Breathe In, Breathe Out.

I officially finished my Cardiology block last Monday!

Nick At Nite dance dancing celebrate backflip

It was a tough block, but I found the material to be interesting overall and contrary to a large portion of my classmates, I actually liked interpreting EKGs 😅. I took my Cardiology exam and I ended up doing pretty decent on it…I missed a few questions that I definitely shouldn’t have missed, but that’s neither here nor there. I feel comfortable with what I’ve learned in that block overall. I then found myself in Greensboro after the exam with some friends and had lunch at this pretty good burger restaurant, where I ate this massive burger that definitely didn’t help raise my HDL levels (good cholesterol) or lower my LDL levels (bad cholesterol). Talk about irony. We then ended up bar hopping for almost four hours…and since it was a Monday afternoon, you can imagine how empty the bars were. And no, I did not get drunk lol. To tell the truth, I was ready to leave after the second hour…but between playing Catchphrase at one bar and Shuffleboard at another, I did have a great time winding down with friends. Then that night, I proceeded to finally start watching Atlanta, which is Donald Glover’s very popular new show. So far, I absolutely love it. And this is coming from a guy who doesn’t like to watch TV. I then had a free day of rest on Tuesday, where I got a lot of things outside of schoolwork done. Needless to say, it was awesome not having to open a book or read notes that day.

Then we started the Pulmonology block on Wednesday morning. I had heard very good things about both the course director of this block as well as about this subject in general, so I was ready to get going with it. The very first thing the Pulmonology course director did after we walked into class was read a wonderful poem for Tori and express his condolences to us. I immediately knew that I would like this guy as well as this block. And so far, I have very little to complain about in regards to subject material. Compared to the vast intricacies of the heart, the physiology of the lungs have seemed pretty straightforward to me. Then again, maybe that’s because I’ve already learned a ton about both the heart and the blood, both of which the lungs work very closely with. How cool is it that the more organ systems I learn about in the body, the easier it is to grasp the new ones I come across? It’s like a huge game of Pokemon or something; the more experience I have in learning how certain organs of the body function, the higher of an overall level I achieve! Just like the more experience your Pokemon get in battles, the more they level up. And the exams are like gym leaders that I have to battle in order to move on to the next block/the next gym leader! Lol, this analogy is actually so stupid. I’m mad I actually had the nerve to come up with it. I was such a Pokemon nerd growing up, can you tell? I was the guy who would play the games on the Game Boy, beat the game and restart the game just to beat it again. I was so damn proud of myself when I finally completed my PokeDex with the 150 original Pokemon…I don’t have Pokemon Go though. I admittedly was gonna download it when it first came out, but the servers were crashing…so I took it as a sign that I wasn’t meant to have it because Lord knows I would have been looking like a fool trying to catch ’em all.

Okay I’m starting a new paragraph because I just went way off-topic for no good reason. I have my first Clinical Skills exam (CPX) this Wednesday, where I will be tested on a standardized patient encounter. I’ll be interviewing the patient as well as performing any necessary physical exam maneuvers on him/her. Here’s the catch though: I have to come up with my own interview questions and physical exam maneuvers. In the past, we were told what we had to do during the CPX, but now they’re loosening our leash quite a bit. I’ll also have to do a write-up of the patient and turn it in within 48 hours of the encounter. Oh the joy of being a second-year student. This is gonna be fun.

On a more serious note, I really can’t stand the fact that more and more black men are being murdered by law enforcement. It’s really sickening, to say the least. I could write down all my feelings about it, but that’s not going to do much of anything. I’d only be preaching to the choir for the most part. Plus, I’ve already penned most of my feelings about this issue back in my Chills post. The level of ignorance that is currently present in this country when it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement just baffles me. The fact that many of the people who have much to say about Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem come up short of something to say when a black man is unjustly silenced by a bullet is painfully astounding. The fact that we have to protest and demand that our lives be seen just as equal and precious as the lives of other Americans is pretty damn sad. The poisonous mentality of seeing white as “Okay, let’s de-escalate the situation” and black as “UP TO NO GOOD” just reinforces the prejudice that certain groups of people have for Black people as a whole. That unfair bias is a HUGE part of the issue that we are facing today in terms of racial equality. The different shades of color and various cultures that make up the people of both this country and this world is what makes humanity so beautiful. Black lives matter just as much as the lives of any other human life in this world. So why are we being disproportionately killed off? Why is the killing of a black man by law enforcement becoming more and more desensitizing in this country? Why does it seem that hashtags of the slain have become a part of daily life in this country?

nightmare

WHEN WILL THIS NIGHTMARE END?

“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but it is fear.” – Ghandi

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – I had a dream a couple nights ago where I was talking to Rihanna and she told me how much she loved reading my blog. Lol, a man can only dream, right? But they say dreams do come true…

Tori’s Spirit

This past week, I was painfully reminded about just how fragile life could be.

About half of my overall class and I were in the middle of our Health Systems & Policy (HSP) class early Monday afternoon. The other half of my overall class were in the Medicine and Patients in Society class (MAPS) at the same time. I had just come from a Kaplan lunch talk not too long before, where a representative was talking about how great the Kaplan Question Bank was in preparing students for Step 1. My thoughts were drifting back and forth between how I was going to use the Kaplan Question Bank to supplement my ongoing studies, how to make sure that I had the best fantasy football team in the class draft that I had just been invited to, and the financing & distribution of Medicaid in North Carolina, which is what we were currently being lectured to about. It was your typical, sunny Monday afternoon.

Then around 1:30 PM or so, the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs opened the door of the classroom as the professor was in mid-sentence and motioned for him to come over to her with her finger. Puzzled, he looked at her for a couple of seconds and exited the classroom with her. All of us in the class were quiet for a few seconds, and then indistinct chatter started to fill the room. My friend and I started joking around about what the professor must have been thinking as the Associate Dean, of all people, abruptly interrupted his class. After about a couple of minutes, the professor walked back in looking pretty shocked, along with the Associate Dean and about five other faculty members. I suddenly did not like the look of what was happening. I heard my friend behind me whispering “Oh no, this doesn’t look good. This looks like bad news. This is going to be bad.” The Associate Dean got to the podium as the other faculty stood in line facing us and started to break the devastating news that our classmate, and my friend, Tori McLean, had just passed away due to complications from the bone marrow transplant that was supposed to have saved her from her diagnosis of Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. As she said Tori’s name, my jaw dropped. I could hear gasps around the room. As the dean continued to speak, I began to hear my classmates sobbing across the room. A couple of my friends I was sitting at my table with began to sob as well. I was completely dumbfounded. My jaw just hung open for what felt like an eternity as I stared in disbelief at the dean. I don’t even remember most of what was said after hearing the initial news. Just before she finished speaking, she said we were free to take the afternoon off to collect our thoughts and to mourn. I then sat back in my chair and numbly stared at the ground. I had just entered one hell of a daze. I must have sat there like that for about five minutes or so as others around me packed up their belongings and left the room. I then somehow managed to get up, walk out of the classroom, and walk back to my apartment complex where I met up with a few friends in their apartment. I walked in the apartment, set my bag down on the floor, sunk in the couch, looked up at the ceiling and proceeded to stare blankly at it for almost an hour.

As I type this post almost a week later, I still find it hard to believe that she’s really passed on. Like, I’ll never see her on this Earth again. It’s an unreal feeling. I keep thinking about how her closest friends and her family must be taking the gravity of her loss. That thought alone saddens me. The fact that she won’t ever get the chance to become the incredible doctor that she had the potential to be, or to start her very own family, or to just continue with life in general as a 24-year old woman is very difficult to accept. She had been fighting so hard against this cancer that she has been diagnosed with since mid-March, right as we were about to take our first Neuroscience exam. It was so unfortunate, but we all figured, including her, that it was a terrible phase that she would get through before returning to her regular life. It’s terribly unfair that her life on Earth had to end this way, because she was such a great person…she went out of her way to make others feel better, even while she was fighting against the cancer wearing on her body. While I was checking in on her this past summer, she told me that she truly believed that I was not only wise beyond my years, but that she was confident that I would grow into an amazing doctor, especially now that she’s experienced the patient side of things. She said all this after stating how much it meant to her that I was reaching out to check on her when she could only imagine how busy I was. Lol, that was just how she was man, so humbling and appreciative of everything. I had to tell her that I was never too busy to check in on her and that I had been praying for her and her family every day. She also told me that she still had been reading my blog every week throughout her treatment, which really moved me. As a matter of fact, Tori had been a huge supporter of Black Man, M.D. since day one. She was always “liking” my blog posts on Facebook and had told me several times in the past how much she enjoyed reading it as well as how appreciative she was of the quotes I put up every week. When I spotted her at the school back in early August after school had started up again, I tore myself apart from the group I had been chatting with, shouted her name, and gave her such a big hug that I may have lowkey scared her now that I think back on it. My last interaction with her was when she wished me a Happy Birthday a few weeks ago and had hoped that my day was just as wonderful as I was. Man, I’m gonna miss her.

This past week has been a rough one, with losing Tori and simultaneously having to study for our Cardiology exam that we’re taking tomorrow. However, the school has been absolutely wonderful in responding to the tragedy. In a matter of less than five days, many emails were sent to our class from various faculty members, including from the Dean of the Medical Center himself, the medical class under us worked to console us by providing us snacks and a memory tree for Tori where we can write & hang our memories with Tori from the tree, a memory book for Tori’s family was purchased, and a memorial was planned to honor Tori’s life. This memorial service took place this past Friday in an auditorium at the former medical center next to the hospital. I’m happy to say that the auditorium was packed to the brim and that the service was phenomenal. Her whole family was present as well as many of the faculty, our classmates, and others that either knew her personally or knew of her. There were songs sung & played on the violin/cello/piano, prayers given, stories shared by her friends and family, tears dropped, and laughs shared between the people present. It’s incredible to realize that even after her time in this world had ended, she was able to bring so many people from all walks of life together in one place. I felt, and continue to feel, honored to have been friends with such an angel who has touched the lives of many.

There were many organizations on campus that Tori was a part of, but one thing she was absolutely passionate about was Project Teach, a program within the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) here at Wake where we help to tutor both middle and high-school students from the community around us on Tuesday nights. We had both been very involved in this program last year, but it was very obvious to me how important the program was to her. Her love for the kids shined so bright that she was made the Community Service Co-Chair alongside me so that she would have full control of how the program was run. Sadly, soon after obtaining that position, she received her diagnosis. She then reached out to me a couple of weeks after her diagnosis and asked for the “big favor” of temporarily assuming control over the program as she began to fight off the cancer threatening her life. Of course I obliged and began to do so alongside another friend who was also invested in the program who also happened to be the new Vice-President of SNMA. Her and Tori had been working to expand the program to high-school students in the community, for at that time only middle-school students were coming for tutoring. When this school year started, my friend and I continued to work on expanding the program and eventually got a nearby high school on board to participate. This past Tuesday was the very first day of Project Teach for the year and I’m happy to say that it was a phenomenal success! We had about 25-30 volunteers and just as many middle & high school students show up. And the number of students is expected to increase for this Tuesday as well! I really wish Tori was able to have seen how well the first day went and how much bigger the program is going to get this year. But I know she’s watching from high up above and smiling down proudly on all of us.

Life can be very rewarding and at times you may feel invincible. But life can also be just as fragile, for one moment you’re on top of the world and in the very next moment you can be on the ground suffering. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this unfortunate event and from medical school in general, it’s that nobody is invincible. Disease & Tragedy can strike any one of us at anytime, even if we mean well and do our best to stay healthy. However, as the late and great Maya Angelou once said, “people will never forget how you made them feel”. I’m sure that just about everyone who has been touched by Tori’s presence can comfortably say that they will never forget how she made them feel, and that although she’s physically gone, her spirit will continue to live on in them forever. Her spirit will surely continue to live on in me. We all only have one life to live, so let’s shape our lives the way we want to shape them. Believe it or not, we have the power to do so. And while we work on shaping it, let’s find a way to make a positive difference in someone else’s life. It can be as big as funding a full scholarship for somebody or as simple as genuinely telling someone that they are beautiful. Even something as small as giving someone a smile can do wonders for another person. You just never know.

Victoria “Tori” McLean

January 6, 1992 – September 12, 2016

May your phenomenal soul rest in eternal peace.

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” – Oscar Wilde

– Black Man, M.D.

Hope On The Horizon

To think that it has been 15 years since over 3,000 people tragically lost their lives in the terrorist attacks that rocked the core of New York City, destroyed a massive part of the Pentagon, laid ruin to a rural field in Pennsylvania due to the efforts of some courageous passengers, and strengthened the resolve of the American people while simultaneously creating intense & deplorable Islamophobia in this country.

How crazy is that?

What’s just as crazy to me is the fact that there are teenagers alive today that weren’t even born when these catastrophic attacks took place. I still remember my young, wide-eyed 8-year-old self hearing about the tragedy over the intercom in my third-grade class right after having said the Pledge of Allegiance. I didn’t understand the full extent of the events that had just taken place, but I knew it wasn’t good because my teacher had gasped and looked like she was about to cry. As I type this post, I’m sitting here trying to imagine the horror that the people in D.C. and New York City must have felt on that morning, and the despair that the people on those four hijacked flights must have felt right before their lives were terribly snatched away from them. I’m also trying to imagine the anguish of the families and friends who lost their loved ones that day and the tremendous shock that was felt by the people in this country as well as in other countries across the world as the news of the tragedy reverberated across living rooms, offices, restaurants, and schools worldwide. It was a devastating day indeed, and it left millions of people scared to step foot on a plane for some time. But that day also brought our nation together not only in grief, but in strength and fortitude. Today is a day to honor all of those individuals who lost their lives in those atrocious events, and to remind ourselves never to forget what happened that day. May their souls rest in eternal peace. #NeverForget

On another note, I’ve had a pretty efficient week. In fact, it’s been so efficient that I’ve actually been able to finally get caught up on all my material! Visiting my girlfriend for Labor Day weekend turned out to be very fun and refreshing, even while I was studying for hours at a time during my stay down in Miami. I think both the dramatic change in my surroundings and having her as well as other old friends there really helped to reinvigorate my focus, thus allowing me to catch up on my lectures even as I spent time watching college football, movies and catching up with people and hanging out.

I only came back to Winston because I had my mandatory Clinical Skills class to attend on Thursday afternoon, where we worked as a group through a case where a patient presented with abrupt chest pain, practiced physical exam maneuvers on each other involving the HEENT (Head, Eyes, Ears, Nose, Throat) & upper extremities, and interviewed admitted patients on the wards in order to gather their History of Present Illness. Along with interviewing them, we were able to listen to their hearts and check their capillary filling pressure (checking to see how fast blood returns to their nail beds after applying pressure on them). After learning all about heart sounds and whatnot, I was able to appreciate the beats that the patient’s heart made and could verify that his heart was relatively healthy. Fun fact, the sounds you hear in a heartbeat is due to the closing of the valves in your heart. The first heartbeat is the closing of the mitral and tricuspid valves while the second heartbeat is the result of your aortic and pulmonary valves closing. Systole occurs when you push blood out of your left & right ventricles into your aorta & pulmonary artery while diastole occurs when blood flows from the left & right atria to the left & right ventricles, respectively. That’s an extremely basic overview of blood sounds and blood flow in the heart, but I figured it would be cool for you to know a little about the organ keeping you alive right now. After class, I had to do a whole write-up of the patient case we went through and turn it into my Clinical Skills coaches. That was fun. Felt the sarcasm there?

That same afternoon, I attended an Underrepresented Minority Meet-and-Greet event at the school that I had been invited to weeks before. It was pretty awesome. The unlimited appetizers were fantastic too lol. But besides that, I got the chance to meet quite a number of minority physicians working either at Wake or in the Winston-Salem community while at the same time having casual conversations with the new Chief Human Resources Officer (she’s such a nice woman…she happens to be Black too 😏) and the Dean of the Wake Forest School of Medicine. It’s cool that the school hosts events like this; seeing people that look like me in high positions of power on a continual basis really has an empowering effect on my psyche. I’m happy that I was able to attend such an event. Representation really matters.

Well, time to get back to the grind. Gotta get through this last week of Cardiology before my test next Monday. Wait, this is my last week of Cardiology…..awww DAMN!! I swear we just started this unit. Our course director recently told us that a number of other schools study Cardio for 6-8 weeks, but we only get a little less than four weeks dedicated to this subject 😐. I guess that explains why I was struggling to keep up at first…

Make this week an exceptional one! Who’s stopping you?

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

– Paulo Coelho

– Black Man, M.D.

Pumping Against The Pressure

Bruh.

They doing the MOST with these Cardiology lectures.

Can someone explain to me how in the hell 23 lectures and 6 workshops managed to get packed into EIGHT school days?? (And I’m not even counting the other longitudinal classes we had to attend…) How are we supposed to manage all that in a little over a week? Like, we just started this block less than two weeks ago and we have more than enough information to be adequately tested on. This material isn’t easy either. What’s even wilder about this is that we have 24 more lectures to power through in the next two weeks before we get to our exam date for this block. 😭

TWENTY-FOUR MORE LECTURES!?!

And don’t let me forget about the workshops we have to attend in the same time span.

GIPHY Originals bored annoyed really done

You would think that I would be used to this lifestyle by now…and don’t get me wrong, I actually am. The block before this (Heme/Onc) was pretty busy too and I was doing alright. Neuroscience back in March was intense too, especially during the very first couple of weeks I was exposed to it. But Neuroscience was spread over three months. And Heme/Onc was relatively straight-forward once you sat down and played around with it for a while. But this Cardiology thing? It ain’t straight-forward at all. AT ALL. Plus, we only have a month to learn it all. The heart-body relationship seems simple at first glance, but it is so much more complex than you can imagine. Especially after you throw in Pressure-Volume Loops, Starling curves, Hypertension, EKG interpretations, Heart Failure, the multiple Alpha/Beta/Dopamine receptors, all the Cardiomyopathies, Sodium/Potassium/Calcium/BlahBlahBlah-ium channels, the Electrophysiology of the heart, and all the freakin’ drugs that can treat all kinds of heart conditions. And this is just what we’ve gone over so far. There’s a whole ‘nother storm of new material in this block that coming at us starting on Tuesday. Good God.

Funny thing is, this is probably the calmest I’ve felt all week long. Sounds crazy huh? I mean, I really was just ranting on how crazy this block has been so far. But now that I have this Labor Day weekend to study without having to think about another new lecture for a couple days, I can finally work on synthesizing all the material that has been assaulting me this past week and a half. You should’ve seen me earlier last week…I was struggling to keep up man. What got me the most was that I never really had time to actually learn the stuff I was taking in because there was always new information constantly coming at me. It came to a point where I would be sitting in lecture pissed off because I felt that I was wasting time by trying to listen to the lecturer when I could have been synthesizing the information I already learned. By Thursday of last week, I was getting headaches from just being in class. Tragic, ain’t it? Thank God for this Labor Day weekend. 🙏 I can chill out for a bit and now that I’m looking back on everything so far with the multiple resources I’m using, I can appreciate how manageable it all really is. So with that said, there’s no need to worry about my mental state lol. All I really need is God, my friends & family, and a positive mentality. I’ll be fine! 😄

I did get the opportunity to ultrasound my own heart during one of the workshops this past week though! I’ve done it before last year during anatomy, but now that I actually have a much better idea of what’s going on in the heart, I could appreciate it more this time around. I was told by one of the residents helping out with the workshop that I had a good heart. 😁 My group and I also got a clear view of my heartstrings, or chordae tendinae as we like to call it in the medical field. So in case you were wondering, that’s where the saying “pulling on your heartstrings” comes from. In addition, we got the opportunity to learn about the basics of health insurance in our Healthcare Systems & Policy class this past Monday, which I highly appreciated. I had been hoping for some kind of course on health insurance ever since last year because I actually know little to nothing on the subject, which is scary considering the fact that it will be a very crucial part of my future career. We started off with how health insurance is financed in America on a commercial level, which could be the subject of a whole other blog post. In later lectures, we’ll be getting into the many intricacies of health insurance and the extent to which money influences the many lives in this country that depend on insurance. All in all, I’m really looking forward to learning all about the topics that will be presented to us in that course. Granted, this means that I actually have to make time to look at that stuff outside of class…

Anywho, make sure to enjoy your Labor Day weekend! And do your best to carry that joy through the rest of this week!

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” – Jim Rohn

– Black Man, M.D.