focus on coursework as our primary
concern. However, with the stress of school always present in our
minds, it is easy to forget that the purpose of our education is to
prepare us to function outside the walls of academia, where we will
see a variety of patients in diverse situations. Not to mention
that many of us have other pursuits besides patient care that we
are interested in cultivating, such as research or public health.
It would be foolish to suggest that we should ignore the outside
world and our biggest passions for half of medical school.
Thus, each of us must eventually make the difficult decision of
where to draw the nebulous line that separates necessary from
superfluous studying. I doubt that any medical student has ever
made the distinction perfectly, but that should not stop us from
making it as best we can. I believe that those who are able to
confidently make that distinction feel more purposeful and
energized during their first 2 years of medical school. I was
nearing the end of my first year when I decided that I was going to
begin making a concerted effort to pursue extracurricular
interests, even if it meant that my grades might fall slightly.
Although I was feeling burnt out at the time and could hardly
imagine going through an entire school year with extracurricular
duties in addition to the academic workload, I realized that I
could benefit from the enjoyment and experience that those duties
would provide. So, I took the plunge and tepidly agreed to help
lead 2 student clubs, one of them being the Internal Medicine
Interest Group (IMIG) at my school.
Now that I am nearing the end of my second year, I can say in
retrospect that the decision to participate in an IMIG has greatly
benefited me professionally and personally. If you are a first- or
second-year medical student, there are 3 primary reasons why I
would recommend participating in the IMIG on your campus.
1. Internal medicine is a broad field with something to
offer for everyone. It should come as no surprise that
professionals in diverse positions, such as U.S. Surgeon General
Vivek Murthy, author and academic Abraham Verghese, and Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann, are among those
who have completed an internal medicine residency. Consequently,
IMIG chapters, which are sponsored by the American College of
Physicians (ACP) and are used to advocate for internal medicine and
its subspecialties, offer a microcosm of the opportunities
available to internists. This year alone, my IMIG has planned
events around such topics as hospital medicine, cardiology,
critical care/pulmonology, hematology/oncology, gastroenterology,
internal medicine/pediatrics, and bioethics. We may hold additional
events for health care policy and clinical skills development.
Students who are actively involved in an IMIG have the opportunity
to plan events on topics that they are personally passionate
2. I would encourage fellow students to join an IMIG for
the leadership, event planning, and networking
opportunities. Although they may seem different, I believe
that these matters are closely related because they all rely on
communication and social interaction as a foundation. Before
joining an IMIG, I had never been responsible for coordinating
multiple facets of a large event, such as setting a date, securing
funding, finding a suitable space, planning and ordering food, and
communicating with the speaker. With the IMIG, I had the
opportunity to do this not once, but twice, and both events had
more than 100 attendees. As a result, my confidence and ability to
organize events and direct people grew tremendously. I also
developed strong relationships with the other IMIG officers and was
able to meet many professors, residency program directors, and
physicians at group events. In all likelihood, I will be reaping
the benefits of the leadership, event planning, and networking
opportunities that the IMIG provided for years to come.
3. Participating in an IMIG offers access to all of the
opportunities and resources of the ACP. Through my
involvement in the IMIG, I met a professor at my medical school who
I worked with on a clinical vignette poster that I eventually
presented at the regional ACP conference-and was even named a
finalist in my category! This was the first time I had prepared and
presented an academic poster, and the experience would have been
missed had I not been involved in an IMIG. Members of an IMIG can
also submit articles to ACP publications, participate in government
advocacy, connect with physician mentors through a mentor database,
and much more.
If, like Louis C.K., you believe that nonacademic competence is
important and are looking for a way to gain some while in medical
school, I believe you should make your time count by joining an
IMIG. Perhaps the best endorsement I can give to my experience is
that if I had to repeat the first 2 years of medical school,
participating in an IMIG again would be a no-brainer. The
experience was enjoyable, educational, and both professionally and
personally rewarding. Although there were many weeks when the group
required significant amounts of my time, my grades never suffered.
With the IMIG, you will have the chance to pursue your interests,
grow as a leader, meet interesting people, and benefit from
membership in the ACP. If your experience is anything like mine,
you will not regret it.
IMIG Student Leader
University of Minnesota
Twin Cities Medical School
Class of firstname.lastname@example.org
January 2015 Issue of IMpact
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