Albert Francis E. Domingo, MD

my flight of ideas

Toxic or Malignant?

Posted on | September 6, 2004 | No Comments

There is in the field of medical and allied health education that ubiquitous and historical term that connotes an overload of work. The said term can also mean a lot of other things: enthusiasm, dedication, or plain obsession.

The term is “toxic”.

Med students, myself included, are fond of using the term all the time. That’s simply because we are toxic all of the time. Sleep gets cut from the prescribed eight hours per day (that we are ironically required to memorize and impart upon future patients) to the average of three hours. Four to five hours is a luxury; sleeping six hours long could mean that either you’re a time management guru or a plain delinquent medical student.

Funny that at one time in a caucus of UP MSC reps, an upperclassman asked his classmate if they had any “malignant” cases the next day.

People looked at him with inquisitive faces, as if to ask: Malignant? Is there now a substitute word for “toxic”?

Malignant fits the bill nicely, because the opposite of the word “toxic” and its accompanying meaning of hell is the word “benign” and its heavenly package of a full night’s sleep.

How can the layman relate? Simple. Imagine yourself sent to the hospital for a biopsy, because your doctor suspects that you may have cancer. A few days later after the test, the result slip comes back and you read the word benign on it. That feeling of relief, of thankfulness to God after seeing that you are benign, is enough to approximate a med student’s gratitude when he checks his schedule and finds out that there’s only one exam for next week.

Yes, one exam per week is benign.

And true enough, I’m supposed to be toxic right now because there’s an exam tomorrow (no surprise about it), but the exam deals with epidemiology – a one week subject that no one really paid attention to, except maybe for those time management freaks – I mean – gurus. (Kidding, med deities.)

It’s a one-shot long exam: it lays claim to 80% of our grade. And I’d better start studying.

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