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May 27, 1983

Coping in Medical School

Author Affiliations

Harvard Medical School Class of 1985 Boston

JAMA. 1983;249(20):2827-2828. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03330440063038

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This fall, one of my classmates said in frustration, "It doesn't matter how smart we are or how hard we study. To be a good doctor, you just have to be old!" Medical school would frustrate anyone, but it is especially frustrating for the people it specially selects: bright, caring people. Dr Bernard Virshup has observed these frustrations and has counseled medical students on how to cope with the many challenges they face in learning to be good physicians. He has written this guide to help students understand their needs and deal with them.

Dr Virshup starts with the premise that the problem is not really in the selection of students; most students are emotionally stable and intellectually capable. Rather, the problem lies in a system that expects superhuman effort without providing for human needs and fears. The individual must cope on his own. Dr Virshup concludes that "how well