the short-term list

4 Jun

Last week I received the email with my score of my neuro shelf, and I got an all too familiar knot in the pit of my stomach.  The score was not outstanding, though also not an embarrassment.  This tends to be where I fall for many exams, which gets to me sometimes.  I think about how much I fixated on scores prior to med school.  And then, more importantly, I think about competency: do my grades reflect the quality of doctor I’ll be?  Medical education is serious business, and it should be taken seriously.  I do take it seriously.  But then I also rationalize that a few points better or worse on a standardized exam probably does not reflect my competency…or am I being flippant?

This was still my internal dialogue as we returned from Nashville for our second wedding weekend in a row.  Despite best intentions, I’m a little stressed about two weekends of studying lost, especially since I study hardly at all during the week with our current Ari-routine.

So I’m trying to focus on the short-term list we have hanging in the study/Ari’s room.  Earlier this year, John and I sat down to create a list of short-term (0-3 years) and a list of long-term goals (3-15 years), which include everything from financial (pay off student loans) to personal (get a dog) to friend/relationship-focused (attend as many beach weeks as possible).  Not far down on the short-term list is: “Attend as many weddings as possible.”  Nowhere is there mention, “Score honors on the neuro and psych shelf exam.”


This weekend, Jess (our friend from John’s med school days, who I look to often for career and parenthood inspiration/advice) could not for the life of her remember her performance on her shelf exams.  While I do not want to wish the time away, I look forward to when this marker of competency/achievement will be a memory I struggle/fail to keep.


3 Responses to “the short-term list”

  1. Kitty Brown (Penn Med '90) June 4, 2013 at 1:40 am #

    23 years after graduation from Penn Med and 17 years after the completion of residency (I took a very tortuous path from 1990-96, including a baby break), I just took my boards AGAIN 10 years after my last exam. (It was AWFUL.) These exams are necessary hurdles to keep doing what we’re privileged to do, which is practice our vocation. I love your blog – and wish you ongoing courage!

  2. Sachi June 4, 2013 at 4:09 am #

    I totally feel your dilemma, Anna! “But then I also rationalize that a few points better or worse on a standardized exam probably does not reflect my competency…or am I being flippant?” I reflect on this a lot too!

    At times, a part of me wishes I had outstanding scores at everything, but then when I REALLY come to think of it, I am not willing to give up my other goals and aspirations outside of medicine in order to gain a few points more. I know our profession has a lot to do about sacrifices, but I think that not everything should be a sacrificed. I really try very hard to maintain my grades while still “living” life in general, not bound by the wrath of “numeric achievements”.

    And to a certain point, I think that competency is measured by scores, but is also beyond these. I know of people who have these really sky-high marks but their performance during “practice” aren’t as even. Anyway, I think that it’s okay to have average scores as long as one is “learning” in the truest sense. I also look forward to the day when the “markers of competency/achievement will be a memory”. 🙂

    Good luck and have a good day ahead. 🙂

  3. Jenny F. Scientist, PhD June 4, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    I think it’s hard to separate ‘learning’ from ‘exams as a proxy for learning’. But also… what they said!

    It also reminds me of once, when I was in grad school, sitting in an exam room while a doctor and a PA flipped through a textbook trying to diagnose me. While it didn’t exactly inspire confidence (maybe not in front of the patient next time, people) – I think knowing when and where to look it up is also a valuable skill.

    And there’s the old joke: “What do you call the person who graduates last in their med school class?”

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