Sunday, September 2, 2012

First Exam

At the risk of self-categorization, I acknowledge that there is a medical student stereotype. Medical students are the ones who visit their undergraduate professors to argue for two points on their 150-point chemistry exams. We can be "smart-and-we-know-it" types, who take some pleasure in showing how much we know, especially if it means contradicting someone who got it wrong. We tend to be passionate, type-A, driven people who sincerely desire to help others but want to do so with the prestige of the MD title. After all, it takes a certain high level of self esteem (and masochism, for that matter) to commit to 8-12 years of time-intense post-graduate education and the hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loans that accompany it.

We medical students tend to be those who were near the top of the class in high school and undergraduate education. It isn't easy to be in a program where an immense quantity of information is thrown at us without the hope that we will be able to retain everything. That became especially apparent this week as we prepare for our first exam. On Friday, a professor explained what the exam would look like, and slightly panicked students began firing questions about what they could do to maximize their scores, including pre-arguments for questions they anticipated getting wrong: "What if I answered it this way?" "But I thought that teres minor was fed by the posterior circumflex humeral artery."

I have to admit that I am one of those with a bit of anxiety about how well I will do on the test. This is the first memorization-heavy class I have had in six years - my music classes in undergrad and administration courses in the MHA program I completed tended to be read-and-analyze rather than memorize-and-regurgitate classes. As a result, I think my memorization muscles have atrophied. Information just doesn't seem to be sticking - for the life of me I can't remember which of the erector spinae muscles attach to the costal angles as opposed to the rib bodies, or which of the bundles leaving the brachial plexus is the axillary nerve:

I take comfort, though, in the grading system at the school: fail, pass, and honors. A passing grade is anything above 70%; honors, a pleasant but rather meaningless designation, is anything above 90%. It might take a little adjustment, but I think that I can be content with a just-above-passing grade.

The first exam (clinical anatomy of the back and extremities) is on Wednesday. It has two parts - a written portion and a practical portion in the anatomy lab, where we will be identifying structures on dissected cadavers. Two more study days...

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