As I settle into my second year of medical school, I’m confronted with the fact that I’m one-fourth of the way to an M.D. — that an entire year has passed, and unsurprisingly, all those predictions my deans made at the very beginning came to pass: time flew, we learned more than we thought we ever could, and upon close self-examination, we’re very different from how we were this time last year.
“Race is a social construct.” This is a statement that we hear frequently but don’t fully believe or understand. In the United States, we may superficially state that race is a social construct, but in reality, we understand it as genetic underpinnings. In medicine especially, race and genetics are often understood as interchangeable.
In her memoir “The Cancer Journals,” radical feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde documented her experiences as a woman with breast cancer recovering from a mastectomy. Lorde was a black lesbian and patient who is “defined as other in every group I am a part of. I’m the outsider, both strength and weakness.”
As a medical student, there is nothing more precious to us than time and brain space. More than once have I left a lecture thinking, “That was a complete waste of my time.” With the volume of information thrown at us, it is paramount to focus on the high yield. Every kind of resource, from Pathoma to First Aid, focuses on the high-yield information that will show up on Step 1. Sometimes, I don’t even think that far.
The position of an M0.5 is a very paradoxical one. We’ve gone through five months of class, amazed that our brains can fit in so much material and even more amazed that we have to make room for more. We’ve gotten our white coats and try to ask patients smart questions while having no idea what solution we can provide for the ailments being enumerated. Our goal at this point is not to diagnose — it’s to learn as much information as we can so that somewhere down the long, long line, we’ll be able to utilize what we know and make something of it.