Med School Metaphor: Pancakes Every Morning

Pancakes Every MorningI have a lot to learn. By Friday, anyway. I have a Pharmacology exam followed by a Pathophysiology exam this coming Monday. Once again, I find myself behind. It’s the funny kind of behind where you look at the stack of notes on your desk (2″ of one, 3″ of the other) and sort of chuckle. “Ha. This is going to be funny.” Cue despair.

Looking at it now, I’m tempted to start the passive bragging of impossible odds. “You have no idea how hard it is,” I’d say. “Medical school is like trying to take a drink from a fire hose,” I’d brag.

And that’s total bullshit.

At the beginning of each course, we’re given a syllabus telling us how we’re going to be graded, the question break-down for each test, and the schedule of lectures each day for the next 4-5 months. Nothing is going to sneak up on you unless you can’t read the print on the page (in which case you’re blind and things sneak up on you all the time).

But it’s sunny outside or snowing outside or Tuesday. Whatever. You’re in medical school to become a doctor, not to be in a classroom (scheduling conflicts here) and you find yourself out on the weekends, maybe catching a movie on the weekday, and so on. You blow off the first week of any course because the material is supposed to be introductory and you certainly blow off the first week after any exam to recuperate. Maybe you take off two weeks if it was especially difficult and draining.

Eventually though, the next exam is closer than the last exam and you have to return to the desk and pretend to be a serious student. The first week back studying, you won’t be as efficient and as familiar with the material as you were leading up to the last test, so there’s some built-in catching up to do. You can’t understand the material taught TODAY because you blew off the introduction, so until you catch up, you keep falling behind. By the time you’re back in your stride the exam is so close you can feel it’s breath on your neck and you still have material to cover on a first pass. Let’s not forget: you haven’t reviewed or committed anything to memory at this point. It’s now that you understand the truth:

Medical school is like trying to eat five pancakes every morning for breakfast.

You know you can do it. A Premed advisory committee endorsed you saying, “He has the stomach for it. He’s committed.” And you prove them all right. Every day you show up with your first-year optimism and your annoying hunger for learning and you clean that plate (just kidding, it’s adorable). But you begin to notice that those pancakes are slowing you down a little each day and the sugar highs and lows are screwing with your sleep. Smart person that you are, you decide to pass on the flapjacks one day. You think to yourself, “Self, I’m going to eat ten pancakes tomorrow so that I don’t have to eat any today.”

But it never stops. Turns out that “self” isn’t the most responsible lender, and before you know it there are 40 pancakes in front of you and your plate needs to be clean by tomorrow. So yeah, at this point it looks impossible. But really, it’s your fault.

In the future, as I like to imagine it, I’ll be in charge of all medical school admissions. The process will be six weeks long and will consist of nothing more than showing up each morning to eat five pancakes, at which point you can then go about whatever you were going to do that day. At the end of the five weeks a few jaded, newly diabetic hopefuls will come to my office and, mixed with both pride and resignation say, “I did it. I finished those goddamn pancakes.”

“Wow,” I’ll say. “That’s very impressive. You must be very proud, and your parents must be very proud. Just one more thing.” They’ll reflexively clutch their stomachs, shifting their girth from one hip onto the next and groan, “What’s that?”

“Regurgitate it.”

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31 Responses to Med School Metaphor: Pancakes Every Morning

  1. jarrad says:

    That’s the best metaphor for medical school I’ve heard yet.

  2. anna says:

    WOW
    This post is so good to read and sums up my exact feelings about medical school.
    Brilliant stuff!
    Anna
    xx

  3. Deirdre says:

    I refer to what you described as bulimic learning, stuff as much in as possible, regurgitate it on the exam and stuff some more. Unfortunately, the result is poor nutrition.

    • Sooku says:

      When my daughter, a 2nd yr MD student, sent me this, I asked her if the USMLE exams were less regurgitation, more thinking? She said, “that may be, but you still have to eat all those pancakes… and KEEP THEM IN !!”

  4. enrico says:

    Brilliant. The metaphor itself was a gem, but the ending of the post was spectacular. Excuse me… *barf*

    Now that I’ve regurgitated, feel free to grade the contents for fidelity to the original. Don’t mind the bile. That is in ever increasing quantities these days…

  5. In the spirit of sharing medical metaphors, I found this at http://baddoctor.blogspot.com

    “Recently I read medical school described as ‘a roller coaster at the fair that has just burst into flames as it careens off the track into a crowd of school children, while all you can do is run around in circles flailing your arms and crying for your mother.’ I find more and more everyday that this is an appropriate comparison, on some level.”

  6. […] Link love theme day is over…BUT… In lieu of the upcoming Medical Grand Rounds, I bumped into a blog of a medical student in the Carribean and was really amazed by the honest-and-funny presentation of his medical school insights: The Rumors Were True. […]

  7. linzey says:

    I can’t agree with you more!!! I’m a final year student and i admit to getting myself into this mess – med school. Everyone was talking me out of it: my brother, my parents.. relatives… but nooooo stuborn ass here was adament on being the best doc in town. Clinical years have been tough, for the emotional me. I’m dished the harsh realities of being a real-life doc, doing on-calls, cleaning-up after patients, and worst of all being humiliated by delivery nurse for trying to do my best delivering my 3rd delivery. DAMN the bloody way you’re supposed to learn from humiliation… that’s the worst thing for me. I keep asking, why do such people teach by humiliating you? is that some kind of sure way of letting you learn from your mistakes? is it just my med curriculum, or is it universal for all med schools… to teach by humiliating their students???

  8. […] Originally Posted by Aslam_RossMD how hard is it to get an A in classes in general? I have a biomedical engineering degree from Case Western, in cleveland, oh. I did pretty well, and it was an extremely reconized program. I feel I’m ready to take on the challenge of med school, but just wondring if you guys could give a general assesment on how "hard" it is to get an A in classes at Ross. thanks! I found getting A’s incredibly difficult. But I also consider myself a B student. I was all through undergrad and appear to be continuing to do so in med school. The reason it’s so difficult to get A’s has alot less to do with the difficulty of the material and alot more to do with just the shear volume of material. If you stay on top of things, you can get A’s. The best metaphor I’ve read for Med school is on the link below. It’s so true, I didn’t know wether to laugh or cry as I was reading it. Med School Metaphor: Pancakes Every Morning ę the rumors were true […]

  9. […] is on the link below. It’s so true, I didn’t know wether to laugh or cry as I was reading it. Med School Metaphor: Pancakes Every Morning ę the rumors were true Awesome metaphor! Thanks for […]

  10. […] Med School Metaphor: Pancakes Every Morning (orginal story) […]

  11. Rachel H. says:

    Oh MAN. That’s it.

    …I just surfed onto your blog whilst looking up various medical school items of serious nature. (I’m a pre-med student.) I read this whole entry and it is exquisite. It’s already how I feel about college, what I dread about medical school (especially since I know college–with it’s boring material that has not yet filled my brain’s need for intellectual stimulation, as I believe you alluded to in several other entires–can’t be anything compared to the schoolwork level required in medical school), and finally…that’s just it, that’s it exactly: I want to become a doctor, not do more school.

    Wow. Thanks. :)

  12. Rachel H. says:

    Oh MAN. That’s it.

    …I just surfed onto your blog whilst looking up various medical school items of serious nature. (I’m a pre-med student.) I read this whole entry and it is exquisite. It’s already how I feel about college, what I dread about medical school (especially since I know college–with it’s boring material that has not yet filled my brain’s need for intellectual stimulation, as I believe you alluded to in several other entires–can’t be anything compared to the schoolwork level required in medical school), and finally…that’s just it, that’s it exactly: I want to become a doctor, not do more school.

    Wow. Thanks. :)

  13. ssd says:

    that’s how engineering school is too!!! except the pancakes are made with little pebbles, and they get bigger everyday.

  14. […] March 11, 2008 in Uncategorized Wow. Reposting of a friend’s link, probably only shocking because I understand exactly what the author means in every written line. And then some… Pancakes […]

  15. Elisabeth says:

    unbelievably true.

  16. brilliant ending, should have seen it coming

  17. […] tried to suck some water from the well by writing Pancakes Every Morning. I hosted Grand Rounds because I was hungry for some new kind of challenge. Immediately after, I […]

  18. T says:

    is it okay if I link to this from my blog? I really liked the post

  19. med students mom says:

    Now I know why my daughter is always pressed of time, why she never have a moment for me to talk, she’s trying to keep pace with her pancakes, good job kido I am so proud of you you!!!! I am sure every med students parents reading this feels the same way.
    You kids do the best in what no one else can excel ” pancake eating Doc’s”

  20. […] by a blurb written by Topher, a St. George‚Äôs University student. You can read the original story here. […]

  21. fun pictures…

    […]Med School Metaphor: Pancakes Every Morning « the rumors were true[…]…

  22. I like pancakes, but certainly, I’d grow tired of them if I eat five everyday! Well, let’s see what med school is gonna do to me. I see some comments by parents here. I hope I can make mine as proud as they are. I’m only on my first year, so I think it’s not yet good to brag about anything. :D

  23. […] If you are getting really antsy and excited and want to know what medical school is really like, take a few minutes to read this humorous medical school metaphor. If you’re not laughing yet, you will be in a few weeks.¬† http://rumorsweretrue.wordpress.com/2006/11/01/pancakes-every-morning/ […]

  24. […] assuming he still has the time to read my blog. I hope you are eating your mandatory¬†4 pancakes every morning! I’m also submitting it to¬†Aspiring Bakers #4: Love is in the Air (Feb 2011), […]

  25. […] The Rumors Were True & Michelle vs The Medical […]

  26. I am genuinely glad to glance at this website posts which includes tons of valuable data, thanks for providing such data.

  27. […] sure how many current students would remember reading it as pre-meds.¬†It was¬†the origin of the¬†med-school pancakes metaphor, if that rings a […]

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