Before starting medical school, I told myself multiple times I would make a point to still update this little blog (probably more accurately referred to as this “memory archive of Sam’s random life experiences and musings”). But then I actually started med school. Sooooo….. here we are almost 2 months since my last ramblings. Two months really isn’t that long, and yet as I sit out on the deck of my apartment on this Friday night, looking up at the moon (and the 2 stars you can still see with Chicago lights), feeling the fall breeze against the blurred rumblings of the active city below, it feels like its been so much longer.
So what is med school like? How has it been? How is everything going?
Well, you know how every so often you have something happen in your life that really impacts you? You have an event or sequence of events that change the way you view life? It causes you to stop and think about what you thought you knew about the world, your community, your relationships, and even who you are as a person?
That’s what the first two months of medical school feels like.
And it’s both amazing and terrifying — for a number of reasons.
Reason #1: I am extremely aware of how much I don’t know and how much I will eventually need to learn (Not to mention all the things I don’t know I don’t know and will need to learn…).
Our curriculum for the first two years of med school consists of a large portion of basic science/physiology/pathology lectures. It’s split up into different “modules” with a variety of topics covered within said modules. Module 1 = Foundations 1, which was bare bones basics about genetics/metabolism/other odds and ends that you really need to know to understand practically anything. I’m currently in Foundations 2 with an exam two weeks from today followed by another Foundations module, AND THEN we actually get into organ systems. Yea, four months of “basics” (which are much more complex than most of the material I covered during my 3 years of undergrad) before we even get into organ specifics. Needless to say, it’s a bit intense — but it’s also fascinating. Well, most days it’s fascinating, other days I consider hiding out by the cows at Lincoln Park Zoo…
Reason #2: A great many med school experiences defy typical life “norms”
In addition to the basic science lectures I talked about, we also have a clinical medicine component to our curriculum. What does that mean? It means I’ve actually spent time in the clinic with a faculty preceptor and have had the opportunity to work with real patients. I should clarify — I say “real patients” because part of our training also occurs in a Clinical Education Center (CEC) where we work with standardized patients who are professionally trained actors that live/work in Chicago. It’s pretty awesome to have those individuals as a resource since it allows for a “lower stress” learning environment. It’s especially appreciated when you’re learning things that may feel a bit awkward or uncomfortable, like how to take a sexual history (last week’s session) — but back to the point.
At two months into my learning, I’ll be the first to say I know very little. Yet, when I’m in the clinic and am asked to take an HPI (History of Present Illness) of the patient in the room at the end of the hall whom I’ve never met or know anything about, I can and I do. I roll into the room, white coat on, stethoscope resting around my neck and ask questions of a complete stranger I wouldn’t ask of my closest friends — and they answer.
That inherent trust, that privilege to be allowed into the the privacy of someone’s life and health is honestly something I can’t put into words. I remember being floored after my first solo “real patient” encounter and that feeling has yet to disappear after more recent patient interactions. Recognizing how much of a privilege it is to interact with so many individuals on such a personal level — it does change you, or at least I think it should.
Reason #3: The human body is an intricate work of complicated beauty
I guess this reason and subsequent paragraph(s) could probably be lumped into the above “defying norms” heading, but it felt like too important of an experience to be combined with something else.
I started in the anatomy lab this week.
I’m not quite sure why, but to me, anatomy lab always seemed like a “rite of passage” for a medical student. Maybe that’s because there are very few circumstances in life where an individual would find themselves spending an abundant amount of time with a cadaver. Yet it’s not just the time, but the actual act of seeing, feeling, and dissecting through the deepest and most hidden parts of the human body. The act of becoming intimately familiar with nerves, vessels, and structures of an individual who once led a life with hopes, dreams, and goals of their own. A life of experiences that they now continue to share in rather unconventional ways through the pathology of their internal (and external) anatomical structures. It’s a lot to take in, it’s a lot to process, and I can imagine I’ll have more musings related to my experience in anatomy lab in the future.
So I guess even though the majority of my days are spent in lecture, studying said lectures, going to clinic, or any other combination of school related activities — I feel as though a lot has happened. Whether a lot actually HAS happened is probably more a matter of perspective, but regardless, things are going well.
Yep, medical school is both amazing and terrifying.