Monday, September 27, 2010

I think I'm in medical school now! by September blogger Lisa Crystal

Study area of the Caroline House, where the administrative
offices are located as well.  My second home!
I am starting to feel like I am really in medical school, not just on a trip to Israel.  The craziness of living in a completely foreign place, being essentially illiterate in a new language, and furnishing an apartment from scratch has kept us busy.  Now, I’m getting used to the culture (and becoming more assertive in “waiting in line”), my apartment is starting to feel like home, and classes are getting into full swing.  Of course, just as I’m starting to get into a routine, there’s a 10-day holiday break for Succoth.  Good thing I won’t have any more days off until finals!

Our courses are in the basic medical sciences like biochemistry, immunology, histology, and molecular biology.  Since I majored in psychology, most of the subjects are new to me.  While I envy the classmates who have already taken some of these classes already, I know that I will eventually learn what I need to know and trust that the extra time I put into the liberal arts will help me understand my patients and their contexts in the future.  I certainly am learning a lot, but since we don’t have exams coming up I am not feeling too stressed out yet.   I am just trying to set good study habits now as I have more freedom in how I learn the material.  

One of the biggest challenges I foresee is difference between the two medical worlds in which I live: the Israeli system, where I am currently receiving my education, and the U.S. system, where I must pass licensing exams and apply for residency.  The U.S. standards are very high and require efficient preparation, grounded in organization, details, and facts.  The Israeli one is more flexible and informal.  A prime example of the Israeli system is the fluid scheduling.  We don’t know which classes we have each week until a few days before the week starts.  Even then, the frequency and order of the classes seems random.  Plus, a lecturer may cancel at the last minute.  As students preparing for U.S. standards, though, we have a large amount of information that we need to learn in a finite amount of time.  

Somehow MSIH students graduate and get good residency placements, so I know that it works out somehow.  Students are also proactive about shaping the curriculum.  I think Israel can teach me about improvisation, a valuable skill in global health care.  For example, in Emergency Medicine, my TA frequently showed us different ways to perform a procedure depending on what tools are available.  I can tell that I will need to be cross-cultural to learn medicine within the Israeli system, yet meet the standards required to practice in the U.S.  

The new apartment, complete with blazing sun.
In addition to the biomedical classes, we have started our global health education.  It has been pretty basic so far, with introductions to topics so everyone gets on the same page.  Electives are coming up, which I have been looking forward to since I learned about MSIH.  I am registered for classes on topics like the health of the urban poor and international health organizations.  I am told that another great source for global health education comes from our classmates.  A group of students have compiled resources to use for our first-year global health course, which I’ve heard is very helpful.   

Overall, I am excited for what is ahead.  I am also nervous about learning everything -- or at least aware of the hard work it will take to learn everything.  Studying here will be a challenge, but will certainly have its rewards.  Where else would your professor describe the endoplasmic reticulum described in terms of pita and falafel? (-Lisa Crystal)