Monday, January 4, 2010

Well, That Went Well

First day of classes for 2010, and yours truly thinks she did pretty well.

I made it to the first class on time, no matter how tempted I was to sleep in the cool sheets or how slow I was in getting ready. What previously took 5 minutes took me some 20 minutes this morning; blame it on holiday hangover or vacation inertia, but I probably just have to reset my routine or familiarize myself with the dorm again. I have to keep my resolution of arriving in class well before any official activity takes place, unlike those last few weeks of 2009 when I'd arrive harried-looking and wheezing with asthma to 7 AM quizzes or classes, much to my own dismay and discomfort. I can probably improve on getting a proper breakfast down, but I'm improving. Anyway, sleep totally beats (PWNs?) food for any MS3.

Listening to the lectures and trying (emphasis on trying) to participate in the group discussions made me realize how I've taken pharmacology and microbiology for granted, just because they belong to hazy memories of MS2.  I like that I remember most drugs and most microbes and that I am able to apply those information to the current things we discuss; it's just that the professors have this look that all the effort we exert is NOT GOOD ENOUGH.  They always remind us that everything we study is not compartmentalized and should not be forgotten, which is the truth, but they have the advantage of years of experience in the field, whereas we're these students who have to make space for every single topic of every single medical/surgical specialty.  I know it's not entirely good to cut us some slack because we're not trained to be complacent or forever classroom learners, it's just that maybe they can teach us in a way that doesn't make us seem like 1 GB flash drives trying to eat some 40 GB of data.  Is it just that my neurons have 'emptied the recycle bin' while I valiantly try 'system restore' on those precious shreds of memory?

The interesting thing that today brought was the wide range of substances that one can abuse or become dependent on.  There's a difference, according to Dr. V. Rosales (one of the best neuropsych lecturers of all time, we lesser mortals should bow down to our basal ganglia god, kthxbye), who kindly explained it in terms of 3 venti Starbucks brewed coffee from Colombia and whatever subject's been messing with our brains and grades lately.  We unknowingly abuse caffeine--down own and you're still drowsy, down two and you're a bit awake, down three and you're vomiting/fecally incontinent/miserable but awake.  That abuse doesn't translate to dependence, because we nerds have stricter criterion to see if anyone becomes truly dependent or has those horrible withdrawal symptoms that one friend inelegantly put as, "you know, sabog..."  Most of the drugs of abuse mess up the reward (dopamine) pathway of the brain, some inhibit the inhibitory pathways (hence, disinhibition on one's part, which is sadly a very bad excuse for drunk texting or emo posts on FB/tumblr), some make one so euphoric and anorexic (favored by artistas and mow-dels) and some wreak havoc on neurotransmitters that you start hallucinating like Alice in Wonderland who took special brownies with tea in the Mad Hatter's place.  Trivia of the day included that two bottles of beer can get you legally intoxicated, that 10% of alcohol ingested passes through the lungs and kidneys unchanged so reeking of alcohol really means you're truly drunk, that methamphetamine is rampantly abused in our country because the masses can only afford shabu (the conyo kids carouse with ecstasy, marijuana, or cocaine, and heroin is so darned expensive that only politicians, swindlers, or dictators can afford it), and that at any given area anyone can get a high from solvents but the long term trade off is brain atrophy and a low IQ.  Makes you kind of wonder whatever it was that our current leaders were or are on.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

No Vacations for the Next Ten Years?

The Christmas break went by far too quickly to my liking.  It was the last solid block of vacation junior medical students like myself will have for a very long time; April will see us starting our clinical clerkship (as senior medical students), followed by a year of internship, then board exams for physicians, some 2-3 years of residency, and many more years of specialization or sub-specialization if one desires.  (If I'd be able to fit in getting married and starting my own family in between those very hectic years, I'd stop getting lines on my forehead or spending sleepless nights wondering if my eggs are staging an uprising in my ovaries.)  Now clerkship/internship/residency/fellowship does not make any allowances for public holidays, weekends, or class suspensions--what matters only is if you're on duty or not.  I'm quite excited by the prospect of actually working with the patients 24/7, kinesthetic learner that I am, although I think the novelty will wear off quite quickly as soon as (1) a patient's bodily fluids/excreta/vomitus decorate my uniform and make me less pleasing in an olfactory sense, (2) a superior piles work on me and screams at me just because I'm the bottom feeder in the hospital food chain, (3) I'm running on adrenaline and no sleep while helping out on a code blue and the patient's family members are emotional wrecks in the way, (4) I miss out on very important family reunions or rare outings with the barkada, (5) whatever other scenario involving me trying to help treat the patient and learn at the same time, while trying to maintain some shreds of sanity and an acceptable physical appearance.

Junior year already has shown how precious little time we have to ourselves, and I wonder if I'd have the same luxury of stolen moments of just vegging out or engaging in my little but very important hobbies in the next few years.  (Vegging out just feels more delicious after long hours of working until one's neurons voluntarily commit suicide to force one to rest, non?)  I'm still confused as to how I'd balance everything that has already been part of my life prior to medical school with my professional aspirations, personal goals, and increasing workload and responsibilities.  Granted, I'm not the type of person who demands everything in the future to go exactly as planned, but I do have some sense of urgency and of wanting to know how everything might go and what I might do about those things so I'll be sure I'm still on course.  A concrete five-year plan sounds nice but quite frustrating if I'd have limited choices and chances; I'm not too pleased with the idea of having no plan at all, either.  How do I choose what's right for me and what was meant for me?  And how am I going to function without a proper vacation in the next ten years?