Lost time amid COVID-19


At the end of my second year of medical school was what I call “The Lost Month.”

Dr. Allan M. Block, a neurologist is Scottsdale, Ariz.

Dr. Allan M. Block

Between the end of classes and USMLE-1 we had 30 days to study for an 800-question, 2-day test that covered the entirety of the first 2 years. If you failed it once, you had to retake it. If you failed it twice you were out of medical school.

It was understandably stressful and I felt like every minute counted. I stopped shaving for the month to free up a few extra minutes each day. I unplugged my TV and put it in a closet.

Every day was the same. I was up at 7:00, had corn flakes, walked to Creighton, and found an empty library room. I took 30 minutes off at lunch and dinner to get something from the student union to eat outside (the only chance I had to enjoy sunlight), then study again until 1:00-2:00 in the morning.

The whole month become a blur. Days of the week were meaningless, only the number left until boards. Saturday or Tuesday, my life was the same. I don’t remember many specifics.

That was “The Lost Month.”

Now, somewhere in the middle of my attendinghood, I’ve come to 2020 (and likely beyond) which is, “The Lost Year.”

The days of the week have a bit more meaning now, as I still go to my office for a few hours and am home on weekends. But the weeks and months blend together. I’m home most of the time, I busy myself with working, and I have meal breaks with my family. There are no vacations or parties or movies. Even the holidays aren’t that different from the weekends—there isn’t much else to do to pass the time. And the stress is still there (in the early 90s it was academic, today it’s financial).

At least now I still try to shave regularly.

Thirty years ago I passed the boards and moved on to where I am today. My fear of failing out of medical school never materialized.

Today I try to remain optimistic. Vaccines are coming. Our learning curve on treating COVID-19 is getting better. Hopefully, The Lost Year will gradually become a memory as life goes on and normalizes.

Like the The Lost Month, I have to view 2020 as bump in the road. If this is the worst crisis I and my loved ones have to go through, I can deal with that. I know we’re fortunate compared with others. I try to remember that every time I pass a Salvation Army kettle or canned food drive, and donate.

In 1990 I had a specific date when The Lost Month would be over, and it was coming up way too fast. In 2020 no such date exists, now or in the immediate future. The best any of us can do is keep hanging on and hoping.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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