I have a lot to accomplish this year. The central part of this post-bac program I am in is the contract I have entered into with the University of Rochester School of Medicine. I have to maintain at minimum a B average (NOT B-, as we have all been warned) in all of my classes to successfully complete this year and continue onto to med school in 2014. At first, this really stressed me out.
Lets be honest, the reason I am not already in med school is because I have made some mistakes along the way that have kept me from getting there. I can’t completely blame it on my eating disordered years in college, although that was the main contributing factor. It was hard recovering from that, physically, mentally, and GPA wise. But once I got out of those dark times, I got a little lax with myself, and I never really learned how best I learned. Then my grandmother, mi Abuelita, died and that sent me into a self doubting spiral. My reason for going into medicine was now dead. Should I go into medicine? Everyone dies anyways. Do I want to be around this for the rest of my life? What appreciable difference could I ever really make? Everyone dies anyways….
One day I’ll go into how I got out of that mind-set. Its a long story.
Needless to say I finally applied and semi-kinda got in. Now, #1 on my to do list is getting As. Its different from medical school, where the phrase “P=MD” is often thrown around. P, passing, will get you that medical degree. What do they call the person who graduates last in their medical school class? Doctor. Can’t get away with that this year.
My head is spinning with all the knowledge we have acquired in these 2 short weeks. All those amino acids, immunoglobin structure and functions, activation of B cells, dissection of the neuromuscular junction, essential nutrients, voltage and ligand gated channels. I love it. I’ve been strict with my time and have stayed on top of and ahead of the material thus far. I know the speed and amount of things we will need to learn will dramatically increase in med school, and this program is preparing me for that. I’m enjoying this rush of new information, and I’m certain I’ll do well.
But there are some other things on my to do list that I want to begin working on this year that have nothing to do specifically with this program or my contract. They are more overarching to-do’s, that I hope will help build my character and make me the medical student and ultimately the physician I so desire to be. Here they are….
1. Fall in love with science
The love of science is what has lead me to pursue a career in medicine and research. But this feeling can often get buried under a growing deep-seeded need to compete. I am by no means the type of person who would become the “gunner”, but I can’t deny that I get mighty competitive (This might help if you’re headed down the gunner path…).
I’m guilty of leaning in a little closer to the person next to me after getting an exam back, and rejoicing in getting a higher grade (or getting very upset at getting a poorer grade). I’m guilty of asking my peers how they felt during the exam when I felt really sure of my performance. Grades matter, but I believe losing that child-like enjoyment for something could lead to quicker burn-out, hardening, and alienation from you peers. The human body is one of the most wonderfully engineered natural machines. I don’t want to get caught up trying to get the best grade for the sake of beating everyone else. It feels damn good to get the best grade in the class, but what do I really gain from feel superior over everyone else? Medicine is a science, an art and in practice, a team sport. I think continuing to fall in love with it will make my experience as a a student much more enjoyable, help with retention, and keep me from making enemies.
2. Assume responsibility for what you learn
No one can learn for you except you. Its easy to blame a lousy teacher, parents, boyfriends, husbands. I have had only one experience where the teacher was truly abysmal and the reason why everyone in class wasn’t learning. 99.9999% of the time, YOU have to hold yourself responsible and keep track of your comprehension. This was my problem in organic chemistry, and why I had to retake it. The teacher’s accent is horrible! I am falling behind because I can’t understand a thing he is saying! And he is moving so fast! I’m not even sure what I actually understand from this chapter! I’m familiar with this concept though, I’ll study that again just to make sure…. I’ve started holding me, myself, and I accountable for my learning. I am the only one in complete control of it. Additionally, I need to continue monitoring what I know and what I don’t know. If you don’t know what you know, then how are you supposed to set aside what you don’t know and study it? It may seem like an over-complication, but I believe this is how poor studying techniques are reinforced and carried on throughout undergrad. At least thats what happened to me….
3. Avoid being judgmental
Everyone is judgmental in their own way and to varying degrees. I am at my worst when I encounter smokers, especially young adults. It drives me crazy and can often lead me to make assumptions of what kind of people they are in general (usually negative). This can be dangerous as you become a doctor and get exposed to patients from all walks of life. I’ve met doctors who have allowed their judgments to alter their care for the worse. Those who cannot speak for themselves or afford the healthcare they need are thus further marginalized; put in an even smaller box, to be dealt with later or forgotten. I’d like to think I’m a pretty good person. Having done research in socioeconomic disparities, I’d also like to think I am sensitive to such issues. But I am not immune to the things that give us fault and make us human. We all have our judgments, whether you’d like to admit it or not. We just need to be more mindful about them, and not allow them to lead to injustice and inequality.
Those are the 3 things I have begun working on, and will continue to throughout this journey. I’d also like to tentatively throw up #4, train for a half marathon. Still gotta work out my schedule and see where and when I can run. Can’t forget to take care of my own health!