Sunday, January 07, 2007

Reflection upon Semester 2, written on the eve thereof

After a bout of finals like that last one, I've really enjoyed spending the Christmas break at my parent's house, just vegging. For the first Christmas break in perhaps a decade, I have not been anxious to start school again. I feel like I'm still recovering from finals.

Over the past fortnight the stress of finals has slowly melted away, and my thoughts of dropping out and switching careers (discussed previously) have faded.

During the break I watched a lot of TV, since I deemed that as a responsible and debt-laden medical student, I ought not own one of my own.

As a result, last semester I studied a lot more than I would have, had I owned a TV.

Okay, that was a lie.

I studied a bit more than I would have, if I had owned a TV. Throughout the semester, until my three weeks of final study frenzy, I supplemented my lack of television with a healthy regimen of YouTube, Google Video,, Facebook, and the like.

Also during the break I began reading a pair of medical novels. I have already finished reading this year's Giller Prize winner Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures, and am 80 pages into a book I've wanted to read for a while, The House of God, which is enough to produce several laugh-out-loud moments and to allow me to highly recommend it to anyone who dreams of being a doctor some day. I'll post more about those books here in the near future.

Anyways, now that finals are over, and it's the day before I start the actual medical curriculum, learning about diseases and medicine and the like (the things I expected to be learning about in med school), I am looking forward to school starting again with mixed emotion.

On one hand, I am very excited to begin the semester. I'm living my dream right now. I'm doing what I fought so hard to be able to do. I made it through first term finals successfully (anyone beyond first term in medicine, shut up and let me enjoy my small victories, I have already been told several times by several friends and classmates that of which I am very aware: 'it gets harder'). I'm excited to head back to school and start learning physical exams, surface anatomy, how to actually use a stethoscope properly, and spend more time in the clinics and learning about actual pathology and pharmacology, the things doctors do, diagnose diseases and make the pharmaceutical companies happy. And I'm surrounded by great people in my class and have already made some quality friends, and it will be really good to see them again.

But on the other hand, my entire first semester has been 20% learning basics of human physiology (the provided curriculum), and 80% learning how much doctors know compared to how little of that I know now. And now that we're jumping into the content of the preclinical* medical school years, I'm realizing that this coming semester is going to be a lot of work, and a lot of learning, and a lot of time spent studying and even less time socializing. It's a bit intimidating. I'm not quite sure when my time to be overwhelmed by studying will come, but I know it will, and I expect it to arrive much sooner than it did for the first semester.

So, despite its feeble motor, apparently the clock in my house is still strong enough to drag the inevitable commencement of Semester 2 towards me. I guess I'll accept the challenge with open arms and an open mind and give it my all, and try my best to experience more excitement than panic during the inevitable coming storm.


g l o s s a r y
a bonus feature added for this post exclusively
added in light of the fact that there may be those readers out there who,
unlike myself,
have chosen not to spend their entire post-primary school lives
obsessing over the process of becoming a physician

*Preclinical: another term for the first two years of medical school. Traditionally, medical school is composed of four years; the first two are preclinical years, involving class time and lectures, followed by two years of clinical years, time spent in clinics / hospitals. Some medical schools in Canada, though, specifically University of Calgary and McMaster University, offer a three-year program by not giving their students the summers off.

Despite the traditional divisions of preclinical and clinical years, medical schools in North Amercia are now increasingly exposing medical students to patients in their preclinical years of education, thus reducing the accuracy of the term 'preclinical' as it is currently used. I spent four afternoons in a Family Practice clinic last semester and will be in clinic 12 times this coming semester.

A few physicians I have spoken to have said that this change -- combined with the fairly recent habit of selecting medical students for personality and not just for marks by way of the admissions interviews, essays and the like -- is a drastic improvement in the way physicians are now trained.

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