AUGUST 29, 2007
My brain feels like it has been in a hot dog eating contest.
Now bear with my analogy. Hot dogs are like medical knowledge. I love hot dogs (as I love medicine). If I am feeling particularly adventurous at a bbq, I might polish off 4 or 5 hot dogs in an afternoon. But after I am full, hot dogs aren't as fun anymore. The winner of this year's competitive hot dog eating contest ate 66 hot dogs. It goes without saying, this is not an enjoyable experience, regards of how much you love hot dogs.
Med school is like a daily competitive eating contest and my brain is feeling like it was just forced to compete in said competition and had to wolf down 66 medical-knowledge hot dogs. Just when your brain thinks its full, that you can't POSSIBLY study more or retain more information, you simply force yourself to. It goes without saying, this takes a lot of the fun out of hot dogs (or medicine).
So what keeps people eating those hot dogs, pushing past levels of discomfort or pain? It could be competitive desire, to be the very best hot dog eater in the world. It could be personal motivation to prove the human body is capable of much more than one could ever expect. It could be that someone just really, really loves hot dogs, though I am sure this is certainly a diagnosable bizarre and rare psychological condition.
Similar things motivate med school students. Eventually, studying medicine is like eating too many hot dogs. No matter how much you love medicine, eventually you go into information overload and learning it isn't fun anymore (just as eating too many hot dogs makes you feel sick). So what forces us to keep studying, as fatigued as we are and as sick as we feel?
Competitive Desire. Nearly everyone gets into medical school because they are competitive. These are the people who take personal offense to a B, scoff at a C, and only like A's if they don't have a - next to them. These are the people who enjoy setting the curve. I admit I am somewhat competitive, especially self-competitive, because I certainly enjoy the feeling of being the best at something. The feeling of success is like an endorphin shot for me. It's only natural.
To Be The Best. Almost everyone goes to medical school because they want to help people. No one is naive enough to not acknowledge that the special privileges and the gifts of healing that doctors are afforded are largely afforded due to their extensive knowledge on medicine. And yes, it is easier to hit the books with a little voice in the back of your head telling you that one day, someone's life might be saved by the extra effort you put in now.
However, there is one predominant motivator to always study more.
Success in medical school is almost always correlated to time invested in studying. No one gets through medical school by simply being smart. But its a lot like treading water. Hours spent studying doesn't let you fly, it simply lets you keep your head above water. Slack off a little and all of a second you're breathing water. Considering medical school is a VERY expensive endeavor (I will be $200,000 in debt by the end), failure is simply not an option.
So we study.
Now I should note, just like the competitive eater, there is a training process and your body adapts to the rigors you put it through. In a couple months, the continual studying will not seem nearly as exhausting. Just as a competitive eater's stomach becomes more elastic and can distend to much larger sizes, my brain will become able to retain increasing quantities of information with more comfort. It's a lot like training for a marathon. Right now I just finished my first week of training. My body is sore, I'm tired, I don't think I'll ever be able to run 26 miles. But with time and effort, you can mold yourself into a marathon rider. I'm molding myself into a medical student.
It's also worth noting that no matter how many hot dogs I am forced to eat... I still like hot dogs. All the studying sucks, but the good thing is it doesn't make me love medicine less. It's a weird feeling, loving medicine and sometimes loathing it, but its a feeling that all in the medical field experience.
Some other things of note that have happened lately:
I got my faculty advisor/mentor... and he's a pediatric cardiac surgeon (one of only TWO at my school). Booya! I met him today and I have a feeling this is going to be a great experience. He's young (38), and was a straight-from-college med student as well. When I told him of my interest in congenital heart surgery, his first reaction was "well lets get you into the OR!" He also helped dispel a lot of stereotypes about pediatric cardiac surgery. While he's on call every other night, he hardly ever has to come into the hospital. He has a healthy marriage and a 4 month old baby. He doesn't seem worn out. It's was a very positive experience overall. And I'm sure I'll flip at my first chance to see a Norwood procedure or Fontan procedure.
I also got my first preceptorship assignment. I get to work with an orthopaedic trauma surgeon. I'm glad I got to start on a surgery rotation and I'm sure there will be some crazy things I get to see.
All in all, things are starting to fall into place. I'm beginning to run out of hours in a day, but I guess above all, I just need to keep eating those hot dogs.