After 14 days of medical school (not counting a week of orientation fluff) I am finally resurfacing to recount what has become of my life. Perhaps most noticeably, my once-dormant addiction to studying has been unearthed. A couple of 4 hour biochemistry lectures was all it took to mutate my brain and rewire my neurons to an old familiar configuration– I am a full-blown study addict. I admit, I have issues. I feel guilty when I am not doing it. I can’t sleep without enough of it. I wake-up early on the weekends to do it. I say no to friends and social events to spend time with my addiction. But that is the kind of thing medical school does to you. You live for studying.
But let me back up here. I should explain that my addiction has blossomed entirely out of necessity. I had my first Histology exam on my 4th day of medical school. Which meant my first weekend was spent almost entirely on reviewing cell structure and earning a reputation among my classmates for making and sharing tons of flashcards (hey they worked!). I took the exam only to realize I had completely neglected biochemistry in the process and I had a biochemistry exam in 4 days! More studying ensued…
The old adage “medical school is like drinking from a fire hose” is there for a reason. We are bombarded by a semester worth of material and expected to process/understand/and memorize it within a week. This process is both exciting and completely brutal. Particularly for someone known to take studying to such extreme.
Here is what my typical day looks like:
6:40 am: Wake up, make 1st cup of coffee
7:00am-7:30am: Read and answer email for my part-time consultancy work, also take conference call if needed to answer questions and follow-up on pending assignments (yes, medical school is extremely expensive so I am making some money on the side by continuing to work on a very part-time basis for my old job)
7:30am: make 2nd cup of coffee, to-go
7:30am-7:50am: Bike roughly 4 miles to class (listen to Pandora- lately it has been set to Pretender’s Radio, which puts me in a great mood)
8:00am-10:00am: Biochem lecture
10:00am-12:00pm: Biochem lecture (by hour 3, I start to increasingly pay less attention and then inevitably end up re-watching the lecture online to review the sections I missed because I was busy googling LOL cats on the internet)
12:oopm-1:00pm: Free lunch presentation (we are fortunate to have tons of interest groups and special elective courses we can take during lunch; which often results in delicious free food! For example, this week I’ll be well fed four out of five days of the week; attending a mandatory dean’s lunch, Ob/Gyn interest group; Wilderness Medicine Lecture on Jellyfish injuries and an LGBT clinic information session)
1:00pm-3:00pm: Biochem lecture (shoot me now…)
1:oopm-5:00pm: Clinical Foundations, which means learning the skills of doctor-patient interactions. We have a simulation center modeled to look exactly like a Dr.’s office. Each week we have simulated patients who we practice our history taking (and eventually physical exam) skills on. One would think that learning “what brings you in today,” would be a fairly easy task. However, when you have a two page check-list of systems to review and social and family history questions to ask your brain revolts and you end up sounding like either a completely non-human doctor robot or you forget to ask the most obvious follow-up question. It does feel good in any case to wear that white coat and at least pretend to know why you are asking your patient if “they’ve recently had penile discharge,” and what it means.
5:00pm on ward: Sometimes there are interesting workshops to attend, such as the IUD placement workshop, which I went to last week. Otherwise I bike home to begin my nightly studying.
6:00pm-10:00pm: Re-watch lectures as needed; all of our lectures are posted as podcasts by the time I get home. Read sections in the book to clarify key concepts. Take extensive notes. Make extensive flashcards.
10:oopm-11:oopm: Do some work for my consultancy. So far I’ve logged 30 hours doing things like copy editing grants and proposals; submitting evaluation reports; updating our website.
By 11pm I am quite literally exhausted although strangely I am so excited to do it all over again I actually can’t wait to wake up so I can be in school again ( I am sure this will fade).
All in all, I have almost zero free time and nearly every hour of my day is accounted for. I happen to really like this feeling and enjoy having my old addiction back. Medical school will be and is intense. But so far so good. I am excited to get up in the morning and no longer dread Sunday nights–signifying the weekend is over ( it is quite literally the opposite)– after having worked for so many years, I know how rare this feeling is and I am so lucky to be doing something that makes me feel so happy.