As I rolled into Greenville a week before school started, I couldn’t help thinking that I was running in the wake of dust behind the preparation bandwagon and struggling to catch up. I had just gotten back from a whirlwind of post-graduation travel, and my mind was still running around the cramped, medieval streets of Old Town in Stockholm, Sweden. I didn’t have anything ready. I still had tons of paperwork to complete, and don’t get me started on trying to work with my summer project group using only my handy dandy cellphone from spotty Wi-Fi in Europe. That definitely gave me a new perspective on technological communications (our project dealt with the use of e-communications systems in health care).
I realized that if I didn’t get my affairs in order and climb my way out of my summer slumber, things were going to go south in medical school real quick. I needed to get organized. I spent that first week doing just that. Then, I got an email with a list of things we needed to have done by the time class started the following week. That was great. I needed some guidance. The list informed me that I needed to purchase a stethoscope. What do you know? Doctors need stethoscopes. You’d think I’d have figured that out at some point down the line. So, I quickly got on the Internet and ordered one with a garnet colored tube. Being a diehard Gamecock, I was very excited about that and could not wait for it to come in the mail. A couple of days later, after a lot of glaring at an empty mailbox, I got my hands on that long rectangular box. What did I find inside?
Apparently, stethoscopes come with a complementary 5 Hour Energy now. That certainly boded well. After staring at that energy drink for a few seconds with a mixture of apprehension and horror, I ripped into that box and started playing with my very own stethoscope (Is playing not a serious enough term?). And, let’s be honest, what is the first thing you would do with a stethoscope? If you said listen to your own heart, then you and I are very similar. I had recently run across my apartment complex in the rain, but that didn’t really register when I heard my heart beating a smidge too fast. My first thought was “Is something wrong with me?’ and my second was ‘Of course not, but man I need to exercise more.” I am only a week and a half into my medical education, but I’m sure that as I learn more about the body and the way things can go wrong, I’ll be asking myself, “Do I have that?” quite a bit.
Then, school started, as it inevitably always does. How do medical schools work? I didn’t know. I had always imagined that a lecturer would get up in front of the class and teach us every miniscule detail known to man about a given organ system four hours a day, with some anatomy lab thrown in there somewhere. I have never sat in on classes, but from stories I’d heard, that sounded about right. But, that’s not what I found when I sat through the three days of orientation. My school was different, and I am very excited about it. The second day, two of our future professors gave one of the many talks we sat through, and it both excited me about lectures to come and assuaged some of my fears on my ability to adapt and survive in this high stress environment. They introduced a teaching technique called the flipped classroom. They turned the lesson back on us and had us work through a scenario in groups that taught us about the topic in a more memorable way than a standard PowerPoint lecture ever could. I certainly won’t be forgetting about therapeutic effects of capsaicin any time soon.
We haven’t gotten to any real lectures like that so far as we are in EMT training right now, which is an adventure all of its own. We’ve carried each other all over the building on stretchers, learned what our body language is saying that our mouths aren’t, and played a very unique card game to learn how easily cultural misunderstandings occur.
I don’t know everything that medical school has in store for me. It is still largely a mystery, and I fear the day the bookwork comes crashing down on my head. No one sugar coats the difficulty level of this career path because that would be a disservice. But, if it is anything like the last couple of days (rigor aside), I look forward to it and I couldn’t be happier that I chose this school.
Copyright 2014 USC School of Medicine Greenville