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I choose “F”, who’s with me?

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This is going to sound really terrible, but medical students like sick patients. The sicker and more complicated, the better. We find them challenging, educational and just plain ‘interesting’. We get bored after the 30th patient that presents with a viral upper respiratory infection (aka the common cold). Just stay home and drink fluids, darn it! We want to not know what the primary diagnosis is and be able to create an endless list of differential diagnoses.

Like a mystery from an old Sherlock Holmes case, we want to become obsessed with finding the cause and ultimately the cure. We start lazily with a general google or Wikipedia search, quickly find ourselves unsatisfied and start opening up progressively more detailed and medically relevant websites such as UptoDate, Pubmed, and Cochrane library! All while flipping through Harrison’s and Robbin’s till our fingers become numb. After hours sitting in the library, finding an answer becomes fantastical Grey’s Anatomy bull.

At the end a 30 hour call shift we become increasingly frustrated with the situation, wrong about everything, and find ourselves realizing that we are after all just medical students and become severely humbled by the experience (Humbling Moment #7). Well until the next ‘interesting’ patient that is.

Time

If I were asked what super power I would want most, I would answer emphatically “the ability to manipulate time.” There’s something completely ridiculous and insane about cramming in 30-40 hour (units) per semester of your first and second year. With the amount of information that is expected of us to absorb, digest, and recall, our mental digestive system often has reflux, and especially during post exams, intractable mental vomiting.

There are some medical students that wake up really early to get a head start on the day’s lectures. We call them gunners. Depending on the day, a medical student can have anywhere from 3-8 hours of lecture a day. Then you got some who do research after all those brain-numbing lectures. Then there are some crazies who actually hold a job during medical school. There’s also much needed time for extracurricular activities. And you got some with a kids, significant others that need to be remembered from time to time, and friends (remember them?). Oh yeh and there’s studying which appears to require an endless amount of time. Endless is a long time and makes you realize why there are ONLY 24 hours in a day and question why humans need to sleep anyway? Sleep. What a waste of time.

If I had the power to manipulate time, medical school would probably be easier. But then again, medical school would probably be longer and the thought of that makes me vomit intractably.

Anatomy

Okay, not all medical students like anatomy. Many consider it the first hurdle in medical school. But hurdle aside, every medical student remembers what it was like to be in anatomy lab. Stepping into anatomy lab for the first time is a roller coaster for the senses. Every sensory neuron in your body becomes overwhelmed by the smell of formaldehyde, the beaming fluorescent light, the cool still air, and the sight of students surrounding a cadaver, a human cadaver. From the first day, you won’t know if you love it or loath it, but the stink of anatomy lab won’t let you go, at least for a couple of months.

Some students will dive right in and create masterpiece recreations of Netter, while others would rather read anatomy than dissect it. Some students may become attached to their cadavers and squirm when their anatomy professor tears up their work of art to find one little artery or nerve, or was that a ligament? It’s hard to tell sometimes, but at least it’ll be clear during the exams! Or not.

Who could forget the memorization involved. This was when our color coordination, mneumonic making, and story telling skills evolved to a higher level of desperation. With anatomy, we had our bodies in front of us to help us visualize where everything was supposed to be. Need an anatomy lesson? Take off your clothes. At least, the pick up lines were endless.

Anatomy was a memorable time in our lives. We’ll always cherish the gift that our cadavers gave us. We’ll alway wonder what our anatomy professors did in their spare time. And we’ll never ever ever forget the time when we accidently cut the cadaver’s bowels (Humbling Moment #6). Thank you anatomy.

Naps

There’s nothing like chronic sleeplessness that really makes a medical student appreciate the concept of naps, especially power naps. When that coffee, tea, or energy drink isn’t working, and there’s no other way to fight the powerful force that is sleepiness, why even fight the inevitable? Resistance is futile! Take a nap!

If you walk through a medical school, don’t be surprised by the occasional student completely knocked out at the cafeteria, the student lounge couch, the ‘study room’, or in class. For some unexplained reason, lecture is the best place to take a nap. It may be the warmth from neighboring bodies, the drone of the professor’s voice, or the dimness of the room, but within ten minutes of lecture, heads drop and there’s no stopping it. And if you do start napping, make sure you have a nap-wingman to poke you awake when you start to snore or drool or mutter in your sleep.

Be warned that when you sleep in school you may fall victim to “sleep shooters”, peers who will take unappealing photos of you and post them on social websites such as Twitter or Facebook for their own entertainment (Humbling Moment #5)

Oh naps, I wish I could have more of you! Even if you give me funny book imprints on my face.

Professionalism

Being in medical school, the term ‘professionalism’ is emphasized, underlined, and capitalized on the very first day. When I first started medical school, that term was so daunting. Professional. Cue in montage of men and women in business suits looking sternly at you with judging professional eyes. Yikes!

No one ever taught me how to be professional in college or in life. Yet somehow I passed their bar for professionalism during the interview process. A true whodathunkit. When used as a noun, to be a ‘professional’ is to simply be an expert at something whether it be medicine, law, baseball, or paper airplanes. But as an adjective, I’ve realized that being ‘professional’ is the grown ups word for the ‘golden rule’ but in a totally serious manner.  To be honest, I still don’t get it but have caught on to this dance. For example, I make sure to say my ‘thank you’s and ‘your welcome’s because being nice is apparently part of being professional. I resist releasing gas in front of my peers because that’ll get you in serious trouble! And don’t even think of murmuring the dean’s full name in the hall ways.

Seriously though, just be  nice, courteous, and don’t touch your patients ‘that way’ and that should get you through at least third year!

First Aid

When mentioning the words ‘first aid’, a lay person would think a box or bag full of bandages, gauze, alcoholic in emergency situations. Well the ‘first aid’ to medical students is for an emergency situation per se, but it’s not boo boo related; it’s the national boards! Help! Whether you’re an MD or DO to be, the ‘First Aid for the USMLE Step 1’ is a must once second year comes around because at the end of it, our basic knowledge of EVERYTHING we’ve learned during our second year is tested. It’s a lot. That’s why there are hundreds of resources out there that willingly take our money…I mean…offer us help in battling this beast called boards.

Let’s talk money for a moment. Below is the amount of money I’ve spent on board related expenses:

2009 First Aid: $31.46

USMLE Step 1: $495

COMLEX Part 1: $465

USMLE World Qbank 60 days: $135

Used BRS Physiology: $10

Rapid Review Pathology: $35.05

Used Kaplan COMLEX review books: $85

Losing your social life for more than a month of so:  %&#(@#*#!!!!!!

So, we’ve accepted it reluctantly. We’ll just take out another loan to pay for this and the large amount of coffee and caffeine to sustain ourselves.  No big deal. Now comes the time to actually go through First Aid and we realize that all this sounds familiar but do we really have to know this detail? The answer is yes and more! Unfortunately, the First Aid doesn’t have it all. So we write on the margins, highlight the whole thing, and tag it to death. By the end, if your First Aid doesn’t look beat up and broken then you’re doing something wrong or you’re very neat and if that’s the case than good for you.