Eye of the Hurricane

Thanksgiving break was very much needed man. Especially after those two monster exams last Monday and Tuesday.

Being at home stress-free with family and friends while enjoying an almost endless supply of free homemade food has simply been fantastic. I had to have gained about five pounds or so this weekend…I just haven’t stopped eating ever since Thursday night, where I ate so much that I was in mild physical pain by the end of the night 😅. You don’t understand though – when you’ve been eating PB&Js and an apple for dinner for almost a week straight because you don’t want to go to the store to buy anything to cook the week before Thanksgiving, you’ll want to eat everything on sight during Thanksgiving dinner too.

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My mom also is the G.O.A.T; she made me more food that I can take back to Winston with me! I’m not gonna starve for the next three weeks!

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Being home is always nice. You just don’t really appreciate what you have while growing up…everything is just free for the most part. Only when you leave home and have to start cooking for yourself/paying bills & rent/doing everything that used to be done for you when you were a kid, do you realize how much you were blessed with while growing up. Sigh…such is life. I had a good time playing good ol’ FIFA and Monopoly though, and just hanging out with old friends and family in general. The time flew by so fast though…can’t believe I already have to drive back to Winston to start this week-long block of Dermatology. Yeah you heard me right, week-long block. Which means we start with an intro to Dermatology tomorrow morning and end with our Derm block exam this Friday afternoon. This also means that we have about 20 different lectures to digest between tomorrow and Friday.

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Yeahhh…I’m just gonna go ahead and assume that I’ll be in the books all week. Hopefully this block isn’t crazy intense with information or anything. And after this week, we’ll be starting the “oh-so-dreaded” block of Renal. Guess I’ll finally get to experience why Renal is so feared and whatnot. That should be fun.

I guess I should wrap this up and start heading back to Winston now. I got a busy week ahead of me that includes studying, taking this Dermatology exam, participating on a pre-med panel, meetings, volunteering and helping set up a glaucoma screening training session called Sight Savers. Gotta love the grind.

I hope your Thanksgiving was both amazing and fulfilling! Have a great start to your week!

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – Upgraded to the iPhone 7 a couple days ago, and got 128 GB of space with it. No more having to constantly make space in my 16 GB iPhone 5s lol. I WISH my phone WOULD tell me I’m out of space now.

Keep Ya Head Up

So I’m STILL not over the results of the election.

To tell the truth, there’s a very high chance I’ll never be over what happened less than two weeks ago. The aftermath has been even worse with Trump picking extreme people for his cabinet who could completely halt and reverse the progress that we’ve made in this country. Don’t even get me started on the increased incidence of hate crimes that have been taking place around this country. There was even an incident at the Starbucks I used to go to frequently on the University of Miami campus! There’s a lot of crazy things going on in the nation, and it makes me sick. I can’t even go on social media or watch the news anymore without feeling anger rise within me. It’s really disheartening and ridiculous to see the hate and foolishness that we’ve been witnessing on a daily basis. Like, why was First Lady Michelle Obama called an “ape in heels” and perceived to be “fluent in ghetto” this past week?  It’s as if people harboring these ignorant values feel like they can finally come in the daylight and show everyone how racist they really are. It’s so pathetic and infuriating at the same time. I hate having to sit here and helplessly watch all this go on while having to continuously study for upcoming exams. I feel like I need to be helping make some kind of effective impact against these dangerously ignorant beliefs that goes farther than calling state senators, marching in the streets and posting things on social media…but it’s almost as if Trump and all his supporters will keep doing whatever they want, regardless of how over half of America feels about it. It feels like such an uphill struggle but like I said before, I refuse to sit back and feel useless. If Trump, Pence and the fools in the Republican party that support them want to try and make this country worse, they’re not about to do it without heavy resistance. We gonna fight back as hard as we can for as long as we can to make Trump’s presidency a living hell for him.

Aside from all that, I took both my GI block exam on Thursday and my MAPS (medical ethics) exam on Friday. And I now have my cumulative Heme/Onc & Cardiology final exam tomorrow, along with my cumulative Pulmonology & GI exam on Tuesday.

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I feel like I did well on the GI block exam, even though I was feeling physically sick throughout the exam. I was feeling nauseous and my stomach was not cooperating with me. Go figure. I WOULD be the guy feeling nauseous while taking a test on the Gastrointestinal system. We got an email the next day saying that everyone passed the exam, so that further confirmed my feelings about how I felt about my performance. The 20-question MAPS exam on Friday was okay. You never really know with medical ethics, especially with those questions where you feel that there are multiple right answers. In preparation for these last two massive tests coming up for me, I’ve been studying relentlessly in order to try and remember everything I’ve learned since August, and it’s been pretty torturesome to say the least. I’ve just been hitting main points and praying, because I feel like it’s just honestly futile to try and re-learn everything I learned in the past already in three days. I’m just gonna be doing practice questions up until I take these exams. I just wanna be done with all this and go home for Thanksgiving break! I’m sooo close, yet sooo far…

Speaking of, I attended two awesome Thanksgiving dinners that some of my friends were hosting last night. It was a wonderful study break, and I had some of the best dinner that I’ve had in weeks haha. Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches were REALLY getting old 😅. I relearned how to play Spades (don’t you dare judge me), caught up with people I hadn’t seen in a while and played an intense game of Taboo. Good times, good times. I really can’t wait to get home and spend some quality time with family!

But first, I gotta power through these practice questions.

Y’all stay up and stay blessed!

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” – Nelson Mandela

– Black Man, M.D.

Sickening Reality

I’ve come to realize that there aren’t many things in this world that faze me. Sure, I get surprised here and there, but I take the surprises with stride and usually maintain control of myself and my emotions. Very few times have I been left physically and emotionally stunned about anything.

What happened last Tuesday night completely floored me.

I got to my friend’s apartment to watch the 2016 presidential election with several other people that night, the same election that the majority of America and the world was watching. All of us in the apartment were telling jokes, eating snacks and talking about whatever came to mind as the election results began to trickle in. Clinton was initially down by quite a bit and we all were rolling our eyes, confident of the fact that she would catch up and surpass Trump’s numbers. We all were absolutely sure that America surely wouldn’t go on and elect a candidate whose political inexperience was painfully obvious and whose rhetoric throughout the campaign trail was ridiculously abhorrent. We just knew that we would be celebrating the first female president of the United States and that President Obama’s legacy would be continued.

As the night went on, more and more states began to go red. There were some going blue, but it was apparent that Trump was gaining ground. As that happened, online predictors began to question Clinton’s possibility of winning, which started to concern us. I was personally confident that Clinton would make a huge comeback, especially after winning California, Pennsylvania, Virginia and perhaps Florida. However, I was beginning to feel concerned about the fact that so many people actually went to the polls and voted for Trump, for he was winning a lot more states than I anticipated him winning. Well, Clinton ended up winning California, barely winning Virginia, but ended up losing Florida by a very slim margin. And after all that, Trump still got ahead. Now all of us in the room were really beginning to worry. The jokes were just about over. The impossible thought of Trump actually becoming the 45th president turned into a frightening “maybe”. The night dragged on, with the hours alarmingly drifting by. Around 1:30 AM or so, that man actually ended up clinching Pennsylvania. That’s when the maddening reality began to sickeningly sink in for me. Donald Trump now had a better chance of winning the election via the electoral college than Hillary Clinton. Trump really just needed a couple more swing states and he had it in the bag. He was leading in the polls in the states he needed. The margin wasn’t that slim either.

I couldn’t bear to watch the election coverage any further. Neither could anyone else in the room. What was supposed to be a cheerful night with celebrations of the fact that the Trump/Pence combo would be effectively shut down turned out to be the beginning of a nightmare scenario. I wanted to believe that maybe, just maybe, there would be a drastic turn of events after I went to sleep…but my gut was telling me otherwise. It was becoming gravely clear that the man who preached bigotry, racism, xenophobia, sexism, divisiveness and hate among other things would clinch the most powerful position in this country. After a very restless night where I was tortured by my unsettling thoughts and where I ended up dreaming about the damn guy during the very little sleep I got, I woke up and looked at my phone for the overall results. My stomach dropped as I read the title of the first news article I came across:

Donald Trump Elected 45th President of the United States of America

The words seared through my brain as I lay there in absolute shock about what just happened. My mind then began to drift back to an article I read and shared over the summer that was written by Michael Moore, detailing how Trump would win the presidential election. I also remembered the various articles and emails I read that stated the scary possibility of waking up the morning after Election Day and reading the very statement that I bolded above this paragraph. I had told myself that that just couldn’t happen and that things would be fine as long as I continued to pressure people to cast a vote. I had unwavering faith that there were more people overall who would vote against the hateful rhetoric that the Republican presidential candidate was spewing than side with him. I mean, it was obvious to see the kind of game Trump and his allies were trying to play on the American people; drag Hillary Clinton’s name through the mud by repeatedly attacking her for those damn emails and saying that she was untrustworthy while ignoring everything else she’s ever done in her life. They just used fear tactics and name-calling to appeal to people that just didn’t want her in office, the majority of these people being white, uneducated males. Sure, Clinton isn’t perfect and has definitely made mistakes. Sure, the Democratic party has some flaws. But you mean to tell me they’re so flawed that we just HAD to put someone like Trump in power?? You talking about flaws, the Republican party is in freakin’ shambles! Trump himself is very seriously flawed!! SMFH. The scary thing I never really anticipated is, there are a huge number of educated people that ended up voting for Trump as well, even if they outwardly said they were disgusted with what he had to say. It awes me to watch how these same Trump supporters refuse to face the fact that the nominee they support is much more untrustworthy than Hillary Clinton and has a long history of being very wishy-washy. Hell, the things he’s done within the past couple of months alone should be enough to appall these people who want “someone they can trust”. Trump has even said he likes to keep people IN SUSPENSE!! But yet, his supporters voted for him and he is now the president-elect of the United States.

The day following the election, I was more depressed than I had been in a very long time. I really tried to just bury myself in my studies to avoid thinking about what the election meant for the country. With the Trump/Pence combo elected and the Republican party in control of both the House and Senate, the future was really looking bleak for this country, especially since we have been having such a progressive surge these past eight years. Sure the Republicans barely have control of the Senate and sure there may be a system of checks and balances between the moderate Republicans and the extreme right-wing. That doesn’t change the fact that 60+ MILLION AMERICANS SUPPORTED the rhetoric and policies that Donald Trump proposed to the world. OVER SIXTY MILLION AMERICANS. This means that roughly half of the people who voted in this election decided to support the platform that promoted hate, racism and divisiveness over progressiveness. I don’t care how anyone that voted for Trump/Pence tries to spin it so that they can make themselves feel better about their decision; you voted for hate. The fact that so many people let this happen infuriates me. By the way, you know what happened the last time the Republican party was in full control of the government? Ding Ding Ding! You got it! THE GREAT DEPRESSION. What a hell of a fun fact. What makes everything sting even more was the fact that Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote…so more people voted for Clinton, yet Trump gets the presidency. What a democracy. To tell the truth, I’m just as concerned about Pence being in power, because I feel that he’s almost as bad, if not as bad, as Trump is…except he’s experienced in politics and knows how to keep his mouth shut. Which means that once he’s in power, he can make powerful moves that can really shift the course of this country…echoing the whole Bush/Cheney dynamic we had in the 2000s. Just think about that.

Days have passed since the election and now I’m not depressed or even devastated anymore. I’m just pissed. I’ve had time to vent, reflect and think about what has transpired recently and how some people around me just can’t seem to realize what exactly they’re advocating for by voting for Trump. White privilege is real man. Ignorance is very real, and is extremely bliss. I’m ashamed and embarrassed to be part of a country that elected an extremely entitled, wealthy, & selfish businessman/TV celebrity who puts divisiveness over togetherness, hate over love, racism over inclusion, fear over trust, xenophobia over acceptance, terror over calmness; the list goes on and on. This guy beat out an extremely qualified candidate who stands for everything that Trump doesn’t stand for…who just so happens to be a woman. Donald Trump is the definition of white privilege. Good luck trying to convince me otherwise. I’ve gathered myself together since Tuesday and also had a pretty good weekend, but I’m still upset overall. I’m an optimistic guy and all, you know that…but I just don’t see it being possible to unite a country under someone who stands for divisiveness. When the Ku Klux Klan is parading in celebration of a presidential election, it just HAS TO BE OBVIOUS that we are facing a very serious problem. Also, Trump’s 100-day plan is not going to help unite this country AT ALL.

There’s SO MUCH MORE I could say about this, but I think I’ve got my point across pretty clearly. I’ve vented long enough. If I’ve learned anything about this whole spectacle, it’s that I can never assume anything about anybody or anything ever again. If Donald Trump was able to make it to the White House as the 45th president of the United States, anything is possible. There are many unsettling beliefs that are held by many people in this country, and the support of those beliefs clearly showed last week. There have also been an increasing number of attacks on marginalized populations by hateful people who feel entitled by the results of this election.

It feels like we’re living in a nightmare. Like, we’re that alternate universe that we all like to joke about.

It’s absolutely terrifying.

At the end of the day, I just can’t bring myself to just sit back and accept the fact that Donald Trump and Michael Pence will be in charge of this country over the next four years of my life, especially after having being blessed with President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden over the past eight years of my life. I refuse to be complacent about these election results. I’m very aware that I’m not alone in feeling this way. Action needs to be taken.

Something is going to happen. I don’t know what it’s going to be or when it’ll take place, but something drastic is going to happen as a result of this election.

May God be with us all.

If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – I didn’t even talk about how the new government will begin to try and repeal the Affordable Care Act! Mannn don’t even get me started about all this again…I got four tests to study for that I’m taking before Thanksgiving. Let me go ahead and post this before I begin writing a novel.

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President Obama’s face says it all.

The Power of Discussions

That extra hour of sleep was very, very clutch.

But this also means that it’s going to get darker earlier, which is annoying.

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Winter is officially coming. And you know what else is coming?

ELECTION DAY. 😭😭😭😭😭

I don’t want the Obamas to have to leave the White House!! President Obama is the coolest & chillest president we’ve ever had man. I remember watching him the night he got elected into office 8 years ago…I also remember that stunning black & red dress the FLOTUS was wearing that night too lol. I had actually (unnecessarily) recorded President Obama’s whole acceptance speech on my family camera, and I remember thinking to myself: “If he stays in office for 8 years, I’ll be 23 by the time he has to leave! He’s going to be president forever!! YES!!!”

Well.

I’m 23.

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This election season has been an insane one…very truly an insane one. We all know that, so I don’t even need to begin to explain how I feel about it. Just please, please, PLEASE exercise your right to vote if you haven’t already! Let’s keep America on track towards progress, and not rewind ourselves back towards our troubling history.

*Sigh.*

I’m gonna need a couple drinks Tuesday night.

On another note, the SNMA chapter at my school just finished hosting the annual Regional Medical Education Conference! It was an awesome experience, even though I had to miss UMiami’s Homecoming for it 😓. (There’s always next year, right?) Being able to not only watch, but participate in the sessions that I personally helped plan for was a great and rewarding feeling. The conference started off Friday night with registration and a welcome reception where SNMA students from around the region came and mingled with faculty members here at Wake. It was nice to meet some minority residents who worked here at Wake Baptist and to see the Dean again, who I had the pleasure of chatting with the previous night at the Twin City’s Medical Society Mentorship Program reception. I then had a chill night with some of the other medical students, where we played card games and taboo and whatnot lol.

The next morning started off early with a light breakfast at the school, picture-taking, and more registration. We then had a plenary session about Racial Disparities in Receiving Mental Health Care, which was facilitated by Dr. Rahn Bailey, the current Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. In his talk, he discussed various issues including the dangers of implicit bias in health providers against minority populations, the fears that people with a lower education level have when it comes to talking with their health providers, the importance of value-based metrics as a future payment method, what the ACA has the potential to do for patients, and the stigma of mental health in the cultures of minority populations, especially in African-American populations. Next came a session involving the topic of Harm Reduction and how it can be used to treat drug addiction. The speaker was a man who had actually dealt with homelessness and drug addiction in his past, but has now been clean for over 10 years due to the powers of harm reduction, which he described as the “middle ground between addiction and sobriety”. He discussed how drug users who participate in harm reduction are 5x more likely to seek help in order to quit as well as how harm reduction works to reduce costs for future potential treatments for people using drugs. He also stressed how important it was to stay patient with patients when trying to wean them off drugs and to try and not get jaded about it, for seeing positive results in patients trying to achieve sobriety can take a very long time.

Following that session was another one based on the importance of Mentorship in Medical Education, where a faculty member from this institution stressed how vital it was to seek out mentors in order to maximize our opportunities in medical school. He also touched on the Twin City Medical Society Mentorship program here, where an advisee is paired with an advisor who is in the field that the advisee is interested in. Soon after that session was one that was based on the topic of Microaggressions, led by one of the co-presidents of the SNMA chapter here. In this session, we participated in an activity where we were presented with a couple of scenarios and chose our own path within the scenario by deciding what we wanted to do after a question was posed to us. It was pretty cool and it opened the floor for us to discuss various instances where we experienced microaggressions from either peers, faculty or other people while living out our lives. Then after that one came a suturing clinic, where I finally learned how to perform a basic suture! My first couple of stitches were rough, but I got a little better as I continued to work on it 😁.

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Next came lunch and a short talk given by a representative from Be The Match where she discussed the importance of signing up for the bone marrow registry and the potential opportunities that we have when it comes to saving a life. (Rest in Peace Tori.) Then came the next session, which was a panel discussion focused on the topic of Gun Violence, Police Brutality and the Mental/Public Health Effects they have on minority populations. I happened to be the moderator of that discussion and thus facilitated the discussion between the three panelists and the audience. We talked about what we as medical students could possibly do when it comes to effectively addressing these issues, the power of the Black Lives Matter movement and the impact that police brutality and gun violence has on the health of the populations they target, just to name a few points. It turned out to be a great conversation overall! After this panel discussion were two more sessions based on Financial Planning for Millennials and Addressing the Health Needs of East Winston-Salem, an area of the city that has a high number of low-income residents. We then all took a bunch of pictures together, checked out the exhibitor’s fair and attended a business meeting for the region to discuss, well, business. By the time that meeting ended, it was 5:00 PM.

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Some of the RMEC Attendees!

But my day wasn’t over just yet.

We all ended up at a country club nearby where we attended a banquet to close out the conference. It was the fancy type of banquet where we had 3 forks, 2 spoons and 2 knives or something like that. Plus, the whole four-course meal was served to us as we sat at our tables. The featured speaker at the banquet was Mr. Cornell P. Wright, who serves as the Executive Director of the North Carolina Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities. He touched on many things in this discussion, a few of which were, of course, the state of minority health in North Carolina, the infuriating truths that the 13th documentary brings up to the surface and the critical importance of health equity for all. He was also a really funny and interactive guy! It was an awesome ending to an awesome conference. I was so tired though, so I was looking forward to crashing in my bed…which I got to do only after hosting a kickback at my apartment complex for the SNMA medical students, which was a great time too. Like I said earlier, that extra hour proved to be REALLY clutch.

Jeez, I didn’t think I was going to write this much about the conference. I have one more unrelated thing I wanna say before closing off this post though. So bear with me!

As you may or may not know, I took my clinical skills exam about a month ago and I felt decent about my performance overall. Turns out my evaluators thought so too for just about every part of the standardized patient encounter…except for the history-taking portion of the encounter.

The freakin’ history-taking portion.

I swear I thought I did okay when it came to taking an HPI, Family/Social/Past Medical History, and Review of Symptoms. It wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t think I was going to get an unsatisfactory with my history-taking. It also didn’t help that the standardized patient was confusing me with her two different conditions (she made it seem like she had three different problems). Boiiiii you shoulda seen my face when I got the email about having to fill out a form requiring me to meet with my coaches in order to work on taking a more effective history.

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Like, C’MON MAN!!

I’ve been working on this ever since I pretty much got told to do better on taking a history early on in my first year. However, we weren’t given any type of template this time around like in past clinical skills exams, so we had to reason our way through the interview and ask questions we felt were pertinent to the task at hand. I guess I did fine from a first-year med student point-of-view, because I pretty much asked the same open-ended questions that I’ve been taught to ask for the past year. However, the criticism came from the fact that I didn’t ask enough closed-ended questions, which are questions that are meant to pinpoint specific symptoms in order to formulate a working diagnosis in my head. After watching the recording of my encounter and viewing the evaluation form that my evaluators used, I began to realize how apparent the holes in my history-taking were. But even though I passed the exam overall, I still couldn’t really wrap my head around the fact that I really got an unsatisfactory on that part of the exam until I finally met with one of my coaches a couple of days ago to go over it with her.

After viewing the recording of my performance again with her and thoroughly discussing how I did, I truly then began to realize where my true problem lay. It wasn’t that I was necessarily bad at history-taking; I was actually very much calm and in control throughout the whole interview. It’s that, up to this point, I have been thinking of the questions I had to ask as a checklist that I had to fill out, even though I had been fighting to not think of it as that. It’s just that over time, it just became easier to think of it as a checklist as opposed to actually trying to think critically about what was going on with the patient, something I hadn’t even really realized I was doing until I had this discussion with my coach. It was a much-needed learning experience I didn’t realize I needed and that I honestly didn’t even want to accept at first because I had grown comfortable to my style of questioning. It also became vividly apparent to me that we didn’t get a template of questions this time around because we need to be able to critically think about the patient on the spot, something I honestly wasn’t doing well enough. Although I was extremely annoyed when I first got my evaluation back, I’m now very grateful about the feedback I’ve been given, which will work to make me that much better of a physician in the future. I also have a good feeling that there will be many more instances like this as I go about my training in the coming years…so I just can’t ever get too comfortable with anything.

Aiiight, I gotta get back to studying guts and butts, a.k.a. the GI system.

Hope you have an amazing week!

“Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it’s a small price to pay for living a dream.” – Peter McWilliams

– Black Man, M.D.