Guest Mountain Muser Micah here...I've done quite a bit of heavy "musing" the past week, with the first block of med school exams of the semester. I have 5 classes: Medical Genetics, Human Behavior, Practice of Medicine, Neuroscience, and Physiology. This semester is a bit heavier than last, and this past week was the hardest so far since August. But I've come out the other end just fine, albeit a little sleep-deprived. I've also noticed the mess in my apartment tends to pile up as tests draw closer; so last night I did a lot of dishwashing, vacuuming, and laundry.
So I thought I'd do a little education on medical education...a little breakdown of the many years between the end of undergrad and actually going into practice.
Medical school: 4 years after undergrad. There are about 140 medical schools between the US and Canada combined. The 4 years are generally split into 2 parts: 2 years of classroom learning, concentrating on the normal human body and processes in the first year, and transitioning to the disease processes and abnormal anatomy in the 2nd year. The 3rd and 4th years are much anticipated by students who have slaved away for 2 years of intense study. These years consist of several required and elective rotations among various specialties, such as Pediatrics, Ob-Gyn, Surgery, and many others.
Residency: After graduating from medical school, you are now offically an MD. To be officially licensed to practice however, you must complete a residency. Residencies are training programs that focus on the specialty you desire to practice in. These programs are applied for during the 4th year of medical school and last for a varying amount of time, depending on the specialty. For example, a Pediatrics residency lasts 3 years post-medical school, while surgery lasts 5. You receive intense training, often working long hours (officially limited by law to 80 hours/week) in the specialty of your choice. Residencies are paid positions and you function as an employee of the hospital during this time.
Fellowship: You are able to practice medicine following completion of your residency. However, many doctors choose to subspecialize in their specialty, and thus complete 1-3 additional years of training in the subspecialty. Fellows often complete research projects during this period as well.
Having completed this journey, you're now able to practice medicine, whether it be as a solo practioner (the popularity of this is fading in modern times with rising health care costs) private group practice, or academic medicine, where you are associated with a medical school/teaching hospital. All told, your time invested post-undergradute at minimum is 7 years (4 med, 3 residency) to as much as 12-14 years in some of the surgical subspecialties. It's a large price to pay, but most doctors see this investment as worth it in the long run.
I'm still deciding on a specialty--Surgery and Pediatrics are among my interests now, and who knows, they might change once I begin rotations.
Well, that's it from Medical Musings. Remember, an apple a day... :)