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Thursday 19 November 2020

At one point, I wanted to quit Medicine

Currently, I have completed my MBBS degree and I am working as a Teaching Fellow at NUMed. Here, I would like to reveal a secret: At one point, I wanted to quit Medicine!

Stage 1 of MBBS was quite enjoyable for me. However, one thing I didn't like about Stage 1 was that the studies kept getting more and more difficult. My score in the exams fell from 84.5% in Progress 1 to 72.9% in Progress 2 and 68.3% in Progress 3. I didn't feel good about that, even though I still got a safe pass. I blamed it on the fact that there were too many subjects we had to learn in Stage 1.

When I found out that there were only two subjects in Stage 2, TSM for semester 1 and CSIM1 for semester 2, I was so happy, thinking that Stage 2 would be quite easy. I viewed Stage 2 as a new beginning, and I set myself the target of regaining a score above 80% in the Stage 2 exams.

However on the first day of Stage 2, the lecturer mentioned that vast majority of the topics in TSM are about anatomy, which made me quite shocked. Anatomy was actually my weak point in Stage 1, which contributed to the decline in my exam performance.

In order to achieve my target in the Stage 2 exams, I tried putting in efforts to improve my knowledge in anatomy. I revised anatomy in more detail, and I made sure to prepare well before attending every anatomy practical session. However, I found anatomy extremely tedious. Anatomy mostly had to be studied through memorising rather than understanding, but I really hated memorising things.

I just couldn't study TSM for long hours, as I would get so bored that I had to stop and do something else. I kept reminding myself of my target in the exams, but that didn't help. Worse still, everyone in my group was really focused on the studies, so we had little activities together unlike during Stage 1. Consequently, Stage 2 became a really boring year.

At that point, I began to lose interest in the MBBS course, though I still didn't want to acknowledge that fact. As I didn't study consistently, I eventually scored 71.9% in the Stage 2 Progress 1 exam, failing to reach my target of 80%. I was quite unhappy about that.

At the start of Stage 2 semester 2, the lecturer said that CSIM1 is a subject many students find very difficult. I didn't quite believe that. After taking a look at the topics in CSIM1, I found out that they largely had to be studied through understanding instead of memorising, as opposed to TSM. As I liked to study by understanding, I felt that CSIM1 would be easier and more interesting than TSM.

However, I didn't study anything in the following months, whether CSIM1 or TSM. After the terrible experience with my studies in the previous semester, I just refused to get back to studying. I only focused on doing the Stage 2 Assignments.

In late April 2016, I had no choice but to start my revision for the Stage 2 Progress 2 exam which would be in 5 weeks. With such little time remaining, I had to study very long hours every day. To save time, I only had two meals each day, one of them being instant noodles.

I began my revision with CSIM1. Luckily, CSIM1 wasn't that difficult for me thanks to my study method. I finished revising it in less than 3 weeks, despite the fact that I was studying it for the first time. That might be an amazing feat, but I had no time to celebrate it at all. I still had to revise for TSM, and there was only less than 3 weeks until the exam.

While my revision for CSIM1 was quite stressful, at least the topics were interesting. TSM would be a whole different story. I could clearly remember how boring the topics in TSM were. Worse still, I had forgotten most of what I learnt in the previous semester, so I would have to revise everything in TSM all over again.

At that point, I realised that I was no longer interested in Medicine. I started thinking of quitting MBBS. However, I was aware of the consequences of that. If I were to quit at that point, I would only get a Certificate of Higher Education which would be useless for finding a job. I felt lost and I wasn't sure what I should do next. I dared not talk to anyone about that, as I feared that others would look down on me.

I decided that I should focus on passing Stage 2 first and think about everything else later. I forced myself to revise TSM, no matter how much I hated it. I certainly experienced very high levels of stress at that time. In the end, I was able to finish revising everything in both CSIM1 and TSM just in time for the Stage 2 Progress 2 exam, which felt like a miracle. After all the hard work, I could answer reasonably well in the exam. I scored 64.7% which was still a safe pass.

At that time, the question of whether I should quit MBBS came up in my mind again. Having passed Stage 2 of MBBS, I would be given a Diploma of Higher Education if I choose to quit, which would still be of little value when it comes to looking for a job. After careful considerations, I decided that I had no choice but to carry on with the MBBS course. At the minimum, I had to pass Stage 3, after which I could quit with a Bachelor of Medical Studies. 

I expected that Stage 3 would be far worse than Stage 2 since it's a clinical year. I thought of taking a break from Medicine for a year by doing intercalation. However, my family and friends were unsupportive of the idea of intercalating, as they felt that it's a waste of time and money. In the end, I had to give up on doing intercalation.

Throughout the summer break, I fully relaxed myself and I didn't want to think about anything related to Medicine. I certainly refused to follow my lecturers' advice to do some preparation for Stage 3. I treasured every single moment of my break, but it still felt so short. When the break ended in late August 2016, I was so unwilling to return to NUMed and start Stage 3.

In the beginning of Stage 3, I didn't engage well with the teaching sessions and I didn't study anything, due to my lack of interest in Medicine. I started studying only in November 2016. At that time, I realised that the topics in Stage 3 are so different compared to Stage 2. Stage 3 is about clinical medicine, which I found very interesting.

That made me regain interest in Medicine. I no longer wanted to quit MBBS since then. However, I was already left behind in my studies by quite a lot and I struggled to catch up. I lacked some of the very basic knowledge and skills required for Stage 3.

Consequently, I failed the semester 1 formative SBA exam and I faced difficulties with the in-course MOSLER's during semester 2. I merely got a borderline pass for the Stage 3 SBA exam in July 2017, though I managed to get a much better score for the resit exam in September 2017 after NUMed annulled the July exam. It was only in Stage 4 that I managed to fully recover.

Now, I am so glad that I persevered and didn't actually quit MBBS back then. I still hate anatomy a lot. Thankfully, I didn't have to learn much anatomy during Stage 3, 4 and 5. I certainly don't want to specialise in Surgery or Orthopaedics as it requires a lot of knowledge in anatomy.

In the new NUMed MBBS curriculum, Year 1 and 2 are mostly case-based, with the topics of TSM and CSIM1 incorporated into the cases. As a Teaching Fellow, I always do my best to make the teaching of those topics interesting and easy to understand. Hopefully, this will give my students a better experience with the MBBS course.

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