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Strong Opinions

A trait I’ve noticed in medical students is that they’re strongly opinionated. Compared to undergrad students, medical students have something to say about everything. Not convinced, ask your average college student about health care, politics, economics, social issues or poverty. A good majority will not know about the topics, be undecided or have mild answers.

Ask a medical student and expect to listen to an earful.

Part of this phenomenon is due to a self-selection bias. The type of students who are admitted into medical school tend to be curious, vocal, and passionate. They get involved with student politics, world issues and have given most of these things much though. I’m not saying that you can’t be an outspoken student as an undergraduate, the incidence just happens to be much higher in med school.

Sometimes the intensity does get to me. It can create a divisive environment where neither party is willing to back down. Students will impose their views on others and make their voices heard.

On the flip side, being passionate and strongly opinionated, holding to one’s opinions unreasonably or stubbornly┬á can be admirable. It’s what makes physicians such good advocates. It’s what drives student to strive to do what’s best for the patient. It’s strong-minded people that push for improvements in the status quo, and ultimately those who persist, through criticism and self-doubt, are those who get the job done.

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  1. frylime
    frylime January 9, 2009

    i must say that now in med school i have become more politically aware than in my entire life. nice observation!

  2. LF
    LF January 10, 2009

    Unable to sleep (on post-call adrenaline), and surfed here from the PM101 forums.. I’m glad I did. Excellent writing. Thanks for the thought-provoking articles; I enjoyed reading them.

    As to this post.. perhaps there is a perceptual bias as well? The most vocal are also the most remembered, or perhaps the makeup of your class is different than mine ­čÖé There is definitely a segment of my classmates who are more reserved and prefer to reflect and gather information before committing to a stance. It likely corresponds to Myers-Briggs intraversion/extraversion as well.

  3. Joshua
    Joshua January 11, 2009

    Interesting observation, though I guess I’m not really surprised.

    Having a strong voice on an issue is a good thing, so long as you have the humility to realize your own position is not necessarily superior or more correct. It often amazes me how narrow-minded some really strong-willed individuals can be – as if being right is more important than seeking truth.

    I’ve come to realize that I’m often wrong, and I’m okay with that. It means I always have more to learn, and that the world is much bigger than my set of eyes normally sees. In the end I just want to know the truth so I can make the best decisions possible.

    I’m sure you are finding group situations with other medical students quite interesting… are you finding more “head butting” in group projects compared to your previous experiences?

    • medaholic
      medaholic January 14, 2009

      Actually, the amount of headbutting hasn’t increased that much in group work. The strange thing I’ve realized is that as a consequence of being around strong minded individuals, I am becoming more and more opinionated. I have to voice my opinions and concerns louder, lest I be drowned out.

  4. Joshua
    Joshua January 16, 2009

    Wow, funny you say that.

    A few of the good friends I’ve made in university are much more opinionated than my friends from high school, and I have noticed a very similar change with myself.

  5. annabadoc
    annabadoc January 21, 2009

    You are absolutely right!! First I thought it had something to do with me living in DC, but as I met more med students from other states, I realized that it’s just med students having an opinion about everything. I think it’s great…because I’m never bored with these conversations. Sure I get tired of listening to people with strong opinions (and who love to hear their own voice), but it beats straining to carry a conversation.

  6. JJ
    JJ January 24, 2009

    True, but it’s also the reason why doctors are such a politically weak group.

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