What’s the REAL Reason We Chose Medical School?

 

I’m in an interesting phase lately: I was raised Jewish but I find myself going to Christian services and listening to Christian pastors on youtube like Steven Furtick and Craig Groeschel. Although I can’t really relate to the religious aspect of any religion, I’m drawn to the message of what comes through. And as Abraham Hicks has taught me, if it feels right then it is right.

After taking a year off from medical school, I’m continuing now with a new class. When I left last year, I was leaving an amazing support system — friends I felt really comfortable around.

And maybe my priorities have changed — maybe getting older is getting to my head — but I really prefer my own company, and occasionally, the deep conversation with a friend I knew from last year.

I’m definitely a lot more quiet, socially, than I once was. And yet, I feel so connected to my soul and to God/Source/Spirit — however you refer to the divine energy that is accessible within each of us. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been more reclusive — it’s like I’m trying not to lose myself in the physical world and retain my connection to a deeper knowing that there’s more to life than small talk.

I know that right now, I’m meant to stay hyperfocused on school and the medical clubs I’m part of. And one day, I will feel ready again to step outside of myself and share from a place of a solid foundation of knowledge — both academic knowledge AND mind/body/soul knowledge.

I’ve noticed throughout my life that we all go through these phases where we are the student and then phases where we are the teacher. Right now I’m meant to just listenTo just stay connected to the deeper reason of why I’m even IN medical school. You know?

That’s what I’m finding in these sermons right now–the connection to something of substance, to something real, to something that makes all the cells in my body respond. After all, that’s what the human experience is really about for me.

Perhaps the reason I’m sharing this is because–it’s like it’s popping out and in my face, shouting: “WHAT ARE WE ALL DOING HERE IN MEDICAL SCHOOL? GIVE ME THE REAL REASON YOU’RE IN MEDICAL SCHOOL.”

And then I look internally and I ask myself the same question: What’s the real reason I’m in medical school?

Is it really a higher calling I’m responding to?

Is it to satisfy society? My family? My parents? Is it to prove to the world that I am worthy, that I can be somebody? 

But no. That’s not what it is for me.

For me, medical school allows me to connect to something deeper than what I’ve been offered so far in life. It’s bringing back that awareness to what’s going on internally — on a physiological level, biochemical level, psychological level, and spiritual level.

And when I attend the Christian services and talk to Christian students here at my school — it’s like they know that they know that they KNOW that there is something deeper going on. And for them, they connect through Jesus. For me, I connect through God/divine energy. But we’re really talking about the same thing — connection to something more meaningful than what is being offered in our physical reality.

 

See, I try to avoid small talk in the moments when others need to avoid a silence they feel uncomfortable in. Usually in these moments, I try and make others laugh. There’s a deeper connection share through humor than a connection shared in forced conversation.

So what are we really in medicine for? What are we doing every day besides studying that’s giving us the credibility we need to be responsible for the lives of others? To lead others to a better quality of life?

‘Til next time,

-M

 

 

 

Baby Scientist

 

I was born with a condition that makes a good portion of my red blood cells spherical shaped. A normal red blood cell is biconcave shape. (This condition is called Hereditary Spherocytosis, for those of you who are interested. You can just say ‘H.S.’) These circular cells are flagged as “damaged” by my body and they get chewed up by my spleen and liver. Mostly my spleen. And then my bone marrow has to work overtime to make up for all these red blood cells that are being destroyed. (I feel super bad for my bone marrow. I know what it’s like to work long hours and have that be my life: I’m a medical student.)

 

Mostly what it means for me is that I’m generally anemic—which reflexively makes me tired just thinking about the word—but it also means when you pull down my lower eyelid (not that you would), you see yellow or white in an area that’s supposed to be pink. Medical students love to find this fact out about me, because they all stand around and look under my eyelid thinking it’s the coolest thing to have a patient-med-student in their class. Sometimes the whites of my eyes can look a little yellow. And my lips get blue quite easily, and people ask me if I’m cyanotic.

 

It also means I take 1 mg of folic acid, which has to be prescribed for me unless I want to swallow a bunch of pills every day from a drug-store’s lower-dosed folic acid bottle. I’m supposed to get fatigued a lot, on account of not having enough oxygen circulating around my body all the time. But usually, if I eat right and exercise and have a general feeling of wellbeing, my energy levels are great. (Oh, and coffee. Energy drinks used to help me but they taste like gasoline and I just can’t.)

 

When I was six, I was hospitalized because I needed a blood transfusion. Not much to report there; I’m labeled a “poor historian” in my medical charts, but it’s actually not my fault. For example, I only found out a few years ago (in my mid-20s) that I had seizures as a baby.

 

I’m child number four (out of five siblings), so I think by the time I came around, there was just too much noise to keep track of. I get it. Well, I do now, anyway. I was pretty pissed when I found out. Mostly because I also had a history of being a “baby scientist” and exploring my environment:

 

For example, at age three, I figured out that if you stick nail scissors in an electrical socket, it creates a spark. I also learned that it’s wrong to eat too many grape-flavored chewable Tylenol, and the aftermath is a chaotic scene of an adult who panics and yells until someone brings home a bottle of Ipecac syrup for you to gulp down until you vomit. (Ipecac was a syrup used in 1990 to induce vomiting in children who swallowed poison/things they shouldn’t. They’ve since discontinued Ipecac, but not grape-flavored Children’s Chewable Tylenol. Weird.)

 

In any case, I somehow made it out of my toddler years alive. I’ve had boyfriends joke about the small dent in the back of my head from when I rolled off a bed as a baby. I’m telling you, in a house full of people, someone gets forgotten. Although, it could have also been from the time I played hokey-pokey in an empty bathtub while waiting for my mom to come give me a bath. “You put your head in, you put your head out…” Yeah. What on earth was I thinking as a toddler? I should have known better.

 

While I was reminding my family members to pay attention to me so that I don’t die, my dad was starting his medical career – his own private practice as a medical doctor.

 

So, I think it’s safe to say that I will wait to have my own baby scientists. I want to be there to watch their experiments from hypothesis to conclusion. (And to interject if need be.) I also will make sure to keep their medical charts and gift it to them when they graduate high school or college.

 

Needless to say, the result of having “knowledge holes” in my medical history has resulted in me feeling extra passionate about understanding how our body works, why we function the way we do and what we can do to lead a healthier, happier lifestyle.

The ‘Letting Go’ Dose

 

There are people who hold on to their friendships out of loyalty to the history. The thought process goes something like: “I really don’t know what we have in common anymore, but we’ve been friends for 10 years. I can’t just end the friendship.”

Actually: yes, you can. The beautiful gift of choosing your friends means that you get to choose people who only add positively to your life.

I recently ended a friendship with someone I was drifting away from for many years. We also lived on opposite ends of the country–sometimes in different countries–but we still tried our best to have a friendship.

Somewhere along the way I realized that I really didn’t feel good whenever we would talk on the phone. The conversations felt empty and obligatory. If I wanted to find out more information, it would be a game of 21 questions, whereas I am very vocal about what goes on in my life.

But I kept hanging on to the friendship because I figured that at some point in the future, things would change.

Then, one day, I was an hour late to a phone conversation we had planned. I was studying for school and just completely lost track of time. I looked at my phone and saw text messages asking if I’m ready to chat and a message saying if I’m busy it’s not a problem and we can reschedule.

Well, when I wrote back to apologize and reschedule, I was met with silence. One day passed by. I tried messaging again. Nothing. Another day passed by. On the third day, I decided that this was the confirmation I needed to finally let go of this person.

This person, who was so scared of conflict, so scared to learn how to communicate uncomfortable feelings, was much more comfortable ignoring a good friend than saying: “Hey, you know what, I actually need some time to process what I’m feeling about this.”

And when I expressed that I no longer wish to continue the friendship, that’s when I got a response. And that response was what I needed to read to know that many years of friendship doesn’t earn loyalty; how we treat each other in those years of friendship is what earns loyalty. 

The beauty of having friends is that we get to choose them, we get to decide who will be in our life. We get to choose our team. I value transparency and communicating and feeling good. I prefer depth and meaning. If anything in life no longer serves us, it is absolutely the right time to let it go.

We are here to experience joy; we are here to live a life that makes us feel good. Anything that takes away from that is meant to be given back to the universe.

 

Just What the Doctor Ordered

 

I love days like today where we get to interview a “patient” (a paid member/actor from the local community) and then discuss what could be going on. We are being taught how to think as clinicians. And this is my ideal way to learn.

I really like the medical doctor who teaches us in this small group session.

“What could be causing elevated direct bilirubin in the liver?” she asked us.

We threw out some answers:

“The liver is working too hard?”

“The liver has a lot to process?”

She laughed. “Okay, so maybe the liver is working overtime? Putting in some extra hours? Any other ideas?”

And I learned what happens when a patient comes in with severe pain, clutching their upper right abdomen, and it is up to us, the (student) doctors to figure out what could be causing her symptoms.

And we go through the thought process of each possible diagnosis and what tests we need to rule out certain diagnoses over others.

Days like today help me get through the many hours of studying, the times where I just can’t connect to the material, the times where I feel like a zombie, an empty shell of an existence. Days like today make me feel alive and excited and capable and interested.

Universe? God? More days like today, please.

Today’s Dose

 

Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night and go see what’s left to eat around my kitchen.

I found a chocolate bar in the back of my fridge and it infused life back into my med-student mind and body. I felt lighter, somehow. Happier.

I took 6 months off from medical school last year after getting an infection from a male medical student I was dating. He claimed I was his soul mate after a few months, that “we must be from the same planet” because “wherever you’re from, that’s where I’m from, too.”

Well, he told me to “f*ck off” when I told him he got me sick. And this was after I looked him boldly in the eye to say: “You can’t just call people your soul mate and then treat them this way.”

It’s almost like I was talking to a sociopath, begging him to consider being a good person.

Before I chose to approach him in person, I called him. He was scared. He didn’t want to be the reason I was sick. He refused to believe that he caused it, and that pissed me off more than anything.

I cried: “You’re gonna be a doctor! Where’s your compassion?”

He answered: “Yes, but I’m not your doctor.” 

The experience made me really contemplate: Isn’t it time for medical schools to make better decisions about who they’re accepting into the medical profession?

Yes, do well in school, know the fundamental sciences, know the clinical skills, know the pathophysiology. But what kind of person are you? How deeply do you care about human life? 

Those are the prerequisites for getting into my ideal medical school, for the ideal medical doctor I want to see getting accepted to medical school.

Care deeply about human life AND care deeply about the medical knowledge AND care deeply about wanting to be there for someone in a way that no one knew how to be there for you.

For me, that is what it means to be called a healer. And that’s a title to earn.