|Have a LifeSaver . . . It'll make you feel better.|
Security concerning the USMLE is tight, and so I cannot say much here about it. I had a bit of trouble with vomiting before and during the test. Because I tossed my small breakfast before the test, I knew when the waves of nausea began to hit as I was preparing to enter my testing room that I needed accommodation in the form of a wastebasket into which to upchuck. The monitor initially dismissed me with an "Everyone here feels that way. Get over it." I promptly hurled into the trashcan that was at his feet. There wasn't a great deal left in my stomach, but there were just enough gastric juices remaining to impress the monitor.
The monitor/proctor's first course of action was to attempt to get me to reschedule and even said he was reasonably certain the rescheduling fee (not cheap, by the way) would be waived since I had vomited in the presence of a testing center supervisor. It reminded me a bit of middle school, when a kid had to barf in the presence of an adult to be considered sick enough for a parent to be called. Even physical evidence of the vomitus itself wasn't sufficient. For all the school health aide knew, it could have been a can of Dinty Moore beef stew that a kid opened and poured at some opportune location in order to get out of school.
Nauseated or not, I didn't push myself this far to skip out the morning of the test and prolong the agony for another three to twenty-six days. I know my rights, or I at least pretend really well to know my rights. I was determined to take that damned test today. With my gastritis limited to my oral cavity, the test was doable.
The testing center goons first had to determine that I was not risking anyone else's health with my presence. It's never a great idea to be around anyone who is throwing up, as fluids from the healthiest of bodies are germ-laden. Still, I was not carrying any more contagious germs than was the average person. Mine were just flowing out of me a bit more freely than were those of my co-test-takers and proctors.
A testing supervisors paged a physician's assistant who was on-call with the center. He (the PA) concluded that I had no fever and no evidence of norovirus or any other "stomach flu" type of bug. He said that if I was to throw up nearly constantly, however, I would have to give up on the test for the day. I requested his definition for throwing up nearly constantly. He said that what I did in the privacy of the bathroom on my breaks was my own business, but I was allowed only three more incidents of vomiting in the testing center. At the sign of the fourth episode of puking, I would be forced to leave. I made it with about two minutes to spare. Not thirty seconds after exiting the testing center building, I was tossing cookies into an area overgrown with foliage.
The PA didn't want to prescribe anything for me (although he gave me lots of Lifesavers to suck on and water to drink), but I convinced him to call one of the many doctors who have treated me so that one of them could tell him that I can take Zofran safely. He made the call, and about thirty minutes later, someone arrived with the tablets that dissolve in one's mouth. Without them, I don't think I would have kept my throwing up incidence to the maximum of three episodes.
One might wonder why in hell I wanted to continue with a test when I was too ill to hold down any food. Have you ever had one of those days where, despite whatever might be wrong with your body, you knew your brain was working at maximum capacity? I totally had my mojo, mentally speaking, today. I suspect I could take that test ten times and not score as well as I probably scored today. We will not get results until three to eight weeks from today, but I'm not worried. If anything, I may have over-scored. If you do too well on a medical test (MCAT, USMLE), sometimes interview panels for programs get the idea that you're too cerebral to relate to the population in general and are thus not good physician or surgeon material, at least for their programs, except in cases of rare specialties (neurosurgery et al) where eccentric-to-abnormal behavior tends to be the rule rather than the exception.
My MCAT was higher than was comfortable for some of my interviewers. On the other hand, I have what my dad describes as a "gift" of not coming across as tremendously intelligent when I speak. It sounded more like an insult than a compliment when my dad said it, and it probably was intended as such, but I get from where he was coming. With my dad, it's very difficult for him to disguise his high intellect when he talks unless he's drunk, and even then, he usually just just sounds like an exceptionally bright drunk. My mom, on the other hand, is almost as intelligent as my dad, but doesn't have to make it obvious when she speaks that she's operating on a higher plane than about 98% of the people around her. She can speak "academese" with the best of them, but she can also sound like a typical soccer mom if such is her intent, though such is not usually her intent. Perhaps in some way it's a form of dialectical giftedness to understand and to be able to converse both in academic and in less formal language -- to cross seamlessly from one linguistic world to another -- to be able to turn the Nikola Tesla vocabulary on when needed or off when the vernacular is more useful or appropriate. Then again, maybe I sound stupid because I am stupid, and my test scores and grades are all fallacies.
Soon enough, I'll be going through the interview process again -- this time for an internship/residency position. I'll then find out if my scores are high enough to pose a problem for me (to me it sounds like a lovely problem to have; I'll
be happy to have a decent score, period) and if my common manner of speech is either sufficient to put the panel at ease concerning my supposed humanity (what other than human -- unless it's sub- human -- could I possibly be?) or so lowbred as to convince panels that I'm not suitable for the practice of medicine. As with so many other things, time alone will tell.