Countdown: the last 3 semesters of medical school

In a curriculum of 12 semesters with each semester being 6 months rallying up to a total of 6 years, the UCT MBChB class of ‘22 have completed 9. Tomorrow marks the beginning of semester 10.

On my way to the boarding gate I saw around 7 familiar faces from class returning to Cape Town. We shared holiday stories and a mixture of nerves and excitement for tomorrow. Our ex-president Jacob Zumba was arrested yesterday and the roads to the King Shaka airport were obstructed over the weekend and are expected to be in the upcoming days so naturally we were all relived to make it for the flight on time. The third COVID wave in South Africa also marks the background for our upcoming semester. We discuss anticipated outcomes for the President’s address tonight for which we anticipate him extending the level 4 lockdown with gyms closed and restaurants servicing as takeaways.

Despite the ongoings of the country, all we know is that we’re expected at 8am tomorrow at GSH for our respective blocks. I start my Orthopedics and Trauma rotation. From my cursory reading of the rotation outline I’ve gathered that the assessment outcomes (other than duly performed attendance) involve the making of a movie, an OSCE (practical assessment) and an MCQ. I believe we are also required to do 3-4 calls in the Trauma department spaced throughout the next 4 weeks.

In December last year, I completed my 2 week elective in trauma at GSH and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I was fortunate enough to practice suturing and gain experience on how to assess green and yellow triaged patients. Trauma is distinctly different from medicine in the direct, focused history and examination it requires in order to treat the patient efficiently. It’s truly one of the more fast- paced and exciting rotations we do in medical school and hailing from the gang violence capital of the world the experience we get in Cape Town is unparalleled. I recall patients in my elective ranging from multiple gunshot wounds and stabbings to common occupational related hand and eye injuries.

I have no prior experience with Orthopaedics but I suspect I may need to visit one in the upcoming months for an old knee injury acting up!

At present however, my thoughts revolve around my expanding to-do list consisting of grocery shopping, eyebrow threading, house dusting and glancing at orientation documents in preparation for tomorrow. I’ve made a mental note to put the food my mum packed in the freezer when I get home and to skip for 10 minutes tomorrow morning and do a quick ‘Chloe Ting’ workout before school in lieu of gyms closing. On an average day at the hospital my fitness tracker indicates I burn around 250 calories which is quite appalling hence the need to supplement my daily life with short exercises.

My mind also wanders to the intentions I wish to set for the upcoming semester.

I felt that the last 6 months were a rush of school deadlines leaving me to accomplish little else. In all fairness to my time management skills, at no stage did I intend to achieve anything out of school hence my stunted development in 2021 thus far.

Over the holiday I realized that the time I had left in medical school was hastily approaching an end and I wanted to make the most of the last few months. I decided I wanted to start posting on my YouTube channel again in an attempt to document my last few years as a full time student which I anticipate will require a great deal of time management from me. For recreational purposes I also intend to practice the violin more regularly this semester (clearly re-inspired by Sherlock’s melodies during his thinking spells on Netflix).

Just a wandering side note for those interested in classical music training: I completed the grade 8 ABRSM in piano during high school but violin was always my first love. I picked it up at the age of 4 and played regularly till 9 however after moving schools I lost my old violin teacher and took up the piano instead. In my experience I found the piano to be an excellent foundation for music theory. My violin skills are rudimentary at best. I have retained the knowledge of the notes and a few scales but after a lengthy Reddit search I invested in a few Kreutzer books to develop my technical skills which I intend to practice daily.

I’ve also signed up for the 35km race in the Amashova in October for which I am fully unprepared and my prospects appear grim in light of the continued gym closure. I have yet to figure out how I am going to train for that with my bike at home…

And lastly, as part of my regular goal list, I intend to stay abreast with coursework and invest a fair amount of time in my studies of Trauma and Ortho in order to be a decent doctor.

I look forward to the next 5-6 months and I urge you to join me in reflection of the past year and your intentions for the remainder of 2021.

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