Monthly Archives: April 2014

Status update: anatomy

Let’s see, what can I say? Yet another anatomy exam is just a week away, which brings with it unwanted anxiety. I woke up today with a knot in my stomach. It was anatomy calling. My nervous system is preparing itself for the onslaught of mind numbing memorization that is going to take place this week. The only way you can pass this course is repetition, repetition, repetition–hoping that my last review sticks long enough to remember on the exam. To my surprise, I’ve actually enjoyed this exam’s material much more than the pervious one. (I’ll take limb muscles over the urogenital triangle any day!). A good omen perhaps?

I have a love/hate relationship with anatomy. When it’s clicking and things are getting committed to memory and I can rock the identification game in the lab, I feel anatomy and I are great friends. So far, anatomy and I have been BFFs. Let’s hope this relationship lasts. It is mainly when I’ve spent days studying the arm and shoulder feeling confident, then I look back at the muscles of the anterior thigh and realize I no longer remember what nerves are there that anatomy and I begin to have major relationship issues. You son of #&%*!

To give all my non-med school readers a glimpse into how studying for an anatomy exam works, below is a picture of the brachial plexus (basically a big tangle of nerves that innervate lots of stuff in the shoulder, arm, etc.). Now memorize each nerve, what it innervates, how the nerve changes names as it courses to different areas of the body and of course, don’t forget what cranial segments contribute to it! This little map, that I now have solidly burned into my brain, represents maybe 5% of the material you’ll need to know.



Of course, in the body things are never quite as clear…not once appearing as a Netter’s or Gray’s Anatomy illustration may have you think.



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A day in the life of a first year med student

Yesterday was just a typical day in my life as a medical student–of course when you are a first year, the typical can quickly turn into monumentous milestones.

7:40 am: My husband’s alarm goes off. I have decided to “sleep in” today by skipping my 8 am anatomy lecture. Given these early morning lectures go against my innate productivity curve, leading to 5% retention of material and 95% bleary-eyed sleepiness, my day is much better served sleeping in for an extra 30 minutes and then studying the material at home in the morning. I definitely need every second of those extra 30 minutes as my husband and I stayed up past midnight watching a Killer Whale documentary (the night before was Blackfish; we have kind of a theme going this week). Given how little we get to see each other, at the time, hanging out and watching movies seems like a much better idea than sleeping–however I tend to regret this in the morning when I wake up exhausted– further adding to my decision not to get up for my very early lecture.

8:00 am: Make my daily cup of instant coffee ( I should really upgrade to something better) and prepare a few breakfast/lunch snacks for my husband to take to work. Although I am busy medical student, I find time to do nice wifely things like making sure my husband is not hungry throughout the day.

8:15 am: See my husband off to work and settle in at my desk to do some anatomy reviewing. I feel almost caught up.

9:30 am: Re-watch my anatomy lecture on the posterior triangle of the neck, which happens to be the dissection I am going into lab today to learn up close and personal.

10:15 am: Bike to anatomy lab. My 4-mile trek is particularly tough today because I ended up biking back and forth to campus twice yesterday (16 miles) and now my muscles are not happy with me.

10:45 am: Change into my disgusting anatomy scrubs. I was just in the lab last night for an anatomy review session and didn’t have a chance to do laundry in the last 10 hours. I swore I would never be THIS person, but here I am wearing the same scrubs twice in two days. Don’t judge me. I didn’t touch anything!

11:00 am: Listen to groups of my classmates present their neck dissection to me. I leave feeling like I have a pretty good sense of the structures in the neck–there were some great teachers this time, including a memorable platapus mnemonic to help us remember the function of the platsyma muscle: platysma sounds like platapus, and platapus are sad looking creatures; so naturally the platysma muscle works by pulling down the lower lip and angle of the mouth in the expression of melancholy. Brilliant!

11:40 am: Bike home. My 8 mile round-trip commute doubles as my work-out for the day.

12:00 pm: Take a quick post “work-out”, post-anatomy shower and get ready for the rest of my day. Have a quick lunch. Check my email. Put on some professional clothing and make-up since I know I’ll be seeing patients later.

12:45 pm: Leave for campus, this time in my car since I am headed to the hospital right after my last class.

1: 00 pm: Neuroscience lecture on the meninges.

2:00 pm: I have an Ob/Gyn shadowing shift set up with a fantastic resident I met during an interest group dinner. I am meeting her at a hospital about 25 miles away.

2: 30 pm: To my surprise there is no traffic so I get to the hospital early. I meet my resident and we start our day by grabbing a quick cup of coffee. First thing I notice is that the cafeteria here has a better selection than the main University hospital. This is a vitally important point.

3: 30 pm: Labor and delivery is relatively quite. We have a couple patients in active labor, but active labor can take hours. While we wait for something to happen I end up getting loads of golden information from the 3rd year med student, learning everything I need to know about the best rotations, traps to avoid and how to survive. The key is hiding lots of food in your white coat pockets it seems.

4:00 pm: There is a new pregnant patient admitted to the hospital. The 3rd year and I go to her room and do a thorough exam and interview and present our patient to the resident.

5:00 pm: The resident and I go to check in on one of our active labor patients when the pager goes off–our patient in the other room is ready to deliver!

5: 30 pm: My first monumental milestone. I get to see my very first vaginal delivery. I am in awe. I tell the parents I will remember them and their adorable little girl for the rest of my life.

7: 00pm: This is the time when the residents switch over to the night shift. Although the med student and the resident I was with are winding down, I decide to stick around since the OR is getting prepped for a C-section and I don’t want to pass up the opportunity to see that–another first.

8: 15pm: I get invited by the attending to join the C-section. I was expecting to “observe”–I thought my job would be mainly to stand in the far corner in the non-sterile field, you know, somewhere behind the husband who’s holding his wife’s hand. But no– I am instructed to scrub in! Another amazing first.

8: 20 pm: The scrub nurse asks my glove size and I get to say for the first time in my life, “6. 5, please”. I come out with scrubbed hands and the nurse pats them down and helps me put on my two sets of surgical gloves and gown.

8: 30 pm: I am instructed to go stand next to the surgeon. It is just me and two attendings. My very first surgery. The next thing I know, I hear, “you’re on doctor,” and I have a retractor in my hand. I do the best damn retracting job I can. The whole time I am in the surgery–just any other day for the two surgeons–I am screaming with excitement inside! This is the coolest thing I have ever done in my entire life. The culmination of my monumentous experience was being taught how to close the surgical incision and even putting in some sutures. My first surgical close.

9: 30 pm: I realize that I haven’t eaten since lunch and I’m starving. I drive home feeling amazing. I can’t wait to tell my husband about my monumental, typical day.

10:00 pm: Have dinner. Shower. Pick out another ocean documentary and fall asleep by 12: 30 am. Ready to do it all again.

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