In an effort to provide more regular updates, I’ve decided to try my hand at monthly posts (unless something important happens that I want to relay at length). I will caution you all by saying that these recaps will probably be rather lengthy; the great thing about Vanderbilt is that there is much more to the experience than time spent in class.
To start, here’s what happened in February:
- We finished Structure, Function, and Development (SFD, aka anatomy/physiology/embryology) at the end of January. This is typically known as the first year’s “rite of passage,” the hardest course in medical school. When we returned from a weekend of celebration and rest, we began Microbiology and Immunology (M & I), a class which I grew to love not only for its less hectic nature but also for its content.
- The week that M & I started, I rejoined the school’s a cappella group. I’d gone to a couple of practices at the beginning of the school year, but I originally quit the group because it didn’t seem like a good fit for me. I was in a group in college, and I kept finding myself comparing the med school’s group to them. Eventually, I realized how much I missed singing (and beatboxing) and decided to come back after SFD ended. I’m really enjoying it now; I’ve even arranged a couple of songs, and I’m currently thinking about a third one.
- Some of us first year girls have started a Bible study. We meet once every two weeks on Tuesday mornings before class, at one of the girls’ apartments. Every time we meet, one girl leads the Bible study (one of Tim Keller’s, on 1 John) and another brings breakfast. I have been blessed by this Bible study; I was definitely beginning to feel alone in my faith, so this group was an answered prayer. The Medical Christian Fellowship on campus has events and weekly dinners, but somehow getting up earlier than usual on Tuesday mornings fits better into my schedule than trying to bum a ride to dinner on Monday nights after a long day when I most likely haven’t started studying.
- Vanderbilt currently offers electives for students, ranging from Spanish to biostatistics to health policy. I decided to take a course called Let Your Life Speak, on decision-making and self-awareness. We meet once a week on Tuesday afternoons to discuss readings, do activities, and have small-group discussions.
- I performed in the med school’s production of Vagina Monologues the Saturday before Valentine’s Day. This was my first time doing theater; I’d done spoken word before, but for some reason performing like this felt foreign to me. I actually asked one of my theater friends from college to give me tips on memorizing a piece since I felt like I was going to struggle with it. In the end, everything went well. I plan to do it again next year.
- The day before Valentine’s Day, the Careers in Medicine organization did a “specialty speed dating” event for the first years. Armed with “little black books” giving background information on select specialties, we talked to residents and 4th years at different stations and learned about life in urology, radiation oncology, psychiatry, etc. After that, we picked up to three specialties that we wanted to learn more about and sat with chief residents from each of those as they gave us more information (I sat in on psychiatry and neurology). Honestly, it was a great event but also overwhelming. I told people that it was “too much future for one night.”
- The Dean of Students invited groups of first years to his (gorgeous) house for dinner. I went to the last one that was scheduled. There was a point when we started discussing how things were going for us in our first year. I think the dean asked about how we felt the faculty responded to our concerns, and I mentioned some of the shortcomings that I felt were coming along with that. A little later, the dean thanked me for having the courage to speak up. The whole experience surprised me because I’m usually never the one to speak up–not even in class, unless I’m absolutely sure I have the right answer.
- Preparations for Cadaver Ball, the med school’s annual formal, are in full swing. The event, which is on March 23, involves a dinner and an entertainment segment, followed by dancing. The first and fourth years provide the entertainment every year in the form of videos and live performances. I’ve helped out with a couple of the first years’ videos and had a blast doing it. Also, I finally started going to the dance practices my classmate has been doing since October or so. Our routine involves bachata, merengue, and some moves commonly seen in zumba. Did I mention it’s my first time dancing with a partner?
- In the spirit of further broadening my horizons, I went to a lunch lecture about harm prevention in the transgender community, put on by the school’s LGBT group. This was an unapologetic, highly informative discussion put on in the student lounge for all to pass by and hear. I’ll admit that at first I was a bit uncomfortable; the context in which I was raised never addressed these topics or talked much about LGBT issues. But as I sat there, I realized my desire to reconcile my faith with the experience of people who aren’t like me, whom my religion, or at least people in it, seems to condemn.
- In my continuity clinic, we’ve started taking brief patient histories and presenting to our preceptor and his fellow on a regular basis. I’m becoming more comfortable with interacting with people as a caregiver, and I feel like I’m a bit more involved in my clinic than I was before.
As you can see, a lot has been happening lately. I think I’m finally learning what it means to balance work and play. To be honest, this barely feels like real life sometimes.