And the Winner Is....

Friday, August 15, 2014

Looks like you all want to hear about med school! Also, I'm kind of impressed that 30 of you actually answered my poll, so thanks for that! And don't worry, I'll be filling in the details of the wedding and moving as well, but all in good time, my friends, all in good time.

So, med school. The night before my white coat ceremony, I definitely was excited/nervous, although I wasn't really sure why because nothing really happens at your white coat ceremony (other than getting a white coat, of course). No one asks you to do anything difficult and they spend most of the day telling you how awesome you are and how wonderful it is that you're going to be a physician. We had to be at school 8:30 for some stupid reason, and I was tired. However, I think I managed to look like a human being:

Once we got there, it was pretty much organized chaos and a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. Eventually, we started the whole ceremony and after much speechifying by various Deans, class presidents, and the guy who is currently heading up the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (barf, boards...) we got our coats! I was pretty excited because I was "coated" by one of our OMM (Osteopathic Medical Manipulation) professors, who also happened to be the doctor who diagnosed and treated my herniated discs, essentially giving me my life back. She's awesome.

Pretend that I'm blurry because of the excitement and not because I can't hold a phone, kay?
After the coats, there was more chaos and we escaped outside to take some photos and then left to get lunch.

And then the real fun started. Okay, no, not really. Then it was orientation, which is about the most boring and hellacious thing I can imagine. When I started at NSU, it was 5 FULL days of stupid, so at least this was only 3 full days of stupid. It was, as all orientations seem to be, full of people talking at us about how important their particular role at the university was to our well-being. (Spoiler alert: Not actually important.) We also learned that, shocking no one, academic technology departments are inept everywhere. We were all supposed to have our exam taking software loaded onto our school-issued laptops, which of course didn't happen, and the interactive ResponseWare app that we're supposed to be able to use for answering questions in class/taking attendance was also non-functional for many people. Oh, and they managed to mess up all of our email addresses, so there was that. 

I did get to meet some people, which was fun, and I got to meet my "big", as all incoming first years are assigned a second year "big brother or big sister" for the year. This happened on Tuesday, and within minutes of meeting my big, we were shuffled off to a house party in his car, which led to me drinking Reisling out of a purple Solo cup before noon.

Huh, I just realized that the cup matches the walls in this person's dining room. It was definitely overwhelming to be there, as there were approximately eleventy-billion people in the house and it was 937 degrees outside (and no, I never exaggerate, clearly.) I met more people though, ate pizza, and hey, no one was lecturing us about the importance of our alumni association or whatever, so it was a win-win situation, I think.

On the last day of orientation, we had a bunch of presentations (zzzzzz....), including one from the student wellness people. I am all for student wellness, given my last experience with med school, but this slide made me laugh.

I'm sorry, isn't that... all med students? Didn't we all get here by exhibiting most of, if not all of those traits at one time or another? And really, excluding the "suppression of feelings" (because we all know that I have a lot of feelings), those traits describe my personality pretty well. (See also: Why Alison is in therapy.)

Anyway, that was orientation, and having being oriented x3 (ha, medical puns are funny), we all went on our merry ways. There were a bunch of orientation events that I didn't go to, mainly because they involved bars and/or bowling, and I don't like trying to get to know people who are in various states of intoxication or when I'm making a fool of myself trying (and failing, miserably, might I add) to bowl. I'm sure it would have been nice to meet more people, but at the same time, I was already on overload from having to be around so many people for 8 hours a day for three days that I needed a break. 

Fast forward through Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning, and here we are, ready to start med school for real! We got home from North Carolina on Sunday (more on that trip later, I promise!) and I spent the rest of the day running errands and picking up school supplies. I had some trouble sleeping on Sunday night, although I think that had more to do with the fact that I somehow managed to get pericarditis and pleuritis at the end of the prior week, so lying down was uncomfortable. (Thanks, autoimmune disease. You're awesome. Not.)

And so, on Monday at 12:30, I walked into the lecture hall where I'll be spending half of my natural life and started med school at 1 pm. First up was biochem, which is... a trip. The professor is Chinese and seems very nice, but I am definitely having flashbacks to my Public Health Epidemiology class with Dr. Liu, where I spent 90% of the time wondering what the hell the poor man was trying to tell me. I was sure that it was important, I just had no idea what it was. THEN I had flashbacks to one of our anatomy professors at Nova, who may have actually been speaking Chinese while lecturing us about the pelvis. (Sidenote: The pelvis is a disaster. I am not looking forward to that mess again. Ugh.)

After 2 hours of biochem, we moved on to two hours of histology, which if you're not familiar with it, is the study of tissues. This is now the third time I've taken histology, and thank God cells and tissues don't change very much because all of this is familiar. The biochem is familiar too, but I am much less certain about all of that material and it's way less clinical, so I find it rather boring. Histology wasn't always a favorite of mine, but I've been fortunate to have 2 great professors, and I think this one is also going to be wonderful. Everyone else seemed to be freaking out about it, and rightfully so, because yes, everything does look the same under the microscope at first. It gets better... although I definitely will need to brush up on my reproductive system histology because the last time I took that was a disaster. (Uteruses and ovaries, man... always messing things up for people.)

After class, which on Mondays is only from 1-5, I got a massage and I think I may have fallen asleep on the table. Whoops.

Tuesdays seem to be our long days. We started at 8 with two hours of physio, followed by an hour of biochem, and then a 2 hour break before settling in for what was supposed to be four hours of OMM. 


In case you are unfamiliar with OMM, let's do a Reader's Digest Condensed Version of that. 

OMM is awesome. The end.

Okay, not that condensed. So, OMM, or Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (AKA: OMT, or Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment) is a special set of techniques that DOs learn, on top of learning all of the "regular" med school stuff. If you've seen a physical therapist or chiropractor, you may have experienced similar therapeutic techniques that manipulate the bones and muscles to restore optimal function. Yes, part of this is "cracking" or high-velocity, low-amplitude (HVLA) but it is so much more than that. It's a hands-on diagnostic tool, and it can provide a lot of relief to people who are suffering from back or joint pain, as well as many other issues. Is it going to cure everything? No, and plenty of DOs don't use it in their practices at all. And yes, DOs still use medication, surgery, and other "traditional" medical techniques, but OMM is just an added bonus. When I started learning OMM, I was fascinated by it, and I think it's really fun. Also, if you can fix someone's back or neck pain, they'll probably love you forever, so that's a bonus for sure. I always recommend that people see a DO who practices OMM over a chiropractor, but that's just my personal preference. I'm sure there are plenty of non-crazy chiropractors out there who won't try and cure your allergies with HVLA or color therapy, but... yeah. ANYWAY... 

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

Our four hours of OMM ended about 90 minutes early (thank the Lord) so I headed to a therapy appointment where I brain-vomited all over my therapist and then had dinner with Patricia. That was Tuesday.

Wednesday, we only had genetics from 10-12, which was lovely. The professor was a bit boring and tended to just read off of his slides, but I find genetics to be interesting all by itself, so I don't really need someone to entertain me while they're lecturing. I felt pretty good about the genetics stuff, not only because it's easier to begin with, but because working at CHOP for the last two years and sharing my office with Kristin, genetic counselor extraordinaire, taught me a lot about rare and interesting genetic diseases and their treatment. (I also laughed to myself because I reminded of the time that Kristin was learning to use new pedigree-making software on her iPad and she accidentally "killed" some people in the pedigree, and then consanguineously married two others. Whoops.)

Today was another afternoon of lectures; this time, physio and histology. I had intended to go to the DMV this morning to renew my license, but I got there and realized that I didn't have proof of my new address, so I have to go back on Monday. Sigh. Tomorrow, we have class from 9-12 and then we're free! Free to go and... study. 

So how am I feeling? I thought you'd never ask.

I'm tired, and it's only been 4 days. I haven't been sleeping well, but that is getting better (I think). I haven't found "my people" yet, and I miss Constance and Michelle, who were really the only good parts of med school the last time I did this. I feel like everyone is bonding about freaking out about med school, and I'm standing over here going, "Hey, it's not that bad yet. Wait until the fun really starts." I am trying not to come off as a condescending crazy person, because really, I don't know much more than anyone else about how med school is supposed to work. Just because I (barely) finished a semester once before doesn't make me an expert... but I guess I do know a little bit more about what to expect. 

So far, the material isn't making me want to shoot myself, which is a change from the last time I did this. I think that's largely because we haven't started anatomy or microbiology yet. Biochem is going to be the hardest course for me, I think. Histology shouldn't be too bad; it's just a LOT to memorize, and physio is tricky, but it's also my favorite of the subjects we're learning. We're only 3 days in and people are already studying the stuff we've done thus far, which is a good sign. There are some people who are already totally losing their minds, and I want to just hug them and make them tea and tell them that it will be okay. Or really, that they better figure out a way to make it okay, or they're going to be walking into traffic on Route 30 before Thanksgiving.

I'm also afraid. I'm afraid that even though things feel okay now, that they won't feel okay tomorrow or in a week or in a month. That one morning, I'll wake up and not know what is going on or how I got here, and that I'll start to feel the horrible creep of depression edge its way into my brain. I feel it now, every now and again. The sleep troubles, the appetite problems, the sheer feeling of being overwhelmed by being upright.. it's uneasy and I don't like it. I'm afraid I won't find "my people" and that I'll go through this alone. At the same time, I kind of wish I could just do it by myself, because sometimes, other people stress me out more, and we all know that is the absolute last thing that I need. 

I feel like I can do well here, but I felt like I could do well at NSU, and look what happened. I am going into this telling myself that I just need to pass, but I know that I need to do better than that, especially since the powers that be are predicting that 2 years before we graduate, there will be more graduates than residency spots which... is bad.


I am trying to focus on what is directly in front of me. I can't freak out about potential residency issues before I've even finished my first week of my first year. I mean, I can... I am more than capable of doing that, but I need to not do that. I am trying to remember the things I've learned since the last time.

Do the best you can, and sometimes, the best is just passing.
They expect you to know it all, but there is simply no way. Accept this now.
Don't forget to eat and sleep.
Get up, dress up, show up, and never give up.
You're not the only one who doesn't get it. Go ask the professor.
No one knows what's going on, you're all winging it.
Insanity is inherent in this endeavor.

As one of our professors said this week:

"Most of medicine is not hard. Some things are, but most of it is not. It is the volume of information that is difficult. Nothing about this process is reasonable. This is medical school."

The entire time I was applying, I kept saying to Danna, "This entire thing just feels insane," and it was. And it still is.When I was freaking out before starting, Danna reminded me that I could not spend the entire first mile of the marathon going, "Oh my God, I'm running a marathon, this is the worst decision ever, this is horrible and stupid and insane." I responded that this is why I'd never run a marathon. Her reply? 

"Well, you're about to."

And she's right. This first week is a blip on the radar of my medical education, and it's going to be hard. And painful. And protracted. And exhausting. And insane. But one thing would be more insane than going to medical school, and that would be for me to not go to medical school. I'm afraid, but you can be afraid and you can do it anyway, right? Right.

I plan to do a weekly update about my med school journey, although I make no promises because med school is kind of a full time job (or three). If you have anything you'd like to hear about, let me know and I'll do my best to feature it. 

For now, it's back to the books for me. 

Here we go.

- A


  1. loved reading this post. I'm glad that some things are going well for you (like a repeat of histo, my least favorite subject) and the fact that you know how to handle yourself and what feels good for you. For micro - did you try using picmonic last time you took it? I LOVE IT, and it's the only way I can remember micro and pharm. May be worth trying out:)

    head up girlfriend - you got this :)

    1. I was thinking of trying Picmonic this year! I didn't get to micro the last time I did this, but I've played around with Picmonic a bit and it looks really good.

      And as always, thanks for the support. It means a lot. XO

  2. <3 you're going to rock it out this time! Stop waiting for the other shoe to drop and just ride the wave. (Wow, that comment was spoken entirely in cliche. It's clearly Friday.)

  3. I'm a new reader here, but I'm a pre-med going into my junior year, so I really enjoyed seeing what it's like to start med school. Best of luck! I'll be browsing through your archives for sure.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! If you have any questions about med school, applying, whatever... feel free to send them along! :)


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