Friday, December 18, 2009

It's over! Let it begin!

I've been studying 12h a day for three months. No listening to music in the car, only audio reviews. There are post-its all over my apartment: the brachial plexus on the bathroom mirror, the Circle of Willis above the toilet paper, and the basal ganglia next to the coffee maker. I have a whiteboard covered with ridiculous mnemonics for memorizing inane but testable details. I ended up making 6800 virtual flashcards at last count - far too many to use for their ostensible purpose, of course, but the act of making them was valuable in and of itself. I subsisted largely on coffee and chocolate, occasionally defrosting treasures from my mother's kitchen.

The United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 is a big deal: 6h of trick multiple choice questions determine more than any other measure whether or not one gets interviewed at a residency program. Doing well means a much greater chance at getting to go somewhere I want to go for residency, and doing something that I want to do; doing poorly means that I could conceivably just get put somewhere, to become a kind of doctor I didn't really want to be. This exam has been intimidating me for over three and a half years now, and I am overjoyed at being healthy enough to have taken it on. I won't know for six weeks how well I did, but for the moment, it doesn't matter: it's over!

And now the real work begins! If the experience of my friends is to be believed, starting in January I get to pay $50k a year for the chance to be scolded for being inefficient, dangerous, and in the way. The next three years (at least) will largely be spent in sleep deficit. It will also be a period of relative social isolation. Most of the people I used to know in LA have graduated and left town. I will be on rotations with a small subset of an already small and isolated social network, and everybody is going to be stressed out in the exact same way, with nothing else to talk about. For the past few years, I've been the center of an incredibly deep and wide spring of love and support, and I have gotten used to being told by everyone around me how great I am. This coming period will be a test of my ability to maintain motivation and self-respect without the constant pats on the back that I have become so used to.

I spent today walking around the hospital with one of the Medical Student Educators, getting an orientation to clinical rotations. I have to say that despite the above, I'm pretty excited about all of this. Even though I am more dangerous now than I ever have been or ever will be, my badge opens doors with big scary signs reading "Authorized Personnel Only", I get waved to the side and told to walk around instead of through the metal detector, and I get handed tiny babies straight out of the oven. These are but insignificant indications of the humbling amount of responsibility and trust that is being placed in me. However painful the process, I realize that I am about to get an incredibly valuable education.


Amber said...

Congrats! I am so proud and excited for you. Well done, Josh.

drewsko said...

welcome to the fraternity! i don't know if this was covered in your studying, but babies don't actually come from an oven...