Week 12: Catching Up

          Four days ago, I finally felt as though I was ‘caught up’ with the material for most of my classes…today…not so much. I am starting to think that it is impossible to ever be all caught up in PA school. This week was one of the most overwhelming weeks of the semester, by far. We spent a couple of weeks dissecting Summer’s legs in lab, and I struggled to learn all of the structures (muscles, vessels, nerves…etc) in two weeks time. This week, we dissected Summer’s arms, and there is just as much information (if not more) to learn for the arms as there was to learn for the legs. I have just this weekend to master this new information, and next week we begin dissecting her neck (more new information!). Something tells me I will be living in the cadaver lab leading up to finals (in four weeks). I would love to spend all of my time studying anatomy, but with six other courses to keep up with, it’s just not an option. I remember complaining in undergrad about having only a month to learn half of the amount of the information I’m learning now…

          This week in Behavioral Medicine we discussed, as a class, the details of our standardized patient lab interactions (from last Friday), and then proceeded to discuss how to best break difficult news to parents about the health of their child/children. In a practice scenario, the class was portioned into groups of three. Two of us in each group were a married couple, and the other member of the group was the PA. We (I was the father of the couple) presented to the PA with our 18-month-old child who had been exhibiting signs of weakness (poor muscular strength) for some time after birth. The PA had to inform us (the parents) that our child tested positive for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a genetic disorder with a fatal prognosis. The disorder would progressively weaken the muscles of our child, ultimately culminating in respiratory failure by two years of age. As is apparent, these scenarios are not getting any easier! Luckily, I was able to take a break from breaking the bad news, and rather be the one responding to the bad news (though it’s such awful news to receive). We have one more Behavioral Medicine lecture (after Thanksgiving break), which will entail all 54 of us students participating in a final ethical scenario. I’ll fill you in a bit on that scenario next week.

          My other classes (GI, ID, Physiology, and PA Professional Issues) have been manageable. PA Professional Issues actually ended today, so I no longer have Friday classes. The past couple of weeks in GI have focused on infections of the GI tract, especially those that cause diarrhea (so, a lot of poop talk the past couple of weeks). We also learned about vitamin deficiencies and other malabsorption disorders (Celiac disease, lactose intolerance…etc). This week in GI, we focused on disorders that affect the colon and some areas of the small intestine (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome). In ID we have begun focusing on viral infections (mononuclueosis, herpes, HPV…etc). Both of these courses end in three weeks. I will take the finals for these courses one week before all of my other finals, which will spread the exams out a bit.

          Although I’m a bit overwhelmed at the moment, I am so close to the end of the semester, and this is what is keeping me motivated to try my best to keep up with all of the new material. It will be another long weekend, no doubt. Thanksgiving break could not have come at a better time…I need a mental break as soon as possible!

Question of the week: You are steadily recovering from a course of diarrhea, during which your PA recommended that you remain on a BRAT diet. While on this plain, limited diet, what food items have you been consuming? (Hint: Each letter of the acronym BRAT stands for one of the four food items)  

Last week’s answer: Together, the five fingers of your right hand contain 14 of the 206 bones of the human body. The thumb contains 2 bones (called phalanges), and the other four fingers each contain 3 phalanges (accounting for 12 more phalanges), for a total of 14 finger bones.              

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