Back into the maze

Seven weeks have flown by since I have entered the 3rd-year maze. 

School started on the 1st of October and we have been pretty busy ever since that day. 

Despite the workload I am still enjoying the ride. It seems like the last 2 years were all about making the lemon tree grow as healthy as possible. Now it’s all about picking those juicy lemons and squeeze them until the last drop. Who says no to a delicious lemonade? 

In order words, we are putting into context everything we have learned in the previous years. Small pieces of knowledge here and there, randomly spread out on the table, that happen to be the perfect fit but remain uncoupled.

Pathomorphology is the biggest monster we have to face this year. It is basically pathology with a focus on the morphology part of it. We are currently studying systemic pathology. Honestly, so far so good. I find the subject interesting but a lot of memorisation must be done in order to be prepared for the weekly classes. Unfortunately, in Gdansk, the practical component of pathology is almost inexistent. We do not get to look into the microscopes at all. Disappointing for people who, like me, are actually interested in the histology of disease. It makes sense to spend some time looking at microscopic slides when we must describe certain cellular changes in specific tissues. Lacking the practical part I find myself memorising a lot of new sterile terms. Sadly. Pathology is definitely one of the fields that I am in love with. Pathologists know so much! In addition, they have good working hours, their tasks can be performed with a good degree of independence and they do not need to deal with difficult patients. Since I am eager to find out more about this particular field I will take some chances. Hopefully I will see some cool stuff sooner than expected.

Last week we finished the neoplasm chapter. Cancer is a major topic nowadays. Scary but so interesting at the same time. The more I know about it the more I want to know.

Pharmacology is our second biggest subject. The good news is that pharmacology is intimately related to physiology. Understanding how drugs affect the body is peanuts when you know physiology.

The bad news is that pharmacology requires countless hours of pure memorisation. Most of the drug facts we must memorise at our school are completely useless. Whether you like it or not you just have to play by the rules and waste your youth reading about random drug facts over and over again. 

How do I study for pharmacology? The story tells that once upon a time a Swedish girl called Victoria drew a series of diagrams with all the drugs we need to know in order to pass the exams.  Everyone has been using her notes to study pharmacology ever since Victoria made it to 4th-year.

Every A3 paper has a family of drugs. Have a look at the following picture.

BBF086E0-9011-4731-ADB4-9FF67C834626 copy.jpg

I must say that at the beginning I wasn’t very excited about studying such a big subject from someone’s notes. However, I decided to give it a try and it really works. Reading them before the seminars is a good strategy to maximise your learning. The seminars follow Victoria’s notes word by word. Whenever something is not clear to me I consult the book and complete her diagrams with my own additional details. Two weeks before the colloquium is time to cram and imprint those A3 pages in my brain!

Victoria, if you happen to read this post please email me. Your next cup of coffee in Gdansk is on me. For real. We have a total of 4 pharmacology colloquia that must be passed until the end of May. In case we score below 60% a retake is needed. Failing the retake means oral examination. Our first colloquium was Saturday, 10th of November at 08:00 in the morning. 35 MCQ questions and 5 prescriptions in a total of 50 minutes. It was a fair exam.  (…)

15th of November

(…) Today is a day I will never forget. I assisted to the first autopsy in my life. The pathologist who performed it is an amazing doctor and guided me through the entire procedure. A priceless experience, I must say. 

A technician opens the body and the pathologist collects tissue samples of every major organ. I helped with some small tasks such as weighing the organs. Obviously, you need to have some guts to watch and withstand the stench. The latter did not bother me at all because I was too busy processing what the pathologist was doing and asking him questions. I feel so grateful for such learning opportunity. It feels good to know that the professors are willing to help us walk the extra mile. (…)

Somewhen in December.

(…) It’s Christmas time again! Unbelievable. 

This year I have not even managed to write a complete post since October. Hopefully, that alone tells you how intense medical school is.

Pharmacology results were as good as expected. It was definitely a good start. Now I just need to keep on pushing. Unfortunately, I do not find pharmacology very exciting. The more I try to fall in love with it the more I despise it. Pure memorisation is not my cup of tea. Nonetheless, I am in good terms with pharmacology. 

My group ended psychiatry (another small course) in the beginning of December. The coolest thing about psychiatry is the opportunity we have to talk to patients. The teachers let us engage into conversation with the patients and ask them whatever we find relevant. Sometimes we are lucky enough to see patients who manage to communicate in English. Whenever that is not the case the teachers translate the conversation. The final test is nothing to worry about which takes pressure off your shoulders. Since psychiatry classes tend to start early in the morning I suggest you sleep good the night before, bring your coffee mug, find a comfortable seat and enjoy the ride. The course consists of 10 sessions. After that, those hours are converted into free time (gold for medical students) until the end of the semester. 

Clinical genetics was our last battle before Christmas break. We were tested on two different cases. The test will impact 20% of our final grade and the results will be published after Christmas. Despite being a small course I enjoy learning about all the congenital diseases and the different (rare) syndromes. Furthermore, the professor is great. Sharp, funny, sarcastic and straight to the point. There is a possibility to collect extra points (up to 5) during seminars and lectures. Just like in physiology last year, these extra points will be added to your exam score and might save you from a retake. 

Surgery is one of the most popular subjects among students. Most of us considers it as a future career possibility. Seminars and practical classes alternate every week. We have already been introduced to suturing. Boring. There will be a final exam in June so until mid May we get to enjoy the ride.

Pathomorphology is our first battle on Monday, the 7th of January. We will be tested in 11 chapters of intricate material. According to older students this is the easiest part. That doesn’t make it feel any better though. A final average of 50% is required to take the final exam in June. There will be only 2 colloquia. The stakes are high. Despite the pressure, I really enjoy studying pathology. It is by far the most interesting subject I have ever studied in medical school. Reading about certain diseases and how they affect the body makes me less scared of them. 

Pharmacology follows on Saturday, the 12th of January. Pew. Those 4 days in between will be a cramming marathon. Not looking forward to that. The retake will be on the 26th.

Saturday the 19th is pathophysiology’s turn to test our knowledge. Although it hurts to admit I will not be studying pathophysiology until I am done with pharmacology. I cannot possibly deal with 3 subjects simultaneously. 

Last but not least we will face clinical genetics on the 30th of January. The regular classes finish on Friday the 25th which gives us a good window to prepare. Passing the exam on the first attempt means holiday between the 31st of January and the 17th of February. 

I have decided to enter 2019 in Gdansk. Desperate times require desperate measures. I tend to be more efficient in my study cave (as I like to call my bedroom) than anywhere else. Hopefully the snow will stay away from Gdansk and give me the chance to run whenever I feel the need for fresh air. Running is definitely one of the coping mechanisms I use to keep my sanity.  

In about a month I will be halfway through 3rd-year. Hard to believe. 

Despite the heavy workload I am truly enjoying the studies. (…)

Beginning of February.

(…) Here we are again. One month ahead of time. February! The blog has become a dead zone since October. Sorry about that. I have not had the energy to write on a regular basis. 

It is the 11th of February and we are halfway through the semester break. In a week my schedule suffers some changes for the worse, unfortunately. There will be long school days until the end of May.

January was a tough month for all of us studying in Gdansk. Exam period changes people. Believe it or not. Our first battle was pathomorphology on the 7th of January. 30 MCQ and 40 minutes. Ironic, to say the least. There is so much to learn and at the end of the day we are only tested in a few things. In addition, we write the test at 16:30. Not a good time for me.  I would rather have the test on a Saturday as we usually do in other subjects. Nevertheless, the test was totally fair. 

After that exam I went home with my friend Noor, had a 60-90 minutes break in order to eat and rest our minds a little, and started revising pharmacology. I tend to go home and relax after a big exam. However, this time around I knew I had to push harder. We reviewed the 5-6 weeks of material in that Monday evening and the next day. Endless hours of pure memorisation. By Tuesday evening I was inconsolable. I could not make any sense of all those drugs. The struggle was real for someone who is used to have things under control a week before an exam and can barely recall one group of medications 3 days prior to the test. After a good night sleep I was ready to keep on swimming my way through the ocean of drugs and their onset of action, dosage, contraindications, duration, route of administration, etc. It is impressive the amount of information one can (stress) read and memorise over the course of 72 hours. I managed to completely ignore the pressure we are under and focused on learning instead. 

The exam format was identical to the previous one. 35 MCQ and 5 prescriptions for a total of 40 points (50 minutes). Fortunately, it was just as fair as the first colloquium. Dodged that bullet!

Pathophysiology… What should I write about it? Not a fun subject to study for. There is no recommended book that we can follow. Although we have a bunch of seminar notes to study it’s difficult to be sure whether or not you are preparing the right way. Pathophysiology is closely related to pathomorphology but tends to focus more on the disease mechanism. I thought it was a lovely subject at the beginning of the semester. Right now I am not such a big fan of it. The exam was totally fair and I was delighted to have survived it with less than a week of (stress) reading. 25 MCQ and 10 open questions (60 minutes).

Clinical genetics reminded me how ironic the ECTS system is. It is a 3 credit course but it requires  a lot more work than what is worth. Luckily we had good time (9 days) to prepare for it after pathophysiology. 80 MCQ and 90 minutes. A marathon. No kidding. The exam level was just what I expected it to be. The results were published the day after and passing it could not have felt sweeter. My semester break was between the 31st of January and 18th of February. The first 5-7 days were dedicated to fully recharge my batteries. I had never felt so mentally exhausted. About a week into the break I slowly went back to the books. 

The second pathophysiology colloquium was on the 23rd of February. It marked the end of the first school week of my 6th semester. Fair test but too many unexpected questions for my taste. 15 MCQ and 7 open questions for a total of 30 points. 60 minutes. (…)

3 days ago.

(…) The next battle was Internal Medicine on the 9th of March. 12 open questions and 45 minutes to write the test. This is another annoying subject to study for. The recommended book is not very useful for the type of questions we need to answer here. Luckily, there are some good notes from older students. 

The need to focus on smaller subjects is gone since last Saturday. It is a good time to breathe and do my best to keep up with the bigger monsters. 

Pharmacology 3rd colloquium is coming soon (30th of March) and there is a ton of new drugs to memorise. 

The next two weeks we are going to dive into the pathology of the endocrine system and skin. Honestly, I could not be happier about that. I tend to enjoy such topics very much. Hormones are the coolest thing ever. Small changes in those molecules can really affect your overall health. Skin, on the other hand, has all these different layers with different cell populations in each one of them. So fascinating! 

We are already half way through March! How crazy is that? Until the end of April we have a lot to prepare, study and review. Once May starts there will be no time to catch up. Exams will come one after another. It is going to be an ‘interesting’ ride for the lack of a better word. In 100 days I will be writing my pathology exam. So much to learn and so little time. 

I wish there was a lot more to tell besides school. Unfortunately, there is not. Most of my days are exhausted reading and attending classes. I tend to take Friday evenings totally off (unless there is an exam on a Saturday) and I usually make room (1-2 hours) to enjoy myself on a daily basis. Exercising outdoors is one of my favourite ways to break out of my own bubble. However, the weather has not been helping at all. Most of the time is cloudy, rainy, cold and windy. Running in such conditions is doable but not very pleasant. If only the temperature was in the 10-15ºC range. I look forward to the sunny and warm Gdansk. 

This year I have decided to spam every Norwegian hospital with my CV. I am excited to see where I end up working this summer. I am open to anything. 

I will do my best keep you updated during the next months. 

See you soon. 

Happy New Year!

Elective courses

The 4th-year milestone

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