Yesterday I took the last final of my lecture-based education. WEIRDNESS. I feel like I’ve been taking exams and finals my whole life and now I’m sort of, just, kinda done with that? No no no, not really, c’mon Julie don’t get ahead of yourself!

But seriously, we finished our last two blocks of the classroom-based part of medical school yesterday. Now we have five weeks “off”: meaning we don’t have any obligations whatsoever on campus and we can do whatever we need to do to get ready for Step 1 Boards. (Oh, that little thing?)

As this week came to a close with two finals and the thought of starting the “dedicated study period” looming ahead, I have been dealing with a lot of self-doubt and overwhelming feelings of stress. I had a very busy week keeping me on campus for things that took away from the little time I had to study for the exams on Thursday and Friday and I was starting to feel hopeless about how I was going to do on them. Those negative feelings were compounded by the idea that immediately after I would finish with classwork, I would be toppling headfirst into boards studying without a breath to keep me going. The thought of getting through the next two days of studying was too much for me and I couldn’t even comprehend how I would be able to keep that up for another four weeks straight.

But here I am, on the other side of at least those three days of exam studying, and you know what? Everything is ok. One at a time, I got through each exam, and when Infectious Disease was done, I thought only about Life Cycles. Now that they’re both out of the way, all I need to think about is Boards, and that’s ok too! (Wow, never thought I’d be so eager to only think about Boards.)

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I think it’s important that I reflect on what we’ve been through in the past couple years. We started with Anatomy (boot camp for medical school) and got to learn hands-on for the first nine weeks. Then it was on to Molecules to Medicine for some serious book learning and conceptualization of the very teensy-tiny workings of ourselves on a molecular level. After that holiday break, we began to get a little more clinical while we learned about pathology, malignancies, hematology and the study of different blood disorders tossed in with a little dermatology (just to keep us on the edge of our seats with some of the most disgusting pictures I’ve seen in med school--only to be rivaled by infectious disease photos.) And the biggie of first year: Cardiovascular, Pulmonary and Renal. That was when things started getting really exciting! Clinical correlates, tangible systems with parts you can actually see (I get a lot of satisfaction out of being able to see what’s going on), and knowledge about things that many more people experience (of all the things we’ve learned about so far, cardiovascular disease is the thing that will probably getcha).

The summer between first and second year started off with directing a mini-med-school/intro-to-healthcare-professions camp for rural high school students (we lived in the dorms with sixteen 16-year-old girls and four lucky guys for three weeks; good times were had all around). After the work was done, Nate and I spent the rest of the summer racing triathlons (I did my first Olympic!), going to farmers markets, traveling back and forth to see family, and enjoying the beautiful Denver summer weather.

After such a nice break, we dove into the Nervous System block with new confidence and familiarity. Knowing how to manage the system, at least a little, made a huge difference in going into second year versus first year. Neuro felt like one big meta-study-party (using my brain to study the brain—yep, things got a little weird sometimes). After that we took our momentum into the Digestion, Endocrine (hormones) and Metabolism block where I felt like I was diagnosing myself with everything we learned about for three months straight. The shadow of Boards was definitely hovering over us by then, but it was far enough away to feel like we still had time to be proactive about things.

These last two blocks have been very interesting in that they were COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from each other: Infectious Disease versus Life Cycles. One was all about the bugs and drugs that wreak havoc on or in our bodies on a daily basis (oh the grossness) and the other was a sort of catch-all for the normal processes of reproduction, pregnancy, pediatrics, development, and aging (think everything from sperm and eggs to geriatrics). Infectious Disease was fun to study for shock value alone (imagine pulling parasitic worms out of the vasculature in your leg by slowly coiling them around a stick by your ankle) while the other sucked me in because of my love for pediatrics and anything to do with babies. Overall, they were both fun and informative, but it was hard to ignore the fact that boards were basically on top of us and trying to balance two blocks and Step 1 was… let’s just go with “difficult” (read as Horrible).

BUT WE DID IT!!! We really did it! We got through the lecture content of medical school and are supposedly equipped with all the basic science we’ll need to know to start working on the wards with real patients. Oh HALLELUJAH, real patients!!! Boards doesn’t seem nearly so daunting now that it’s the only thing I need to think about from now until April 9th, and the thought of learning by doing makes me so happy I could just squeal with joy! It was the balancing act that had me so overwhelmed these past couple months, but now everything feels so do-able even if it will be hard. That simple blanket of confidence in myself makes all the difference in the world.

At this point, I might sound like a blubbering Oscar winner giving one of those sappy acceptance speeches, but that’s alright (considering I have no problem with displaying any sort of cheesy emotion.) I did not get this far alone. The support and love I have received from my family, Nate, his family, my wonderful friends and my incredible classmates has been the thing that held me up when I was at my lowest. My parents infused me with strength and determination every time I felt weak and lost in my self-doubt. Nate gave me such warm, unconditional love every single day and held me close to comfort me even when he was facing the same fears and stressors; I feel so blessed to have him on this journey with me! My brother gave me a lifeline to family when I felt far away from them; he listened when I was crabby and celebrated with us when we succeeded. When I couldn’t have my own family around me, Nate’s parents made me feel like a part of theirs when we needed it most. While my classmates sometimes intimidated me with their awesomeness, ultimately the mutual support, the enthusiasm, and the inspiration they infused me with made me feel honored to be counted among them. And my friends outside of school reminded me that I’m more than just a med student and that Whole Julie is not someone to let go of. Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way, even if you didn’t know it!



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