Mental Health Begins With Medical Students

Every few months, the mental health of doctors/medical students makes it to popular media. It seems like these spikes in attention occur, and everyone shouts YOU SHOULD CARE FOR YOUR DOCTORS! and then we write blogs and we tweet and we make youtube videos and eventually we go back to work, and nothing has changed.

I think we are the missing link. And by “we”, I mean qualified doctors. And also, you, the older doctors. Continue reading “Mental Health Begins With Medical Students”

Interview: Med School as a Mature Student

Of all the search queries that lead to this blog, one of the most popular is about studying medicine as an “older” student. Perhaps in the USA the question is not as prevalent, but Med School is an undergraduate program in South Africa, and the vast majority of students enter straight after high school.

I too followed the traditional route, so although I have had older classmates, I’ve always felt like my advice on the topic was pretty generic. You know, “of course you’re not too old for med school”, etc. But a great young woman agreed to chat to me about her non-traditional journey.

tash interviewThis was my first time interviewing someone using voice-notes. I really hate the sound of my voice on recording, but my interviewee was an absolute star. Allow me to introduce Tash, a final year medical student at the University of Stellenbosch, whom I have now known for seven years and who never fails to make an impression.

Did you always want to be a doctor?

Absolutely. I remember very clearly when I was about five years old I had a “teddy triage” and I used to inject my teddies, and I raided the first-aid kit to bandage them. So it has pretty much been a lifelong dream. Continue reading “Interview: Med School as a Mature Student”

A Young Doctor’s Oath

What a whirlwind-week. From the Oath Taking Ceremony to Graduation to packing up all my belongings and trekking 1000km to my old-new home. It felt so wonderful, being inducted as part of the medical profession. And the graduation cloak helped too – I felt like someone at Hogwarts and it was really fun!

Oath-taking was really special to me, so I made this soundbite. I had the desire to thank a whole lot of people and to impress how many people contributed to my success*, and this was the closest I could get – I should probably add TO ALL MY BLOG READERS WHO HAVE KEPT ME SANE!

What a journey these six years have been. Here’s to a new era.

* Most of this came to me during a rest station in the OBGYN final exam… the Muse never promised to be considerate!

P.S: speaking of saying thank you… check this guy who thanked his parents at his grad recently – it’s so sweet!

A Letter to First Year Medical Students

The South African academic year commences in January, and last week thousands of students around the country went to university for the first time. Among them are our future doctors.Welcoming them befalls someone else these days, as my time in student government is long gone. But I couldn’t help writing my annual “letter to the newbies”. (If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll have seen that I write something like this practically every January.)

dear firstieDear Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed First Year Medical Student

Can you believe you’ve made it? Can you believe you’re here? Well, better start believing, because it has begun!

Perhaps becoming a doctor has been your life-long dream. Perhaps, the idea only came to you in the last few years. Neither of those is superior to the other. Neither of those makes you more or less likely to succeed. Learn that now, and remember it. Continue reading “A Letter to First Year Medical Students”

Day 1: Student Internship

It has teased us from a distance for some time, but the first day of Student Internship finally arrived. We did not have the White Coat Ceremony in first or third year like many other medical schools, but today we had our badge “ceremony”, loosely defined. For two and a half years of clinical rotations we have worn generic navy-blue name badges and white coats. Today we received our pretty cream and red badges – and unofficially, nobody with such a badge is compelled to wear a white coat. Except in Urology, which incidentally is my first rotation.

For these last few months of the year, we will rotate with the “old” SIs, those who are graduating at the end of this year. Gives us a moment to get used to the whole shebang! For those who don’t know, Student Internship is the final 18 months of our medical training. It’s backbreaking work and very scary.

Continue reading “Day 1: Student Internship”

Look how far we’ve come

Just under a year ago, I posted about my friends, then fifth years, who had had their last day of class.

Today, it’s our turn.

As fate would have it, I am in South Africa for this important celebration. From here on out, we shall have clinical rotations and exams, but no more theory classes as a group. We will be Student Interns. We are just over eighteen months from graduating.

I don’t know if I’m ready. Just being an SI is a big responsibility. I’ll have to teach third years how to draw bloods. It will be my responsibility to ensure they have as positive an experience as possible – not something very many SIs cared for when I was a third year. And inside, I still feel like a newbie.

As usual, we celebrated by dressing up. Here are some pictures of dressing up – I’m on the far left, as a pirate. Fitting, don’t you think? My clinical partner, next to me, is Nicki Minaj. And don’t you just love the Rubik’s Cube?


Continue reading “Look how far we’ve come”

Things my PPD taught me

When I submitted my medical clearance form for SAS awhile ago, I was informed that I needed to provide the results of a recent PPD test. Obviously, on a ship with 600 students, as well as a fair amount of academic personnel and their families, one can’t risk having active TB going around.

A PPD test, or Mantoux test, uses a Purified Protein Derivative of Tuberculosis injected intradermally. An individual who has been exposed to the TB bacillus such that they produced a cellular immune response will experience a delayed hypersensitivity reaction, usually 48 to 72 hours later, in the form of a weal.


Continue reading “Things my PPD taught me”

Med School Acceptance: The war before the war

By now, most school-leavers in South Africa have settled their plans for next year – that is to say, the majority of kids who will start their first year of MB.ChB. (Bachelor’s of Medicine and Bachelor’s of Surgery) next year, now know – and I’m sure they are very excited (and congrats to all of them)!

This time of the year also makes me a little sad, though. Newspapers and magazines are filled with letters from disappointed achievers and their families. Why haven’t I been accepted to medicine, they ask. I’m academically strong, I’m a leader, I serve the community. What is wrong with me?

Continue reading “Med School Acceptance: The war before the war”

College, Dorms and Culture

It’s that time of the year… I refer to it as the month our campus has its period. Elections and competitions abound, while exams are around the corner (Southern hemisphere, remember).

My favourite part of this month – perhaps my favourite of the entire year – is “Sêr”. Sêr comes from “serenade”, and is basically a singing competition. Residences compete for ultimate glory. I am not a culture-vulture, and I know precariously little of song and dance. But Sêr makes me so, so happy. (If you still don’t get it: it’s like Glee, only without all the lights and electronic music. Instruments are limited to those an artist can carry onto the stage).

Continue reading “College, Dorms and Culture”