We belong

March 5, 2009

Something that’s surprised me about medical school is how heteronormative/gendernormative the teaching is.  The environment at my school is pretty hip, and I get the impression that the higher ups have worked hard to foster diversity.  A significant portion of my class is gay, which I adore.   (Although I have noticed more gay men are out in my class than gay women.  Only two women other than myself are out.)

Progressive thinking is very much encouraged.   I’m not saying everyone gets it right all the time, but it’s clear that, as a school, we are big into research.  Science is exalted.  The professors are careful to call a fetus a fetus, and women are very much encouraged to become awesome doctors, not awesome female doctors. (Get what I’m saying?  I’ve only been here seventh months now, but I feel like I’m being pushed to be a great doctor, and my sex or gender isn’t bantered around as an adjective that will modify my doctor-ness. *  My superiors aren’t aching to tell me how to managing my career and motherhood, thank goodness, because it makes me want to throw up every time I hear that phrase.  It’s not my duty, as a person in possession of ovaries, to pop out babies.)

But then there was the class on the female sexual response.  The male sexual response was taught to us as an isolated event.  Arousal, erection, bam — that was that.  But the female sexual response was taught primary as something that accompanied male stimulation.   The female’s partner – and she had to have a partner, of course, as masturbation doesn’t exist for women, apparently – was assumed to be male, and there was a subtle hint that the entire thing was aimed toward pregnancy.  Now, this could be the professor’s bias. (She was a PhD who did research! I expected more!)  But it was still uncomfortable to me.

Then, just recently, we began neuroscience.  As a joke, the teacher showed us cartoon illustrating the female middle schooler’s brain versus the male middle schooler’s brain.  And, of course, gender stereotypes were abundant – girls talk on the phone, shop, and betray their friends.  Boys obsess over sports and hurt girls’ feelings.  The rest of the class chuckled good naturally, and I stared at the professor in disbelief.  She was another PhD, and a researcher.
I wonder why both of these women decided to teach their classes in such ways.  Is it because they broke into a historically male dominated field  (medicine/research/whatever) and they feel like they have to prove that they know how gender/sex “really works?”  It’s confusing to me because I come from a wonderful college with a wonderful womens study department with wonderful women professors who felt no need to apologize for who they were.

They were scientists and they were writers and they were theorists and they were themselves.  They weren’t women scientists – they were scientists.  They had nothing to apologize for.  They were brilliant.
And it’s probably very patronizing of me (and maybe I’m misinterpreting all this anyway), but I really want to tell my professors to shape up.  Accept themselves as scientists and don’t apologize for a thing.  Women fought their way tooth and nail into this world of science and medicine.  And we belong here.

*I know that doctor-ness isn’t a word.  Can you believe I was once an English major?  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  My profs would be ashamed.


Feeling dumb

February 27, 2009

My, I’m rather terrible at keeping up at this, huh?  I think that this stems from embarrassment.  You see, I’ve had a personal LiveJournal for almost seven years now, so I like to think I’m fairly aware of how self-congratulatory a blog can be, even when one is waxing on about this or that self-inflicted emo-fest.

Boo.  At least I can relax in the relative comfort of knowing that this journal is entirely anonymous.  The Internet is sometimes dangerous because of that very anonymity, but here it is a comfort.

So now that I’m between classes, I’ve had a little time to reflect about the past two terms of classes. First, let me state without any hesitance that I really like what I’m doing. Med school is fun.  I know a number of people who seem to spend all their free bitching about the work load, and while I readily admit it’s almost unbearable at times, I can’t help but feel that if you realy hate it all that much, what are you doing here?  Sure, I’ve had my terrible moments and my frustrated crying sprees, but I really do like what I’m doing.  It feels right, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

But unfortunately, in order to survive med school, you have to accept one thing: you will always feel like an idiot. Every minute of every day, I feel like a total dumbass.  I think most of us put on a good show – some more so than others – and there are those occasional med students who seem to know no shame or fear.  But I think almost all of us, no matter how we hide it, are at least a little terrified all the time.

My brain is so full these days that  I have to write down notes for simple things (like “email mom back”) or I’ll forget.  And they want to entrust me with another human being’s health and safety one day?!  Oh, man, oh, man.

I was talking to my personal doctor the other day, and to my great embarrassment, I began to cry.  (There were a number of reasons for this, and I won’t go into them all.  I can say that my work load and the pressure it causes me was a big player.)  And I feel like us female med students and doctors really have to avoid crying in front of others.  We’re already battling so much old history and sexism, and crying in front of our “superiors” hardly helps us.  So I was really embarrassed.

But I digress.  What I’m getting to is that the doctor was really awesome.  He said that the good docs will always feel like that.  It’s the bad docs who feel like they know everything, and those are the ones that really scare him.  It was a small comfort at the time, but it was a comfort.

That’s what this journal is for — remembering medical school, year one.  So come on, Elisabeth, chin up.  And be brave, and write in this blog.  And remember to feel stupid.

Saturdays with the dead

January 31, 2009

You know you’re a first year medical student when you spend a Saturday monring and afternoon surrounded by dead bodies.  I’m studying like mad for my final anatomy practical.

And now I’ll spend the rest of the evening stinking like whatever we use in place of formaldehyde.

Right and left hand need to talk

January 26, 2009

I’m at a health seminar (sponsored by the school), and they are serving pizza, soda and chips for lunch.

… something doesn’t seem quite right here.


I know kung fu

November 18, 2008

I just had a crazy revelation:  med school … is hard. Weird, right?

Fun anatomical fact of the day

October 29, 2008

Fun fact I learned from my anatomy tutor:

While stuyding the pelvis, I was confused that they kept referring to the top side of the penis as dorsal.  The top side of the penis faces the same direction that the stomach does, but the stomach is ventral. Our backs are dorsal.

Well, according to my tutor, this is because in the anatomical position, the penis is erect.  And that cracked me up a little.  Because you KNOW men decided this shit, and when those big ol’ white guys with beards were sitting, they must have said, “Hmm … in it’s most natural position – from which we will reference everything – the palms shall face forward, the head shall be held high, feet shall point forward … and the penis shall be erect!”

Uh huh.  And in the anatomical position – the natural position from which everything else shall be referenced – my breasts shoot lasers.

Arterial blood supply: necessary or not?

October 9, 2008

Having begun in earnest my study of the pelvic region, I have determined that I am not too fond of blood vessels.  They are – I suspect – entirely useless.  We’d be better off without them, I say.

Percussing the dog

October 9, 2008

I think I have managed to successfully learn percussion on my dog.  I think he is very confused.

Sodium urate crystals, huh?

September 26, 2008

Gout is weird, man.

Fun picture time!  Link

Great big globs of … something

September 17, 2008

Our first anatomy exam is tomorrow, so I’m in the process of trying to keep it all together.  I’m stuck between two ideas: go to sleep in a few hours and wake up really early and study all morning, or try to get a regular day in.  I think I’m going with the former.

(P.S. Dear Anatomy Gods.  Please help me remember my cranial nerves.  Amen.)

Fun story of the day: during gross anatomy lab, we pulled out the liver, and the gallbladder (as intended) came with it.  Most of the other people had pinkish gallbladders, but ours was a delightful green.  Furthermore, we could feel something squishy inside – and, yes, squishy is TOTALLY the medical term.

J and I were for cutting it open and looking inside.  B was horrified by this idea, and protested.  J and I won out, though, and with a scapel, J very carefully made his incision.  Forest green, chunky, thick bile bubbled out.  It was amazing!  B remained horrified, and I think even J began to doubt his actions.  But I felt like I had rediscovered Mars!

If Mars were green.  And made of bile.