Leanna, Fourth Year Medical Student

Being a med student.

For almost the past four years, that is how I have lived my life. The idiosyncrancies that come with that are still too numerous to count.

Peculiar situation #1: Attendicitis

Unfortunately, attendicitis is a very common, frustrating condition; most patients have it to some extent. It manifests by a patient describing his or her complaint to a student. Student then goes to attending/senior resident and presents the story. Student and attending physician make their way back to patient. Attending asks patient the same questions to clarify the details and gets AN UTTERLY OPPOSITE STORY. This of course makes the student look like a dumb, incompetent cow.

Phase 1: Attendicitis Prodrome

Me: Mr. Patient, this stomach pain, tell me a little more about it.

Mr. Patient: Like, a month ago or so. Just outta nowhere. It’s kinda all over, mostly in the middle I guess. Doesn’t hurt when I eat, thankfully. Just a generalized dull pain that comes and goes.

Me: Any associated symptoms? Nausea, vomiting, weight loss, change in your bowel movements?

Mr. Patient: Nope, I’m super healthy.

I walk out of the room and tell the details of the story to the attending. And we walk back into the patient’s room together.

Phase 2: Full-blown stage IV attendicitis

Attending: So Mr. Patient, I hear you’ve been having some stomach pain?

Mr. Patient: Yeah doc, it started about two months ago – hurts so bad I can’t even eat! I’ve lost 25lb without even trying, and I’ve been having horrible diarrhea! It’s a severe, sharp pain – here, I can point to exactly where it is. Help me doc!

Me, in the corner, wide-eyed, in a state of incredulous brooding: THE LORD IS TESTING ME.

Peculiar Situation #2: Residency Interviews

This first half of fourth year has been relaxing by most medical school standards, yet still fairly stressful as my classmates and I are applying to residency programs, at which we will spend at minimum the next three years of our lives, if not up to ten years or so.

The neat thing about applying to residencies is that it is no longer a one-way street in the sense that applying to medical school was. 99% of med school applications consisted of me trying to sell myself to the school in hopes that they would accept me. Regarding residency applications, I am now only doing that about 98%.

There are a few tips I have picked up along the interview trail.

1. Have a low threshold for laughing when your tour guide tells a joke.

Most interview sessions will include a tour led by a current resident of that institution. They’ll often try to joke with you and make small talk, and it is your job as an applicant to help them feel important and laugh at all the mildly funny things they say. However, do not neglect to be discretionary as to what is an actual joke and what is not.

Good example:
Resident tour guide: Why did the chicken cross the road? To prove to the possum that it could be done! Haha!

Medical students: Haha! Teehee! You’re so funny!

Bad example:
Resident tour guide: I once trained and ran a marathon for a cancer charity and –

Medical students: HAHAHAHA!

2. Find something individually impressive about yourself

Understandably, many of the higher, most competitive institutions attract the most intense and decorated medical students to their interviews. Sometimes, while everyone is sitting around a large table, a resident will ask all these intense and decorated medical students to “say a little neat fact about yourself.” My concept of neat little facts are things along the lines of “I kissed a real dolphin at Sea World last summer” or “I won Illinois’s pie eating contest four years in a row.” In reality, not so. Instead, this is simply an excuse for each of these students to rattle off their, ahem, humble accomplishments. For those of us without such bizarrely impressive achievements, it is sheer awkwardness. Try to have something, anything, to set yourself apart from the other applicants when these situations occur.

Student #1: I had a bit of free time during second year, so I was an ambassador from my state to Central Africa and helped to set up a new system of water purification. It decreased the child death rate by 85%. I am ashamed it did not decrease it more.

Student #2: I played for the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball team in college. Now I’m no longer that athletic, but I biked from Shanghai to Madrid over the summer while studying for Step 2.

Student #3: I was first author of seven different oncology papers this past year. Unfortunately, I was the second author on the eighth and ninth.

Student #4: I actually have a PhD in particle physics from MIT, but it wasn’t a satisfying career for me, so I went to Harvard Medical School instead.

Me: I, uh, I’m really good at parallel parking and I housetrained my rabbit last month.

Peculiar situation #3: The decomposition of the English language

Despite being homeschooled, I think I turned out fairly well. One neat thing about being homeschooled is that for some odd reason the vast majority of homeschoolers graduate high school with inordinately exceptional grammar and English skills.

Unfortunately, my time in medical school has not been good for these aforementioned skills (perhaps I overestimated them to begin with). I think we had to write one, maybe two papers in first year, and a paragraph about Patch Adams during second year. I wrote on the pathophysiology of liver disease during third year which was pretty much on the scale of The Iliad. As a fourth year the extent of my writing is in the fairly-sappy-yet-honest thank you notes I’ve written to residency programs at which I’ve interviewed.

Frankly, NO one cares about my grammar or English right now, which gives me a great excuse to mash out letters and words that to a normal human seem barely readable. Also, respectable writing takes like 584 times longer to type/text, so that is another reason it has fallen by the wayside not just among medical students but even more so among the Powerful Residents and Almighty Most Intelligent Attendings.

Example #1

Normal person version:
Can you check the vitals for the patient in bed 4B? The nurse forgot to give his beta-blocker dose. Thank you.

Homeschooled version:
Would you be amenable as to attend to the vitals for the patient in bed 4B? The diligent nursing staff has been so engaged in their duties that they inadvertently neglected to administer the patient’s beta-blocker, which is a great misfortune . Much obliged!

Medical version:
Can u chk vits on bed 4b,, forgot to give BBlokcer .TY

Example #2

Normal person version:
I think that this patient needs to be admitted to the surgery team. It looks like he has a bowel obstruction.

Homeschooled version:
I postulate that the care of this individual shall be relinquished to the surgeons in order to provide the most optimal treatment for the emergent management of this patient’s most impressive abdominal pathology. Shall we proceed now to the next patient? (best when read with an fake English accent)

Medical version:
page surrgery/

To celebrate being a fourth year, I got married. Here is a picture of me (the one with the white dress, in case you were unsure) and my med school compatriots. Solid gold proof that you can have a social life in medical school. My husband is not in medical school so I think that counts for even more points.


One thought on “Peculiarities

  1. They are, indeedly, peculiarities. By the way, I am more attracted to those who still stick to “respectable” writings inspite the odds. They are the real men. Wink.
    Well-written, Leanna. I enjoyed this.

Comments are closed.