Gunning

11 Nov

For me, medical school has become a fine line between learning the material I’m responsible for and gunning.

Scratch that. Medical school is a fine line between a lot of things. Between studying the amount necessary to do well and taking time enough to shower, eat, breathe. Between drinking enough coffee to stay awake and not too much to flush out your system in the middle of class. Between eating enough crappy fast food to stay alive, and not so much that your time spent skipping the gym is noticed. Between skyping home enough and your parents contemplating flying to grenada to ‘check up’ on your sanity.

But, among the other lines I’ve had to toe since arriving on this island, medical school has become a fine line between knowing the material I’m taught and gunning.

Gunning, for those unfamiliar, means to know every piece of information presented inside and out; to attend extra information sessions, to do background research on subjects in order to provide more well-rounded answers in class, to go beyond the scope of the already huge medical school burden and take on a few more facts to cram into that sponge-like brain.

This might sound titillating. Do not be fooled. Gunning is a derogatory term in the medical field; a ‘goody two shoes’ approach to medicine, a label slapped onto the students who are found crying in the lobby of the Anatomy Department because their 91 on a test with a 55 average is going to keep them from a 4.0.

Gunning is not pretty. And that, there, is the line between learning the material necessary – responsible – and being a gunner.

Which is tough, because growing up my parents were always the type to encourage me to be the absolute best. Go beyond what is expected of me. But the atmosphere changes, in medical school. I’ll call my parents back home, and they say the same things: just ignore everyone else! Be the best you can be! You can get a 288 on Step 1! … okay, mom. Go above and beyond, it will pay off!

But it’s different in medical school. Because, here, you need people to keep you sane. You need your friends. You need those mental health breaks; sharing a superhero ice pop on the cliff at the edge of campus on your birthday;  heading to the beach for a one-hour sailing session; walking to shawarma at midnight and accidentally having (six) too many beers with friends.

In medical school, these small moments with the people who understand the in-and-out daily torture and beration and soul-stealing-study-sessions are the instants that allow us to wake up the next morning and plow through another session.

When you’re in grammar school and obviously headed not only to college but beyond – to grad school, law school, medical school and the like – ironically, the ‘no child left behind’ act instituted formally in New Jersey but practiced informally in any learning environment is that you are missing a very important faction that is being left behind.

It’s the top faction. The kids who sit in the front of the class and goof off while their professors attentively correct the back of the classroom’s math problems. I remember consistently being handed worksheets for the grades above me – at first, I thought it was so that I would learn more, faster. Later, I realized they were just to keep us busy. We figured very little out on our own during that time, mostly how to appear to be doing worksheets while talking about the band, extra-curriculars, and that weekend’s soccer game.

Putting students in a position where the bottom faction is being pulled up to the top faction is JUST AS negligent as the top faction being left to their own devices. They are not pushed – an entire generation has been repressed, now, since the bottom tier is catered to. Is this fair? We push the bottom tier to their fullest potential, while allowing the top to settle at ‘mediocre’?

The mediocrity I used to ‘veg’ in seems especially apparent now, in medical school, where in two weeks I master more material than I glossed over in a semester during undergrad. The amount of ‘skating by’ that I was truly allowed seems criminal in retrospect. What would our capabilities be, had we always been so pushed?

But this is why gunning was acceptable in grade school. Through high school. Even in undergrad, especially among the students now in medical school – students who have been, for as long as any of us can remember, on top. Which is why, understandably, it seems like here, too, we should push above and beyond our peers; those around us. It’s easy to forget that we’re all in the same boat; but it’s important – for our very sanity – to remember that we’re all in this together. To remember that those little moments – watching the Yankees live stream for an hour lying next to a good friend — is what gets us from day to day.

Remember … nobody likes a gunner.

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