Second semester

Well, I completed my second semester of medical school a few days ago. The last exams, unsurprisingly, were a wild ride. The semester culminated in a 3-day mental marathon. We had two very specific exams on the final Monday of the term, and two comprehensive, board-style exams that were exhaustive in nature on the final Wednesday. During the final hour of the testing, I genuinely wondered to myself how I would be able to complete a grueling 8-hour examination with 100% mental clarity; here I was struggling to stay focused after a mere 4 and a half.

I realized that I still have 50+ examinations left under my belt before anyone even lets me register for the big one, so it’s an inevitability that I will adapt over time to the increasing stresses of medical academia, proving myself ultimately on the USMLE.

My second semester was rough, and overall I am slightly disappointed in the quality of instruction I received. The 2 exhaustive exams I mentioned were ‘Shelf’ exams written by the NBME, and while I was entirely comfortable taking one (Biochemistry), the other left me asking myself if I even knew the material being tested (Physiology).

Nevertheless, I passed, though not as spectacularly as I did in first semester. The takeaway message for me overall for this set of 15 weeks was simple: study hard, but not to death, and you will be fine. For me, it is not feasible to expect perfection every semester. My goal in studying on this island is to learn medicine and perform well on exams. I’d rather not burn out and be a husk of a human consciousness by going overboard in studying.

The name of this blog was chosen deliberately – “a toilsome peace” – because I need to remind myself that consistency and effort are the backbone of any endeavor I will ever undertake if I intend to undertake them properly. I cannot be impatient with things that matter. Originally, this line of thought – this impatience – stemmed from my frustrations with the medical admissions process and my fitness goals. Differentiating complacency and patience has been my large personal struggle, and it will be many years yet before I am entirely at one with my thoughts, goals and motivations fully. I know at certain points I certainly am at this peace I seek, and at others I am furiously displeased. I am happy that I have the wisdom to recognize that, and more often than not I find myself patient rather than complacent.

In other news, I’ve been thinking a bit more seriously about what I’d like to pursue professionally. I’ve been reading more about hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. It is a therapy that is maturing rapidly and, therapeutically, it has amazing potential. Like any therapy, there are risks and routine use, but what fascinates me is the plethora of applications HSC transplants have – I imagine gene therapy in its fullest form.

However, it is now that I exercise great patience, because, as of now, I am on this island, no labs or full-fledged oncologists anywhere. I will wait, but not complacently, and continue to educate myself so that once I have a real opportunity to research and treat, I will make the most of it.


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