Wednesday, July 20, 2016

In-Training: Stories from Tomorrow’s Physicians

A new book, In-Training: Stories from Tomorrow’s Physicians, is a collection of essays by medical students that originally appeared online. The book’s editors, Ajay Major and Aleena Paul, created the In-Training website as a place where students could express their thoughts and feelings about life in the pressure cooker that is medical school.

The 111 essays are brief and as is true of any collection of writings from diverse individuals, are of somewhat uneven quality. Some are good. Some are fair. Some are meh.

One of my favorite pieces was one by a doctor who had received his diploma 10 days before a flight home. During the flight, a woman collapsed—prompting the dreaded “Are there any physicians on board” announcement. The new grad was the only responder. Having experienced this myself a couple of times, I had no trouble identifying with the author who described his predicament well.

I learned something from another of the essays which described a novel intervention for wandering patients with dementia.

A unique feature of the book is that every story is accompanied by a few “reflection questions” prompting the readers to think about what they just read. The questions add value and could serve as the basis for stimulating group discussions.

I corresponded by email with one of the book’s editors, Dr. Major. In response to my minor complaint that essays venerating anatomy lab cadavers were somewhat overdone, he said that the posts on that subject were among the most read on the website and reminded me that the audience for the book was medical students.

I was struck by the dearth of humor in most of the essays. I must confess I haven't read every essay, so it is possible I might have missed a few on a lighter note. Is medical school now so overwhelming that no one can see the fun side of things? Or is it politically incorrect to even mention something humorous that may have occurred in medical school?

I graduated from medical school 45 years ago. We worked hard, studied hard, and occasionally partied hard. I recall having a lot of fun along the way. Is it so much different now?

Dr. Major said, “I agree that the majority of the pieces are of a more serious tone. In fact, the vast majority of pieces we've received at In-Training over the past four years have heavily leaned towards more serious topics, and this collection reflects that.” He also felt that the culture of medical education probably has changed since I was in school. No doubt that is so.

I recommend this book to pre-meds and medical students who might want to hear what medical school is like from writers at diverse institutions.

Just keep in mind that although the culture of medical education may have changed over the years, it is still possible to have fun and make some lifelong friends.

Ajay Major and Aleena Paul. In-Training: Stories from Tomorrow’s Physicians (Pager Publications Inc, 2016) 347 pages. Available on the In-Training website.

Disclosure: I was given a copy of the book to review.


artiger said...

Your last paragraph should be included in the book.

Medical school and residency was a hell of a lot tougher in the past than it is today (which is both good and bad). I guess humor as a coping mechanism is no longer necessary.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Artiger,this post has had 339 page views. I gave this almost a full day and can't believe no millennial has objected to your comment yet.

Jo Anne V. Simson, Ph.D. said...

I've put this book on my Amazon wish list but wish it were available as an e-book. I have WAY too many print books on overflowing shelves.
I taught Gross Anatomy and Histology in medical school(s) for more than thirty years and am in the process of collecting and publishing some short stories--written largely as therapy while I was still teaching--in a book with the title, "Laboratory Notebook." It will have an e-version. ;-)

Cutter said...

I think I'd rather re-read "house of God". Although today's medical students would likely be too horrified to laugh.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Jo Anne, thanks for the comment. I don't believe there is an electronic version of the book.

Cutter, I think you're right.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Europe: I have to protest to Artiger's comment. I do not know overseas medschools, yet if I look at the European ones I would say, here medical education has gotten a lot tougher in the past decades. There is way more material to learn and the pressure is truly high.

I studied medicine in Hungary and in Austria. Those were the worst years of my life. The drill up to pharmacology final exam was just plain studying hell, learning stuff 95% of which that I NEVER use through my days as a surgical trainee. Then being poor, having a less than minimal stipend, it was bad, very bad. I was stuck at a library, studying or I was working as a student researcher while others were out, partying and actually having a life.
My life as a trainee is waay easier and happier than it ever was in medschool or as a postgrad student. The only brief period that I really enjoyed was when I studied in Austria in Vienna, those were the days, truly. But nothing beats being a resident in surgery, at least in Europe where I work, this is the most awesome job I ever had and it truly rocks!:)

artiger said...

Anonymous Europe, I should have clarified in my comment that I was referring to US medical schools and residencies. Sorry for the confusion.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Europe: Not a problem Artiger!:) I do not know much about overseas medschools.:)

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