When we talk about medical school education, there's the actual didactic material, and then there's the 'hidden curriculum.' For those not familiar with education lingo, the hidden curriculum is a set of norms or values that are imparted to students unintentionally. It is not written down. It is not testable. It is simply something learned through the process of going to medical school.
In medical education, some examples of hidden curricula are that men shouldn't go into OB/GYN, or women shouldn't go into surgery. You should have no life other than medicine. Everything comes second to your medical responsibilities. Sleep is for the weak. There's no crying in medicine.
Sometimes, these lessons are reinforced though things like lectures on professionalism or the patient-physician relationship. Some schools even try to direct their hidden curricula, taking it into the open light, for better or for worse.
For me, I found my own hidden curriculum from medical school. In the process of going through school, I learned a lot of things that med school never intended to teach me, but they're some strong lessons for life:
The friends you make over a bottle of $200 scotch at 4 AM are probably some of the best friends you'll have.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are precious, and when you can't go home for your own family's holidays, then finding a family to take you in is invaluable.
Medical school is some of the hardest work you'll do. Work hard, but play hard too.
While there are many other such lessons, the one that stuck with me is that at some point in your schooling, you will find that you will have to choose to give everything to medicine, or hold back. And you will discover what kind of doctor you really are when you're faced with the hardest choices between what you want to do, and what other people need of you.