Informant Data: The informant is a second year medical student at John A. Burns School of Medicine with the University of Hawaii. She is Caucasian, and with a distant Irish and Russian lineage that she feels little connection to. She grew up in Seattle, Washington, and obtained an undergraduate degree in Bio-medical Engineering before starting her medical school journey. She is very enthusiastic about medicine and healing people.
Item: the slang term “gunner” as used within the medical community. The following quotations are direct transcriptions of my dialogue with the informant, while the additional information provided is paraphrased.
Contextual Data: My informant was introduced to the term in the first few weeks of medical school and believes it to be used universally among medical students. No one specifically explained to her what a “gunner” was, but overtime it was used so much that she was able to define it contextually and understand the sentiment over a definition. My informant describes it as “A medical student or premedical student who thinks they always have the right answer, and want to show off in front of everyone and show their attending that they know more than the rest of the group. They are intense; overeager or smug and always have to be right; they are willing to put other people down and make them look inferior to try to impress superiors.” While this may seem akin to a “teacher’s pet,” the following examples are to illustrate the proper use of the term within the medical community:
“On a final exam, one student loudly rants about missing two points, and how he ruined his score and his budding career, leaving the other students to feel bad about their own scores.”
“When a student has looked up the attending’s research on their own, and attempt to ask a complicated question about it, something they have no schooling in yet, just to impress.”
“An attending asks a question to a student in a small group, and another student jumps in to blurt out the right answer to impress the attending.”
“If an attending asks the question to the group, the gunner would come back the next day with a presentation on the subject for the attending—a lecture for everyone’s general knowledge and benefit (said in a sarcastic tone)”
The informant mentions that the term can also be used as a joke, “if someone looks very formal and prepared, dressed nice, you can use the phrase sarcastically: “Oh are you trying to be a gunner now?”
Overall, the term has a negative connotation. It does not harp on one’s intelligence but rather their intensity and desire to leave others behind in their dust. While excelling in medical school is always encouraged, there is also a counter-sentiment of struggling with your peers, lamenting over the exhaustive work and bonding with each other over “med school miseries.” A balance between the two seems vital for survival, and the ways of a gunner tend to isolate themselves, leaving them without the social support of their peers through such an excruciating program.