“Wow.” That’s all I can say after this opening month of medical school that somehow feels like years condensed into 30 days. I’ve actually talked to a lot of classmates about this phenomenon, and I have a hypothesis for why we all feel this way. It is because medical school has been, in a word, a whirlwind. The emotional highs of getting so close to such amazing people so quickly, the awe of seeing how much you know as you point out arteries and muscles like the back of your hand (and in the back of your hand), and, of course, the terror of realizing how much you don’t know as you overhear conversations in study rooms as you walk past them. It’s a lot.
And yet, I haven’t even touched upon the fact that we’ve spent the past three weeks cutting open a dead person. When I first saw our cadaver, I was flushed with thoughts of mortality. All we are, really, is a body. And at some point, that body dies. And it’s sad. And scary. But, before I could reflect further on these thoughts, it was time to grab a scalpel. I quickly found myself more concerned with remembering the difference between rhomboid major and rhomboid minor than with pondering these overarching questions about the meaning of life and what may or may not happen after death.
So, who are you? Why did you choose to let me explore the most intimate part of yourself while I suppressed my emotional engagement with classic rock music and conversation with my anatomy group about our plans for Friday night?
There are a lot of quotes on buildings and other built structures around campus. I’ve come across two in particular to which I feel a connection. The first, “Medicine arose out of the primal sympathy of man with man, out of the desire to help them in sorrow, need, and sickness.”
So, first of all, I think your name was Stacy. I think you had a husband named Greg. You and Greg had a daughter named Liz, and Liz had a few kids too, which made you a proud grandma. And when you told the fam that you wanted to donate your body to science, they applauded you for it. Sure, deep down, they wondered if you were crazy. But, they respected your decision. Because they knew that just as primal was your need for food and shelter, was your need to help others. And you knew that, despite my current level of professionalism, which I am working steadfastly to improve, and my lack of emotional maturity, your sacrifice is truly helping me and my medical school classmates to learn about the human body, so that we can go out into the world and fulfill our own primal needs to help others.
The other quote on campus that I feel a connection to is right outside the children’s hospital. This one reads, “If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.” I’m not sure exactly why I feel like this quote applies here. But, I think it does.
Actually, I know it does.