On your mat, you struggle to lie on a bent leg, intensifying your stretch as your hip pleads for you to give up. Many yoga instructors describe hip-openers as a “dynamic” pose because the body is in a constant flux between comfort and discomfort. But there is a moment when your internal struggle abruptly ends.
After passing out, I began to have doubts about my true level of squeamishness. So when it came time to go into the anatomy lab for the first time as a first-year medical student, I was nervous that I would be “that person” — the person who passes out the first time she walks into lab.
About eight months into my first year of medical school, an incoming student asked me how to prepare for the upcoming journey. I could relate to the panicked, excited feeling of the duty to prepare for medical school after an intense visit day. Yet, instead of defaulting to my ingrained answer of, “Nothing can prepare you for medical school,” which I believe was not in the student’s interest to hear, I carefully considered her question and answered, “It’s very important to be a good listener.”
My first year of medical school is finally over…and it was rough. Then again, that is not too surprising. After all, it is medical school, so no one is expecting a walk in the park. During my first year, a lot of the advice and wisdom I heard from other medical students seemed to match up pretty well. However, there were definitely a few things I heard that I felt did not quite hold true. While this is only my opinion and it may vary from student to student, here are my top five biggest misconceptions about medical school.
It’s okay that you forgot who I am. My name is David, and I was the student doctor that made the orthotic you wore on your leg for a year. Do you remember where we were when we met?
Whenever I hear the word “burnout,” I’m reminded of the ugly, oh-so-dark side of being a medical student, the side that hides in the shadows, away from the prestige and privilege that comes with the noble profession. Maybe it seems like I’m exaggerating; I mean, it’s just me jumping to conclusions when I associate the feelings of being overworked with the days where I can’t seem to find the bright side of anything, right?
“This is a place where the dead are pleased to help the living.”
These words always greet me upon entering our anatomy lab. A similar saying in Latin is inscribed at the Palazzo del Bo at the University of Padua, home of the world’s oldest anatomical theater.
I have always toyed with the idea that I may have depression. Numerous times I have looked over the various depression diagnoses and their criteria. But then I settle on the idea that my thoughts and emotions and struggle are not severe enough. Everyone experiences sadness. Everyone experiences grief.
You knock on the door. “Come in.” When you enter the room, a gowned patient sits calmly atop the examination table. For the next 15 to 20 minutes, you spend your time in the small, cramped and surveillanced room with this individual to tease out the mystery of their chief complaint.
Medical school is a constant, never-ending cycle between success and failure — sometimes one occurring within moments of the other. To be a medical student is to fail. We fail at the small things: working out three times a week, being on time for a friend’s birthday dinner, working on the research that has been on our desk for months. We also fail at the big things like exams, practical skills, asking for help when we most need it and sometimes letting ourselves sulk for too long.
She just sat there and listened — what else could she do? Did he really think it was the first time she had heard this? Was the rehearsed monologue supposed to elicit some sort of epiphany? One of our pre-clinical instructors told us a story about how she went to the doctor’s office to get a refill, only to receive a 20-minute lecture about her weight by a resident. She walked out of the office both irritated and empty-handed, her refill not completed: “I know I need to lose weight!” But, at that juncture, and in that manner, she felt it simply was not the appropriate discussion.
Across the street from the Public Health Research Institute of India (PHRII) is a laundry, where laundrymen, women and children undertake their quotidian task of hanging white linen sheets before daybreak. They cover the long ropes that run by the dusty, red road with countless numbers of alabaster white sheets. The sheets spread to cover the walls, wrought-iron fences and wooden posts transforming the city street into effervescent maze that billows under the hot mid-day sun.