Don’t forget the days while planning the years

There is only so much you can cram into one day. Only so much you can do in a week. And when the year is over, only so much you can be proud to say you have accomplished and learned. Time constraints are the true enemy. We must all account for time in order to set realistic expectations. Or so I thought…

They say “time stops for no man,” but it certainly does for medical students, just check the fine print. Orientation week was when I first realized medical students expect to be exempt from mortal time limitations. For us, each day is 36 hours long, each week disguised as a month, and a year feels like a minute.  When I first heard that in addition to our core classes, weekly preceptorship with a community physician, and weekly principles of clinical medicine course, there are also mandated electives to be completed within the first 2 years — my face fell into the expression of accepted defeat (I call it the eye-pop-smirk). Apparently, super-human memory and a B.S. in time travel are the only two pre-requisites for success.

On the other side of 10 months of medical education, I am awed by what has transpired in this seemingly short time frame. And all the while I am still a human, not just a robot with accelerated eye movements for exhaustive reading. I have utilized all the allotted hours of the day for class, extracurricular involvements, brute force memorization, and even found time to spare for, you know, maintaining sanity. Every minute has been accounted for. How I made time for everything is beyond me. And again, I’m not just talking about class. In fact, some of my major learning moments have been during the completion of those seemingly impossible elective credits, which I have blurbed about below.

  1. History of medicine – Lecture series from Hippocrates to the discovery of Penicillin, understanding the foundations of modern medicine.
  2. Medical Spanish- 3 hours a week for 10 weeks, todo en español!
  3. Diagnostic Imaging and Medical Uncertainties – Medicine from an analytic perspective via primary literature review and basic radiograph reading (for dummies).
  4. Leadership Elective – Mentorship and leadership skills training from successful OHSU faculty and round table discussions about how to improve personal strengths and weaknesses in order to reach career goals.
  5. Introduction to Surgery Elective – Buffet table of requirements including weekly suture lab, OR scrub lab, required OR observation, morbidity and mortality conference (M&M), and trauma conference.

As mere MS1s, my classmates have been able to accomplish so much. Their determination to squeeze the potential out of every day has been inspirational. From integrating new electives into our curriculum, proactively working with the administration to improve the foundation of our medical education, planning national conferences, training for marathons, starting a rock band called Bushmeat, putting together cultural enhancement seminars, and donating time to community health improvement – each person has gone above and beyond even our own realistic expectations. This short list does not do justice to what each person has been able to contribute to our community’s education.

As I reflect on my own year and the year for my entire class, I look forward to a future of super-heroic ambitions and accomplishments. The trick is to never let a minute go to waste. Days can be taken for granted because you always expect tomorrow. But remember this: Your days account for your years, which account for your life. Carpe Diem.

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