Is Medicine Really For Me? My First Cadaver: Season 2

I’ve been subscribed to Med School Tutors for a while now. Although I don’t read each and every blog post, I do find interesting things popping up in my email every now and then; and that’s exactly what has prompted this post.

I don’t really listen to podcasts. In fact, I had deleted the Apple Podcast app as soon as I could. I only tried to use it to listen to “Welcome to Nightvale” or whatever that’s called but somehow never got around to listening to it actually…,but when Med School Tutors announced about their podcast, My First Cadaver, having a season 2 being released, I was super curious. I had to know what it was about and what kind of things would be discussed. I promptly re-installed the Podcast app and eagerly waited for Season 2, Episode 1 to download.

Being a med student, though, you have to multi-task where you can. While I had the podcast plugged in my ear, my hands and eyes were occupied with doing menial research tasks. And let me announce this right now, I hate the kind of research I’m doing at the moment. I’m basically grading papers (surveys, actually) on the basis of an answer code. It’s a jumble of things that don’t really make sense but you gotta do it. I have to spend about ten minutes on one survey of 80 questions, just to reduce those 80 questions down to a single letter. It’s exhausting and I’ve lost my temper several times while doing it. And I will tell you my deep dark secret: I was so mad, I ripped the last survey so I wouldn’t have to do it. I’m sorry to the girl who filled it, but it’s not like anyone cares about it anyway.

Back to the original subject: so I was listening to Season 2 Episode 1, titled “My First Second Thoughts“. The essential discussion was about how several people, either during the course of med school, or afterwards, start to realize that maybe what they’re doing is not the best thing for them. Some people were unhappy about the way they were practicing medicine, other people were unhappy with their general routine, people were just unhappy.

Initially, I was feeling a lot of different emotions while listening to the podcast, a mixture of fear and apprehension, mostly because I find that a lot of my anxiety seems to be stemming from med school. I love the learning process, but I dislike the pressure that clinical teachers exert, I dislike giving practical exams, I dislike doing complicated things without having any practice, as what seems to be expected of us, like sterile gloving for surgery or inserting urinary catheters. I was a little scared that this podcast would bring everything flooding back and trigger another long phase of “I can’t be a doctor, please take me out of med school”.
Excuse me while I add irrelevant aesthetics to break up how text heavy this post is

But this podcast was much more different than that. It was much more hopeful. This podcast sat down and said “Okay, so you don’t like what you’re doing? That’s okay! Use your special medical knowledge to expand your field and vision and go on to do something you love!”. You’re inclined towards business? Mash it up with medicine and start a project! You like teaching people? Start tutoring!

So at first, I was feeling pretty okay-ish about it, like “It’s fine if I’m finding some things uncomfortable right now. I can push through it, come out with my degree, and move towards something better for me and for medicine as a whole”. It made my barely pass grades in my OSCE (objective structures clinical examination) somewhat bearable, although it did deal a pretty bad blow to my plans of giving the USMLE and going abroad. If I am finding clinical things hard in med school, what will I do in residency? What kind of specialty can I possibly hope to go into?

I went to school a few days and there were two separate conversations that struck me (although there was one person present in both conversations). The first conversation was about how everybody has become relatively relaxed when it comes to giving exams in med school. There are people who will think about studying on the last day instead of actually studying. Of course, this was a gradual change, everyone studied super hard in first year, but people started getting lenient with themselves as time went on. Now, not everyone studies constantly, trying to top the class. Some people do, but a lot of people don’t, and that includes me.

The second conversation was kind of the same, except the opposite. This time, one of my classmates explained how she’d gotten around 70% with 10 marks not included from her previous work and that she was going to go and ask for those marks to be added so that she could go up to 80% and thus, top the class. She talked about how her father, when she showed him her result, was mildly upset at her for scoring less. (I listen quietly, sweating as I recall my own barely passing grades……… and the fact that I haven’t shown them to my own dad, who is a doctor. i’m sorry I barely passed Baba ;n; and also sorry you’re probably finding it out this way 🙂

These two incidences, compounded with the podcast, really had me sit down and think about it for a while. What am I doing, studying medicine? Here I am, fine with being mediocre, barely passing my classes, while there are kids out there constantly trying to be the best. The podcast talked about how people who didn’t have the drive for med school, just couldn’t handle it and dropped out, two or three years in. How do I know if I have this thing- this drive- to do med school? Yes, the podcast said it was okay to drop out, it was okay to pursue things you are personally interested in, but I feel like I’m hanging in some sort of gaping void. I want to do medicine, but I want to breeze through it, I want medicine to remain sterile, clean and stress-free.

You could laugh and say “what kind of medicine is that?”. Medicine is supposed to mean blood and sweat and tears. And I suppose that’s the part where I say “my degree doesn’t have to mean blood, sweat and tears”. My degree doesn’t have to mean that I spend hours in an out-patient department, spending ten minutes per patient, trying to get through as many people as possible and perhaps end up doing more harm to myself and my patients than good. My degree doesn’t have to mean that I keep forcing myself to do things I am uncomfortable doing, like inserting urinary catheters, or conducting vaginal exams. I could do lots of other things, like teach students, or teach other doctors, or do lab research, or write books, or start my own business to help expand medicine and make it more easy and accessible in my country. I could help hundreds of people and patients and doctors, without even looking at a single sick person.

(Which brings us back to the original dilemma: what is the point of the USMLE for me, then?)

While I was listening to the second conversation, about how my classmate wanted to top the class, I thought to myself “I want to use medicine as an inspiration”. I enjoy writing blog posts and drawing and painting. I love doing these kinds of things and I have always wanted these hobbies of mine to augment the medicine I’m learning. The more time that passes, though, the more I feel as though it is starting to work the other way around- medicine is beginning to augment my writing and my art. I’m not sure if this is something that I wanted, or want, or should be wanting. In case this whole concept is not making sense to you, I’ll make it easier.

What I wanted was to open blogger and write with the mindset that “how can I inspire myself and other people to keep going with medicine?” but now, I am studying and wondering “how can I use this to create blog posts and art?”. You could argue that there’s not much difference between the two, but there is. There is a difference. I know there’s a difference because I can feel the difference. I used to love writing blog posts about the things I’m studying, I wrote an entire ABC post on neurosciences, but now I can’t bring myself to write about that kind of content anymore. I can’t bring myself to write about the things I’m learning about as passionately as I used to write in the first two years of medicine, when I would share how each module went for me and all the cool things I learned.

Perhaps I’m just very tired. But I know for sure that I’m confused.

If you’d like to check out My First Cadaver, click here. They’ve got podcasts available on their website as well as on the iTunes Podcast. If you’d like to listen to the podcast that caused this post, click here. This is not a sponsored post. Have a nice day!


5 thoughts on “Is Medicine Really For Me? My First Cadaver: Season 2

  1. When I read your post, i thought about what i went through in the past few months. Being a third year medical student, i am at the point in my life where i am finally seeing myself as becoming a doctor, (don't get me wrong, in the first two years we had basic sciences and while those are very important, at that time don't see their relevance in future.) and while that was fascinating at first, it was very exhausting also. i mean my syllabus content got doubled and my personal life was destroyed, consequently, i got very upset. Gradually, without me realising, that feeling of being *upset* changed into the feeling of being *fed up*. There were times, when every morning i used to seriously think that is it worth it? Am i becoming a person i wanted to be? and most importantly, ten or twenty years down the path, will i ever be successful in becoming THAT person? because the thing is, before you enter med-school, it never crosses your mind that you will be a mediocre in your class, as throughout your life, you were the topper of the class. you aced exams; and you knew everything that was expected from you. Then, you come to med-school; out come the first & second result, you see your percentile and you are shocked; like you can't comprehend how this has happened; the first thing that crosses your mind is that maybe you haven't tried THAT hard, so you study harder, but even then the result remains the same. its like its there, sticking out its tongue at you; and the worst thing is, you can't do anything about it, sure you can move your percentile up a little bit, but being a topper, well its really hard.
    after a couple of months, i realised that i wasn't lagging behind because i was dumb or anything, but it was because i simply had different priorities. i didn't want my life to entirely revolve study and nothing else, because although my studies were very important, they were not my sole purpose of life. after i realised that, i became lenient with myself and i found peace.

  2. then came my third year, as i studied patho and pharma, i started getting the feeling that, yes, well now i am becoming a doctor. But as i mentioned earlier, it got very hectic, and soon i lost my footing. i re-analysed myself trying to find what was going wrong; initially i thought that it had something to do with the pressure i was in, but then i realised that it was all on me. i was done being a med student, i wanted to escape and try other things. i called that my mid-life crises of med school. After i realised what the problem was, i thought about fixing it, i tried talking to my friends, i googled stuff; i tried many things but i just couldn't find THE answer. then one fine morning, i had a thought; if the problem is within myself, than for the answer, i should be looking inside myself, instead of asking the world to find an answer for me. keeping this in my mind, i directed my thoughts towards the things that have changed inside me. there were two things that struck out, first i didn't trust myself anymore. i mean, i used to have faith in myself. I truly believed that as long as i am devoted, i can be anyone i want to be; if i did not do well in an exam, i believed that when once i study it again, i will score well. another thing that i stopped doing was to look at the other side of the picture, that okay if i had not done well in an exam, there are many other things that i had done well in. e.g i didn't do that well in my first OSCE exam, but i had been scoring really well in my modular exams since the beginning of the year. so i decided to give myself a break, because after all, the subjects in OSCE were not the ones i was suppose to master this year, they were my fourth year subjects. i can simply do better next year, and most importantly, i am very much able do that. so what, if i am not excellent clinically this year, i will be much better next year, because by then i would have a experienced a lot more on patients. And hence, with the that thought, i sort of found peace. well this is my story of how i got over these things.

  3. K, you've made it this far.

    Don't let fear or confusion stop you from moving forward.

    Obviously, you won't enjoy everything that you cover in med school, but if you're enjoying most of it, stay with it. If not, just remember to do what will lead you to happiness.

    Other people can be more driven, but it doesn't mean that they're better!


  4. I loved your honesty, first of all and I love that you talked about it in such a mature and practical way. This isn't usually talked about much and I'm glad you did talk about how sometimes medicine isn't that glorious profession we've all been hearing about and how it's going to be all rainbows and blue skies. It's not, most of the time it isn't and the way you said that there's different aspects a person can employ medicine in to was such a great outlook. There are people I know in med school that say from basically day one that they know exactly what speciality to go for and exactly how to get there and those people, more and more often are the ones who make me panic and think what have I gotten myself in to? I personally chose to be a doctor, somewhat against what at least one of my parents wanted for me so sometimes I feel as though I can't quit now because of it but the truth is sometimes I think I just lose my footing. I find so many things interesting in medicine but I too wonder if I'll ever be a good doctor because my grades aren't super and osce scores are just alright. I think there just comes a time in most med school students lives where we feel this directionless pull and don't know what to do with it. But you'll get there, whatever it is you are meant to do will find itself one way or another in the things you do sooner or later and I think you'll be amazing at whatever that is it turns out to be.

  5. By the sounds you have it all figured out, you have got thus far, carry on and take what you want and can out of your degree, there are so many channels you can follow once you have that MD after your name!!

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