Saturday, January 10, 2015

Back to the Steady Grind, Sans Braces

I have one piece of exciting news, which is that my braces are off. My current orthodontist was in Utah while I was, and as he's a relative of a relative (sort of), we ran into each other. He used a friend's office to remove the hardware. All things considered, eleven months of braces wasn't all that bad. I'll wear a retainer to bed, but that's no biggie. Now perhaps I'll actually beef up a bit, as I was very compliant in terms of what the orthodontists said I could or could not eat. Now it's all fair game, and IT'S ALL  MINE!!!

I'm now past my winter wonderland vacation, of which the most exciting part was really not zooming down snow-covered hills, but caring for and playing with my Godchild. I can't wait to see him again. I'm taking a trip home for the MLK weekend, so I'll see my little guy again then.

In any event, I'm now back in that which has become the real world for me, one including classes where they tell you why almost everything you learned as an undergrad was just plain wrong, wrong, wrong. Depending upon where one acquired his or her undergrad education and what professors he or she was fortunate or unfortunate enough to encounter, one may have come out of the undergrad experience relatively unscathed compared to the med school student population at large, but it still seems that professors here spend a disproportionate amount of time telling us just how stupid we all are as opposed to actually teaching us something so we can be less stupid. We get it! We're all morons. Now can we learn something else besides what cretins we are?

I've been told that, depending upon the extent that we students as individuals have been broken down a la military style, we're almost to the point that they'll  start building us up again and treating us as humans. I look forward to that fork in the road, which cannot come soon enough for me.

My favorite part of medical school so far has been the  "Practice of Medicine" course, where the university brings in actors from various agencies (usually, I'm told,  though not exclusively, from American Conservatory Theatre and Berkeley Repertory Theatre; they certainly don't come right out and tell us, their fake doctors, what agency trained them [quite poorly in some instances]). They're trained in what symptoms to report and to fake so that we can either diagnose them or kill them off. 

The actors groan when they see they've been assigned to me because I have developed a reputation for, without appearing to make any effort  to do so, usually getting them to break character.  Even my appearance into their exam cubicles usually creates a "What the hell?" reaction in terms of my age. (My nickname among them is "the Mouseketeer;" they think I look like some teen on a flunky Disney channel series.  I wouldn't know because it's not the sort of programming I view. These people would know because they are so desperate that they actually watch such drivel in hopes of having background info when they go to auditions for Disney series and other similar televised garbage. ) The "actors" apparently mostly know each other and share information about medical school students. 

I have a higher score at accurately diagnosing their fake ailments than does anyone else in the class. I read more than I have to, and covering a lot of medical literature pays off when applying fake diagnoses to fake patients. Up to this point, the emphasis has been on ordering the correct tests and, to some extent, extrapolating the fake data from the tests that were never really performed to arrive at a diagnosis. I love to throw in an alternate test that I don't think was anticipated, so that someone behind the scenes has to scramble to come up with the fake data that will match the supposed disease.

We'll get into a bit of "treatment" of our fake patients this quarter. This is when we'll really get to kill 'em off. When you order the wrong tests, you're usually just delaying a diagnosis, and time is not typically of the essence in real-life medical practice to the extent that it is on TV medical shows. Once we get to "treat" these patients, however, they're going to start dropping like flies. I'm sure I'll lose a few just like everyone else will (and part of it in my case will be due to the "actors' " inferior portrayals of sick people;  I've had to cue several of them in already on how better to fake illnesses and to what body parts they should be pointing unless it's really drug-seeking behavior that they're trying to portray). 

I'm not overly conceited. Everyone makes mistakes, and I will make my share. The idea is to make them now, when we're not dealing with real live sick or injured people. I'm sure the profs will treat as as though we actually took a life away anytime we screw up. What do they expect? We're freaking 2nd quarter medical school students. There's a reason we're not allowed to diagnose and treat in real life.

It remains to be seen how much reading or anything else pays off in the real world of diagnosing, as we're nowhere near that yet. Taking vital signs and reporting them too the nurse who is overseeing our intake patient is as much as we're allowed to do with actual ailing people. Even then, the nurse, if he or she is smart, re-takes the vitals himself or herself. I'm pretty good at it and have yet to record anything far off, but the same cannot be said for many of my classmates, who have on a semi-regular basis reported the vitals of patients who would be clinically post mortem if such were really his or her vitals.

Matthew and I had permission to miss classes on Monday and one class on Tuesday. The profs knew I would master the material and then make sure that Matthew did the same. Of the five classes I've attended, three of the professors made snide comments to me, questioning whether they needed to take my textbooks away and cut out chapters one at a time to hand to me. My reputation for memorizing entire textbooks in the first two weeks of a quarter has preceded me. I just smiled at the daft professors. What more can a person do?

We now have one day a week with no actual classes. It's reserved for roughly two hours of clinical work. The remainder of the time is intended for study groups. I devote part of my time to study groups, but I do study more efficiently on my own, as do all the members of my primary study group, so we reserve the right to study as individuals. The time, other than our clinical hours, is basically ours to use as we see fit. Everyone I know is using it wisely. I would suppose some of the others are not, but that's their problem. I'm enjoying the opportunity to study as late as I choose the night before, and then to sleep late on that morning. It's such a luxurious feeling.

The prettier of my two enemies is gone, as I thought she would be. The less attractive but somewhat more intelligent of the two remains here, but she's not nearly so emboldened in her friend's absence. I'm sure's she's heavily rethinking her past behavior, as she's alienated herself from many peers and is in a study group only because they have to take her. She probably doesn't feel welcome with them, which is probably the reason she rarely shows up to their study sessions. It's not my job to rescue her; I'm staying out of it. 

For the record, my favorite class of the quarter thus far is 
Immunology. I find it fascinating, or at least the 3/4 of the textbook that I've read thus far.


  1. Congratulations on losing the braces. I wore them for ten months on my top teeth and was delighted to be rid of them. Of course, in my case, it turned out wearing braces was a waste of time.

    Congratulations on losing the enemy, too. Wonder what she's gonna do now.

    1. i wonder, too. she CAN'T be a nurse; that would be beneath her. Perhaps she'll find some sort of a lab tech job, or work for an insurance company, although she doesn't really have adequate medical background to be all that useful to them. She probably should get a master's in something like nuclear medicine, which probably isn't too far out of her reach. With a master's in that field, she could do more bossing others around and less actual work. i'm not sure if she's smart enough to figure that out for herself, though, and I'm certainly not offering her any advice.