Thursday, December 4, 2008

#26: Intra-class relationships

One word that is used with alarming frequency to describe medical school students is the word "incestuous." In fact, if and when you do matriculate at a medical school, you'll rarely hear the word used more often than in this context. The notable exception to this rule is, of course, West Virginia, but that's just more proof of just how incest-filled med school truly is. However, you'll quickly find out why this word is so frequently used once you get there: like moths to a flame, med students cannot keep their hands off of one another. You will find that medical students pair off quickly and, often, indiscriminately, so it's important to know how to take advantage of this situation (if you desire to do so).

The reasons that medical students fall into the same patterns time and time again are quite simple to understand, when viewed in the proper context. First and foremost, medical students simply don't have many opportunities to go out and socialize with non-med students. This is mostly a consequence of the extreme amount of work they're faced with; time that used to be spent meeting other people now gets taken up studying neural pathways, memorizing cardiac arrhythmias, and learning the mechanisms of action of various neurotransmitters. Simply put, medical students need an outlet. Most of them are young and hormonal, and if they don't have access to people of their choosing, then they will make do with whatever they're given.

However, while much of this behavior can be described as natural, just as much of it is a consequence of sheer stupidity. You'll find that medical students are so desperate to be with someone that they will date people who are completely wrong for them. For example, the following scenario is not uncommon:

You're out one night with a bunch of your friends from medical school who you haven't seen in a while, possibly at a dinner for one of their birthdays. You're making casual talk with them when suddenly you notice that two of your friends are acting more than a little friendly towards one another. At first, you try to remember if the two of them were dating, and you realize that this is a new development. You start recalling your experiences with each of them individually, and you come to the conclusion that these two people are not in any way, shape, or form complimentary to each other. Your mind will struggle to reconcile that knowledge with the information that they are, in fact, dating, and eventually you'll just stop thinking about it because it was never that important in the first place.

When you get to medical school, you will undoubtedly be attracted to someone in your medical class, and will be inclined to date them. It would be unbecoming of me to tell you what to do, but just remember: don't do it. The pros and cons of dating within your class include:

  • Easy access: It's very easy to meet and spend time with people in your medical class. There are always things going on - house parties, tailgates, holiday parties, etc.
  • Quick-forming, intense relationships: One consequence of medical school being so compact and intense is that the students become incredibly close as a result. This same closeness that is found in friendships will also be found in romantic relationships (which, if handled properly, can be a very, very good thing, wink wink nudge nudge).
  • Too much access: You literally cannot get away from the person. For at least the first two years, you and the person you'll be dating will have almost the exact same schedule, which is suffocating for even the most dependent of individuals.
  • Too little privacy: Because medical school class sizes are so small, news travels fast. If something happens in your relationship, you can be sure that most everyone will know about it before you do.
  • Messy breakups: It is well known that medical school is like high school - people form cliques, and if you and your significant other break up, people will take sides. The best thing to do in this situation is to get everyone on your side, quickly.


Anonymous said...

Might I heartily recommend online dating for medical students out there. Very easy to meet people in this manner, especially since people are drawn to those who will be MDs (for better or worse).

Great post, as per usual :-P

Anonymous said...

While much of this post is interesting, I wonder about your example case. If you don't know these friends well enough to know that they're dating, maybe you don't know them well enough to decide whether they should be dating. Please don't scare me off from med school dating!

Medical Student said...

It's satire, my friend. :-) Thanks for reading though!

Sisi Eko said...


james170 said...

As someone who actually made the plunge and started dating someone in their class let me encourage whoever reads this to RUN!!

Med school is an excruciatingly stressful time and it's only natural to seek comfort in someone who understands and can share that burden. Now make that person a cute classmate with a predilection for low cut shirts and combine the fact that you have "so much in common" (ie maybe a sense of humor and you both like medicine) with some hormones...and you can easily end up dating someone you would NEVER otherwise!!

The end result is invariably a short, torrid affair that ends like an atom bomb with fragmented friend groups and adds even more stress to what is already the second most stressful period in your life (residency takes the cake in the stress area).

Oh, and yeah, you still have to see that person almost EVERY SINGLE DAY for at least your first two years, if not longer.

It's happened to me and several other of my friends. The only relationships in med school that last are ones that either started long before or during but with someone outside of med school. Even the vast majority of those doctor couples who get married after meeting in med school end up getting divorced once they get out of training and realize they were never meant for each other to begin with.

So when it comes to throwing aside that Netter's and throwing down on your study parter: JUST SAY NO!!!

Just some friendly advice from someone who cares! :-D

Excellent article by the way!!

moviejunctions said...

The end result is invariably a short, torrid affair that ends like an atom bomb with fragmented friend groups and adds even more stress to what is already the second most stressful period in your life (residency takes the cake in the stress area).

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