Welcome to Preclinical School
Well-ironed clothes, glistening whites. The boys in their ties and stuffs, shoes well-polished in their sparks. The girls have upgraded too: trendy hairdos with touches of makeup here and there. Forgive the clumsy misnomer; they are girls and boys no more, ladies and very gentle men they are! Sweet-looking doctors-in-the-making.
Of course, you are not the only one who has resumed with the fresh oil of enthusiasm for the promising sojourn, for every face around you beamed with glorious smiles.
You can either feel lucky or proud finding yourself among the very bright lot. But I’ll advise you come off your perch, chap! You really are lucky, because many other bright folks could not make the admission list. Stuff happens.
Finally, you have arrived. Away with the physics, chemistry and all those ‘’boring’’ first year courses; you are now ready for the much anticipated Anatomy, Biochemistry and Physiology. You have heard so much of how these courses humbled students in the past, and you sure have been gearing up to blast them all just like you have been doing in your previous records (no be you again? Na you naa). Meanwhile, just last night, you heaped up the recommended textbooks you already bought and a look at the volumes you are expected to cover within a short period troubled your mind, and gave you reasons to count the ceiling above your room for the remaining hours of the night. “Maybe we would only read selected topics out of these big books”, you thought to yourself.
Orientation sessions, and series of rules and regulations guiding the college were dished out to you and your colleagues. It was with keen interest that you made your observations: every other speaker at the orientation kept reiterating that you sit up and forget about past glories, hinging on the fact that it is now a very different ball game. Some even told you stories about very intelligent chaps who could not make it; how some struggled, and others voluntarily dropped. Some speakers sounded haughty and seemed to derive joy from the recorded failures. It appeared they were even looking forward to seeing you fail too. Suddenly uncomfortable, you felt a tinge of fright mix up with the great enthusiasm you started out with, and before time, the balance tilts towards you being engulfed in grave dread. “What are these people talking about?’’, you ask yourself.
Hardly had lectures proper started than terminologies hitherto unknown herald your triumphant transition into the college. Medial, lateral, antero-superior, contralateral, etc. are preliminary terms the applications and usage of which you must learn, while the twists and turns of the limbs at joints crave your attention too: flexion this, extension that, abduction here, adduction there, circumduction et al. It was all interesting until they started bombarding you with numerous things at the same time. People described it as one trying to drink from a fire hydrant; so much information hitting you at same time from all sides.
“This is the Latissimus Dorsi muscle. It’s blood supply comes from so so artery or arteries. It is supplied by so so nerve from so so plexus, mind you, with its own specific nerve root. Its main function is this, but it also assists in that. Its paralysis leads to this or that”. And the list goes on. And for every other muscle in the body, you must know every detail. By the time you just finished reading about the pectoralis minor, and then stand up from your seat to ease yourself and start arguing with yourself whether it is the lateral or medial pectoral nerve that pierces the little muscle, you will realize that you have not come here to cram.
You’re the man of the house; a polygamous family is what you run. Surrounded by wives who have got distinct traits, both the good and the bad, each clamoring for your undivided attention.
Histology is part of the anatomy sisters, a very boring lady with nothing interesting about her. She keeps yearning for your attention, showing you scary microscopic slides of tissues you must learn how to identify.
Embryology, also an anatomy sister, is calm and unassuming, at times sounds interesting and at other times, talks gibberish. She tells you about sperms, eggs and their fusion, formation and development of babies. In the midst of your enthusiasm to listen more, she starts telling you about gastrulation and neurulation, lateral plate mesoderm, blastocyst formation and somite differentiation: very boring and vague stories.
Biochemistry is a boss-lady on her own. She dictates, you listen. She tells you that phosphofructokinase reaction step in glycolysis is irreversible, and then comes back to tell you that it can be bypassed during gluconeogenesis. Don’t even argue with her. She mesmerizes you with intricately compound structures you must learn. Don’t question her. Learn it as it is; do not add, do not remove.
Physiology? A very beautiful lady, with deceptive looks. She appears easy-going and calm with every sweet story she tells. Everything is fine until you’re asked to write on the pathophysiology of cardiovascular diseases, and after writing 5 pages, your score is 7 out of 20 marks. You will then realize you have not come to do biology.
So much to learn within a little space of time. Very salient pieces of information yet so volatile that you must have to put your brain through continuous firing of action potentials through repetitive reading before they stick to the memory. If you, dear chap, are like most husbands of today, who despite running monogamous marriages find it hard to reconcile their other engagements with just one wife, I must tell you, your problems just started. I’ll advice you to glean from the forefathers – men who were masters at running polygamous families littered with numerous wives and concubines – because learning how to apportion adequate reading time to your variant volumes is a very vital trait that will keep you afloat here.
I thought I told you your high IQ could fail you, if you lacked some traits?
This is one of them. There are so many others, but for now, strap your seat belt, sit tight and get ready for a roller-coaster of a journey.
Welcome to the college of medicine.
Written by Agubama Francis Fimbar a 300 level medical student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.