Brought to you by the students of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
By Alex Cortez and Meredith Harris
We can’t say they didn’t warn us. Think back to the good old days—before we knew every substrate phosphorylated in metabolism, before we knew which way to place the earpieces of our stethoscopes, and even before we got to feel special for the last time in the next four years at our White Coat Ceremony—when all we had to do was read My Own Country by Abraham Verghese. While the book was filled with many ethical and moral dilemmas, not one of which went unmentioned in our small group discussions, it also highlighted a marriage dissolving slowly from the constant stress that our careers of choice will place on our relationships. What were they trying to tell us? The administration was attempting to warn us about the strain our personal lives will undergo and in turn offer us a solution. Like Dr. Verghese, we can all sit down on the porch one day and write a pioneering novel or article that will be published in an esteemed journal and, if we are lucky, that will happen right as our significant other leaves us or as we realize that we have been too busy to find anyone to share our life with. That will fill the void, wont it?
It’s quite sobering to think about this. And while some might not want to accept it, there is some truth behind the sarcasm. Relationships, love, and marriage are experiences many of us would like to enjoy, but there is no denying that the career we have chosen makes enjoying those things much more difficult. However, difficult does not mean impossible. Though our class is split fairly even between the 46% single students and 54% in a relationship, engaged, or married, most of us have come to accept that “med school is not the most conducive to romance.” While both the matched up and single groups each bring their own unique pros and cons, our relationships (or lack thereof) are just another place where we realize that our lives are not fully our own anymore.
Out of 107 classmates who took our “Medical School Romance” survey, 12% are married or engaged. Surprised? If so, you’re not alone. Sixty-two percent of our colleagues said they too were surprised by the number of students married or engaged in our class. However, medical school brings together many people who are at very different points in their lives, a diversity that is essential to our well-roundedness as a class. While most of these married and engaged students enjoy the “source of love, support, security, and comfort that is needed while walking the treacherous waters of medical school,” they acknowledge that it is not without its fair share of shipwrecks. One student mentions that study breaks are some of the only times that he and his wife can spend together, while another says that it is very tough to balance commitments. Yet another one of our classmates (who should write for Hallmark if medical school doesn’t work out) says, “the very best gift you can give to your spouse is free time.” Before medical school started months ago, our significant others may have preferred jewelry or electronics as gifts, but now with our busy schedules, it seems as if the more precious gifts do not require money, but time and energy. The payoff? It seems such investments are mutual as our classmates’ spouses provide a needed escape from the prison bars of the MSB.
The Ringless Lovers
While not married yet, 44% of our classmates are currently in a relationship, 47% of which have been in their relationship for two years or longer. While these students share many of the same sentiments as the lifers do, they also have some unique challenges. Many believe that medical school has actually been positive for their relationships because it has served the role of a “compatibility enzyme”—it won’t make something that isn’t going to eventually happen take place, but it highlights their relationships’ importance (or their inability to work) at an accelerated rate. As one student states, “I feel that med school pushes the decision sooner, as you find out rapidly if your relationship has what it takes to make it the distance.” Speaking of distance, with many of us making a move to Cincinnati for medical school, long distance relationships are a commonality. While some think this may be for the better because of the lack of time to devote to their significant others, for some reason, kissing the computer screen on Skype just lacks the same feeling as face-to-face interactions. With the degree of uncertainty we have about our future locations and specialties, and with our lack of financial income, about 54% of the unmarried class feels it is impractical to marry until during or after residency and 65% of them rank themselves between a 1 to 3 (on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being most ready to marry) in their readiness to marry at this point in their lives. So for the 13% of you who are not married and ranked yourself as a 4 or 5 on the readiness to marry scale, we’d encourage you not to look around MSB for your future spouse.
And now we come to the remaining half of our survey responders—single and (according to our survey) ready to mingle…with people who are not our classmates. Seventy-five percent of our single classmates say that they are interested in dating and seeing where things go or are pursuing long-term relationships. However, this cohort seems to be the most disgruntled of the three groups. According to one student (who shares sentiments with many others) med school “makes me feel like I should be in a serious relationship at this point in my life.” However, this seems to provide many challenges. Because relationships usually involve two human beings (sorry to the respondent who is resigned to being a cat lady), the hardest challenge of dating is finding someone to date since many students do not want to pursue a relationship with another medical student. One student complains, “Do you really want to be in a relationship with someone who is just as anal or cut throat competitive as you are?” That sounds exciting. Others simply are afraid of the awkwardness over the next four years if a relationship with a classmate fails. However, with our lack of social lives, it seems impossible to meet anyone outside of medical school. On a positive note, many of our colleagues realize that a relationship is one less thing they have to worry about as a single student. One student acknowledges that this allows her to make better relationships with her classmates and be more dedicated to her studying. This benefit, however, comes at the expense of a crucial support system that many single students say they would like, and which many non-single students are thankful for.
Unfortunately for many of us, the abundant love and romance we expected from medical school after having watched Grey’s Anatomy for years doesn’t seem to play out as we had hoped (though maybe the third years who are on the wards would tell us otherwise). For this reason, maybe it is a good thing that we no longer have time to watch TV so that we are not constantly disappointed with our own lives. Regardless as to whether you are matched up or single, we nonetheless are a group who loves challenges. Why should our relationships be any different?
Love and Med School - can they coexist?
Copyright © 2011 Mentis