Heather Bergdahl

When I first wrote the acronym ‘BAM,' I worked for a financial company and its meaning was very different then. Now that I am in medical school, BAM still stands for ‘Believe, Achieve & Motivate,' but the meaning behind each letter has changed based on my new reality.


I decided that, based on current and future medical school demands, I needed to take control of the only thing that is truly mine to control: my attitude. I believe in and embrace positive affirmations and self-talk. In the shower, while I am studying, or in the classroom, I am constantly telling myself some version of "I can do it." It really is true what they say: if you believe in your heart that you can do it, you can do it. If you walk around with a negative outlook, you are going to get negative results. On the other hand, if you walk around with a positive outlook you are going to get positive results. It is a classic example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Make yours positive!


Once a test is over, it is already time to refocus and move on to the next one, and then the next one and then the next one! Each time you climb higher, you expend massive amounts of energy to reach the summit, only to find out once you get there it's time to climb again. How do you stay motivated to achieve when climbing the seemingly endless medical school mountain? The easy solution does not exist; the answer is applying yourself to this week's work by focusing on studying what you can today. Like the pie you must consume one slice at a time, we must focus our med school study time today on mastering one small slice of the lecture topic. We can't fret and concern ourselves with what we don't know. We must focus our time, energy, and best efforts on the single slice of the med school pie that is in front of us today. Trusting that by applying ourselves, attending all the lectures, and studying each lesson we'll keep our heads above water. Achievement boils down to keeping up with the work, never getting behind, and having faith that our best efforts are going to be successful.


I know based on my own experience that being self-motivated is not optional. I have got to start studying early, get through my classes and lab during the day, and then study late into the night. This challenge is accomplished one day at a time and it cannot be accomplished without feeling good about yourself. There is a motivational saying I embrace that tends to get me through the rough spots: "If I act enthusiastic, I'll be enthusiastic; and if I act positive, I'll be positive." It is the inspirational fuel I need to stay motivated even when the circumstances around me may feel downright deflating!

Believe! Achieve! Motivate!

The workload is daunting, everything we face is new to us, and we are confronted by challenges that dwarf anything we have faced in our lives before. In our recent past in high school and college, we were often the smartest person in the room and getting an A was an assumption. We secretly wish our past track record of success would in some way guarantee our future success in medical school. Not to burst your intellectual bubble, but in medical school you will no longer be the smartest student in the room. You will also find yourself wishing for A's while praying you are lucky enough to receive a passing grade on the quizzes and tests. God bless those professors that grade on a curve! It is not that your educational standards have fallen or that you have gotten sloppy with your study skills. It is the volume of work that overwhelms you. In medical school, the transfer of knowledge into your brain feels like you are drinking water through a straw from a fire hose! Every one of us who is accepted into medical school has already proven that we have what it takes to succeed. The challenge for all of us is maintaining that belief, that we can actually do it, when ‘med school reality' smacks us right between the eyes.