Why I (Still) Tutor Med School Students

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Let’s be honest. When I first started tutoring for MST, my main reason for doing so was to make some money. During our medical education years, it is difficult to find ways of earning money that are both flexible and pay well for the time put in. I already had several years of experience tutoring math and chemistry at that point (neither of which I could probably do now), and I figured I’d leverage my board scores and tutoring experience to make some much needed extra money. That was in 2011, and since then I have finished residency and have been working as a primary care physician for two years. Why do I still do it? The days of money being the primary objective have long since passed. However, there are other benefits to tutoring that I have learned along the way that keep me in it, although admittedly in a much more limited way than when I started.

    The Challenge and Keeping Things Fresh

    In any field in medicine, you’re going to be doing the same thing day in, day out most of the time. Sure, you’ll see some more rare things occasionally, but for the most part things can be repetitive at times. Of course, different specialties see different things. As a surgeon, you’ll spend a lot of time repairing hernias and removing gall bladders and appendices. As a cardiologist, you’ll spend a lot of time treating people with coronary artery disease, heart failure, and various arrhythmias. As a rheumatologist, most of your patients will have one of five or six autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, etc.) with a few rarer diseases thrown in. As a primary care physician who primarily sees adults, I spend most of my time treating cardiometabolic conditions like hypertension and diabetes, with a smattering of other conditions thrown in. I also perform a lot of cancer screenings in the forms of pap smears, mammograms, and fecal immunohistochemistry tests (my patient can’t afford colonoscopies and are mostly uninsured).

    While my work is very rewarding, I’ll admit that there are times when things get boring. Tutoring gives me another outlet to do something interesting that is totally different from my day job. In addition,I get to review material that would otherwise be long forgotten, like MEN syndromes and current sepsis guidelines (I don’t work in the hospital). I think there’s a closet nerd in many of us that likes to know things just for the sake of it. Tutoring allows me to fill that need.

    Teaching and Giving Back

    There are other reasons I have remained in the tutoring game long after the financial incentive stopped being the primary motivator. I went into medicine because I wanted to help people, and who better to help than future physicians themselves? There are many talented, intelligent people who go to medical school only to find themselves at a loss when it comes to jumping through the exam hurdles that are required to become a doctor. This can be due to difficulties with organizing the vast amount of information, test taking anxiety and skills, or simply missing some key concepts that make everything else much harder. Tutoring allows me to give back to the medical community and society by helping train the next generation of physicians.

    Lastly, and most importantly, I continue to tutor because I love teaching. The very word doctor is derived from the Latin “docere,” which means to teach. I consider myself primarily a teacher, which works well in primary care. Tutoring is just another form of teaching, and I enjoy it immensely.