Month: July 2014

I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know

I have completed one full week of medical school and the only thing I can say with confidence is that I don’t even know enough to tell you what I don’t understand. Professors and upperclassmen constantly ask if I have any questions, and the answer is no.  I don’t have any questions.  But its not because I understand everything, its because you just threw a ton of information at me and I still haven’t had time to process what you said, let alone determine what I have questions about.

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Do I understand that embryology lecture?  Maybe.  I’ll let you know if my notes make sense when I reread them tomorrow.

What about Biochem?  He just explained that titration question I missed and it made sense while he was working it out. But could I do it on my own? And don’t even get me started on histology.  So many tissue types.  So, so many. The scary thing is that, with a few exceptions, we are still covering topics that I learned in undergrad. Imagine whats going to happen when I’m spending 40 hours a week trying to learn things I’ve never even heard of before!  The professors are so nice–completely accessible.  They practically beg us to come to them with questions and problems.  And I know that I will have so many questions–just as soon as I figure out what is going on! I’m not lost, per say.  I’m just feeling things out.  How detailed should my understanding be?  How do I know what is important, and what is a tangent.  Right now everything is new.  I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing.  In lab the other day, we were learning to palpate for abnormalities, and our instructor looked at me and said, “Why don’t you start?” and pointed me towards my partner. And because I am clearly very intelligent, I said, “Do you want me to touch him?”  My professor laughed at me.  Of course I was supposed to touch my partner.  That’s what palpate means (I swear I know vocabulary).  But what I actually meant to ask was How am I supposed to palpate?  It was our first lab.  I didn’t know where to start. I mean, where do I put my hands and then what do I do with them?

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I will say this:  Group studying is essential.  I was never really good at in undergrad, but one week into medical school and I don’t know what I would do without it.  Just sitting around and talking things over with a friend is indispensable.  Yesterday over lunch, Stephanie and I had a discussion about cytology (cell structure) and she asked a question I hadn’t considered.  Working the answer out together solidified my understanding better than any studying or reading could. And I love all this learning.  Really! Its awesome to be challenged everyday in new and exciting ways. The best part is that I’m immersed in subjects that I genuinely enjoy.  Yesterday we had our first ultrasound lab and I completely geeked out!  It is SO COOL to look at muscles and organs on the ultrasound machine and be able to pick out what everything is.  I am truly thrilled to be here; I just don’t know what I’m doing yet!

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Captain Kirksville

As you may or may not know, Kirksville College of Medicine is the founding school of osteopathic medicine.  Ever.  Anywhere.  In 1892, a physician named A. T. Stills decided that the medical practices of the time (application of bloodletting, mercury, arsenic, and cocaine etc…) was more harmful than helpful.  So he decided to open a new school that focused on holistic medicine and osteopathic manipulation in the town where he practiced:  Kirksville.  121 years later, I am moving to Kirksville to attend that very school.

Statue of A. T. Still outside the Kirksville courthouse in the town square.

Statue of A. T. Still outside the Kirksville courthouse in the town square.

In many ways the town is inseparable from the university.  They have grown together over the past hundred + years until they truly embody the saying, “It takes a village to raise a doctor.”  Ok, so no one except me says that, but it is true.  The sense of community that I felt when I came to interview is one of the most important reasons I fell in love with KCOM.  So in honor of a fantastic town, I thought I would do an entire blog post about it, so that all you non-Kirksvillians (that’s also a made-up phrase) will have a better idea of what it is like here.

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I grew up in a tiny (TINY!) town, so Kirksville, population 17505, is not the huge culture shock that it is to some people.  I told my parents that it felt like I drove ten hours from home to arrive in the same town, just in Missouri.  The center of town is a gorgeous town square, with the two universities (undergraduate-Truman and graduate-A.T. Still University) branching out to the South and West respectively.  And, just in case you plan on dropping by during the summer, there is live music on the courthouse lawn friday nights and a superb farmers market on Saturday mornings.

 

One side of the Kirksville town square.

One side of the Kirksville town square.

Opposite side of the town Square.

Opposite side of the town Square.

Better view of the courthouse.

Better view of the courthouse.

Everything is within walking or biking distance, which I love.  It takes me between 6-8 minutes to bike to school in the morning and I can already tell you that a brisk bike ride is a great way to wake up!  ATSU has several buildings for lectures and labs, and is positioned along side The Northeast Regional Medical Center (the hospital associated with the medicals school).  Not to brag or anything, but ATSU has some pretty advanced features, such as a state of the art ultrasound lab and human simulators that do anything from simulating childbirth to colonoscopies.  Its pretty cool, but more on that to come.

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I know nothing about Truman University except that it has a huge, beautiful campus that I love to cut through on my way to ATSU. Wikipedia tells me that it is a public liberal arts college founded in 1867 and just over 6000 students.

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Fun fact:  The building to the left–Baldwin Hall–was where they held our white coat ceremony (ATSU didn’t have an auditorium big enough to fit all the family members).

But the best part about Kirksville is how truly and honestly kind its inhabitants are.  I have yet to meet an unpleasant person.  People will greet you walking down the side walk, and ask you about school in the grocery store line.  When I attended church this Sunday, not only did people in the congregation overwhelm me with congratulations on attending medical school, but the couple sitting beside me gave me their contact information (“just in case I needed anything.”)  I could not have chosen a better place to spend for medical school and I am excited to be able to grow and learn here over the next few years.

White Coat Ceremony

In the 1990’s, “white coat ceremonies” became standard among medical schools as a way to celebrate the hard work require to get the students into medical school before entering four long, hard years of academic drudgery.  I like this tradition.  It gave me a time to bring my parents up to Kirksville and celebrate before they never see me again (slight exaggeration).  As much as I tease, it really was an exciting moment where I was able to look back at the struggle of the MCAT, applications, and interviews with a sense of pride and look forward to the almost overwhelming excitement of beginning medical school in two short days.

They gave us our white coats the first day of orientation, and it had been hanging in my closet begging to be worn.  I had to wait days and days!  Our white coats are donated to us, given by former graduates, and in my pockets were thank you cards addressed to the donors.  I hope they enjoy the thank you notes I wrote them!

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The ceremony was on Saturday July 12, 2014 and lasted approximately an hour.  We were welcomed by speeches from the faculty, as well as the second year’s class president and the student body president.  Then, each student walked across the stage and was helped into their new white coats by the Dean.  I was scared to death I would trip in my heels or suddenly have trouble putting on the white coat on stage, but thankfully neither happened.  My new friend Stephanie was selected as the representative from our class, and accepted the symbolic “key to the school” from the second year medical students, as well as giving a wonderful speech about what it meant to all of us to be attending KCOM.  I would have been petrified, but she blew it out of the water.

Stephanie and I (the "key to the school" is making a cameo!)

Stephanie and I (the “key to the school” is making a cameo!)

It was a really warm day, and after a little bit I wanted to get out of the white coat nearly as badly as I had wanted to get into it earlier!

Mom, Dad, and I after the ceremony.

Mom, Dad, and I after the ceremony.

After the ceremony, there was an open house at ATSU and I showed Mom and Dad around the school.  They had people in all the rooms, ready to do demonstrations in osteopathic manipulation, ultrasounds, and even work with the human simulators.  Also, there is a small Museum of Osteopathic medicine in the Tinning Educational Center that we visited.  All in all, a good day was had by all!

Mom, Dad, and I in front of ATSU

Mom, Dad, and I in front of ATSU

 

Away We Go!

Moving from middle Tennessee to Northern Missouri for medical school was a lot harder than moving an hour and a half away for undergrad. Packing is so much more stressful when you know you can’t just run home if you forget something!  But somehow I managed to pull it off, and two days ago I stuffed my little white car full of my worldly possessions and drove ten hours to Kirksville, MO.

Previously, I thought I liked long car trips.  Now I realize I just like being able to sit in the back of the car and read for several uninterrupted hours! Driving alone is hard, not only due to boredom, but because eating while driving is tricky.  On a trip that long, no way was I going to add on extra time for a sit down meal, so I ordered hand-held to-go type foods and not only managed to get crumbs everywhere, but more than once the everything fell out of my sandwich, leaving me with a lap full of burger and a bite that was only bread!  Next time, I will hire a chauffeur.  Its the only logical solution.

Because it’s a two day investment to drive down to check out apartments, I made all my arrangements over the phone and had never actually visited my apartment in person.  I had seen pictures, but that is not the same thing. Or so I thought.  However, when I stepped inside, I realized that the apartment was exactly as I had imagined it.  The tiny bedroom with adjoining bathroom. The bigger living room/kitchen that are “separated” by a bit of counter.  And closets–guys, there are two, big closets that are all mine.  Dreams do come true.

Now, this certainly isn’t my dream home, but I’m still giddy over the fact that I found a fully furnished apartment for such a wonderful price! And its just about a mile from campus–perfect for walking or biking.  I spent all Sunday organizing everything so that when I start classes–one short week from now!–I won’t get bogged down with any work that doesn’t involve a textbook.  Thank goodness there was an NCIS marathon on TV, or I could never have stomached so much cleaning.

As for the future, I have five days of orientation (July 7-11) before my white coat ceremony on July 12th.  Then actual classes start July 14th!  Its coming so quickly and I’m both excited and nervous.  I’m hoping to update this blog about once a week, just to keep everyone abreast of my activities.  However, I don’t know how busy I will be so we will just play it by ear!

-Emma