What’s Expected of a Medical Student

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Boston port.
Boston port.

Hi All,

Fall here is in Boston and it’s interview season for premeds, I know because I see a calvary of anxious students awaiting their interview in the lobby of my school; coincidentally I camp out in that same lobby because I (and other medical students) know you guys never finish the food ordered by the school because you don’t want to look like glutens during the interview day — we empathize with you, but thanks for the free grub. It’s been a somewhat busy time for most medical students as well: most M1s across the countries just had their first exams, M2s across the nation are very happy they are no longer M1s and the boards are still far away, M3s have disappeared off the face of the planet into an alternate universe, and M4s are stressing out for both positive and negatives reasons, their match applications and their match applications respectively.

Here’s how I’ve filled my last few weeks:

  • First Testing Block Complete: Gross Anatomy, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Public Health/Heath Law (hybrid), Human Behavior in Medicine

I’m on a traditional schedule, so our tests were jam-packed together, so from a Monday, we had a test every other day (3 tests) and the final test after “test week” weekend on the following Monday. Before that, we had a experimental Histology quiz, this will come back as a full class in the spring. Somehow, I’ve survived thus far, though I’ll definitely made some adjustments now that I know how the tests work. I don’t have any general advice, because I’m just trying to survive the zombie apocalypse here, but in general when you’re in my boat make sure to find what works for you as quickly as possible and be open to change and never fall behind more than a lecture or two in material.

Gross Anatomy is pretty cool, but impressively difficult as you try to remember the name and embryology relationship, vasculature and innervation of muscles, organs, and bones (and the imaginary spaces and lines concocted by anatomist). There’s a laboratory portion of the course and lecture, each weighted 45% of your grade (both making 90%) and the rest comes from a 10% dissection grade. Today we took out the visceral organs while leaving the kidneys in place, we’ve already taken out the contents of the thoracic cavity (heart and lungs) — we take great care to keep the organs with the body, as well as the tissue we must strip off, because at the end the donors will be cremated and their ashes will be given to their family. There’s a practicum and written test for Anatomy: for the practicum you just go about a room identifying pinned structures or their functions for a minuter per question, and for the written you take some medical anatomy tests with questions like :

“Steve was drunk at 3 AM, with his friends on his birthday. He had too much to drink and fell asleep standing up all while suspending himself on a railing at his right armpit. Steve wakes up at 5 AM, after taking a cab home he’s now sober he rushes to change clothes. While changing his short, he realized that he has a difficult time extending his right elbow and feels slight weakness when opening his right hand. Worried, he rushes to the hospital, after examination he’s discharged and told not to worry and an appointment for his PCP was made. What nerve roots would innervate this nerve that he likely impinged?”

On a high note, we also learned the age/occupation/cause of death of our donor, it was nice to get to know them — I think I would have loved my donor when they were alive. For their privacy, I’m afraid I can’t say much more about this. However, I’m happy they waited to reveal this information to us, they’ve been really systemic about allowing the experience sink in as we try to retain the innocence we had before we started this process ourselves. It’s easy to forget about how important the dissection is, both to you and your donor. But, it’s important to remember that, for  our donors at least, they requested to be at our university and their families also agreed after their death. So, we are literally fulfilling one of their dying wishes — and that’s really quite a honor.

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is sort of like a combination of college Biochemistry and Molecular Biology on steroids (a nerdy joke, I know), and how much information you’re responsible for is nothing short of amazing. They’ll almost never ask a first order question (e.g. Histidine has what charge?), it’s usually in some type of context and clinically related. I’ve been told even some Biochemistry majors have failed the exam, so don’t rest on your chemistry laurels in this course. Occasionally, there’s a patient study where a patient comes and we learn about how this person experiences their life with their disease. There’s a lot to remember so you can have a base level understanding so that you can understand the clues in the short vignette.

Health Policy and Health Law were too different classes, some classes were taught by economists, some by public health professors, and Health Law by lawyers. It’s sort of telling of how much you’re expected to have an understanding of as a physician. The tests were about laws (such as DNR, when pulling the plug is both ethical and legal as physicians, and patient rights), malpractice, health policy effects and trends, how billing works and insurance policies (including the Affordable Care Act). One thing I took away from this course was that insurance is very confusing.

Human Behavior and Medicine, that’s like psychiatry 101 mixed in with a lot of other things like professionalism, depression and drug abuse with physicians. This course is also called the “silent killer”, because many students put it off, choosing to put their time into other courses to only be dominated come exam time. This course is tricky, because you must pick the best answer in a field of relative decent answers, often two answers are good but one is just better. If you spend a lot of time with the required texts and talk out the points with others it’ll stick, and it won’t seem that bad. Every Friday, I meet up with my beer study group and we discuss the learning objectives and what we took away from X lecture — in other words we learn by talking it out. Incidentally, I can’t wait till Friday.

  • Trying to find research opportunities Atrial Fibrillation versus Heart Amyloidosis versus Neurology research

I’ve reached out to a few people, and I’m looking to pull off some research next summer. We were told to try to find something early, and I want to find a good fit so I started looking early. My previous work was with reading squiggly lines and making interpretations (electrophysiology), so I wanted to get into something somewhat related.

  • Signed up for more Trauma/ER shadowing for after Thanksgiving, may sign up for Neurology as well after some spots open in the winter

I really enjoyed my first Trauma shadowing experience as a medical students (I was also pleasantly surprised how much was expected of me), I signed up to be with the same doctor as last time (hopefully the schedule works out). I joined an interest group for Neurology, I’ll be signing up to shadow there too.

  • Attended annual semi BUSM student event with date in tow

See cover photo. Can’t say what happened because “What happens in Vagus, stays in Vagus”, I’ll just say medical students know how to unwind after exams!




One thought on “What’s Expected of a Medical Student

    Fear and Loathing. | The Awkward Black Doctor said:
    October 11, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    […] When I had my medical school interview here, one of the ‘selling points’ was that the class goes to Las Vegas after the Block 1 exam to celebrate. In my mind last year while I was interviewing, I was like “yeah, yeah sure whatever”. Like I was getting in, HA. Lo and behold, I found myself 1 hr after the block exam speeding (or as speedily as you can get in Friday night LA traffic) to Las Vegas, Nevada for our block exam excursion, with CN X jokes abound. Clearly, all medical students are this corny. […]

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