Death by bugs and drugs.

When I put last semester’s review books away today, I took out the microbiology and immunology books.  Then I thought, “Hey, as long as I have to do the required pre-reading anyway -” and opened one.

Mistake.  Mistake.

There are entire pages where I can’t make out recognizeable words.   I mean, what is this?  Is it even gramatically correct?  Are these nouns?

“Diphtheria (and exotoxin) caused by cornebacterium diphtheriae via exotoxin encoded by B-prophage.  Potent exotoxin inhibits protein synthesis via ADP ribosylation of EF-2.  Symptoms include psuedomembranous pharyngitis with lymphadenopathy.”

So I thought, oh well – sure, that sounds made-up to me, and sure, the volume of information is crazy compared to first semester, but we’re all in this together* and – oh, hey, check out the syllabus – the failing point is 1.5 standard devs below the average.

Now, just out of curiosity – why do schools do this?  It’s no longer “can you learn 70% of the material”, but instead it’s “can you beat out at least 13% of your other classmates?”** My classmates are smart people, and I’m at a P/F, unranked school in part because I don’t particularly care to be in any science contests with them.  While these people were out winning national science competitions, I was at a public elementary school getting good grades just for being socially appropriate and not like, biting anyone.

Anyway, instead of pre-studying I put the book away and ate spaghetti for breakfast.  Still, I do think I need to figure out a new study plan for next semester.  I don’t think Metropolis Med will be giving me any extra credit for not biting people.

*  Wait, hold on.  High School Musical flashback.
** Also, 13% of people will fail?  What is this, law school?


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14 thoughts on “Death by bugs and drugs.

  1. Hate to say it, but that wasn’t greek to me! Diptheria is how I remember what “psuedomembranous” anything looks like.

    Have you had pathology yet??? We have general pathology, systemic pathology, and clinical pathology (2nd semester as VM1, 1st Semester VM2, 2nd semester VM2). In our systemic pathology course we had 8 exams, and each of the questions on the exam was a photograph of a lesion and a clinical history. We had to come up with a proper pathological diagnosis (you know, the whole string of 8 words together that mean something pretty basic), etiology, and on occasion treatment recommendations (very basic) or legal aspects it was a reportable disease. I’d be interested in hearing what your pathology education is like. You probably won’t be doing routine necropsies (okay, autopsies) so I’m not sure how indepth your course will be. There is nothing like having to look at the opened thorax of a cow and diagnosis the most probable etiological agent for what ever type of pneumonia it has…and you only get to see the picture.

    As for the grades that is a strange way to do things. We have a standard scale. <60% = F. I don't get into contests with my classmates over grades, just with myself. I never understood the competiive nature of professional education.

    p.s when in doubt, bronchointerstial pnuemonia will probably the best guess. Then you just have to come up with a logical pathogen that causes it in that species, which of course will be easier for you. 🙂

    • Haha, well, I’ve never taken microbiology before! Or immunology, actually. So I’m glad to know that that paragraph isn’t impossible to read… 😀

      We’ve had a short 3 week course in general pathology (from which I learned exactly the same thing you did about pneumonia – awesome), then we’ll be doing system-specific pathology in the next two semesters. I *wish* we got to do routine autopsies – we have the option to observe them, though.

      Path has always sounded super cool to me, and so far it’s been my favorite part of med school. 🙂

  2. oh, so much to comment on in this post, lol.

    I recognized pretty much everything there (except ribosylation) but I wouldn’t be able to recognize a pseudomembranous pharyngitis if it bit me. Then again, i’ve seen a few pictures of what diptheria can do to the throat. I guess that’s what they are referring to?

    I have a confession: I was one of those socially inappropriate kids who bits things, and the occasional person. whoops. I grew out of by 3rd grade though.

    And I’m stuck in the grind of undergrad grading where just about every single damn science/pre-req class is curved like that. I think a system set up so that a certain number of students HAVE to fail, regardless of how well they do, is a system in need of serious repair. It isn’t too big a deal for many of the intro sci classes, but in upper level ones, or in classes where >50% of the students are pre-med and most of the rest are in the other pre-health areas, it’s BS.

    • Hopefully I will soon know what they were referring to! I want to become really good at micro/immunology – I’m so intimidated by not knowing anything about it.

      No biting judgement from me – socially inappropriate kids are awesome! I was painfully weird (I had a pet rock?), so not biting people back then was pretty much the one thing I did okay on.

      That grading system is definitely worse in a pre-med setting, I agree. My med school is pretty great about giving exceptions for “low” GPAs from harder schools like yours as long as the MCAT is around 35.

      I don’t know how many other schools take those curved grading systems into account, but I’m glad we do, because it’s just not fair otherwise.

  3. in school i was sure the jargon was just there to be mysterious to patients, but it really allows for a rapid and efficient transfer of information. and it will let your colleagues know you do know what you are talking about.

    • so immuno wasn’t too bad, but micro is just insannne amount of info. unfortunately it’s super high yield for the boards. i just bought microcards for my usmle prep- they’re pretty cool. my complaint is that the name of the organism is on both sides. i’m getting around that with post it flags lol.
      what book are you using for micro?

      • I bet. I really want to own microbiology – probably just because knowing it cold would make me feel like less of an imposter, haha.

        The recommended textbook is Medical Microbiology by Murray, Rosenthal and Pthaller – but none of the 2nd years I’ve talked to bought it, so I have no idea if it’s worth it.

        I’ve heard Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple is awesome, so it’s currently the only textbook thing I have.

        Any recommendations?

  4. After doing a semester of medical microbiology (I’m still in undergrad tho), I actually understood *every word* except for B-prophage. Go me (or rather, go my awesome med micro prof!!)! …I think this might make me a bit of a med micro nerd to still remember that after all the other pathogens we went over…

    • Haha, I can’t remember B-prophage anymore either. And I ended up getting WAY above the average on both of that micro unit – in fact, it was my highest scoring test ever. I think there’s something to be said for being terrified into studying mode.

      You’ll be great in med school, for sure! Best thing I did in undergrad was take medical-level classes. It’ll put you way above everyone else. If you get a chance to take histology or medical physiology, I’d definitely recommend those too!

      • Maybe my brain is wired to understand & differentiate bacteria, but micro seems pretty simple once you can get the names straight…and maybe I’m just really good at terrified cramming, haha (which is what I did for all my med micro tests, whoops). Definitely–when you need to get something done & you have little time to do it, somehow it gets done…

        That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking! I took physio this semester too (tho nowhere near med school depth–but still more detailed then I’ve been taught it previously) & hope to do immunology, tumor cell bio, neurobio, and/or embryology (tho that last one doesn’t sound fun…) senior year. We don’t have histology, but we have a lot of other med-related classes (see above, haha).

        • Haha, I think the hard part of micro for most people is antibiotics. If you’ve got that, you’ve got it covered. (Half of it comes from finally accepting that you don’t get to memorize a list of “if [this bug] then use [this drug]” facts. It’s not that straightforward. You just have to know a bunch of spectrums and contraindications and figure it out based on each unique situation.)

          Sounds good! Tumor cell bio and neurobio ESPECIALLY. You should be set. 🙂

          • We didn’t actually even touch antibiotics in the course except in reference to TB & AIDS, haha. But good to know for med school!

            Thanks for the advice! The hard part is actually getting into med school. :S

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