ndab Ah Yes, Medical School: May 2005

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Tales From The Crypt V: The All-Purpose Tool

Sitting with one of my friends in the movie theater prior to the midnight Star Wars III premiere a couple of weeks ago (what, you think I wouldn't be there?), I noticed that he had a quick moment of fear when he recognized someone who he called "the biggest tool in our entire department" walking up the aisle, eagerly looking for a place to sit. This led to a valiant, but ultimately unsuccessful, attempt by my friend to hide from this tool, who eventually came over to us and said "Hey could you all reserve that one seat for me [as he points to open seat near another dude in our entourage]? I'm going to look for a better seat, but if I don't find one, I guess I'll come sit with you guys."

Ouch. That's a big tool*.

Anyways, that got me thinking. Who, among the vast array of medical people that I have encountered in the last couple of years, is the biggest tool in my department, otherwise known as the festering sack of shit that is medical school?

After much thought (Procrastination 2398429038, Boards studying 0), I am inclined to present my winner for this year's Wedge Award**, given every year hence for the biggest tool I've had to deal with in the past academic year. This year's winner hails from the East Coast and is one of my "special" classmates that gets to be in school for a few extra years to get an extra three letters by his name (PhD), which he will undoubtedly make sure you see and know about as much as humanly possible. What separates this tool, who I have chosen to name the All-Purpose Tool from all the other potential nominees (and believe me, there's a lot of them) in my class? Let me share with you a few reasons why:

Much of the last two years of medical school was geared towards helping us understand, practice, and become competent with the physical exam. In other words, it was time we spent learning how to fake everything so well that you, the patient, will never know that we have no clue what we are doing. However, as you may realize if you've ever been to the doctor before, some parts of the physical exam require the touching or manipulation of body parts on the chest or back, which means that when a doctor was going to demonstrate it for our classmates, some lucky gentleman (sadly, no ladies) was going to have to take his shirt off in front of everyone to help out. I vividly recall the first time this happened for two reasons. First, I remember sinking so far into my chair that I could almost taste the coffee some prick dental student spilled on the floor earlier in the morning, all to avoid exposing my pasty whiteness in front of everyone. Second, and even more disturbing than that image of my pastyness exposed for all to see (which, believe me, is pretty bad), I heard the first of what would be many grunts from the All-Purpose Tool insisting that he be the model.

Why was this so bad? Well, it turns out that there’s guys without any back hair, guys with a few hairs here and there, guys with lots of back hair, Chewbacca, and then this piece of shit. Him taking his shirt off was undoubtedly the most hideous site I had ever seen. I could actually hear people in our class gasping and groaning. The doctors who were there to teach us the exam were visibly shaken by his back hair, some shaking their heads in disgust (no joke), and the one head doctor who had to do the demonstration was obviously very hesitant throughout the exam. Perhaps you don’t realize the magnitude behind that, but keep in mind that, unlike us students, these doctors have spent anywhere from the last five to thirty years of their lives sticking there hands up and in peoples assholes, vaginas, and any other pus-infested parts of peoples bodies, becoming so desensitized to any and all disgusting things that they don’t even blink in the wake of gross stuff…and they were STILL disturbed by the All-Purpose Tool’s back hair.

Unfortunately, this monster didn’t get the memo that gorillas were supposed to stay IN the mist, not jump out from in at every opportunity (how’s THAT for an obscure movie reference)? The only thing more frustrating and sickening than having to see his back hair that time was the fact that he insisted on volunteering for EVERY TIME AFTERWARDS. Not only that, he always ran up there with this huge smile on his face, actually thrilled with the opportunity to take his shirt off in front of all of us. He actually thought he was being cool and that we were enjoying the show. Honestly, he would have been better off putting the hair in dreadlocks and joining a circus freakshow or getting it all shaved off to provide complete heads of hair for at least twenty kids with cancer (but I guess if they knew where it came from they’d probably choose to remain bald – and, lets face it, he’d have to use at least one head’s worth to cover up his own hair loss). What a tool.

However, back hair does not by itself suffice to win the Wedge. Another pattern noticeable in this waste of space had to do with the facilities at our school. It turns out that one thing our school does not like to spend money on is functional projector equipment for lectures. As a result, the first couple of months of medical school were filled with frequent and convenient five to ten minute delays in between lectures as some clueless doc fiddled with his or her laptop and the projector equipment in order to get it all to work. This led to extra break, relaxation time, and happiness for all. However, after a few months of this, the Tool decided to appoint himself as master technology man, running up to the front of the lecture hall every time there was a hint of technical difficulties to either fix the problem quickly, or just make a further ass out of himself trying to fix the problem. He became so known for doing this people would mockingly chant his name to run down there and fix things when it looked like the equipment wasn’t working – the only thing sadder than that was that he ran down with the same smile used when taking his shirt off, which can only lead one to believe that he actually thought people respected him for what he was doing. In fact, the only positive to this was that I would get a rise out of the girls who sat in front of me every time I screamed out “TAKE OFF YOUR SHIRT!” when he’d run down there (this was actually followed a few times by “DEAR GOD NO!” from mysterious voices somewhere else in the lecture hall – again, no joke). Tool.

Finally, as we are in the midst of hardcore USMLE review, the last thing anyone needs to hear is someone being psycho about studying. However, when I ran into the All-Purpose Tool last week, he proceeded to lecture me on what was important to study and how to plan my time, insisting that I read one of the review books at least 10 times (as he planned to do). I’m sorry, but anyone who reads a book 10 times and tries to intimidate other people by telling them about it is not just a tool, he’s a fucking asshole too.

So I salute you, the All-Purpose Tool, as this year’s winner of the prestigious Wedge award. May you continue to express your tool qualities as far away from me as humanly possible.

Fucking tool.

*My mom once posed the following question to me: "So...I've never used that word in that way...what exactly is a tool?" Since I appreciated that it was not "Why don't you have a girlfriend already?", I told her I'd give it some thought and get back to her. However, I soon realized that while I could pick out a tool from a group of people really easily, I could not actually define the specific characteristics required to classify someone as a tool. Urbandictionary.com had one close entry (see entry #2), but it was also given as a series of examples, rather than a discrete definition. So the only response I could give to my mom was something like "Well, it's sorta like what Louis Armstrong said when someone asked him to define jazz - 'If you have to ask, you'll never know.' " And yes, I realize that was a really tool-y response on my part. Apologies to all.

**The Wedge Award is named in honor of a person (his real name is not Wedge but he insisted that everyone call him Wedge for some reason utterly beyond comprehension) who is, quite simply the biggest tool I have ever encountered...a man so renowned at my undergraduate institution for his skills as a tool that he was almost always referred to as Wedge, The Simplest Tool.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Tales From The...Ah Fuck It

Something very interesting is happening to me. I have more stories to tell. I want to tell them. I think they will be at least mildly entertaining. Except...well...I'm so wiped out with all this USMLE boards studying that, for the past two weeks, I literally have not had the energy to write anything. Apparently, I was supposed to "learn" stuff and "understand" concepts about medicine over the past 1.5 years, but instead I was treated to a nice dose of new curriculum and I was too lazy/ignorant to take this board prep into my own hands until...oh...two weeks ago. This has resulted in me trying to memorize hordes of things that have no meaning to me whatsoever, and it has generally driven me down a path of insanity.

To give you an idea why, let me map out a typical day taken from what I have been experiencing the last few weeks. I realize this is going to sound like me whining, and I know things could be a lot worse, but man...I'm just wiped out:

6:00 AM - Alarm goes off.
6:42 AM - I finally wake up.
7:30 AM - Finish my Jewish stuff (He's tall. He puts on tefillin the morning. He's a dashingly handsome future doctor. Seriously, ladies, what's not to like here?).
9:00 AM - Finish 100 practice Kaplan Qbank questions.
9:03 AM - Stop crying after seeing my continuously pitiful score.
9:07 AM - Start crying again.
9:30 AM - Shower, eat breakfast, and make a quick survey of what is going on in the outside world.
2:00 PM - Finish reviewing the 100 questions (yes, it actually takes me that long).
2:05 PM - Head to Starbucks, hoping to not only do as much reading as possible, but also prove correct my theory that if I spend enough time there and make it painfully obvious how pathetically available and lonely I am, some nice, hot Jewish girl is going to snatch me up. As you can no doubt imagine, this theory has worked out spectacularly so far.
2:45 PM - Stop the 15 minutes of non-stop staring at a ridiculously hot girl sitting nearby, only after she looked at me funny and made a suspicious phone call that involved pressing only three buttons. Somehow I'm still single. Really it's a mystery to me.
3:30 PM - Correctly predict the next five songs that are going to come up on the Starbucks CD rotation. I can actually do this and be right 95% of the time. Kill me now.
4:22 PM - Contemplate suicide.
4:23 PM - Gawk at supermodel that just entered Starbucks. Reconsider suicidal ideations.
4:48 PM - Realize that I've read the same sentence 18 times.
5:01 PM - Stare at a new batch of cute college girls that have entered.
5:02 PM - Watch the entire group of supposed college girls sit as far away from me as possible. Notice each of them pulling out AP Biology textbooks. Re-reconsider suicide.
7:04 PM - Holy shit, I've been here for five hours.
8:08 PM - Start trying to come up with the most perveted ways to remember anything, just to keep myself awake.
9:00 PM - I've been sitting in the same spot for 7 hours. I have seen workers start their Starbucks shift, leave for a few hours, then come back to do another shift. I can't even speak in coherent sentences anymore.
9:01 PM - Head home.
9:04 PM - Get lost on the way home after having lost all sense of who I am, where I am going, and what I am doing with my life.
9:06 PM - Find myself in front of Baja Fresh. Trace path home from there.
10:00 PM - Sit at my desk, tired, alone, and mildly deranged. Consider writing up next planned blog entry, "Tales From The Crypt V: The All-Purpose Tool". Realize I am too tired and go to sleep. Set my alarm for 6:00 AM.

You think I'm joking, but this is literally what I have been doing every day for the past few weeks. If you don't believe me, come to the Starbucks near me (and if you know me at all you know where to go), and I can almost guarantee that I will be there. I am becoming addicted to the smell of coffee. All of my clothes reek of it. I'm losing my mind.

Check please.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Tales From the Crypt IV: Can't Get It Out Of Her Head

Drifting in and out of consciousness one sweltering June day, I almost missed one of the most historic events of the first year of medical school. A stunning school scandal? Intra-class relationship drama played out in front of the entire class? Natalie Portman walking into class and taking me away with her (which, incidentally, very well may have been what I was dreaming about before I snapped back awake)?

No, but other than these things, there was one important thing I have not yet mentioned: I nearly missed the dumbest question anyone had ever asked in the history of medical school, medicine, and, frankly, kindergarten. We were in the middle of some neurology lecture - I think we were talking about the auditory system, but, like I already mentioned, I was being...umm...knighted by Queen Amidala at the time (and if you get this reference, I have a space saved for you right next to me at the annual Dorkiest People Alive Festival, this year in Silicon Valley) - when a familiar face shot her hand up. Her soft, melodious voice sang out...


By the end of our first year, we had already known this particular question-asker very well, as she rivaled Question Girl for question frequency, if not question content. (Since it turns out she's a nice person - I had many small group things with her this past year - I'll refrain from bestowing a nickname for her, but if you would like to make a suggstion after reading this, leave a comment and let me know.) Besides being known for her diva singing skills (see below), she was also known for asking some pretty dumb-ass questions. But nothing could quite prepare me for...

"So when you're doing that test and you put the sound at one ear, can you hear the sound coming out the other ear?"

I'll leave you for a moment and let you digest that one.

OK, back. In what can only be taken as a cruel twist, this is the same person who, for our annual medical student talent show a few months before this question, went on stage and belted out Kylie Minogue's foot-tapping classic, "Can't Get You Out of My Head". Apparently, she wasn't thinking about what she was singing. And, with that, I'd like to make a toast to Irony, and her distant cousin, Mind-numbing Idiocy.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Tales From The Crypt III: ANGEL Wars

Towards the end of last year, after almost 11 straight months of questions, questions, and more questions interrputing every lecture day after day, intra-classroom tension was reaching it's boiling point. The increasing question frequency was increasingly being matched by a collection of moans, grunts, and monkey noises (yes, I actually participated in that, with a certain Mr. Patel) during question-asking time. Obviously, this pent up anger between the people who ask questions in class and...well...the other 98% of the class was bound to spill over somewhere. However, I must admit that I did not expect that this tension would explode on the student message board of our class server (called ANGEL), which was only intended to be used for students to post questions, study guides, etc. for the benefit of other students.

While reading these posts, keep in mind that these writings reflect the thoughts of graduates from some of the finest universities in the world who are all currently in one of the finest (cough) medical schools in the world. This is a bit long, but I thought it was so funny when I first saw it I not only had to post a reply at the time (see the final post), I'm partially just putting this up here so it is saved somewhere for eternity. In other words, it's long, but I think it's worth the read

(Note: Anonymous posts are listed as "Anonymous". If a person put his or her name on the post, it will be labled as "Name Given", except for the first post, which requires a pseudonym so you know who instigated the whole damn thing in the first place, and the post I contributed, which is intelligently labled "My Post".)

Thread title: please don't be so loud

Question Girl: It is so hard to focus on the lecture when everyone is giggling and talking through it. Come on, just one more week! If you don't want to pay attention to lecture, just don't come. Listen to the audio with the transcription and talk all you want if that is your learning style.

Anonymous: Get over yourself - We'll stop talking when you stop asking questions.

Anonymous: I don't like questions, but I think that talking during lecture is a bigger problem. Not only is it disrespectful to the other members of the class (as some people feel that asking questions is), it's disrespectful to the lecturer, who is trying very hard to give us a talk in a very short amount of time. The people in the back of the class aren't even trying anymore. Please try to stop talking.

Anonymous: Please don't generalize the back of the class as everyone who talks; most of us in the back actually aren't that disruptive.

Anonymous: Fine, i'll amend to "90% of the people who sit in the back, north side of the class". If its not you, I don't see why you're offended. Congratulations for doing what a normal, courteous person should be doing by not disrupting class.

Anonymous: actually, I think the correct statement should be, "50% of the people in the back are asleep, 25% listen, and 25% disruptive" =)

Anonymous: touche

Anonymous: How do you know what goes on in the back of the class if you don't sit there? How about 90% of the front of the class is self-righteous and annoying?

Anonymous: There has been a claim that not everyone who sits in the back of the class is disruptive. A reasonable assumption is that some of these non-disruptive "back of class" people don't like the noise any more than those evil "front of class, self-righteous, annoying" people. I'm one of those people. I like the people in the back, and I appreciate the occasional joke or quiet comment during class. Everyone in the class, front and back, engages in the odd whisper. However, there's just too much talking. People aren't just making single comments anymore. We've degenerated to the level that complete conversations about parties on the weekend, or Nomo's home run, or whatever, are going on. I think it has to stop. Tossing out all this garbage about "front of class" and "back of class", do you really think that talking so much is acceptable? You shouldn't disrupt class just because you feel other people are doing the same thing in a more annoying way. All that happens then is that we get slow (thanks to people in the front), noisy (thanks to people in the back), crappy lectures. Think about your peers, if not the professors.

Anonymous: I love you, Anonymous.

Anonymous: I think there is heightened stress as we are trying to prepare for a final that is retesting some of the material from block 4A (IE cranial nerves and facial muscles in anatomy, neural pathways and lesions in neuroanatomy). In addition, beaucoup material is being compacted into 50-minute segments. Do lecturers ever get to finish anymore? This could explain some of the tension some of us are feeling on this thread. However, there are some unresolved topics that could be addressed by our class president or MEC. What would be the most courteous and effective way to conduct lectures in our new curriculum? It is becoming increasingly apparent that questions impede lecturers from finishing. Some of the questions may be perceived as so off-topic, that people tune out and begin to have side conversations as a way of saying, "I already have enough to think about." (I'm not speaking for myself but I can empathize.)

Name Given: There definitely seems to be a lot of tension about what people perceive to be excessive noise and questions during lecture. As a short-term solution, maybe we could ALL make an effort to limit both noise and questions (that go beyond just clarifying concepts) for these last few days, so lecturers can get through their lectures unimpeded. In the mean time, I promise to try to figure out a way that we can resolve this problem in the long term. Until then, though, in the words of a great Angelino: "Can't we all just get along?"

Anonymous: To the person who responded at 5:37, I agree that the questions are out of hand, but it is immature and inappropriate for you to hide behind anonymity to launch a personal attack. It's called common courtesy. If you want others to show you courtesy by not asking their questions in lecture, please consider acting in kind.

Anonymous: To the person who responded at 11:18, Since you're so against anonymity, why don't you put your name down, and I'll meet you on the playground after class for a throwdown...

Anonymous: LOD [Letter of Distinction] for replier.

Anonymous: Ha , Ha. that's funnier than the girl trying to leave our lecture hall through the closet door today! [Editor's note: That actually happened. Perhaps some elaboration another day.]

Name Given: Can we QUIT doing the Anonymous thing!? It is really sad to see how we feel the freedom to start bashing each other under the mask of anonymity. You know that once your mouse button reaches to switch the Author from Joe Schmoe to Anonymous that your comment might be shameful and offensive. Please reconsider NOT posting if the comment is not designed to be constructive.

Name Given: [Original post too long, his summary line given] So in summary, noise- bad. Hate- bad. Questions- mostly bad.

Name Given: Questions that take the lecturer 2-4 minutes to answer (as one did this week) disrupt the flow of the lecture, regradless of whether they are "so off topic" or "simply to clarify." People should consider asking questions after lecture, or ask only ONE question per lecture.

My Post: as it was previously mentioned that we are all tired and at our limits in general, i suggest we all just take a step back and appreciate the beautiful things in life in order to calm down a bit. for starters, i recommend this picture of lindsay lohan: http://tjnr.web1000.com/lindsaylohan2.html
[Editor's Note: The picture associated with this link is no longer up. But the picture I posted looked a bit something like this.]

The moral of this story? It's one thing to let your emotions get the better of you, but it's an entirely different thing to put that pent up emotional frustration in writing for everyone to see, read, and comment on.

Oh. Wait. Fuck.

How To Become My Friend

I bet I know what you're thinking right now. No, not "Two posts in one evening, he's gone mad!" Not "How come all the doctors on 'Grey's Anatomy' are having sex with each other and the Fake Doctor can't get a second date?". I bet you're thinking "Damn, this guy is so cool, I wonder how I can be his friend."

With the stunning popularity (cough) of this website, I am getting an inordinate amount of (imaginary) fan mail from random people with requests to become their friend. Igorning the arguably more important question of "Why would I want to become your friend?", I thought I'd provide the transcript of a conversation I had today to show how you, the common man (or, preferably, woman), can become my friend.

I was sitting outside at a Starbucks today, enjoying my manly-man caramel frappuccino (Whipped cream? Yes sir!) and trying to read through my Board Review Series Pathology book. In other words, I was staring at every living person who walked by, more at some (ladies!) than others (homeless dudes). After returning from an all-to-frequent trip to the restroom, I went to my table and sat down, when I was approached by a 30-something darker skinned female, hereafter referred to as my new best friend forever (NBFF), who was sitting at the next table over:

NBFF: Excuse me, but are you studying science? I noticed your pathology book.
Me: Oh...no...actually...[waiiiiiiit for it]...I'm in medical school.
NBFF: Oh! Very nice! Hey I don't know if anyone has ever told you this before, but you look like that guy on that TV show...what's his name?
Me: Umm...do you mean Chandler?
NBFF: Yes! Actually, I noticed you when you sat down before. You're really handsome. You must get that a lot.
Me: Hah, well every once in a while someone thinks I look like him. [Editors note: Actually, I get that all the fucking time. And yes, I am my own editor.]
NBFF: Wow, so you're in medical school. Let me ask you something - you must have every girl there running after you right?
Me: Hah, well thanks...but no...at least not that I can tell. I'm having a hard time finding a nice girl.
NBFF: I don't believe you.
Me: Believe me, I wish I was lying.
NBFF: Oh...
Me: Actually, I think part of the problem is I'm looking for a nice, pretty Jewish girl, which is a pretty small group of people to be limiting yourself to.
NBFF: Hmm...honestly I wouldn't think it'd be that hard to find some - I converted to Judaism before I married my husband, and in my conversion classes I really got the impression that Jewish people are all really beautiful, attractive people.
Me: [Uncomfortably silent.]
NBFF: Wow - look honey, I'm 30, married, and I just popped out a kid, but let me tell you I think you're incredibly handsome and if I weren't married...And you're in medical school! Wow! Well good luck with everything!

I shit you not, this actually happened. See, it's really that simple. All you have to do is remind me of how incredibly and ridiculously good-looking and amazing I am, and I'll be the best friend you've ever had. And...[waiiiiiit for it]...if you are nice Jewish girl, I would just like to remind you that we can be more than friends. And finally, yes, it is reassuring to know that while I am not playing well with the ladies in my age bracket, at least I'm bigger than Jesus (and Brad Pitt) when it comes to the 30-80 year old demographic.