I wrote the following piece after finding out I did not pass my finals for Block 4 (musculoskeletal). Since then, I’ve completed my first year curriculum and Alhumdulilah, passed Block 5 (neurology). I’m currently studying to take my remediation exam for Block 4 in July. If all goes well, I’ll take this exam (and insha’Allah pass) and move on to second year with my class. If anyone from my class is reading this: no matter what happens this summer, know that I’m ever grateful for having been a part of your cohort. Thank you for the outpouring of love and support I received when I reached out to you all for help. So so much love for Class of 2018.
Any prayers and good vibes are greatly appreciated!
I guess you could say that this is the first time I’ve really failed at anything. I’ve stumbled, sure. I’ve gotten my fair share of bruises. But I’ve never really experienced anything that has been termed with the word “failure.”
Block four, musculoskeletal, was by far the hardest for me. Most days we had classes from 8-5. Had to memorize 400 pages of our anatomy textbook; two things I’m horrible at: anatomy and memorization. All the second years assured us that the exams this block were easier than those we’d seen in the past. But that most definitely was not the case. If anything, it was the hardest set of exams we’ve had yet.
After finding out that I didn’t pass I went through this “why me?” phase. Throughout the first three blocks, I fell deeper and deeper in love with this school. And then block four hit. I knew that I put in the extra work to compensate for my weaknesses and got a lot of help from my classmates. I was frustrated because I tried. I really, really tried.
And then I sat down, told myself “shit happens” and figured out how to move forward. I excused myself from a few engagements, told my best friends and family to keep me in their dua’as to make sure I pass block five. I talked to my preceptor about what I can do in clinic to ensure that I pass.
And finally, I sat down and thought about why. Not “why me?” But why didn’t I pass? What stopped me from being successful? And most importantly: what changes can be made to make sure that students in the future do not have to go through the same thing?
By far the hardest thing about this journey so far has been anatomy lab. As I’ve said before, cutting up dead bodies isn’t really a normal part of a human experience. In most contexts, you’d probably be arrested for doing so. When we first started in lab, I was so frustrated and almost angry about why we had to learn in such a traumatizing way. Over time, and with the help of Body of Work by Christine Montross, I was able to put it into perspective and I realized how integral it is to us becoming better healers. But I wish it didn’t take me almost eight months to come to this conclusion. I wish someone, before we even started lab, had acknowledged how difficult and strange this all is. How we’re being forced to be pushed out of the comfortable distance from death that society had previously allowed us. I probably would’ve done so much better throughout the previous blocks, especially in anatomy, if I had been able to work through all these emotions.
This summer, I’ll be developing a series of workshops to run alongside the anatomy course that gives students techniques on healthy ways to manage emotional distress. As Montross said in her text, “Anatomy lab is a place where students must learn to tread carefully in the emotional minefield of medicine.” And it’s so true. We’re going to have to deal with so many emotionally difficulties throughout our careers as health care providers. This is only the beginning. And I’m so excited to be part of a team of people who will be teaching students how to navigate this emotional minefield.
So, now I can answer the question: “Why me?” Me, because I have no problem admitting to failure and when some poor little first year fails a block, he/she will know they can come to me. It won’t take them a week to figure out if there’s anyone else out there who had to remediate. Me, because teaching students how to healthily deal with the emotional difficulties of a career in medicine should be as much a part of the curriculum as chopping off a leg. Me, because I was losing sight of why I was here and I needed something to shake me awake and remind me how blessed I am to have the opportunity to do what I love.
Sometimes, life just happens. We don’t understand why or how or sometimes anything at all. But my whole life, I’ve believed that everything happens for a reason. That we plan but He plans better. And in a moment when I was starting to forget why I was here, I was reminded.
If that’s not divine intervention, then I don’t know what is.