We’re a few weeks into our second year of courses, and already the slough of work has begun. But before we dig into the innumerable pathologies and prescriptions to memorize, we’re spending four days in a course known as “Themes.” Themes is an interdisciplinary course that revolves around one artificial case: a 7 y/o presenting with a swollen face and neck. As a class, we dissected the case from various perspectives: oncology, pediatrics, pathology, palliative care. Even subspecialties like PM&R and nutrition, to which we’ve had little exposure. And as we wait for the other shoe to drop, when the traditional curriculum begins, we are grateful for a “slower pace” (slow is relative in medical school).
The course doesn’t teach too many specifics, only the facts pertinent to the case. Rather it prepares us for what is the essence of medicine. Medicine is comprehensive; it isn’t about memorization or spending hours studying charts and drawing out biochemical pathways. And it’s about the patient, not the disease. It’s looking at the forest through the trees. So when we get lost among the trees, we must remind ourselves to take a step back and imagine how everything connects.
I wish I’d realized this in my first year, when the science is even further removed from the medicine. Asking questions like “how” and “why” are questions that make the material even more fulfilling. So I challenge any incoming med student (or even pre-med, where the science is even further removed) to make connections to the medicine, to patients, and to your reason why you’re doing heading down this path in the first place. It makes the work a lot easier.