December 13, 2009
stupid is as stupid does
When I was growing up, I was what my wife amicably dubbed me a "geek jock". I was the one with straight A's but I also tend to think a bit.....differently than others. I can't explain it. Sometimes my brain just functions off on its own wavelength. For example, whenever doing something stupid like soaking tennis balls in gasoline and then lighting them to kick around and play soccer, I was NOT the responsible one saying, "hmmmm, maybe this isn't so bright." No, I'm the one who had the saying "when doing something stupid, you gotta be smart about it" so I'd make sure we'd have a hose handy. Or, with bb gun wars, we had to wear raquetball goggles. Inevitably, I'd eventually end up doing something stupid and my friends would jab at me, "how can someone so smart be so stupid?" So fast forward a decade or two. It seems I haven't evolved past that point. I'm on cloud 9 after my block III exams. I'm pulling an honors in histo and I'm only 2 points away from high pass in biochem. During the final couple of lectures of the semester, the biochem profs keep talking about the National Board Medical Exam (NBME) and giving pointers on how to do well on it. It's somehow factored into our grade for biochem. Well, knowing absolutely nothing about med school, I just assume that they're referring to the Step I exam, which is the first of three licensing exams to become a doc. Step I is taken at the end of the sophomore year, though. Why do they keep talking about it now? Seems a bit odd. The light bulb is yet to go off. During the review for the final, the prof pulls out a bunch of questions from a website that are simulated NBME questions. They are, shall we say, a tad different than the ones I'm used to seeing on our exams. He'd read the question and then ask people to raise their hands for A, B, etc. I was doing pretty well. They started to get progressively harder and I was one of the few ones still raising my hand for an answer. I wasn't right all the time but I could at least formulate something better than a flip of the coin. Then they got ridiculously hard. The light bulb is yet to go off. Friday morning, I make sure to get to school a bit early so as not to risk getting stuck in traffic and missing the exam (that'd be bad). Got my ritual Chick-fil-a lunch and ipod jamming and I walk up to the wall to check out my seat assignment. I make sure I have the correct class and the title says "National Board Medical Exam Biochemistry". The light bulb begins to flicker. It's not bright 300-watt bulb, mind you. No, it's more like a half-burned out bulb from three Christmases past. But that little filament is starting to glow. Oh, shit. I quickly get my laptop out and go to blackboard. I download the part separate from the syllabus, all the stuff about contact info, whom to call in case of emergency, blah, blah, important details....wait, what was that? That part about the final? Oh, shit. Something about the final is from the NBME and must be passed in order to pass the course. Oh, shit. The light bulb is glowing in all its 3-watt glory now. I quickly race to the NBME website and pull up the biochem section. The questions really don't look much like the exam ones I'm used to. Have I mentioned that I don't do as well on standardized exams? It's because I think a tad differently. The exam is 125 questions and nearly every question presents a small paragraph of a patient case history. That makes for a lllloooonnngggg exam because you really have to think with every question. You can't just go into auto pilot and know that the 6th amino acid is the point of mutation for sickle cell anemia. It's much more.....doctory. Hey, wasn't I complaining about the material not being material to being a doctor? What's that about being careful what you wish for? We essentially had to diagnose what metabolic/biochemical problem was going on in each of these case histories. Let's just say I wasn't exactly prepared for it to the full extent that I could've been. Honestly, I would've kind of enjoyed it had I prepared by studying for this type of exam. But I learned a couple of good life lessons. #1 - Always, always, ALWAYS read the fine print. I did it for my mortgage. Why the hell didn't I do it for the full syllabus? #2 - This situation was probably very good training for becoming a doctor. I went into a situation completely blind, albeit through my own negligence. I didn't panic. I shutout any emotions about anger towards myself for dropping the ball. I kept my wits about me and I stayed focused on solving the problem. I have to pass this test, period......I'm sure I passed the test. You only had to get into the top 7th percentile which equates with getting about 36% of the correct answers. Talk about your curve. That should also speak towards the degree of difficulty, though. Whether I got a score good enough to get high pass in the class is another story. So even though my stupidity makes me think I may not be such a good doc sometimes, the way I reacted after the initial bout of stupidity reassures me that I am capable of being a good doc in the long run. I won't always get everything right initially but I'll always make it right in the long run.