Reasons to Celebrate

This past week, the halls of NUHS had the familiar scent of exams hanging in the air, making it seem almost sticky, as if the smell had truly formidable substance. We all know the smell -- reminiscent of musk, garbage, and sulfur -- a smell that is only produced by stress and anxiety. Normally we'd be spared the smell for a couple more weeks but a new mandate, decreed on high, has been instituted vigorously. The students in classes this trimester, and those to come, will have three exams to take for every class (one every five weeks, on average). 

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Happy 25th to these two lovebirds!

The explanation is centered on the belief that an early assessment will allow teachers to identify struggling students before it's too late to remediate them, in addition to providing the students more chances to redeem their grades. Sure, the idea seems reasonable in theory, and one could argue that some classes already had that set-up. However, the amount of testable material inherent to those classes demand the third exam to ensure all the pertinent material is covered thoroughly. Unfortunately, there are two sides to every coin and the flipside of this particular coin contains the classes for which there isn't enough material to create three exams that are truly reflective of the material. In this situation, professors have few options other than reaching outside of that class wheelhouse to create enough questions. A more ideal solution would be to approach this issue of early assessment on a class-by-class basis -- deferring to the professors' opinions on the matter. Regardless of what I think of the matter, I can also see its utility in regard to creating better retention and student participation.

Of course, there is one more reason why 3 exams a trimester is a positive thing... another reason to celebrate every trimester! This past weekend, the reason to celebrate was two-fold. We had finished our Week 5 early assessments, and there was a smattering of birthdays as well! Moral of the story is: exams are transient, but friends are forever.

Full Track or Flex

Life can often seem hectic here at NUHS. Coming from undergrad, where credits cap out at 18, the full-track first trimester load of 24-ish credits can seem daunting. The work-per-credit is also a drastic increase from those blissful undergrad years, a fact that only adds to weight of the credit load. The work-per-day also stands in stark contrast to many people's undergrad experience -- characterized by free time, intermittently punctuated by class. Here, it's the exact opposite. It's no surprise that the questions I get asked the most deal with whether going it "full track" is worth it.

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In Limbo = doing two things poorly

I finished my first trimester full track and it wasn't horrible. However, I quickly succumbed to a common fallacy. I began to convince myself that if I went "flex track," I would have more time to absorb the nuances of the material, which would yield better conceptual understanding and retention.

In my self-delusion, I forgot an important caveat to my argument -- people rarely study more than their set-point, even if they have more free time. Free time instead becomes just that -- free time -- time that gets filled with the latest TV show or aimlessly wandering the apartment. The point is free time almost never results in more work. In my experience, it actually led to less studying. It wasn't until I picked up full track again, in second phase, that my study time reached a new high, which my GPA reflected with a corresponding up-tick.

Perhaps Newton was onto something when he stated "a body in motion stays in motion." It seems the busier you are, the more work you accomplish. This appears to be an excruciatingly commonsensical phrase making it all the more necessary to posit, as common sense thought often eludes serious consideration.

When there's an ample amount of free time, it's almost as if you're hung in limbo between two worlds, and consequently can't participate fully in either. As much as I despise scheduling things, I believe the best approach to life at NUHS involves letting the demands devour you and scheduling the brief respites from studying so, either way, you can be fully involved in both worlds.

A Cabin Perspective

This past weekend I found myself, yet again, traveling to the Mohr Lakehouse for a weekend getaway before a cluster of exams crowding my schedule for the next couple of weeks claims my time. Being the studious people that we are, a trip to the cabin hardly means an interruption to learning. The two and one-half hour drive down there was spent on a history lesson, as we basked in the brilliant musical "Hamilton," as it put a beautiful story to the face on our $5 bill.

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Upon our arrival, our lessons only intensified as we delved into proper biomechanics and how to implement them for hatchet throwing and bow-and-arrow and shooting. When aberrant patterns were identified, we performed thorough screenings to determine which muscle groups weren't activating well. Once we crafted reports-of-findings, a treatment plan was implemented that included some functional rehab and, of course, chiropractic adjustments.

At this point you may be worried that we spent too much time on intellectual pursuits, however, you'll be relieved to hear we also spent time having fun as well. Hydration is always a concern in colder climates so we made sure to drink enough liquids during our adventures. Adam and I performed synchronized hatchet throwing to raise morale for those studying tumors radiology, and Blair managed to keep us entertained with his ceaseless abnormality. Regardless of cabin antics, a trip there always serves as an incubation ground for creative thought and insight gained from fellow students with different perspectives. 

Honing Our Skills

It's almost surreal to be almost three weeks into my seventh trimester. It's easy to feel the charged atmosphere, fueled by a shared realization that we, as a class, are together seeing that glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Even the classes are reflecting that reality. Every class I'm in this trimester seems to be a sort of "tapered" experience of our education thus far. What I mean by that is our professors, at this point, don't need to pump us full of scientific minutiae, they merely have to hone our knowledge and lend perspective. One of the most beautifully constructed classes this trimester is Functional Rehab II.

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And, just because...a picture of my nephew's first birthday party a week and a half ago

Dr. Jim Jenkins has truly created a fantastic rehab class that ties together every DC-centric class with succinct brilliance. This class combines the identification of aberrant motor patterns, how they tie into functional movement, and how to re-train those motor patterns combined with precise use of the chiropractic adjustment to restore optimal function. I view it as a capstone class and a truly phenomenal one at that. It's not just the material taught in class that magnifies the not-so-distant light down the tunnel though, it's also the greater amount of time spent in an exam room, with "simulated patients" (actors that we can practice our doctoring on).

Two to three days a week we don our white coats and interact with a sim-patient. There's usually a specific diagnosis we should arrive at via our powers of deduction and exam proficiency. The encounter generally includes a complete history, a physical exam, a report of findings, and a treatment plan with all the appropriate paperwork. It is a class geared towards coaxing out easily remedied mistakes and to polish our clinical reasoning as well as patient interaction before we start in the clinic next trimester. It's a crucial class, especially in light of the pace this trimester is already progressing. 

The Folly of Break - An Ironic Satire

Break is the boon that we all look forward to throughout the trimester. Its blessing is twofold: It serves as progress marker during this journey and lights the final weeks of each trimester as a beacon for the coming rest and relaxation break holds in store. However, as one gets older and life gets more full, the most unfortunate lessons are learned.

The particular lesson in store for most holiday breaks, is one in which this particular protagonist comes to terms with the fact that R&R is a truly rare thing. As this realization settles in, the most delightful piece of irony presents itself around the end of the second week of break, when you look in the mirror and see this exhausted, bedraggled cretin staring back at you and you find yourself asking, "So, when does school start?" 

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The Redline Holiday Train: another unfortunate product of break

Time with family and old friends is amazing indeed, but as we all know, it can drain you like nothing else. You find yourself missing the weekly exams and the stringent schedule you've grown far too accustomed to over the last couple of years. You find your friends are night owls that often want to stay up well past 10, which is already an hour past your bedtime as it is. Break can be tough, between the late nights and the creative self-exploration that has finally found space in your mind to slowly drift through, as tendrils of smoke, awakening that executive, free-thinking part of your mind that you thought had been buried under piles of medical books. What a drag.

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Brunch with the gang, yet another melancholy product of ample free time

Hence, the first day of class was quite a relief. Regimentation and structure is what the human mind needs most. The transition was a bit too effective as Dr. Ed Bifulco, himself quite the master of irony and satire, opened up his class on End Range Loading with a brilliant appeal to our executive, free-thinking. Just when I thought I could put my mind back into that comfortable box, we were encouraged again to use critical thinking (ugh) by Dr. Jim Jenkins, NUHS' resident rehab guru. I guess I'll have to keep my mind out of that box just a bit longer.