Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The zero-sum game of knowledge

Ahh, medical school. The general public hears this term and pictures eager students dissecting cadavers in sterile rooms, pompous professors bloviating before packed auditoriums, and inexperienced, nervous students testing their new skills on a few willing (or unwitting) patients. What the uninitiated do not know, though, is that medical school is, in reality, a highly efficient mechanism for purging intelligence from one's brain. The reason for this fact lies in the simple truth that the brain contains only a finite number of neurons, and each neuron can participate in the recollection of a finite number of memories; thus, memory formation, at its core, remains a zero-sum game. Further, because medical school requires roughly 120 hours of work per week -- leaving 48 for sleeping, eating, defecating, and performing various other vegetative functions -- the world of training to become a physician is an insular one indeed. Once you throw in the monotony of day and night studying followed by unending toil in the hospital, the basics of higher cognitive function begin to deteriorate. In any case, I used to know a decent amount about a lot, and be able to do something with it. Now I know an obscene amount about very little, and I'm highly qualified to do (as yet) essentially nothing.

For the sake of illustration, here is a brief list of pieces of knowledge I used to possess, and the new specialized facts that have supplanted them.

Old: All the presidents of the U.S. --> New: All the diseases one can contract by mowing over a rabbit in the yard
Old: The plots and themes of Shakespeare's plays --> New: The DSM IV diagnoses of Hamlet, Ophelia, Caliban, Othello, Macbeth, Richard III, etc.
Old: Every word of The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot --> New: Every word of First Aid for the USMLE Step I by Vikas Bhushan, Tao Le, and Chirag Amin.
Old: How to program HTML and VbScript --> New: how to digitally disimpact a constipated rectum and use a fiberoptic scope to pick a nose
Old: All the synonyms for the word rigid --> New: All the scientific and colloquial euphemisms for impotence ("I'm making love with a stuffer, not a poker.")

But, you know, I'll be a better doctor for it. Now I just need to train for seven more years so that I can actually reap that reward. Meanwhile, I would recommend that you take your Metamucil -- lest you end up being the means for another med student to forget the basics of web development.


4 Comments:

At 1:58 PM, Blogger KarbonKountyMoos said...

You're almost working as many hours as a farmer!

Great post - and I keep picturing Mr. D.P. Gumby Saying that his brain hurts...

 
At 2:49 PM, Blogger Ian said...

I haven't actually seen that Python sketch...though, based upon its clear relevance, I'll suggest to my new nsurg chairman that he should add it to the core curriculum.

 
At 1:33 PM, Blogger glomgold said...

So, are there a lot of diseases for mowing over a rabbit? (what stupid rabbit lets himself get run over by a lawnmower??) I would definitely take HTML over the stuffed ass thing. Someone I know does her rotations at the hospital proctology ER (or whatever the correct term is for it). All I know is her stories are nasty nasty nasty.

 
At 12:35 AM, Blogger wbrant said...

Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

I have a macbeth site myspace.com site/blog. It pretty much covers macbeth site myspace.com related stuff.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)

 

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