As a young adult, I was obsessed with test scores. It was unhealthy. Nothing less than the 99th percentile was good enough, and I wasted countless hours obsessing over A-minuses and unforced errors. My grades were great, but not my mental health. Thankfully, I was rescued by a moment of clarity during a Kaplan MCAT class, when I recognized the pointlessness of studying just to ace a test. I quit the class and resolved to enjoy learning physics and organic chemistry for their own sake. I did well on the MCAT, probably better than had I stayed in the class.
It’s not that test scores don’t matter. They do. And while test scores are meaningless by themselves, they’re indispensable for gauging what we know. A lot goes into becoming a great internist: procedural skills, communication, judgment, empathy, and grace under fire. But medical knowledge is equally essential, conferring the ability to ask the right questions, recognize subtle abnormalities, and make difficult diagnoses. There’s no substitute.
Good internists love to learn. We learn from the stories patients tell, from discussions on work rounds, and from questions we look up on line. We learn from each other when we participate in Report, Journal Clubs, Ambulatory Academic Half Days, and hands-on workshops. This is why participating in conferences is mandatory: there’s no substitute.
Finally, we build knowledge with independent study. Internists are responsible for an immense field of knowledge, from endocrinology to cardiology, from primary care to critical care. Thankfully, the resources are limitless. My regimen includes MKSAP, NEJM Journal Watch, and email alerts from medical journals. Other great resources include apps, podcasts, select social media sites, and the Traditional Internal Medicine education collection.
As a group, our residents do well on the USMLEs, ITEs, and the Boards, not because we aim for high scores, but because we love to learn. Love for learning drove most of us into this wonderful specialty, which embraces all knowledge, from science to the humanities. In turn, this love for knowledge enriches our lives, empowers us to care for patients, and helps us become the best internists we can be.
Enjoy your Sunday, everyone. I’m going for a hike and then returning to my desk to do a little studying.