Q: Do I have to know this? A: Yes, yes, you do.

Finally! There are sparkling moments, here and there, very rare, that I feel like I’m on the verge of, just the tip of the iceberg of… (dare I say it?) … being a doctor. Scratch that: there is nothing about my being that is a doctor just yet, but I can feel the gears of my brain clicking into thinking like a doctor. It’s not graceful, it’s full of errors and embarrassing missteps, but I’m absolutely reveling in it.

It’s no coincidence this feeling coincides with a shift in our 1st year medical education from mostly memorization to conceptual, problem-based learning. Our “how-to-be-a-doctor” class, Principles of Clinical Medicine, introduced us to problem-based learning last week, wherein we were presented a case and bumbled together through deciphering physical exam findings, diagnostic test results, etc., to arrive at both a diagnosis and a better understanding of the ways in which we think and approach medical problems. Our new course, Systems, Processes & Homeostasis, has woven a semester-long, case-based, exploratory portion into the course itself. In our first meeting today, I loved seeing how my peers think, how they approach what is to us, essentially, a total mystery. I can’t wait to report back to them what I’ve discovered tonight—that our case is not such a mystery, that we might know more than we think, that what we have learned in our first two courses—6 months and an inordinate amount of studying, paper, head-scratching—actually does apply here.

This has been particularly noticeable in these last couple days of the 2nd half of our 1st year of many years of medical learning (technically we’re 12.5% doctors now!), and it’s evidenced in the decline of one of our favorite questions, “do we have to know this?” and its little brother, “will this be on the test?” I think we are all relishing the chance to sink our teeth into cases, to put into context what we’ve spent a long time learning and what we’re still just trying to grasp. I think we’re beginning to understand that, yes, we do have to know this: it may save someone someday.

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