Letters from University of Szeged

March 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Skjalg and I just received our letters from Szeged. This was originally our first choice, but after finding out that it is not on California’s list of accredited universities, we decided against it. Skjalg got in and I got accepted to their “preparatory course”. It shouldn’t matter much since we have already decided against  the school, but it still made me a little nervous. Skjalg asked me, “What are we going to do if I get into Semmelweis this round and you don’t?”

I really shouldn’t be too worried. Skjalg has never even taken a biology class before and he had a lot more time to prepare for the exams. With all the studying that I have been doing now, and will continue to do, I shouldn’t be worried about getting in or not. I’ve already gotten into Pecs on horrible scores, so I just have to believe that I will get in after the next round of entrance exams in June.

Ok, off to studying!

Reading Spot and Cell Cake

March 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

I spent all day today reading Complications and making my brother a cake for his birthday tomorrow. He is turning 22 and in lieu of recent events, I feel it is only fitting to have a medical themed cake – so I made an animal cell! I had a lot of fun doing it, though I didn’t plan for it to take all day. Hope he likes it when we wake him up tomorrow.

I’ve been highlighting several interesting lines in Complications that I feel are worth sharing here. I am so happy that found this book. I really makes the stress of these coming years more bearable. It offers such a different view into the world of medicine than the one portrayed in TV shows and popular culture. Plus, I enjoy the clash between medical reality and ethics in society.

In surgery, as in anything else, skill and confidence are learned through experience – haltingly and humiliatingly.

In the context of  the dilemma of a patients right to the best possible care versus the objective training of novices:

We want perfection without practice. Yet everyone is harmed if no one is trained for the future. So learning is hidden, behind drapes and anesthesia and the elisions of language.

Learning must be stolen, taken as kind of bodily eminent domain.

In the context of his position as an attending pushing a junior resident to put in a central line:

It is painful enough taking responsibility for one’s own failures. Being handmaiden to another’s is something else entirely.

In the section, “When Good Doctors Go Bad”:

The British psychologist James Reason argues, in his book Human Error, that our propensity for certain types of error is the price we pay for the brain’s remarkable ability to think and act intuitively – to sift quickly through the sensory information that constantly bombards us without wasting time trying to work through every situation anew. Thus systems that rely on human perfection present what Reason calls “latent errors” – errors waiting to happen.

In the context of doctors coming together to analyze error and improve performance:

Error experts, therefore, believe that it’s the process, not the individuals in it, that require closer examination and correction.

No matter what measures are taken, doctors will sometimes falter, and it isn’t reasonable to ask that we achieve perfection. What is reasonable is to ask that we never cease to aim for it.

My sunny reading spot in the kitchen 🙂 Lights up from about 10-10:30. My favorite part of the morning.

Studying and Lifestyle Changes

March 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

We’ve been really good about studying since we got accepted to Pecs. I’ve spent at least 2 hours a day studying Biology, though I haven’t come nearly as far in my book as I would have expected. I find it pretty easy to study at home – with the right music of course – but we like to change it up by going to a café or the library. We really need to evaluate our use of money before we move and save every cent possible. This means coffee at home and studying at the library for free. A cup of coffee adds up to a lot at 33 kr a day (about $5.75 at current exchange rates). From what we’ve read in blogs by students living in Budapest now, that money could buy you a full meal.

I’ve changed up my lifestyle quite a bit. I find myself growing increasingly nervous about being able to study as much as we will need to once school starts. It is easy for the brain to relax when you have been out of school for a while. I’ve deleted any movies or series that I follow, or was planning to watch. This may sound small, but over the past several months I have used up a lot of time following shows. Granted, most of the time I was doing cardio, but even 45 min here and there adds up.

I understand that I won’t be able to study EVERY waking moment and that I need to have some leisure time to settle my mind. Budapeststudent.com has been an amazing source of information and he has a list of books that he recommends for medical students. My first choice from the list is Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande. It’s an amazing read so far and honestly something that I could consider reading once again during med school and again during my first year of surgical residency. I’m a bit of a stress ball – the kind of person that feels guilty for sleeping in or watching a movie when there is so much to be done. When spending my leisure time reading a book that pertains to my desired field of study, I feel no guilt for the time spent doing so. Instead I feel like I am both relaxing and working on my future at the same time.

Oslo was beautiful today. Spring has finally arrived! I jumped into Complications as soon as I got up. The sun was beaming through the windows in our kitchen so I pulled up a chair and sat in the sunlight with my book and cup of coffee. We headed to the library around 12 and studied until 16. Right now I am reviewing basic chemistry and I find it so hard to pay attention. I remember almost everything from when I studied it in the states just not always in the right context. In the end I just need to remind myself that everything counts.

We snapped some pictures while we were studying. This is what we will look like for the next 6 or so years!

35 pages down, 1000 to go!

Skjalg was lucky to remember his music

The Story of the Butterfly

March 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Skjalg found this is his “internet travels” today. Thought it was quite fitting : )

 The story of the butterfly

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly.
One day a small opening appeared.
He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours
as it struggled to squeeze its body through the tiny hole.
Then it stopped, as if it couldn’t go further.

So the man decided to help the butterfly.
He took a pair of scissors and
snipped off the remaining bits of cocoon.
The butterfly emerged easily but
it had a swollen body and shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch it,
expecting that any minute the wings would enlarge
and expand enough to support the body,
Neither happened!
In fact the butterfly spent the rest of its life
crawling around.
It was never able to fly.

What the man in his kindness
and haste did not understand:
The restricting cocoon and the struggle
required by the butterfly to get through the opening
was a way of forcing the fluid from the body
into the wings so that it would be ready
for flight once that was achieved.

Sometimes struggles are exactly
what we need in our lives.
Going through life with no obstacles would cripple us.
We will not be as strong as we could have been
and we would never fly.

The Dawn of a New Beginning

March 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

So here it goes…

These last two weeks have been a whirlwind. The beginning of week one was marked by a meeting with Wanja Nilsen, a counselor/coordinator with Bjørknes Høyskole in Oslo, responsible for providing students with the information needed to study medicine internationally. We got hit with the news that we could actually apply to medical school now and that, wait for it, the entrance exams were in 10 days time. The following days were study, study, study! We did our best to review the 3 x 100 page review manuals Bjørknes had provided us with. The day before the exam was meant to be a pure review day, but was instead a scramble to put together our applications for the schools.

With such little and poor quality time to study, I was quite expectedly NOT prepared for the exams. English was fine, of course, as it should have been. I answered the questions to the best of my ability and waited outside for Skjalg and Christian to finish. We had a couple of hours to kill while they graded the exams and posted our interview times and decided to walk down to St. Hanshaugen to find a café. Along the way, we processed the exam and this milestone in our lives. We all felt such a sense of accomplishment, even with the knowledge that we might have just failed our entrance exams (the exams can be retaken in June with no extra fee). Regardless the outcome, this marked a moment that could change the course of our lives forever.

Christian and I dressed for our interviews

Our interview was set for 09:00 the following morning. Skjalg went first, followed by Christian, and then me. I felt lucky to have the opportunity to discuss the interview with Skjalg while Christian had his. It made me more nervous to discover that I would be pressed to discuss certain aspects of biology and chemistry in-depth. I warned the interviewer that I, like Skjalg and Christian, had only two weeks to refresh my knowledge of the subjects and that I had learned most of the topics before – but 5 years ago! I had a rough start. I found it hard to verbalize the names of different compounds and the steps of certain processes. My last two tasks were to describe the structure of an atom, list the organelles in a eukaryotic cell and how they differ from a prokaryotic cell. I was lucky – these were two things that I had reviewed and knew well. After I was finished he said, “I am going to change my mind about you. At first, I thought I would recommend that you come back in June and try again. But now, I see that you know much more than I first thought. Like your brother, I can tell that the intelligence is there. But you must review. You must review a lot. You cannot begin medical school without knowing these things. There will be no time to review the basics once you start.” He then proceeded to make some changes on my form and marked the top with an asterisk. “I will fight for you”, he told me, “But it will be hard to prove because your scores are not so good. But I will tell them that you know more and that you will review. I cannot guarantee anything. But I will tell them.”

Only four days later, on Thursday the 8th of March, we all got our acceptance letters to University of Pecs Medical School. This was shocking news to say the least. We had gone into this as a trial run, expecting that we would have the “real” test in June. But we got in this round – and all three of us!

Since Thursday, Skjalg and I have scoured the net for information about the different schools. We had originally planned on Szeged as our first choice, but Skjalg discovered that the Medical School there is not acknowledged by California. That narrowed it down to Pecs, Semmelweis and Charles University in Prague. Semmelweis is now our first choice – hope that we get our letters soon!

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