I was sure of it … All the signs were there. I had seen this illness before in many textbooks. I knew what the doctor was going to tell me. I swallowed the lump of fear mounting in my throat. My examination room door opened and in walked the doctor, manila folder in the hand. Awaiting my diagnosis, my physician reassured me, “there’s nothing wrong with you.”

Strangely, I felt a sense of disappointment. Not that I wanted to be sick, but I was sure that something was wrong with me.  As medical students, we are trained to discern tiny details amongst numerous diseases. This esoteric knowledge often makes us the worst patients, but what happens when we really do get sick? Medical students could easily be classified as immunocompromised, and, therefore, subject to increased illness, simply because of the tremendous stress suffered from the course of study.

However, fellow health care providers will warn medical students to stop reading their books, ignore online medical websites, and avoid amateur examinations by classmates. Indeed, there is a thin line between hypervigilance and hypochondriasis, but why would anyone expect medical students, who act as super sleuths for their patients, to be less active in their own health maintenance? Most medical students have been told at some point during their education, that they are overreacting and demonstrating, what I like to call, Medical Student Syndrome or MSS.

Signs and symptoms of this ailment include: excessive worrying, fixation on a particular point, and an inability to concentrate. Basically, MSS is how we behave on a normal basis, perhaps as a survival mechanism to get through medical school.  This condition is indicative of the adage “knowledge is power”…and dangerous.

by Chinwe Okeke, Class of 2011