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On Why It All Matters: An Open Letter to the Pre-medical Student

Dear pre-medical student,

It’s not easy. We didn’t choose a very simple path, paved with the smoothest of stones. We chose a path of resistance, and I think we’ll be better physicians for it. We’ve chosen to keep walking when the days get hard and the nights feel like the morning won’t come. We’ve been hit by lack of motivation every now and then and even face the battles of imposter syndrome from time to time. Sometimes we’re even tempted to quit because we have been told that the journey is “too long”, or that it’s not worth it, or that we can’t do it. This journey to medicine is unique and sometimes a bit trying, but it’s one that will be worth it-- that is worth it, and will continue to be over and over again for the ones who are called to it.

Our labor isn’t useless. We have a goal. There are patients out there who require our care and if we don’t go, who will?

The truth is that every step matters. Yes, every single one of them. The steps we take in our journey to medicine are more significant than we may deem them; even in the mundane. In the moments where we choose to study when we don’t want to. Or when we wake up early to get more time to revise before an exam. These things matter. It matters when we choose to be present and pay attention in lectures. When you choose to go to that club meeting or attend that conference, you are making decisions that will impact your performance as a physician. is a delightful thing to know that your dreams aren’t as far off as you think-- you can live them now, and a part of that living is found in your decisions.

But be mindful of this: your productivity and pursuit of medicine is not your identity. Believing that your identity is wrapped up in your academic achievements or lack thereof is a dangerous and slippery slope in the sense that your identity now hangs in the balance every time you don’t win the award or do as well as you thought. You are a person. You have a purpose. You matter. With that being said, your choice to rest matters too. When you choose to spend time with your family and friends, that makes a difference. Choosing to take care of yourself shouldn’t be an option, it should be your default. You cannot pour out of an empty cup. You can avoid becoming burnt out and worn out.


Our decisions, whether unto academic excellence or grabbing brunch with a friend, are important in the sense that they help to craft our decision-making processes as physicians. When the calls are high-stakes, and we have to make decisions, we’ve been preparing for that much longer than we know. Choose well and give yourself grace for the times you don’t. It’s all a part of this stunning, peculiar, and remarkable journey.


Cheering you on,

Rebecca Ince


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