Attending medical school at an institution that prides itself on their “leaders and best,” I am constantly in awe of the incredible individuals with whom I share the Ann Arbor streets, serve on the same clinical team and eat with in the same hospital cafeteria. There is a variety of superstars who walk the hallways of the Michigan Medicine hospitals, whether they be renowned attendings, role model residents or fellow classmates with remarkable past lives that have led them to a place like Michigan.
Being surrounded by the “leaders and best” every day, I have to admit that there have been many times when “imposter syndrome” creeps into my mind. And a few times when it full-on football-defensive-line tackles me, my whole body, my whole mind. Seeing and hearing about the amazing experiences my classmates are achieving and are a part of—whether it’s regarding academics, research, extracurriculars or other domains—there are times of feeling inadequate and thoughts of doubt if I could keep up with such superiority.
Growing up as a competitive athlete, I quickly learned that there will always be others who are bigger, stronger, quicker and better. After coming to medical school, and especially at a top institution such as Michigan, it was not surprising to find a similar experience. I am constantly impressed by the intelligence, integrity and talents of my classmates.
Yet, being in this position does not need to elicit feelings of mediocrity and inadequacy. Rather, why not take advantage of this opportunity of being around such superstars? Embrace the honor of being at the same place. Connect with them and pick their brains to hear their stories, their challenges, their lessons learned. Equip yourself with new insights and skills. Adapt and apply the energy and knowledge of others. Create relationships and build mentorships. That has been my way to embody the “leaders and best.”
When I first started medical school, research was certainly not a strong suit of mine. I was easily overshadowed by many of my classmates, who were research “gurus” in their past lives, boasting PhD or Master’s degrees, publications and years of experience. Rather than pout in my inferiority or fear that my competitiveness as a candidate for residency would not live up to that of my classmates, I chose to collaborate. I turned to these individuals and asked for guidance. I gained new insights when working together with various colleagues on different projects. I sought out opportunities to evolve this weakness into a strength, such as serving as an editor on the Michigan Journal of Medicine for peer-to-peer, hands-on learning from these experts.
I chose to collaborate. I made the decision to be one of the “leaders and best.”
Christine Wu is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Michigan and plans to pursue a career in General Surgery. She is passionate about medical education, teamwork and leadership development, and college athletics. She can be followed on Twitter at @Christine_Wu18.