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first quarter review

One quarter down, five exams completed, five passing grades. So far, so good. P=MD. That doesn’t mean that it was easy (not that I was expecting it to be), but I could definitely do without that sense of uneasiness over the question of “did I pass?” after each exam, the likes of which haven’t been seen since organic chemistry (for which, in those days, the prescription was this drink). I don’t recall noticing it back in undergrad, but I suspect that’s because studying engineering exercises a completely different part of one’s brain (mmm…math). As a practicing engineer, life consisted of analysis and problem-solving (and let’s not forget the metric tons of documentation generated) instead of memorizing and regurgitating. And so, there’s a bit of an adjustment period. Eventually, I’ll get to use more of those brain muscles, but first I have to learn the language. And it is basically just that–you have to learn the alphabet, then simple words, then simple sentences, before you can start to begin to think critically.

(On the other hand, if I want to be really cynical, I could say that learning about the human body is like trying to reverse-engineer a system for which no one from the original design team is still employed and zero requirements or design documents exist and you’re like “who the hell designed this shit” and you have a gazillion customers with broken systems all demanding they be fixed and you can’t just tell them to buy the upgrade.)

But the mechanics of studying and doing well on exams are fairly straightforward. It’s simple enough to analyze what I’m doing wrong and devise a corrected plan of action. (Following through on that plan is another story.) I’d much rather deconstruct the psychological aspects of being a med student who went the non-traditional route. First, some words of wisdom (from an Internet board that shall go unidentified):

…I actually had a board member pause the interview just so he could advise me not to lose the identity I’ve developed (as a non-trad with a career) because apparently many non-trads “regress” (as he put it) once they’re in med school surrounded by much younger students.

For non-trads, the difficulty is that you’re not just developing your adult identity, you’re taking on a new adult identity on top of the one(s) that you already have.

I read these quotes at the start of the quarter, but it’s not until now that they’ve started to ring true. It’s all too easy (especially for someone who doesn’t look all that different from his new peers) to assimilate into the culture and thus feel like one’s identity is being lost. Maybe that’s why I feel the need to assert myself as that old fogey of an engineer every so often; but doing so may also have the detrimental effect of creating too much of a separation between my classmates and me, or perhaps coming off as having airs when that couldn’t be further from the truth. And sometimes it’s hard to contribute the perspective of someone who’s had a bit more time to percolate and has a bit more experience without sounding preachy or condescending. So, there’s a balance that must be struck.

I don’t even have a clue as of yet what this new adult identity is that I’m crafting.

But in the end, it’s just an interesting thought exercise that I won’t get any credit for. For now, the order of business is to relax, rest, and recharge, ready to hit the ground running when the next quarter begins. (And given that it’s the cardiovascular/pulmonary block, if I don’t ace it, I should just quit right then.) Here is one more quote I found hilarious:

But the life arc is undeniable. I couldn’t stay in a night club with 18 to 25 y/o’s with sh!tty music pumping unless I was seven different kinds of loaded. And I’m not into that anymore. So.

One Comment

  1. Patrick wrote:

    Maybe it’s because I spent 15 years in professional life, but I find that it’s almost essential to “regress” in med school. There are just so many elements to school that aren’t conductive to any sort of professional dignity. We’re told what to do in such absurdly detailed form- what types of sweatshirts are acceptable to wear during tests. The passivity of sitting in lectures for 20 hours in a week just blows my mind sometimes. It’s like I’m at a professional conference for two straight years. Feedback is really odd, too. For example, roughly 30 of 31 days a month, nobody notices what you do or say, and then all of that work is measured in two hours of insane pressure. I have to constantly remind myself at times to behave like a 22 y.o. We had a “clinical experience” where we did h&p’s along with docs affiliated with the university. While the patient interactions were cool, I found myself wandering into discussions with the doc about their IT systems and his practice management. At this point, it’s better to worry about the basics- how to find the reflex points on an obese patient, etc. The times that I feel most at home are in the PBL parts of the curriculum; it mirrors the process I used to use to solve problems at work. But it’s only a small part of the curriculum here.
    I also find that, to the extent I draw boundaries with the young students, I’m left out. I run a study group, and if I don’t put up with their bullshit juvenile behavior (like an extended accusation of one guy to another of blowing a “Jew fart”- as if the religion by itself imparts a certain essence to the colon), I lose group members. There are like 30 different channels of communication, and if I’m not in regular social contact with a bunch of students, I don’t hear essential stuff.

    Sunday, January 29, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

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