By: Son Tran, PGY-1
Son (Peter) Tran is a native of San Jose, CA and a recent graduate of Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine. He chose podiatry out of a passion for diabetic limb salvage, reconstruction, and science. During his time as a student, he co-authored three posters and two research articles. He hopes to continue advancing the field of podiatric medicine and surgery as a new PGY-1 intern at Medstar Washington Hospital Center.
Personal Message: This goes out to the students who are going through or have just ended their first two years of podiatry school. It means a lot that you’d spend time in your life to read about problems in mine. I hope that you’ll find some humor in what I went through. Hopefully you’ll know that if I can make it to the end, you will just as well.
Second Year (Year 2)
People said that the first year of podiatry school was the most important. If I burned my grades, then I’d have torched my opportunities in residency. And that’s what I did – everything to ashes. I wasn’t ready for anything that year. Honestly, I think that undergrad me would have quit pursuing medicine if I ever failed a final, but podiatry me was just happy to finally be healthy again.
I wasn’t happy with myself. I was disenchanted with my education and I fell out of love with my path.
I headed home to California in summer 2017. It was the second time seeing my family. I sat again on American Airlines in the window seat with the familiar sunken spirits and nothing worth bragging about to my parents. I wasn’t happy with myself. I was disenchanted with my education and I fell out of love with my path.
My childhood friend and I once had a conversation about endurance. He jokingly proclaimed, “endurance was for people with options.” But that always stuck with me. For me, I didn’t have the luxury to endure. If I quit podiatry, where else would I go? What would I do?
You see, I took time off after undergrad to test the “real world.” I worked as a medical scribe, a server, and a chemistry assistant. I saw how I didn’t want to be treated. I knew that I didn’t want to return there. It was therefore not a matter of endurance, but a matter of progress. I had no plan B. Unless Temple expelled me, I had to keep on going. I just didn’t know where.
Friendship in podiatry school was weird because we were with the same people for 4 years. It was like grade school, but for adults – the gossip in fact was just the same as well.
Summer wrapped up quickly, and everyone flew back to Philly for 2nd year. Before all the exams amassed, we ventured out into the city, rustled through the beer gardens, jogged on the Ben Franklin bridge, guzzled down some Boba tea, and caught up with each other. Friendship in podiatry school was weird because we were with the same people for 4 years. It was like grade school, but for adults – the gossip in fact was just the same as well. We were all a bit distant from each other during our first year. Everyone struggled for that top spot, which led to some competition and personal reservations. But in our second year, everyone eased up a little. We had gotten a bit more comfortable with each other.
As for me, I learned to play “the game.” I gave in to the memorization and I sat in the library until my L4 felt like it would shoot out of my back. I found how to get phrases to stick, at least until right after an exam. It’s not like I understood too much. I basically just played matching to bring up my GPA.
What was most valuable for me that year, however, were the relationships that I built. I made good friends (you know who you are), who elevated my life. It was them who steered me back onto course.
What was most valuable for me that year, however, were the relationships that I built. I made good friends (you know who you are), who elevated my life. It was them who steered me back onto course. I was always encouraged and supported. The busy city felt less lonely.
Look, I’m not trying to write this about the power of friendship and love. But podiatry school is more than a romantic involvement with PowerPoints and laptops, as seductive as they are.
Out of the shared struggle and misery, generosity materialized. In our year, one individual started a legacy by sharing his own study guides, which became the sacred manuscripts that got a lot of us (me included) through the harder classes. They’re still being used today by our juniors at Temple. And if you ever ask him why he did it, when most people would rather protect their own hard work, he’d simply tell you “I just want to be helpful.”
This person is still one of my great friends.
At Temple, we frontloaded all of our classes and exams so that by the end of first semester in second year, 80% of the hardest courses were over. Students called that period “hell week.” But for me, I went through that already at the end of first year. Actually, I was more rested this time around. And the hardship all came and went just the same.
Second year flew by. Instead of worrying about every mistake, I did whatever I could knowing that I undoubtedly lacked in some areas. I focused more on what I enjoyed doing rather than what I felt like I needed to do. After winter break, I became more involved with research. I worked with a few departments and began reading more medical literature. Research was more exciting to me than studying.
You see, in research, there is always a “purpose.” Authors needed to explain what drove them to write. There was motivation. There were concepts that needed to be built on … I found research to be fun. It gave me a sense of wonderment – binoculars to see far away from the cubicles of Temple library.
You see, in research, there is always a “purpose.” Authors needed to explain what drove them to write. There was motivation. There were concepts that needed to be built on. Often, medical science was scandalous. New ideas were always at combat. And to be accepted into medical norm, an emerging concept had to overcome the prestigious history of an old technique and the scrutiny of wary doctors. Naturally, people seldom agreed with each other, and the “discussion” was a column used to sneak in quick jabs at other authors. I found research to be fun. It gave me a sense of wonderment – binoculars to see far away from the cubicles of Temple library.
The act of researching, however, was frustrating. There were many loose ends that depended on the charity of a volunteer or a participant. While I could control my own efforts, it was harder to persuade others to waste 2-4 hours of their free time hanging out with me in the lab. My first few months in medical research was rough. Projects never launched or they stalled out altogether. But I kept looking for small things to do. I felt like I was learning, and the only thing that I traded off was time.
The year sprinted right into part 1 boards. By that point, I knew my strengths and limitations. I understood when I needed to study and how long it would take me to be ready. I crammed everything in 5 weeks. As much as I felt like I had failed walking out of that test, I still passed another milestone.
It took longer for me to comprehend the sheer scale of the materials covered, and my study skills were consequently slower to adapt. However, I also experienced a lot of personal growths.
The didactic experience overall was hard for me to digest – I’d puke uncontrollably if I ever had to repeat those years again. It took longer for me to comprehend the sheer scale of the materials covered, and my study skills were consequently slower to adapt. However, I also experienced a lot of personal growths. I learned to greet the mishaps of life. I came to enjoy the setting that I was in and the people that shared it with me. And really, it was because of them that got me through my last years in school.
To be continued and concluded with Part 3 (Third/Fourth Year)…
By: Son Tran, PGY-1
Residency Program: Medstar Washington Hospital Center
Recounting the Didactic Years: (Part 2 of a 3-part Personal Account of Podiatric Medical School)
Student, Lifestyle, Motivation
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