By Luchie Albert
A good percentage of us here are medical students training to become doctors someday and if we’re quite frank with ourselves, we know that the amount of exposure we are given on account of practicals (surgical procedures, basic medical manipulations like intubation, tracheostomy and the list goes on) ranges from very little to none at all, yet we are expected to magically save lives in our careers as medical practitioners. Funny right? I understood as early as my first year that I would graduate a half baked doctor if I don’t source for extra practical work and more exposure outside what my curriculum provides me with. And, by my second year, I started spending most of my free time surfing the net for medical summer (and sometimes, winter) schools abroad. I equally became weirdly obsessed with medical volunteering which, save for my phobia of fraudsters and being left stranded in a foreign country, I would have gone through with it ( or maybe I just let all the negative reviews I read on all those sites I visited get to my head 😆).
Anyways, I still didn’t stop because as we progressed to the more clinical disciplines in my 3rd year and now currently in my 4th year, my desire to get more practical exposure morphed into a dire need to acquire these skills elsewhere, because “вряд ли” and “даже не думаете!” has become the norm whenever we ask our teachers if we would have opportunities to observe surgeries and the likes. These statements always fire me up, push and motivate me to keep researching and despite having suffered a couple of setbacks this year, one in January and a major one very recently this past July and August (I had worked my butt off the entire semester, saved up a good chunk of my allowance, already paid the program fee, its absence from my savings I felt everyday afterwards considering the current state of the Russian economy, bought one half of my flight tickets, only to see my hard work and plans slip right through my fingers due to a flimsy technical problem. Things do happen for a reason, but do we like the reason? Rarely. It actually ended up being in my favor, but that’s beside the point), which had me slowly but surely sliding into depression until I decided that it was time to end my pity party (I bawled my eyes out for an entire week and wouldn’t leave my room for the remaining days in August. When I tried to speak to my family and some few close ones here about it, I could hardly get two words out without breaking down. Yes, I cry, I’m a girl and I’m soft, pink and delicate, most importantly I’m human. Boy! No one had the inkling of an idea how rough I was having it) and pull myself out of that rut.
Alas, the new school year came and with it came more energy and even more determination to achieve my goals. As the legendary Albert Einstein put it (and I’m paraphrasing), the definition of stupidity is doing something the same way and each time expecting a different result. I decided to take a different approach. I did some research, asked around and on three different occasions, I learned something very exciting (a possibility I never knew existed in the first place) from three different alumni of my school. So, what did I learn? I found out that there are student exchange programs in my school and with that knowledge I went straight to work! After a series of enquiries, IFMSA (International Federation of Medical Students’ Association) was born to me. I contacted the necessary authorities and was given a general overview of the group. The first meeting for the 2016/2017 Academic year was held on the 18th of October at M. Бульвар Рокоссовского and the examination was administered the following week on the 23rd of October. The results of this exam is what you see attached to this post. I placed 8th after scores from the written, oral examinations and scores for being socially active in the group were compiled. I have no points for the latter because time is a luxury I don’t have these days, not even for myself. But, I’m still very impressed by my performance and proud to be representing my country, family, school and most importantly myself very well! I’m the sole African and Nigerian on that list and I consider that a milestone.
Hopefully, this time the stars will be in perfect alignment and the universe will work in my favor so that by summer next year, I will have the opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills I have tirelessly been seeking and finally make my vision a reality. So, fellas (especially the medical students), you know it’s impossible to be taught everything in the classroom and quite honestly we are only getting one tenth of what is required. The opportunities are limitless, the Internet is at your disposal, use it! Feel free to ask questions about programs I have previously applied to (and in the same breath, have been accepted into). For those who might be interested in IFMSA, SCOPE, SCORE etc, there is still a chance to sit for the exam next month, register and apply. Keep the questions coming, I’ll be glad to answer them (the ones I can) or refer you to the necessary contact personnels.
You see the only difference between the one who quits and the one who doesn’t is that they showed up everyday, they worked hard everyday, they learned from a proven mentor everyday, they improved everyday, and they did all this even though they felt like quitting everyday and eventually, they became who they are today. Learning is a process that never ends. And as a wise man (my dad) would always say to my siblings and I, knowledge is the greatest weapon one can wield.
Stay motivated, and have yourselves a productive week ahead!
Luchie Albert is a first class medical student in Moscow, Russia.