31 January 2008


Teaching is a really funny thing. I'm a big fan of reality, and the reality is, that if these kids don't start studying for their MCAT soon, bad things are going to happen.

Fundamentals are important, but obviously (as most of them know), the MCAT almost never has passages on fundamental concepts, but tries to build on these concepts through more advanced topics. So should I, as a teacher, be limited to just the fundamentals? As far as teaching time is concerned, yes. I can't stray into random topics when they're paying to learn the fundamentals. But, I will take time before and after class to talk about more interesting things, because "melting of ice into water exhibits endothermicity and a positive change in entropy" isn't that interesting as it is obvious.

So I prepared two (relatively) difficult topics. The Photoelectric effect and Negative temperature (spin systems). I also stressed that being acquainted with more difficult topics reinforces simpler ones. Legally however, I can't say that they need to know these things, they really don't. So I ended class with a short introduction into these two topics, but qualified that this wasn't absolutely necessary for the MCAT.

Nearly everyone started packing their bags and left. The "fuck this, i'm outta here" attitude isn't going to get anyone anywhere, so it makes me a little sad that many students call themselves pre-med but have little grasp of what it means.

Medicine isn't just a job. It isn't something you show up to, and you sure as hell don't start packing your bags at 5pm. It's not a "9am-5pm, then let me go play airsoft/video games/sleep/let someone else do the work" business. Any lifestyle like that is a pathetic one. In that sense, I feel sorry for people in IT, for people in business environments that look forward to 5pm, that dread Mondays, as they have little purpose in life except to live in it. They might make millions, ascend the corporate ladder, but ultimately, most just work for themselves. History is full of rich people but how many can you actually name? Research in science, and to a certain degree, Medicine, provide a measure of immortality. You cannot name 20 successful businessmen as fast as you can rattle off a list of scientists.

Even in Medicine, you must engender an interest to make people better, to go beyond what is necessary or even what is expected. Good doctors won't cite their Benz or mansion or private jets or golf club meetings as highlights of their lives, but rather the fact that there is happiness to be found in a sterile surgical environment or in improving patient conditions through decisions made not using belief or faith but hard science and logic.

So did I expect less than half a dozen kids (out of 30) to stay behind to listen? No. I expected a lot more. In a state where nearly 1/2 applicants will get an offer to medical school, I expected these future doctors (and mind you, no medical school really is bad one, there are just good ones and great ones) to show more interest in the advice of a seasoned applicant, to challenge themselves through more difficult topics.

The idea that they're "just kids" or "just starting out" and will "eventually learn" is total bullshit. If 4 years of college hasn't changed anything, I doubt the next two years will be different. If all goes well, half of my students will be responsible for patients in two years. Would you want someone you know being treated by a doctor with this kind of an attitude? Probably not.

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