Monday, February 11, 2008


A (Happy) New Year

By Alexandra Sowa MSII

I generally view myself as a rather cheerful, optimistic, glass-is-half-full type of gal. But not today, my friend, not today. Today, I feel like I’m never going to do well on my test this week, never make it out of the library and into third year, never learn how to successfully balance this “life” with any sort of real life, never be creative again, never…this list could go on, but I’ll spare you the rather dreadful monotony of it all.

So why have I, the perpetually Positive Penelope, turned into such a Debbie Downer, a Sulky Sally, a Whining Wilma? (Forgive the egregious alliteration, but I’m trying to cross “never be creative again” off my list of complaints. Baby steps.)

Perhaps I’ll blame it on January.

Perhaps I’ll blame it on the fact that I’m running out of space on my rather large bookcase and I just had to pack up F. Scott Fitzgerald in favor of F. Henry Netter.

Perhaps I’ll blame it on the fact that many of my friends are still reveling in their Christmas’ bonuses and I’m almost twenty-five, broke, and about to be kicked off of my parents’ health insurance.

Try as I might, I can’t place the blame on the calendar, my overflowing bookcase, or insufficient monetary funds. I’m almost too embarrassed to admit it, but the finger can only be pointed at one thing, and one thing alone: USMLE Step 1. At this point in my medical education, USMLE Leap 1 feels more like it.

Everything seemed to be going so well. My life first semester was filled with learning pathophysiology and the basics of physical diagnosis (I know how to take a blood pressure! I can hear a carotid bruit and tell you what it means!). Not terribly difficult stuff, but exciting nonetheless.

Everything seemed to be going so well, that is, until 11:59 p.m. on December 31, 2007. At the stroke of midnight, a rather alarming thing happened: I turned from a charming, happy future physician into a pathetically downtrodden second year medical student. Just call me Cinderella, M.D.

I first realized my dramatic mental metamorphosis upon receiving a thoughtful text from a medical school classmate in the first few minutes of 2008. “Happy New Year,” he wrote, “This year is going to be a big one!”

Although these were the words in the text, this is not what I read. Instead, I processed the following message: “Happy New Year – this is going to be the longest, biggest, most important year of your life. Not only are the next six months going to lead up to the do-or-die Board exam, but you will then be thrown to the wolves on the wards. Have fun!”

Ugh, a happy new year, indeed.

I know how inane it is to think like this, but much like my former five-year-old self who was afraid of monsters under the bed, I simply can’t help it. I know that the only rational response to the Boards is to study as I have all along, just as I knew that monsters were just about as real as my imaginary friend, Eddie.

Now that I’ve made my overblown fears public, I guess there is nothing left to do but attempt to relax, enjoy the rest of my second year, and of course, study. As such, Eddie and I are off to the library.

ShortCoat is a column that discusses the humor, heartache,and humanity of becoming a doctor. Alexandra Sowa is a second year medical student at NYU School of Medicine.


Mana said...

i wish i could give you some kind of reassurance that you'll get through it all OK, but frankly, i'm a journalist, so i can't tell you the first thing about med school. BUT, that said, it sounds like such a great adventure -- and the fact that you may well save my life one day makes me sort of want to be a doctor. :)

Anonymous said...

You'll be fine - all you can do is study as you are able to, taking time out to rest/ eat/ sleep/ relax/ see friends (v. important). You can only do your best. At the end of the day - if you fail (which is pretty unlikely) the earth will still turn, you can re-sit, and your parents will still love you. Countless people before you have done it and survived, as I'm sure you will too. Remember that medicine is not the end all and be all in life - you need other interests to keep you human. So keep reading Fitzgerald, flex that right brain, study sensibly and be sure to take time out.

ED resident.