Saturday, August 15, 2009

Orientation and the White Coat

I apologize for not posting yesterday as I said I would. I've been quite busy.

By and large, orientation week was long and not that useful. Oh well, we got some free stuff and free food. (Free food is definitely the way into anyone's heart.) I met many of my fellow M1's. We are a diverse bunch and everyone's really nice . . . so far. I met MJ-F, who I'm going to call "the Cutter." She worked in a hospital for a year or two, helping with organ transplants. So she was saying how her hands were itching to cut into the cadavers, and how she missed the bodies. We kind of scooted away from her slightly when she said this. Not many other people are looking forward to anatomy, lol. Then there's LV-M, a loud and funny guy from CA. Actually, there are a lot of people from CA and it's makes me chuckle inside as I sense their fear of the Midwestern winters. I've met 2-3 other people from my alma mater, so it might be nice getting together with them and reminiscing. :P

According to my roommate, most people seem really enthusiatic and/or intense. I think there are a lot of Type A personalities hiding behind the nice faces in med school. Type A personalities tend to be: impatient, time-conscious, concerned about their status, highly competitive, ambitious, business-like, aggressive, and having difficulty relaxing. Neither my roommate nor I are like that - we're too laid back, though I'm more Type A than my roommate, lol. But I think I'll get along just fine with most people.

Several of us sitting together at lunch the first day got to talking about things - about the direction of health care, about specialties, about the ridiculous debt we're incurring, about being poor for the next decade - yeah, we were all quite cynical by the end of lunch. LOL! In fact, during our financial aid session, this one presenter needlessly told us how we needed to scrimp and save wherever we could, even if that meant forgoing coffee. Seriously, we're med students; how're we supposed to get by (in the long run) without caffeine?!

The very last thing during orientation was the white coat ceremony, a long-time tradition where new med students are "cloaked" in their (short) white coats. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the ceremony. On the one hand I'm honored to be a part of this elite section of society with the privilege of donning the white coat. My med school class has 204 students, the 3rd largest in the US. In total there are between 15,000 and 18,000 entering med students each year in the US. On the other hand, the white coat ceremony felt (to me) stiff and almost old-fashioned in the way it was done - in fear of being left behind in today's ever-changing culture of medicine.

There was a speech about the white coat - about what it should mean, about what it should be and about what it should not be. It should be a symbol that brings us closer to our patients, not further away emotionally. It should be a privilege and power to be used to heal others, not for personal gain. It should places us amongst equals within the health professions, not above nurses, social workers, public health officials, etc. When it all ended, my roommate and I decided that the white coat symbolized one thing to both of us: responsibility. In time I'll discover for myself all the other things my white coat means to me.

Ugh, it's late now. Sorry Randy, I'll answer your question in my next post. In case you forgot, your question was something along the lines of this: Why do people (and you) choose to go to med school?


E said...

That all sounds very involved. I'm ecstatic for you though. I almost went down the same path, though for the wrong reasons. So, I am too curious as to why you chose to pursue medicine.

James said...

I'm a sucker for old ceremonies and old traditions, but there you have it. I'm sure you're more than worth to wear the coat! :)

Anonymous said...

Are they still using formalin? Where are you starting your dissection--back or arm?

Also, I strongly suggest you pick up a copy of The House of God (Samuel Shem). It's a great release during those first two years. And don't be surprised if everyone in the class sleeps with everyone else--that's not unusual. Mostly for stress release.

Mike said...

So many Californians... I'm actually not surprised because everyone and their mother wants to go to med school. No offense. I'm not putting it down in any way, but I swear, maybe it is just the circle of people I surround myself with, population-wise Cali has a lot more students, etc., so they have to go somewhere.

Mike said...

That white coat ceremony thing sounds neat btw, I like the whole tradition thing. Sounds official.

Shane said...

Congrats on the beginning of your journey through med school. Hope your first day went well.

Randy said...

Glad to see your over the orientation part... And i'm sure you look strapping in ur new doc coat! Anywayz, no rush on the question, i'll ttyl

Aek said...

James, Mike: Some traditions I like, others I care less for. The ones with food I generally support, LOL. There was no food at the white coat ceremony. -_-

Anonymous: We're starting with the arms then back, I believe. Maybe the chest first.

Shane, Randy: Thanks!! :) My first day was LONG and somewhat boring, but alright.