After our first year of coursework, our LC mentors asked us to write a confidential letter to our “2016 self,” or ourselves at the time just before we began medical school. Right away, I recalled that at that time, I was a nervous wreck.
It was not until our second semester of medical school that we started gross anatomy. Finally, I became that quintessential medical student walking home too tired to change out of my formaldehyde-tinged scrubs.
Second year? Could that be? It felt wrong. It threw off my whole identity. “I’m just a first-year,” had been my motto for the past twelve months.
The opportunity to be immersed in learning the stories behind the health of patients is one of the things that drew me to medicine, and, indeed, it still intrigues me. More importantly, I was (and still am) intrigued by the opportunity and challenge of using the multiple streams of information patients present with to make functional improvements in their lives.
Medical school hit me, and I mean it hit me hard. I would describe it as a boulder rolling down a hill straight towards me, multiplied by ten, and that is how scared and unprepared I was for my first few weeks of medical school.
It’s okay to feel in the cadaver lab. It’s what your first patient wanted for you.
The medical school recruiters and academic advisers had conveniently forgotten this detail during my educational overview when I originally signed up to be a physician.
Whenever my friends or family ask, “How’s medical school?” I have a simple, scripted response … But this response relays a fraction of what medical school has been like.
Given that we are in a profession that aims to prevent harm, treat ailments and promote healthy living, the concept of an ideal body seems to be embedded in our work. The problem with the idea of normalcy, however, is that it is an ill-defined and very subjective idea that varies among each individual.
They say to become truly educated is to begin to realize how little you really know. I used to not understand this — it seemed the more I learned, the more I knew. How could it be different? This changed in medical school. It was only then that I began to feel more and more ignorant with each passing day of my education.
The first time I saw a vertebra in medical school was not in anatomy lab. It was on a Thursday afternoon on the playground at Rolling Bends, a low-income housing community in West Atlanta. The smooth, white bony processes poked through the woodchips alongside broken glass and cigarette butts, almost, but not quite, unnoticeable.
Enthusiastic. Proud. Motivated. I smile sheepishly as I approach the coastal town of Pondicherry, nestled in tropical South India.