Tablespoon Thursday: Life as a Bachelor in Medical School

“Your reputation is in the hands of others. That's what the reputation is. You can't control that. The only thing you can control is your character.” ― Wayne W. Dyer

Meet Charlo!

As most of you may know, I have a sweet tooth and from my first year in Medical School I often visited (mostly on Thursdays) a local coffee and dessert shop called "Tablespoon" with friends who shared the same fondness for good dessert, coffee, tea and company. One such person is my good friend Charlo.

We decided to sit down and chat at Tablespoon during the month of November (which is also No Shave November-hence the facial hair) about life as a male medical student and the pressures, temptations and distractions that they face and how he has managed to avoid defamation of character.

I hope this feature post for the month of December and the last for 2015 gives you a deeper insight into life as a male medical student as well as provide motivation and inspiration to those facing the same obstacles.


1.    How do you focus on studies while building healthy relationships with the opposite sex?

I feel it all comes down to prioritizing. There’s nothing wrong with socializing with the opposite sex, but, you have to remember your purpose for being in school. For me, a good amount of time management makes it easier. For instance, I know if I’m going to socialize I either get my work done ahead of time, or limit my time at the event/function so I can still get some study time in.  Also, I try to do most of my studying alone in the library where I know I’m most productive, so I maximize the study time I do get.

2.    What advice could you give to other men of colour on being well grounded in medical school?

While being a student is important, don’t forget it is not the only thing on the priority list.  You have to take care of yourself as well. That includes your physical, mental, and spiritual well being. So incorporating exercise into your weekly routine is essential. Sleeping when needed is also a must (although med school has a way of making that very hard), and lastly you can’t go through the motions and end up spiritually constipated after its all said and done.  Go to church, set aside time for devotions, and pray, you’ll find that it really and truly does help.

3.     How have you managed to remain single for the past year and a half?

I was in a long distance relationship prior to coming to medical school and when it ended I promised myself that I wouldn’t rush into anything and spend the time to work on myself.  In the process of doing that, I’ve found that, while it is possible to balance books and a steady relationship, that I’d prefer to take on that balancing act when there is a little more stability in my life. So until then, I’ll just focus on studies.

4.     How do you manage to find balance in your life with all the demands of medical school?

I’ve found that finding a routine and sticking to it has helped a lot.  When you do that, you’re not pressured to deal with everything that comes your way because not everything fits into your schedule.  In addition to that, you’ll find that you always have time for what you want because you manage to knock out all the things you have to do.  Most importantly though, I’ve had a great support system in my parents and friends that remind me not to forget God in everything I do.  That means even attending church during heavy study periods (because God honors sacrifices).

5.     What still drives you to practice chivalry in a society where the belief is and accepted as being dead?

Once you’ve done something for a long time, it becomes a part of you, and as cliché as that sounds, it’s the truth as it relates to me.  I was always placed in leadership roles growing up where I had to be professional and so I grew accustomed quickly to being respectful in order to maintain relations with others. In high school, I was a member of the Gentleman’s Club where I attended multiple seminars and programs on being a gentleman and treating women with respect.  I would have to attribute my undergraduate experience at Morehouse College as to what cemented the concept of being a gentleman into my character having had to practice it unsupervised away from home.  So when you couple that with having an overall helpful and nice demeanor, you have a habit, albeit a good one, that’s really hard to break.

6.     Have you faced any adversities as a medical student that you would like to discuss?

Oh wow a few. My first semester of Medical School, I had my bank account hacked and wiped clean.  It was a blessing in disguise though because it forced me to learn my way around the surrounding area, in order to be as frugal as I could be. Then, before my first semester of my second year started, I lost my aunt.  Ironically enough, later the following later, I would learn of the condition that led to her passing, and as you could imagine, it made the material just that more relative.  During the second semester of my second year, I broke my right index finger, and learned not only to appreciate the coursework at the time (we were studying the Musculoskeletal system) but how having two functioning hands makes life that much easier. In addition to that, I had the shock of getting used to a new culture and grading system so yes I had my fair share of challenges here, but I must say all transformed me for the better.

7.     Where would you love to end up practicing medicine?

I’d love to end up practicing medicine back home in The Bahamas because that’s where I want to raise my kids.  On the same token, I’d also love the opportunity to take advantage of the travel opportunities that come with my profession. I aspire to become a Forensic Pathologist, and all the ones that I’ve met thus far have extensive travel histories, so I’d like to have similar experiences as well.

Charlo enjoying his favorite "chicken pie". 

8.     How do you deal with having classes with those younger than you?

Its actually not as bad as one would think, for me at least. Despite their age, there are actually some mature members of my class who are as much as 5 years younger than me. For those few who are immature, I tend not to take them on as I feel taking them on would give them impetus to keep up the behavior.  There have been times when it was hard to hide my experience in some areas of school, but I tried my best to be humble and help out where I can, so as not to appear overbearing.

9.     What’s your favorite thing about medical school?

Hmmm. My favorite thing would have to be learning all the stuff that helps to dispel all the medical myths I was taught growing up.  Having the knowledge to actually challenge those older than me on health issues and lifestyle habits knowing I have a large medical fraternity (with literature) to back me up is a great feeling.   I also, enjoy learning the intricacies behind what are often overlooked physiological events, from speech to playing a sport.

He's just that cool, random people want to be photographed next to him. Seriously we don't know this Tablespoon patron.

10.  What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt about studying in the Caribbean? Any advice for other students interested in studying here?

As it relates to UWI, the most valuable thing I’ve learnt is that in order to enjoy a little bit of everything you have to say no to somethings. The Caribbean has been known for its festive culture and Trinidad and Tobago is no exception and while there is a lot to do, you can’t do everything, so you have to choose what you’re willing to sacrifice. Whether it be a weekend of study to enjoy the carnival Monday and Tuesday, or missing one fete (party) to handle everything that will leave you guilt-free to attend another, you simply have to choose because its impossible to do it all.  So the lesson would be learning to say no to every new experience.  Some you can enjoy later.

11.  What do the next two years entail? And what expectations do you have for your future as an intern?

The next two years will be another proving ground, having successfully completed my pre-clinical years I’ll be subject to the ‘tough love’ of consultants on the wards but I feel up to the challenge. I expect to not get everything right and have my fair share of disappointments as I still have a lot to learn but I look forward to finally earning that Dr. in front of my name and moving one step closer to being a Forensic Pathologist.

12.  What advice would you give to other male medical students who may not know how to maintain a level of professionalism when faced with (multiple) female advances?

Be cordial. Be considerate. You may not know the right words to say all the time but you don’t need too many to be respectful.  I wish there was one common phrase to use but not every advance/situation will be the same and so you have to be mindful of who you’re speaking to each time.  If it is not something you’re looking for at the time, say that, and be ready to stand by your decision.

13.  As it relates to being sexually active, what advice can you give to male medical students who may be pressured to feel there is something wrong with saying “no”?

No is not a bad word. You’re no less of a man by saying it and you’ll be surprised how many women feel the same way.  Regardless of your resolve, whether it be religious or personal reasons, by saying no you turn down one possible experience that can and will happen again.  Depending on when the advance happens, you may actually end up gaining rather than losing anything, especially if you have no knowledge on the female’s whereabouts.  What people don’t say is that your sex appeal actually goes higher when you’re more elusive, or 'harder to get'.  At the end of the day though, when you think about it, there is no reason why a grown man HAS to do anything, so saying no shouldn’t seem so out of the question.

Life as a male medical student has its fair share of obstacles as well. Guys just seem to make everything look so simple and easy. Thank you Charlo for sharing your views on life as a Caribbean medical student, and your future endeavors. 

As we wrap 2015 up with a neatly tied bow, I just want to thank all of you for following me thus far and for sharing your thoughts with me. I appreciate all of your contributions and I am looking forward to keeping you all abreast of my journey as a medical student.