It was an ordinary Tuesday morning.

9:15 AM on a Tuesday morning, a man in his mid 30’s is brought into casualties on a stretcher by 4 paramedics. Victim of a mob attack, he’s unconscious, has multiple laceration to the face and torso, possible damage to his cervical spine and a fracture on his right leg. There’s no registra on duty, she left 5 hours after her shift last night because of the evening patients influx after an accident on the M1. The other registra has been called off to another hospital for the week. There’s only two doctors in the wards; one is a second year intern who is now 3 hours post-call and the other is first year intern who started her rotation two weeks ago. A third intern has been called in from the surgical unit but he hasn’t arrived yet. There are too many casualties coming in that no one notices the 10 year old child who’s having a seizure in the corner or the crying mother with the 3 months old baby who has now become unresponsive. Sounds like the introduction to a Code Black episode right? sadly this is more or less an ordinary morning in the trauma and emergency unit at any large public hospital in South Africa. The lack of resources and the shortage in medical staff in comparison to the patients that require help becomes a reality you experience upon the early days of clinical exposure. It’s not a story that is told to scare us, it’s a reality. There aren’t enough healthcare professionals in the country.

But back to this ordinary Tuesday morning, a sigh of relief as the Nurse in charge notices us, “students, great.” She quickly calls us over, “Hi guys, as you can see we’re having a busy morning” she said before she started instructing us on what to do, “Can the two of you go help in administration and triage patients, can you follow this doctor and assist her” she instructed my friends. She then turns to me, “bad day to wear a white shirt my boy, follow those paramedics and assist the doctor with that man they’re carrying.”

Now I’m also thinking that it was a really bad day to wear a white shirt. I run off after the paramedics. “Here help us get him on the bed on the count of 3. Careful with his neck. Hi sir, can you hear me?” said the doctor in charge, let’s call him Dr. X. “What’s your name?” He says, looking at me, “okay, Yannick I need you to get me two bags of Balsol, ask the nurse over there to show you where to get morphine.” I did not completely understanding what he said, it was hard to concentrate; there was a lot of blood, I had never seen so much blood before. I run off to the nurse who helps me find the Balsol and morphine. As I return, Dr. X says, “pupils are reactive to light, he opens his eyes to and flexes away from pain stimulus, his speech is slurred and inappropriate. What’s his GCS score?” before he goes on to insert the drip. “GCS score, uhm I should probably say a number, any number” I thought to myself before guessing 7/15. “He saw right through that, he knows I guessed”, still thinking to myself. “No, it’s actually a 9/15, you need to revise your notes. A fifth year student should know these things” he says, looking rather disappointed. “I’m actually in fourth year Dr.” I corrected him, but deep inside I still felt as though I should have answered that right. He pauses for a second then says “Oh my bad, well today we’re going to treat you like you’re in fifth year. I’m gonna need you to draw blood, syringes are in the orange basket, after that you’re going to need to put a cast on his right leg, I think he might have fractured his tibia. I’ll suture his face while you put the cast on. I’ll talk you through it.” Now my mind is racing and my heart is pounding, I’m feeling dizzy and a little nauseous but I can’t  differentiate between a hypoglycemic attack because I had skipped breakfast or a panic attack. I’ve drawn blood maybe a handful of times, I have sweaty hands now, what if I puncture right through the vein, what if I get a needle stick injury, what if I precipitate the formation of a thrombus and kill the patient. Seeing the look on my face he says “You’ll be fine, I’m right here to help now get going, this man needs your help doctor”
I had been called doctor by my family members and friends, since before I had ever filled out my application form to med school. Somehow it felt different having this tired intern call me that. I followed his instructions, spoke out when I needed help and the rest is history.

I had learned two important lessons on that ordinary Tuesday morning; never ever wear a white shirt to a Trauma/emergency unit (I mean why would you?) and to always be prepared. That ordinary Tuesday was my first day of fourth year, I didn’t even know the ward we had been assigned to and while I was still on holiday mode, the patients I was suppose to serve that day needed the best version of me. There’s no days off, there’s no excuses, you can’t be slacking off; if you’re going to show up, you’ve gotta be ready, you never know when you’ll be the deciding factor between life and death.

FIN

Why medicine?

Why medicine? It’s the ultimate question and the simple and rather expected answer is that “I want to help people.” It can’t be the money, I mean we really don’t make that much for the work we do; but then again I don’t understand why there would be a simple or expected answer to such a question.

I was a sickly child, so I spent a lot of time in hospital surrounded by sick people, many of were often alone and scared. I remember going from bed to bed chatting to people and telling them that they’d get better and that everything would be okay. I kept getting in trouble with my grandmother because she kept telling me to stay in bed but I couldn’t help myself. From that grew an overwhelming passion to want to help people, even it meant that I got yelled at for it. As a child I remember being asked what it is I wanted to do when I grew up. My answer each time was that I wanted to make the world a better place, helping one sick person at a time. If people felt better than the world would be better too.

I was cute and innocent, but that sentiment remains true till today. Truth is that medicine is the perfect combination of all my passions. It’s where science meets art, facts meets faith. it highlights the imperfections of humans and yet promotes and teaches to never give up on them, it is the best representation of humanity. It’s a practice that encompasses my passion for people, my love for God, my understanding of nature and it excites my being. Let’s face it, medicine is awesome. I remember the first time I stood in the dissection hall, that first incision, that paralyzing moment, how could one feel so alive in the presence of death. How could one be so much, so complex and yet so simple. The human anatomy, I don’t understand how you could not fall more in love with what it is to be a human being. I remember my first interaction with a patient, I didn’t know enough to diagnose, let alone help her, but just talking to her and making her smile. I’ve never felt more in the right place. How could I ever do anything else. I want to be use as a tool by God to aid others heal, to bring life into the world, to guard and to serve that very life. I’d practice medicine even if I wasn’t getting paid for it.

So when you ask why medicine? It’s really simple but it’s not; I am medicine, Medicine is me. It is an extension of me, in as much as I am an extension of it. We’re in a love hate marriage, a complicated relationship but we’re definitely soulmates. We fused when we met and became one being; it’s my thoughts, my heart, my passion, my dream and my calling. So that’s why medicine.

FIN

My textbooks are racist.

Being a black male medical student (yes we do exist), you quickly realize that you’re not just there as you, you are representing your entire race and gender. One that continues to let you down in every way possible but you continue to boldly represent. Being a black male medical student, you’re continuously interacting with teachers and consultants you cannot relate to, not culturally, racially or any other forms of -lly. White consultants assume that you’re there based on a quota system and the few black consultants want to make you believe that you need to work thrice as hard to be worth standing where you are, continuously telling you stories of how hard they had it during their “time” and how we should be grateful to have it the way we do now. Both completely out of touch with reality I suppose, it’s 2016 I cannot be grateful to the fact that I’m given the opportunity to have these specific set of struggles, I need change and accepting things as they are isn’t something I think I can do. Being part of a group of about 30 black males in a class of 314 students puts your race and gender into perceptive. How did we get here? People look at you and applaud because it seems as though you’re one of the lucky few who have managed to survive this far in a system that is in no way designed for you. As though we should still celebrate being a minority in 2016.
In the spirit of peace and ignorance I had accepted this and learned to deal with it to a certain extent; accepted the pressure that it came with and the shock on people’s face when I tell them that I’m a medical student or when they see me walking around the hospital in scrubs or with stethoscope around my neck. The constant “you don’t look like a medical student” or the confusions that all my black female friends MUST be nurses, because there’s no such thing as black female doctor right? I guess this fits right into the #WhatADoctorLooksLike problem; there’s are some physical criteria and we either have too much melanin or two X chromosomes with too much melanin to fit in. I had learned to deal with the look on the face of a white consultant when I was able to answer a question my white counterpart could not. Learn to politely smile when they felt the need to compliment my accent by telling me how well spoken I was, something I had never heard said to my white counterpart, it almost as if as a black man, I’m not suppose to articulate my words right, my knowledge of the English language is suppose to be limited. As a black man, my level of education and intelligence isn’t measured in the degrees I may have, the distinctions I continue to get or my ability to reason but rather my ability to flawlessly speak the English language in an European accent. To walk in a ward without a name badge on and everyone automatically assuming that you’re a poor black patient & not a medical student or young doctor. I dealt with it everyday I was in the ward, seeing consultants continuously asking my white counterpart as to what we’re suppose to be doing because the possibility that a person of color could know what’s happening is beyond understanding. I had to learn to keep quiet and not take offense when subtle racist or sexist comments were made in my presence.

But it was when I felt this very racism in the comfort of my bedroom that I lost my ability to cope. Like a shock of white while reading my clinical examination textbooks in preparation for an OSCE; I realized there was a lot of descriptions on how to identify jaundice, cyanosis, xanthelasma, pallor, hyper-pigmentation and hundreds of other diseases presentation, but these descriptions explain how to identify these on white patients, the images in my textbooks were all of white patients. I stood there in disbelief, thinking maybe I’m overthinking this, I’ve been studying for too long I should take a break. My discomfort, however, was too overwhelming to ignore as I put down the textbook to quickly pick it up again and go through every image in it never once seeing a person of color.
This is the prescribed textbook by an African university, a textbook used to train African doctors for African patients, but it had no African images or descriptions, not once in the hundreds of pages that made the textbook. My OSCE will be conducted on black stimulating patients, the wards where I will spend the first 5 years of clinical exposure is made up of 99% of black patients but I’m not studying for black patients, I’m not being taught for black patients, I mean how would I ever identify any these on a black patient? The author of my prescribed clinical examination book must have never heard of sick people of color. Maybe black people don’t suffer from jaundice, maybe it’s a Caucasian thing, maybe we don’t suffer from anaemia, cancer or anything that has the ability to alter our appearances. Maybe it’s all infectious disease with us, maybe I’ve had this all wrong, nah it can’t be – I took to the google streets to confirm my curiosity.

Dear Talley’s and O’connor

Black, colored, Indian, latino, Asian people with jaundice, cyanosis, anaemia, and hyperpigmentation do exist. I’d be more than happy to forward you images I found online for your next edition.
Sincerely
a disappointed BLACK MALE MEDICAL STUDENT (yes, we do exist) forced to used your textbook.

DSM 5 criteria for Medical Student Disorder

Fast forward 18 months from my last entry to Block 11B (or Block 12). Psychiatry, I felt a strong urge to write something about it after having spent the last couple of days trying to understand the difference between delirium, delusions, dementia, depression, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, schizophreniform and schizophrenia all the while diagnosing myself a few times with each of the previously mentioned conditions. Psychiatry was pretty interesting, the lecturers weren’t the most exciting people in the world but at this point, anyone who gives off too much energy is annoying so I’m not complaining. It was a little too philosophical which was quite a new experience. I’ve learned a bunch of cool new stuff too though; like I finally understand what Alice Grey had, (Alzheimers) or why Rajesh Koothrappali can’t speak in front of women (persistent selective mutism). I can also say things like Pseudologia fantastica which is a really fancy way of saying pathological liar.
All in all 2016 has been a long year and it just doesn’t seem to want to end. People talk about the taxation of medical school all of the time, I hadn’t been able to fully relate to that till recently. I’ve been running on fumes for the better part of two months now. My studying efficiency has reduced quite drastically, having a hard time focusing, remembering things I’ve covered and I’m just always tired (I could sleep standing up tired). To make matters worst I’m having mini breakdown and anxiety attacks on the daily now. I get random tension headaches (yes I can say that now, I’ve covered some neuro) every second day so I literally have to continuously take pain killers because the traditional “take the night off to rest” is not an option right now.

In the mist of all this I’ve made what I consider a noble prize winning discovery. I have discovered a new mental disorder, I call it MSD which stands for ‘Medical Student Disorder‘. After almost two years in this place I’ve concluded that we’re all suffering from MSD.
It has an insidious onset, taking months to years to manifest, varies between people. It’s exacerbated by stress, sleep deprivation, constant studying and a bad coping mechanism. There are many risk factors but the highest is a successful application and enrollment into a medical school. Symptoms start off quite subtle; change in eating and sleeping pattern. Followed by exaggerated curiosity that turns into paranoia. The paranoia is manifested in the form of self-diagnosing and diagnoses of others with the rarest conditions. Every tall person must have acromegaly, every chubby person is suffering from Cushing’s syndrome, if they’re limping its Trendelenburg. In this block alone I’ve suffered from a bunch of psychotic, affective and personality disorders and such and such.
DSM 5 criteria for MSD requires one major and at least three minor symptoms;

– Major symptom – Be a medical student

– Minor symptoms;

  • self-diagnoses of every condition known to man
  • change in sleep pattern (insomnia or hypersomnia),
  • decreased or increase appetite,
  • abnormal relationship development (Naming a cadaver Sam and sharing your life drama with him in the dissection hall because he gets you),
  • desensitization (Thinking about having a fatty pizza for lunch while removing the subcutaneous fat from Sam abdomen’s)
  • social cognitions (difficulty to relating to normal people),
  • everyday you tell yourself you will get your life in order and everynight you tell yourself that tomorrow will be that day.
  • A random urge to binge drink (either before, after or during an exam).
  • Apathy towards your textbooks followed by intense guilt for not studying which you still ignore because you have apathy towards your textbooks.
  • Having an overwhelming amount of knowledge but thinking you’re immune to most pathologies (e.g. educating your mates at the local pub or the bartender serving about the effect of alcohol on the body while drinking your seventh round of the night).

It’s still too early in my studies on MSD  to confirm but I wouldn’t rule out signing all diagnosed patients to a mental asylum, I’m teasing but to be honest yes we’re all a little loco. We see the world in our own weird way – tell me this isn’t textbook psychosis.

FIN

How to bounce back after a bad exam (a PCMS clap back)

Our curriculum is organized into 5-7 weeks blocks/terms each focusing on a specific system (well at least from the third block). We have to complete 12 blocks throughout the duration of 3rd and 4th year, 6 blocks a year and then write a final integrated exam at the end of 4th year. However we also write two exams at the end of each block, covering the content we had just learnt (in the older system we’d also write a third exam from the previous block at the end of every second block e.g. I’d write PCMS again together with LOTS paper 1 and 2 at the end of the LOTS block – so glad they decided to do away with this in 2016).

If you’ve read Intro to SCMD3000, (almost 2 years later), then it wouldn’t be too difficult to guess that my first block didn’t go in a way that had me celebrating. PCMS paper 1 was brutal, have you ever written a paper that, actually lets leave it at that. My first exam had me feeling like maybe I just wasn’t smart enough for this medicine business, I mean how could I be with an embarrassing 43.82% as a mark.

I could have made all the excuses in the world; I had registered late, I didn’t have the prescribed textbooks, coming from a gap year I wasn’t quite used to studying again, I had lost my baby sister a week before the exam, I was working part-time to put myself through school. All very valid but unfortunately they wouldn’t change my marks, would they? One of the things I’ve learned from my almost 5 years of varsity now is the importance of reflection and knowing oneself.
All excuses aside, whenever we’ve flunked a test or exam we’ve had a general idea as to why; maybe we didn’t budget our time well (first year biology test 3), maybe we didn’t practice on past papers enough (pretty much every physiology test ever), or maybe we just didn’t understand the content (first year chemistry). In my case I didn’t really have time to mourn and be down because the second block had already started and I needed to figure out why I had struggled so much with the first one. So in my reflection, I realized; I hadn’t managed to cover all the work, couldn’t recall all those autopsy slides and pretty much anything bacteria (bloody microbiology).
I needed a plan – so into “let’s get an A+ mode I went
*Plays ‘Eye of The Tiger’ by Survivor for motivation*

 

First thing I needed to do was create more study time without expecting the day to randomly last longer than 24 hours. I looked at my timetable and started filling in the free gaps with my own study time. I didn’t have the luxury of working on my school work during the weekend because I’d have my part-time job which was quite strenuous too, so I made sure I got to campus an hour before and stayed for at least one hour after lectures everyday to study. I spent my now free Friday afternoons (💔 I know) in the PBL rooms (study rooms). I couldn’t just study harder, I needed to study smarter too.
At the risk of pointing out the obvious there for a second, studying such a heavy course content wise, it’s so easy to fall behind and not manage your time effectively. A friend of mine had suggested I kept a diary or some kind of calendar to help keep track of how much I had studied, what I still need to cover or revise on. It also allowed me to allocate a certain amount of time for past papers a few days before the exam. In a perfect world I’d stick to this schedule like white on rice but unfortunately I’m human so I had to leave room for possible unforeseen events like tornados, world war III, catch ups or random series binge watching (like re-watching Game of Thrones’ last season before the new one starts). But in all seriousness life does happens; sometimes it takes longer than expected to grasp a concept or go through a section. Sometimes you’re just too tired from the day or just not in the mood. So I can’t stress how important it is to put together a realistic timetable to study the new material and continuously revise from the previous block too. To increase my study time I’d chosen the day in the week with the least lectures and compulsory themes to stay at home and study. My now blooming social life took quite a hard knock too but it was a necessary sacrifice. I wasn’t just studying to pass I also needed to regain the confidence that I was smart enough to sit in my new class, that my acceptance into the program wasn’t a waste or that I was occupying the seat of another more deserving student. I covered the work, then recovered it again; made random mnemonics and associations to help me remember the work. Changed a few things about my study methods and try new ideas I got from the net; sticky cards, key words, podcasts (anything I could get my hands on). I seek aid from colleagues in my class and in senior years. I wasn’t too fond to the idea of a study group, because more often than none there would be more of everything else in comparison to studying. We did however agree to meet on certain days to go over a past paper and discuss answers, this often took hours because we kept going off track but it was really good to have a break and chat about series, movies or sport every now and then. There’s only so much oedema talks I can do.
If I had to summarize this entire post;
1. Accept that it does happen and give yourself a limited amount of time to mourn and reboot.
2. Reflect and try figure out what was the main reason(s) that exam went bad.
3. Stay away from excuses, have goals, make an active study plan, and try your best to stick to it.
4. Regain your confidence by going through example questions and seeking help (consulting with colleagues, tutors and/or lecturers)
5. Find a study method that works for you. Different methods work for different people and different subjects. For example I need to read out loud as if I’m teaching whoever is listening; it’s fun, makes me look crazy but it works for me.
I’m not saying this is a bullet proof plan and that it will work for everyone but it worked for me. It worked for me because of how personally tailored it was to me, it took into account that I used public transport to get to and from campus, the exhaustion from that and the fact I worked 18 hours each weekend. Sometimes I was behind in comparison to my peers but I kept at it and never allowing myself to get overwhelmed. By the time I wrote PCMS paper two, I had a lot more confidence in myself and my memory. When the marks were released I was 4% short to doubling my paper 1 mark, 83.72%. That’s a hard mark to forget plus it was also my first A in Medical school, so you can just imagine what it did for my confidence and the type of tempo it set for the rest of the year.
Thinking back I wonder what my marks would have looked like if I had stuck to this plan for longer than a block.
FIN.

The doctors, I hope I never become (A story from other side).

This is a tale of four doctors

Earlier this year right before my reproduction block exams, I came down with a bad case of the flu. I didn’t think much of it until my upper lip started swelling up, developed quite a persistent fever and I had all kinds of pains shooting up and down my face. Because of how close it was to my exams, I decided to self medicate; I got myself some ibuprofen and paracetamol to try get through the next 3 to 4 days. However, the medication didn’t do much for me, needless to say I just couldn’t study effectively. I remember being in so much pain that I ended up walking out of my first exam about half way through, because I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I remember being pretty worried but I had to soldier on, paper two was in less than 24 hours; so more medication, a lot of water and more futile attempts at studying. Paper two ended at about 11am the next day, I had braced through the pain but at this point I knew I needed professional help. I decided to go to the hospital next door, which made sense I mean my school is a hospital. After some wondering about and asking directions from any security guard I could see, I finally reported to the walk-in/emergency department where a nice nurse instructed me to sit in what seemed to be a very bizarre and disorganized queue. I’m calm, probably a little high off the medication, first time in a public hospital so I’m also a little nervous. After about an hour in the queue, I get called in and a nurse takes my blood pressure, writes my name on a form and sends me back to the queue. Now the medications are starting to wear off, I’m starving and my battery has just hit 56% which means my phone will die at any moment now. After about another hour, the nice nurse calls, “Next to see the doctor.” It’s finally my turn, as I walked into the consultation room, Dr X was texting on his phone and without ever looking up, he asks “what’s wrong?” so I started history giving, he interrupts me by asking “did you go to the clinic?” and before I was able to answer he looks up and says “this doesn’t look too serious, let me refer you to Dr Y in area something something”. Now I’m annoyed because I didn’t get to say much apart from “my face was swollen and sore.” There was no CAJCOLD, no history taking format that resembled what I had been taught in any way.

Dr Y was upstairs, I left the consultation room feeling hopeful that my nightmare was about to come to an end, just to be met with yet another queue, by this point I’m dizzy and my stomach is doing the most. I thought about asking the brother behind me to keep my spot in the queue as I ran to grab something to eat at the cafeteria but I remembered the argument that had happened a few minutes ago between these two guys and how one had left the queue and was force to go back its end, plus he just didn’t look like the friendliest oak, so I refrained myself. Fatigue suddenly kicks in as I remember that I hadn’t slept much the previous night trying to prepare for my exam, I had also skipped breakfast because I had woken up late. My face was burning away and my phone had now died. At least another hour went on before the queue started moving, after another 40 minutes or so finally I was in Dr Y’s consultation room, at least he greeted me before again asking me what was wrong, as I started history giving again, he interrupted me a few times, answered a phonecall, spoke over me, and tried to finish off my sentences (I didn’t know we knew each other like that, this is quite intimate). He started talking about sending me to another Dr, “this is a facial-oral issue” he says “I don’t really remember that rotation”, by this point I’m fed up, I keep quiet for a few seconds then say in an almost psychotic calm tone, “I really need to get out of here, I have my reproduction exam tomorrow morning”, he paused and said “oh are you GEMP?”, I nod. He smiles nervously, throws away the form and says “let’s start again”, it went from a consultation to a quiz real quick (I didn’t even see it coming). He’s asking me about possible differentials and some OBGYN stuff too, weird but well at least he’s listening to me now. Eventually he calls Dr Z and says “I’m sending a student to you, he’s not feeling well.”

It’s now a little past 3PM, I’m hungry, tired and annoyed. I get up to a rather empty ward to meet Dr Z, whom without saying much just sends me back down to get an X-Ray, another queue (this has been an amazing day). By this point I’m grumpy and keep thinking to myself, “do I really need a doctor for this?” Took another hour and a half but I eventually got that X-Ray. It’s now 5PM, I’m starving, my arms are shackling but I’ve lost my appetite. I run back to Dr Z who’s now telling me how he’s tired and I must wait for the later shift Dr who’s coming in at 7PM. I keep my cool, because I’m thinking this *insert bad word* could be my registrar next year, so be nice. A few minutes later Dr A walks in; being the only patient in the ward, he approaches me and asks “what’s wrong? why are you here?”, I give him the X-Ray and my history form that has a big sign on top saying ‘GEMP II’ I don’t know why that’s important (no, seriously I actually don’t).
Into another consultation room we go; he palpates my face and then pokes a large needle into my upper lip but he either forgot the anesthetics or assumed I was a tough guy, so now I’m literally holding back tears because I can’t disappoint him, had it been the latter. “Oh there’s no pus in here, there’s just a lot of blood” he says, still quite unsure what this could be he prescribes everything under the sun, but at least he was nice. He gave me some NSAIDs, Antihistamine, antibiotics, even threw in mouth wash (good opportunistic health promotion, I was impressed). By the time I walked out of the hospital, it was about 6:45PM, a whole day had gone by.

I had never been on the other side, always the medical student and never the patient. This was such an humbling and yet infuriating experience. It’s so easy to call patients rude, impatient or annoying but we often forget that they have to take their entire day off work, travel far and abandon responsibilities just to spend 5 minutes with a doctor.
I experienced being a patient in a public hospital that day. 4 doctors 4 histories no one even asked my name, no CAJCOLD or vitals were taken. I had to say that I was a medical student before I was taken seriously. Why must I be a medical student before you treat me like a human being, before you don’t try rush my history and/or finish my sentences. I absolutely hate the lack of respect for the profession and for the patients we treat, just because they are the vulnerable group. We’re so quick to blame patients for poor compliance and bad health seeking behavior but we forget that we are the very same people chasing them away. All Dr X had to do was listen my history, I know I talk a lot but I had literally walked in with a possible diagnose and even threw in a couple of differentials just to be spicy. I can understand that maybe he was having a bad day, or maybe his significant other was stressing him out, or maybe he didn’t get paid for his overtime last month or that he may had lost a family member the day before, but I do not recall asking him to be a doctor or my doctor for that matter. I did not have a gun to his head as he took the Hippocratic oath. We can’t keep blaming the lack of resources and shortage of staff when we’ve gotten so comfortable with providing such a pathetic level of service. The other three doctors aren’t off the hook either.

I saw exactly the doctor I do not want be that day. When your teachers fail at being role models, where do you look to, there’s only so much I can learn from Grey’s Anatomy. I left with the genuine fear that I, too, will become desensitized to my core values and oath, and unless there’s litigation on the line, I might just become one of those doctors. I’ve recited this experience dozens of times, in the hope to never forget it, so that the next time I’m dealing with a “difficult” patient, I remember where they’re coming from or what it must be like being in their shoes.

Oh yeah before I go, one of the medication actually helped, not too sure which one. The swelling cleared out about 5 days later.

Starting to resemble medicine, maybe a little bit.


Into the second block we go, Life On The Streets (LOTS). By this point we’ve all received our stethoscopes, BP cuff and name tags – you know what this means right? Instagram posts galore. The coolest thing to happen to us since the white lab coats in first year.
The second block introduces the format of teaching for the next 2 years. The mode of teaching remains primarily through lectures and themes session but there’s also the introduction of a Weekly theme, course packs, PBL cases, Hospital day practice, clinical skills and a lot of acronym lectures (PD, PPD, CD) that are also called themes weirdly enough. The highlight of the block remains that we actually end our days at 1pm on Fridays (a moment of silence to appreciate this gift).
The second block is quite intense, each week covers different serious health and social issues, except for the last week that covered Skin infection (really?) but you get to meet the amazing Prof Dusé so it’s far from an anticlimax. I should have probably started with what we covered in the first 4 weeks;

Each week comes with a series of lectures and a course pack (Learning topics – extra information you won’t learn in class but will be tested on in exams, they usually ranges between 20 – 50 odd pages, extra reading – great).
Week 1 covers Malnutrition (We meet little Anna, a one year old baby and the most popular patient in GEMP). It’s mostly anatomy and physiology lectures, a few themes sessions and Biostatistics guy is back to tell us a tale about kings and castles, knights and sorcerers, and a babe in distress – there was a bit of role play.

Week 2 covers Genetics; albinism, Duchene, Marfan syndrome and those guys

Week 3 covers HIV; a mol med flashback: microbiology and more pharmacology. The highlight of the week remains the special guest lecture by Justice Cameron (google him)

Week 4 covers Rape; a bit on STD, some anatomy, J-88 forms, psychology, law component, stigma issues, rape survivor guest speakers and just a lot. It’s quite an emotional week.

In Week 5 there’s some big Afrikaner man who gets a splinter in his finger, I think, can’t really remember. It was quite gruesome though; a lot of skin-eating bad boys. However, we get to meet Prof Dusé, who really equals interesting talks about his dog, the whisky he had the previous night, some really cool excursion he went on to save the world, infection control and, yes more microbiology.
At this point we’re all trying to get used to the medical school environment, we all have lecturers we may like (Prof Dusé, love him) or hate (that genetics lady, sleeping pill on legs). The number of people in the lecture hall have decreased a bit, I’m assuming people want to self-study and that no one has decided to drop out. Friendships have also become a thing. We’re spending some time in the hospital too so that’s exciting (I should probably make a post about this).

Is it starting to resemble medicine now? Well I would hope so, maybe at least a little bit.