Med School Summary

Less than a week remains before my husband graduates from medical school, and here are some thoughts on what each year entails before we leave this stage forever. (Yippee!!)  
MS1 (that’s medical school year 1 yo) – Classroom learning enlightened with the occasional moment of shadowing, aka – gasp – patient interaction. Basic sciences with a strong dose of humanities. At the beginning, the group travels in an amorphous pack; as the year goes on, tribes break off (the partying crowd, the married crowd, etc). Some students begin never ending “research” projects. Spouse perspective: except for anatomy, you get to see your loved one, but s/he may be busy and stressed with studying. Tips: Do some anatomy flashcards together and try to settle in. 
MS2 – The classroom learning intensifies. The first major hurdle appears on the horizon: USMLE Step 1, a test that all medical students have to take. For a few months preceding this exam, many students become crazy  study-a-holics who barricade themselves in the library to review books with *clever* titles like “First Aid.” Spouse perspective: Worse then first year because your spouse may become a libs zombie and, if not, many of his/her friends will, thus limiting your social circle. Tips: Help your spouse find balance while studying and make yourself some friends outside the medical school.
MS3: The most difficult and interesting year of medical school, the year that suppposedly separates medical students from their emotions and helps them find their calling. During this year students do rotations aka clerkships in  neuro, ob/gyn, peds, family medicine, internal medicine medicine, and surgery. There will be sleep deprivation and “pimping” and working on weekends and gentle hazing from the residents and “shelf” exams. So not only do they work their behinds off, they get tested on information they are somehow supposed to make time to learn. This year many med students leave temporarily to get addition degrees like MFAs, MPHs, social work degrees, PhDs, etc etc. Spouse perspective: Supportive care!! Just get your spouse through the rotations and relish the weekends in between rotations. Pay attention to what s/he likes and dislikes as that will determine their residency and your fate. Tips: Stay in touch with the friends doing other programs but also cultivate those outside friendships because things are only going to get more fragmented.
MS4: Much better than 3rd year, in my experience, but it depends on what residency your spouse preferred in MS3. Med students do various required and elective rotations and may travel about the country. The most important part of the year is applying to, interviewing at, ranking, and matching into residency programs. Therefore there is a lot of “vacation” time built in. Of course if you have 3 interviews in 3 different cities in one week, it ain’t no vacation. Spouse perspective: You may love it or hate it. It depends on what program your spouse is doing. Many people think this is the best MS year to have babies, but that’s a big decision.  Tips: If you can tag along do – meet all the nice residents and fams, eat good food, get a feel for the town. If your spouse prefers a cutthroat, I mean, competitive residency, where students have to interview at 50 places just to get a spot (and probably not the one s/he wanted)… all I can say is, keep your spouse sane.
So there you have it, 4 years of medical school in one succinct blog post! Team effort, y’all, team effort.

Match Day!

We headed into town this morning and caught the bus to the Foundation House (Will Mayo’s former home), where we joined Chris’s friends and classmates in the elegant stone house.  Sipping on cider, soda and sparkling water, we discussed our excitement about the upcoming revelation.

We climbed the stairs to the wood-paneled dining room. One after the other the medical students received their blue envelopes. Then right at noon everybody opened their envelopes, and the administrators uncovered a map of the United States with labeled pins in the places that people matched.

 Mayo!! We’re staying at Mayo!

(Yes, I did tear up!)

The next half hour was a flurry of congratulation and chit-chat as everyone discussed where they were going. Some people of course were happier than others – we were as happy as we could be and thankful and excited. We have put down roots here and met so many neat people. It will be great to go through the difficulties of residency in a place where we already have a support network.

So to everyone who went through the Match – congratulations!! And good luck!

5 Ways You Know You’re Married to a Medical Student

Some of these are borrowed from my facebook statuses over the past 3.5 years.

1) Husband is in Anatomy: You are vacuuming the floor and have to move a real human skull out of the way!

2) Husband is in Peds: He comes home humming the theme from Blues Clues. Also, he sings the words from The Amazing Swedish Diet but changes the words to refer to the seizure-reducing and butter-heavy Ketogenic Diet

3) Dinner table conversations with any other med student, or medical person for that matter, quickly disintegrate into discussions about obscure diseases that you have probably never heard of and don’t want to hear about

4) You learn all kinds of great terminology, e.g. medical students get “pimped” (or asked tricky questions) on “rounds” which are when the team visits the patients. Those who work really hard are “gunners” or overachievers. Then there are the Steps (the two tests students have to take), First Aid (books most often used to study for the tests), the Match (see previous post about rank listing), etc etc.

5) You tell your spouse, “I have X symptom” and s/he quickly works up a differential including several diagnoses that could kill, cripple, or maim you. (If in third or fourth year, will add a disclaimer that your symptoms probably reflect Y unconcerning ailment).

I am so thankful to be married to this particular med student, however, and I can cheerfully overlook all the minor inconveniences. I hear residency will be considerably more difficult… Kudos to you, medical spouses everywhere!

5 Fun Ways to Make Your Rank List

It’s that time of year for 4th year medical students: rank list submission time. You see, medical students don’t get to pick their residency so much as they get to enter a raffle. They know they are probably going to get a residency, and residencies know that they will get students. Students rank the programs they interview at, programs rank their interviewees, and a computer makes the connections – known as the Match –  in March. The results are announced this year on March 15.

You can imagine how much fun this is for medical students who have pretty much controlled their entire lives with their minds and decisions… suddenly, not so much agency! I would think it was a cruel psychological experiment but it’s been going on for 30+ years and seems to be working.

Often, students know exactly which program is at the top of their rank list and which are at the bottom. But sometimes all the options are good and it’s hard to pick. Sometimes, you just need to figure out the middle order. Here are some ways you could use to make your rank list.

1) The MATSH  Method (like Match, get it?):  If you were ever a seventh grade girl, you probably played MASH. Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House. (The T stands for Tree house in our version). For our 2 rounds of MATSH we used the categories of “Residency,” “Type of Fellowship,” “Where to Live Long-term,” “What kind of dog to get,” “Where to vacation,” and “How many children to have.” Apparently we are going to vacation in Mexico, have 1 child, own a labrador, and Chris will do a C-section fellowship.

In other versions, we’ll have 18 children and own a capybara… I guess we’ll see!

2) Magic 8 Ball Method: I used my iPhone Magic 8-Ball app and we kept shaking it while asking “What about X residency?” However we got bored of this quickly as we came up with a lot of “Ask again later” responses and not enough residencies were getting eliminated. (I think of it as a modern day Urim and Thummim, although apparently not as effective).

3) The Polling Method: We didn’t try this but I kinda wanted to post a poll on facebook and see where people thought we should go. We had informal polls going of course but mostly people seemed to vote for the place farthest from where they lived… interesting… 😉 Just kidding!!!

But I think it is hard to get an unbiased response on “where do you think we should go?” I think it’s hard to say, “I’d like you here and yet… I think you should probably go FAR, FAR AWAY.”

4) The Random Bible Verse Method: I tried this with my Bible application on my iPhone and I got John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Very true but not exactly what I was looking for. But God works in other ways…

5) The Pros/Cons and Prayer Combined Method: This method worked for us. Chris looked through all the program information and we worked on a comprehensive pros/cons list for our top five. Then we prayed for discernment and guidance, and began to feel more and more settled in our decision over the weekend.

Of course just because we have our rank list doesn’t mean that it will happen like we think. But we are feeling a lot of peace about our decision. Thanks to all of our friends and family who have supported us through this whole process. You are the best! The great thing is that all of our choices are good and we are going to be happy wherever we end up.

I for one am excited about the next step. I know residency will be tough but hopefully God will give me the strength and guidance to be a good support for Chris during the rigors of residency and whatever other challenges lie before us.