Thursday, 2 April 2009

A Premature Birth

OK so strictly speaking it isn't summer yet, thus my last post was a bit misleading; but I thought today, April 2nd , would be an idea day to start my blog proper, because as I'm sure a lot of you are aware, today is World Autism Awareness Day! Apparently, they were gonna make it April 1st but something about that really didn’t seem right. Oh have you heard, soon we're gonna be able to catch up on the Apprentice on our toasters and YouTube have changed their layout to suit those with arachnoid superpowers- I do love April fools day!

Anyway, I'm getting distracted (perhaps I also have ADHD lol). So if you think of my earlier teaser post as the day this blog was conceived, then April 2nd, aka Autism Awareness day would be this blog’s birthday. April is also Autism awareness month but the UK NAS doesn’t appear to be acknowledging that there is whole month dedicated to making people aware of the existence of the autism spectrum. I guess an entire month is a fairly long time to try and keep the wider public interested on one particular condition.

So here’s an introduction to myself. I am a third year medical student at UK medical school and I am currently studying for an intercalated degree before going onto to clinical studies next year. My medical school has one of the most traditional courses around and thus for the last 3 or so years I’ve been taught almost pure science in a very structured manner revolving around (lots and lots) of lectures, practical work with microscopes, experimentation (of the biochemical and pharmacological nature), patient demonstrations, and of course, cadaveric dissection. 

Trust me when I tell you it was hard work but definitely worth it. Sure there were occasions, especially in my 2nd year, when it was easy to lose track of what the point of all this science was and not see how it could be relevant to becoming a doctor. Although this could be partly due to the widely repeated urban myth that this particular year was in the Guinness book of world records for the most facts needed to be memorised in one year for a particular degree (citation needed). I use the past tense because apparently it has now been surpassed by the final year of the astrophysics degree at Yale! (citation needed- ok stop being silly now, this isn’t Wikipedia-Editor).

Of course, I didn’t mind the huge emphasis on science and masses of rote learning required of me in these pre-clinical years. The former was one of the main reasons I opted for Medicine rather than maths, economics or engineering which would have obviously been more suited to my profile. And my memory for lists of facts (eg. Our infamous 2nd year drug list) has been one of my strengths, which has allowed me to get this far, and hopefully further.

Also, I do strongly agree with the analogy that most of our lecturers and supervisors use to justify this very traditional, science-orientated teaching of medicine. That is, whereas other less traditional courses that have less emphasis on science and introduce their students to patients from day 1 are producing mechanics, we at this medical school are producing engineers. So if you think of the human body as a very fancy car; would you rather have it fixed by a mechanic, who will make repairs based on previous experiences alone, or an engineer, who would not only have the past experience but also have a much deeper understanding of the inner workings of the car and therefore be more able to fix novel problems? 

I understand that this analogy can only go so far since being a doctor requires many additional abilities such as verbal communication and clinical skills which can only be learnt through patient contact. However it must be remembered that if it wasn’t for science we will still be treating headaches with bloodletting and using snake oil for just about everything else!

Anyway, so this was a longer introductory post. Next time, in the second half of my introduction I’ll tell you about how I came to realise I am aspergic and my experiences at the assessment and with life in general. This won’t be until June, as I seriously have to get down to revising for finals. So if any of you guys catch me procrastinating again by blogging (I really do think I have ADHD!) instead of studying like a good medical student, I give you all permission to scald me until I’m overwhelmed with shame and guilt.

In the mean time, let me express my sincere gratitude to my followers and people who have left me messages of support. It truly means a lot to me. One of the issues I had growing up with Asperger’s is getting people to listen to what I have to say and taking me seriously. It is quite a novel experience and I really hope that this blog will live up to your expectations.

Signing out


Nurse Anne said...

Great Blog. I am the mother of a child with autism so I really look forward to reading this.

The Manchester Medic said...

I also eagerly await the beginning of your blog. I love the "engineer-mechanic" analogy. It shames me to say that I am very much a mechanic, albeit with an engineering background!

Hope your exams go well, and I will bookmark your blog, ready for the summer!

Anonymous said...

I will be interested to read how you came to realise you are aspergic. I am recently self diagnosed and still in the closet about it. Here's how it happened. I watched "The Big Bang Theory". There is a character called Sheldon. I thought to myself "I have never seen anyone so much like a member of my family on TV before." I noticed that the other characters were written to react as though Sheldon's behaviour was exceptionally weird, and the studio audience was reacting that way too. I found this disturbing, he didn't seem particularly strange to me. People have always told me I am weird, but I didn't realise they meant by this much! So I went online to see what people were saying about this TV character, and it seemed everyone agreed he had Aspergers. I googled and read everything I could find about it, what experts said, what friends and relatives said, what aspies themselves said. Suddenly huge chunks of my life made sense, and pieces are still continuing to fall into place for me.

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!

Darkside said...

"So if you think of the human body as a very fancy car; would you rather have it fixed by a mechanic, who will make repairs based on previous experiences alone, or an engineer, who would not only have the past experience but also have a much deeper understanding of the inner workings of the car and therefore be more able to fix novel problems? "

You'd do well to look at who produces doctors who are best prepared for their life as F1s and other such surveys before you come out with that elitist BS.

The GMC cares little where you trained and MMC is such a load of cobblers that everyone is shafted regardless of weather they hold MBBS or MBChB nevermind where they got it from.

We should be united together in fighting the rubbish that the DoH are trying to hurl towards the doctors of tomorrow, instead there are individuals like yourself who have their noses stuck so far up in the air they have problems seeing the reality of us minions on the ground.

Aspie Medic said...

Darkside: Woah there. Please understand that firstly, I did not make up that analogy, I am merely paraphrasing an argument used by our lecturers and secondly, I appreciate the limitations of the analogy and I never said that medics with a more scientific background necessarily make better doctors.

What I, and I'm sure yourself, would agree with is that a scientific background lends it itself more to treating diseases that the Doctor has never previously encountered or even heard of. Surely no reasonable person can argue against the truth of this statement.

Thanks for dropping by. I guess I knew I wasn't going to please everyone with this post. I reckon things are only set to get more tricky as I try to persuade you all that someone with Asperger's syndrome can make a career out of medicine.

Anonymous said...

I think that where your argument falls down is where you say "a scientific background lends it itself more to treating diseases". You have to remember that you are not just looking at a disease, you are looking at a person with that disease who will need more than just the correct clinical treatment. Patients are people who need reassurance and care, not just treatment for symptoms or diseases. I think that's the most important thing that you need to remember.

Elderly lady in training said...

Congratulations - excellent start - I look forward to reading more.

I hav a friend who is a consulant pediatrician. She reckons some (or at least one) of her senior colleagues from years ago would have been classified as autistic/having Asperger's (I'm not sure of the difference) if anyone had though to ask. Hopefully you will go equally far.

ps I found your blog through NHS Blog Doctor.

Anonymous said...

Samantha - perhaps it will depend on what sort of doctor one is? I'm not a doctor, I do have Aspergers. I have noticed that when I visit the GP, he has a way of clearing his mental slate at the end of a 10 minute consultation so that he is prepared for the next one. I think that might possibly be a little harder for someone with Aspergers.

m.lawrenson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
m.lawrenson said...

Good on you for starting a blog with a basis in AS. More visibility can only help give people a perception that we're not sick, insensitive weirdos who dress badly and live to memorise things. Though I really do hope you were diagnosed before I was (at 32).

I can't see any barrier that AS would put between someone and the learning and practice of medicine. Though I can see how it could possibly affect dealings with patients. God knows, I have enough problems understanding what people want, and I'm only a shop assistant.

Marc said...

AspieM, I'm am very anxious to read more posts from you.

Take care!

Anonymous said...

My 7 year old son is a high functioning autist and he attends mainstream primary school. Today he announced that he's torn between being a plumber or being a doctor when he grows up (urologist in the making?). He says he likes the idea of making people better. My only wish is that he's happy in what he wants to do.

Thank you for starting this blog. I look forward to all your posts.

Cockroach Catcher said...

Welcome to the world of Medics, Bloggers and all those who wants to save a dying NHS.

The Cockroach Catcher

Darkside said...

"I reckon things are only set to get more tricky as I try to persuade you all that someone with Asperger's syndrome can make a career out of medicine"

I did get on a bit of a rant about the sciencey issue, but I forgot to say that I look forward to reading about your journey :D

Anonymous said...

m.lawrenson - possibly too much extrapolation could be a risk?

Anonymous said...

I posted earlier about how I came to realise I probably have Aspergers, but I didn't post how it made me feel. I was extremely upset and distressed. What I thought was my unique personality was really just a syndrome, a neurological defect or something like that. I tried to convince myself that I really didn't have it, and if I never go for a formal diagnosis I can hang on to that possibility. Although it has made sense of my life, it's also upsetting to know I am stuck with this forever, unless the TMS experiments or something result in treatments. I wish I didn't have it.
So when you have time to blog after your exams I'd be interested to know how you felt about your diagnosis, and how you feel about it now.