While in college at Henderson State University, the three of us who were accepted to medical school had been both good friends and fierce academic competitors. For four years all of our test scores were within a couple of points of each other, and we rotated regularly for the top grade in Chemistry, our college major. I graduated Cum Laude with a 3.73 GPA. What a contrast there was between the silly freshman psychology course, which I despised, and the seriously difficult Chemistry classes I was acing! I made my one and only C in that class.
The year I started medical school at the UAMS College of Medicine was also the year the school decided to put Arkansas’s only medicine program on the United States map. My classmates and I were to become examples of just how tough the school could be. I’ll never forget the Neurosciences examination where there were about a hundred F’s out of hundred thirty-six students.
While UAMS was intent on a national reputation, I changed focus. Where I once had to have an A on every exam I began honing in on seriously learning and understanding everything about medicine. Grades took a back seat to being the best doctor I could.
Still, I was studying harder than ever. We had our own printing press. Pairs of students were assigned to attend and take detailed notes for each class. Just one lecture’s canned notes were often fifteen pages, single-spaced, front and back. One test could cover a dozen lecture’s canned notes. Stacy often heard me regurgitating my canned notes in my sleep.
We were essentially newlyweds in medical school. Our apartment was small with a bedroom, bathroom, and combined living room and kitchen. But we were happy. The building really did have a roach problem and we fought with them continually. Stacy worked hard to make our little space a home though. She worked to support us, was a great homemaker, and a fine cook too.
One Sunday afternoon we came home to an oven roast and vegetables. As she was trying to cut the roast on the edge of the very small kitchen counter, it slipped off the plate and onto the floor. Stacy burst into tears as I picked it up, and sobbing she asked me if we could eat it anyway. Without hesitation, I cleaned it off in the sink, and we ate that delicious roast. Through experiences like these, I began to realize just how much more I loved Stacy than I imagined.
Advancing from the sophomore to junior year, medical students move from pure academics and into primarily clinical training. The third year is a major crossroad. We rotate through all the specialties and by the end of the year have to make a choice of the specialty that will shape every aspect of the rest of our lives.