Medical school has a way of changing the way a person operates. The culture just grabs you, snatches you up, and holds you very close until you succumb to its demands…You study! You study hard! It’s kind of weird the way it happens though. It’s not like most of us make the conscious decision to spend our Saturdays in the library. It’s an involuntary reaction that is akin to a reflex or a yawn. You can’t stop it. It controls you; the culture controls you. Everyone around you is studying. There is so much information. None of us know all of it, but we feel that we are supposed to. Furthermore, we want to. Thus, we find ourselves, as I did last Saturday night, studying at 2 a.m. Sunday morning continuing our 15 hour Saturday study marathons. After six or seven hours of sleep, we’ll wake up and start the entire process over again. This process would continue every day thereafter, until the culmination of MCM (biochemistry and cell biology)—the final exam on Friday.
That morning I slept little, the bare minimum to keep my neurons firing —about 2 hours. I walked into the exam at 8:30 feeling very uncomfortable. This was a feeling I was not accustomed to in an exam setting. I have never felt that I wasn’t prepared for an exam until Friday. There was just so much to know and so little time to learn. Thus, I tried, day in and day out, to get this stuff filed away in my brain in some order that I would be able to access later. I watched virtually every lecture for a second time. I reviewed all of my notes. I read two separate textbooks. Still, I had trouble remembering what bcr-abl stood for or how exactly nucleotide metabolism integrated with the other topics. I felt overwhelmed for about 30 seconds right before the exam, but I took a deep breath and walked reluctantly into that auditorium, #2 pencil in hand.
Although it may not seem like it, making this transition was relatively easy because it’s not as if I actually had a choice in the matter. I think the hardest part is coming to terms with the fact that I have little option but to study. As young medical students, we must think about this stuff day and night if we want to have any shot at speaking intelligently about it on the wards in two years. In fact, just this morning I woke up thinking about the biochemical pathways by which adrenaline relaxes certain muscles, while increasing the contractility of others in our fight or flight response. And just like that, with the mention of it while writing this blog, I’ve been sidetracked for the last five minutes thinking about those pathways all over again. It’s absolutely amazing how medicine has a way of permeating every aspect of my life, as it has many others who have gone before me. I suspect it will be the same for those that follow.