The mental effects of ‘gunner’ culture

In dental school, we are often surrounded by ambitious and driven students, who are often called “gunners.” Gunners seek success, can be competitive and may act on self-interest without thinking of their fellow classmates. They may boast about their grades or accomplishments in clinic, and in doing so, they may cause other students to feel inadequate in their own efforts. Gunners are not often team players and can feel disassociated if assigned to work in a group environment.

Working hard vs. overworking
There is a difference between working hard and working too much. Working hard is successfully achieving your daily and weekly goals in a timely manner, whereas being overworked may cause exhaustion, grogginess and burn out. Hard work is what helped most students get into dental school and also be successful in their studies. Striving for success is certainly not a bad thing. However, dentistry is a team sport, and it is important to learn how to be a team player in dental school so that you can be successful in private practice. We will all graduate and become professional colleagues, so it makes little sense to burn bridges during dental school instead of networking and building lifelong connections.

Wellness impact
There are numerous studies that show a highly competitive culture impacts students’ overall well-being. A student’s greatest academic stressor is the competition for grades (Posselt & Lipson, 2016). There are further studies that correlate competition to higher rates of anxiety and depression among students (Gilbert et al. 2009). A study of 808 medical students from the University of Queensland characterized medical students into two personality types: resilient and conscientious. Resilient personalities were defined as highly cooperative, persistent, and self-directed. On the other hand, conscientious personalities were defined as more anxious, less resilient and less likely to avoid harm.

Read the rest of this article in the June/July issue of Contour magazine, focused on the road to residency.

~Olivia Kalloo, Roseman ’22

Olivia Kalloo

Olivia Kalloo is a third-year student at Roseman University's College of Dental Medicine.

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