Sunday, October 26, 2008

I hear in my mind all of these words

We're having a casual enough chat, and RS is hitting us with an anecdote from his first week on Medicine. He's a 3rd year medical student, I'm a 2nd year, and across from me is T, a 1st year. T and I have some weighty exams tomorrow, but RS is such a treasure trove of stories and inexplicable calm that we couldn't turn down his suggestion that we meet for lunch. After all, though we spend them studying, we have our weekend off: RS gets one day off a week these days.

He starts telling us about cases, and at first it is the sort of conversation you might have with anyone. And then, subtly, but undeniably, there is a slight shift. "So this is a 72-year old woman who presents with a fever of unknown origin for the past 2 weeks". No one else would necessarily call that launching into medical jargon, but there's that shift in his voice. I recognize it, because this is what we're learning. We learn to hear that first sentence and start searching the files in our head. Already, I have a list of questions to ask him about it. He goes on, and it gets even more technical.

And at first, we don't really even notice. "So, have they let you do the Echo yet?" I ask excitedly, half-excited because the case is interesting, half-excited because I know what he's describing, where he's leading me. Then I glance over at T and she has a bit of a blank expression on her face.

Which is not her fault. But being there, she drives home a point. We're learning a new language, and the three of us are on a continuum. She's learning rudimentary vocab, maybe a few things about grammar. I've got a lot of the vocab and grammar on paper, but I'm not fluent. I'm not thinking in the language yet. RS is getting there. Having T there, we see that all the more clearly, how we, stepwise, learn to speak like this, learn to think like this.

For some reason, I needed to see that today. Sometimes, otherwise, it can all seem rather like a lot of flogging yourself for nothing. And mind you, medical school still contains that component. But at least the point of it all was temporarily made plain for me today.

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