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.
As I lifted my head away from my work, I realized that I was being watched. On the other side of the window was a group of five young women, mouths agape and eyes wide open. They were students, up and coming radiology technicians, brought here to observe. Their instructor was hoping to desensitize them to the harsh reality of death and prepare them for the day that they would venture here alone with mobile x-ray machines.
The library opens at 8 a.m. As usual, I overestimated my commute and arrived almost 15 minutes early. This became an everyday occurrence for not just me but for another library inhabitant like myself, That one guy. As I approached the library’s closed double-doors, I saw that one guy waiting.
As a medical student, I have big shoes to fill. I feel that void in my foot-space at all times. These shoes are expensive, and they are monstrously huge. We’re talking circus clown, Shaquille O’Neal, Andre the Giant shoes.
Just a few minutes into my drive I made a right turn and my car suddenly lost control. It was snowing the entire day and I realized the road was covered in ice.
I don’t want to admit that medical school is tough for me. I want to be a natural at this. I want to devour my schoolwork and never satisfy my thirst for more.
I breathed in and out, in and out, in and out, trying to slow my heart rate. Countless hours of preparation had led to this day: the day when I would get the honor of donning the white coat that characterized the profession I was about to enter.
Earlier this month, I watched my younger sister begin her medical school journey as she walked on stage in front of family members and peers to be officially “white-coated.” I had never been to another white coat ceremony since my own years ago. It was fascinating to observe it from my now-more-seasoned fourth-year medical student eyes — especially at another institution.