Monday, April 14, 2008

Summers Spent Studying

For someone not particularly fond of studying, I have spent some summers hitting the books for one reason or another.

Ten years ago, out of curiosity, I accompanied my childhood best friend and enrolled (without the State University's knowledge) in 2 classes at the Garcia College of Technology. The remaining proof is a piece of paper certifying that I took classes in Psychology and Calculus, and a clearance slip. I had a good time in GCT.

Seven years ago, I along with about 25% of the medical school class I was in had a 4.0 in Pathology. That meant we had to pass a Removal Exam in order to proceed to the third year. While I was no stranger to a 4.0 grade (LOL!), most of those in that unfortunate class were. Don't get me wrong - Pathology is a hard subject because it needed to be hard. So the "morbidity rate" was understandably high.

Going back to me having experienced this before, I was scared out of my wits. Especially since the standard Robbins book made me sleep, without fail, after a few pages of reading. I'm not particularly proud of what I did, but it worked - I got a shorter, more concise book, and read it about 2 and a half times (up to the point that I fell asleep while holding it). I ditched my class lecture transcriptions, about 6 inches' thick.

Even as all that was happening, I was praying that if I did not pass, certainly I did not deserve to continue medical school. When I was overwhelmed from all that studying, I made up alternative plans during a worst-case scenario. Obviously you now know what came out of all that. ;)

Four years ago, I spent most of the summer studying, right after finishing internship. I did not have the best study program - it was more of being spooked by the ghost of Anatomy past. We prepared our papers to apply for the Licensure Exam two months away, and I remember lugging around that large book just to sneak a page read or two. I even brought the damn thing to Boracay, where the newly graduated brods and sisses were given accommodations for about a week in exchange for a tuli mission.

I eventually spent three weeks to complete a single run through of that book. Not recommended - although I did get a high score on my Anatomy subject (at the expense of the other subjects, hahaha!). I also did a lot of praying when summer ended, because the good intention of focusing on a single problematic subject hurt my general study plan, and I ended up cramming and barely passing the boards.

During my clinical years, I did a lot of studying during the summer, too. Just before clerkship six years ago, I was of a few people that elected to take their electives during the summer break. At that time, I was aiming to get into a good residency program, so I took an early clinical elective in Urology. I had to study because the subspecialty required it, and also because I had to understand what the hell I was doing there in the first place. Good thing the residents treated me well, and I learned a lot of things about the real world of Surgery months before I was even supposed to rotate in Surgery.

Five years ago, I started my internship in the largest university based tertiary government hospital in the Philippines. My first rotation was in the Internal Medicine wards. Coming to the hospital at 3AM and going home at 11PM to make sure the ward census was updated - now, that builds character. Cramming 15 minutes before Rounds, because you were the admitting team the night before and your service of three interns had 24 new patients - that builds courage. My experiences during that time can fill a book. And boy did I study, not really for learning, but for fear of going back and repeating the ward rotation if you didn't.

During my two stints as a resident, I also did a lot of studying - if I was able to keep myself awake during my free time. If I had free time, that is. In between keeping tabs on all your patients, doing scutwork, and supervising medical students, you still need to study. "Of course, because you are in a training program" is the predictable, and correct, reply. There is much to be desired when it comes to conduciveness to academic learning within residency training programs, however.

How ironic it is, that I am again studying during this year's summer. Later today, I will be taking a ferry ride and learn about something else - under the auspices of my new employer. Let's just say that it is closer to what I like doing, and this is one of the very few times that I am actually excited to learn something.

I won't be surprised that I would be studying again during the summer in the near future.

Lifetime of learning, indeed.

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