“I once came up with a metaphor I thought perfectly captured the sheer mass of material my classmates and I were expected to memorize in our first two years of medical school: it was like being asked to enter a grocery store and memorize the names of every product in the store, their number and location, every ingredient in every product in the order in which they appear on the food label, and then to do the same thing in every grocery store in the city.”
Read: “How to Remember Things” at UChicago: Student Health & Counseling Services
There is no better way to represent how I feel at this very point in time.
In big news, I recently found out that I have been allocated a rural placement for my third year of medicine, something which will involve me relocating for the entirety of 2014 to a small town somewhere in rural Australia.
Moving from my hometown (a relatively big city in the grand scheme of things) to where I am now, was already a big change and something that took quite some time to adjust to. However it now seems that the difficulties I faced this time last year could potentially pale in comparison to those that I face next year. Out of the towns that I may be allocated to, the smallest sits somewhere around 1500 people and while the largest is somewhat closer to 15,000 people, there is also a good chance that I might be the only student allocated to a particular town. Thus I will be living there by myself, isolated away from the rest of my cohort and my friends, most of whom will remain in the big city to begin their allocation in a large hospital.
Whilst this is not something that I chose, it will certainly be a good experience and one that will probably change who I am as a person. I am definitely looking forward to the challenges that I face, the isolation I might experience, the confronting reality of rural health and most of all, the sheer amount of clinical experience I will gain, something that will set me miles apart from the rest of my class. By most accounts, it is not easy, but after months of independent travel and previous experience of social isolation in other countries, I know I have the ability to make the best of this situation and use it to my advantage.
It is not all ‘doom and gloom’ like everyone else believes it to be. I am okay with the decision, and while I hate not being able to have control of my life, I will get through it.
I have my whole life to live in a big city, but how many can say they’ve had the adventure of practicing as a student in small-town rural Australia?
Why Boston's Hospitals Were Ready -
The bombs at the Boston Marathon were designed to maim and kill, and they did. Three people died within the first moments of the blast. More than a hundred and seventy people were injured. They had their limbs blown off, vital arteries severed, bones fractured, flesh torn open by shrapnel or scorched by the blasts’ heat. Yet it now appears that every one of the wounded alive when rescuers reached them will survive.Explosives used in terror attacks have tended to be three times deadlier than those used in war. Nonetheless, in Boston, they survived.
An amazing and inspirational first hand account of how Boston hospitals handled such absolute chaos and terror, so many potential casualties - and managed to save so many lives.
I have no words to write how I feel about all of this. It is truly a hideous act, and if it weren’t for the quick thinking, selflessness and bravery of all bystanders and hospital staff who assisted in helping the victims, the casualty count would have been far higher.
May you get all the recognition you so rightly deserve.
As an organic chemist major hearing words like glycolysis, the citric acid cycle, transamination, beta-oxidation, ketone bodies and fatty acid synthesis all over again…
The Not Quite Doctor: The Privilege -
“Doctor, did you see her prom pictures?”
The young woman in the office beamed as she turned her iPhone to show us a group of girls all wearing brightly colored dresses. ”It was a little skimpier than I would have liked, but she looked beautiful,” her mother continued.
Had you walked in at that moment you wouldn’t have realized that minutes earlier we were discussing advanced directives for the beaming 17-year-old who wore the bit too skimpy dress. Next week she is going to be evaluated for a clinical trial. But, as the doctor confided in me after we left the room, she is probably going to die from her cancer.
That is how the whole afternoon went in the oncology clinic. There was the middle-aged man who had a recurrence of his brain tumor. The 50-some-year old with renal cancer who decided she was done dealing with chemo and wanted to die comfortably. The man who had part of his frontal lobe resected and wanted to know when he could wrestle with his young boys again. Those are just a couple of examples.
I walked out of clinic feeling emotionally drained. I thought to myself, “is this what my life will be? Giving people bad news over and over again? Am I spending all these late nights studying so that some day I will have to be the person telling a 17-year-old she is going to die?”
I wrestled with that thought as I headed home and cooked dinner. Then I was reminded of something a great doctor once told me. ”All of the work you are doing is to earn the privilege of being a doctor.”
Privilege. That is a funny word to assign to a job. I continued to play his words in my mind…”As a doctor I have been the first person to touch a new life as it was coming into this world. I have also been the last person to touch someone as they left it. People entrust their lives to you. That is the privilege you are working for.”
As I mulled over my day and his advice I realized he was right. Seeing patients like that, struggling with their impending death, definitely tugged at my heart strings. But what an honor it was to be part of that. They trusted me enough to let me be part of that vulnerable and intimate point in their life. More than that, they put their faith in the fact that the doctor, and I, could somehow help them through it.
I struggle with this part of medicine. It is hard for me to sequester my emotions. But I think that doctor was right. We aren’t working towards just a job. We are working towards an entire lifestyle. I won’t have to be the one relinquishing terrible news to my patients. I will get to be that person. That won’t be my job. That will be my privilege.
I think of things like this every time I’m learning something that I don’t necessarily think will be on the exam… I’m not learning medicine to just pass the course, but to hopefully help someone in the future. They might not know that I slaved over metabolic pathways to try and remember each individual step and how it relates to overall body physiology, but I’ll feel better in myself knowing that i’ve done so, just in case it ever comes up.
Anonymous asked: Hi. Just wondering what 2nd year of med means in Aus. Like have you done premed or preclinical years beforehand, or is this your second year of uni? I am a 4th year in NZ but that includes a health science premed year and two preclinical years so this is my first year in a hospital.
A 4th year? I’m so jealous!
Well, my journey has been a little different, but overall the majority of medical degrees in Australia are post-graduate, so you must have finished an undergraduate degree prior to entry. For most people, this is just a biomedical degree, or a bachelor of science, however some people in my class come from really diverse backgrounds like music, or journalism! It’s actually really interesting to hear how everyone has ended up together in our cohort…
So, this is now my second year of my post-graduate degree. My bachelor of science (in organic chemistry and immunology) took 3 years to complete, so i’m now in my 5th year of university overall, but only my second year of medical school. The way it works at my university though, is similar to yours in that the first two years of the medical degree are ‘pre-clinical’, so mainly lectures are the university where we learn the physiology behind everything… But then years 3 and 4 are the exciting ones where we spend most of our days in the hospital.
Hope this clears it all up!
The personality of a medical student can actually be quite similar to something like H5N1 influenza - Ever changing, ever evolving and always a possible threat to modern medicine. So be careful! — Another reminder about the changes one might face during the wild ride that is medical school.
I’m not sure if it is because the medical degrees are getting shorter and shorter, or if it’s because clinician time is valuable and hard to obtain, or if the clinicians simply prefer terrifying us… But lately we’ve had all our lectures given to us at a much faster rate than what any human is capable of understanding.
For example: Today we had a one hour lecture on syndromes of hormone excess. In this one hour lecture, the clinician not only spoke about the anatomy and physiology of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, but also spoke about the following disease states (including the epidemiology, causes, symptoms, pathophysiology, complications and management).
All in one little hour… Now I only need to spend the next x number of hours reading through the textbooks to understand what all those big words mean.
Achieving your dreams. -
Right now, there is a man in space by the name of Commander Chris Hadfield.
Commander Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut based on the international space station, spends his days orbiting the earth and spreading awareness of his adventures via the internet, amongst all his other space station duties.
Today, he posted this video. In it, he explains the steps he took to reach his dream of being an astronaut, and simply lays it out. He states:
‘Every single day, you are the result of what you did the days prior. So if you turn that around, you can start turning yourself into who you want to be, based on what you decide to do today. What food do you put in your mouth? What book do you read? What movie do you watch? What do you do with your spare time? Do you study or do you learn something?
But if you just make deliberate choices with your life, it’s amazing after a week or a month or a year, the changes that you can effect and you literally turn yourself into the person that you’re going to become.’
Life very seldom goes as planned, but I think Commander Hadfield hits the nail on the head. Make changes today to make a better you tomorrow, and you’ll be surprised at where it takes you, or what you can become.
You will only get out of life what you put in, so it’s important to give it your all. I hope to do this more than ever to increase my opportunities at becoming the person that I want to be, and one that I’m proud of. I think this is some of the best advice, anyone can hear, especially if you find yourself in a difficult position or with difficult choices to make.
I also really, really want to go to space. They’ll need doctors on Mars, right?
Too many late nights in a row.
Today I had a test on embryology and life cycle, tomorrow I have a draft research proposal due, wednesday an ethics approval application and then it all begins again with more study leading up to another test next monday.
I’m definitely starting to look forward to the easter break!
The average male will produce roughly 200 million mature sperm per day.
Remember this the next time you think you haven’t achieved anything for the day.
I really do love my degree. This is not a statement that can be said by the greater proportion of people studying a course at university, but I can whole heartedly say, I have found my passion and I am heading in the right direction.
Recently, we’ve been studying embryology and the life cycle. While some people might argue that this is important to learn at the start of the medical degree, we only begin work on these areas during the second year. What this involves however, is a crash course in a relatively difficult subject. Many people in my class have studied embryology previously, and while this may have helped them on a whole, it’s worrying to hear remarks made by them about the sheer pace at which we are now learning. To put it into perspective, we have been required to learn what would normally take a year of embryology courses, in only 5 weeks. 5 weeks of 7 or 8 lectures, plus tutorials, plus PBLs and endless late nights. Yet still, most of the learning has been through textbooks and online tutorials as there is no way to learn what we need from lectures alone, in fact these seem to merely serve more as a backbone of what we are required to learn, and less focused on the finer details.
It’s tough to begin with, but then you need to factor in the other part of this block, a topic that I am not the least bit knowledgable in, women’s health.
It is definitely safe to say that the female component of my cohort really do have the upper hand here. Prior to the last few weeks, I had no idea about the menstrual cycle, the hormones controlling it, or even how something as widely available as the oral contraceptive pill works. Fertilisation and conception were hazy subjects that I never knew the finer details on, and the only birth that I’ve ever witnessed, made me faint. (I blame the placenta, I was fine up until then, but I was NOT ready for that…)
Women’s health is not something I was interested in, at all. I was almost dreading this component of the course, especially when thrown in with the difficult topic of embryology. However, today I spent the entire day down at the hospital, listening to lecture after lecture from clinicians about these topics, and in particular the clinical side behind it.
Today was a very good day, and one of huge amounts of learning. To be honest though, that has to be one of the best parts of this block, the learning. To really sit down in front of a group of people, predominantly female, and say ‘I don’t know how the pill works’, is difficult. But, without facing these challenges, you won’t learn, and that’s why we’re here in the first place. Learning new topics and information makes me happy, it stimulates my brain and satisfies my quirk of always wanting to know more (and in the case of some parts of this block, too much!).
It’s days like this that make me ridiculously happy with my decisions, and although there have never been any thoughts to make me question my choice to enter medical school, it’s days like today that reinforce that I am doing the best possible thing for myself.
(Seriously though, women’s health is still terrifying).
I hope you don’t mind, we have a second year medical student joining us today… — Although I’ve been back for several weeks, it is only now that it is starting to sink in. I made it through first year.
Yesterday was a Wednesday. But unlike other Wednesday’s before, this particular Wednesday was very different.
Yesterday afternoon, whilst driving home from one of my summer jobs, I was one of the first individuals on the scene of a rather serious car accident.