× Women in Medicine Blogs & Diaries

starting med school...and a diary.

15 years 6 months ago #68505 by Drey
I haven't kept a diary or log of my thoughts since early adolescence, so we'll see how this goes, but I'm starting med school this week and getting married in less than two months, and thought you guys might be interested in how it goes, so here goes....

Phew, I made it through orientation and onto my first day of classes today. My class is HUGE, we have one of the biggest classes in the country (210 people! :yikes: ) and I'm overwhelmed by the amount of people I've been introduced to, not to mention I have NO idea where I stand in preparation and academics. They all seem to have either all taken anatomy and physiology at least three times each, or they're coming from other branches of the medical field and have perfect clincial skils. Yikes indeed. I know my subconscious mind is having a field day exaggerating, but it's still imposing.

I also had my first cadaver experience. I've seen freshly dead bodies before, and I've even seen people die, but believe it or not, I've never dissected anything more complex than a frog. It wasn't horrible, I could deal, but I did have to keep from throwing up at least once (I can't deal very well with the drippiness). It was interesting, and the group I was working with is really good with each other, so I think I'll be alright, but it is daunting. I had dreams last night about them bringing us corpses in wheelbarrows, one for each of us. Sigh. No doubt the dreams will only get weirder from here on out.

I sat down and wrote out a "to do" list today, and it fills an entire leagal sheet of paper, no skipping lines. It includes all the med school stuff such as buying some books, tools and paying tuition, but it also includes general apartment and lifestyle stuff, and a ton of wedding items like calling the caterer and photographer. For those of you who don't know, I'm getting married October 2, so I have endless last minute things to do. What was I thinking trying to plan a wedding and do med school simultaneously? My fiance is in Hawaii this week for another friend's wedding, and I'm stuck here with my dead body. sigh. To make things worse, he took my scuba diving gear with him so he could use it. :rolleyes: He's looking for a job up here, and is getting discouraged because he hasn't found one yet. Money is starting to get tight, and we both hope he finds something he likes before he has to start looking for any job at all.

On the whole, my life is going well though. I'm at a med school I want to be at, the material is endlessly fascinating, and I have a wonderful and supportive guy, so that helps keep my whining in perspective. So there you have my busy life in a nutshell. I'll try to add to this every so often, but no promises about regularity.


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15 years 5 months ago #68506 by Drey
Well I've made it through 2 1/2 weeks now, with my first big test coming up on Friday. I am still trying to get used to the difference between derriving something as I've been taught in engineering and the raw memorization required by anatomy. So what am I doing? Studying? Nope, I'm writing an entry for MomMD.

Buying books was a bit of a shock. We have so many required texts and instruments that I've spent about a thousand dollars so far and expect to spend more. I've spoken with one man who is starting school and just recently found out his wife is pregnant and isn't going to be able to work as planned, so he's taking out way more in loans than he planned. He says that he just treats the enormous debt like monopoly money and tries not to think about it.

It's odd having all of these instruments and feeling like they shouldn't belong to me, like I'm still a kid with a fisher-price doctor's bag playing doctor. I feel like someone would see me with a stethoscope and opthomaloscope and laugh at me play-acting.

Anatomy lab does make me feel more like a "real" medical student. It's awful going in there though, I've developed this horrible gag reflex to the smell, and I have to fight for the first five minutes every time to keep from throwing up. Occassionally during lab, I'll get another whiff and feel like retching into the nearest garbage can. I haven't actually vomited yet, but I just know that by the time this is over, I'm going to be "that girl."

Anatomy brings out defensive feelings in everyone. We avoid the obvious, like when we put tissue scraps into the "tissue container" which is really just a glorified rubbermaid trash bin. Apparently it bothers people less to say tissue container. When we flipped our cadaver over to the supine position, the men in our group (4 men, 2 women) insisted that we put a paper towel over the woman's pubic region, because they couldn't deal with it being so cavalierly exposed. They also insisted that I and the other woman be the ones to disect the breasts, because they could not bring themselves to do it. I feel weird learning things about this woman's body that she probably didn't know herself. We found an extra muscle on the back of her hand yesterday. She probably went her entire life not knowing that she had a random extra muscle.

Embryology is also disconcerting. It's hard sitting there with a bunch of women of childbearing age and hearing about all of the horrible things that can happen in the way of birth defects. Those of us who are dedicating the next 7 or 8 years to the study of medicine have to sit there grimly as they give us the statistics on how the incidence of these birth defects increases with maternal age. Sigh.

I volunteered at a free clinic last week and found it to be an incredibly rewarding experience. The entire clinic is staffed entirely by Dr's and medical students, so the med students got to be secretaries, nurses and pharmacists all rolled into one. It was nice not to have any layers of people in between the dr's and med students. There was also no paperwork, because no one was paying or being reimbursed for services. It was a really positive atmosphere with all the hassles removed, the doctors being willing to listen and to teach, and everyone really wanting to be there. In general, the medical school attitude is far more welcoming and team friendly than the pre-med road. Students call over other students to look at interesting features, send out helpful websites, and are willing to share any information they come by. I am impressed by how much the competitiveness of the premedical community has died out. As one of our professors put it, our competition now is disease and pain, not each other.

Okay, enough of my musings, back to the books!


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15 years 4 months ago #68507 by Drey
People tonight keep asking me if I'm stressed about my wedding next weekend. . . I say, what wedding? I have tests in biostatistics, embryology, anatomy written, anatomy practical and simulated patients tomorrow!

So here I am again writing a diary entry the night before exams. I like to call it productive procrastination, where you do something that isn't blatant procrastination, like doing the dishes or picking up the bedroom instead of doing something that needs to get done more immediately, like study.

Patch Adams (the real one, not Robin Williams) came and gave a lecture to the med students here on Tuesday. He's a brilliant man and an extremely engaging speaker. I don't think I can do justice to all the topics he covered, but he made some powerful statements about the nature of doctoring ("medicine for fun, not funds") and caring for patients regardless of whether you can cure them or not. It's helpful to have peolple remind you to be humble on your path as a doctor and to treat the person first, not just the disease. He's inspiring, but it's interesting to find myself disagreeing with him on certain points of his health care model. He explained his model in more detail than the movie does, and I'm not going to go into the finer points of my agreement or disagreement. If you're interested, pick up one of his books, but the take home message is that this man is endlessly fascinating and will hopefully inspire change in our current health model.

So, I passed the last round of exams, and I'm hoping this one will go as well or better. The simulated patient exams are cool, but it's funny because you only get two minutes with each patient and in that time you have to introduce yourself ("Hi, I'm student doctor Lastname" :rolleyes: ), wash your hands and perform the required skill. I know they're just trying to get 200 some med students through, but it feels like they're prepping us for super-speedy HMO care.

I've been having dreams on alternating nights about disecting bodies and wedding planning. I'm just waiting for those dreams to start merging. :scratchchin:

I've been subscribing to the Placebo Gazette and Placebo Journal ( www.placebojournal.com ) which is an email newsletter that makes fun of the entire medical profession and is downright hilarious. I highly reccomend it, so I'm going to sign off like the author signs the emails:

Keep laughing and stay out of the sample closet.


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15 years 3 months ago #68508 by Drey
What a crazy couple of weeks. Well, I'm married now, and seeing as we've lasted longer than certain unmentioned celebrity couples, I think we'll be just fine. :D I'm in the process of figuring out how to put a picture of my dress up here so you can see it, so if I figure it out, I'll show you all.

The day was beautiful, we were married outside, and it had threatened to rain in the morning, but turned out just gorgeous by the afternoon. We had a very multi-cultural ceremony. It was nominally christian, but we borrowed from Buddhism and Hinduism for our vows, we read an Irish Blessing, and our crazy Jewish friends managed to make a chair dance happen.

All of our far-flung friends made it in time as well. (This includes 2 families from Alaska, one from Hawaii, several friends/family from the east coast, the gulf coast and the west coast, and one very dedicated bridesmaid that flew home from Madagascar). We had everyone sign a US map on where they came from and we covered 30 states. So of course it was crazy. It was a non-stop wedding weekend. Dinner thursday night, rehearsal dinner, wedding, brunch at my mom's, and then a day trip to a nearby Renaissance festival. Whew! Fabulous time though!

Incredibly, I managed to study enough during this period to pass my latest battery of tests for school. We're on to head and neck anatomy now. I thought it would bother me a lot, but it's actually very cool. The eyes in particular were just incredible in my book. Oddly enough, I'm in the final weeks of anatomy, and I think I'm going to make it without passing out or reexamining my breakfast.

We have an interesting geriatrics program here. They kicked it off today by having the senior repitoiry theater perform a play for us entitled "I Was Young, But Now I'm Wonderful." It was an utterly hysterical piece played by actors all over 65 years old, and they covered topics that made some of the med students blush. :blush: They really tried to tear down some of the stereotypes about older adults and aging, and they did a very good job of it. These actors were just full of all kinds of energy and sass. I hope I can age so well.

My DH still has not found a long term job solution, so he has been substitute teaching high school math and science for inner city schools. Scary stuff, let me tell you. He had two girls get in a fistfight in his class yesterday. I helped him grade papers last night, and it was absolutely apalling how low the math skills of the freshmen were. I knew the schools were overstretched and underfunded, but seeing some of those kids' papers really drove home the point. Vote for school levies and thank a teacher!

This entry is plenty long, so I'm going to wrap up with a little Boston pride that is well earned this week. Go Red Sox!!! :crossfingers:

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15 years 2 months ago #68509 by Drey
So we're in what is referred to as the "cell block" which involves biochemistry, histology, bioenergetics, cell biology etc. It's a lot of information, but I'm doing OK since I had some biochemistry in undergrad. Some people didn't though, and they're getting royally screwed. My advice for the week: Take biochem in undergrad, even if it isn't required, you'll thank me later. :yes:

DH is still looking for that needle in a haystack, a job. Money is still tight, but we get by. I read an article in Forbes magazine that was explaining some new tax laws. Near the top of the article, they wrote "Let's assume you make $500,000 per year in before tax income". And later, in a different article, "ideally, you shoudl have about $1 million in bonds" :scratchchin:

DH and I have been discussing when the best time to have children is. I think we could do it during fourth year, so we're sort of leaning that direction. I decided to solicit opinions from other recently married/engaged girlfriends and almost every single one of them wants to wait a long time to have children and of course think that that would be the right choice for me too. I respect their decisions of course, but it's frustrating to hear "What?? Are you crazy? You want to have kids during medical school?" or "You should really wait awhile" or "Why are you even thinking of trying to have kids soon? You'll ruin your career". or even "Why, are you pregnant?" :ouch: Sigh. It's interesting, women a generation ago had to cope with people being unsupportive about choosing a career. Now, I have to deal with people being unsupportive about choosing a family.

I have been wondering to myself how we moved into a male dominated model of health care in the first place. For centuries, if someone was hurt, it was the sisters, the mothers, the wives and the daughters that cared for the sick. It is in my mind, our tradtional role to be the healers, and I wonder how our society got so twisted around that we now have to challenge what is seen as a "male role" to get back to a healing position.

I know there are compassionate men, but if I wonder how many women would choose to be surrounded by men when they were sick and in need. Also, I would think that a man would also want to be surrounded by a caring circle of women rather than the stoic men when they are at their most vulnerable.

What happened to us that we deny the healing and compassionate urges in women in deference to the current system? Perhaps since most men no longer go into battle, they have taken over our sphere and now go into "battle" against disease. I cannot believe that it is the right mentality to pit ourselves against nature rather than to work with her.

It comforts me to know that we are entering the profession in greater numbers, and gives me hope that soon enough, we'll have a critical mass of women and can begin playing by our rules instead of theirs.

Too much philosophy. Time to do something more practical, like that mountain of dishes in the kitchen.


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15 years 2 months ago #68510 by Drey
I have been up since 5 this morning cramming. I took a 3 hour computerized test today on the cell block. I know that they are trying to create a testing atmosphere like the boards, but after 3 hours of multiple choice questions staring at a computer screen, the little gnomes inside my brain start throwing little hissy fits. It is so frustrating to memorize nearly 300 pages of information only to be asked about a comparatively small amount of it. You don't know what the questions are on, so you study it all. It seems that the amount of study time you have to put in per percentage grade gain is unbelievable. I know that they can't ask everything, but I can't help thinking "why did I memorize that?" Sigh. Nothing to do but grit my teeth and tell myself it will benefit my future patients.

Two more weeks until holiday break. Christmas is stressful this year, because we don't have any money, and my family generally goes really overboard on christmas. I've been having arguments with my mother to please not buy us all kinds of presents because we really don't have the money to buy tons of presents ourselves. It feels awful to have family that are very well meaning, but don't understand how upsetting it is to not be able to reciprocate, and how much it makes me feel like a charity case. :(

The job market is so bad that DH has decided that he will try going back to school for a masters. At least HE can get paid to be a graduate student even if I can't. He's taking the GRE's on Friday. It's depressing making the decision to live on the graduate student stipend though. It's about what we're living on now, but we kept telling ourselves that it was temporary. It's different making a conscious choice to be tight on money for the next few years. I'm working on getting a job teaching an MCAT class, so maybe that will help.

The money situation also affects other life decisions. There's no way we could have a baby with me paying tuition and him only making a grad stipend. We weren't planning on children immediately anyways, but we were hoping that we could have some money saved before we started. That plan is not at all likely now.

I'm sorry this entry has been so depressive. I'm in a foul mood from the test, I have a headache, and I really should go take a hot bath instead of spreading the bad karma to anyone who reads my diary. I did spread some good karma earlier though. I put up two MomMD flyers in the student lounge. :cool:

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