Growth, Control & Breaking Stereotypes.

February is already looking like its going to fly by very quick. But then again, when has time not flown by since I started medical school back in late July? It’s damn near impossible to fathom how fast I’m approaching my second year of medical school…almost nerve-wracking. I don’t feel that much different from when I graduated college back in May, but at the same time I’ve been exposed to an entirely new mentality as well as a raging waterfall of information that persistently tries to drown me on a constant basis. But truth be told, I’ve so far been faring a lot better than I had imagined I would be. Back before I even got accepted into a medical school I had imagined that whenever I started studying medicine, my life as I knew it would be over. I thought that I would be endlessly memorizing facts and studying during most of my waking hours while hopelessly watching my social life fade away from me like Michael Jackson moonwalking into a misty graveyard. I also believed that no matter how hard I tried, I would fall short of the grades that I managed to obtain while in undergrad. The thought of attempting to take on extracurricular activities, much less leadership positions while in medical school was a joke to me and I believed that although I would enjoy what I was learning, I would be silently miserable at the same time.

Well, that’s how you tend to imagine med school after asking the majority of the people you know about what means to be there. I’m happy to say that I was wrong. Okay, sort-of wrong. I sure as hell am studying during most of my waking hours and endlessly memorizing facts, but so are all of my peers. So it doesn’t really feel like I’m missing out on anything. Plus I’m in Winston-Salem. So I know for sure I’m not missing out on anything spectacular. The social life I knew changed as soon as I left Miami, but it never faded away…it simply transformed. I definitely have had a great time with the friends I’ve made here and am far from miserable. I’ve even been able to participate in different extracurricular activities such as service learning opportunities and SNMA. As for obtaining the grades that I had back in undergrad…..yeah I’m falling shorter than a muhhh. I’ve had like one or two tests where I’ve reached the grades that I was used to making back then, but other than that, it’s been an uphill struggle trying to achieve high grades. But I haven’t been doing bad either so that’s okay. The Pass/Fail grading system truly is a beauty. I guess what I’m trying to say is, just like with anything in life, medical school is what you make it. If you want it to be a miserable experience, it definitely will grant your wish. If you want to have an awesome experience while studying medicine, you can definitely make it happen. It’s your decision. I chose the latter. I won’t lie though, the city I’m in has also made it undoubtedly easier to stay focused on school. 😅

Looking back on my CPX (Clinical Practice Assesment Exam) I told you about last week, I ended up doing fairly well. My ever-expanding interview skills didn’t fail me, and I actually took a correct blood pressure reading on my own for the first time! Hella embarrassing I know, but up until that point I had been faking my way through that portion since we don’t have to report vital signs at this stage in our careers…we just have to go through the motions. But I actually heard the thump, thump of the pulse in the brachial artery that I’m supposed to hear and got a decent systolic/diastolic blood pressure for the first time. That was probably the most exciting part of my exam haha. I also performed the physical exam maneuvers decent enough, so I ended up passing. I forgot that I was supposed to use a drape for my standardized patient though…..I had seen it, but I just threw it aside. 😂 Still passed thooo!!!

I also met and interviewed a patient that was suffering from ulcerative colitis last week during my clinical skills rotation. Needless to say, this patient was in pretty severe pain. I almost felt bad asking him about his pain, but he was pretty engaged in our conversation and happy to help me practice my interviewing skills on him. Seeing how far those skills have come from when I first started amazes me. There was a point where I didn’t even know how to properly ask a patient to describe their pain. Now obtaining an HPI has almost become second nature to me, although I have to now start learning how to obtain it in a quicker and more efficient manner. My clinical skills coach also had me and my small group present our patients to her (which I absolutely suck at) and develop a write-up of our patients in order to critique us (which she is absolutely stunning at). Good thing I won’t have to truly utilize these skills until my third year, but it’s real nice that we get this early clinical exposure so that we are comfortable with doing all that when it comes time to put these skills to good use. Right after my clinical skills class, there was an event where a few members of the Wake Forest School of Medicine faculty talked about times where they felt like they failed and how they bounced back from those failures in order to become better and stronger people. I just thought that it was an amazing event and I felt like the lessons that these faculty learned through their struggles are lessons that could benefit not only us as medical students, but you, the reader, as well. These lessons included:

  • Recognizing that you are in control of building your life the way you want to after hitting rock bottom
  • Seizing the moment and doing something nice for yourself each day
  • Not letting your grades nor comments, criticisms or negativity from other people define who you are
  • Communicating your needs while setting standards for yourself that is consistent with your values

 

Okay I know I’m talking a lot, but I just thought about an encounter I had with my barber a little over a week ago that I forgot to put in last week’s entry. This is my last story for today, I swear lol. I was at the barber shop getting a line-up for Wake’s medical school prom a couple of Fridays ago and I had my Wake Forest School of Medicine hoodie on. When it was my turn to get my line-up, the barber introduced himself and everything and we had a light convo as he was getting all his supplies ready. Then as he began lining me up, he asked me, “You play ball for Wake Forest?”

I guess he didn’t get the ‘School of Medicine’ memo on my hoodie. I was like, “Nah, I’m a first-year medical student at the Wake Forest School of Medicine.”

He abruptly picked up his razor off of my head, looked at me and was like, “Oh word? For real? That’s what’s up man. You must get that question a lot huh?”

I laughed and replied, “Yeah man, more times than I can remember. I may look like a ball player but funny thing is, I’m trash at basketball. So I just stuck to what I knew best, which was the books. I really just want to help break the stereotype that has been cast on us as young, black men.”

He laughed, himself an older black man, and said, “Well that’s great man, I’m happy for you.” As he started to return to his task, he went on, “You know, the media really does try and stick us all in a box. They expect us to be rappers, basketball players, football players, you name it. The news also covers all the bad things that black people do but does little to highlight our accomplishments. Like for example, the news will never tell you who the second richest black person in America is (Robert F. Smith) because he isn’t an athlete or an entertainer. He’s a business man. You’re doing a great thing man, don’t let up. Young black men are always trying to find the fastest way to becoming rich, which is why we fall in the stereotype trap, but the road you’re taking is definitely worth it in the end. You just gotta do your thing and own your own practice and show other young black men that they’re capable of what you’re doing.”

I wasn’t expecting a TED Talk from my barber, but I deeply appreciated what he had told me. All I could say was, “Thanks man, I really appreciate that. That’s a big reason why I’m doing what I’m doing.”

He then said it was no problem and went on to talk about how diabetes and glaucoma had affected his family as a whole and why he decided to change the way he ate and lived so that he wouldn’t suffer the same consequences that some of his loved ones did. It ended up being one of my more memorable barber experiences and needless to say, I ended up tipping him a good amount after the cut. I think I’ve finally found my new favorite barber in Winston-Salem.

Alright that was a lot. But the more I typed, the more I realized how much more I wanted to say. I hope you enjoyed this post and that you perhaps took something out of it. As for today’s positive memo:

You may not always have control of your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them. Don’t let your circumstances control you.

Enjoy Super Bowl Sunday!!!

 

– Black Man, M.D.

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