Moriyah Shacham: The novelty of providing exact answers to exact questions (blog 2)

Moriyah ShachamNovember 26, 2012: You can say a lot of things about living in Jerusalem, but one thing is certainly certain: It is always interesting.

Last Tuesday, as I was making my way across the city towards the Ein Kerem medical campus, the light-rail suddenly stopped in its tracks and all the doors opened. I was confused for a fraction of a second, and then I heard it: The siren. For the second time since I was an infant, the wailing siren drove the inhabitants of Jerusalem to run for shelter.

The first time — since the Gulf War (#1), that is — was last Friday night right after we lit the Shabbat candles. My sister, mother, grandmother and I looked at each other in disbelief before heading down to the building's bomb shelter, which was locked because nobody thought that there would be rockets over Jerusalem.

To make a long story short, I made it to safety both times — along with all the other Jerusalemites — albeit arriving 20 minutes late for my biology class.

My medical school classes are proving profoundly different to my humanities studies of the past two years. For the first time in a while, I am able to provide answers to questions in biology, chemistry and mathematics that are exactly right — or exactly wrong. Such an achievement may be available to all first-year students in the exact sciences, but it seems an impossible goal even for tenured professors in the liberal arts or social sciences. It's a relief that in some classes I no longer have to strain my grey cells as I try and see the nearly endless possibilities for interpretation, and understand that I will never be able to say everything that can be said about a book, short story or poem.

That being said, it is clear that all sorts of ideas from the liberal arts and social sciences seep out and make their way to my medical classes. For example, in the past few years the role of the doctor in doctor-patient relations has been drastically revised. Instead of seeing only a disease to treat, the doctor now tries to follow the patient's narrative and understand not only the disease but also what it means for each specific patient. The patient as a whole now becomes the focus of the doctor. This transition from a paternalistic approach to more of a dialogue based on cooperation can be traced to various methods from the non-exact sciences. We are being taught about this new approach in a four-year compulsory course in the medical humanities

In other news, Forbes Israel recently published a list of the country’s top academic departments in eight professional fields.  Medicine was ranked as the most prestigious field of studies in Israel and who do you think was top? You guessed it: the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine, which was ranked first on the basis of having produced the highest number of hospital department heads, its significant influence on research and the number of prizes awarded to its scholars. Click here for the article (in Hebrew).

Moriyah Shacham, 23, is a final-year undergraduate in comparative literature and the Amirim (humanities) liberal arts program and a first-year medical student. She is from Beit Shemesh; for her national service, she tutored sick children in Beer Sheva and the surrounding area.

Moriyah’s previous blogs:

Contemplations on a colorful palette of studies (blog 1)

For more Hebrew University blogs, click here