Trust Me. I'm a Med Student

Learning the science. Developing the art. At LMU-DCOM


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Be Real

Why did you apply to medical school? While I’m 100% certain that not everyone did it for humanistic reasons, my experience with my fellow classmates suggests that the majority of people did. Most people enter into medicine with lofty ideals about wanting to help people, giving back to the world, doing their part, caring for others at their time of greatest need, etc. And that is the way it should be!  Considering medicine is about treating PEOPLE, it would make sense that you would want to recruit future doctors who are humanistic. Except that saying it out loud or on paper sounds trite – in fact so much so that I was advised repeatedly NOT to write about humanism in my application to medical school. Looking back I regret NOT writing about humanism.

I think what it boils down to is being real. How can you be “passionate” about medicine before you ever work in medicine? Saying that you are is silly (and trite) and just speculation. You are a pre-med and have never been a doctor, never felt the pressures, known the stresses, or understood the challenges of being a doctor. Admissions people can only read about how passionate some naïve pre-med is about something they know nothing about so many times before they start hating everything, especially your application. So you need to be creative and express your interest in a way that isn’t painful to read or you should try saying something else.

I ended up writing about purpose, realism and the irrefutable value of medicine in society for my personal statement. Looking back I think I missed the mark just a little bit. What I was feeling was true but I couldn’t express it. I was trying to convey that my inspiration to pursue medicine was humanistic in nature, but without sounding too…..humanistic. Over the last year and a half the thing that I wanted to say in my personal statement has started to become clearer – partly due to my introduction to the medical specialty Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (which I wrote about here).

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) is a medical specialty that is extremely unique. It is the second smallest specialty in terms of number of physicians who are practicing PM&R, its scope of practice is broad, and quite frankly it is not extremely well understood, which is laughable because I think PM&R is the epitome of medicine embodying all the things that medicine stands for. And this is the heart of the matter. Medicine is about human beings, it is humanistic and it is emotional, dramatic, challenging, scary, exciting, happy, sad, and all the other things that humans experience. It is ridiculous to think that medicine is purely tissue, cellular, microscopic abnormalities completely detached from people and their brains/minds/emotions.

PM&R knows this deeply and focuses on the person – body mind and soul – as a principle of healing and rehabilitation. It is well known that a person’s emotional state can help them or hurt them when recovering from a major injury or trauma. It follows then that a person’s emotional state is a part of their health and their disease and needs to be incorporated into their medical picture and treatment plan. PM&R is the only specialty I know where you get to practice medicine, real medicine (prescribing drugs, doing procedures, taking a history and physical, examining patients, ordering scans and biopsies, etc.) but all the while focusing on the patient – their lifestyle, attitude, emotions, family, physical limitations, wants and desires. It is a field of medicine that nurtures the soul and makes you realize everyday that you practice medicine for people and that it is a humanistic endeavor. Maybe the most humanistic endeavor there is.

So, yes, I wish I had written in my personal statement that I want to pursue medicine for people, for relationships, for happiness and for sadness, and for the chance to feel like a human being every day.

Here’s to humanity.

Keep it real


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Picking Up the Pace

Year two is getting heavy. This past week consisted of lectures, labs, a simulation, a wedding in Nashville, and finally an exam yesterday. This next week holds even more: three meetings, many lectures, two labs, another exam, Osteoblast (event to introduce all of the first years to the various clubs on campus), our first PM&R club meeting, and a practical exam. The following week looks about the same. And I assume all the rest after that – until Christmas.

Some of the pictures I took for Instagram last week:

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In the Books

My first year of medical school is officially in the books and I must say that I’m glad to move on. First year was definitely challenging in many ways, but it also made me stronger – very much a ‘trial by fire’ sort of affair. At times (many times) it seemed like I made a terrible decision to go to medical school, but after a refreshing summer break and beginning second year (which is MUCH better, so far) I can say it’s worth it in the end. Although I have repressed much of my first year experiences, I am going to summarize the good times and the other times from the first year of med school:

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Summer Time Fun Time

Sorry, everyone for the blogging blackout – I suffered from post first-year fatigue syndrome and had to let the swelling in my brain go down… And of course I had to soak up my LAST SUMMER EVER. But my new (lofty) goal is to post something every single week, so you all get a sense of what med school life is all about – plus some of my personal rants, of course. So watch out for my posts EVERY Monday! – AND CHECK MY TWITTER/INSTAGRAM! —–>>>

Q: Ryan, I heard you wanted to soak up your last summer ever. What did you do for your last summer break ever?

A: Well, I suppose I could have gone on a cruise, or hiked the Appalachian Trail, or visited Iceland? I really should have gone on a road trip, or backpacked Europe, or at least gone to Dollywood :) …. but instead I stayed at school and researched lipid metabolism. But it was actually pretty cool! And sometimes is was even fun!

Here are some pictures of the lab I was working in this summer at DCOM:

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DO vs MD

Andrew Taylor Still MD, DO, the founder of osteopathic medicine, started a new model for treating patients after years as a practicing MD physician. He was driven to start a new model for medicine in the United States due to the rampant over-use of drugs like heroin and cocaine for the treatment of so many common ailments in the 1800’s. He was seeing so many people harmed (often permanently) by these chemical interventions that he strived to develop a more conservative model of healthcare delivery based on promoting homeostasis, supporting the body’s natural disease fighting abilities (immune system), and optimizing the structure-function relationship (anatomy) that underlies all of life. He had such positive results that he continued to develop his methods and started his own medical school where he taught these principles as an effective way to approach the treatment of disease. This conservative medical treatment method caught on and quickly grew into the second largest form of medicine in the US. However, it wasn’t until the US military started accepting DOs as military physicians did osteopathy become so integrated into US healthcare that MDs and DOs are nearly indistinguishable today.

AT still

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Things are Coming Together

Things are beginning to come together.

Before I started medical school, I had a pretty strong interest in a specialty called physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R). However, as any physician can tell you, everything can change when you’re in your third and fourth year working in the hospitals and experiencing all of the great medical specialties. One of them may just jump out and grab you, and who knows what specialty you’ll end up going into? At this stage of the game, however, I am really excited about PM&R and it seems like maybe the universe wants me to be a PM&R doctor too because, as I said, things are coming together.

One month ago I was just plodding along as a first year medical student, nothing of note to report. Now, I am sitting here as the new president of the PM&R club at LMU-DCOM, the co-chair for the national student council executive committee for the national osteopathic PM&R organization (AOCPMR), and fresh off a week-long shadow experience with a PM&R doctor at Vanderbilt’s new PM&R department. Some things are just meant to be!

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