Monday, October 01, 2001

Physiology and Psychology

Well, the exams went very well. I thought I had given you the results. I got the highest grade in all my courses and with the help of a curve needed to bring the class average up, in physiology, I ended up with the absurd grade of 105%. I am only taking physiology, psychology and ethics while the rest of the class has biochemistry to contend with too, so I guess I have an edge. Since what we are doing in class is very basic, I have been reading extra sections of the texts (we don't cover everything in them in our courses, for some reason). I have been really enjoying the world of EKGs - how they work, what they mean and what they can tell us about events in the heart. Of course, the honeymoon lasted for about 2 weeks. By this point, the facts are coming in so fast, it is almost getting overwhelming. How does one hold all this in these little heads we have? In my nightmares, I imagine scenarios when a patient in an emergency comes in and I don't remember what to do. I remember that we studied it and I had it perfectly when we did the exam but it was too long ago and I don't remember everything ...
Pysch is a real bag of tricks. Have you ever read any of Freud's theories? They are really off the wall, in some places. Still, one must give the man credit for being the first to enunciate in some systematic form, the workings of the mind. Even his daughter became a psychoanalyst and contributed to the field. I hear that some of Freud's earlier work was based on his observations of his daughter (and given what he wrote about psychosexual things, that must have been a really 'special' family!). Anyway, can you imagine what teatime conversation must have been at the Freuds' house?
Okay, so you can see what my life has come to consist of. Well, I guess that when we get to the hospitals, it will be all physical work and no more sitting in classrooms for 5 hours to come home to sit at a desk reading for another 5-6 hours.
Well, I better get back to the studying. It's 3:00 am in the morning here and it is raining outside. I love it.

Thursday, July 26, 2001

What is this life so full of care, we have no time to stand and stare

I have been busy preparing for upcoming exams (Monday). In anatomy, the section we are being tested on is the head & neck - by far the most complicated and difficult. You are right: anatomy and histology are fascinating subjects and I can imagine myself spending not just one 3 and half month semester but a whole year studying just those ... and still not exhaust the depths of the subjects. Unfortunately my feelings with our compressed semester schedules is summed up in the words of a poet whose name I forget:

"What is this life so full of care?
We have no time to stand and stare."

Friday, July 06, 2001

A Body of Work -- a poem based on cadaver dissection

A Body of Work by Vijay Aswani

Posted July 6, 2001 HMS Beagle -- A Biomed Net magazine. Issue 106

The Smell.
That is the all-pervading reality, the memory signature of the
Our cadaver is located near a window.
Sleep deprived, tense and brow-beaten
We are leaned over an open Atlas
- our wet and frayed road map to the body.
Tired gloved hands push and tease in blunt dissection.
Intrusive, invading, irreverent.
Where is the nerve?
Eyes dart from Atlas to the gaping hole in the body and back to the
Outside, the flowers waved and danced in a gentle breeze
Carrying their seductive scent to any willing partners.
A hummingbird's wings blur in a silent hum as it hovers over a nectar
A butterfly lazes over a bush of flowers.
A riot of color, of life, of unhurried pleasure.
Accusing eyes gaze at the stiff, lifeless, colorless flesh.
We only have half an hour more to prossect the pelvic structures.
Will we lose our grade?
"You've cut the tendon! What are you doing?"
Large angry eyes pin their accusation on the one with the scissors.
Meanwhile, the cadaver says nothing.
Outside, a bird arrives on the telephone wire above the bush.
Her tail dips as she cooes her love call.
From a nearby tree, another answers.
Joyful flapping of wings tell the story of a happy union.
"Can you show me the ischiocavernosus muscle?"
The cold, expressionless voice of the mentor demands.
Uh . . . um . . . fingers prod and probe. Eyes are cast away from the
The tension was palpable even if the muscle and associated nerve were
The cadaver says nothing.
The mentor walks away in silence.
We stare exasperated at this collection of nerves, muscles and blood
This puzzle in a human body box
To be cleaned, dissected, exposing structures of interest.
Outside, the flowers danced and dodged in the wind
Nature and life, color and song, process and movement
In lazy summer sunshine.

Vijay Aswani holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Bombay,
India, in 1992. In January 2001, at the age of 38, he decided to enroll in
medical school to work toward an M.D. He is currently teaching biochemistry
and studying medicine at the Medical University of the Americas, Nevis,
West Indies. This poem is what happens when a mature medical student
experiences gross anatomy after a life in biology and literature.

Friday, May 25, 2001

Hoping you pass the course with dignity

Well, I have exams on Monday in anatomy and histology and am in the throes of preparing a biochem exam to be administered Monday afternoon. Between the theory and lab exams, I am quite swamped and a little panicked. There is so much information it can be overwhelming. Ah, the joys of medical school! This is my rite of passage to the dream. I will endure and hopefully survive. Our histology professor put on the course syllabus as a last line: 'hoping you pass the course with dignity'. She is a small Tamilian woman from Christian Medical College, Vellore. In her first quiz, only 2 of the 18 in the class passed. I was one of them. In the second quiz, none passed. The quizzes don't count, however they don't forebode well for the upcoming Black Monday exam. It gives new meaning to her parting words on the syllabus.

Monday, May 14, 2001

first semester at medical school

I have settled back into the house and back into school. This semester is so busy I did not eat lunch at all last week. I am taking anatomy and histology and it has me running from pillar to post. My class schedule is: 08:00 to 11:00 am Anatomy 11:00 to 12:00 am Lunch (during which I prepare to teach biochemistry) 12:00 to 02:00 pm Histology 02:00 to 04:00 pm Biochemistry (which I teach)
In anatomy, we have lab twice a week - Mondays and Thursdays, instead of the lecture. We are five of us assigned to each cadaver. 3 of us work on one side and 2 of us on the other. Our group of 5 has decided to come in every morning and spend extra time from 7:00 to 8:00 am. In addition, we spent Saturday evening, from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm working on the cadaver, with a 45 minute break for dinner. All this extra time is needed since the dissection takes time and we can never complete it and study it during the allocated lab time.
After all this, there is still the studying to do for histology (whose lab has not even begun yet) and some more studying of the clinical cases associated with anatomy. Needless to say, I am swamped with work. Of course, I am enjoying the many new experiences. Cutting a dead human being is the real initiation to medical school and I am happy to report that I am being initiated in full force.

On Sunday, I was so tired I didn't do anything. I had some coffee and a frozen pizza for lunch and that was all I ate all day. I hope I lose weight and given my schedule, I think I shall.