“It will be good training for Moscow.”

February 21, 2016 § 7 Comments

The title of this blog post is probably one of my favorite sentences of medical school. It may be strange to consider and refer to sentences in that way, but it all depends on what stands behind it. This sentence was included in an e-mail from Krisztina, the PhD student we do research with at the Department of Surgical Research and Techniques. The e-mail was sent to Skjalg, Amir and myself and regarded an international surgical competition that we were to help out with that coming Friday.

Rewind a couple weeks, to the week before school started. I was back from Amsterdam and traveling around the city gathering the last of my signatures for my index book (a bound grade book that must be personally signed by all of the departments we have classes in that semester). For my last stop, I dropped by the anatomy department to get my teaching assistant signature from the course director. While in her office, we began to discuss various conferences she was partaking in and somehow the subject of me wanting to be a surgeon came up. “Oh! I have something you might be interested in!” she exclaimed as she spun around in her chair and grabbed an invitation. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was an invitation to partake in a surgical olympiad in Moscow. In that moment, I was honestly so shocked by the mere prospect that I didn’t really know how to respond. I managed to convey my supreme interest through the surprise – and thus began the process!

The course director contacted my research supervisor (the head of the surgical department I mentioned earlier). Soon after, it was agreed that Skjalg, Amir, Tiago (fellow research students) and I would go to Moscow for the olympiad and that the top three Hungarian winners of the surgical competition held here in Budapest would join us.

I haven’t really mentioned the Moscow trip to anyone, nor the surgical competition that took place here in Budapest on the 12th, because I wanted to wait until it was a sure thing. I’ve learned to keep my expectations/excitement low until things are confirmed (to avoid the void that is felt when you lose that apartment you loved so much and that trip you couldn’t wait to go on).

The surgical competition that took place on the 12th was hosted by the surgical department we do research with. We knew that we would be helping out with the competition, but didn’t realize that we would be competing until this email that Krisztina sent us (only two days before). The email detailed the tasks we would help with and how we should get to the research site located outside of the city. “It will be good training for Moscow,” she wrote. Such a simple sentence and yet it held so much opportunity.

Fast forward a little over a week. The first competition is over and the tickets are booked. It’s happening. We are going to Moscow in April to compete in a surgical olympiad – and I couldn’t be more excited!

Here are some photos from the first competition. It was – in itself – an amazing experience and I feel so lucky that we got to take part in it.

With only two days to prepare, we had to get a bit creative. We were able to train in the pelvitrainer lab at school for a couple hours on Thursday, but it wasn’t enough. When I got home that night, I was determined to come up with something. So, I grabbed my ipad, a chicken breast and some needle holders and got to work. It was great for getting an idea of how to do suturing in 2D, but the tools were nothing like the ones used for laparoscopy.

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On the train on the way to the research center, we practiced some more on my scarf. Had to get in as much practice as possible!

To start the day, we watched a presentation detailing the tasks we would do that day. There were maybe 10 Hungarian students, Amir, Skjalg and I, and 3 students from Moscow (a Russian, an Indian, and a Brazilian). We all competed, but the Hungarians competed against each other for the chance to go to Moscow.

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There were four tasks in total:

  1. Peg transfer: done in the pelvitrainer (similar to this).
  2. Laparoscopic suturing on a glove: there were lines of black dots and we had to make sutures between them. We were given one practice round and then timed on the second attempt.
  3. Laparoscopic suturing of a pig stomach: this was similar to the glove, but the sutures had to be made on the stomach.
  4. Laparoscopic suturing in an anesthetized pig: the abdomen was blown up with air (pneumoperitoneum) and sutures were made in her bladder.

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The three Hungarian students on the right (standing next to Krisztina in the green top) will be going with us to Moscow. They were really talented and I’m looking really forward to getting to know some Hungarian students. Plus, I’m really excited to visit the students we met from Russia! We really hit it off with them and have plans to see them when we are there.

As a thank you for our help and participation in the competition, we got these little certificates 😉



A perfect start

February 7, 2016 § 4 Comments

We’re only one week in and I already feel like this is going to be my favorite semester so far. I’ve not had this much time to study since 4th semester, which was a whole 2 years ago! Plus, I’m enjoying all of my classes – which is such a huge help.

On Monday, I only have orthopedics in the afternoon so I start the day at a café/library to get in a good study session before. This week, I headed over to Costa Coffee and started working on my pharma topics. We have our final at the end of this semester and as it is our “big class”, I’ve planned to go through all the topics early. We have a study group planned on the weekend where we will go through the topics as a group, giving us a chance to actively memorize the material we reviewed during the week.

We’ve organized the topics we are going to cover each week – new ones covered this semester plus reviewing some from last semester. My goal is to go through everything on my own during the week and memorize them if I have time/energy on Saturday night. That way the group is more of a verbal test. This first session will probably be a little bumpy, but we’ll get the hang of it!Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 09.46.29

I’ve been pushing the idea of “topics, topics, topics” on the students I TA anatomy for. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term “topics”: most of our exams are oral and based on topic lists. These are made available to us during the semester (ideally before). At the exam, we randomly select topics, usually one from each list (depending on how the topic list is divided up). Sometimes the topics are already divided into cards and we draw a card with 3 or 4 topics on it already. Then we have about 20 minutes (sometimes more) to prepare notes before our oral presentation of them.)

So, the students I TA for are in their 4th semester and therefore have their finals in anatomy, physiology and biochemistry at the end of this semester. I can tell that they are a bit overwhelmed by it all. Some of them stopped by the café I was studying at last night to talk about how to study this semester. It’s always really helpful to talk to someone who has been through it before – I definitely have a couple of people I “harass” at the beginning of every semester. It still feels weird to be the person giving advice, but after so many exam periods and this last one with so many exams, I feel like I finally see the pattern. I advised them to do the same thing I’ll be doing this semester: dividing up the topics from the final topic list into the different weeks of the semester, while paying attention to midterms (i.e. cover the internal organs topics before the regional anatomy midterm covering the thorax and abdomen). Then, review them on your own during the week and meet on the weekend to go through all the topics together.

This may seem really obvious to some. For me, it has always been so clear and simple in theory and never manifested successfully in practice. I remember Charlotte, Rina and I were going to do something similar for biochem one semester and it only lasted for about three or four weeks before we were thrown off by midterms. What we did then was to write out notes and send them to each other to sort of “turn in” our assignments for the week. I’ve also tried to do it on my own, but once you fall behind and have 20 topics to cover in a week for each class, it feels almost impossible to continue. Getting an early start for me is key. When I have a slow start to the semester, I constantly feel like I am making up for lost time rather than staying ahead. And motivation is hard to come by when feeling that way!

Orthopedics started off a bit slow but ended on a high note. My teacher is an orthopedic oncology surgeon and in the beginning his English was… lacking. Once he started talking about orthopedics however, things improved immensely. You can tell he is really passionate about what he does and he presents information in a very systematic way. He also seems to remember how we think as students and keeps that in mind when asking us questions or refreshing our minds (like muscles acting on the hip joint, including their origins and insertions – which we learned in anatomy during the first semester!).

On Tuesday, I start the day with surgery lecture (which was really, really interesting this week, probably because we are going into more detail now) and then head off to TA anatomy before my ENT (otorhinolaryngology) lecture and practice. I’ve been a TA for the same group since the beginning (going on our 4th semester now) and I really enjoy them. The problem is that the professor I TA for is a very, very busy man – head of more than one department, has his own clinic, etc. – and misses a lot of classes. This really kills the moral of the group. As a TA I can pick up some of the slack, but I’m nowhere near the level of an employee of the anatomy department who has worked there for 20-30+ years. On top of that, I have to leave the class 40 minutes early to make it to my lecture. I’m hoping a solution is found soon…

I only have one class on Wednesday: surgery! In this class we do presentations, go on rounds and then have an option of staying in the O.R. for as long as we’d like to watch any of the procedures they have that day. I love my teacher. He is clear, sharp and demanding. If we show interest, he’ll teach us everything he can. If we don’t, he won’t waste his time. I find this so motivating! He told us that in Hungary, if you want to be a surgeon, you need to start getting involved as soon as you know. They don’t accept applications for specialization from doctors who have not already had 5+ years experience in the O.R. The reason for this is that they don’t want to spend the time and money training someone who doesn’t really, truly want it. So, according to him, we should start now – or should have started 2 years ago!

Thursday is another short day: public health from 8:00-9:55. Last semester I took the advice of some previous students and chose a teacher who “does not give a shit” for lack of a better term. We have definitely had some classes where… efforts are best placed elsewhere. Public health is definitely not the most exciting class, but having a teacher who doesn’t care makes it even worse. So, I made sure to go the opposite direction this semester – and I am so happy I did! My teacher is the tutor of the department and is extremely outgoing. He calls us out by name during class and makes tons of silly jokes. It keeps the mood light and keeps your focus – something I desperately need!

On Friday I start with pharma practice. My teacher is amazing – Dr. Riba – and I am so happy I was able to get him (he’s the hardest one to get during registration). He has two classes during the week and allows us to go to either of the two. Since most people want to have the whole Friday off, this meant that we were only 5 for class this Friday. It was such a nice change from the 25 of us that were packed in the room for his class last semester! I heard that on Wednesday’s class there were even three people who had to sit on the floor.

The reason I chose to attend his Friday class over his Wednesday class was so that I would be more motivated to attend the bioethics and laboratory medicine lectures that follow. For those subjects we only have lectures – no practicals – and it’s tempting to forgo those for a full day of studying. Most people attend the first week’s lectures and drop off once they decide they can go without it. While the lectures are not the most exciting, they definitely bring up some important topics. Bioethics brings up many difficult situations we’ll have to face as doctors and laboratory medicine provides us with knowledge we know we are lacking and will need in the future. I know it will be hard to fight the desire to get an early study start that day, but I think forcing myself to go to those lectures will pay off down the line. At least that it what I am going to tell myself! It’s better to regret the things you’ve done than the things you’ve haven’t, right? Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 11.11.19

On Friday night we went ice-skating and then out to karaoke with some friends. The girls with the bad knees – me included – sat on the side and sipped mulled wine while watching the Scandinavians take to the ice. Karaoke at Blue Bird starting at 21:00, so we grabbed some spiked hot chocolate on their heated patio before then. They have two venues: upstairs for more calm songs sung by really talented individuals and downstairs for pure insanity. We were downstairs together with about 20 drunk Brits and some traumatized Vietnamese tourists. IMG_3407 IMG_3411 IMG_3417 IMG_3414 IMG_3426 IMG_3427 IMG_3429

We were home around midnight and headed straight to bed. Skjalg and I have both been so exhausted this week! We let ourselves sleep in Saturday morning and after a slow, calm start to the day, we were out the door to studying at a café. Then it was home to watch Ocean’s 12 before bed. Not a bad first week if I do say so myself!


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