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Dreaming in medicine

December 18, 2010

In my previous life (i.e.–before med school), I had the privilege of living abroad in a Spanish speaking country.  A frequent occurrence when living in a country with a different language is reaching a level of immersion where you begin dreaming in that language.  I remember the first time I woke up and realized I had been dreaming in Spanish.  It was a strange but galvanic experience; it meant I had really begun to master the language.

For the first time in a year and a half of med school, I dreamed in medicine.  I wasn’t dreaming about some pathologic topic or different types of drugs, but actually running through a diagnosis with a patient based on their symptoms and lab results.  I ended up diagnosing alpha thalassemia (the hemoglobin electrophoresis was a dead give away).

One of the hardest things about learning medicine is that you have to slog through a lot of seemingly unimportant minutia in order to begin understanding bigger topics.  It’s basically like working a million piece puzzle without knowing exactly what the end product should look like…and you have to memorize everything on every piece of the puzzle.  But, when you do begin to put bigger chunks of pieces together and start seeing the picture as a whole, it is a beautiful thing.  The abstruse process of developing a diagnosis doctors go through every day in the clinics is a little less mysterious.

I think dreaming in medicine will probably become more frequent as I begin reviewing material and consolidating my limited medical knowledge in preparation for boards.  Hopefully med school won’t so completely overtake my life that it is persistently present even in my dreams, but I will gladly take those dreams over nightmares about failing boards.

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