Block 3 Exams Loom

October 28, 2010

Taking a break from studying to say hi and that not much has changed. Caught up on anatomy notes, histo notes, and very soon to be caught up on embryo notes.  Running very short on sleep and socializing but I suppose that’s better than the alternative.  Would really like to go to Pizza Beach tonight but it’s the one night of the week they’re closed, so here I sit with my Spaghettios and my diet Coke.  Must go look for an apartment when block is over, keeping my fingers crossed.

Um hi

October 21, 2010

So I have exactly 12 minutes before I have to leave and meet the other folks to walk to school, but I feel like it’s the most free time I’m going to get for a while, so…

I had a blast on our trip to St. Kitts over the weekend, but I was behind going into it and now, given that I got like 1.5 lectures done during the trip, I’m really behind now.  I’ve been working like a dog, doing lectures during breaks, during lunch, all afternoon, evening and night, but we are covering so much new material every day, I can never seem to get ahead.  Saturday I am supposed to go to rounds at the hospital, but other than that, I can’t foresee myself leaving the room and not having an extremely guilty conscience.  Everyone knows that the last week of block is for reviewing and if you’re still trying to learn, you can’t possibly review.  We certainly don’t want a repeat of anatomy Block 1.

Starting…block 3?

October 13, 2010

Wow time flies.  I had hoped I would be on here to write on a daily basis but there just aren’t enough hours in the day.  I never been much of a studier, but once I finally succumbed to this third shift-sleeping schedule I’ve been programmed into for the last 3 years, I’ve gotten into a study cycle that apparently allows me to thrive.  I had a problem initially, with motivation, which in retrospect, is the problem I’ve had all throughout undergrad, I think.  Learning the same basic concepts over and over again is just boring and when you can sit there and watch American TV rather than write notes on the same old stuff you learned in 8th grade, 9th grade, 10th grade, ad nauseum, which one would you choose?  But now that we’re into fresh material [that will definitely be clinically applicable] that I only vaguely remember from anatomy at NCSSM/undergrad classes, learning is exciting again and there is more than enough motivation, but then one must conquer the demon of time.

I finally understand why everyone on the forums advises against bringing the recommended text books or more than a couple study resources like BRS/First Aid–between the slides from the profs’ powerpoints and writing your own notes, there just isn’t enough time.  I was looking at some of the diseases I needed to know for this block yesterday morning and while the majority of them were covered in lecture in the amount of brief detail that was necessary for this semester, I had personally meant to log on to Wikipedia and look at them in a bit more detail, but there just wasn’t enough time.  I know there will be some of you out there who are like “this is nonsense, she’s just a silly girl who doesn’t know how to budget her time” but I assure you that is not the case.  My new schedule that worked so well during this last block consisted of the following:

8:00-2:00/3:30/5:00 (depending on the day) CLASS

2:00/3:30/5:00-10:00/11:30/1:00 BED

DINNER

11:00/12:30/2:00-6:00 STUDY

6:15-6:45 EXERCISE

6:45-7:15 SHOWER/GET READY FOR CLASS

7:30 WALK TO CLASS WITH FRIENDS/SOCIAL TIME

As you can see, there is no routine recreation there, except for exercise.  No I’m not going to burn out.  The weekends are a bit more free-form depending on how close blocks are, but I do allow myself Friday afternoons for recreational time–i.e. catching up on my favorite tv shows from the week, grocery shopping, etc.  During the week, the only times I have that I can possibly steal extra time from are studying and sleep, neither of which I am willing to sacrifice.  My classmates are intimidated by my schedule; they just think it’s weird.  I think most of them think because I study at night, that it means that I study all night and don’t get enough sleep, but in truth, I probably get more sleep than them, just at a different time in the day.

I’ve found that sitting in my room, studying at night when everyone else is asleep, but more importantly, QUIET, is heaven.  There are no interruptions, no loud noises, no one knocking at your door, and the internet’s sorry speed is at its best with no other competitors for bandwidth.  It’s just like work back at home–everyone scoffs at 3rd/night shift because it’s not the norm with the traditional Circadian cycle, but if they actually tried it, they might like it–it has its perks.

So yes, back to this past block.  In anatomy, we covered the thorax (heart/lungs/diaphragm/ribs) and the lower limb (butt/hip/thigh/knee/leg/foot), while histology was just as random: 5 lectures on cell biology, 2 on the circulatory system, then 2 on the respiratory system.  There was something that made me hate the upper limb–I’m not sure if it was having all those minuscule muscles and nerves thrust at me to learn in a couple weeks, or that I was just getting over the initial wave of arrogance of my anatomy professor, but either way, let me just say that I had a much better time with the thorax and lower limb.  We spent much class time talking about cardio-pulmonary complications like strokes and pulmonary embolisms that were all VERY familiar terms to me from work–it’s fascinating to know how they work and to make the connection between the old lady lying in the bed and the fatal condition that suddenly sends her into a coding spree.  We talked about heart defects that actually made sense this time after going through HUMAN embryology and knowing how the heart normally develops.  All in all, a much better block for me in anatomy.

As for histology, everyone seems to hate this class and I can’t figure out why.  I admit that the lectures can go quite fast and cover much material, and the fact that so many slides are left for “self study” makes me feel cheated out of my tuition money, but the material itself isn’t that bad–it’s like anatomy with logic.  The class, like all other classes here, is team taught by a seasoned veteran who carries a heavy reputation for no-nonsense, and a newbie who just island jumped from another Caribbean med school.  They don’t both sit in there and take turns talking throughout the lecture, rather they divide up the topics to be covered in the block and make their own powerpoints and thus have their own lecture days.

This block, for example, seasoned prof covered cell biology and circulatory system while newbie prof covered the Respiratory system.  Some things that seasoned prof does are really annoying like letting us out late, making huge powerpoints but then only teaching 2/3 of them, etc. but overall, she’s pretty much what I would expect a med-school professor to be.

I absolutely can’t stand newbie Prof.  Tried to pay attention to her lectures last block and got nothing but frustrated and slightly confused.  Language is her main problem.  She is, as Areef would put it, a FOB (fresh off the boat) from India.  She knows textbook English, but then actually standing up in front of a classroom of 104 kids suddenly makes her English become even more awkward and very hard to follow.  I’m sure she knows the material quite well in her native tongue, but teaching it to us is an insurmountable challenge for her.  What she has ultimately done is take a common study aid, BRS, and make powerpoint versions of the text.  Us being the on top of it students we are, realized this right off the bat, so it really feels like a waste to us, in terms of content, to have to sit in a class and listen to this stuff for two hours that we could teach to ourselves in 30 minutes.

But then to add insult to injury, her lectures are very disorganized and do not correlate with her powerpoints–she’ll start talking about pathologies or diseases that are 20-30 slides away, so your notes, much like her lectures, are all over the place.  There will be a slide about normal lung tissue and she’ll start talking about emphysema, but then later in the powerpoint, 2 days later, when we finally get to emphysema, there is nothing there except the book’s facts on the slide–your notes are all back in the first 10 slides about normal lung tissue so you either have to copy your old notes onto the new slide or go back and forth.  I wouldn’t mind that if it happened for a couple of diseases (even seasoned prof does that from time to time), but she does it for everything, to the degree that she’ll only make it through 20-40 slides per class period, so after a couple days when her turn to lecture is over, we have the bulk of the powerpoint to teach ourselves.

The REALLY unfortunate part about that is the way BRS organizes stuff, the interesting diseases are always at the end of the chapters, so the high-yield stuff that usually makes up the bulk of our tests, is always stuff that newbie prof runs out of time to cover in lecture that we must teach ourselves.  I didn’t realize this first block and subsequently got screwed on most of newbie prof’s questions on the block exam, but I am wise to her methods now.  I felt really guilty about it at the time, but this past block, during her lectures, I sat there and completed ignored newbie prof.  During her first lecture day, I played Oregon Trail (because I wasn’t expecting her to be there and don’t carry my written notes around with me), and the second day, I brought lecture notes on which I was behind in anatomy to get caught up on.  Ultimately I ended up taking notes on newbie prof’s lecture myself during the weekend and did absolutely fine on her part of the exam.

Which brings us to the present.  As I said on facebook, the exam was quite brutal.  I’m not sure what seasoned prof thinks when she writes these things, what her motives are, but if she continues this trend of increasing difficulty, I’m not sure what will happen next block.  I felt adequately prepared, but then got in there and felt absolutely mired down by seasoned prof’s questions.  Many of them were lengthy, wordy descriptions of patient conditions that one would expect to read in an attending’s SOAP note.  I know that if/when someone says something to her about them, she’ll claim that she’s just trying to expose us to the jargon that we’ll have to get used to, but it’s completely inappropriate in this situation and in most cases, was completely non-essential to the question.  She could have just as easily given us a brief history of the patient in plain English that wouldn’t have wasted so much of our time.  Then, there were many questions that were completely inappropriate for a HISTOLOGY test–there were a couple that were straight anatomy.  It wasn’t look at a slide and tell me what this is, it was what is this muscle, what is this artery.  Blatant.  I even heard a guy in lab yesterday saying that if he wanted to take another anatomy test, he would have gone to anatomy prof, not her.  Haha.

Seasoned prof also put material on there from block I.  Technically Blocks are not supposed to be cumulative because there is so much material, you wouldn’t have time to review it all, which is exactly the situation I’m in now.  Had I not lucked out and remembered what she was talking about, I’d have been screwed like everyone else.  I know what you’re thinking, medicine is progressive and some material from blocks might overlap, but no, this was not the case–she made no effort whatsoever to connect the question to block II material–it would not have been out of place on the first block exam at all.  I’m not just whining about it because I’m annoyed, no, if she’s allowed to continue this, then there will be an expectation that we are to have questions from previous blocks on subsequent block exams and I do not physically have the time to go back and review all of that material.

Finally, I am annoyed at the test because some of the questions were written as ‘trick’ questions to specifically trip some people up and get them to put an obvious, wrong answer.  One of them dealt with the primary lipid in surfactant–the question mislead you to believe that the answer was one lipid, but then it was actually an obscure lipid that I’m not entirely sure newbie prof ever mentioned in class.  Some of my classmates have told me that it’s an Indian professor thing–that that’s how they learn in schools–by the professor asking you trick questions and making you feel stupid in front of your peers, or to assert their dominance as the professor while you are the student, but that is not the way I was raised in school and frankly, I find it nothing but childish, inappropriate and annoyingly rude.

All that venting over with, I apparently made top scores in histology and in the histology lab out of the whole 100+ person class.  It’s terrifying.  I feel like I’m back in elementary school again, when I was the smart kid that everyone looked up to, but somehow I feel like I don’t deserve it.  I was the one who b****ed about seasoned prof’s rudeness in teaching methods and how useless  newbie prof was all semester while I sat there playing games during her lecture, but then I was the one who saw through their stupid b******t questions and remembered the facts.  I’ve spent so many years being the kid who knew the material but then got screwed over by unfair test questions that I just don’t know what it’s like to be on top again, to reap the fruits of my knowledge for once.  I guess all I can say is that I hope it lasts and I am going to enjoy my A’s in Embryology and Histology while they last.  Class today is going to be interesting.  Let me put on my modesty pants.