Our med school, like many others with a traditional curriculum, offers students a full three-month summer following the completion of their first year. This provides a valuable opportunity to gain more research or clinical exposure as well as a welcome reprieve from the constant flood of book larnin’ that demands almost all of the preceding nine months. I will be spending the time completing a research project in general surgery. One of the perks of my particular project is the chance to scrub in on a variety of cases with my PI, who is also a surgical attending. This is very cool. This also means I get pimped. This…not as cool.
For anyone familiar with medical school or residency training (or maybe even a medical TV show), the following will be no great revelation. Pimping occurs when junior trainees (med students, interns, residents) are asked questions of varying difficulty and/or obscurity by their superiors (typically more senior residents or the totem pole-topping attendings), often during rounds, patient presentations, or in the OR. As the pimpee, you’re put on the spot with a second or two to find the right answer and no other resources at your disposal. It is not unlike the common undergrad scenario in which the professor randomly calls on an often unsuspecting student to answer a question in front of the class.
Pimping comes in a variety of flavors. Older medical students have described its use as something of a punitive mechanism employed primarily against those who are unprepared, overconfident, or perhaps just annoying. For the most part, however, it functions as a valuable teaching tool; it takes a lot more study/review to be ready to answer a question you don’t know is coming. Further, the potential for shame is undeniably a major part of pimping’s effectiveness. Getting the answer right? Not particularly gratifying. Looking incompetent in front of an OR full of doctors and nurses? No thanks. After all, no one wants to look bad in front of his peers or, worse, the people who hand out the H’s. One’s only recourse is to prepare as thoroughly as possible for the case at hand and hope for a bit of good fortune in the question lottery.
So far, my experience as a medical working girl has been relatively painless. The attending isn’t grading me, so there’s no tangible punishment to be had for a series of incorrect answers. He’s also a cool guy, so he’s not interested in embarrassing me or fixating on minutiae. Basically, he or the senior resident assisting the procedure asks questions that someone with a year of med school – or at least a quarter of gross anatomy and some background prep – should be able to answer. Still, the exercise isn’t a walk in the park. Identifying real-life, bloody anatomy – especially if you’re looking inside-out from the view of a laparoscope – is a lot harder than picking out structures in Gray’s or Netter’s or the all-the-time-in-the-world-for-meticulous-dissection cadaver lab. And when the question is about anatomy, rather than the mechanism of some antibiotic/3 causes of X/common presentation of Y, it stings a bit more when you fail to hit the proverbial mark (“You don’t know what that is? It’s right there in front you…”).
All in all, getting pimped is sort of like med school in a nutshell – it’s not always fun, you periodically look stupid, and sometimes you have to walk the streets…er…