Friday, October 7, 2011

The humdrum and the minutiae

We've been in school for one and a half months now, and have settled into a good routine involving classes, social events and studying. Our school year is divided into three blocks and we are currently in the middle of our first block. Second block starts after Christmas break and third block after spring break. Pretty much like the quarter system, except first block is longer by more than a month (instead of starting late September, like most quarter system schools do, we started mid August).

First block consists of the following five classes: Anatomy, Histology, Physiology, Molecular Foundations of Medicine and Practice of Medicine.

Histology and physiology are rolled into one neat package called Cell and Organ System Bio (I don't know why they needed to do that, but I guess it looks fancier on brochures and class schedules).  Histology is about looking at slides of tissue preparations under microscopes and identifying cells, structures etc. Most of us are not able to discern much. Everything is a different shade of pink or purple with random blobs and splotches thrown in. It's like looking at a work of modern art, really. Physiology is more palatable because some of it, like action potentials and membrane potentials, is familiar territory.

Molecular Foundations of Medicine - MFM, for short - as intimidating or grandiose as it sounds, is just your garden variety biochemistry garnished with a slice of cell biology. Lots of good stuff about Receptor Tyrosine Kinases, Glycolysis, Gluconeogenesis etc.

Practice of Medicine is a clinical skills class. More and more medical schools are pushing to expose their students to patients as early as possible. By second week, we had acquired shiny new stethoscopes from Littman (a subsidiary of 3M - seriously, is there anything this behemoth does not make?); our first patient encounter was during week four, where we took a detailed medical history and took basic vitals. Since we are still too inexperienced (and thereby, somewhat dangerous), the school brings in trained actors to pose as patients for the majority of our practice sessions. Whenever we do see actual patients, it is under the watchful guidance of fourth year medical students (who look so knowledgeable and God-like to us minions) and attendings. POM is actually a very interesting class. So far I've learned to measure blood pressure properly, listen for various heart sounds, find various pulses throughout the body, and do patient write-up in a semi-decent manner.

This brings me to anatomy. Anatomy is my favorite class. It is a treasure hunt - persistence and resourcefulness are absolutely needed if one wants to dig up that proverbial pot of gold. In fact, since I like anatomy so much, I will do a separate post just on how important and significant it is.

Finally a word about life here in general. All throughout undergraduate, I had roommates. Some were excellent (particularly during my senior year), some were mediocre. I did not want to deal with potential problems with roommates in medical school so I opted to live in a studio. It has worked out great. I love being alone, the master of the domain, so to speak. I don't have to keep anyone's schedules and I can hog the bathroom and the TV for as long as I want. The lights can stay on as long as I damn please, and my stuff can lie around without anyone bothering me about it. Most of my classmates live within easy walking distance so I don't miss out on anything much.

St. Louis is an active, vibrant city with a lot to "do". I put do in quotation marks because I am not really snooty or picky about the wining and dining scene, but there is stuff for those who are. The neighborhood around medical school is called Central West End (or CWE) and it has a bunch of restaurants, bars and apartments. The neighborhood around the undergraduate campus (about two train stops away) is called the Loop. The Loop has a lot more to offer. I have been there a few times, mostly to shoot some darts at this nice diner/bar/dance club.

Weather's nice (so far) and it is not as hot as it was last month. But you know what they say - winter's coming.

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