Friday, November 30, 2018

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Saying goodbye may not be easy, but sometimes it's necessary.

Abayomi Adeyemi, Black and white portrait

The transition from second to third year of medical school is tough anywhere, but for medical students in the Caribbean, this period carries some unique challenges. As we conclude our basic science education, we are not only preparing to transition to the next phase of our medical education, but also to transition our lives away from the Island we have learned to call home, back to the U.S. (or Canada, or the U.K.) For medical students like us, "willing to travel" might as well have been the first line in our medical school application essay. After studying together for two years, friends and colleagues whom we've grown to know and love - our "island family" - will depart for destinations all over the U.S. literally from coast to coast. We were all brought together because of a shared dream to become physicians, and a shared determination to pursue that dream even if it required us to uproot our lives. And now here we are, faced with the next bit of sacrifice necessary to continue this pursuit; saying goodbye to each other. 

 At a recent meeting with our clinical deans, we were given some advice about the environment we will soon be entering at the various hospitals we will join for clinical rotations. The deans said that we will be going from an environment here on the island in which we as students are at “the center of the universe” to an hospital environment where everything is built around the care and well being of patients. This means that we must learn to reorient our expectations and approach to our education. It also means that we must begin to learn to re-orient our lives around the care of patients.

For medical students like us, "willing to travel" might as well have been the first line in our medical school application essay.

The thing is, medical school is divided into two related but decidedly unique parts. The first part of med school is spent in a classroom setting that would be familiar to anyone who has sat in a college classroom. But after medical students complete the first two years, and go through an obligatory half-time hazing called the USMLE Step 1 (that's the United States Medical Licensing examination...if ur nasty) our education transitions to a second half that is much closer to the practice of medicine that you experience when you see your doctor. This transition is welcome as far as I'm concerned; Although I’ve always found the study of medicine to be uniquely fascinating, I’ve always felt that my lecture-derived knowledge is abstract. The fact is that there is just something unique about seeing an actual human being suffering from a particular disease or disorder, and having to reason through the course of their previous history and options for treatment, that solidifies medical knowledge far more than any number of study sessions. I was lucky enough to observe the actual practice of medicine close up as a  medical scribe before I entered medical school, and I've always looked back to that experience very fondly. Honestly, my memories of that experience have at times been my only motivation to keep going through the day to day grind of these last two years, just hoping to get back to what really drew me to medicine in the first place-the experience of helping people. 

So basically I'm looking forward to the next phase of my medical education, but it kinda sucks that I've got to say goodbye to so many awesome people. It don't come easy...that's for sure.


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