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.