“Medicine isn’t challenging enough…”

I know, right?

I was just talking to one of the girls in my class on the way back from an AWESOME dissection when we got onto the topic of the matric results. In my country, finishing high school is a major deal, and your senior year (matric) is so serious that the results get published nationwide. The best students usually get mentioned in newspapers or appear on the news.

So this friend, I’ll call her Sari Girl, starts telling me about this one boy from an underprivileged school who got a ridiculous amount of distinctions despite his background. It was all very touching until she started telling me about what he said when he appeared on the news.

Journalist: So, Mr. Needa Challenge, what do you plan on studying at university next year?

Needa Challenge: Well, I’ve always wanted to study medicine…

Journalist: Wow, ambitious…

Needa Challenge: But medicine is just so easy. I need something more challenging. So I think I’ll study Quantum Physics instead.


Okay, so I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t think we have the most mentally challenging course around. And I’m sure the Quantum Physics guys would probably have a field day telling us why, though they’re probably all very nice people. But, um, easy? Has he even been to MS?

Oh, that’s right. HE HASN’T! Which brings me to my next point.

I never used to appreciate it when people in University told me that I was being dramatic and HS isn’t all that and just wait till you’re out of matric if you want to see hard work. But let’s be serious here. THERE IS NOTHING EVEN REMOTELY COMPARABLE TO MEDSCHOOL IN THE HIGH SCHOOL SYLLABUS! How could this mere highschool graduate think that he was fit to make that kind of an evaluation with zero experience???

I’m sorry, but that’s just laughable.


Filed under medical, random, ranting, Uncategorized

5 responses to ““Medicine isn’t challenging enough…”

  1. Pingback: 16 THINGS…I wish someone had told me before 1st year began… | Guide To MedSchool

  2. Med School Odyssey

    Interesting attitude. Having studied quantum physics to some degree and currently begun the a foray into medicine, I’d have to agree with him in a sense. To study quantum mechanics requires a couple of years of mathematics and classical physics as a foundation, which is why the quantum mechanics sequence is typically taken during a person’s junior or senior years at an American university. It’s very abstract since you can’t draw pictures for it and so the emphasis upon mathematics (particularly linear algebra) becomes larger the further you go. Once you get past the basics of quantum, then the real fun starts – you start learning about gauge theory and symmetries, which lets you start talking quantitatively about things like the Standard Model. It’s very difficult because the concepts are so non-intuitive and the mathematics become so very abstract.

    Where I think the difficulty in comparison lies is in the quantity of information required to know. I can probably list the problems that will be covered in a year long quantum mechanics course on an index card. One might think “Gee, they spent 3 weeks of lecture going over the hydrogen atom?”. But, in that period, most students will spend about 15-20 hours each week working on the homework and trying to understand the reading. It’s only one major topic, but it takes a long time to assimilate. Medical school doesn’t require that kind of depth – but the amount of information is vast.

    Ultimately, the decision to study anything, be it physics, medicine or culinary arts shouldn’t be based upon how hard it is or whether someone will stand up and take notice of you. The young man that states he’s interested in studying quantum physics rather than medicine due to the perceived difference in their difficulty is a fool and probably doesn’t have a clue about either subject.

    • I fully agree with you. I spoke to a friend of mine who is currently studying QF and got the impression–just from glancing at his notes, that it’s something I’d much rather hear about than study. Like I said, Med isn’t all that mentally challenging–at least not as far as I can tell at this point. It’s just the work. There’s A LOT. And this is where my gripe with this guy is: how can you judge the level of difficulty of a course that you’ve never done? I like what you said:

      “The young man that states he’s interested in studying quantum physics rather than medicine due to the perceived difference in their difficulty is a fool and probably doesn’t have a clue about either subject.”

      PS: You seriously lost me in that first paragraph. I hat to reread it twice to get it. Have mercy when you’re speaking to a lowly MS!

      • Med School Odyssey

        The first paragraph…yeah, sorry if that was a little confusing. I’ll try and clarify a bit.

        There are two major branches of mechanics. One is ruled by Newton and usually referred to as classical physics. It’s what one would study in a freshman course and find on the MCAT – it’s governed by the familiar equation F = ma. It explains most everything that we see on a daily basis, from the motion of the planets, blocks on planes, pulley systems, etc. Virtually everything that one observes can be explained by Newtonian physics and it was all well-understood up until the first few years of the 20th century.

        All that changed during the early part of the 20th century with the development of the other branch of physics known as quantum physics. Einstein, Bohr, Dirac, and many others rewrote the entire book on how particles move and by the latter half of the 20th century, we had developed an entirely new way of determining particle motion.

        As it turns out, Newton had been wrong about a lot of things, but for large objects at low velocities his view still made accurate enough predictions, which was it took 200 years before we discovered his oversight. Anyway, at high velocities or extremely small scales, Newton’s equation of motion doesn’t work and a different equation is used to figure out the system – the Schrodinger equation. As you can see from the link, the notation of the equation looks bizarre. Furthermore, the predictions it makes, even for simple systems, are often counter-intuitive and usually run counter to our everyday experience. Hence a large part of the difficulty in learning quantum mechanics.

        What really makes things tough is that, the more we learn about the universe, the more we find it is simple. Let me try to illustrate with an example. Most people can accept the fact that there are four fundamental forces. There is the electromagnetic force, gravity, the weak interaction, and the strong interaction (this holds protons and neutrons together in the nucleus). We can study these each independently, but as it turns out, with the exception of gravity, all are different manifestations of the same force; the weak, strong, and electromagnetic interactions are really the same interaction. This is an amazing simplification – instead of four forces, there really only two! However, the price that we pay for simplification (conceptually) is mathematical abstraction. The simpler picture is more accurate and clearer, but to describe it, we’ve had to invent new mathematics that can be quite intimidating and take a long time to thoroughly understand – if you’re interested, check out Noether’s theorem.

        Permit me one more example about how we approach our study of nature – this is probably universal and applies to biology, chemistry, and medicine, as well as physics. Let’s say that we’re watching two people play some game like chess but we don’t know the rules. However, we’re allowed to look at the board from time to time. Now, let’s say that after watching for a while and making some observations we deduce that bishops are restricted to one color. Now, we continue watching and eventually realize the truth about bishops – they can only move along diagonals. This deeper understanding has now explained the reason for the perceived confinement of the bishop to black or white squares.

        After a while, we’ve been able to make similar deductions about most of the pieces and have refined our theories rather well. We’ve concluded a person can only move one piece at a time, that rooks move only on horizontals, and so forth. However, one day we’re watching the pieces and continuing to make observations, when suddenly something bizarre happens in the corner of the board. A king and a rook have switched places with each other. None of our observations about the laws governing the motion of the pieces would have predicted this. In fact, it flies in the face of everything we know – kings cannot move more than one square at a time, and neither piece can leap over another. However, up until this point, our theory has worked very well, made lots of outstanding predictions, and explained the laws governing the motion of the pieces, so we aren’t quite ready to throw it all out. So instead, we do some more study, make more observations and so on, until we figure out this phenomenon which we decide to call castling.

        This is the basic way that I look at how we study and learn about science and it certainly seems to correspond to how we’ve built our understanding of the world around us.

      • Thanks for clarifying there. Still a tad confused, but I definitely have a greater appreciation for the thought process you must have to subject yourself to. Hope medschool doesn’t turn out to be a total anticlimax for you 😉

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