Thursday, December 11, 2008


I have piss poor memory.

Which makes me wonder. What the hell am I doing in a university course where students are known to have memories so good they put herds of elephants to shame. They remember mnemonics at a drop of a hat, and as for me, I don't even remember how to spell 'mnemonics'. Yes. I do use spell check.

If you attend social function and have strangers telling you 'you mean you don't recognise me?' or if you have to repeat to yourself someone's name over and over again so that you can remember it, then you probably can empathise. Sometimes, I think there's something seriously wrong with my brain. It's depressing.

Ever since I was a student in primary school, I had relied much on my logical deduction and 'smoking' abilities to impress teachers. Really, I could hardly remember the facts that I had needed to. In Chinese Laguage lessons, we had to memorise a passage of about 50 words eevry week, which we will write out and be graded on the accuracy of memorisation and the correctness of the strokes in the word. I recall that being the single most painful assignment in primary school.

Which explains how I was the lowest for the batch in secondary 2 History, a subject notorious for the sheer amount of memory haulage needed. Other subjects like Human Geography was easier - all you had to do was to have a basic grasp of the situation, then think up all the various possibilities that might happen. Sciences were a no-brainer because everything was reasonable, deducible and logical.

I had the false impression hat doctors were people who did a lot of logical reasoning and information synthesis, piecing together information from various aspects to deduce a diagnosis and think up treatment strategies. That was the kind of thing I read in Reader's Digest and watched on television. Those Reader's Digest articles almost invariably talk about some doctor who took the extra mile to research up and think about a perplexing clinical problem, eventually finding the answer through sheer intellect.

Real life medicine is not like that. In medical school, we get grilled on the 5 types of neuropathy, the list of various causes of a symptom and all sorts of regurgitation-heavy questions. There's little opportunity for critical thought.

'You do things in this order because that is what the professors in the textbook say. If you are a professor you do it your own way, but you are NOT. So follow the textbook.' was what one of my tutors told me. Just memorise. Imitate. Do what your seniors do. Don't try to stick out like a sore thumb in the name of accuracy and truth, because the senior is always right, and to demolish that illusion would end up in bitter feud.

So it's particularly painful for me when I'm this poor at remembering stuff. It's not just about motivation - I simply wasn't born with the skills to memorise. I'm at wit's end, because my inability is almost disabling - I won't be able to excel in this career. I still have trouble attaching names to faces. And it bugs me to no end.


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