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Hello again everyone! We completed our first sequence, Patients and Populations, last week and began the next one, Cells and Tissues. It became very obvious to all of us that the material has been kicked up a notch – although the first week’s lecture content is mostly review from the required undergrad biochem class we all took — I think we covered the high points of ~½ the semester’s material in one week. And, yes, we still had to memorize the amino acids. Darn.

This past week marked our entrance into the medical profession in a true trial-by-fire:  the anatomy lab (and histology lab too, but people usually don’t feel queasy/apprehensive about viewing pretty pictures of cells…).

At Michigan, students are divided into groups of eight, which are further split into Team 1 and Team 2, each containing four students. Each group is assigned a cadaver, and, because there is not enough room for all eight members to dissect at once, the two teams alternate as to whom will complete the dissection. At the end of a day’s work, the other team arrives (after being texted/facebook-messaged/tweeted/called/emailed/carrier-pigeoned?) and is shown the structures the dissecting team has unearthed that day.

The Michigan Difference: the formaldehyde (a carcinogen that has been used for decades to preserve specimens) is completely neutralized during the preservation phase, so the anatomy lab does not smell quite so bad (there is still a distinctive odor, but you get used to it…).

I am  eager to use all of the anatomy resources Michigan has to offer – during interview season, several medical students at other universities said “Oh, you’re from Michigan? We use your anatomy website to study.” Now I get to see what the hype is about for myself. We will be studying anatomy for the next eight months so at least I know there will be plenty of resources to help me learn, well, everything.

For the MSTP students, most of us will also be adding an extra class, Biochem 552. Only students who are pursuing a PhD in one of the basic science departments are required to take this course, which will count for our Rackham (graduate school) credits. This Journal Club-style course is designed to improve our existing critical-thinking and presentation skills and takes place Monday-Wednesday-Friday 8-9am. We are all, of course, overjoyed by the early start time.

In addition to classes kicking it up a notch, extra-curricular activities are becoming more scheduled as well. A few weeks ago we had the Student Activities Fair to introduce the first years to the plethora of options. Many of us, still in our deluded Patients & Populations mind, signed up for multiple groups, which are now spamming our inboxes and starting to consume more time. As life is only going to become crazier, we may all find ourselves slightly over-booked, shall we say. But, at the end of it, we should have amazing time-management skills. Right?

I feel silly complaining about the work I have to do when we see the second years starting lecture before us and ending far later after us each day. In addition to serving as a testament that we will all survive this week/sequence/year, they remind us that things will only get worse. A very comforting thought, I assure you.

But things also were put into perspective at the end of last week as the medical school interview season began. Hordes of pre-medical hopefuls walked by in their black suits as we schlepped out of the lecture hall in our jeans and t-shirts. My first thought was relief to not have to be in that horde anymore (at least until residency interviews come around in about eight years). It is weird, though, to think that it has been a year since I was in that line and was so uncertain about my future. The interview process was a daunting obstacle, but I learned a lot about myself in the process. Good luck, future Wolverines!