Reviewed by A. Sidney Barritt
SIDNEY BARRITT is a Roanoke physician.
Jacqueline Marino, then a writer with Cleveland Magazine and now on the journalism faculty at Kent State, conceived the idea of a series of articles that would follow several medical students through their studies at Case Western Reserve University. First, she had to sell the idea to the medical school’s academic bureaucrats. She won approval, and in 2005 met the class of 2009.
She ultimately followed three students. They endured as well and are now in residency training with their coveted degrees in hand.
Through a series of vignettes, Marino chronicles the education of a modern medical student, mixing biographical notes on her three subjects.
Their reflections, which include healthy doses of self-doubt, illuminate the process wonderfully. They go through the white coat ceremony, dissect a human cadaver, interview and examine a patient for the first time, receive serious negative criticism, take board exams, etc., etc., until receiving that hood that proclaims M.D. in 2009.
The students are an interesting cross section, very different from the students of a prior era: One woman was born in the Dominican Republic, grew up in the slums of Boston but made it to the Ivy League for college and eventually to Case Western; another is the daughter of a Taiwanese mother, grew up in a small Arizona town but got to Smith College and a degree in biology; the third is a Mormon from Utah, who had been on a mission, and is now married with a very pregnant wife (they are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid).
There was a good deal of ferment at Case Western. Curricular reform was under way then just as it is now at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Students who have known nothing but success worry about whether they and medicine are meant for one another. They whine about the work load and obsess about their performance. There is a refreshing emphasis on the development of lifelong learning and professionalism.
From a dinosaur’s perspective (I started medical school in 1964), this all sounds very familiar. Change is clearly in the air, but, the more things change, the more they stay the same. For some interesting insight into what is going on here in Roanoke at our own medical school, here is a chance to peek inside the door.