Monday, May 21, 2012

Tales from Med School: Failing Anatomy

I first became friends with Lily when I found out she was failing anatomy during my first semester of med school. It was a doomed friendship.

I was pretty lonely back then, so I certainly wouldn’t have turned away any friends at that time. Lily had a lot of important qualities I look for in a friend: she was nice, she was talkative, and most importantly, she wanted to be my friend too.

Lily had a great sob story. Her roommates, who were also her lab partners, were really mean to her. She ate some of their cereal and they screamed at her. I could relate to that.

Except there were always these signs that her stories weren’t exactly true. Like maybe she wasn’t as much of a victim as she made herself out to be. Namely, I knew one of her roommates pretty well and that girl was awesome. The roommate told me some stories about Lily that made my toes curl, but I told myself that it was probably just misunderstandings.

I tried to help Lily as much as I could. The thing is, it actually wasn’t that easy to fail anatomy where I went to school. The professor provided us with old exam questions that repeated each year, so all you had to do was go through the last few years of old exams. You might not honor, but you’d pass. Unless, of course, your knowledge of anatomy was so poor that you had zero chance of passing the practical or answering any questions that weren’t direct repeats.

Unfortunately, Lily was in that position. When we went over basic anatomy, she knew nothing. I genuinely tried to help her, but I could tell there was no way she was going to pass the final. And I was right.

Also, she failed all her other classes that semester.

Even though she didn’t tell me this, I heard from a reputable source that Lily had officially flunked out. I wasn’t sure what to believe though, because Lily kept going to classes like nothing had happened. In fact, when we were reforming lab groups for the second semester, she asked us if we could kick out a member of our group so that she could be part of the group instead.

Moreover, she continued to expect me to help her study. She wanted me to put aside my own work to help her. If she wasn’t even in our class anymore, it seemed a bit selfish for her to ask that of me. It got to the point where I felt like she was pestering me all the time. I would have just walked into the histology lab and immediately Lily would find me and say, “Hey, Fizzy, how have you been studying for the histology exam?”

Me: “I’m not sure. I just started studying like two minutes ago.”

Lily: “Yes, but what have you done so far?”

Me: “I told you, nothing. I just started two minutes ago. Literally.”

Lily: “Oh, okay.”

Then she would leave and come back in five minutes:

Lily: “So what have you been studying?”

And she started pestering me during class too. We had histology lectures where we would watch a large TV with slides on it while the lecturer talked about them (don’t you wish you were in med school?). And Lily would constantly ask me questions during these lectures:

Lily: “What did he say that was?”

Me: “Bone.”

Lily: “What about bone?”

Me: “I don’t know! It’s just bone!”

What I really wanted to say was, “Maybe I’d know more about the slide if you’d shut up for a minute.”

Anyway, it eventually got back to me that Lily thought I didn’t like her anymore.

It made me feel bad to hear that. I think we’ve all been in situations where we’ve been friends with someone and all of a sudden, they didn’t seem to like us anymore. And you wrack your brain, thinking, “What did I do wrong? What’s wrong with me?” I didn’t want to do that to someone. I’m nice. And I generally have a high limit of tolerance for annoying behavior. But Lily had managed to exceed that limit.

After about a month, Lily stopped going to class and she did end up repeating that year. We never became BFFs, but we were friendly. I wish I could say this story had a happy ending for Lily, but it doesn’t. At the very least, it got worse before it got better.


  1. Don't leave us hanging! What happened to her??

  2. You can't save them all. Heck you can't save very many at all.

  3. It's really admirable how you tried to help her anyways, despite it not doing much, and her position remaining the same. But honestly, in this field, how long can you leech on someone to get through the years? She could've gotten some study tips from you, but beyond that, like having you spoon-feed her is just rediculous. I wonder how she ended up...

  4. Damn you, Fizzy! I was cleaning out my popcorn bowl reading this - and then that cliffhanger literally left me with my mouth hanging open and that last popcorn halfway between the bowl and my mouth!

    So it did get better?

  5. I have always been terrible at Anatomy - but then again, my school doesn't exactly try to make it easier for us. From crappy lecturers and non-existent study material to exams where the aim seems to be whether they could possibly fail the entire class... yeh.

    But I'm quite jealous of Lily that somebody tried to help her. Helpful people seem to be few and far between in the medical world which is kind of ironic. So good for you for at least trying to help.

    1. Yeah, except my attempts to help eventually evolved into bitchy behavior on my part, unfortunately.

  6. I was Lily. I failed biochem in med school. It was very isolating experience. There were six of us that failed the course and we always recognized each other. In spite of this I still felt alone. I could never admit to anyone else that I failed biochem. I felt like a loser in a class of 120 winners.

  7. ugh... this one really hit home. i just bombed my psych course. seriously... psych! wtf?! which means finding a spot between the start of rotations and step 1 to get through it again. Lily seemed to have some difficulty with forming interpersonal relations, like if she wasn't comfortable in her own skin. i'm sure the social isolation from seeing everyone else around you succeed didn't help her difficulty in relating with her roommates. hopefully she's through and now somewhere with a job. and like everyone else, I'm really interested to see what came of her! Please stalk her facebook and report back! :)

  8. I don't feel like I should reveal exactly what happened to her on here, but suffice to say, she's not currently a physician.

  9. My nursing school only admits the top 45 applicants out of over 200. There are no interviews, no letters of recommendation, no affirmative action. It is simply the top scores. This weeds out the people that are not going to do the studying in the program. If we fail one class we are kicked out of the program and you have to re-apply and start all over again with no degree. That is brutal but fair.

  10. This post made me want to search for a former classmate who was kicked out/failed out of our pharmacy program during second year. There was a really complicated situation involving stalking/threatening a professor. She tried to make it look like one of the fraternities was involved. We used to be friends, but lost touch after this incident, her psychiatric hospitalization, and her detox (from drugs she stole from the pharmacy she worked in). I searched for her on google and found someone with the same unusual last name who was just admitted to the other pharmacy school in the state! It's either a weird coincidence or they ignored/didn't know about her background.

  11. I have my Anatomy viva on Tuesday and the Theory final a week later. Let's just say that I passed the midsemester, but I may as well have failed. Never been so ashamed in my life! I was absolutely distraught and could not believe how badly I did. Because of that I've been neglecting it for a while and created a mountain for myself. Due to someone's help and guidance I've been able to start tackling it and somehow I have managed to teach myself a lot of content in a very short time. To help 'me' remember I also test and teach other students. I think it's win win. At my uni a lot of people fail this course, as the lecturer is NOT helpful...she makes me rage.