Dear Third Space…
I've never studied with anyone before, and when I came to med school, I met a great guy and studied with him a lot. But since he's the only guy I've ever studied with, I want to see what else is out there. How do I break it to him? Do I have to stop studying with him?
Scratching The Itch
Your dilemma is understandable. But the truth is that good study partners can be hard to find. So before you break it off with this guy, ask yourself what it is you're hoping to gain by studying with other people. Are you interested in different partners or just different experiences? When it comes to study partners, we all know that some can go for much longer than others without coming down with a bad case of the drowsies. You should also consider differences in your study partners' equipment, which can dramatically affect your studying possibilities. 13-inch laptops are great for fitting into small bags, for instance, but 17-inch laptops can display two PDFs side by side.
As you evaluate what you're looking for in a study partner, also take a moment to reflect on what your own study style seems to be. Do you usually take a long or short time to get the hard material? Do you like to keep to your dorm room, or do you prefer to venture to more public places, like the library or even the back corners of cafes? Are you comfortable including food or music in your study sessions?
Communication is key, so let your study partner know what is on your mind. It's likely he's thinking many of the same thoughts. See what, if anything, you are willing to try together, but don't feel shame in finding new partners with new strengths to meet your needs. When you are young, it is crucial to try as many study partners are you feel necessary to find the one (or two) that best plow your mind with information and plant the most vigorous seeds of knowledge.
Third Space Left Brain
You should stop studying with him. I know you want to "see what else is out there." But, if you want to show respect to your books, you should actually not be studying with anyone. You should be studying on your own.
Tell Great Guy that you do not want to study with a partner until you meet someone who you want to study with for the rest of your life. Tell him that you are not the kind of student who opens her notes to anyone who wants to see her notes.
We have all been pressured to study with someone else. "Maybe we can work through some problems," someone says, and it sounds benign. But when the two of you get a cubicle, the lights are on and the pencils are freshly sharpened.
Keeping from studying with someone else will not be easy. At times, you will have an urge. You may even want to study in a group. Don't feel guilty. Channel this urge into something productive, like more studying on your own. There is stuff you can do with a friend other than studying together. You may discuss course material in a public location, or you can sit beside each other in lecture.
Studying is something that two people do when they are comfortable with each other and when they want to give each other all the information that they have. It requires dignity and respect. You will probably be old by the time you are ready, but it will be worth the wait. Studying together really helps to prepare for an exam.
Third Space Right Brain
Hi. I'm wondering, why do all of the bathrooms in TMEC seem to be under construction lately? Is there some major toilet problem of immediate concern that I am unaware of, or is this some demented psychosocial experiment being run by HSPH?
Warily Eying the Toilets
The veteran investigative unit of Third Space Literary Magazine plunged deep into the bowels of HMS to find the answer to your question. Secret Plan O157:H7 for Forced Socialization revealed a biphasic administrative strategy: 1) Eliminate 2 out of the 3 bathrooms easily accessible to students, thereby encouraging increased interaction while waiting for the remaining bathroom, and during long, camaraderie-building treks through TMEC (see also, FEAT). 2) Gradually phase in daily fire alarms. Medical education studies have shown that hearing loss is directly proportional to board scores, and time spent outside during inclement weather builds rapport and empathy (again, see FEAT).
While the details of this report may shock you, remember, we came to HMS to be molded into Harvard-trained doctors. Learning to sit through lecture without taking a bathroom break is part of this training. Eventually, we promise, you will adapt. The tasers they have just installed on the taped signs will help.
Do you think if I ask more questions in lecture everyone will know how smart I am? I'm worried that people don't know I read ahead last night!
You have good reason to be worried. For all you know, your fellow students think you're an idiot, someone accepted to medical school because of political gaming or a computer glitch in the admissions office. Prove them wrong. When you use big words in section, don't just say them; spell them. If someone offers you a hat, politely accept it, then make a dramatic showing of struggling to fit it on your massive, knowledge-filled head.
I'm not saying you should write your MCAT score on your forehead. That would be absurd, as no one will be able to see it there when you're busy at the front of the class. Instead, tattoo it to your neck, or have it screen-printed on the back of all the science competition t-shirts you should be wearing.
In lecture, raise your hand, but not to ask questions — those are a sign of knowledge weakness. Instead, correct the professor, or provide semi-related or even unrelated scientific facts that you Googled the night before. No one will expect your comments to be relevant, because you should be sleeping in lecture, a sign that you have nothing to learn from class and need rest from the hours of studying you did the night before. Also, if you rub sand in your eyes they turn red so everyone knows you were working too hard for sleep.
You'll thank us later.
I think I want to go into primary care? What's wrong with me?
We gave your question about as much time and attention as you'll be able to give each of your patients if you go into primary care. Which is to say, more than we could afford, less than what it would have taken to accomplish something, and just enough to cut into our lunchtime and piss us off.
You want to know what's wrong with you. Well, it doesn't take a genius or a surgeon to figure that one out. The answer is, a lot is wrong with you. One could say you've "got problems." And frankly, there's no good place to begin, but let's try to review your system of problems systematically.
Head: What the hell are you thinking? Have you lost your mind?
Eyes: You're acting blindly. Life is a retinoblastoma, and primary care is the second hit. (The first hit is genetic.)
Nose: Not brown enough, or maybe you'd stand a chance in the OR.
Throat: This isn't how you do a review of systems, is it?
Heart: Too big. No, this is not a backhanded compliment. This is hypertrophy.
Lungs: On a scale of 1 to 10, we guarantee primary care won't take anyone's breath away.
Stomach: Empty. And before you try to buy food, maybe you should look into how much a PCP makes. We don't even have the heart to tell you, because unlike yours, ours are not hypertrophied.
Liver: Do you know why the CAGED bird sings? It's because he does primary bird care and sits in a cage every day from 8 to 6, diagnosing beak inflammation and rationing avian flu. Also, he's drunk. That's what the D in CAGED stands for: "Are you Drunk right now."
Other stuff: Covered by your gown.
Feet: Just walk away, Anonymous. Walk away before you succumb to your diabetes and have to be rolled away. Walk away before it's too late.
That's pretty much all the advice we're able to offer. If you need more help — and yes, we suspect you will — we'd be happy to refer you to a specialist.
There is a boy in my class. I write on his Facebook Wall, and he writes back on mine, but deletes my posts on his Wall. What do these symptoms mean...???
So far, our differential includes: 1) he's just not that into you, 2) encephalitis.
Either way, take heart. Because although we know it's what they always say, this time it actually isn't you. It's him.
As we see it, you have a few options. You can delete his posts on your wall. You can write on his wall, and then immediately delete your own posts before he gets around it. You can also start addressing posts to him on the walls of mutual friends, up until they put you on limited profile.
Or you can just cease your Facebook activity altogether, which seems to be an option you're already considering. We commend you for this. But we also feel obligated to say that switching to MySpace is not an entirely appropriate alternative, just as the circus is not an appropriate alternative to dermatology residency when no dermatology residency will have you.
Instead, you may want to try MyCourses, which is like MySpace but more intimate and with longer videos. Unlike MySpace, most of the identities on MyCourses are real. And as with Facebook, you can look up the profiles of friends and people you pretend not to recognize whenever you pass them in real life because you've never technically met. If you're lucky, their ID photos will even have the word CONFIDENTIAL printed across their foreheads, revealing a sense of modesty and mystery that neither MySpace nor Facebook will ever know.
And if at some point you find yourself in withdrawal and craving the wall-to-wall, you can always post a question on a class forum. You may never get the answer you want, or even any answer at all, but at least no one will delete your question.
I like looking sexy on PD days, but not too sexy. Where do I draw the line?
-I'm too sexy for my exam room
Dear I’m too sexy,
We know how you feel. We had the same inner existential struggle when we started PD, too. We came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as being too sexy for PD because after all, being sexy is just being professional. Because we love problem-based learning, here are brief case studies to illustrate some basic tenets of professionalism as it applies to the very question you’re grappling with.
Dr. McHottie is a 32-year-old attending dermatologist at a major teaching hospital. Every so often she emerges from her clinic to consult in inpatient wards, bringing with her a sea of eager fellows, residents, and medical students. How will the confused patient and other hospital employees identify her as the head honcho?
When Dr. McHottie steps onto the floor, be sure to auscultate for the rapid clicking sounds of her five-inch Jimmy Choo heels. If necessary, place your stethoscope anywhere on the ground; there is no way to miss it. This will surely distinguish the poised attending from her overworked students in neon crocs (neon green is not the new black). Heidi Klum herself envies Dr. McHottie’s fitted wool-blend dress under her immaculate white coat. Her hair is obviously impeccable, and she only trusts her vintage Cartier to keep track of her precious time (read: expen$ive). The final touch? A dab of eau de toilette, just strong enough to mask that too-much-Cal-Stat-and-not-enough-showers stench trailing her minions. Now, that’s the kind of excellence we aspire to emulate: if you’re gunning, too, you had better be sexy doing it.
This one is easy/not as important, so let’s get down to the point and skip the ten pages of introduction. Patients want and deserve to be treated as real people, unless they’re wearing last year’s trends that clash with your exam room’s new décor. How would you present yourself in your daily life outside the hospital? (If you’re wondering what “life” we’re talking about, don’t worry: this is a hypothetical situation.) We know there is a sexy beast lurking under that baggy Harvard Medical School sweatshirt you wear to lecture every day.
Dr. Fashion Victim comes to his primary care practice half an hour early every day and reviews his cases meticulously before the first patient arrives. Most of his panel consists of overweight, hypertensive, and diabetic patients. He tried prescribing exercise programs but to no avail. Why does his exercise counseling fail?
Too many busy physicians think it is perfectly acceptable to pair those brown corduroy slacks with that frumpy off-white shirt and maroon tie, but is this behavior really embodying physician accountability? Recent patient satisfaction surveys are loud and clear. Patients routinely ask, “If I can’t see the definition of my doctor’s linea alba and rectus abdominis under his Prada shirt, how do I know I can trust his exercise regimen?” The obvious logical corollary is that all male physicians must have the body of Adonis, nothing less.
In case you’re wondering, you can knock two professionalism principles out of the park if you throw in some cufflinks to go with that crisply ironed shirt and matching (bow-)tie (recall the “Excellence” case study).These cases are by no means representative of all the variations of sexy we deem commendable. Just don’t get caught looking like Snooki, or Dr. Treadway might just make you repeat ITP over Christmas break.
I've really been trying to get into Boston culture. I went to see Blue Man group and worked on Scott Brown's election. What else can I do to be a Bostonian?
If we can generalize from your previous two attempts at townification, in one case delighting in the tomfoolery of the mute and cyanotic and in the other assisting in the senatorial ascendancy of a former male model, we get the sense that you are hoping to immerse yourself in activities that are of questionable taste, that is to say, uniquely Bostonian. Congratulations.
First, if you have not already done so, join the Tea Party immediately. Since 1773, the ships in our harbors have been filled with chests of desperately dehydrated Darjeeling that is longing to breathe free. The water is now simply too clean, the Boston Tea Party too un-reinacted. From what we’ve heard on the Fox News, the pinnacle of journalistic excellence, Tea Parties are now common even outside of Boston. Imagine how popular you will be on away rotations!
Next, now that the Big Dig is over, you should probably try to locate another set of important city structures that would be, from a Jane Jacobs perspective, better underground. Then, draft a proposal for their interment that will drag on the city’s collective time and patience but still give journalist and citizen alike a cool name to complain about. May we suggest that you choose the Green Line and call the project “Creating a Subway System.”
Finally, if you still have energy left and haven’t been run out of town on a newly underground rail, you’ll have time to perfect your local accent. Pick up a copy of Good Will Hunting, go to see The Town in theaters, or better still, drive around Harvard Square until you can locate and capture Ben Affleck. Then, relax a little and leave your R’s behind. If you can pick up a few key phrases, you’ll be a hit with patients and house staff alike. “See, Jimmy?” they’ll say. “The medical student talks like people! Isn’t it adorable?” And you’ll laugh, having no idea what was just said.
Enjoy your time in the Hub of the Universe, and let us know how your quest to become Sam Adams turns out.