March 31, 2008

Med School Poker

If there's one thing that every medical student knows, its that medical school is really just a bunch of humbling experiences all strewn together under the ruse of "education." Most people out there know that doctors are smart. And that they know lots of stuff. But I don't think anyone can truly realize how much there is to know and how much practicing physicians DO know as part of their daily functioning. I have studied day and night for 8 straight months and still am barely able to interact on a fairly elementary level. And just when you start to forget that and start to think you might actually be making progress on this whole doctor thing, bam, along come some attending wielding his massive sword of knowledge, striking you down from your high horse to go mingle again with the peasants.

Take for example today in clinic. I was talking with a pediatric hematologist about an interesting patient I was about to see with him - a 17 year old patient with Blackfan-Diamond Anemia. The typical first line of treatment for this disease (a erythroid progenitor disease that prevents red blood cells from properly maturing) is steroids in hopes of resuscitating the patient's own marrow's ability to pump out those cute little RBCs. So the physician was discussing the various steroid treatments they have tried on this patient and asks me "do you know what some common clinically pertinent adverse effects to steroids?" I proceeded to stare at him like a stoned pufferfish.

Now, deep in my brain somewhere, I actually know some "common clinically pertinent adverse effects of steroids." They include weight gain, hypertension, osteopenia, and psychosis. But like 99.9% of the things I've learned this year, they were stuffed into my tired and overfilled brain and subsequently left to dissolve back into this bizarre long term memory twilight zone where they come back to me during weird moments like when I'm watching Futurama on a Monday night (read: now), but never when I actually need them.

Massive Sword of Knowledge: 1
Me: 0

Of course, I currently hold the ultimate wild card: the totally awesome "I'm a first year" card. Play this card in any situation and the attending will smile with a fond reminiscence at you, reward you for demonstrating any shred of medical knowledge whatsoever, and then proceed to explain things to you at the level of a first grader. If you've been there, you know what its like, and its truly hilarious.

But like all good things, the totally awesome "I'm a first year" card will come to an end. In exactly 10 weeks (not like I'm counting) I will graduate from a cute little first year to a second year. And then I might be actually expected to know something.

Uh oh.


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Anonymous said...

There is nothing better than the "I'm a first year" card. When I get asked anything, I can usually come up with some sort of an answer. Then they say "right! And?" ugh... then when I can't come up with anything and they stare at me like I'm a moron I say, "I'm sorry... I'm only a first year." Then boom, layperson explanation of everything. It's great.

Anonymous said...

what's new?