With Thanksgiving break rapidly approaching, I feel as though I ought to share a peculiar observation with my friends and classmates before they return home to visit with loved ones. Though we still have quite a ways to go on our quest to become doctors, many of our friends and family members believe the change from “layperson” to “physician” to be an instantaneous one – that the second an individual can add the “OMS-1” (osteopathic medical student-year 1) after their name, they ought to be held in regard amongst actual medical experts. To those who have not yet returned home since beginning medical school, I might advise that you watch for this most peculiar phenomenon.
Upon visiting family during breaks, we first-term students (to whom the physical diagnosis class is but a distant rumor) are shown every mark, spot and lesion on all but the most unmentionable surfaces by acquaintances expecting a shred of diagnostic wisdom. Furthermore, elderly grandmothers are keen to draw forth an almost-sarcastically-long list of medications from the darkest depths of their unfathomable purses, then invite the sharing of opinion from the student who has never seen so much as a glimpse of pharmacology.
In order to avoid situations in which my classmates and I might be forced to choose between embarrassing demonstrations of our ignorance and the potentially-illegal distribution of guesses and hypotheses under the guise of medical advice, I have compiled what I have found to be the top 5 most frequent comments I face as a new D.O. student, and a list of common answers that might be employed in response.
1. “Can you take a look at this (completely benign and harmless discoloration) on my (random body part)? I think it might be cancerous!”
A) Right answer: “Well, I’m not comfortable making a formal diagnosis on something I have so little experience with. If it concerns you, please bring it up with your primary care physician.”
B) Wrong answer: “Sure, I think I saw this on an episode of House once.”
C) VERY wrong answer: “Better safe than sorry – get me a knife, then hold on to something.”
2. “So you’re going to be a D.O.? Does that mean you’re like a chiropractor?”
A) Right answer: “Well, no. The D.O. is an equivalent degree to the M.D. – we perform surgery, prescribe medication, and practice the full scope of medicine in any specialty we choose. We are also trained in manual medicine as an additional tool to use when indicated.”
B) Wrong answer: “Yes.”
C) VERY wrong answer: “Sort of, but chiropractors aren’t on call two days a week.”
3. “My friend told me that if you rub a kitten on the side of your head, it will cure your stomach ache (or another equally ridiculous anecdote concerning medical pseudoscience). Do you think that could work?”
A) Right answer: “It seems unlikely, but you’re free to try any new treatment plan that interests you, so long as your physician is made aware.”
B) Wrong answer: “Only if you chant the right incantation during the procedure.”
C) VERY wrong answer: “Yes, but only if it’s done by a professional. How much are you willing to pay me?”
4. “I got a flu shot last week, but then I had the flu the next day! I think the shot made me sick.”
A) Right answer: “The flu shot contains an inactivated virus – it’s impossible to get the flu from it. However, the shot requires a few days to provide immunity during which you might get exposed to the virus in the wild like anyone else.”
B) Wrong answer: “Only if you didn’t fast for eight hours beforehand.”
C) VERY wrong answer: “Of course! Now let’s sue someone, and then make a YouTube video about how the government is trying to kill us with flu shots.”
5. “So do you like being a student at DMU?”
A) Right answer: “Well, of course medical school is stressful, but for the most part I greatly enjoy having the privilege of learning medicine at such a wonderful institution so that I can pursue my dream of becoming an excellent physician.”
B) Wrong answer: “Yeah, but It’s still a pain. I can’t believe that nobody told me that medical school would be HARD or anything.”
C) VERY wrong answer: “No.”
I hope this guide proves helpful to my classmates. On an unrelated topic, I’m sorry for not posting any blogs last month – anatomy was breathing down my neck a little too forcefully. But hey, in the time since I’ve been gone, we’ve finished five more weeks. That means we’re now about 8.33% done with medical school. We’re gonna hit the double-digits in no time!