A Week at Med School

Travis is former editor of UniMelb Adventures and current MD1 at Melbourne Uni. He has a Bachelor of Biomedicine (Biochemistry & Molecular Biology).

Hi there! Remember me? That’s right, I used to write a little bit around here but have since disappeared into the abyss that is Med school. I can happily report that I’ve made it out of the cave to give you the inside info about what we actually do at med school.


Our Mondays usually involve a lot of lectures. Content wise, these are divided into blocks. This semester, we cover the heart, lungs, kidneys and the gastrointestinal tract. Within each of these blocks we take lectures on Pharmacology, Microbiology, Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, Histology, Biochemistry (<3), Genetics and Public Health (also <3). There’s nothing particularly new about lectures in Med—they’re pretty standard, except for the fact that there’s more of a focus on the clinical relevance of what we learn. What is perhaps the most strikingly different about the lectures is the sheer volume. At the end of the year we’ll be examined on 350 lectures worth of content!! Which, incidentally, is about 349 more lectures than my brain has capacity for.

Another feature on Monday is CSL (case-supported learning). These are special tutes in which we’re given a case, which we are then expected to go through. Monday’s CSL class basically just involves us trying to dig up knowledge from our undergrad and, quite genuinely, as a group trying to piece a sensible explanation for the patient’s presenting problems together. We then set some questions from ourselves during the week so that we can work out what’s actually going on by Friday. My explanation of CSL does it no justice; it really is fantastically helpful. Perhaps the best things about CSL, however, are that someone has to bring food to each class and that my class is chock-a-block with incredibly intelligent and even more lovely people.



Some potentially flawed logic

Tuesdays see us tackle two classes: microbiology pracs and PCP. To the pracs first!
In all truth, to call them pracs is probably a little inaccurate. These classes involve spending three hours in the Doherty auditorium examining a group of cases in our prac book. There are slides (of the microscopic kind), biochemical tests and, if they’re feeling particularly funky, even some PCR for us to look at to try to work out what nasty bug has made our theoretical patients sick. Though they’re very well organised and the demonstrators both generous with their time and knowledge, they’re no substitute for the real thing, which is somewhat of a pity!

PCP, in essence, is our class of doctory things. It is in PCP that we learn how to ask patients interesting questions, learn that lungs make very loud noises if you tap on them and learn that if you place a stethoscope on someone’s tummy right after they’ve had a meal, you might struggle to look them in the eye for the next few days. Jokes aside, PCP comes around each week to remind us that there’s more to medicine than bioscience. To this end, PCP focuses on clinical skills, with a particular emphasis on developing strategies to communicate with your patients effectively, which, y’know, is kinda important!



Lectures and…pots! Pots pracs follow two hours of histology/pathology using a computer program called SmartSparrow. Though actually quite useful, SmartSparrow does come as a test of your resilience more than anything else. Pots, however, are pracs in which we spend an hour with an actual real-life, in-the-flesh, breathing doctor talking about some specimens from the anatomy museum. These specimens tend to display pathologies that we’ve discussed in the weeks prior to the tute. Getting a chance to sit around and discuss the pathologies is daunting at first (especially considering my group is on point), but once you’re over the jitters, much like CSL, it’s a good opportunity to flesh out ideas and actually see the stuff you learn in lectures.


The main feature of Thursdays is Anatomy pracs. Broadly, there are two types: workshops and dissections. In workshops, we cycle around a number of stations, observing dissected body parts, looking at X-rays and CT scans at the computers, painting organs onto each other and, on some occasions, examining bones in the Anatomy Museum.

Dissection, on the other hand, is pretty self-explanatory. Whilst it is certainly the case that some people have some reservations initially, once they begin dissecting everyone seems to relax a little and take advantage of the opportunity they have. It is pretty hard to leave dissection without feeling incredibly grateful that there are people out there who donate their bodies just so we can learn and, hopefully, be good doctors.



Some Fridays we have what’s called Clinical Colloquium. What this actually involves changes from class to class. Early on in the year they were more or less an opportunity to tie some loose ends and examine some content more deeply without the burden of actually having to remember it for an exam. More recently, however, we’ve had patients visit us and tell us about their story. These sessions have been kind of like CSL but with a human element. For me personally, they’ve been really important, as it serves as a reminder of why I’m going to the effort of med school. The reality is, Med is bloody hard so to actually see the effect that medicine can have on the wonderful people who visit us is really motivating.


Thanks to giphy.com for all the GIFs. A special thanks to Aisling and Jacky as well, who have been incredibly patient as this post has gone over-promised and under-written for many weeks. It goes without saying that these are the views of the author and in no way reflect the views of any organisation to which he is affiliated, or indeed to which he is not affiliated either.


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