History Lesson

The first assessment in the medical curriculum will
be history taking – an activity in which I have some skill
thanks to my time spent working as a pharmacist in the community
and I feel that experience will surely advantage me.

But although it’s listed as an assessment in all our documentation,
it’s “formative”, which means it’s something closer to an initiation
into the grading structure and the format of the actual markable test
conducted mainly to give us feedback for our own professional interest.

But although this doesn’t officially count towards our final grade
it does get recorded and in a few weeks we’ll watch the DVDs that we made
of us taking a history from our colleagues playing the parts of patients
acting as if they suffered from a range of mysterious, unknown ailments.

My partner played the part of the doctor first
while I pretended to be a patient with the worst
diarrhoea he’d ever had with intermittent emesis
(that’s vomiting, for those of you don’t know what it is)

My partner actually did really well,
until right at the end she fell
into a trap you’d think she would have saw
and forgot to turn off the video feed before she swore.

I don’t know what reaction that’ll get when our class views the DVD.
She was worried about our tutor’s opinion, but if you ask me
no-one will care. We’re all adults and I’m sure we’ve all heard worse
than someone idly dropping an impulsive, poorly timed curse.

After that little faux pas it was my turn to record a history.
Her fake patient had productive cough and other respiratory
symptoms. It was fairly easy to work down the question list
and a record of travel to India was the only detail I missed.

Taking a patient’s medical history (at least in this artificial case)
is surprisingly simple but perhaps I’m just used to having to face
real patients in the past who were usually either confused, confusing or hostile
and by comparison these prewritten scripts for preclinical students are a little bit facile.

A Job Interview…

It’s been about two months since I was gainfully employed
and since that time I’ve occasionally enjoyed
musing on the idea of going back into pharmaceutical practice
but I didn’t consider it too seriously – at least that is
until about a week ago when I received a message advising
of a poisons information position which I found quite enticing.

So I brought my résumé up to date
sent it off and settled in for a wait.
Sure enough, the very next day
they called me on the phone just to say
that they’d like to take the chance to arrange an interview
and I said ‘Of course, I’d be happy to talk to you’.

So I caught a bus there via the city centre
arrived good and early then waited to enter.
They finally called me in about 4 o’clock
for a relaxed interview which was largely ad hoc.
It seemed to go alright but I’ll have to wait and see
whether or not they end up choosing me.

Things I Didn’t Go To

Admittedly, over four years of a medical degree
this could rapidly bloom into a whole damn category.
Now I know some of you will probably question the allowability
of blogging about things that I wasn’t actually there to see
and while I admit it has more than a whiff of futility
I actually have a point which I will get to shortly.

So how did we reach this bizarre state of affairs?
Why am I blogging about things for which I was not there?
Well, the answer, if anyone out there really cares,
comes down to the UQMS Sports Day event where
all the med students jog from a pub to this weird drunken sort of fair
out at Dutton Park – if you want to read a better post about it try here

The sort of thing I'm missing out on. Source: UQMS Website

Anyway, now you’ve come back from that non-rhyming distraction,
let’s turn our attention back to the main attraction.
I dropped in for a drink after the attendees returned from the action
but missed out on the main event and that gave me some mental traction.
It started me musing on the question of balance between social interaction
and learning at med school. An issue I’m yet to resolve to my satisfaction.

You see, I can study ceaselessly – I certainly did during undergrad-
but my first time at uni I missed out on a lot of what it had
to offer, which in some ways was really quite sad.
Of course, the opposite extreme is at least as bad.
Moderation’s the solution in theory, but I have to add
that in practice, finding that balance is enough to drive someone mad.

In the end, the issue can’t be solved by mental contortion
it’s a matter of trial and error and attempting to apportion
time between various demands while exercising due caution
to avoid the extremes which might call for one
to compromise quality of work or alternatively to shun
fellow students. It’s the difficult balancing act of moderation.

Review: The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka)

Just for variety, I’m going to try something new
and integrate into this blog a book review.
For my inaugural, cutting-edge literary post
I chose a novella that I expect most
of my readers have probably heard
even if they’ve never read it word for word.

‘The Metamorphosis’ was originally published in 1915,
all across the Western world it’s subsequently been
acclaimed as a seminal work – influential beyond a doubt.
But what is this novella actually about?

It’s deceptively simple, the plot’s central conceit
that a man is transformed into a beast with many feet,
an armoured carapace and feelers on his head
when he wakes up one morning in his warm, familiar bed.
The change in his circumstances, appearance and behaviour
take him from being in the position of his family’s financial saviour
to a giant insect barely tolerated by those who surround him
and through this change we learn more about the circumstances in which we originally found him.
He slowly loses hope and his family come to consider him a pest
until, approaching the books dénouement, he decides it would be best
if his family didn’t have him in the house acting as a constant burden
and having surrendered to his fate he dies quietly like the vermin
he has metamorphosed into and his family, now free,
rather than mourn him see this as a golden opportunity
to live their lives and each to exploit the new prospect
they were forced to develop when Gregor became an insect.

Obviously this story has a whole host of themes.
One of them is that Gregor had no wants or dreams.
As a man he lived purely for others and filled their every demand,
never thought for or about himself or ever took a stand
and having lost his identity figuratively to his family and employer,
is it so surprising when he loses it to an ungeziefer?

Another interesting facet of the plot that we should consider other
than identity, is that Gregor supports his sister, father and mother
when later in the plot things become clearer and we finally discover
that they could comfortably support themselves with only a minimum of bother.
Gregor’s huge sacrifice (made literal in his final fate)
had in actuality allowed his family to stagnate.
Although they dehumanise their son after his transformation
they transform themselves too with an all round elevation
in confidence, ability, and prospects (as noted at the end).
It is only by the removal of a prop that the family is allowed to mend.

Rationality vs. irrationality also plays a part in the character’s interactions
Gregor’s purposeless wandering, garbage eating, insectile actions
are portrayed through the prose as been understandable and sensible.
By contrast, his family is often implied to be reprehensible
for simply expressing a natural mixture of fear and disgust
at seeing a human-sized cockroach that the average person must
necessarily react to in this manner. Hence we see an inversion
where the rational response is portrayed as a perversion,
while the more animalistic, instinctive beetle’s irrationality
is shown, at least superficially, as being devised logically and intelligently.

Another view which I have heard critics promulgate
is that Kafka’s goal in this book was simply to satiate
a need to tell the story of his own situation
with Gregor’s en-roach-ment merely a fictional representation
of his own, frequent tuberculous convalescence which he maligned
as leaving him mentally and physically repulsive while he was confined
to his room and reliant on family support and his sister’s care.
Parallels with the course of the novella are clearly there.

But even if the book is nothing more than a thinly veiled reflection
of the author’s own life, I think his intention,
while certainly worth knowing, doesn’t really matter when all’s said and done.
The message taken from it by millions of readers is the important one.

Will The Orientations Never End?

How long have I been here? It must be week four,
and despite 3 days worth of orientations they want to hold one more.
Earlier,we had two sessions presenting general info
(I will confess I played truant for the 2nd one though)
then one at the hospital which you can read about here
and now as the the end of our first month draws near
they want to host a “Welcome to MBBS”
the reason, they say, is due to the mess
caused by the flood delaying their big event
but after a month, for every intent
the window for orientation has been and gone.
To put it simply, they’ve waited too long.

However it doesn’t matter that I object,
it has no influence on their decision to select
Wednesday ninth as their day to ‘re-welcome’ us
so yesterday morning I jumped on my usual bus,
arrived at the university and found the auditorium,
waited for a while then listened to our guests talk some.

To be fair, despite my irritation at the pointlessness
I can’t in good conscience kick up too much fuss.
The speakers all made the effort to come deliver their address,
and while I liked some talks more and others less,
like most students I still feel a certain appreciation
and as exasperated as we were they all received lavish approbation.
But still, the event considered all in all?
I think it was too late to be at all helpful.

Brisbane – More of a Zoo Than a City

I’ve come to a conclusion, a thesis, a manifesto
(actually just the first two terms are accurate, the third one less so.
But I’ll wait until another day to complain about my thesaurus
instead of wasting time now on a topic that could only bore us).

Anyway, to get back on track
what I wish to point out is actually the fact
that although Brisbane has a high level of human habitation
it seems like every time I pass a patch of vegetation
there’s some sort of wildlife waiting to spring out
and this observation has left me with little doubt
that contrary to its image of being civilised through and through
Brisbane’s actually more like a giant, open air zoo.

If I may present my first piece of evidence:
both at the uni and my student residence
there’s bush (or brush) turkeys running around
a phenomenon that can be observed all across town.
They build their big nesting mounds out of leaves
and rotting debris that can be found under almost every tree.

Example two comes from when I was walking down a main road
and I could hardly go a dozen steps without stepping on a cane toad.
They’re all over the place, big, ugly, toxic and amphibious
and even in my home state of WA they’re making an insidious
advance slowly across our northern borders into the Kimberley
(See, I’m not just amusing. I’m educational apparently).

Example three would have to be the swarms of bats,
for those who don’t know, they’re like giant flying rats.
Every night as the sun dips beneath the horizon
anyone who resolves to keep their eyes on
the sky can see them criss-crossing the troposphere
searching for food and colonies far and near.

At the university there’s a pond I found
with a bale of turtles (yes, that’s the collective noun)
and eels as well ( but they were harder to photograph).
As well as a lizard that almost bit me on the calf
(although with good reason I must admit,
I was busy looking at the turtles and almost trod on it)

There’s possums running up and down trees and power poles too.
The first time I saw one from a distance I thought it was a roo,
but then it ran straight up a branch when I got a little nearer
and that made its true identity a whole lot clearer.

Smaller creatures – although getting less attention –
also deserve their own special mention.
Big orange-black spiders build webs between any objects close together
and despite some reassurance I’m still not convinced whether
they’re poisonous or completely harmless.
You know what? I think I’ll try to avoid a bite regardless.

Anyway, I’ve outlined the fauna of the sub-tropic
and in the process I’ve pretty much exhausted this topic.
I feel I’ve achieved what I set out to do,
that is to demonstrate that Brisbane’s like a giant zoo.

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