Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Exams, Here and Gone

There are a couple of folks in my small group section who 'know everything and are always right'. Ahem. Cough. Cough.

It drives me crazy when they come to a conclusion and then stop without considering another idea.  Several times now, an alternative answer has been dismissed or an inconsistency has been pointed out and then ignored. It's not that big of a deal; we're all pretty respectful of each other and, most of the time, we listen to the others' contributions. It's just that, maybe because we're being overwhelmed with new information, there lies a thread of intellectual laziness, an 'I don't understand why- I just memorize the correct answer' attitude.

It's just that I tend to want to look really deeply and make things more complicated. It's a study habit I've had since high school. Wondering "what if?" helps me to really incorporate the material, see it from all angles and prepare for scenarios that may be presented on exams.  I know that it's probably annoying when I seem to make mountains out of anthills but there have been several occasions when I've been completely on the mark of what the profs are looking for. (sometimes I'm totally off-base- but we'll disregard that as it doesn't support my point :) )

Anyway, it happened again on 3 of the problems today. Huzzah! I feel so smugly validated at being right.  (I'm sure my classmates never noticed, in hindsight, that I gave the correct answer, but I sure did!)

I also honored my first exam!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Night, Weekend pre-Exam

Our first two exams menacingly loom over Monday morning.  I was managing just fine until this past Wednesday, when the lecturer piled 65 densely packed slides of intricate reaction mechanisms over 150 assigned pages of reading. Some of it was familiar; much was new minutiae. Ugh.

She repeated this distribution level both Thursday and today so I now have a mountain of new information to conquer before the weekend is out.

I'm in pretty good shape. I knew last week's material cold and have some familiarity with that of this week. I really feel for my classmates who don't have my chemistry background. They have a Herculean task. I think I'd rather steal the golden fleece, myself.

Anyway, I set up a study schedule and because I'm sacrificing my weekend to the (greater good?) of acing my first exams, I decided to treat myself to a pre-celebratory sushi dinner.

I walked down to the neighborhood sushi bar with my (amazing) Ipad full of notes and readings and snuggled into the banquette at a corner table overlooking the bustling bar.  Glass of wine in hand and saba sashimi on the way, I began to review ubiquitin modification in DNA repair. (awesome right? yawn.)

Losing myself in the notes, I didn't notice the couple next to me until the lady asked me what I was studying. I glanced down at my pad and then back to her smiling face and said. "Biology".

"Oh! Are you in nursing school?"

I smiled at her (I get that question a lot). I'm sometimes embarrassed to reveal that I'm in medical school; I don't want to EVER seem to be boasting and it's the type of confession that provokes preconceptions. Nonetheless...

"Medical. I'm at BCMS." (inner grin-thrilled at the self-reminder)

Gasp. Pause. Blurt.

"I've never seen a chubby med student before!" I could tell by her face, she was mortified at what slipped out.  I couldn't help my sharp shocked bark of laughter. Sometimes people just say the most awesome things.

"Oh. They make rare exceptions for really brilliant applicants." This was one of those rare times when my witty comeback didn't wait to 'come back' several hours after the fact.  Hee. She and her friend quickly settled their bill and I ordered a second glass of wine and some edamame.

I'm so glad I did! The next resident of the table turned out to be an adorable late seventies gentleman in a straw boater with a pale blue ribbon. He was unfamiliar with sushi but looking to be adventurous. We chatted; I gave him my recommendations and he told me about trying new things since his wife died.  I 'wasted' an hour of study time (totally worth it) meeting the character I hope I become when I grow up.

We left at the same time, hugged outside the restaurant and I turned to watch him stroll away, dapper with cane in hand.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Today was a day of firsts. I finally met a classmate that I just cannot like.  Normally, I try to look beyond the irritating (god knows- I'm sure I can be really annoying too) but just sitting near this person, hearing the vitriol (s)he spewed about other classmates and the inane, superficial chatter that interspersed the venom, was absolutely torturous. I so profoundly hope that I never have to work directly with this person. Ever.

Another first; I met a classmate who just doesn't like me, one of my small-group members. We meet once a week and, under the guidance of a physican-proctor, discuss suggested readings, ethical issues and learn the practical side of medicine. Every gathering, one person, assigned alphabetically, is responsible for writing up a summary of the readings to guide the discussion.

Well, the largest (by orders of magnitude) reading chunk was the week that my turn fell on.  We found out today though, that the group doesn't meet the week prior to that.

I sent out an email suggesting that this other classmate and I exchange assignments as I had already started the reading and the summary for the massive task. I thought that I was being nice, volunteering to keep the big assignment. Oops. I was wrong.

My classmate immediately shot back a response. It was polite but angry, telling me that the original order should be kept and it didn't matter if I had started the reading because "everyone should read everything" anyway. Then after lecture, my classmate brushed right by me without a word but with a very articulate glare.

I'm pretty bothered by the exchange. I like everyone in my small group and really felt that the environment was encouraging. I guess I'll just wait and see what next week brings.

We had the sexuality lecture in Human Development. It was awesome. The professor taught the men all about proper foreplay (laugh) and peppered the entire 2 hours with anecdotes from his tenure working in the Emergency department. The things people insert into their bodies! Ew.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Second Week, Day One

Well, I'm firmly entrenched in the grit of medical school. We've covered 1/6 of our biochem/cellular bio course and our midterm is next Monday. My. Birthday. Huzzah!

I'm actually feeling pretty comfortable (so far) with the pace we've set. I'm sure, though, that I'll have a different sentiment this coming Sunday. 

We've had a few lectures in our development course on men's vs women's health, full of statistics and how social constructs affect medical outcomes.  It struck me though that the men's lecture was full of clinical techniques to counter these issues but there was not. a. single. one. introduced in the talk on women's health despite so many more inequities being quantifiably demonstrated (representation in clinical trials, the masculine body being the normal presentation in academics etc. I won't even go into the social/cultural contexts women deal with). 

Our class is, strangely, predominately male. A 60-40 ratio, I think.  Even with this disproportion, the female contribution, whether in the form of questions or thoughts, has been minimal. Besides my own, I've only heard two other feminine voices raised in lecture. Is this normal at other schools? I would have thought that anyone who reaches this stage in their education would be more assertive, more confident in contributing.

The school's fitness center is right next door to the building our lectures are in. It's amazing! Before, I'd always had the best intentions regarding working out but I rarely followed through beyond the first or second week. Now, it's pretty effortless. I go to class in the morning, study on campus for a few hours afterward, then walk down the hall toward the parking garage. But, wait, there, a beautiful pool, steam room and hot tub! So I wander in. I tell myself "you can relax as long as you want in the jacuzzi, just first: run 2 miles and swim 2 laps." So I do! It takes about 45 minutes and then, I soak. LOVELY.  I can already feel the difference in my body, I'm falling asleep more easily, waking up more readily and can really focus on the class material.  I know that I wouldn't make the same effort if the gym wasn't so bloody convenient. I actually felt guilty last Friday for skipping out early. I'm determined to get my resting heart rate down to the 60s (I'm high 70s-low 80's now) by the end of the term.

That's all for now. I'll update more later this week. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

First Week Halfway Point

I'm halfway through the first week.  It's been a rockin' start.  Classes start at 8:00 am and run until 4-5pm (except Tuesday, when we leave at 6:00).  BCMS is easing us in.  The only uber-demanding course is the biochem, which, thus far, has been all review for me.  Hee.   The small-groups meet first for 3 hours and work on the assigned problem sets covering the previous day's material. Then we all gather for the new 2 hour lecture.

I've always been an independent learner. Usually when I 'study' with other students, it's more distracting than constructive.  I've always performed well on exams after solitary study- not so much when I've had study-partners.  That said, the small-group format here has really impressed me. We've had 2 sessions thus far and I really feel like I understood the material so much better afterwards.

I'm officially a medical student! Sometimes that thought just trips across my mind and I can't help but grin. I'm really happy.

Some of my classmates are awesome and some haven't made such a good impression. I'm trying to not be judgmental.

All of the opportunities are overwhelming. We've already been introduced to so many, I can't keep them straight. I'm giving myself until the end of the month to acclimate to the academics and then I need to start planning the next four years. Research? International Study? Honors program? Interest groups?

Over the last few months, I had explored different study/organization options and settled, hesitantly, on an ipad. It's totally worth the insane amount of money!  I'm not the most tech savvy individual (I'd always been a paper and pen note-taker) but my transition has essentially been seamless.  Every day, Dr. __p____, my BC professor alone posts over 60 pages of slides/notes/objectives. Multiply that by all the classes of an MS1 and you'll get aching shoulders. With, i-annotate (an application) I can organize, write notes with a stylus, type etc over any file format (that I'm aware of). Sliding a tiny 1.5lb sliver of brilliance into my bag totally beats lugging around 50+lbs of books/binders. I wish I had had one as an undergrad; my back would be healthier.

Oh and the cat killed another herb, the chives. Only a few seeds had sprouted but I babied the group for weeks, hoping that they'd proliferate. She pulled them all out by their roots and left them scattered across the hardwood floor. That's 2/6 of my herb window garden gone. Bah.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Orientation Week and the Night before D-Day


Last Monday, the line for registration wrapped around the atrium and stretched down the stairs.  130 students waiting anxiously to check in; last name first, first name last. I listened as my new classmates shuffled forward. Smith, Dana. Check. Jones, James. Check. Here's your packet, fill this out, drop that off at security. Make sure you complete everything on this list today. There won't be other opportunities.

Finally, it was my turn at the broad folding table in front of the library. I opened my mouth to state my name, last name first, first name last, but the folks from admissions said it for me.  They recognized me from brief interactions 7 months ago! I guess the little brown wren stands out when surrounded by swans.

This past week has thoroughly erased any hesitations and doubt I've struggled with. I'm so excited for all the opportunities laid out like an academic smorgasbord. I'm really going to have to work on my gluttony and make some hard decisions. Next summer, do I organize a research project or take advantage of the extensive global health immersion programs my school offers? I want to do both!

During one of the 'get-to-know-us' lectures, the dean put up a grid of our ages, MCAT scores and GPAs. I'm the oldest, in the bottom third grade-wise and tied at the top for MCAT score. The class, with an average age of 22, is so young. There are only three other students in their thirties.

The week consisted of a series of social meet-and-greets.  The most common conversation pieces consisted of "Where are you from? Undergrad? What have you been doing since college?"

Everyone seems pleasant enough. They're all so tall! I only spotted one other vertically challenged student, a competitive gymnast.  I am grateful (sort-of) for my excess adipose tissue. The fat hides any wrinkles and I look younger than I am. No one guessed that I was at the apex of the age pyramid and the looks of disbelief when I confessed were gratifying in a superficial way.

I glanced through the pdfs for tomorrow's eight hours of lecture (!) and am already overwhelmed by what we're going to cover. It's going to be a doozy of a year.