The End of Year 2 Medical School!

In Medical School, students who either get an A for a certain subject or a borderline fail (scoring just below 50%) will have to undergo an interview called Viva. This Viva is usually conducted by a panel of professors and external examiners. 

Just to be clear, there are two types of Viva: Distinction Viva and Borderline Viva. Both types of Viva look something like this:

A student sitting before a panel of stern-looking professors, bombarded with questions.

For Borderline Viva, students will be asked the most basic of a certain subject. If the student manages to answer proficiently and satisfies the panel, the student passes that certain subject. 

The Distinction Viva on the other hand is a whole different story all together. To be eligible for Distinction Viva, one has to first score an A- in the theory paper. The questions asked by the panel would be in depth and very detailed answers are required. If the panel is impressed, the student will now get an A with distinction. If the panel is dissatisfied, the student still gets the A, but without the distinction. The whole aim is to determine whether the student has superior knowledge of a certain subject.

My professional exams ended two days ago and one day after that, the name lists for Distinction Viva and Borderline Viva were posted on the announcement board. To my great delight, I was called for Distinction Viva for Pharmacology and Pathology. 

Ok... honestly, it wasn't really to "my great delight". It was more of a mixed feeling, happy I got an A but terrified I wouldn't be able to answer the questions and make a fool of myself. 

I actually contemplated not going for the Viva but in the end I decided to be a man and do the right thing. Just go for it, talk clearly and confidently then get out. 

So early in the morning the next day, all the Viva candidates, both borderline and distinction were quarantined in a room waiting for our turn to come. Everybody was feverishly reading and rereading notes accumulated throughout the whole year, hoping that by some miracle, the questions asked would be something we just read. 

The Distinction Viva candidates 

After pacing up and down, walking almost 10 miles and practising for the upteempth time how I was going to greet the professors, my turn came at last. 

My first Viva was Pharmacology. Just in case you are wondering, Pharmacology is the study of drugs where we learn the type of drugs, their mechanism of action, side effects, pharmacokinetics and so on.

So I walked into the room confidently, delivered my very well practised greetings and took a seat and looked at the panel of professors which comprised of 2 of my Pharmacology professors: Prof Dr Kombara & Dr Igor, an external examiner whom I can't seem to recall her name and Prof Dr Aminuddin who is one of the best Physiology professor in Malaysia.  

With their no-nonsenses and stern expression, it was very "soothing" to my already racing heart. I was introduced by Prof Dr Aminuddin to the external examiner and he mentioned I did triathlon. 

So with my slightly hypertrophied heart hammering against my ribcage, the questioning began. The first question I got was: "Say you are participating in a marathon race and the price money is 1 million dollars, what drugs would you take if you want to win this race?"

Without any hesitation, I blurted out the first thing on my mind: "I don't need any drugs, prof. I'd win that race on my own capability."

That brought a bout of laughter from the professors and I started to feel a little better. So with the ice broken, I managed to answer smoothly and confidently most of the questions thrown at me. 

On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the worst and 10 being the best, I'd say I scored a 7 or 8 for that viva. Let's hope I get a distinction for Pharmacology.

When I left the Pharmacology Viva, I started to wonder why was I so afraid of this Viva, it was not too bad after all.

I was horrifically reminded why when I went for the Pathology Viva. 

You know the feeling of shame you get when a teacher asks you a question in front of the whole class and you get the answer wrong or you don't know the answer to the questions? Recall that feeling and now multiply that feeling by 13 times. Then you'll begin to understand how I felt during the pathology viva.

Our body has its own mechanism to cope with stress. Under stressful stimulation, our pupils will dilate allowing us to have better vision; our blood vessels also dilate, allowing better oxygen supply.

The Pathology Viva was so stressful that my pupils dilated so wide that my contact lens dropped out and my blood vessels in my face dilated so wide that my face was filled to the brim with oxygenated blood making me blush super bright red. 

I was so red that the professors had to put on sunglasses just to look at me.

After squirming in my seat for what was like 8 hours 32 minutes and 56 seconds to me, the interview finally ended and I went out with my tail tucked in between my legs.

So the moral of the story, if there is one, is that I'll have to brush up my Pathology before I go to my clinical years in a few months' time. 

In the meantime, a few big things to look forward to would be our 2 weeks of holidays (yay!) and our elective posting to Bangkok's Medical University. Till then...
Lim Shimri6 Comments