“You are good. But it is not enough just to be good. You must be good for something. You must contribute good to the world. The world must be a better place for your presence.
And the good that is in you must be spread to others.”
-Gordon B. Hinckley

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Week 4

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind, to say the least. We have already had one exam, already been tested on how to use an ultrasound machine, already done patient interviews, and already figured out the most benign way to ask someone about their poo—I mean stool. So far, if each day of school was like a day on Sesame Street, then each day would have been sponsored by the number 4 (hours of straight lecture and number of standardized patients we have seen), the letter B (for biochemistry) and the number 79 (the bus route I take to and from school every day).

What are the lectures like?

Well, imagine you are on a small 3-seater airplane and your flying from LAX to Houston and you get a 10 minute layover in Houston before you have to board the same plane back to LAX, and each way one steward talks over the intercom about lipid degradation in an Austrian accent and the other way the stewardess talks about DNA repair mechanisms in a thick (we’re talking at least “molasses thick” here) Chinese accent. That’s kind of what it’s like.

What were your patient interactions like?

In medical schools, they have “standardized patients,” which are either actors or experienced ex-patients who are familiar with disease symptoms who pretend to be real patients. Our first task: get a complete medical history. The way it is set up is we are placed in groups of about 6 or 7. Our group enters an examination room with our instructor and the patient. The instructor chooses someone to take the medical history and the rest of us observe and help. It was a good experience overall. The most memorable moments were when one of my classmates asked the instructor if he should conduct a breast examination on a 16 year old female complaining of a sore throat and when another classmate asked a 50 year old male complaining of a sore shoulder to describe his stool.

Has medical school been what you expected it to be?

Yes and no (the copout answer). I thought medical school would be rigorous and draining; kind of like doing a Sudoku puzzle while running uphill in the snow (kind of an extreme simile, I know). However, it’s been much more pleasant. Since it is Pass/Fail, there is no competition with my classmates. People are more than willing to share notes or review sheets to help one another. There also isn’t the stress of memorizing the entire minutia that is so prevalent in medical school courses. Don’t get me wrong, it still is difficult, but it is more of a “running on a sandy beach” type of difficulty than a walking uphill in snow: challenging and kind of tricky to get used to when you first start out, but as soon as you look to your left and see the waves crashing on the sand you remember the bigger picture.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sneak preview to week 2: Why we practice medicine

The first thing the head of the biochemistry course told us today: " My grandfather was raised on a farm, and was the first doctor in my family. Do you know why he went into medicine? He told me, 'It's better to look at a human's ass than a horses ass.' So you see, you guys are in a great field."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Week 1: August 13, 2010

Welcome to medical school! Here is your brand new ipad, oh and don't forget to pick up your white coat and stethoscope as you walk off the stage.

Yep. That's kind of how it went for me. After five years of undergraduate study, late hours of MCAT preparation in the library, hundreds of hours of research and volunteer service I was honored with the symbol that every pre-medical student covets: a free 16GB 3G ipad (the white coat did come with it too).

Sarcasm aside, I am very excited about starting medical school and the ipad will make my back happy since all of our texts will be on it. It came as a complete surprise to me. Since we all got our ipads, the past few days have been a little confusing with both faculty and students trying to figure out how to incorporate these oversize ipods in the medical curriculum, but with time and the new iOS4 coming we hope they will be useful tools for us.

The few days of orientation were great. It was a great time to get to know my classmates (all 100 of them), the faculty, and the curriculum. During orientation, we heard from many of the different deans as well as the second year (MS2=medical student year 2)class presidents. They spoke about maintaining balance in your life and having fun while in med school. Also, they told us that the days of competition are now over, especially since the first two years are Pass/Fail. They told us that we are a big family and need to help each other. The faculty stressed the importance of taking time to relax amidst all of the studying. Basically, the theme of orientation: you wouldn't have been accepted into med school if we didn't think you could handle it. What a relief. Not that I was worried that I wouldn't be able to "hack" med school, but it is great to finally be at an institution where instead of trying to get the highest grade, it is more important to learn (what an ingenious concept!).

After orientation, we had our first three days of class. The roughest part was sitting in the same lecture hall for 4 hours without a substantial break. I hadn't done that since 6th grade! The worst part was the absence of leg room (apparently when they installed the seats they didn't think humans would be over 5' 10''). On a positive note, the lectures were interesting and well done. Each day, once the lectures ended, all of us students would migrate to the medical education building (MedEd) to study for our first exam that will be held Monday. Since it is the beginning of the year, many other med students are still in undergraduate mode with studying and were trying to memorize every detail, like receptor-mediated endocytosis. Once we've taken a few more exams, their study habits will change because, after all, the only way to drink out of a fire hydrant is by sipping a little water here and a little water there.