No Smoking This Side of Room: Reflecting on things that aren’t there any more after 42 years as a student and a teacher in a medical school

By Michael Dauzvardis

In The Beginning

It was June of 1977 and I had just begun my graduate career in anatomy.  Little did I know that I would be taking all my major classes with the medical students.  A lifelong journey in accompanying medical students in various ways had begun.

The Lecture Hall

A typical day in anatomy class began with 130 or so medical students, shuffling sleepy eyed into their small seats with swing out mini desk tops. They came bearing newspapers, coffee mugs, 3 course breakfasts, adorned in hair too long and shorts too short.  Bell bottoms, blue jeans, and baseball caps ruled the day.  I quickly assimilated by wearing my new Levi overalls. On the right side of the room (while facing the podium) was a sign affixed to the wall which declared “No Smoking This Side of Room.”  Now I must say that on the opposite side of the room I did not observe a lot of smoking but on more than one occasion I observed a student chewing tobacco and spitting into a large plastic cup during lecture.  The class of 122 consisted of 90 men, and 32 women– with a racial and ethnic composition of 1 black person, 3 Latinos, 7 Asian-Americans, and 111 Caucasians.  Forty-six of the men had mustaches, with the majority of those also sporting beards.  It was the prime of the disco period and it showed.

A portion of a newspaper containing the daily crossword puzzle would be passed around for each student to contribute. The instructors drew on a thing called a chalk board while some students tried to keep up on their yellow pads of legal paper. Audiovisuals consisted of carousels of 35 mm slides projected onto a pull down screen in the front of the room. On more than one occasion I observed a professor drop his entire tray of slides before lecture.  The slides would fly in all directions. Students and staff, eager to be helpful, would assist in reloading the carousel, but since slides needed to be placed upside down and reversed in order to be projected correctly, this usually resulted in much confusion and sore necks during the lecture.  These slide carousals also provided for the mischievous opportunity of inserting bogus slides into the lecture.  If a lecturer wanted to show a “film strip” he had to notify the AV department in advance so they could bring in a reel-to-reel projector, whose sound never worked and which often melted the film.

There were no computers or cell phones (two payphones were mounted outside the lecture halls).  Pocket calculators were the rage–and I even saw an occasional slide rule.  Virtually all students participated for 15 dollars in a co-op note club.  Each student would be assigned a lecture at which he or she would take detailed notes.  These were typed out, mimeographed and distributed to the entire class.

The lecture hall had a center aisle, but no side aisle.  As a result, students had to climb over each other to get to and from the end seats.  Furthermore, the floor slanted at almost 45 degrees toward the front such that a dropped pencil or spilled cup of coffee made it all the way down to the lecturer.  The lecture hall spanned two floors with the upper half flanked by the outer windows in a manner leaving a precarious eight-foot drop hidden by curtains– which on more than one occasion gobbled up a medical student like a bug in a Venus flytrap.

The Pub

There was a long, often leaky, run-down hallway that connected the medical school and hospital with the dental school, a dark tiny basketball court, an old theater, and the beloved pub. The pub served pizza and sandwiches and soft drinks for lunch during the week.  But, at 2:55 pm on Fridays, students, staff, and faculty could be seen with their tongues attached to the outside of the pub Read More »

My Pediatrician

By Puja Nayak

“Doctor,” I say, my voice fading. I hear footsteps running and my eyes shut.

Hours later, I have a wire in me. I try and pull it out but my doctor stops me.

“No, don’t do that sweetie.”

I give her a look. I don’t understand why I’m here. My head is hot, I am sweating, and many students surround me, taking notes. Are they talking about me?

“Honey, you have something called Kawasaki.”

I raise my eyebrows.

“Your body and I are fighting it, so you will be okay.” She hands me a juicebox and leaves the room with my parents.Read More »

What do Advent and Christmas Have to do with Medical Education, Anyway?

By Virginia McCarthy

As a Jesuit, Catholic medical school, we have had several preparations for Christmas that may not be as “front-and-center” in other institutions.  These traditions are deeply engrained in our culture and expected by our students.  With the flurry of academic activity in the final weeks of the semester, the true miracle of Christmas might lie in the simple fact that anyone shows up to spend time together at all.  In the busy-ness, we pause, but what exactly is it that we are trying to remember about ourselves, the community, the world?
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What’s a Nice Nurse like You doing in a Medical School?

Hearing the Call:  A Feature on How Physicians and Medical Educators Came to Understand their Vocation

By Anne Gill

Back in the 70’s, I called a surgeon to tell him his patient was bleeding from a cholecystectomy incision.  “When did you go to medical school?” he screamed.  “Until I say differently, that is serosanguineous fluid!”  Stung by this rebuke, I meekly added ABD’s to stanch the flow of “serosangunious fluid” and awaited the patient’s return to the OR…
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Things Other Than Transplant Surgeons

Hearing the Call:  A Feature on How Physicians and Medical Educators Came to Understand Their Vocation

By Sarah E. Stumbar

Sometime during middle school, I became engrossed in a series of young adult novels about children dying of tragic diseases: heart failure (saved by a heart transplant!) leukemia, cystic fibrosis. I wanted to be a doctor! I wanted to be written into these stories, encompassed by both their tears and their triumphs.

As I continued to read, I traveled with my mom to a conference in Accra, Ghana. We visited the old fortresses of the country’s slave coast and walked through the city; forever kept on the outside by our skin color, which unequivocally meant that we were from elsewhere. The markets selling imported goods from China, the people living exposed on stretches of pavement, and the half-constructed cement buildings spoke to me of immense poverty. I tried to reconcile how this world could coexist with my own comfortable life in New York. The people we met spoke of the AIDS crisis, orphans and a lack of health care resources. The needs were overwhelming to my fourteen year-old-self…
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Time to Heal

Hearing the Call:  A Feature on How Physicians and Medical Educators Came to Understand their Vocation

By Deb Roman

The children tried to cope, but at times, the best they could do was to go into a room and scream, sometimes for more than an hour, emerging exhausted and distant.  They struggled to find comfort in play, unburdened by the weight of their experiences. As a summer intern in this hospital for abused children, I hoped to get experience with a speech therapist on staff, but as I walked the halls after hours, and listened for the children, the depth of their suffering, and the response of the medical director moved me in a way that would change my direction…
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Landing the Role of a Lifetime

Hearing the Call:  A Feature on How Physicians and Medical Educators Came to Understand their Vocation

By Kerensa Peterson

Sometimes, a place just feels right, like home.  When I entered the Clinical Education Center for the first time, I immediately felt calm—an unusual feeling before an audition.  When I arrived, I made my way to a chair in the back of the room where I had a great view of Harvey, the heart simulator.  I wondered how he might fit into this audition scenario.  Two gentlemen walked in and introduced themselves as trainers to a room full of expectant actors.  I was hooked – from the moment they started to explain the role of a Standardized Patient.  I have never before had such a relaxing and intriguing audition… Read More »