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A Better Nerd

Newali_1 Ali Tabatabaey -- As I write this, I’m just a few hours away from the psychiatry final I wrote you about and some of you wished me good luck for (thanks everyone). Normally I would be running through my notes and highlighting everything that had the slightest possibility of being turned into a question. But tonight, unlike any other exam night, my mind is preoccupied with something probably a bit more important.

It was around an hour past noon and I was sitting at the afternoon lecture, trying to pick up bits of information from the merciless bombardment of medical facts that my mind simply could not amass. No surprise! After the sleep deprivation it had gone through trying to organize all my ambitious activities, I could not blame my brain for screaming out “SYSTEM OVERLOAD” whenever I actually tried to pay attention. So, I decided to take an intellectual stroll around the university and spend the time thinking about my life and how things were getting along.

To tell you the truth, that was not the start of my rumination. It had started the night before when I read the comment from Elena to my last post. She had recently graduated from med school and finished her comment with “I miss med school already!”, so it sank in. In a couple of days, I will be starting my final rotation as an extern and hopefully in a few months, I will be an intern, making decisions, deciding for one's life, only to be corrected by more experienced physicians. The education is almost over!

I’m sure you’ve all had those moments when you suddenly feel you’ve grown up over night, the feeling of entering a new phase in your life, a new era. Well, this was one such moment for me. Looking at the buildings and the people around me it became clearer with every step that more than 5 years had passed since the first day I entered this place.

For most of my colleagues, escaping into internship is more of a relief and a symbol of the end to their agony. But for me … I miss med school even before leaving it. I know this a bit too soon to get hysterical (I mean I still have 2 years as an intern) but internship is your last chance at learning, your third strike against a 90 miles-an-hour fastball which will be gone before you even notice it.

I’m not worried about my final anymore. I know it can’t cause me any problems. Yet this is only on paper, the real thing is …! That’s the problem. I don’t know what the real thing is like.

Ever since I started thinking about this metamorphosis, I’ve been reliving my life as a student, thinking of all those hours working as a journalist, going to the movies or even sitting in the cafeteria. Shouldn’t I have spent that time on internal medicine, pediatrics, or any other one of the endless fields of medicine? Did I make good use of my days or did I just take it as it came? I’m haunted by all those moments when I, like today, was too tired to listen to the lectures. Or the nights I went out with friends instead of sitting home studying and learning that one piece of precious information that might one day save a patient's life. Although, such nights were not a frequent luxury.

I have always taken pride in my self-esteem, but medicine is such a delicate topic and the skill and knowledge needed for its mastery is so huge. At any given point in time, you know that you could have been a step ahead of where you currently are. And you only have yourself to blame.

This is not the first time I’m having such feelings and it probably won’t be the last. Some of my friends tell me I think too much. Maybe that’s the case. All I know is that I have to stand up and do my best, and that’s exactly what I will do; I just wish I had been a better nerd.

(The photo is me with a younger brother.)

December 20, 2005 | Permalink


WOW!!!!!!looks like its my mind writing it,apart from the fact that i have 2yrs still as a student,i m not going thru my psychiatry ward or just finishing it off but still......... this shows Ali i think more than you do and it also has a quicker pace than yours too, they came to my mind before closing up for my internship, i guesss normally docs go through it

Posted by: Ume Habiba | Dec 21, 2005 9:15:52 AM

This June I will have graduated from med school 20 years ago. I am a faculty member at a medical school. It is rare that a week or two goes by when I do not find myself learning something new. I think that the wonderful and difficult thing about medicine in general is that it is always changing, the fields advance and it is always impossible to know everything. I think that your learning is only just begininning, just like your career, and you have everything to look forward to. What is important to realize is you cannot know everything, therefore knowing what you do not know is perhaps the most important. The advice and consult of other physicians and specialists is always available, but only if you know to ask for it.

Posted by: an attending | Dec 26, 2005 10:43:19 AM

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