Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hogwarts West

HogwartsThat's how I'm coming to think of this place, though the reason has nothing to do with the overt expression of magic. It's more about finding oneself, like Harry Potter, in an environment where others have similar abilities as yours and have also had difficulties using them to their best advantage.

In other words, stuck out here near the mid-point of the mid-west, is a haven for conceptual thinkers and intuitive types, your typical odd-persons out. These are the people who, upon entering a home, notice a potted plant and begin talking about Africa, while everyone else is discussing home decor. The reason is, the plant reminds them of an article they've read in National Geographic about native flowers in Gambia. In other words, they deal in connections in much the same way as analytical types deal in facts and figures.

In the real world of clinical medicine, the ability to establish relationships between seemingly random pieces of information is important. As a result, my classmates will find they possess a definite advantage when it comes to determining what we call a differential diagnosis, i.e. one that rules out various possible explanations for a disease in the effort to establish the one that is most likely to be correct.

In medical school, however, especially during the years devoted to the basic sciences, conceptual types appear to be at a disadvantage. For one thing, they generally need more time to think through the implications of the material before them and under the pressure to digest massive amounts of it, resort to memorization. You'd think this would be a viable solution; it's not, however, because information thus acquired lacks the organizing principles these types rely on to make sense of things.

Enter a program such as this one, which not only celebrates conceptual-intuitive thinking, but teaches us how to use it effectively in the service of mastering physiology, the most basic of medical sciences. Not only that, it supports our need for interrelatedness by pulling pharmacology, anatomy, and all of the other subjects we rely upon as future doctors, into the overall approach. So, rather than thoroughly tackling one subject at a time, which appeals to linear thinking analytical types, we do better by taking on several at once, in order to help determine patterns that aid retention and deepen understanding.

In psychoanalysis, we call those instances when a patient arrives at a new insight about themselves, the "aha" moment. Many of these occur in the course of a typical day here. Concepts we've learned, relearned, examined, and dissected, are revealed as processes we can think through, demystifying them and helping us realize we really knew far more than we imagined. It's still a lot of work but it's not drudgery. Instead, there is an excitement involved in discovering our strengths are not the liabilities we feared. They are assets that just need affirmation and further development.

Welcome to Hogwarts West.

(Image of unknown licensure via Wikipedia)
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