Tag Archives: Updates

Step 1… Closer to Being a Doctor

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything on this blog, and I’m sorry about that. I had to make a decision back in January, and it was really tough. Do I…..

1) Study really hard all day and every day for Step 1 so that I can become a doctor.


2) Continue to blog, increasing my status as an internet celebrity and cementing the love that both of my readers have for my writing (and one of them is still my mom).

I obviously went with the first option. I studied long, hard, cold days for that stupid test, and I’m here on the other side of it with a majority of my sanity intact. If you are here to read a little about the test, skip on down a few paragraphs for my take on the exam and studying. Sadly, studying for days and days on end does not lend itself well for blog posts. Frankly, nothing interesting really happened. My wife did a bunch of fun stuff, and I made sure to get out and do things in the world on a weekly basis, but the vast majority of my time (even weekends and evenings) was spent in the library or at my desk.

I received my score a few weeks ago, so I am past the nervous period of waiting for those 3 digits (hopefully 3 digits, I’d hate to be the first guy to score less than 100!). I did ok, but I feel like I was capable of scoring higher, which is a little frustrating. I would straight up just tell you guys what I got….but you know, it’s the internet, Obama, NSA, etc. I’ll just say I scored a little bit below average, which is kind of my place in the world of medical school. Not really dumb, but also not smart. It’s a good enough score for most of the specialties I am interested in, but it makes some of the competitive specialties more of a reach (orthopedics, for example). Thankfully, I’m not a super gunner (see below for explanations of new words) and I’m not trying to become a plastic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic, so my score should be just fine. To compensate for my subpar score in the dating scene that is residency applications, I plan to make sure programs know that I also have a terrific personality.

So how specifically did I study for this test? First Aid, UWorld, SketchyMicro, and Doctors in Training. Before you copy those down as bullet points, you need to read the next sentence. Figure out how YOU learn as a student, and tailor your studying to that. For example, if you don’t learn well from videos, don’t buy Doctors in Training, because you’ll just be wasting your time. I’ll run through these resources in order of importance:

1) Uworld – this is a giant question bank (2200+) that closely resembles the questions on the actual test. You simply must do the entire bank of questions. Don’t procrastinate doing these, either. Start early, take notes, and review your answers. This is as close as you can get to the actual exam, so spend a lot of time here.

2) First Aid – The Step 1 Bible, everything important can be found here once you learn where to look. Definitely have this open often. Definitely add information to the margins. Definitely never just sit and read this book. It’s not meant to be read. Because everything is in outline form, you won’t learn much from reading the words. It is useful to browse through sections to remind yourself of concepts you have already learned, but not very useful as a way to learn complex concepts.

3) Sketchy Micro- this is a series of cartoons drawn by some genius (who is also now rich). Each of the cartoons give you little memory aids for bacteria, viruses, etc. This is stupidly helpful, especially because I didn’t learn anything from out Microbiology course. It’s fairly cheap, quick and easy to watch, and I guarantee that it will add points to your exam. I hear they are also coming out with Sketchy Pharm for future tests, which should also be very helpful.

4) Doctors in Training – this is the least mandatory of all study options. First off, it’s pretty expensive. Secondly, it’s fairly time consuming. Last but not least, it’s pretty expensive. There are some advantages to it though. Let’s say you have your heart set on a specialty that is not competitive, so you just want to pass the test and have a score that starts with a 2. If you buy DIT, watch the videos, and fill in the workbook, you are going to pass the test. They do a good job covering material efficiently, and they have spaced recall built in to the workbook to help drill in some of the details. It seems like their motto is “If you don’t remember it the first time, you’ll remember it the 8th time”.

My last few thoughts on Step 1 are especially pertinent to students who didn’t do well (like me….just kidding). After just a month or so of clinical exposure, I’m beginning to realize how little anyone cares about Step 1. I think it gets overhyped to second year students (at least it was to us). The material tested on Step 1 has very little clinical significance or correlation. Attendings and residents have been very emphatic that we are just now beginning to learn actual medicine. Finally, there’s a lot more that goes in to your residency app than your Step 1 score. If you want to be a plastic surgeon or dermatologist, you may want to work crazy hard and score well, but don’t freak out because you scored 5 points under the average for your specialty.

To close out this post, I need to include a little dictionary (for people like Mom) who may not be familiar with some of the “buzzwords” of clinical medicine. I will use these words frequently in future posts. This will be on the test.

Attending – this is an actual, fully licensed physician. They lead treatment teams and represent the light at the end of a long tunnel. The attitude of the attending often determines your fate as a med student. Good ones will teach well, have a good attitude, let you do cool stuff, and let you leave to go study. Bad attendings pimp you mercilessly, make you stay tediously long hours, are cynical and jaded, or just aren’t involved with anything going on.

Pimping – this is what happens when a senior team member asks questions to a junior member, usually in a pressured setting. It’s kind of like teaching, just scarier and with a lot more crying. Pimping can be aggressive, like an attending asking rapid fire questions to a medical student in front of everyone at rounds. It can also be helpful, like a resident asking you which structures you can identify during a surgery, then helping identify ones that you have missed.

Resident – these people do most of the actual work. Residents have graduated medical school but not finished the required residency. They are doctors, but don’t have the freedom (or responsibility) of an attending. Residents come in several flavors. Interns are fresh out of med school and are highly supervised. Each successive year past intern year, residents are given more responsibility until their final year, where they transform into the chief resident, who does everything. Residents work long hours, are not appreciated by anyone, and can be the best/worst part of your rotation on the service as a medical student.

Rounds – the sacred ritual of medicine. This happens once (or more) daily, and comes in a few flavors. Walking rounds are exactly what they sound like. The team walks from room to room. First they talk about a patient in the hallway, then they go and see that patient. Sometimes they just talk, then people see patients later, but you get the idea. Sometimes everyone sits down at a table and just talks about the patients. Sometimes rounds only take 30 minutes. Sometimes it takes hours and hours and hours. Students often present their patient(s) during rounds, giving an attending or resident a chance to pimp the student on that disease/treatment.

Tune in next time for ER stories, featuring the lady you got drunk, passed out while smoking, lit her mattress on fire, and had to be admitted for simultaneous burns AND being super drunk (at 10am on a Monday). Or, tales from OB-GYN, featuring the legendary lady with a BMI of 92. I’m more motivated to write when I see stuff like that on a daily basis.

Thanks for reading!

Test Taking and Last Summer Ever

As usual, I find myself in the mood to write on Sunday afternoon. I suspect that my weekly doughnut at church on Sunday morning has something to do with my inspiration to publish posts on WordPress. Maybe my muse is a maple doughnut. Anyways, this week I was asked the following question: “When was the last time you felt mediocre?” Since I’m in medical school, the answer is “every single day”. I’ve written before about how much stress is caused by combining a bunch of smart people into one class and suddenly having smart become “average”, and it’s something our deans have mentioned about twice a month since August.

Our tests reinforce this every week. Consider our last pathology quiz/exam. Fifty multiple choice questions taken using secure software installed on our laptops. It covered hundreds of pages from Robbins (the holy grail of pathology, it’s a huge book the size of a watermelon) and was a fairly difficult exam. When we got our results, the median came out to be 80%, which is actually pretty good. Some inconsiderate soul actually got a 98%, and one person barely passed with a 50% (because of the way our quizzes are graded, you can still pass with a 50%, even though it’s normally an F). The median was 80%, and by definition half of our class has to fall underneath that score. That’s just the way math works. For those that are under it, there is a perception of inadequacy. For those above it, life must be awesome. I hop frequently between being just above and just below the median score, so I’m doing okay.

So obviously our 98% guy was an outlier, because the next best score was a 90. So the 98% guy needs to let himself out of the library. The 50% guy was also an outlier, and he needs to find the library. A full 55% of our class got between a 76%-84% on the exam. I know what that means in real life….we all did just fine. Yet I am annoyed when I score a few points below the average on a particular exam, even though I know that means I’m tracking just fine along with everyone else. I’m sure the guy that got a 98% is upset as well (not 100%? No sleep for me next week!!).

On to my next subject…summer time. I need it to be summer ASAP. I grew up in California, enjoying nearly endless summer weather, and after I moved to the Midwest I discovered that I am solar powered. When we have cloudy, gloomy, grey weather for weeks on end I lose any motivation to keep up with life (exercise, study hard, clean the house, wear pants, etc). This summer has a special feature…it will be my LAST SUMMER EVER. Yes indeed. After (hopefully) passing Hematology on June 6th, I get 8 full weeks off of school. Next summer I will have time off. Instead, I will start my third year (clinical rotations), which is simultaneously exciting and terrifying.

So what do MS1’s tend to do with their LAST SUMMER EVER? Some people do career enhancing activities like research fellowships, internships, volunteer activities, etc. Other people travel for fun. Some people get part time jobs, others do nothing for the summer. Because I felt the pressure to do important things, I currently have applied for a number of summer fellowships that would be good for my CV and pay me a small amount of money for six weeks. Then I talked with a professor who changed my mind a little. He said that if I only wanted to do research to have it on my CV, then I shouldn’t do it. Instead, I should do whatever sounded enjoyable to me. As the director of a residency program at our hospital, he said it really doesn’t matter what they did over their M1 summer (unless they singlehandedly saved an African village from an exotic virus). He’s far more interested in their board scores and letters of recommendation from rotations. So while I have hopes for landing a fellowship this summer, much of the stress in the competition of getting that spot is reduced, if not gone. I can’t do nothing all summer, because historically I get cabin fever after 4 days of break from school. If nothing works out, I will probably get involved with ministries at my church, study for boards, and run a lot. We’ll see how it works out. What are your summer plans?

Thanks for reading!

Tales from Anatomy – The Long Post

I just finished anatomy. The last eight weeks have been a complete blur, but last Friday I took the final exam and most likely identified enough body parts to pass the class. I needed to get 38% on this final test in order to pass anatomy. Because of how hard the test was, I am not completely sure I got 38%, just reasonably sure. The test was hard. My score will likely be the lowest score I have every received in my life. Ever. On anything. To sum up my experience this final week of anatomy, I have to share this screencap someone posted on our Facebook page before the test. This should go on our class T-shirts.

I spent this last week studying hard, spending extra time in the lab, and cramming “high-yield” study tips. I studied with my dissection group, with random people, with lab TA’s, and anyone else who would help me. My wife quizzed me on insertions and innervations of muscles, and my little puppy was intent on helping however she could. Admittedly, she has a tiny brain and no thumbs, so she wasn’t much use. She’s mostly a ten inch tall Roomba (with a slightly lower chance of tumbling down the stairs to her death), trotting around the house and eating anything she finds on the floor. Even after all that studying, I still felt really dumb at the exam. Anatomy has a way of doing that to me. I would study all week on assigned materials, then drive in to take the practice exam on Sunday. Number 1 would say “What is this thing?” and I would have absolutely no idea. Was that even assigned to us?

I also realize I was fortunate during this class. First of all, I took a tough anatomy course in undergrad, so I was roughly familiar with most subjects. Second, I have a quick memory and uncanny ability to remember pointless details from lectures several weeks ago. We seem to get tested on pointless details all of the time, so I get those questions during the exam (most of the time). I also learned anatomy the hard way. I did the dissections, pored through atlases, and did the leg work required to learn relationships and functions. Compare that to a certain member of my lab group, who we will call Leo. Leo doesn’t dissect. Leo doesn’t even help his group during dissection. Instead, he drifts around the lab like a knowledge mosquito, stopping briefly at each groups table and learning a few factoids from each group. Then, during exam week, he becomes the king of mnemonics (more on those below). He has mnemonics for everything. He has primary, secondary, and tertiary mnemonics to remember his mnemonics. He confuses his mnemonics with others, and ultimately forget it all and have to relearn it. Also, he probably can’t problem solve as well when he mostly knows mnemonics.

There are two kinds of anatomy geniuses. The first kind was my dissection partner. He could study a picture and a cadaver, then somehow reconstruct everything into a mental, 3-dimensional structure that he could then picture anytime, from any angle. He was always oriented, and always knew where structures came from and where they were going. It must have been awesome to be him. The second kind of anatomy genius (and the kind I actually understand) are the ones who understand relationships. There is no intricate mental picture stored in their super-brains. Instead, they know where a structure is based on the structures that surround it. They can use the context to identify what a specific structure is, much like confirming the location of your house by locating your hoarder neighbors house. Yes I used to live next to a hoarder.

I also used mnemonics, which are tools to help you remember something. For example, there are 13 cranial nerves that every medical student must memorize. Here they are, in order: Olfactory, Optic, Oculomotor, Trochlear, Trigeminal, Abducens, Facial, Vestibulocochlear (auditory), Glossopharyngeal, Vagus, (Spinal) Accessory, and Hypoglossal.

Here they are demonstrated on a cartoon brain.

That’s quite a list to remember. Instead, we first memorized “On Old Olympus’ Towering Top, A Finn and German Viewed Some Hops”. We then knew the first letter for each nerve in order (OOOTTAFAGVSH). Any sentence works, really, as long as the letters fit that pattern. There are incredibly dirty mnemonics I won’t post here, and some creative ones involving Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, and certain faculty members at the school. Everyone uses these to some extent, but I think students like Leo (not his actual name) ended up getting buried in mnemonics, so they are only somewhat helpful.

So what were my “takeaway lessons” from anatomy? I definitely liked it, enough that my interest in surgery has been validated. I enjoyed working with my hands and learning how knowledge of anatomy is applied to procedures and therapies. I also gained an appreciation for all of the material I still don’t know. We learned a vast amount of information in just eight weeks, and no one learned everything that was assigned to us. That amount of material isn’t necessarily unknowable, but it is probably unlearnable over the course of two months. I know that I will need to go back and re-learn critical areas during rotations, and should I decide to become a shoulder surgeon I will learn that anatomy at an even more detailed level. Lastly, I am even more amazed at the intricate design and daily function of our bodies. Even studying a single organ, like the kidney, is absolutely fascinating, totally reinforcing my decision to attend medical school.

Of course the good news of anatomy being done is that I can spend more time on my favorite activities, one of which is blogging! I have this entire week of Thanksgiving off, which will be completely glorious. There is nothing for me to study. Nothing at all. I will likely pick up the pace at which I post here, because I have a lot I want to discuss. I read some blogs that are easily categorized. There are “mommy blogs”, “medical school blogs”, “tech blogs”, “political blogs”, etc. While the general theme here will always be medical school, I can and will branch out write about whatever is on my mind. I’ve gotten a lot of support lately, despite my complete lack of regular posting, and I really appreciate it.

Two weeks ago I made the unfortunate decision to start reading Game of Thrones when my friend (so he calls himself) lent me the first book, which I promptly read in one week. Now I’m hooked, on book 2, and have thousands of pages left to read (and probably hundreds on main characters yet to die, if the next books are like the first). I am also doing a lot of outside reading on religion, so expect posts as I finish reading other religious texts. I realized that despite my college education and multiple classes on world religion, I had done little firsthand reading of any religious text besides the Bible, which I have read cover to cover multiple times. I am now working my way through the Qur’an, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Pearl of Great Price, with more to come afterwards. That was a good decision, since even my early readings were very interesting.

Of course I will also spend time playing Call of Duty, training my puppy, and eating at the new Chick-fil-a that opened RIGHT BY MY HOUSE. I may or may not have camped out and received 52 combo meals, which I am eager to claim for delicious free chicken. Finally, as I get ready to publish this post, I can see that all of the recommended posts from WordPress are posts that I wrote myself. Weird. I’ll leave you with another picture of my cute puppy.

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Thanks for reading! sortadrwordpress@gmail.com


Tales from Anatomy Part 3

As I near the final week of anatomy, several questions come to mind? First, where did October go? Where was I for that month? Oh right, the anatomy lab. Second, will I pass anatomy? As long as I am alive on the day of the final, I should do just fine. Third, what could I have done better in the beginning of the class to improve my study habits? This was me at the beginning of anatomy:

I was thinking about this a few nights ago as I sat in my backyard recycling (burning) all of the leaves and grass that are piled everywhere. The previous owners of our house left us many of these silly bushes:

As you may or may not know, these need to be trimmed down before winter each year. This left me with a pile of grass roughly the size of my SUV, which I set on the curb in the misguided hope that the trash guys would have mercy on me and take it all (along with our weekly ONE BAG of house trash). Of course they didn’t. They probably just laughed at me and drove off. So now I have a metric ton of freaking bush grass, plus my yard’s monopoly on all of the fallen leaves in my zip code. That’s why I was “recycling” the other night. I have lived in the country long enough that I’m perfectly fine with pushing it all in a big pile, dumping some gas on it, and burning it all at once. Since I now live in a metropolitan area, I have to “use a fire pit” and “have a hose ready” and “extinguish the neighbors tree”. Gosh. City people.

So I’m sitting outside recycling, and I am thinking about anatomy. Here is a typical day for me during the first few weeks of anatomy. I go in to campus and up to the anatomy lab around 8. I then attempt to learn something from Group B regarding the previous day’s dissection (if they didn’t destroy everything) or teach Group B what we learned (so that they can destroy it later that day). We all walk down for a few hours of lecture by professors that I don’t understand, and I spend most of the lectures surfing the internet on my phone or reading Game of Thrones under my desk (don’t judge me). I then troop back up to the lab, where I fumble around attempting to “dissect” the structures I “learned about” in lecture, and I have no idea what’s going on. Finally, late in the afternoon or early evening, I wearily return home, only to realize that I didn’t learn anything, so I have to start all over on that unit.

Here’s my NEW, IMPROVED plan! I wake up and don’t go to class. During the morning, I look at the unit we are going to cover for the day. I google stuff, look in my atlas, and familiarize myself with what the goal for the day is. Then I drive in to lab later in the morning, and I actually know where things are! I see a nerve and think “that must be the _______, since it’s immediately lateral to the ______”. That’s actually learning something. Previously, I would announce that I had most definitely found a “thing” and wait for a TA to come and ID it for me. After leaving dissection, I hop on the interweb and watch the lecture from that morning on double speed, but since I am familiar with the structures from dissection, it just helps me tie everything together, learn the innervations and blood supply, etc. It’s far more effective that the previous method

I’ll continue this for another week, after which I will have an incredibly glorious full week of Thanksgiving with no class at all. I expect to put together a few more anatomy posts over the next week or so, as well as some posts regarding some fun stuff that came up in the past few weeks. I’ll leave you with this cute picture of my dog eating a stick.

As always, thanks for reading!



So You Have A Blog

Note: I am actually writing this from a “microscopy lab”. Don’t let the name fool you. I haven’t looked through a single microscope since undergrad (thank God). I believe the actual lab room is being used by “other people” (according to our rulers), so we all sit in the lecture hall and watch a recording of our professor looking through a teaching microscope while teaching last years class. This process is as hilariously ineffective as you imagine it to be. In addition, the video isn’t buffering today, so we get to watch it in 30 second intervals and then wait a few minutes for it to load. Awesome. And I almost studied from home today!

So some of you reading this have your own blog. Others don’t, at least yet, but every single person that reads this has a Facebook, I bet. We all maintain this “online presence” that is a bit like our public personality. When applying for jobs, scholarships, or residencies, you can bet that people will be looking you up on Facebook, Twitter, and simply Googling your name to see if anything nefarious comes up. When I was applying to medical school I was urged to “clean up” my Facebook page (which is private), getting rid of bad pictures, deleting posts, and making myself look better in case anyone came snooping. I didn’t have to clean anything up (because I am generally not a prolific Facebooker), but I know some friends that needed to do some “editing”.

Fact is, anything posted on the internet will be there forever, and may someday come back to haunt you. The most obvious way to avoid this is to carefully filter what you put on the internet, and to avoid doing something dumb and unintentionally starring in a YouTube video.

But what if you have a blog? Blog posts are inherently one dimensional. After I post this it will exist forever, exactly as I left it, and people will run across this post as time goes by (hello future readers!). Any opinions I express are recorded for all time, and are made readily available for anyone curious enough to do some reading.

If you have a blog it may be personal. You have friends and family that follow it, and you post pictures of your friends, family, pets, and life events. That’s probably fine, but that’s not what this blog is. I prefer to hide behind a small veil of anonymity. I enjoy the freedom to mock my school, classmates, and otherwise write whatever I want. In order to maintain that I try to be generally vague about myself. If someone REALLY wanted to find me, they probably could. One could pick pieces of information and put together a fairly accurate picture about myself. And that’s okay. I’m cool with the fact that no one is truly anonymous on the internet. That’s it for this mini-post (short and no pictures. oops)

Thanks for reading!

Decision Time (Eventually)

I have thoroughly enjoyed this last weekend. My wife is here full time now, sort of, and after taking the exam on Friday there wasn’t much to study over the weekend. We did tackle a disgusting project, however. My office/study area had blue wallpaper that was poorly applied, and so it was peeling all over the place. We peeled it off, only to find more wallpaper underneath. And so we kept scraping and peeling wallpaper, and kept finding more disgusting layers underneath. The last layer was an especially ugly floral print that was probably put up when the house was built 60 years ago. Here’s a picture to demonstrate some of the ridiculous patterns we discovered.

Photo: Five layers and six decades of style later, we have finally reached the last layer of wallpaper.

Over the weekend and during the aforementioned wallpaper scraping, I was giving some thought to the future. Who will win in the first week of the NFL? When, as my sister asked me, will my wife and I go back home to visit? Have I forgotten to do anything before class next week? When can I eat at Chick-fil-a again? (Monday, actually. They are giving away free breakfast all week next week. True story)

One of the more serious things I have been thinking about is choosing a specialty. Asking someone’s potential specialty in medical school is like asking about someone’s major in college. It’s an easy question to ask because it’s a task we share in common. Also, while everyone thinks they know what they want to do as a freshman, most people inevitably change their minds, sometimes several times. Also, we don’t exactly get to pick and choose due to Step 1 and the match. Regardless, it’s something that’s been on my mind. I have jokingly seen this graphic several places now:

And so I am writing this initial post as a baseline. I want to look back in four years, as I start residency (that should frighten you, knowing that I will treat actual patients and prescribe things in just four years). I want to be able to look back at my past self, read what I thought my plans were, and then laugh at my past self. For tagging purposes and organization, I have invented a scoring system for each specialty, which I shall call the HLAITDTFTROMLH score (How Likely Am I To Do This For The Rest Of My Life?) The scale is either 1-10, with 1 being never ever, and 10 being pretty sure. Ready? Here we go.

Radiology: 1ish. Despite being afraid of the dark (see chart above), I can be reasonably certain that I would go insane as a radiologist. My reasons for getting into medicine had a lot to do with patients and not so much to do with imaging. While the hours, pay, and lifestyle seem fairly nice, I would probably slowly trade in my sanity until someone invents a robot to read images and I get fired.

Pathology: 1ish. I draw on four years of bouncing my legs and tapping my toes, impatiently waiting to get out of ______ lab during undergrad for this rating. I do not enjoy bench work, and probably never will. This specialty is so unappealing to me I almost forgot to include it on the list.

Pediatrics: 2ish. While I can’t rule this out completely, it’s not high on the list right now. It’s not that I don’t dislike kids (SO many negatives in that sentence), it’s the parents I couldn’t handle. Just kidding!! Anyways, I have a very hard time seeing myself in any pediatrics field, even when I try really hard to imagine myself wearing a bow tie (just kidding again…sort of)

Internal Medicine/ General Surgery: 3ish. This is more of a practical decision. I would go do IM if I decided to go into primary care. I would not do general surgery, simply because it seems terrible in every way. Realistically, I think I have a good enough chance at getting into a sub-specialty, which is more appealing in many ways that IM/Surg. We’ll see.

Emergency Medicine: 5-6 or so. I trained as an EMT during undergrad, spending significant time on the ambulance and in the ER, and it was definitely a rush. I see definite benefits in shift work, pay, and salary (lifestyle stuff, I suppose), but there are serious downsides in the high burnout rate, night shift work, and no real patient follow up.

Sports Medicine 6.5. I have attended two sports medicine meetings so far, and have found them very helpful. I would enjoy working with high school/college athletes, professionals, and weekend warriors. There are lots of opportunities for operative/non-operative practices, as well as academic/private practices. Very interesting.

Ortho/Surgical Subspecialty: 8. This is a broad field, but there are tons of options here. The idea of surgical care is appealing to me because it gives me the chance to fix a tangible problem. I’m a problem solver by nature, and the idea of direct intervention is VERY appealing to me. I like the idea of “fixing” something. One downside I see to IM is treating patients with chronic conditions, adjusting medications, etc.

Orthopedics is high on the list due to a doctor I shadowed during undergrad. He worked hard, but had fun and had a better lifestyle than other surgeons I shadowed. This would also give me the ability to treat some of that athlete/adolescent population from sports med (as well as geriatrics). This is a specialty that seems worth a 5-6 year residency.

There are some other fields I will be learning more about in the coming weeks. For example, I became interested in plastic surgery after reading a book about Harold Gillies, one of the pioneers of plastic surgery. Oncology is a double edged sword. On one hand, if I went in to oncology I would likely be part of a revolution in cancer treatment and care. On the other hand, it would be a difficult field, and one where my patients would frequently lose their battles against cancer.

That’s where I am at right now. The decision will partially make itself. At the end of my second year, I will take Step 1. If my score isn’t high enough, I can go ahead and rule out the really competitive specialties. Should I match into ortho, for example, I will probably find some niche that I particularly enjoy and pursue that. I can’t know that now. For the next two years my best course of action is to get good grades on my tests and go to free lunches to learn as much as I can, so that when the time comes to make a decision I’m not limited by poor scores or by a lack of knowledge about my options. Plus….free lunch 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Coats and Conversations

After finally finishing our move this weekend, I feel like I can sit down and unwind a little bit. I’m a little bit scrambled right now…it’s been a long few days. I didn’t even find the box with my underwear in it until just a few minutes ago.  Let me help you catch up a little.

Most of this weekend we spent moving. Since my wife and I just bought this house, our first, we both like it a lot. As well as being larger and newer than our previous rental, it also now boasts special amenities like hot water and Wi-Fi. Thanks to a snafu with the utility company, we went the first night and half of the second day with no running water (still had electricity though, much needed in this oppressive humidity). Now that we own the house, however, we have a grand list of projects to accomplish, and since I start medical school tomorrow, I’m beginning to realize most of these projects are going to take a while, especially considering my incompetence at handyman work (earlier today I installed a toilet paper roll holder at nearly a 45 degree angle to the ground, because I installed it while sitting on the toilet seat. I never stood back to see how level it was. Derp)

The good times got rolling when I went to pick up the Uhaul trailer and discovered that Uhaul does not rent any trailers to people with Ford Explorers, due to a history of lawsuits and bla bla bla. Now I’ll give you one guess what I drive, and what vehicle I was planning on using for towing this big trailer down the highway. Awesome. Of course you don’t rent to people who drive MY EXACT CAR. Ironically, if I had driven a Ford Escape (which is smaller) I would have been fine. Also, Mercury Mariners and Lincoln Navigators are both just fine, despite being near replicas of my car. I put together this stunning visual to illustrate the logic behind this.


*This is totally accurate and reflects actual Uhaul policy

I was able to overcome this dilemma thanks to a friend with a truck who picked up the trailer and took it to my house, where I hooked it up to my Explorer and drove for several hours at highway speeds with no problem. Everything after we arrived was a blur of rain, humidity, boxes, painting, and more boxes, then suddenly it’s Sunday night. I don’t quite know how we managed to get to this point, but I know it would never have happened without a friend named Dave and my parents sacrificing their entire weekend to drive up here, help us move, and then go to the White Coat Ceremony.

Ah yes, you knew I had to be getting to that. The other main event this weekend was me getting “cloaked” with a short white coat, which indicates my entry into the medical profession (the white part of the coat means “doctor”, but the short part means “doesn’t actually know anything”). The ceremony was about 90 minutes and included lots of speakers telling the parents how great the university is, but I got to spend about 90 minutes in a big room with my entire class. I’m interested to know, after such a long year of trying to get in to medical school, who all the other people who got in are. No one just accidentally shows up in medical school (probably), and while I have enjoyed mocking some of our more ridiculous members, I have always hoped to meet some really stellar people once I got in to medical school. This white coat thing was the first time we all got together, so I had a chance to do just that. 

Would you believe that this is my class? It’s not….I stole it from the internet.

My medical school is a larger private school, and I was amazed at the geographical diversity I saw. I imagined many students would be locals, people who attended the associated undergraduate school and then matriculated directly into my school. Instead, the first four people I met represented the four corners of America (San Diego, Seattle, Portland, and someplace in Florida). Since this is a private school, there is no “in state” or “out of state”, so much of the class comes from somewhere besides this area of the Midwest. I think that’s pretty neat, and despite my normally introverted and reserved demeanor, I am excited to get to know these people. The “meeting” part will have to come later, I suppose, since most conversations are following the standard format I learned in college. The year begins with “Hi I’m ________, from ____________, and I went to high school at ____________”. Then it’s “how are classes going?”, then “how are midterms going”, then “are you going home for Thanksgiving?”. The next part is tricky, because you can either ask about how Thanksgiving went (dangerous), ask what they are doing for Christmas (a little better), or ask about finals (safest). In January you ask about how break went, in February everyone is depressed and stays in their dorms, in March you talk about spring break plans, after which you ask about spring break, then suddenly it’s the end of the year and you ask about summer plans. Boom. Every year for four years. It’s like the small talk road map. I was going to make another MS Paint illustration for this, but it surpassed my abilities. Maybe next time.

So tomorrow we really begin. I don’t think we are actually expected to learn anything this next week. Most of our schedule is meetings, info sessions, and paperwork. It looks suspiciously like orientation at my undergrad, which was excruciatingly boring, mixed with some activities that actually look like fun. I will go to as many as I can, and spend the rest of my free time catching up on sleep and probably blogging right here. This leads me to the last sad part of this post, the fact that my wife had to leave and drive back to our old city for a few more weeks of work, leaving me all alone in this new house until next weekend. I will be fine, since I’m usually pretty good at entertaining myself (blogging, reading, etc), but I hope she makes it through the week in various guest rooms and basements. 

For now, I will leave you with this gem of a personal statement, which is required reading if you or anyone you know has agonized over an essay for medical school at any point in your life.

Thanks for reading.