Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Med school is like trying to drink water out of a fire hydrant"

"I'm a bit overwhelmed in a wonderfully exciting way. I'm sitting in a classroom at UCSF, surrounded by dozens of medical students sipping starbucks and munching on granola bars. White coats and glasses. Laptops and stethoscopes. The speaker just began. His topic: brain tumors and pathobiology. Notebooks open, laptop keys clack and a studious silence settles over the audience. I think I'm in heaven."
- Morning journal entry from UCSF classroom

I want to be in medical school so badly. I want to be a doctor so, so very much.
I sat in class today; observing, wishing, watching, craving, listening, hungering. Though it won't benefit me for years to come, I furiously took notes as the speaker dove into subcategories of glial neoplasms and the differences between pilocytic and diffusive astrocytomas. And yes, after sitting through the lecture, I actually know what those gloriously long words mean. Neurofibroma. Schwannoma. Beauty in words. Anatomical mysteries and wonder embodied in letters. I thought I was in heaven.

After three hours of lecturing, the professors broke the medical students into small groups in order to solve hypothetical cases. I joined one of the groups and listened as they prognosed and diagnosed an invented woman with a severe anxiety disorder. Were her symptoms those of a panic attack or heart attack? What tests would they order? What medicines would they prescribe? Their heads bowed over the imaginary woman's medical file; the four med students whispered and planned their course of action. Flipping through highlighted notes and pages of brain diagrams they debated which medicine would be most effective, whether the woman's genetics were to blame, and if they should order an EKG.
I listened, fascinated. My eyes rose from their huddle and towards the walls, where blackboards hung laced with chemical formulas, six-syllable words, and anatomical sketches. An explosion of chalk. I thought I was in heaven.

A few of the students took us to the top floor of the building to see the anatomy lab. A large, long room containing dozens of tilted, steel tables and bright halogen lamps greeted us. Two students barely glanced at us as we entered; engrossed in their work, scalple in hand, they were discovering the internal mysteries of the body. Stretching the entire length of the room (which is remarkably long, mind you) was a massive glass window, through which we were privy to a sweeping view of San Francisco. Rolling hills dotted with trees and colorful victorians, the Golden Gate shrouded in fog, the sharp points of church steeples piercing the sky...all was laid out before us in a grand display of archetectural and natural grandeur. I am sorely pressed to find a more perfect situation: science galore, litterally laying right before you, waiting to be discovered - and a breathtaking view of the city for you to enjoy while you're at it. I thought I was in heaven.

Oh my. It's so painful to be a little undergraduate at a junior college instead of a medical student at UCSF.


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