"Life was throwing curveballs at me, left and right. But God gave me a bat and showed me how to swing."-Anonymous.

This is my last week of back-to-back examinations for the moment. After which, I will be afforded the opportunity to introduce myself to patients and all of you as Cara D, fourth year medical student. Looking back on the year, I will admit, academically it was not the best and for that I have no one to blame but myself. There were more times than I can count, where I lost my focus, my drive and my determination. The curriculum and all of its flaws and strengths got me discouraged and believe it or not, medicine was a burden and I was bored of simply going through the motions and being another number, passing through the system.

It did however get better when my Hematology clerkship began and I was taught by practicing Hematologists who are connected to the theory but their interactions with their patients demonstrated that at the end of the day "the needs of the patient comes first." After a semester of non-stop studying, lectures and clerkships, with exams one after the other and everything else that occurred this academic year, being present when Dr. Charles saw his patients and how he interacted with them, it made me realize that the theory and practice of medicine both have an equal place. I was so anxious to interact with patients that I neglected the required time needed to learn and fully understand the basic pathology that made any patient interaction a tad bit meaningless.

I previously mentioned the importance of maintaining a balance, and I may have overlooked my own advice and shifted my attention on something that was out of my reach. As a third year student at the UWI, balance is mandatory and vital for the next rung of the ladder. You see, the didactic will allow the patient interaction which is to come in a matter of weeks, an enjoyable learning experience and the time when countless "ah-ha" moments will occur. But before that can begin, the foundation must be laid, and laid well.

I would like to encourage the new set of anxious soon to be third year students to do your best now to plan your time-realistically plan your time. Clerkships will have their share of challenges, however they're small PBL's of sort gauged to assist with clarifying any doubts in that particular discipline that you may have. Firstly however, you must read, attend lectures in order to have doubts and I encourage you to be prepared for lectures and to make the MOST out of those clerkships. Walk with a set of questions you came up with during your preparation if you must, just don't wait until the last minute to seek guidance.

As far as Skills sessions go, utilize those classes and volunteer to practice and to be critiqued. It will be beneficial especially when time is of the essence and you're pressed for time before OSCE.

If possible, make use of the professors who encourage students to stop by their office if they have queries, you will be surprised at how much information they are willing to share and to know that they were once students who struggled with Anatomical Pathology when every histopathology slide looked identical. They are mentors to be treasured. Even though I ventured out a tad bit later in the semester than I should have, I am glad I didn't allow my pride to swallow me up while I searched the internet for answers.

There were curveball after curveball thrown in my direction and often times I questioned whether or not I was going out and looking for the path with the most curveballs. Nonetheless, on that path I was reminded that to be a great doctor I must master balance, put the patient first and always seek ways to change what needs to be changed and things that can be changed no matter how big or how small and to always remember as a doctor I am not a team of one.

Thank you Dr. Charles for a great clerkship experience and for the reminder.

I've always thought curveballs were meant to be avoided. Little did I know, they were meant to be faced and knocked out of the park. Deterrents are a dime a dozen on this journey, but it's just another character building experience that may seem unbearable but is easy to overcome with dedication, commitment, perseverance and faith. 

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