POETRY AT DOWNSTATE REUNION
Lighting up the Amygdala
My lab partner worked so carefully that time seemed to run backwards.
But he made up for it by running our cadaver for class treasurer.
He came in second.
Ah, the joy of memorizing the Encyclopedia Medico-Surgica.
Thank goodness for scatological mnemonics (the nastier the better).
Who of us will ever forget the lingual nerve!
Why did I put that cork in the beaker I was warming gently to sort its ingredients?
The flying glass shot the guy behind me in Biochem lab squarely in the back.
Like Queen Victoria, he was not amused.
If we wanted to learn, we had to be willing to be guinea pigs.
Why did I have to have such prominent veins?
And that poor guy who chose the milk diet!
Remember when we attended our first autopsy?
Three of the students fainted dead away.
They all became surgeons.
The Histology and Pathology slides were absolutely fascinating.
The wildness of the malignant cells was a sight to behold.
Was I the only one afraid I had cancer?
It wasn’t much better when we met all those microbes.
“You arrogant young people want to eliminate all pathogens!
You can’t get rid of them. You have to learn to live with them!”
How about the Hematology Professor who called me an idiot?
“Sickle thalassemia in a black child? Thalassemia’s a Mediterranean disease!”
Then she wrote a paper on it.
We asked why they worked us so hard when we got to the clinical years.
“They made us do it, it’s your turn now,” we heard in brusque reply.
I didn’t know you had to be a lab technician before you could become a doctor.
We walked asleep; we talked asleep, delivered babies in our sleep.
I fell asleep once standing up, on one of those tedious morning rounds.
“Thank you, John; you caught me just before I hit the ground.”
A study in contrast was Hillman and Hellman, Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Hyde.
I gave answers for nearly four hours. Then the slightest
Of errors loosed an acid barrage.
In the hospital world of withered bodies, shattered lives, blood and bones,
Hungry growths, the stench of flesh decayed—
That was where we learned our trade.
We suffered with the suffering. We slaved until we dropped.
Dante’s Inferno could not have been worse.
But it was GREAT! Don’t you agree?
Martin A. Silverman is a psychiatrist in Maplewood, NJ reminiscing about his medical school days.