ndab Ah Yes, Medical School: September 2003

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Decisions, Decisions...

I think I'll try to be a bit more serious this time.

This weekend I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time thinking about things and evaluating how my year has been, courtesy of the mind-numbing boredom induced upon me by Congregation Mogen David (Shana Tova! WOO WOO!). One thing I do know about Rosh Hashanah is that it is the time you are supposed to evaluate your year and think of things to improve upon, etc., especially since the big guy/girl/whatever upstairs is keeping a book of what's going to happen to you this coming year if you don't shape up. In thinking about these things, I can't help but think that the previous year (Jewish calender year, of course), was defined by a single decision of where I was to spend the next four years of my life. In choosing medical schools, I had narrowed it down to two schools with relative ease. One was the cheap(er) school that had a very good reputation and would likely have every resource I could need. It was very close to home and had a certain familiarity that might make my adjustment easier. The other school was a helluva lot more expensive and had about as good a reputation as one can ever hope to have (not sure which school I'm talking about? that's ok). It was very far from home, very cold, and had a newness about it that would be (at least initially) very neat to explore. The newness was in the school itself, the surrounding city, and the entire coast, its people, the school's academic environment, etc.

To make a long story less long, I ended up choosing the cheaper closer option. In retrospect, I feel I made this decision because a) people say that where one goes to medical school only slightly contributes to success in residency applications and b) I already accumulated some debt from Stanford and was not about to add another 45k of debt PER YEAR to that sum. Honestly though, (b) was the deciding factor because it enabled me to rationalize choosing one school over the other via (a) (ok that made no sense - SINCE the one school was too expensive, I rested on the fact that in theory it doesn't matter where one goes to medical school to feel better about choosing the cheaper school even though there was a decent sized gap in rankings between the schools...and yes I know rankings are often bullshit, but it can be really hard to ignore a difference of about 14 spots). As I look back on that decision, I can still understand why I made it and how it makes sense in the longterm.

Unfortunately, it's killing me inside right now that I didn't choose the expensive school. I know that I am unhappy where I am at right now...not because I don't like the school - I've met some absolutely incredible people that I hope to become great friends with in the coming 4 years (and of course I've met some not so incredible people - see 'hypertalkers' below, but that's a given at any school full of premeds), and I know I'd be learning the same stuff anywhere.

I think it's because I have romanticized the adventure/excitement of living somewhere totally different and experiencing such a unique environment (both social and intellectual), and to know that I passed up on that for what seems to be the financially safer option is getting me down - while cheaper, this option still ain't cheap, and it's so much more of a known quantity. I know this city. I spent 18 years here, and I'm about to spend 4+ more. I've found myself already thinking about other cities I can go to for residency, just to get out of here, and that's not normal for someone whos 7 weeks into school. To know that I had the chance to go out and explore via this seemingly golden opportunity while I was still really young and not really tied down to anything is painful for me to think about. Of course, the logic is that it's not worth another ~200k of debt for this adventure, but right now this logic is eating me up inside. However, now all I can think about is that I didn't sack up and take the risk of this massive indebtedness and take the distant path.

First, I know that some people might be thinking that people would kill to have been in my positon, because we all know that getting into medschool, ANY medschool, is really tough and that I should stop whining. I hope I'm not coming across as whining, as I'm just trying to barf out in words what I've been thinking about the last few months. Also, I don't really know how to respond to people who say they would kill to be in my position, because everything is relative to unique experiences - of course I wouldn't be agonizing over this if I wasn't given this incredible gift in the first place of even getting into medschool, and I know how fortunate I am. But I can't comment on something I did not experience, and can only describe what I'm feeling right now...

This is what I was thinking about the last two days in shul, as I have thought about it every day since I intially made that decision. While trying to help me decide on a school, one person offered the advice that in life, the seemingly big decisions (i.e. choosing medschool) often pale in comparison to other unexpected or seemingly innocuous decisions in life when one looks retrospectively.

I really hope she's right.

Saturday, September 13, 2003


So now I've been through about six weeks of medical school, and I am definitely starting to feel more familiar with my classmates, the curriculum, and the school in general. In fact, I think I have gotten a feel for the class so much that I'd like to use this entry to discuss those precious few classmates that everyone knows. You have them in your school, whether it's medical school, undergrad, law school, high school, junior high - hell, I bet this personality type emerges even in preschool. You know them, and yet you may not even know their names. But you hear their voices every day in class. Yes, you know who I'm talking about. It's those precious, select few, who cannot, will not, and dare not go through one class period without asking at least 3 questions. These questions can be relevant and clear, but more likely they are utterly pointless, confusing, off-topic, and likely the beginning of a string of followup questions. To which a logical person might ponder, why ask such questions? Why take up everone's time (see calculations below)? Why not ask off-topic questions in a more appropriate setting, like office hours?

As with just about everything else in medical school, I don't know the answer to these questions. I have my suspicions, but these are more med-specific and would likely not apply to other areas of study. What one must consider is this: all medical students were premeds at some point. And, generally, premeds just suck. There are many types, but the most noticeable ones are those that always sit in the front and ask questions because they are kissing the professors ass with the hope of getting the professor to write a recommendation for him/her/asshole down the line. Unfortunately, these premeds, upon fooling medical school admissions interviewers across the country into thinking they are genuine and normal and not idiotic competitive fools, evolved into medical students but forgot that they no longer have to gently press their overactive lips onto the waste disposal mechanisms of their professors for approval.

What are the consequences of these so-called (by me) hypertalkers? All this leads to profs going way overtime to finish lectures that were planned for ~50min, angry students who don't get a break between lectures and now can only focus on their overflowing bladders, and confused audiences who can't get any continuity in the lecture because it gets interrupted every four minutes, so they don't know what the hell is going on after having to tune out for 5+minutes while this moron asked a completely useless question and the prof struggled to answer it without making the person feel bad.

To these hypertalkers I have this to say:
2) I can't speak for every medschool, but mine is Pass/Fail (and most are some variation on this trend). Simply put, everyone passes, and residency admissions directors don't give a shit what you did the first two years anyways...they only look at your step 1 board scores and care more about what you do during your rotations. jackass.
3) A couple of friends in my class did a little experiment, observing our most notorious hypertalker for one two hour lecture block, counting the amount of times she asked questions and the length of time it took to answer/disregard each question. They then used that info to calculate (yea well we're all dorky at this point so it's no big deal) how many lecture hours of our lives they are taking up in a given year, and that number came up to 27 lecture hours per year (at first that seems like not a big deal, but think about it...those are LECTURE hours, as in, amount of time you spend sitting on your ass in an uncomfortable chair struggling to stay awake and pay attention). 27 hours of me missing out on old people telling me stuff I need to know because these people don't know how to shuttup. Which leads me to point #4...

(To undergrads who pull this shit, I would suggest reviewing steps 1 and 4 of the above, as well as the following piece of advice: Professors are not dumb. In fact, they have to be pretty damn smart to get those jobs in the first place. Don't think they can't see through your bullshit, because they can and will note such behavior on the recommendations you so desperately seek.)

So this leaves us with the greatest of all questions...what to do with these people? Well there doesn't seem to be any obvious way to have them kicked out, so that's not an option. Things that help include professors who won't put up with their crap. My personal favorite is this one prof who told this hypertalker last week in front of the entire class, "Isn't there some sort of limit on the amount of questions you can ask?" Which leads too...

THE GRAND SOLUTION (shout out to a few members of class of 2007 for providing most, if not all, of the ideas below...names witheld because i don't remember who said what)
This is how it's going to be: At the beginning of each semester/quarter/block/whatever, each student is given a certain amount of question tickets. The total number equates to the amount of questions this person is allowed to ask per semester/quarter/block/whatever. Every time he/she asks a question, the student must give a ticket to the professor. If they use them up in the first week, tough shit. If they lose them, tough shit. If they forge them to be able to ask more questions, that's just fucking sad (and I'll individually number and track them so I'll know which are frauds). Students who don't normally ask questions can set up a black market and sell them to the highest bidder, making them feel at least financially compensated for all of the time that these people are taking from their lives. It's a beautiful system...

This entry is dedicated to all the HumBio hypertalkers who made it such a great premed core for Stanford class of 2003.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Medical School Hazing

Upon entering medical school, I figured there was going to be some sort of hazing or initiation rituals someone would make me go through. Seeing as this is the medical profession, I assumed that most of the hazing would involve various demeaning verbal assaults on my intelligence, ability, and/or character by preceptors or angry residents. Perhaps the older students would make us clean up shit off the floor that a patient so lovingly deposited. However, I never really expected to be put down until a little later on in my career, because they honestly can't expect us to really know anything useful after three weeks.

So it came as a surprise that my first putdown would come not from any health professional or person affiliated with the medical industry, but from what seemed to be a group of old cranky men who use the VA hospital as their hangout. A group of us were heading into the hospital to learn how to take blood pressure, use an opthalmascope, and other assorted random stuff that we'll never actually do as doctors because they pay other people to do such things(and as an aside, none of us could really figure out why my medical school made us shlep to the VA anyways - granted, it's not a shlep by pure distance, but it took me about 20 minutes to drive three blocks from the VA back to the main campus for seemingly no benefit; after all, we were just using some small rooms and that's it). We obviously stood out, looking like total jackasses in our white coats that were made short on purpose to identify that we were in training and not yet worthy of the full on white gown. A few thought it would be fun to wear the stethescope around their shoulders. That probably didn't help either, since none of us were over 25. Anyways, one of the old-guy group took a look at us and laughed. He then said "Hey you guys gonna be future doctors?". I replied, "Hopefully!", trying to be polite and respectful to old people like i was taught. He then said (looking directly at me) "Wow I really hope not!". In five seconds this guy managed to pick out my total ignorance with everything about medicine. Needless to say, I was impressed. Oh and that doesn't do wonders for one's self esteem, knowing that the verbal abuse gets much worse later on.

Now that I have typed this out it doesn't seem like a big deal...oh well