Preconceived notions about med school - youíve had them, Iíve had them and theyíve all been royally debunked in the years weíve been here. Between then and now, it seems that the silver lined clouds that we once envisioned, have taken a grayish hue.
There was a time when stupid, naÔve eighteen year olds like us thought getting into med school would be it. We would be at the epitome of parental approval. No longer would we be the kids to whom any and all foolish traits could be attributed to. Ha! Stupid us, naÔve eighteen-year-olds definitely got it wrong. A GPA above three? Who cares if people are getting four. You could definitely have gotten a four if you hadnít spent all that time on Facebook. Being a medical student suddenly loses its charm when the Ďparos waalon ki larkií can cook great Chinese and you have a hard time boiling an egg. And, of course, she looks better doing it so the rishtay waali aunties are clamouring for her attention (Hello! All that time walking to a ward under the glaring sun has to take its toll).
Then there was that part that rejoiced in the knowledge that we would bask in the awe and respect of our relatives. That goes south when six months into first year, your elderly khala comes to you about a pesky skin rash and asks your expert opinion. Youíve probably never actually seen a rash like that, let alone knowing how to treat it. So you sheepishly mumble something about not being really qualified yet. The response is something along the lines of Ďneem hakeem khatra-e-jaaní. And thatís that. Any credibility that youíd established prior to this is effectively nullified.
There is that tendency of our grandmothers - they think we will enter med school, find that infinitely eligible single doctor class fellow/senior (Remember Dr Ahmer, anyone! Dhoop Kinaray?). Fast forward a few years and weíll be living in our small medical heaven raising small doctor kids. They forget to factor in the hopeless male/female ratio, also the absolutely pitiful salary of young doctors. Finding a boy in this climate: not easy!
Thatís pretty much what your family does to you. Then there is what medicine does to you. Anyone recall those donation advertisements that go up every time around Ramazan showing a glowing, stethoscoped, white coated individual holding a sick childís hand, all the strength of humanity shining in his eyes. You think you will be that person. You think youíre going to bust in through the doors of the hospital and start saving lives left, right and center. In reality, you buy a shiny new stethoscope before your clinicals. You then realise that you donít exactly know how to use it. Very few bother to really learn (and here I am talking about actually using it to diagnose something, not just to hear the tap dancing of the heart). After a week, you stop bringing it to college. Next thing you know, out of the blue, a teacher asks you to take it out. You become red faced, and he gives you a blistering lecture about the type of doctor youíre becoming. You listen, promptly forget, and the next day, you still donít have it. Far from saving lives, you realise that going near most patients is a bit of a problem since they havenít seen the inside of a shower for days. Gradually, the two hours that youíre supposed to spend in the ward dwindle down to under an hour and thatís on the days you actually go.
Doctors can do no wrong. Thatís what they say and you believe it. You think that all senior doctors are paragons of virtue. Then you enter the hospital and this apparently normal senior doctor makes eyes at your pretty friend. Said pretty friend tries to avoid him as much as possible, but he still comes after her with the tenacity of a blood hound. Rotation ends. Three months later you hear heís found a new victim.
Weíve all seen that one medical TV show. Be it House or Greysí Anatomy or our very own (albeit slightly old) Dhoop Kinaray. And because of these entertaining, yet somewhat misleading TV shows, you come in expecting good looking doctors, mind blowing medical cases, an inspiring sound track running at the back of your head. What you get are aforementioned blood houndish doctors. The mind blowing cases turn out to be a long line of hernias, thyroids and kidney stones. Occasionally, when an unfortunate six-legged kid comes in for surgery, you are shooed away. And about that inspiring soundtrack at the back of your head, thatís a professor telling you for the six millionth time about the importance of history.
Ask any first year medical student what he wants to specialise in, most will reply surgery. Two or so years later, you walk into the OT wearing your brand new scrubs. You think you will be scalpel-ing away to your heartís content. Reality: After taking that obligatory display/cover picture portraying your scrubs in all their glory, you proceed to learn in great detail about what exactly the back of a surgeon looks like. You might see a few blood stains, but the inside of a body cavity? No way! In the presence of the lead surgeon, the assisting surgeon, the anesthetist, the residents, the house officers, OT technicians and the nurses, do you think that a few lowly students who really have no idea about whatís actually being done will actually get to satisfy their curiosities? Yeah, right. A few OT days later, the scrubs no longer seem that appealing and you realise that the OT which had previously been the centre for life saving activities is actually the shrine to all manner of crass jokes.
Then there is that one myth, dispelling which will invite all sorts of flack for this lowly scribe. Which one of us hasnít implied or stated outright to our non medical family/friends about how we have no lives, how weíre so busy studying that we have time for little else. Oh please! TV shows are seen with religious regularity, a trip to a fast food joint comes up every now and then. Weddings, birthday parties and get-togethers are rarely missed (apart from that one month before and during exams). And so, contrary to what we like to tell people and also ourselves, we do have a life. Not the happening ones of the LUMS, IBA, CBM variety, but a life nonetheless. So that pit of self pity we tend to create is pretty much self-made.
But donít worry, folks! There is life beyond. A life when the day you get your degree is the proudest day of your parentsí lives. When you know enough to tell people whatís wrong with them and see their gratitude filled faces in return. When you finally get a salary thatís higher than your bills (even if sometimes it comes after protesting in front of the Karachi Press Club). When, after going through all that youíve through, you finally save a life for real. Hereís to our journey - the one weíve had, the one weíre on and the one to come.