Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Day 11:

Open your book. Read about a medical topic. Close your book. Repeat.

That is the essence of a beginning medical student's life. There's a lot to learn, and you're expected to learn it.

But flipping through the pages of a textbook can only take you so far. No matter how hard you study something, at the end of the day, all you've really done is memorize a list of words and facts. Necessary? Definitely. But these actions alone deny you the big picture.

In other words, sometimes you just have to see something to get it.

For me, this became apparent today when we rounded on a 22 year old patient with central diabetes insipidus (inability of the kidneys to conserve water, which leads to frequent urination and pronounced thirst). Before seeing him, I could have told you DI causes a person to pee a lot, but it wasn't until I glanced at his catheter collection bag that I truly was able to appreciate the significance of the underlying pathology.

In fact, when I first looked underneath the bed to find the collecting bag, I didn't even see it. My eyes scanned the customary location and passed right over the container which was full of urine two or three times before I realized I was staring right at it. The liquid inside was not just clear... it was crystal clear. Like, natural springs, purified bottled water clear. I really didn't believe it could be, according to my toddler vocabulary, "peepee." But it was.

And just like that, a medical topic previously known to me only through books became, pardon the pun, just a wee bit clearer.


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