Saturday, February 22, 2014

Talk Medical To Me

For the first time since the beginning of time, I did something during my vacation period. I signed up to do a Mini-Medical School course in Waterford which lasts from Tuesday to Friday during the midterm break week, and I have to say that I enjoyed it very, very much so far! I am planning to work on the medical field later in life and I've never really gone to a course that is focused on the career that I'm planning to have, so it's very useful that way. I'm also learning so much as we go along. The RCSI in Waterford is organising this event and I really have to give them credit for the amazing, broad, and varied activities and lectures that they have planned for us over the four days.

In the first day we mostly listened to lectures. We were welcomed by Professor Cathal Kelly, who is the CEO of RCSI. I didn't know much about the school prior to coming in but I learned a lot about the history of the place and its relevance nationwide and worldwide (Countess Markievicz used the RCSI building in Dublin to help the patients affected by the 1916 Irish Rising!) After that we had a whistle stop tour of the Human Anatomy led by Dr. Tom Farrell, where I learned that Prosopagnosia is the word for the disability to recognize faces. I also learned about the many different physicians in history who came to be the building blocks of medicine and surgery, like William Harvey and Leonardo da Vinci, and then of course I learned more about the human body itself. We also had a talk about Moodle with Mr. Eric Clarke (which I would describe as a kind of professional social networking software), and gastrointestinal surgery with Mr. Fiachra Cooke (we saw videos taken by the cameras used in a keyhole or laparoscopic surgeries. Some we saw were an appendicitis surgery and a colonoscopy, which was quite cool). We also listened to Dr. Des Fitzgerald about working in the A and E department and how exciting it is, and with Professor Fred Jackson about Haematology, which is all about the blood. We also had lectures on Respiratory Medicine with Dr. Susan Foley, Aging with Professor Riona Mulcahy, and Ophthalmology, which deals with the eye, with Dr. Elizabeth McElnea. I know it seems tedious when I enumerate all of these lectures for you like this but it was honestly the best exposure I have ever had so far with Medicine. The lecturers themselves were engaging and gave us prizes for every question we answered right, and that encouraged us to listen to everything. Also these are things that interest me genuinely so it wasn't hard to get immersed with whatever topic they were discussing!

Day two was a lot more practical. In the morning we witnessed a live surgery (!!!) performed by Dr. Arnold Hill with Mr. Gordon Watson emceeing the whole thing. It was incredible. I had never seen anything like that before at all and it was the very first time I saw a surgery being performed. It was a laparoscopic surgery, which I didn't know how was done before witnessing it happen, and it was really fascinating. Dr. Hill took out a woman's gall bladder having been inflamed (cholecystitis, quite a mouthful) and with gall stones present in it. We also listened to Dr. Paddy Owens talk about the heart, and he showed us the gadgets that he use on patients, like a pacemaker and various wires. And then Dr. Joe Dowdall talked about Vascular Surgery, which deals with veins and arteries and blood vessels and a lot of blood. The afternoon were all about Practical Sessions divided into three classes: Simulation Surgical Discipline, First Aid, and Obstetrics and Gynaecology. In Simulation Surgical Discipline, we learned about the different things used to fix broken bones, like hip replacements. We also learned how to stitch a cut, wash hands properly, and handle the surgical equipments used in a keyhole surgery. We also learned about the mother and the baby in obstetrics, and I learned how to deliver a baby by forceps!

Day three was a lot of hands-on too but in the morning we had talks about otorhinolaryngology or ENT from Dr. David Smyth (where I learned that the medical term for a nosebleed is Epistaxis and that Clespiatoma is the infection in the bone of the ear, which is contracted most commonly through piercings), a story about nephrology from Dr. Frank Walker and Mr. Sean Murphy (you had to be there), Psychiatry from Dr. Julie Riedy, Orthopaedics from Dr. Joe O'Beirne (where I learned that trauma is the leading cause of death for people aged 0-40 years, and that Thomas Splint is one of the most important people in relation to Orthopaedics), and Anaesthetics from Dr. Vida Hamilton. In the afternoon we had, again, three practical sessions, one for Simulation and Clinical Skills (where we learned how measure a person's blood pressure as well as identifying different lung cases through the use of a stethoscope, CPR (where, surprisingly, we learned how to deliver a CPR), and Research (where different clinical scenarios were given to us and we had to apply both our common sense and our research skills to deliver a prognosis for the patient).

Day four, the last day, was today. And I have to say that even though I only spent four days during the course, I got very attached to it and I definitely wish it could have gone a little bit longer. The fourth day we were back to lectures, and throughout the day we got talks on Radiology, Breast Disease, Paediatrics, Mercy Ships, General Practice, and Dermatology, and as you can imagine we learned quite a lot from those as well. I learned that a chap called Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen started radiology, for one, and that the benign or non-cancerous symptoms of breast cancer include lumps, pain or mastalgia, nipple discharge, and infection or mastitis. But the most important parts of the day for me were the Neurology talk carried out by Dr. Paul Crowley, and what I would like to call the practical talks, where various people talked about entry to medical school, their student experience, and life and career choices (led by Dr. Paul Balfe). We were informed about the different medical schools throughout the city, the courses that RCSI offers, and about the HPAT. It was really convenient because as I've said, I've never had anybody talk to me about going into the course at all, and most of what I know is what I learned through the internet which is all very factual and where everyone says very nice things about the colleges. I feel like with physical talks I learn more about the pros and cons of everything, from colleges to courses to medical specialties to starting the study of medicine earlier or later in life.

Neurology is an area that I have been interested in since before going into the mini-med school, so the talk on that very last day was an amazing opportunity for me. I learned a lot more about the nature of the career, for example that 70% of the time the conditions they encounter the most are stroke, headaches, Parkinson's disease, Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis and other things, but the other 30% of the time they encounter conditions that may be cancerous, genetic, infectious, vascular, or inflammatory. They also do not operate on patients, which is another thing that I have learned during the course as well; that surgery and medicine are two different things. It seems obvious now that I know this, but before I thought that doctors are both consultants and surgeons. A lot of surgery were made apparent to us over the four days that we were in the school and so right now, I'm actually leaning a lot more on surgery. I'm still unsure as of yet though, and I'm glad that I don't have to make that decision right now. I also learned that neurologists are incredibly rare in Ireland, and neurosurgeons even rarer still, which means that these doctors have plenty of work! We were also given the chance to look into a neurologist's average week, which consists of 10 sessions of half-days, clinical sessions that are 2-5 times a week, ward rounds, consultations, teaching, neuroradiology meetings (as neurologists work closely with radiologists a lot of the time), histopathology meetings, and neurophysiological appointments which involve EEG or EMG. As well as that I also learned (If I had a penny every time I use the word "learn" in this post) that neurologists work very closely with their patients, getting to know their history and background as well as what they're feeling and observing them. Neurologists work like detectives in the way that they have to piece together every piece of the patient's life to be able to see a full picture of what condition they are dealing with.

Overall, as you can see, the mini-med school course was really invaluable for me in regards to the line of work that I'm thinking of entering later on in my life. As well as that I met incredibly smart people through the course, both students and doctors, who were truly just inspiring and motivational. Now I know that Medicine is a course that I would love to do, and even though I am open to changes it's nice to have sort of a safety net of a course to fall back on when I can't think of anything else to do, because I know that the subject would be a great interest for me. So yeah, I really really recommend the RCSI mini-med school program to anyone who is even vaguely interested with medicine or other healthcare professions. It was such a worthwhile experience and indispensable experience for me, and I'm sure you would find it profitable too.

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