med school

Post-practical exam post

Thoughts after the practical exam that exceed Twitter’s character limit and are far from structured but serve as a form of catharsis:

I am utterly disappointed with myself. Although I’ve spent a lot of time and effort learning the human body’s intricacies; prioritized studying over leisure time and bonding with friends, I doubt my scores will reflect such. I say ‘will’ because although our third bimonthly grades have yet to be released, I have already set my expectations so low. Others could classify it as pessimism yet I am being realistic. 

Friends have commented that I emit a cheerful, humorous vibe but the internal conflict is inexplainable and unsettling. Perhaps I’m not the only one who have experienced an intense episode of self-doubt but our definition of a ‘low score’ could differ significantly. For me, it could be in the line of 5 or 6; for others, it could be in the line of 7. Who knows? This is the reason I avoid saying “basta ayaw lang sa last page” among classmates because, in the first bimonthly, I know the feeling of seeing my ID number on such dreaded page and feeling like the measure of failure. When I find a test or a topic relatively manageable, I avoid commenting I find it difficult just because many of my classmates say so. False humility is an undesirable trait.

Since high school, I have firmly believed that grades do not define a person. It is still true to some extent but it could be difficult to believe when those digits determine my next step. Sustaining optimism is made challenging by seeing a score that pales in comparison to the expected results of one’s perceived efforts. Med school has put a dent on my self-esteem one too many times.

Last year, when I was the epitome of laidback and carefree, I wished to have structured days again — with to-do lists to make and accomplish, then a sense of fulfillment that encourages me to tackle the next task. Well, I got more than I wished for.

The challenge comes not so much with being “smart” — because we all are in different ways — but with mustering enough resiliency, determination, and discipline to learn from mistakes and apply such to improve in the next exam. The “stress” during my undergrad years are miniscule when compared to the current degree of stress in many forms: physical, emotional, and mental. I still have high hopes I’ll repeat this line several years from now but “undergrad years” replaced with “first year med.”

***

Earlier, I was locked outside our house during a heavy downpour. While I was in the cab, I saw the window spattered incessantly with raindrops then I saw a white rope tied around our gate — that means my Lola went to church and, most likely, my brother isn’t at home. My umbrella is nowhere to be found. I began imagining how I would wait for an hour or so in darkness with my dogs, while finding a spot spared from the occasional raindrops leaking from the roof. I did wait for several minutes. Turns out, my brother is at home.

Although it pays to be cautious, maybe some things are worse in my head than these actually are.

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med school, musings

Of tests and reasons

At immensely stressful times — compared to my undergrad years, the stress of which, I realize, is a big joke by now — I feel the need to continually ask and remind myself of the reason I am here. 

When I was still an aspiring med student, I told myself I was afraid of becoming a student who studied only to pass exams. Because, really, what’s the point? What happens after passing all written, oral, and practical tests? Although passing exams is a prerequisite to proceed to the next level, it would be absurd to have it as the only motivation for intentionally spending my time — that could have been spent on binge-watching TV series and joining festivities — and squeezing all my mental energy to learning biochemistry, physiology, histology, anatomy, etc. At the end of the day, I find it essential to ask, “What is the reason I do the things I do?”

Then I remember my college freshman self. I recall how I loved learning general biology although it was a “minor” subject in development communication. I woke up at the wee hours to learn the general concept of respiration, the parts of major organs, and the like. I was amused at how, in every human being, such complex, intricate systems are at work synchronously that enable them to function in daily life. There is more to a person than what meets the eye. Literally.

I remember how, while we’re waiting in the SC grounds for our 7:30 p.m. Math01 class, Phoebe and I talked of how we envision ourselves after graduation. She told me I would become a good doctor, probably because both my parents are, but such casual lines are sources of encouragment today. 

I remember when, after performing poorly at a weekly exam, I was eating ice cream at a convenience store and I met one of my favorite teachers, Ma’am Trel. She saw me in my uniform for the first time. Needless to say, my feelings were the polar opposite of her reaction: giddy and excited. She told me my uniform was a symbol of where I will end up. And that I must claim it to be true. 

I remember how becoming a doctor was my default reply to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” although the answer has shifted one too many times. I remember heaps of post I wrote on this blog, the recurring theme of which is being certain and why-driven of solidifying this plan. 

I’ve been asked whether I would continue studying medicine. Without hesitation, I say yes. In my standards, my grades are abysmal but quitting at the slighest hint of setback means I may like only the idea of being a doctor yet deny the realities it entails to become one. As Uncle Earl said in an email:

It’s true: my resiliency and determination have been tested like never before and I know I’m only in the start line. At times, my sentimental self is triggered and I find myself crying in my study table. But I realize crying would be counterproductive because it gives me a headache that makes concentrating a Herculean task. 

As an attempt to see things from a bigger perspective, the stress as a 1st year student will most likely be minuscule when I become an intern facing less of books and more of patients of different backgrounds; when I review for board exams; when I become a licensed doctor to whom patients entrust their lives.

I remind myself that the meticulousness and complexities of the topics that await to be learned are not here only to let me pass exams — these are the basic knowledge I need to be a competent, conscientious doctor people need. 

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inspiration, med school

Intersection

Yesterday, I met with my cousin mostly because of the whole-day power interruption — the humidity was too much to bear that my face was shimmering but not splendid — and partly because the five-day pseudo-break calls for catchups with people I seldom hang out with. (Thanks, med school.)

Anyway, she told me of an anecdote that, I’m pretty certain, will stick with me for as long as my memory is reliable. 

She rode a taxi going to the hospital where she works as a nurse. Taking cues from her uniform, the driver talked about a time he fell ill and had to be admitted to the hospital. He talked about how hospital bills and medicine were too costly, especially given his meager income. Needless to say, he shares the same story with millions of Filipinos whose daily income is insufficient even for daily needs. Then, he expressed gratefulness along these lines, “Buotan kaayo ang doctor. Wala na lang ko gipa-bayad [professional fee] kay dili man gyud nako kaya maka-bayad. Dako kaayo akong pasalamat sa iya.”

He’ll never forget that doctor, he said. Intrigued, my cousin asked, “Kinsa diay na nga doctor?” 

“Doctor Aranas,” the taxi driver replied.

Apparently, the doctor he was talking about is my father. (The driver probably needed a minor surgical procedure.)

***

People often assume my parents forced me into studying medicine. I don’t take such assumption as an offense because, looking from a common perspective, it’s expected. They’re both doctors and I, a development communication graduate, suddenly decided to enter this labyrinth called med school. This, my friends, is a typical reaction:


But I disagree. My parents themselves, in the words of my mother, “discouraged” me before enrolment. More of a daily reality check. Our conversations included them telling me I would need to overhaul my lifestyle and habits; my resiliency and determination would be put to test; and that med school is not “glamorous” as most people make it to be. I have been studying only for four months but I can attest to the truth of their “words of precaution.”

I willingly signed up for this not only because it’s the only field I see myself committing to until the age of retirement but, most important — I have seen how my parents use their profession in helping make other people’s lives more bearable, return these to normal, or in giving the slightest hint of relief and reassurance.

***

He is not an unbelievably wealthy surgeon who spends 90% of his time at work but my father definitely has the traits of a doctor I want to become — earning enough through honest means and handling patients, regardless of economic status, the way a human deserves to be treated and not as a mere piece of disease with a hefty paycheck attached.

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med school, musings

Reminder

 

A 19-year old boy became quadriplegic — paralyzed from the neck down — after a vehicular accident. He stopped schooling not only because of insufficient resources but also to work as the family’s breadwinner. Now, the family has to completely adjust to take care of him on a daily basis. 

A woman in her 20’s has permanent neurologic deficits after falling from a moving vehicle. She has a child and she has to return to living with her father as the deficits make her unable to be fully independent in everyday life. Her sister has to move back in the city for her, too.

Whenever our teacher cites particular patients’ stories as an example in our FCM (Family and Community Medicine) class, I get goosebumps. Not only because the story itself is compelling enough to draw sympathy. Or it emphasizes the importance of dealing with patients as a human being – not as a mere piece of disease. 

But because that patient could have been me. I could have been quadreplegic; I could have been dealing with neurologic deficits — or both — after falling from a moving vehicle last New Year’s Eve. My family could have had a different routine that includes feeding me, bathing me; finding ways to make daily life the new kind of normal.

A lot of could have’s, indeed. Out of a weird, sometimes morbid, sense of humor, I’m able to formulate self-deprecating jokes out of the incident today. I suppose it’s funny now only because everything has returned to normal and effects that can impact everyday life are nonexistent. But the first few weeks of recovery  were crucial and stressful for the family, so it was no laughing matter.

I did move on from the said accident already — if moving on means learning from experiences and choosing to move forward every day instead of being immobilized by the past — but it will always remind me of the other possibilities. 

And it reminds me to never underestimate a person’s capability (of surviving), the limits of which could be farther than one has imagined.

As my mother told me, “Naka-survive man gani ka sa pagkalabay sa pickup. Maka-survive pud kaayo ka diha sa med [school].”

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med school

First of (not) summer

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Truth be told, I’m excited to start studying in med school. I know, I know. The enthusiasm will gradually wane and my future self, faced by massive volume of topics to be understood, will ask, “What the hell were you thinking, Lour?! The closest subject related to it in your college years is animal science which you didn’t take seriously!”

But why should I deny myself this feeling of excitement although I must eventually squeeze out the last drop of resilience and comprehension left in me? All feelings are valid. If I permit myself to wallow in misery and self-doubt, why should I suppress this enthusiasm — partly triggered by the thought of buying school supplies?

Other than having to develop a learning style and organizational skills that work best for me, I’m worried about not having friends. Seriously. My parents laugh at this seemingly trivial concern but as much as I value solitude, I’m a social being.

I wonder if I’ll find the type of friends with whom I can talk about studies, goals, fears, national interests, and crushes; who will stick with me through sober and intoxicated times; who will tell me that my jokes are corny; whose sense of humor can be self-deprecating; who know that sweet balance between life goals, and adventures and revelries; who unknowingly encourage me to be better.

(As I thought about my recent routine, I figured I intentionally don’t stay out late because I’m not doing anything fulfilling. I’m waiting for school to start, that’s all. I don’t want to be a person whose time and energy are spent mostly on going out but progress on fulfilling work is at a standstill.)

This feeling is reminiscent of my second year in high school when I transferred to another school. My schoolmates have their circle of friends and, because my social skills were insufficient to have a steady group on June 23, I invited random classmates to have lunch with me on my birthday. On the bright side, some of them are my most trusted friends until now.

Of course, I will always treasure old friends and make time for them but I have to prioritize my studies. My mother said many may not understand but the genuine, understanding ones will. I’m at that stage of acceptance of missing out on several social events. I doubt if I can have regular hang-out-till-dawn weekends, spontaneous gatherings, and the like. I might as well steer away from social media at the peak of FOMO. Anyway, school breaks are there for a reason.

Perhaps I’m excited because I’m officially starting a new chapter. Adventures are typically associated with travelling to towns and cities far from one’s hometown. But adventures could also mean acting on that risk I have been meaning to but apprehensive to take. Then again, what will I gain if I let self-doubt overshadow my dreams?

My books and sets of uniform are ready for use. I’m excited because am closer to making my dreams a reality instead of simply talking about it. I just have to remember my purpose and to trust myself I can handle each day. Focus, prioritize, follow through. Keribels, besh.

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