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"How to Get into Medical School, Part II" and "Code Clock"

"Though we make what we suppose to be the best possible decisions for our patients, sometimes things don't go as well as we had hoped.  Sometimes, unfortunate things happen to good people, even though we try our best."

~Vincent Lam

Summary: "How to Get into Medical School, Part II" and "Code Clock" (187 KB)

Thoughts from Queen's campus

By Cara Chen, Peer Support Centre Director

The Peer Support Centre is a non-judgmental and confidential service where we offer personal, practical, and academic support in a peer-to-peer environment. What makes our service unique is our team of compassionate and thoroughly trained student volunteers, who have a comprehensive knowledge of the various clubs and resources in the both the Queen’s and Kingston community, as well as being proficient in skills such as active listening, mental health and academic stress management, and certifications with organizations including safeTALK and Positive Space. 

Something struck me about this novel. A few chapters in, it finally took me out of the mindset of a Grade 12 English class and reminded me of my first days at Queen's. Funny thing though: it wasn't the words; it wasn't the characters; it wasn't even the plot. It was the sentiment. The insecurities and personal hardships that we all undergo as students, especially students away from home for the first time, so clearly undercut the motivations of every event that the author has imagined.
For Ming, it's the desire to prove herself to others, to set her sights on something big and achieve them by any means necessary. For Fitzgerald, it's finding an anchor, some sort of happy stability as he tries to navigate the hiccups of life following some change or trauma (e.g., his mother's passing, his near-death experience, his recent breakup).
And all of that hit really close to home. Of course, the nerves associated with residence, initiation into our first classes, networking, finding mentors, and navigating Ban Righ cafeteria, were certainly less intense than Fitz's first "code blue" as a medical intern. However, the sentiment is still there. These are opportunities to stretch, to bump elbows with new people, and discover amazing things about your own interests and your own abilities.
Want to try out for a varsity sport? Want to declare a unique minor of study? Want to introduce yourself to the cute classmate across the lab bench?

"This never works [...] But if you don't do it, you don't know that it wouldn't have worked – because maybe this time it could have worked." (p. 97)
Like a Greek chorus harmonizing behind the backdrop, this was the anthem of my first year. It wasn't profound, nor was it particularly bristled with confidence. But upon hearing some awkward small talk echoing around the adjacent hall, it was all the motivation I needed to poke my head out from my dorm room and introduce myself to a group of wide eyes and sincere smiles, quite shy like myself. And good thing too, because they were the best friends I almost never met.

Think about it

  1. "For months now, Fitzgerald's mind had alternated between studying and allowing his speculations to spin like wheels stuck in a rutted path of Ming and medicine, digging the tracks deeper and deeper" (p. 67).  Does Fitzgerald's obsession with Ming take on a clinical life of its own? 
  2. In his med school interview, ". . . McCarthy asked him what quality he felt was most important in a physician. Trust is most crucial, said Fitzgerald" (p. 73). How is this statement ironic, juxtaposed with the Karl-Fitz event that follows? What is the poetic justice in Fitz's elevator confrontation with Karl? Is this the end of their story? What is the flick of the serpent's tail in Karl's last warning (p. 75)?
  3. "He closed his eyes, and the sun was still bright through his eyelids. . . . His eyes were still closed and Fitzgerald could hear the sprinklers come to life closer and closer to him. He lay on his back and waited for them to swing around and spatter him with cool water" (p. 88).  How does the absolute end of the Ming-Fitzgerald drama provide one of the moments of grace in the book? 
  4. In "How to Get into Medical School, Part II," some more ideas about academics are brought up. In his interview, Fitz describes learning as "knowledge acquisition" or "ownership."  How does this fit with your own definition of learning?  Fitz also reflects on Ming's claim that "achieving the last twenty marks [requires] twice as much effort as getting the first eighty."  Have you found this to be true?  Can this idea be related to other aspects of your life?
  5. Considering the last glimpse the reader has of Fitz in “How To Get Into Medical School, Part Two,” what is the purpose of the short story entitled “Code Clock”?  What new information does “Code Clock” reveal about Fitzgerald’s character?
  6. At the end of "Code Clock," Nigel reveals that Mr. Dizon's body was already cold by the time they got there, indicating he had been dead for some time.  Why do the doctors and nurses spend so much time trying to revive him when they know their efforts are futile?

Queen's connection

  • Fitz's med school interview is a little atypical - interviewers generally don't treat and dress your wounds as they ask you questions.  Despite the potential awkwardness of this situation, Fitz still manages to stay composed and make a connection with Dr. McCarthy.  For a detailed guide on how you too can ace your next interview, be sure to take a look at this tip-sheet created by Career Services.
  • Wondering about what you should be doing to prepare yourself for medical school admission or any other graduate program or career?  Speak with an advisor at Career Services during Drop-In Career Advising.
  • In "Code Clock," doctors and nurses perform a variety of procedures - most notably CPR - in attempts of reviving a man who has stopped breathing.  If you are interested in practicing and improving your first aid and CPR skills, while potentially even saving someone's life, consider volunteering for Queen's First Aid.

Media & links

Like many students entering university, Vincent Lam didn't know what he wanted to do with his life.  He was conflicted by his passion for writing yet desire for a well-paying job.  Check out his article "Medicine, literature, and busking: Financial advice from Vincent Lam," published in MoneySense magazine, for more on his journey - from nearly failing his first semester of university to finding success in not one but two dream careers. 


"Think about it" questions 1-3 adapted from; question 5 adapted from "Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures Content Questions," Peel District School Board (.doc, 28.5 KB).