As my second year is winding to an end, I look back and realize how much I have learned from last year, both academically and life experiences. First year certainly pales in comparison to the amount of workload and clinical exposure that one experiences in their second year of medical school! From struggling to memorize a thousand slides of pathology in a week, to figuring out which digital surgical technique would be the best for an imaginary patient, all while fulfilling clinical assignments, both your brain and your body are pushed to their limits. However, throughout all the stress, you emerge as a better person, and with regards to your career, a better doctor.
The first five weeks of second year start out slow; between 5-7 hours of lecture everyday without any exams or assignments due. Best of all, there’s no gross anatomy lab, so there’s no fear of the smell of formaldehyde sticking to your scrubs, hair and skin. As it’s August, it still honestly feels like summer, but you’ve got to fight the temptation to laze around and pick the beach over the library. Before you know it, it’s September and there’s a pathology, pharmacology and microbiology exam next week. Welcome to reality, where every two weeks there are three exams. It sounds crazy at first, but in a very strange and creepy way, you kind of get used to it and fall into the routine of reviewing your notes as they come along.
Next, several new courses begin to start while you are still adjusting to the other ones. Radiology, pathomechanics, and Intro to surgery literally appear out of nowhere and you are expected to make room in your study schedule for these new subjects. Just like in first year, sometimes sacrifices need to be made and you will neglect a few subjects for several days in order to catch up on material for the upcoming exam. And just like in first year, it’s totally doable and just requires some creativity on your part.
Once Thanksgiving break rolls around, you’ve already taken the final exams for one or two courses, which leaves more room for you to breathe and take a break. Fast forward a few weeks later, and chances are you will be studying for an onslaught of finals once you return from winter break. January is a tough month, and is really the time when the fall courses are wrapped up while new ones are beginning. I repeat: totally doable! Yes, at times my classmates and I felt like tearing our hair out, but focusing more on buzz words and key concepts can go a long way. Also, it pays to play it smart and balance your time wisely. For instance, our pharmacology final encompassed every single drug, including usage, side effects, contraindications, and antidotes for overdoses, of which we had learned since the beginning of the semester. This consisted of fifty six lectures and perhaps almost a thousand drugs, if not more. I knew it would be impossible for me to study that much material while reviewing the notes from my other classes. Using the information from the course coordinator that the final was 70% new material since the second exam, and 30% previously tested material, I did not study any of the old notes and only focused on the new stuff. Alhamdulillah, with this approach, I was able to utilize my study time wisely and did very well on the exam. It would be amazing to study all the information presented in a course, but you’ve got to make the most of the limited time available to you.
Throughout all this, your clinical courses begin and it’s time to see how you will handle the stress of life while performing your job as a physician. Aggravated, anxious and talkative patients will grate on your nerves but you must keep a smile on your face and listen politely while they ramble about their neighbor’s cats stealing their marmalade and how their foot hurts so bad that on a scale of 1-10 the pain is a 27 most mornings. Although you maybe worried about your own issues, you have to push your own anxieties aside and care for this patient. In reality, your clinical course isn’t just teaching you how to properly diagnose patients, but is preparing you for the real life issues that you will face as a doctor.
In general, the courses in second year are much more interesting and correlate more to what a real physician does. Basically, you are starting to get a real taste of what you gave up in your life to attend medical school for. It’s a lot more work than first year, but in my opinion it’s a bit easier as you already know what to expect and have your study habits all figured out. Plus, you’ve got those afternoons in the clinic that help reinforce what you learn and give you a taste of what to look forward to in the next few months after board exams. Valuable skills are learned the hard way, but they will last with you forever.
My last final is on Tuesday inshaAllah, and I cannot believe how exactly two years ago, I was getting ready to embark on this journey and unsure of what to expect. Has it really been two years since I made my first surgical cut into a cadaver? A year since I took a deep breath and realized that it was my last free summer, and that I had three impossibly long years left? Now, I’m halfway through, preparing for boards exams this July inshaAllah, and within a few days will be labeled as a third year…SubhanaAllah how things feel like they take forever, when in reality, time passes so quickly. So make the most of it and study hard, you’ll be proud when you look back at these moments when you realize how all that hard work really did pay off.