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There’s nothing at all like holding another person’s brain in the palm of your hands. As I stood there looking over a mostly-empty dissection table, the stark contrast was real. On the table, nearly nothing. In the palm of my hands, my donor’s brain. Immediately I thought “every thought, pain, joy, love, hate, worry, wonder and delight was processed through this rather weighty organ.” It was the first time I held a brain in my hands. It may be the last. This is one of the most unique experiences in medical school. If you pause for a moment, all of the richness of that encounter is there for you. But don’t pause for too long. There is an awful lot of material to know for CNS unit, and I was relieved to be joined at the table by my late-coming lab mates, who greeted me with a look a puzzled awe, masked disgust and intellectual wonder. What a thing it is to explore the human body. What a shame we can’t pause for longer and simply reflect. We had just that kind of moment earlier that very day in our small groups. The topic, medical student depression.

We discussed an article published a few years ago that looked at the ideas of University of Michigan Medical School students in regard to depression, its stigma and complications. This lead to a bit of venting for some students, who expressed their dismay at the perceived lack of resources for mental health for medical students, and the lack of emphasis on the matter. The fact is that there is empathy and understanding abound, and UMMS provides a variety of ways to engage with mental health as a student. However, the criticism is real; mental health and wellness as an integrated issue within the confines of medical education across the country – from medical school through residency and beyond – has a long, long way to go. The irony that many of us get sick just in the process of learning to get others well was salient that morning during our discussion. At least it is a talk being had. And just as this heaviness descended over my experience at medical school, with my mind absorbed with how the CNS actually works and all this talk of medical student depression, the Smoker happened. And did it ever.

For the uninitiated, the Smoker is the med school’s annual satirical romp through the various inside jokes of life here at Michigan med school. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen. The sheer release of laughing with hundreds of other students and members of our school’s community was a wonderful feeling. I couldn’t believe I didn’t participate in the show. My classmates were so talented and funny. I brought my parents with me to the event and despite some incredible on-stage irreverence, we all had a really great time. There is no recording of the show, but here is a Serial Podcast spoof that was produced to hype the show. UMMS Serial Podcast Spoof – Get ready for the Smoker

Let me allow you in on one of the many little jokes on stage at the smoker. We have one particular professor, Dr. Owens, who is very popular amongst students. That being said, he tells these wonderful little stories during lectures about boating on the lakes around Michigan. During the Smoker, a classmate dressed up as a sailor. It was a nice little touch. In the spirit of Dr. Owens, here is some random material to break up this blog posting. Traveling Wilburys – End of the Line.

A new week starts tomorrow for UMMS M1s. We continue CNS. Lots and lots of spinal tracts. It’ll be nice to see the classmates from the stage and congratulate them on their incredible performances. Nithin even shaved his head so he could portray a bald man. One day I’ll be a bald man, so I appreciate the solidarity. I’ll take it as a personal “do your thing” for those among us who are headed down the hall of hairlessness.