Sunday, December 4, 2011

Portrait of a Scientist as an Old Man

This was one of the most interesting weeks I've had of med school yet.  I know all about med school syndrome - where med students think they have any disease they are currently studying (seriously, I am reasonably sure I have recurrent furunculosis).  It was interesting because I realized I had the symptoms of burnout.  I sat down to study after a Monday morning of lectures and tried to review and memorize the material, but it didn't work.  Somehow synthesizing lectures into notes, drawing step by step pathways, and reviewing areas I felt weak in wasn't enough to allow the material to sink in.  If it had been a meal I had sat down to, I would say that I couldn't fit any more food in my system.

I've noticed other changes too.  I'm usually rather fantastic at remembering conversations I've had with people.  Most times when I talk to someone I've talked to before, I remember what we formerly talked about.  Maybe that's an attribute built into the human experience, but it's one I'm finding myself in short supply right now.  Last Sunday, when Shelli's parents were here for Thanksgiving week, I suddenly remembered a funny story I'd heard and thought I'd share it with them since we like to laugh together.  An officer who pulls a guy over for speeding.  As the officer is asking for a driver's license and insurance card, he sees a concealed weapons permit and asks if the driver has any weapons in the car.

"Yes," the driver responds, "I have a SW 45 in a sling under my right arm."

"Do you have anything else?" asks the officer.

"Yeah, I have a smaller 22 pistol strapped to my left ankle."

"Anything else?"

"Only a 12 gauge shotgun behind my seat," the driver replies.

"What are you afraid of?"

"Absolutely nothing."

Curiously, I couldn't remember who I had heard the story from.  Memories like that are rarely fragmented.  Oddly enough, S's dad had told me that story just the night before.  And that's not the only time it has happened.

 I've never actually felt like I could commiserate with a cartoon character, and I've never even seen an episode of the Simpsons, but I felt close to Homer when someone shared one of his gems with me:  “How is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home wine-making course, and I forgot how to drive?”

I have been heard to ask the security guard (who knows all of the med students by their first name), "Are you going to have a nice weekend?"  In its written form, that seems like a rather innocuous question, but when you think about it, when was the last time someone asked you if you were going to have a nice weekend?  Usually people say on a Friday, "Have a nice weekend," and then on a Monday, "Did you have a nice weekend?"  I know that, everyone knows that, but these social shovels I dig holes for myself with are becoming more and more funny.

Possible reasons may include:

-Seasonal Affective Disorder - the sun peaks through the clouds for about 5 minutes a week

-poor lectures - it takes a certain amount of energy to sit 5 days a week through 6 hours or more of monotonous, sub par lectures.  Once upon a naive time I thought med school professors would be light years ahead of those in undergrad. Not so.  If you want to love chemistry, you take it from Dr.  JM, if you want to love physics you take it from Mr. Canaday, if you want to love anatomy you take it from Dr. BB, if you want to love neuroscience you take it from Dr. M B.

-inaction - I need to work out more often than the 1 or 2 a week sessions I do at the gym in our complex

Possible reasons may not include:

-stellar breakfasts, lunches, and dinners - we eat well

-good company - I didn't think med students would be as fun as they are.  S and C are fun too.

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