I’m a final year medical student in the UK and have just sat my final exams. I ride a unicycle occasionally, hence the name, and I ride a bicycle far more frequently. I did my first three years of undergraduate medicine and my BA in Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, before transferring to King’s College London for my clinical training. Since then I have spent about half of my time in a variety of hospitals around the South East of England learning to be a doctor, and the other half in the saddle trying to ride as quickly as possible. I started this blog as a bit of creative distraction from doing real work, and have enjoyed seeing it develop from a list of memory techniques, through a stream of advice for medical students and ending up with a catalogue of frankly ridiculous webcomics that are great fun to make. I hope you enjoy your stay here, please feel free to comment and feedback however you like – I don’t bite.
The beginnings – memory techniques
Three years ago I was sat in the library revising for my third year exams with some friends, and found that some things, such as long lists of drugs and risk factors were really tough to memorise since they don’t always link together in any meaningful way. So I started trying to link them in weird and wacky stories that would be so memorable and surprising that as long as you remembered one of the drugs/symptoms/whatever, the story would remind you of the rest. Turns out my friends liked it too, So I thought I’d stick them up here in a blog for others to see, and hopefully find useful.
The stories work on the method of Loci, a well-known technique of visualising information in a familiar place to store it in a sort of ‘experiential’ memory – go back to that place, and there’s the thing you left there. Simple enough, and if done well it can be very effective. One thing I would say, is that they’re quite energy intensive, and you do run the risk of stories interfering with one another if you’re using lots of them, so I’d reserve this technique for a bit of last minute cramming if you really can’t remember the information!
The important thing to remember is:
- It doesn’t have to make sense
- The weirder the better
Why a medical blog?
I always loved the idea of creating a medically themed website. Medicine is an amazing, confusing, endless universe of human discovery and every doctor must carve their own route into the abyss. I wanted to document my journey, hopefully in a way that helps other people navigate through what is a bewildering and intensely personal subject. I also love teaching, and believe that you don’t truly understand a subject until you’re comfortable teaching it to someone else, so here I try and explain concepts in an understandable manner, if only to ensure my own understanding. I’m a huge believer in FOAMed and I love how medics share information with each other to help one another learn and improve. Everyone learns in their own way and by showing the techniques I use to remember stuff, someone else might find new inspiration of their own.
The personal bit…
I’ve always romanticised the idea of indiscriminately dumping all of my thoughts and ideas on a page, in part to de-clutter my own head and maybe also to encourage or entertain someone else in the process. It’s scary putting yourself out there for other people to see into your own mind, but it’s weirdly exciting at the same time. I think a lot of the traits that lead people into medicine coincide with those that fuel a pernicious neuroticism that consistently demands self-evaluation and improvement, and I believe this contributes to the worrying levels amongst medical professionals of depression, burnout and even suicide.
One thing I would say, is that it was really hard getting started. I tried creating a blog on numerous previous occasions, but they all flopped after a meagre two or three posts because the same thought arose each time:
“Surely this is a waste of time, it’s not going to amount to anything, I won’t make any money off it and it’s just going to be another stress in my life…”
So each time I would write a few tentative, low-effort posts that didn’t require too much of an investment of my time, and I’d promptly lose faith in the whole exercise, and unceremoniously give up. And then it hit me –
That’s what I can blog about!
Motivation, stress and happiness get me all nerdy and excited. Having intercalated in psychology and a bit of neuroscience in my third year, I fell in love with the different theories and experimental evidence on what makes people tick, why they make the often irrational and bizarre decisions that they do, and what gives great people that kick to innovate and change the world. I’m also a fan of Lifehacker and other blogs enticingly entitled ‘How I work‘ and ‘How super successful people organise their day‘. They always get me really pumped to do good, solid work and make me feel like I have the capacity to achieve something pretty cool. I’d love to be someone that leaves behind something great, but it’s yet to hit me with exactly what that thing is…
Why blogging is awesome…
The process of hurling thoughts at a page in random, incoherent blobs and trying to stitch them together is an intriguing one. Even now I’m still questioning whether this is the right thing to be doing, but, as promised by number five – something creative – (see blog post: ‘How I got happy’) I’m forcing myself to keep going. What I’ve found is that by just scribbling down ideas, and seeing them in sat there front of me, the fear and frustration of ‘how am I going to structure it?’ and ‘What’s the point?’ are gradually morphing into a wonderfully enthusing ‘That bit can go over there!’ and ‘This would fit really well in that paragraph!’.
It turned out to be unbelievably therapeutic. It has no aim, no end point, and certainly no financial promise – it is purely doing something enjoyable for something enjoyable’s sake – something I (and the CV-driven lifestyle that has plagued me since I was 16) haven’t allowed myself to do for a long long time. Seeing the words wander merrily up the page as ideas siphon their way down to the keyboard is fantastically self-affirming, neither inconveniences nor requires anyone else, and costs nothing. Currently I’m sat at a computer in the university library, tapping away on a rather worryingly sticky keyboard, and I’m enjoying it. It’s fun to chew the thoughts around in my head, deciding how best to arrange them on screen, and see what happens. As I write, more thoughts drop in, seemingly at random and often so quickly that I have to have a separate window open to jot them down shorthand so I can address them later on.
NICE needs to add blogging to its big book of guidelines. Its soothing blanket extends far beyond the hour or so spent manically dancing way on the keys; it pervades through my entire day. No longer do I sit on the train, swirling in a draining sink of doubt and confusion, wondering how today is going to fall apart. Instead, I quietly and contentedly observe my surroundings, mentally tweaking and rearranging, working out how and why I could write about them. The bland backpack of damp negativity has seemingly transformed into a fresh hovering sketchpad of possibility. I dread to think what I look like to the other commuters when an idea hits me, and I smile like an idiot, whipping out my phone to jot it down lest it disappear back into the creative tornado that my unshackled brain seems to be enjoying. But more importantly – I don’t really care…
I started drawing little medical cartoons in my final year as yet another form of procrastination. They’re all the same – just little stick men in a variety of silly situations -but my friends and family seemed to like them especially when they’d experienced the same situation themselves, and so I put them up here for others to see. I try to capture little moments in medicine that many people experience, and the emotions that accompany them, however ridiculous, frustrating or downright weird they are. I hope you like them!
The really important bit :
I am not an expert, I’ll say that right off the bat. I have some knowledge and a lot of interest in the subjects I write/draw about, but I don’t and probably won’t ever consider myself an expert in these fields – I just really like them…
I try and write what I believe to be true based on the experiences I’ve had and what I’ve read, but I am happy to accept I’ll likely be wrong on a number of occasions. If you read something and have a different idea about a topic, please please please comment with your point of view – I love being told I’m wrong, because it promotes discussion and allows me to better my own understanding, but only when an alternative idea is thrown into the ring – don’t hold back!
So have a browse, leave comments, ask questions…
It’s not for everyone, but it might just be for you.