Post-its from the Wards:
Anatomy lab all afternoon – and sometimes late into the night. Cutting class to get that precious last hour of study time in. Peds Surgery rounds at 5:30 AM. Night call on Medicine. Parties to celebrate the first round of exams, the last round of exams, and everything in-between. There’s something that binds medical students together, a shared set of experiences that sets us apart from the rest of the world. It’s the trial by fire that makes us who we are. That shared experience extends beyond IUSoM to other medical students around the country – and around the world. They may not have a giant pillar of glass balls in the atrium of the Medical Science building, but they have stories and troubles that mirror our own.
A handful of students – Adora, a second-year MD/PhD student at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine; Jennifer, a first-year at McGill University in Montreal; Zoe, a second-year in Dundee, Scotland; and JH, a third-year who spent his first two years at Saba University in the Caribbean – took some time off of studying to talk about their experiences in medical school. Some of the stories they shared could have come straight out of the study rooms here at IU…or off of the dissecting tables.
Most of the schools are four-year programs, except for Zoe’s (5 years). Most of them are composed of two years of basic science class work and two years of clinical clerkships – something everyone seems to have in common; required rotations like Peds, OB/Gyn, Surgery, and Medicine are standard across the board. To Zoe, JH, and Adora, the IU format for the first two years would sound quite familiar as well, with the very basic sciences first and classes like path and pharm mingled with basic clinical practice skills in the second year. For Jennifer, classes in the first year are split into units for a system-based approach – with anatomy, histology, physiology, embryology and biochemistry all mixed together – and the second semester of second year begins full-time hospital rotations. Her fourth year is half clinical and half composed of classes in ethics, law, and medicine, as well as some “refreshers”. Zoe’s school mixes pathology with clinical skills in second and third year, extending their placements into a fifth year.
Once the studying for exams is over, every medical student needs a chance to relax. Intramural sports and horsing around are popular no matter where one goes to school, and the post-exam party is on everyone’s list of scheduled events. The Medical Student Association at Adora’s school chips in money for buses for a pub crawl after the first round of exams, while Zoe’s Student Council organizes plenty of “social/drinking events”. On Saba, there were no malls, no movie theaters, and no beaches – so JH went diving on some of his semester breaks.
In between breaks and regardless of their class and clerkship arrangement, however, every student takes Gross Anatomy in the first year. That defining experience of anatomy lab is a common bond between us all – and a source of stories that nobody else seems to understand the humor in. JH: “We were discussing the uterus at one of the cadavers, and everyone knew it was the uterus…yet one girl…asked, ‘Is that where the penis goes?’” Adora: “One girl found penile implants and shrieked so loudly one could hear her two hallways over.” Jennifer: “Someone flicked a piece of fat tissue into their mouth during dissection.” Zoe: “My classmate dropped the liver.” It’s moments like these that we’ll recall forever – the things that make us part of a greater whole.