Souvenirs from a Battlefield (A Letter)

Dear James,

I saw your result on the notice board and noticed that it didn’t turn out the way you expected. You are probably not in the mood to speak so I thought I could share my thoughts via this letter and help out in my own little way.

On a hot Wednesday afternoon in the Medicine Out-Patient Clinic, I checked my phone to see that my Medical Board Part II Examination result had been released and I had failed Pharmacology. In that moment, the entire world came to a stop with the only audible noise being my heartbeat and the blood rushing through my ears. My world came to a stop. In hindsight, I can’t help but wonder how the Sun kept on shining, the earth kept on revolving round the Sun and people kept working while my entire universe seemed to come crashing down.

Oblivious to all questions, I walked out of the Clinic in a haze while looking downwards and blinking back the tears rapidly. I remember a day in secondary school where my Introductory Technology teacher beat me black and blue and I just had to walk back to my seat, holding the pain in while fighting tears so that my crush won’t see. Yeah, that kind of pain.

I had failed. You see, this statement bespeaks something obviously a part of life. But in medical school, after bagging all the A1s in WASSCE and completing 100 Level with a First Class cumulative grade point average, this does not seem to apply. Being surrounded by people that are successful in more ways than one, “banging” seems to be an exception rather than a norm. However, it is not so clear-cut.

In my estimate, at least one-quarter of a class in the average public university would have an issue (either re-sit or repeat) in an MB exam and despite this seemingly large number, there is no resource online/offline that tells you what to do or how to cope when you fail an MB.

In the following days, I was really depressed. No will to eat, drink, laugh, socialise or go to school. There was seemingly no point to these activities. After all, a public figure like me with all the popularity and “impact” in extracurriculars had fallen from “grace to grass” with this failure! What even made it worse were the “courtesy” visits from all my friends and the accompanying “get-well-soon” messages. During these, I had to smile and even pretend to have moved on with my life. But inside, I was broken. Due to all my commitments, I still had to keep making public appearances, when in reality, I just wanted to remain curled in my bed and bemoan my failure. The first mistake I probably made was not allowing myself grieve properly. I just wanted to keep up appearances that I am a “big girl” who was not affected by this blow.

At this point, I have to give credit to whom it is due and acknowledge the role Chidinma and Aminat played in my life. Sometimes, the best support is given, not by talking, but just being there in the dark times. They recognised my need to just heal by myself, but at the same time stayed with me to ensure I wasn’t permanently scarred. Of course, I still had relapses from time to time, with dark thoughts coming through in those moments. Eventually, time as it does all wounds, healed mine.

Another thing that helped me was an acknowledgement of the fact that as bad as I had it, some people had it worse. From people who had prior self-esteem issues to people who were battling their second failure in MB, I took it upon myself to help them out in any way I could. Thus, we were able to shore each other up in weak times. Sometimes, healing involves giving out a part of yourself.

Of course, it was not easy combining my Senior medicine postings with pharmacology classes again. This is where discipline and time-management came in. I had to cut down on many things I really loved doing to ensure I was not behind in any of the two spheres but it is possible. Identify anything that happened (both within and outside your control) that caused your failure and ruthlessly remove them.

People’s inevitable tactlessness would definitely shine through from time to time. Ignore those that always come with the “What happened?” question (If I knew it or could control it, would I be here? *eyeroll*). Ignore the lecturers that would insinuate your dumbness because you had to retake some courses. Surround yourself with serious-minded colleagues/tutorials geared towards your passing.

From time to time, these thoughts would creep out while reading or just chilling: “I am a failure.” “What did I do wrong?” “Am I no longer intelligent?” You cannot let them weigh you down or become your dominant thoughts. Try not to be alone or listen to those sad self-pity songs that just make it look like life is not worth it (You know, Passenger and co.)

Tomorrow might be bad. The management might implement another rule tomorrow that would cause “clinical failure” and the like. I mean, it is medical school—anything could cause your failure. You might trip, stumble, fall, but, most importantly, please keep moving.

Of course, I passed. You can too.

Much love,
Racheal Ajayi

Pendical Admin

PENDICAL an educational weblog creates a platform for medical personnel/practitioners including medical students to share inspiring stories, lifestyles, and resources for medical personnel/practitioners or anyone aspiring to be a physician thereby encouraging and promoting diversity in lifestyle, mindset, thoughts and experience among medical personnel and medical students. PENDICAL started out, like many realities, a dream. It is a weblog whose contributors are medical personnel. In a most profound way, medicine and health meet art in the realm of writing. What we seek to achieve cannot be summarized into bullet points, but if through the pieces herein someone’s path is more illuminated or another is inspired to reach beyond its ‘limits’, if doubts are cleared from this mind or the spirit of another are lifted after a long day, PENDICAL would have served well in the line of duty. Our core values are creativity, excellence, truth, and passion.

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  1. I especially liked that this write up is about dealing with a resit in medical school and how honest this was. Thank you.

  2. An awesome well structured piece of writing, MedSchool is a war zone, You either keep fighting or quit trying. Some of us can relate to the resit story well. Tales of MB’s

  3. Honestly, this write-up makes me feel I’m not alone in this world. I think it’s the medical curriculum that has to be reviewed- that part of combining 2 classes together. At that point, you can’t even boldly say the class you are. At least if there is a 1-month break and the results have been released on time, that will help. You prepare fully for the re-sit exam and after passing, you resume fully with your mates, covering your ass happily. May God help us all through this medical profession.
    Tobeebah Habeebah from UNILORIN medical school.

  4. Honestly, this write-up relieved my fear of being alone in this trials of Medical School. I think the medical curriculum is to be reviewed- that part of combining 2 classes together (meeting attendance for the next class at the same time preparing for a re-sit exam of the previous class). At that point, you can’t even say boldly what class you are when asked.
    At least if a 1-month break is given and the results are being released on time, you’ll prepare fully for the exam and after passing, you resume with your colleague. Your ass is covered!

    I’m Tobeebah Habeebah from UNILORIN medical school.

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