Surviving Medicine

Posted: October 11, 2018 by gerardloh in Storyboard

This story is about surviving medicine.  Let’s see if you can survive reading this till the end.

It all begins with the first step. You decided to read medicine.

It’s not something simple like deciding which condiment to go with your nasi lemak – rendang beef or sambal sotong? No my friend, it has to be from within.

It’s a big step. You need to give up life as you imagined when you were young.
It’s not as simple as cough and cold, say a-a-a-a. It’s about hard work, lots of reading, burning the midnight oil, sleepless nights – yes everything you heard is true.

The first few years will be all about learning theory, lots of reading and memorizing.
You need to know the bones, the muscles, the veins, the nerves, the organs – the names there are so many of them! We also start cutting up the cadavers…the stench of formalin, the bodies in the morgue…some may not handle it.
And then you need to figure out the biochemistry, and biophysics, lots of drawing and math. If you are in a foreign country, you need to learn the language as well. Not only that, there’s sociology, hygiene, histology, Biology, MIRCObiology – all the parasites and life cycle and eggs; the bacterias, viruses and fungi.
Wait there’s more – pharmacology, all the drugs and their groups and thousand names!
We have modules and viva exams where you need to study countless topics (sometimes almost the whole book) and pour out answers to the lecturers. During the whole course we only had 2 major MCQ papers, the rest were oral viva exams. Countless one-on-one exams!

The next years, physiology, the normal bodily functions, pathophysiology the abnormal – diseases in adults, respiratory, cardiology, endocrinology, gastro, dermatology, orthopedics.. and oh wait for children too in pediatrics. And next, how to treat this and that disease. Then theres surgery, gynaecology, opthalmology, infectious diseases, children infectious diseases, pathological anatomy, nursing and my favourite forensic medicine – autopsies, we open up fresh corpses to study their organs… we learn the names of hundreds of instruments… (if you are still reading until this part – Bravo!)

Next, the clinical years – we start moving to hospitals. We talk to patients, we try to diagnose them, and figure out treatment plans. We learn xrays, ultrasounds, emergencies, delivering babies, surgeries… there will be some exams along the way too.

Finally comes the FINAL year. You will have to sit for exams, exams and exams. You will be asked everything, from year 1. You will be expected to apply your knowledge to interview, diagnose and treat patients.

And finally, you’ve graduated! It’s all over! I survived! I’m a doctor! YES! Let’s celebrate!

NO. It’s not over. In fact, it’s just the beginning. HOUSEMANSHIP comes next.

It’s real life. Yes, for real! Theory is over. Maybe even life is over as you know it.

For at least the next TWO years, your life is not yours. You dedicate it to medicine. You may miss your meals. You may not get enough sleep. You work at night when people are asleep. You will miss your friend’s wedding. You may even get belittled, shouted at, bullied, shamed in front of colleagues. You may even want to quit.

I graduated from Ukraine, a place looked-down upon due to many political reasons.
And I had to work harder. I had to proof them wrong. I spent time writing guides as a way to revise and better myself. Eventually, house officers guide was born, to help all of you survive this a little easier.  But remember this – nobody graduates and knows everything about medicine. You all start from scratch and are all equal.

So grab a book and start reading, that’s all medicine is about.

If you didn’t manage to finish this article, perhaps medicine just isn’t for you.
Please remember and do not give up halfway. You have been warned.

I’m a survivor.


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