Lately we’ve resumed the regular academic schedule which most residency programs suspend for July and August, while the interns are surviving their first days on the wards – and the wards are surviving them. I hadn’t realized how much I missed the challenge of academic demands, and the prospect of intellectual competition. (As in, which one of the sleep-deprived interns can manage to read and remember more of the text from which the week’s questions are taken? Actually, for a pleasant surprise, they quizzed the seniors, not the interns. I guess we’re still a pretty hopeless lot in the attendings’ eyes.)

Getting away from neurosurgery and back to “my people” for a few hours was also a morale-booster. Already, after only a few months, all the interns have completely identified with their specialty and their group of colleagues, contributing to a group identity and a group defense. (At the end of fourth year, we thought we had identified ourselves; but a few weeks of refusing consults from the ER, and bouncing difficult patients to other teams, will work wonders for making you feel that you belong to one particular group, and everyone else is other, an enemy.) (This is an exaggeration. So far, I still like the ER people; they haven’t done anything bad to me; they can’t help that the patients pick bad times to come in; and I love how the medicine people take patients whose list of medicines I can’t bear to look at.)

Other than that, I don’t want to talk about neurosurgery. The residents are grouchy, and when they cheer up, they have more graveyard humor than I like. The patients are either intubated or severely handicapped from strokes or trauma. People who came in talking in the ER are going down the tubes, despite us trying every established and experimental treatment in the book. (This is why I hate the brain: you can’t handle it, like you can handle a sick belly; and once something dies, it’s gone, it will never heal. For an abdominal wound, there’s always hope; once a neuron dies, it’s gone forever.)

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