Wow! It has been a while since I last posted. If there is one thing I know for sure about medical school, it’s that it makes time disappear. One day it’s August and you’re trying on your white coat for the first time and then BLINK it’s October and you’ve just finished examining your first standardized patient on your own and BLINK you’re finished with one semester of medical school and charging head first into your second.
As fast as it sometimes seems, med school is truly a marathon; there are miles and miles to cover every day and slowing down means risking falling terribly behind. Stopping isn’t an option. There are some downhills and many challenging uphills. The marathon of medical school is one of the hardest things I have ever attempted to do. But amongst the challenges, there are days when the path crests a hill. On those wonderful days something clicks; another piece in the huge jigsaw puzzle I am scrambling to assemble falls into place. On those days I can see the finish line in the distance.
A Thursday late last fall was one of those days. Every other Thursday I have ICE (the Initial Clinical Experience), the class in which we shadow different members of the healthcare team. On this particular Thursday, I was assigned to work with a dietician in the pediatric cystic fibrosis clinic. We had covered the molecular basis for CF (mutation in a chloride channel called CFTR) and its many clinical effects in lecture several weeks before, so I was able to have a meaningful conversation with the dietician about CF and her role in keeping her patients healthy. We were in the midst of our respiratory unit, so when I watched the respiratory therapist run pulmonary function tests I could follow what he was doing. And because I understood the disease process going on in each microscopic cell of the patients’ bodies, when I looked at all the cells put together and saw happy and healthy kids, laughing with their care providers and talking about their new soccer team or their favorite subjects at school, I understood the magnitude of difference science, knowledge, and compassion – the things I learn about every day – can make in a person’s life. I was reminded that we are trying to do is important and worth it. It will make a difference.
But “crest days” don’t happen quite often enough to keep things comfortable, and I’ve found that it is important to bridge the gaps by finding a bit of balance in every day – even if it is just making sure to go for a run, or squeezing out an hour for dance practice. I have never been a dancer, but when the call went out to participate in Biorhythms, the biannual medical student dance show, I signed up! Biorhythms is directed, choreographed, and performed by medical students, and is one of the most anticipated traditions each year. I joined the dance called Dandiya Raas, a traditional dance from Northern India. Once a week beginning in September we got together to practice, laugh and forget about med school. At long last, performance day arrived in mid-January and it was time to put on our amazing costumes and perform!
Our Raas performance went without a hitch – the audience loved it. I almost liked watching the other acts more than performing my own, because I was so impressed by my classmates’ performances, which included tango, Brazilian dance, hip-hop, jazz, and even med school-themed rap and a (PG13) finale called Mance. Biorhythms made for a wonderful evening! I am so glad I joined Raas because I learned an awesome, fast paced new dance, got to know some of the M2s, and got a weekly guaranteed study break.
Cheesy as it may be to say, as I start my second semester at UMMS I am finding my beat, both in class and out. Maybe even dancing to it!
Don’t miss the next Dose of Reality.
Kate is a third-year medical student at University of Michigan Medical School. She is passionate about women’s health, reproductive justice, and finding the humanities in medicine. When not in the hospital, you’ll probably find her running along the Huron River or puzzling over the NYTimes Sunday crossword.