Alexa Kirby / Gavel Media

Diatribe: Pre-Med Syndrome

The Gavel's Diatribe acts as the satirical medium for short rants over topics ranging from complete triviality to utmost importance.

College dorms are a hotbed of germs. Before the big move-in day, students everywhere give up precious summer vacation time to come into their doctor’s office for the required immunizations. They stock up on tissues, cough drops, and Sudafed to guard against the common cold that surges through campus every few weeks. They drink Emergen-C like there’s no tomorrow.

Colleges do their part to prepare as well. They distribute bottles of hand sanitizer and hang posters to inform students just how many seconds of “Happy Birthday” to sing while washing their hands. So much effort goes into avoiding sicknesses, while one, far more dangerous ailment goes virtually unnoticed. The gen-chem classroom is the Petri dish where it infects and spreads, and ironically, the gen-chem curriculum is what ultimately squashes it. What is this dangerous disease you may ask? Pre-med Syndrome.

You may not have heard this phrase before, but you have certainly seen the phenomenon in action. It’s the cult-like obsession so many students, especially freshmen, have with becoming a doctor. You may be thinking, What’s so bad about that? We need doctors! And yes, we absolutely do need doctors. The problem is that that simply put, these students are not doctors. In fact, they aren’t even close to being doctors yet. They are simply undergraduates enrolled in the same core curriculum as every other student. Yet because they are smart, have an interest in science, or are the children of doctors, they gravitate towards this meaningless label, perhaps give unfounded medical advice to friends, and act as if they are evolution’s gift to the world.

Too harsh? Maybe—but this comes from a fellow science-minded person, sick of hearing my classmates gush about their medical school intentions and explaining that, in fact, there are other careers to be had in science other than a doctor. There must be something about the prospect of becoming such a respected member of society that gives pre-med students their air of superiority and entitlement. And while there are certainly sincere and dedicated students who one day will be saving our lives (thank you), I think my frankness is justified because of the others who will ultimately drop the facade and find a new major—but not before driving the rest of us crazy. And personally, I would like us non-med science kids to be able to talk about our majors without the inevitable, dreaded question “Oh! Are you pre-med?”

Admittedly, this is a selfish view of the pre-med craze. The bigger problem is that it actually undermines students’ success by distracting them from other, viable options. Yes, becoming a doctor is one option for smart, science-oriented students, but as soon as you choose pre-med, you are turning your back on all the other possibilities. This could mean trouble in the future if you realize that medicine is not for you only after you’ve spent thousands of dollars and several semesters focusing on nothing else. While it is quite common for students to switch majors during college, I think pre-med is especially dangerous because of the rigid course requirements that may not allow students to take electives or extracurriculars which often lead to the discovery of new interests, passions, and the right major.

No matter what year of college you're currently in, don’t let yourself fall ill with pre-med syndrome. If you do, at least make sure it’s for the right reasons. But above all else—stop talking about it, please.

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