Along with the first few classes of medical school are the medical school parties. These social events mainly for classmates to know each other also act as a way to relieve some stress and have some fun before the serious business begins.
Over the past weeks, I’ve observed that medical students throw crazy parties. I went to a relatively relaxed undergrad where things got pretty loud from Thursday night to Saturday night. But medical school seems to be a whole other animal.
Perhaps med students are just having their last ounce of fun before the workload hits, but I think it’s because the students are older, have gotten over that awkward stand-at-a-party stage and know how to have a good time. They have studied more, drank more, smoked more, talked more and are at different stage in their lives. They stand at the end of their old undergrad days and can see the long road in medical education ahead. Perhaps, that is a reason to cherish every moment. To live life as if you’re invincible and that everyday could be your last.
Now granted this isn’t our entire medical class and only a fraction, having medical students that know how to party is not a bad thing. You might say it is irresponsible to have our future doctors abuse alcohol, smoke and yell obscenely. Instead they should be in a library studying their sciences and thinking of ways to fix our health care system. Or they could better spend that time volunteering at a hospital or teaching inner-city kids or “insert cliche pre-med extracurricular activity.”
But the bottomline is: Medical students are regular people too. They watch TV, surf the internet, travel. Some are health freaks, some are fat. They want to make friends, succeed in their work, have a good time. Hosting and going to parties are no different. If anything, medical students that know how to party and have a good time may end up as better doctors.
This point didn’t hit me until one of our classmates at a party was puking from too much alcohol. Surprisingly, the first people to check up on him and to help him out weren’t the people you would have considered to be good doctors. You know who I am talking about, the ones that spend most of their time studying, they have a flawless record of good behavior. They don’t cuss, drink, smoke, gamble. No, it was the people who would be labeled as “party-ers” and “bad students” that were the most responsible. The loudest and most outrageous students were the ones who took action first.
These were the students that acted like real doctors in the situation. They got their hands dirty. They were the ones talking to the half-passed out person, asking them if they were ok and how they were feeling. They were the ones who wiped the mess up and helped the person vomit even if it meant getting some on their nice clothes. They took charge of the situation, asked people to back up and give some space, fetched the water and blankets and helped find a place for the sick to rest. These are the people I would want to take care of me.
As for the people that you would typically think would make good doctors, they stood back and just watched. Some commented, “I’m glad I’m not that person” and others said “I would be ashamed if I drank that much and made such a fool out of myself.”
Medicine is half science, half art. For the first two years, medical students will learn the inner workings of our bodies and how our cells, tissues and organs interact. They will be required to know how the pH of the body fluctuates and the effects of chemicals and drugs on our bodies. But throughout this time, they will also be learn how to communicate clearly, how to listen and how to interact with a patient. The art and skills of “doctors.”
Partying medical students may seem reckless spending their time at social events and their money on booze. But they have a perspective that most others lack. They know how to socialize with others and make connections in a short time. They know how to make people feel comfortable and welcome. They have first-hand experience of what it’s like to have your face in the gutters (toilet bowl) and I am sure this experience will be with them when they become real doctors. They will have empathy (an understanding) for their patients and will have compassion (action) to help them.
A medical class is diverse as pointed out in my last post. Every class will have its share of bookworms and party animals. Each one was admitted because the admissions committee saw potential in them to become great physicians and surgeons. Each person has something different to bring into the medical community.
To summarize my main point: There’s more to each person than meets the eye.