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Complacency Kills

by May 20, 2016

Complacency kills — a mantra so commonplace during my time in the military that I’m sure I must mutter it in my sleep. It does though — kill, that is. It’s characterized by an insidious decay of vigilance. Corners are cut; routine becomes unconscious. We had a special name for this type of existence — “skating,” although I’ve often thought coasting would be a better descriptor. Skating implies action, and complacency rather despises conscious effort. The unfortunate thing about coasting is that reaching your destination can be exceedingly difficult without adding more effort.

Complacency in academia can be just as damning. Proactivity is your best friend in the business of achieving goals. Near the end of last trimester, the realization hit me that I had lost my business partner somewhere along the way. I had come down with a touch of complacency. Thank goodness for break.

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Some much needed R&R at the Mohr lake house

Two weeks of absolutely nothing but sleep, daydreaming, and reading does wonders for a cluttered mind. Sure, it seemed far too evanescent as the transition from sympathetic dominance to parasympathetic bliss didn’t seem complete until about 4 days prior to classes resuming. However, as my glucocorticoids ebbed towards baseline, the dormant parts of my brain (creativity and self-reflection) began stirring. As they woke, hungry and bleary-eyed, so did my awareness of my own complacency. It struck me somewhere during Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major as I was staring up at the ceiling, back on the floor, legs sprawled up against the couch daydreaming about the origins of consciousness. It struck me as rather horrific that my species has struggled countless years throughout the millennia to emerge into consciousness only to have me squander it on complacency. This is why trimesters are so great. You have 3 times a year to start fresh, and what a fresh start it was.

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The faces of victory

This past Monday marked the beginning of Phase Two for my cohort and me. Phase Two marks the death of the “basic” sciences and the birth of clinical sciences. After two weeks of finals, Phase One finally succumbed. The wake wasn’t a large affair, although many of us had a few jubilant beers in memory of the last year and eight months. The jubilee morphed into cautious giddiness on the first day of classes, as we became familiarized with the idea of learning truly clinical things. It almost seemed as though we had started school anew, as the difference between the two phases is quite stark.

Throughout the halls over the past week, it wasn’t uncommon for me to become involved in a hushed conversation in which it was always said, “I finally understand why we had to muck through Phase One now!” Using the tools acquired in Phase One to build a clinical picture is rather exhilarating. Dr. Robert Humphreys started off the trimester in a manner true to form — relentless in his quest to sculpt doctors that will, in turn, be relentless in their patients’ care. Critical and big picture thinking is the name of the game this phase and I’m happy to have arrived. Stay tuned. I know I’ll have a lot to say about the courses in the coming weeks.

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Gregory Swets

Gregory Swets

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