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Medical school requires balancing act, friends

Editor’s Note: Chelsey Baldwin of Little River is a first-year medical student. This column follows the journey of her class in becoming doctors.

The past two weeks have been a time of major transition. I have found out what is like to spend more than half of my waking hours in a library and turn around and do it again the next day. Not to mention four hours of lecture each day leave me squirming in my seat like a fourth grader.
This is not to suggest that I haven’t learned some interesting things in lecture, namely sources of inflammation, causes of diabetes type II, and quite a few dirty jokes. However, for the most part it’s basic science that rules my life. From attending lectures, to completing the recommended six hours of studying at night, I never have problems falling asleep. Peeling myself out of bed each morning has been a different story. But despite our mass semi-unconscious state at 8:15 every morning, our lecturers’ enthusiasm never seems to fail. Their determination to make this mountain of basic science intriguing and exciting is admirable and much appreciated. By the end of the second week, I feel less awkward, less like a visitor and more like I belong here.
I have finally mastered the second floor shortcut: from our Calhoun Street auditorium all the way to the Basic Science Building.
I learned that coffee makes me happy, even in early morning lectures. Most importantly, I am beyond thankful for the friends I’ve made, some of whom I already am extremely comfortable being around.
The ease of our bonds arises from the fact that we seem to be on the same wavelength. We truly have a lot in common, namely hours of studying, and our differences make for fun conversation and perspective. Plus, it’s not hard to realize that it is all more enjoyable with friends.
In the pursuit of quality blood pressure measurements, friends will repeatedly let you cut off circulation to their arm. They let you probe them for pulses and bone elements, keep you company in the library, and monitor your ever growing addiction to caffeine. My peers have truly been an essential component of my transition into medical school, and I feel lucky and honored to be a part of this class. 
The buzz word within the first year class has been balance. We’ve been advised by our deans, instructors, and second-year mentors alike that we must find balance to achieve a healthy and satisfying equilibrium between our personal and professional obligations. The idealistic concept of balance is not difficult to perceive—exercise, paint, read, spend time with loved ones or whatever it is that makes you happy. However, it comes down to just that: an either-or situation.
I literally cannot find the time to do some of the things that make me happy. For example, I used to consider myself a runner. Since school has begun, this has been one of the first things that I cross off my to-do-list when I become bogged down or am made to choose between exercise and spending time with my friends and family. This has been the saddest loss I have experienced since matriculation into medical school. However, as I become more accustomed to my new routine, I will work harder to regain this time for myself. I know it is important to achieve this balance, but in order to do so, I have to become stingy with my time.
It comes down to having to ask myself for every activity: “Is this the best use of my time?” because time seems to be the only thing that isn’t piling up on my plate.

Friday, Sept. 10, 2010

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.