Friday, August 08, 2008

Hanging in there

I've just returned from the annual MSTP (MD/PhD program, for those of you not in the know) retreat at the Ralph A. MacMullen Conference Center. (Okay, it's been a week, but cut me some slack here...) Affectionately called "the RAM", it's on beautiful Higgins Lake and offers large cabins with double rooms, a small beach, a lodge with a dining room, and an education center with projection facilities. It provides a beautiful setting for getting to know the new MSTPs, and reconnecting with other MSTP fellows I haven't seen since being up there last summer.

As I think I've mentioned on this blog before, although I occasionally gripe about having to take the weekend away, it's always a great getaway, though not the way you might think. The best part of being at the retreat is that everyone thinks 8 years is a great amount of time to spend in school. (That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but most of them at least consider it an acceptable and reasonable amount of time to spend in school.) No one there spends significant portions of a conversation pondering the hilarity of graduating at or after the age of 30. No one there wonders why on earth one individual would need so many degrees. No one there asks "Couldn't you just do that with an MD?" In fact, as much as griping about various aspects of the program is par for the course, most folks seem downright happy about their lives and their projects.

This year was particularly lovely, as we now have 3 MD/PhD students in public health. Although we are far from normalizing this path (as the other 70-ish students are mostly in the basic sciences, with the exception of a few in engineering and physics), it¿s really nice to talk to other people who understand at least some aspects of the field.

Apart from the science, of course (*cough cough*), my favorite part is the canoeing. I simply can't get enough of the water, and the lack is beautiful. I opted not to swim this year after reports of "the itch" (read: schistosomiasis) from swimmers last year, but couldn't resist going out in the boat. I also did yoga in the mornings in front of the lake, which was a wonderful and balancing experience apart from the swarming vicious mosquitos.

It's also incredibly motivating to see other MD/PhD students who are further along in their training. Seeing folks returning to the wards, and especially finishing the entire program, is really incredible. It's a nice yearly reminder that this will, at some point, become "real life" rather than "grad school" and I just need to keep hanging in there.

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