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What Happens During and After Medical School

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Shravya Kakulamarri in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.


What’s Covered:



This article outlines the path to becoming a doctor after you complete your undergraduate degree, fulfill your pre-med requirements, and apply to and matriculate at medical school. As you will see, the road to becoming a doctor is quite long and requires a high level of commitment, but each step along the way can be deeply meaningful and rewarding. 


Medical School: Classroom Learning


The first two years of medical school are lecture-based in a classroom setting. Broadly speaking, you will not spend much time in a clinic or hospital, although you may have a few opportunities to shadow physicians and learn how to talk to patients. 


Your classes will focus on all aspects of the human body. You will learn about all of the organ systems such as the skeletal, muscular, and cardiovascular systems and you will take courses in subjects like anatomy, physiology, histology, neuroscience, immunology, pathology, and pharmacology to name a few. 


Medical School: Rotations


During your third and fourth year of medical school, you will be learning in a hospital setting by rotating through different specialties, such as obstetrics and gynecology, surgery, and pediatrics. These rotations will give you first-hand experience of how physicians in these specialties approach patient treatment and you will determine what specialties appeal, or do not appeal, to you. 


Some medical students will take time between their third and fourth years of medical school to pursue a research year where they will gain more research experience and generate more publications. This year helps students refine their interests and become more competitive applicants when applying to residency programs. 


Residency Programs


After you graduate from medical school, you are technically a doctor that can practice medicine. However, you cannot see your own patients until you apply to, match into, and complete a residency program. 


Residency programs take between three and seven years to complete depending on your chosen specialty and whether it is clinical or surgical. For instance, residency programs for family practice last three years whereas a surgical residency program will last a minimum of five years. During your residency program, you will see patients in a clinic or hospital under the supervision of attending physicians. 




After you complete your residency program, you become an attending physician. That means you are able to practice medicine in the specialty in which you were trained, and you can see and treat patients on your own. Depending on your chosen speciality, you may continue your training by pursuing a fellowship or sub-specialty program. For example, if you would like to perform heart surgery, you would first complete a general surgery residency program followed by a fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery. 


 For more information geared towards pre-med students, check out CollegeVine’s Recent Articles about Pre-Med Programs.