Today we started out by going to a cardiac muscle physiology lab. The lab personnel had set up several stations for us to learn about various aspects of muscle cell contraction, and they also showed us how they conduct the heart muscle cell contraction experiments. It's pretty barbaric, actually. Basically they use the heart muscle cells out of human hearts if they can get them from transplant patients, or rat hearts if they can't. One end of the muscle is tied down to a weight, and the other is attached to a transducer. The muscle isn't strong enough to actually lift the weight, but they can measure how much force the muscle exerts when it tries to lift the weight. They can look at the effect of adding various drugs to the muscle cells so that for example they can determine whether some drug makes the muscles contract harder. The muscle cells are still alive, of course (or else they wouldn't contract), so we could see them twitching as they tried to contract. It was both really cool and at the same time kind of grotesque.
After we finished touring all of the lab stations, we went back to the education building to have our second PBL session. I think I already mentioned that our case revolves around a heart failure patient, and this week we are learning about the anatomy of the heart and how the heart contracts. Today was the first day that we have presented objectives, and it went fairly well except that we had an issue with running over time, and we had to start rushing toward the end. Still, it was a lot better than the first week of PSS last summer. We were talking about how lost we all were that first week. I guess the other groups didn't have any more clue than mine did. We came up with more objectives for Friday. Mine is huge, like a whole chapter, and it's not going to be easy to present that in just five to ten minutes.
In the afternoon, we had our clinical skills class. Since it was the first class, basically we just heard short introductions from various faculty members, but we didn't really do too much besides talk about what makes a doctor good or bad and watch some videos showing doctor-patient interactions. The videos were actually pretty funny, because they were exaggerated vignettes of all the things NOT to do when you're seeing a patient. From now on, though, we'll be spending every other Wednesday afternoon learning clinical skills and practicing them on standardized patients. I'm really excited about that. Like I said on Monday, it finally is starting to feel like I'm a real medical student.