ndab Ah Yes, Medical School: September 2004

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

It Finally Happened.

Sometime during the middle of my second year of college, I was posed with a serious challenge by one of my friends (we'll keep things anonymous here and just call him Patsy). A bunch of friends (including Patsy) and I were in this horrific year-long human biology core and over the course of the year, each and every one of them said something during lecture in response to a professor's question - this was often met with surprise and shock by the entire class that any one of us actually knew something or could contribute, but such surprise usually faded to indifference and these extremely rare contributions over the year quickly disappeared, save a classic "clatherin coated vesicle" story that is not only too long of a story to explain now, but also probably not that funny if you weren't there and didn't know how big of an idiot Patsy really was in that class.

Anyways, it turned out that every one of my friends had said something, anything, in that class except for me. Now don't get me wrong - consistent active participation and raising of one's hand in lecture should be severely frowned upon, and lord knows I've bitched about that before with the hypertalkers in my class. However, making a statement at a once a year clip is probably healthy to remind everyone that a) you are alive and b) you are in the same class as they are. I mention that because despite consistent prodding by Patsy to grow some balls and say something during lecture, I never said a word. He repeatedly challenged me to stop being such a puss and just raise my hand and say something to prove I could do it. However, I have never said a word in reponse to a professor's question in a big, medium, or small-sized lecture setting. Maybe it is my constant neuroses, my shyness (it's that sexy kind of shyness, ladies), or my complete and utter indifference that has held me back all these years, but my booming voice had never been heard in any lecture hall whatsoever during class.

That is, until today. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am now a man, bar-mitzvah entitlements notwithstanding. However, if you were expecting some brilliant observation I just had to make with the group or something especially contributory, you obviously have no idea who I am.

In lecture today, we began studying parasites and we were being lectured to by an atrociously boring Australian Phd. After tediously covering...actually I have no idea what the first thing is we talked about (and yes, I just had this lecture less than 5 hours before writing this - I'm going to be YOUR doctor!), the prof began discussing Giardia lamblia. Briefly, for those of you who don't know, this little bastard is a parasite that you can get by drinking dirty water (medically referred to as "fecal-oral transmission" [insert offensive joke here]), which causes abdominal discomfort, mild to severe diarrhea, and horribly foul smelling flatulence. I was fortunate enough to contract this fucker at some point during a Birthright Trip to Israel (funny, they haven't asked to put a picture of me on the toilet for their promotional material yet) five years ago, and I vividly recall all of the symptoms.

Anyways, the prof started describing Giardia and then paused to ask if anyone had experienced this parasite before. Along with a few other people, I cautiously raised my hand - I should add that even raising my hand is a big deal, because I'm a total neurotic mess and don't like calling attention to myself. Of course it helped (or rather, it made it so that there really wasn't much choice) that the guy sitting next to me raised his hand and placed his finger over my head and pointed, because I had just whispered to him that I had Giardia in the past. The prof then said, "Wow that's more people than I expected. Anyone want to describe what it was like" (after he already described the symptoms in painfully boring detail, but I'll leave his lecturing skills alone for today).

Maybe the part of me that doesn't talk in class blacked out or something, but I found myself moving my lips as I uttered a word that shall live immortally in the pantheon of defining quotes of my life:

"Awful."

Yes ladies and gentlemen, this word, this one utterance, wholly constitutes all that I have spoken in lecture during my 23049823098423098 hours of lecture time I have sat through in my life. This was quickly followed by heads turning from every corner of the classroom to see who had just spoken such words, as well as some laughs by my friends and my roommate (who I shall anonymously refer to as Laymond) saying "Wait who is this guy? Is he in our class?", needlessly pointing out that there are probably a significant number of people in my class who have no idea who I am because I never say anything in lecture.

I realize that this might not seem like that big of a deal to most of you, but for me, this represents a defining moment in my life. I finally conquered the challenge set forth for me by Patsy 4 years ago, and I experienced what it is like to have the attention, albeit fleeting, of over a hundred people. I promise never to talk in lecture ever again.

I also realize that some of you might question the wisdom of this venture. After all, I spent so much time keeping my mouth shut in lecture, was the right time to open my mouth when I would proclaim to all that yes, I did have a hideously wretched farting attack not too long ago? When I would let the world know that I somehow managed to get some disease by fecal-oral transmission? When I did what amounted to someone getting on a rooftop and screaming, "I SHAT WATERY SHIT FOR DAYS, BITCHES!"? Well, probably not. But...fuck you, where were you 5 hours ago when I opened my mouth?

Somewhere, up in heaven, a Patsy got his wings.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

It Could Have Been Worse. I Think.

As I have moved on into my second year of medical school and have started to think more seriously that I actually have to learn stuff now (basically because I don't want to inadvertently kill anyone during my rotations next year - I hope that inspires confidence in you future patients of university hospitals), I looked upon the new clinical skills course as a chance to actually learn practical...umm...clinical skills.

I should preface this by saying that during our first year they tried to teach us how to do a complete physical exam, section by section, but it was a horrible disaster mostly because they would put us in big groups with no notes/instruction to fall back on, so basically there was no practicing done and no skills retained. Granted, I could also be talking about anything I did last year, but that's another story.

So anyways this new class involves me, three other classmates (a nice size of 4) and one instructor (an MD of some variety or another). We had our first full session today, and we were going to cover the head, neck, and chest exams. Things started off well. We all had to practice on each other with the various components of the exam. I had four people stick an otopthalmoscope (I think that's what it is called - basically it's the pointy thing with the penlight that they stick in your ear and nose) in my nose and poke around there, and had some fun because they were supposed to raise my nose a little and i made some snorting pig noises when one girl did it (oh I forgot to mention it's two guys and two girls in the group) that totally scared this shit out of her.

Anyways, things are going along smoothly until we have to do chest exam. Now this was first a problem because I have some awful body image issues and was less than thrilled with having to take my shirt off. But since I apparently had no choice whatsoever in the matter, I did it (along with the other guy who was obviously a lot less neurotic than me) and had everyone start percussing (tapping their fingers to listen for something wrong) my back. No problems, other than the fact that it was cold.

So then they switch over to do the front, and the other guy was the first demonstrator. We all percussed his chest and listened how the sound changed when you went from lung down to liver. Swell. My turn now, because after all the first guy did not get a chance to practice himself. He taps the top of my chest. Then moves down. Another. Again. Clunk. He notices that there is a sound change, but it is markedly different than the one we had heard before. That's odd, opined the doctor. He eagerly jumps forward and starts percussing me and hits the same odd noise change, culminating in the following revelation:

"Oh I know what that is. That's gas. DEFINITELY GAS!"

His voice elevates in sheer academic excitement.

"YES SEE YOU CAN HEAR IT - [PERCUSSES] - GAS!"

Suddenly, the blood rushes to my face as I recall the mounds and mounes of Baja Fresh that I ate the night before (damn you, enchilado style!), as well as the 7 layer burrito I ate at the Taco Bell stand during lunch. I could imagine the mounds of beans devilishly tracking their course down my intestines, reaking foul smelling havoc along the way.

If that wasn't bad enough, he follows this by:

"I think you all should try this and see what it feels like."

Allllllllllright. So it's bad enough that he announces this (the only saving grace being there are only 3 classmates here, so it's not THAT terrible), but a little common sense will lead any rational person to the conclusion that if one has established that there is gas in a patient's intestines, further fierce tapping of said gaseous intestine will result in pressure buildup and ultimate expulsion of gas. Perhap's they can start calling that the Fake Doctor Gas Motility Principle or something, put my name in a GI textbook, and hand me a Nobel Prize or something. Let's just say I had to use all the sphincter control I had built up over the course of going to a very special high school for three years (where going to the bathroom was reserved only for drug dealers, drug users, and new kids who didn't know about this situation and who subsequently got the shit kicked out of them the first time around before never going back again, holding the deuce ill they got home) in order to control the situation and hope that anything that got past my defense was simply an SBD (silent but deadly).

Now I realize this could have been much worse, but at the time it was pretty traumatic. Surely, nightmares of "Fart master" and "Gas Ass" written all over the board with my name on it will fill my evening hours.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Oh Sweet Lord No!

Well, it had to happen eventually. The beautiful summer months faded away, and I look to the future and all I see is wads and wads of shit up ahead.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, summer vacation is just about over and it is time once again to delve into that bastion of confusion, hypocrisy, and idiocy more commonly referred to as medical school. Gone are the lazy days of sleeping until noon and doing nothing all day. In fact, for this sad medical student, those days are gone forever, as I will no longer be able to experience a summer vacation as we all know it ever again. In its place lies hours and hours of lecture, compounded with hours and hours of pointless (and the occasional utterly detrimental for learning) labs and other assorted vaguely medical related activities.

Perhaps I have not stated my case clearly enough, but I look upon the beginning of my second year of medical school and I'm not particularly thrilled about it. While I realize I do have a lot to look forward too, especially those precious months I get to spend studying for an agonizingly painful medical licensing board exam, I just can't get too excited about waking up as the asscrack of dawn to be in another lecture hall at 7:30AM tomorrow morning.

But anyways, this is what it is now...gone are the amazing experiences in Maravatio, Michoacan, Mexico with the incredible doctors and amazingly generous people. It's back to ridiculously uptight premeds who still haven't realized they are already in medical school and don't need to be their premed selves anymroe. It's back to teachers who either a) don't want to be there, b) don't know what they are supposed to be teaching because of this seemingly unorganized new curriculum that isn't set straight, or c) want to teach but never reallly learned how. It's back to the same routine of workout, class, lunch, class, home, tv, tv, tv, sleep.

I think there is only one way to really sum up all that is tomorrow: woo woo.