“How many of you want to be Neurosurgeons?”
The euphoria was bellowing and hands ferociously shot up like three years olds being offered candy. Being the “top notch” students, dreams were sprouting like mushrooms. Honestly, in that Millennium Hall, where we were currently packed liked sardines, our aspirations had never felt so free. We could already see ourselves donned in scrubs. For the more enthusiastic ones, they had already updated their social media accounts to “Dr.”, totally oblivious of the six years between us. Six FREAKING years! But we just had our first taste of victory and we were counting our blessings one by one!
“I’ll be asking the same question in three weeks!”. Totally amused by the number of hands.
The name was Dr. Mandela, the most sarcastic of the lot and we instantly fell in love with her just from the introductory speech. Totally unaware to us at the moment, was that this wasn’t meant to be a joke as we would soon realize about two weeks into the School of Medicine. A whole week less than she had given us. Then there was Dr. Beda. The one with the intellectual jokes. To this moment, I’m still trying to figure out some of them. But other than a sense of humour that’s harder to figure out than the Physiology Department, he was definitely the father figure in the group. The orientation would not be complete without Dr. Awori. The Orthopedic Surgeon who treats Anatomy as a game of hangman. “Don’t you dare step into that examination hall if you don’t know this. I’ll hang you!” Straight forward guy.
From the beginning, the University of Nairobi School of Medicine wasn’t your average Med School. For starters, I’m still waiting for that one-million-shilling welcome dinner we were supposedly promised when we joined the institution way into my second semester right now. Perhaps everyone was excited and promises were made. I’d like to believe it hasn’t been broken yet, just waiting for the right time. Like the promise made to self to never procrastinate into Med School. Not broken, just waiting for the right time. Then as aforementioned, we have the Physiology Department. There really isn’t much to say about here. Literally! Mostly because we had to learn it for ourselves until days into the examinations where they’d start piling up one after the other. I’m told it’s the norm here.
Draped in our lab coats, Anatomy was the centre piece of all the excitement right from the start. The idea of it was just overwhelming and we had our spirits as high as we could have had them. For the first week after orientation, Osteology, the bare bone of it. Nothing too complicated. Vomer, Ethmoid, Sphenoid, Bregma, Pterion, Styloid just to name a few. Nothing very new IF our high school Biology syllabus wasn’t such a scam. But it was! And slowly it would sink in that we really didn’t know what we were signing up for. A month into Med School and it would become a pound of flesh. We would occasionally finding ourselves skipping a BUNCH of classes just to catch up with ONE class. Specifically saying, Anatomy.
“If you see someone smiling after being asked a question, hajui kitu! Amejaza tu rumours!” The lecturer is Dr. Munguti and the someone is yours truly. He wasn’t completely wrong. Infact, he was dead accurate. Hours and hours of reading and almost sleeping with the “Holy Trinity” that’s Vishram, Last’s and Netters yet the only place I ignored was the same place the question came from. All eyes are fixed on me and my colleagues try to mumble something but with damned Latin names it isn’t as easy to figure out. “Maybe it’s how I phrased the question”. Five minutes of constant phrasing and rephrasing with me trying to piece up some reasonable rumours but you can’t reason with Anatomy. You either know or you don’t! My verdict was reached. “Wewe umeua! You’ve killed the patient!” Abit ironical since it’s a cadaver but that basically summarises Anatomy lessons.
Med School is obviously not a smooth ride. It’s a bunch of ebbs with a little flow but it’s certainly the most interesting course. Yes, I have never read this much but also I have never learnt as much. Yes, I have never had so many sleepless nights but also I have never looked forward to my days this much. Yes, I have never felt this dumb before but also my relatives have never praised me so much for it. You should hear them when they call me “Doctari” when all I’m focusing on right now is getting through to second year. Hysterical! But that’s Med School to you. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t.
Photo credits by Bill Oxford