Full Circle

So yes, I’ve taken a mini-hiatus from the blog posts about our vacation. But, I am hopeful that this weekend I will be able to catch up.

Busy. Busy busy busy. That has been this week, this first full week as a “medical student.” It still feels so weird, even after all four days of orientation. Today was, somewhat officially, the last day of orientation, but not really. We started out Monday with lectures, then had our pictures taken for our IDs, and met in our “unit labs.” Here, a unit lab is basically how we are split from a class of 161 students into 6 neat little groups (kind of like being sorted by the Sorting Hat into Houses like Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw in Harry Potter). Each unit lab has its own room with a separate desk for each student, flat-screen TV monitors, and three separate group study rooms. We met our unit labmates, our second year advocates/mentors, and participated in a few icebreakers. Tuesday was much the same, with lectures, picking up our IDs, signing up for our Basic Life Support class, and more getting-to-know-you activities. Although, a cool thing we got to do on Tuesday was to start with some of the simulators. We attempted to intubate a mannequin, played with the laparoscopic simulators, attempted suturing, and casting–totally fun. Wednesday was Community Service Day, where we had 8 options to choose from; I chose to help paint at a local park, which was tons of fun and we got to feel useful after spending the majority of two days sitting. Today, we had the last set of lectures, visited the organizations fair, and got to meet our cadaver for the first time.

Highlights of this first week:
1) Meeting my classmates. This one definitely comes first. Faces are getting to be more and more familiar, and I am starting to feel like a part of a group instead of one fish in the sea.

2) Getting an ID made where I don’t hate the picture. That’s a first, LOL! =)

3) Meeting my advisor. Holy crap. I may have just met him the first time, but I love him. He’s a very straightforward, honest guy who told us that 1) we were all going into cardiology and 2) if we weren’t, he would do whatever it took to get us where we wanted to be. I love that the professors I have met here so far seem so very eager to make sure that we all succeed. So far, they all seem to have this genuine, honest passion for education, teaching, and assisting the next generation of physicians be the absolute best that they can be.

4) Getting familiar with my surroundings. I spent a portion of this morning walking around in places I’d never been on the health sciences campus. I’m getting to be a lot more comfortable in this brand new place, and the quicker I can make it feel like home, the happier I will be and the better I will learn.

5) Finally, finally feeling like this is real. I still don’t think it’s really sunk in yet that on Monday, we dive head-first into this monster. I keep thinking that they’ll tell me that they made a mistake, and they were just joking. Now, I have my white coat, my ID, and I’ve met my cadaver, so I think that maybe, just maybe, this dream really has actually come true.

6) The cadaver lab. Meeting our cadaver for the first time, before we actually dissect anything, was definitely a smart move by our professors, I feel. This way, we get to let it sink in before we jump in and make that first cut.

This week has not been without its hiccups. There’s been a few little things that I’ve had to take care of in order for things to run more smoothly, and to get everything in order before Monday. I haven’t accomplished things as quickly as I would have liked, but they are getting done and I’m not too concerned about them. All in all, things are turning out well, and I am so very excited to be here with these opportunities.

I felt as if there were three different surprises today. Even though the schedule for today said that we’d hear a lecture on the cadaver lab, I was not fully mentally prepared to go visit. Overall, it went very well. We started off in the lab with a short memorial service. One of the second year students sang a beautiful song; someone read one of last year’s group’s letters; and the director of the course read to us a letter that a body donor had written to us before he or she died. This was the part where I got choked up. The letter from the donor filled me with so many emotions. Here, in our privileged position as medical students, we have this tremendous gift to learn from The Ultimate Teacher, and this person had the foresight to share with us what he or she expected from us, as well as the reasons behind why he or she wanted to be a donor. It was quite remarkable, and gave me chills.

After this brief memorial service, my tankmates and I got to introduce ourselves to our cadaver. Even after all of the books (even ones with pictures) that I had read in order to attempt to prepare myself mentally for this challenge, I was taken aback about my assumptions when we took off the metal structure and opened the table. It was quite unlike anything I’d ever done before in my lifetime. I think I feel many future (private) journal entries about this experience forming in my mind already. I am filled with an excitement to learn and gain knowledge from a resource that only a few get to experience, wonderment in finding what lies beneath, but also hesitance because it takes so much bravado to put a scalpel to a person.

It has been such a hard road to get to where I have been this week. I am so very thankful for this opportunity not only to study medicine, but to finally come full circle and begin to pursue my lifelong dream, here at home no less, with college friends as classmates. Being denied not once, not twice, but thrice before finally being granted this gift is, I hope, something that I never take for granted.

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