Thursday Born

The everyday life of a psychiatry resident (who was born on a Thursday).

Archive for January 2010

Doing what you have to do

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It’s easy to become overwhelmed in medical school, no matter your previous educational background. Already, the sheer amount of information is bewildering, and to think that we have barely scratched the surface so far as first year is just laying down a basic science foundation.

For some of my classmates, it’s been a smooth, easy ride so far. They were science majors, and science majors of the sort that means they’ve learned much of this ten times before. Some have even known since high school or before that they wanted to do medicine, and they’ve been building their basic science foundation for years.

Me? This summer will be four years since I decided to do medicine. Before then, the last time I had taken Biology, I was thirteen years old. There is something to be said for innate intelligence, but there is much more to be said for time and hard work. For experience and for exposure. My 1 year of full time research, a summer of general chemistry and 2 years in college (during which I still needed to finish my Psychology major), cannot compare to the much more intense and involved backgrounds of the majority of my classmates.

My medical school has given us the “luxury” of a Pass/Fail first year, a chance to level the playing field. Can 1 year make up for the years of difference between me and the rest?

Not without a lot of hard work. Not without a lot of frustration and struggling.

It’s possible, but it’s easy to forget that it is. And worse, it’s easy to forget that I need to work harder than my classmates, that just because they’re taking it easy, doesn’t mean that I can.

Written by Aba

January 30, 2010 at 9:00 pm

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The Research Trap

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I think somewhere around 90% of my classmates (maybe more) will do research this summer. How many of them want to do it? How many of them will enjoy it? How many of them are just doing it because it’s just another box to check off on the list of things we feel we must do in order to obtain our dream residency spot (which is a very vague notion for most of us, considering we don’t even know what medical fields we want to go into)?

I’m not sure how I feel about this. I do think that it’s important to try research when you’re in a field in which research plays a huge role, but most of us have tried research before. It was a box for us to check off in order to get into medical school. Given that, what value is there in all of us doing research just because? You might be tempted to say, well, the labs get cheap labor for a summer, but how much help are we really? Perhaps it’s different in other labs, but where I worked last year (I did research full time for a year), someone who was around for two months was likely to be more of a nuisance than an asset.

We have a summer abroad grant here (eight or so spots), and if you also do research while abroad, you can also apply for half of the usual research stipend you get if you stay in the US. From what I have learned of last year’s group, nearly all of them did research, and none of them have much to say about it. The reasons why their summers were amazing had much more to do with where they were than what they were doing.

Do not get me wrong. There are medical students who love research (somewhere out there), the obvious culprits being my MD/PhD classmates (and the eight or so MD classmates attempting to transfer into the program). However, there is also a large proportion of us who are ambivalent about research, who downright don’t like research, who will do it this summer, because they feel like they have to. At least a good deal of us are looking to try different kinds of research, clinical instead of bench.

I can’t make a terribly strong argument against it, but I don’t feel it’s right. Honestly, there’s a part of me that wishes I didn’t have a summer, just a 3-4 week vacation that I could happily use as an actual vacation.

Written by Aba

January 22, 2010 at 1:37 pm

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New Semester, New Beginning

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Today began my second week of this “block,” which goes through the end of March. New classes are Microbes and Pathogenesis, Genetics, and Immunology. Continuing classes are Physiology, Histology, and Practice of Medicine. I think that for the most part, I’ll like this block. Highs so far have included a good 10-15 minutes chunk of lecture explaining how pokemon relates to learning Microbes and Pathogenesis, and a Professor awarding a six pack of beer to someone, in class, for giving the best answer to a question.

And so far, I think I’ve been making decent use of my time.  I’ve been reading the night before lectures (though haven’t yet gotten down the whole “and review right after lecture” aspect) and I’ve been working at actually focusing during lecture, when I go. And I have been going. Haven’t missed a single class yet. I was jetlagged the first week and realized that if I stayed home I would not be making good use of my time, so I might as well go. I think that’s going to be my general policy. If I feel I can make better use of my time, then skipping is okay. But no skipping just because I can or because I don’t particularly feel like going to school.

My laptop recently died, which has added an interesting dimension to this.  While one would think it would add a positive spin, I’ve actually found it to be a hinderance. I do, thankfully, still have my previous computer (meant to fix it up and sell it but never did). So ridiculously short lived battery, no wireless (which means I am stationed in the living room of my shared apartment), no sound, and I have to plug in a keyboard. It also means I can’t take my computer to school, which is unfortunate as I was just starting to work on properly using one note to take notes.

But this makes me want to stay on my computer more. Having my use of it artificially rationed makes me feel like I need to… hoard it somehow, which just translates to unnecessary usage. It’s funny, because I noticed the opposite of this when I had my blackberry (RIP, but to be replaced very soon, finally, with a new smartphone!). When I had the ability to be online anywhere, anytime, I felt less compelled to be online all the time. Why check my email now? I can check it later if I need to.

I think I’m doing a decent job of curbing the impulse; I just know I could be doing a better job of it.

Starting to feel a bit tired already. Should be over being jetlagged by now but I’m still making up for a rather large sleep debt. Time to read some notes and then watch one of my shows (So You Think You Can Dance or Flash Forward, both DVRed) to round off today as a respectfully productive and well rounded day. Except of course, my friends are threatening to and succeeding to derail my plans. Ah, saved. Their own laziness has thwarted their plans (to come over and play a computer game, Diablo II, with me, my roommate and another friend who’s over at the moment. Which is what we spent all weekend doing… but it was okay because I’d been productive the preceding week!).

Written by Aba

January 11, 2010 at 11:03 pm

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New Year's Resolution

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My New Year’s resolution this year is to be more mindful of my time.

I know that broad goals are usually bad, but I do have concrete mini-target goals embedded in this one. Overall, what I want to achieve is to have more fun, but also to do better in my classes (this year may be pass/fail but it’s a great chance to hone my barely existent studying skills before next year, which isn’t pass/fail).

Being a bit healthier would be good too. Not that I’m particularly unhealthy, and I’ve actually managed to gain back the bit of weight I wanted so now I need to adjust my diet back to maintaining my weight. Still, I know I could be healthier (namely, more moving around, but that ties back into having more fun because I want to focus more on my spinning arts).

All of this falls under being more mindful of how I spend my time. Let’s say I want to study, but I also want to play a video game. But I don’t want to study right now. But I shouldn’t play a game right now. So instead, I end up sitting in front of my computer doing nothing in particular.

I tried a mini-experiment this break. I was only allowed to use my laptop on its battery, which forced me to put it down more often than usual and seek something else out.  It also made me more aware of what I was doing on my computer. I only have an hour left, do I really want to waste it idly clicking between these tabs and not really processing anything?

Another way to put my goal would be that I want to be better at time management, but that feels a bit too strict for me than simply being more mindful. I’m hoping that mindfulness will lead me to have better time management skills, but I don’t think jumping right to the “Ok! Let’s schedule my day!” stage will work for me.

We’ll see how it goes. I’m hoping well. :)

Written by Aba

January 2, 2010 at 3:40 pm

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