As I mentioned previously, I'm studying for the boards right now. Just for fun, I pulled out my old study notes from Step I of the USMLE, all the way back in medical school.
It's really fascinating to look back at how far I've come. My notes are covered in lists and lists of drugs, side effects, and mnemonics; stuff that once took massive amounts of mental energy to memorize. Now, much of it is either intimately familiar or gone completely.
What I find really interesting about these notes is that they don't have any weight to them. Skimming through them now, my attention is drawn to specific diseases that occur more frequently than others, medicines that are safer and therefore more commonly used, and anatomic locations of significance. 7 years ago I went through and learned them all without much understanding of why. Now it's all I care about.
Metformin, for example, is the most widely prescribed medication in the world for diabetes. It shows up only once in my 15 pages of notes, listed in the middle of 6 other diabetic drugs, with the word "lactic" written cryptically next to it. I did an entire lecture on metformin-induced lactic acidosis during my toxicology rotation last year... but for the boards, all I knew was that single word association.
That said, much of the information is simply gone. I haven't thought twice about embryology since that test. Sure, I know what drugs to avoid during pregancy, when to avoid teratogenic radiation, and what to do for premature labor, but the basic science behind the "why" has long been pushed out of the way for more clinically useful data.
Looking back through these pages is kind of like a stroll down memory lane - the study room in the medical school library, the grueling hours, the fast-food burritos scarfed down for lunch breaks. I can't say I really miss it...
...but in a way? I do.