I'm sure that many of you have been wondering exactly what medical school is like. Well, maybe you haven't, but the beautiful and intelligent normal writer of this blog asked me to write about it, so here goes...
5:15 am - Good Lord, what in the world is that thing in my room playing music? Am I dreaming? What time is it? Do I have a test today? My alarm clock, I wish, 5:15, and no. Good.
6:00 am - The drive begins. I have an hour commute to med school each day, during which I listen to Dr. Edward Goljan, a world-renown pathologist, lecture about a variety of things which I am trying to keep lodged in my brain to prepare for the life-altering test that is USMLE Step 1 (boards) coming this June.
7:00 am - Arrive at school, meet up with a few guys that I study with who have become de facto best friends, due in part to the fact that I spend more time with them than I do my wife (unless you count hours spent asleep).
7:55 am - Head down to the lecture hall. Lecture begins every morning at 8. Some days we get out at noon, other days we have an hour for lunch and then 2-3 more hours in the afternoon. Thankfully, today is a day we finish at noon.
8:13 am - I mistakenly allow my mind to follow a thought process, and while it relates to medicine, it has now cost me 30 seconds, during which the lecturer has likely said something important. Crap.
9:50 am - Thankfully, we get breaks every 50 minutes so that we don't die from a brain explosion. People often describe medical school by saying that it is like trying to drink from a fire hydrant. I would say drinking from Niagara Falls might be more appropriate. There is simply just so much information. Our brains learn to quickly categorize: long term memory, common sense, short term memory that could be on the test, and things that I will forget within the next 5 minutes. During this break I break open the first Diet Mountain Dew of the day, feeling thankful that a caffeine withdrawal headache has not yet set in.
10:21 am - It is amazing at the variety in lecturing ability. It should go without saying that just because someone is a great physician, it doesn't mean that they are a great teacher. (By the way, it also certainly does not mean that they will write great test questions - but that is a comment for another day.) This applies to all specialties. One of the lecturers for this core (we study during second year by organ system - currently we are on genitourinary - kidneys, ovaries, testes, you get the idea) is a pathologist and is a fantastic lecturer. Another lecturer is also a pathologist and is just awful.
10:42 am - My phone is blinking. It is a text from my buddy that sits two seats away who is telling me that our current lecturer appears to be running for the award of Rotten Apple. (For the record, there is no such award, but we do vote on a Golden Apple teaching award, and we think there should be an award for the worst as well.)
11:00 am - The dreaded hour has come. Pharmacology. I know what you're thinking - this should be easy now, it's merely memorization. It's not really biochemical pathways, pathophysiology of disease processes, clinical presentations, or anything like that. You're right. But it is so incredibly boring. We learn how the drug works, its therapeutic uses, adverse effects, drug interactions, etc. But I am convinced that they go out and search to find the most boring people in the world, convince them to become academic pharmacologists, and then lecture to us. Torture. My friend immediately to my left starts each pharm lecture with a game of sudoku. Just in a futile attempt to stay awake.
12:30 pm - Now that we've eaten lunch, it's time to study. At the risk of divulging my study secrets, I will just stay that I study in a group of 4 married guys, and all of us have kids. We study hard, because we want to get home to our families. For those of you that have never met me, I am a little bit organized. Suffice it to say that I am the one who makes our study schedule. Broken down by every 30 minutes of time we are at school.
2:24 pm - Starting to fade. We take a bathroom break, not really just because of the caffeine (which is a diuretic, by the way - which explains why you have to go more frequently), but also because just getting up helps get the blood flow moving again, especially to the brain.
3:13 pm - I wonder if some other memories, knowledge, birthdays, and whatever else are being pushed out to make room for all the medical knowledge I am trying to force into my brain. You can tell me I'm wrong, and I probably am, but the fact is that with all the research that has been done, we still don't really know how memories are stored. Don't get me wrong, I can tell you all about the Papez circuit (look it up, it's fascinating), the limbic system, and the amygdala (all of this should fall under YOUR category of forgetting this in the next 5 minutes), but we still don't know how memories are stored. So for now, I'm keeping my hypothesis that new information goes in, old stuff falls out.
4:30 pm - Finally, done for the day. Drive home, listening to more pathology.
5:30 pm - Best part of my day - my boys rush to hug me at the door, a kiss from my beautiful wife. It's definitely all worth it.