Apprehensive Excitement

After going through this first week of third-year orientation (or as we like to call it here at Wake, Third-Year Boot Camp), it’s evident that this next year of my life is going to be VERY different from what I’ve been used to thus far. I mean, of course I knew I was going to be entering a new dimension of learning and all…but the closer I get to the start of my third year of medical school, the more I’ve begun to notice this uneasy feeling of uncertainty that has been creeping up in me for some time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually really excited about beginning to do what I’ll be pretty much doing for the rest of my life. But with this excitement comes a degree of uneasiness due to the fact that my whole life schedule is about to be completely, and permanently, flipped over. I’ve been learning in a classroom environment for the past twenty years, so it’s pretty much all I know when it comes to school and the learning environment in general. I’ve grown extremely comfortable with this type of environment, even if it can get ridiculously old sometimes. Unlike the majority of my classmates, I don’t have the luxury of understanding what a true full-time job entails, which is what I’m essentially going to be doing from here on out…except I’ll still have to miraculously find the time to study for my shelf exams that I’ll have to take at the end of each rotation. And I sure as hell won’t be getting paid for this “job” for the next two years.

Another part of my uneasiness stems from the realization that I will no longer have as flexible of a schedule as I’ve grown accustomed to ever since I first started college. I will now have a structured schedule that I will be required to stick to and I’ll have to learn how to successfully work with it while continuing to do the necessary things that I love to do in the substantially decreased free time that I’ll have to make for myself. And not only will this regimented schedule be almost inflexible within each rotation; it will be continuously changing as I cycle through different rotations. It’s going to be a HUGE shift in my life, and I honestly don’t know if I’m entirely ready for it. But I guess it’s all just a part of growing up. Plus, there are countless people in the world working in jobs with structured schedules…so I actually can’t really be complaining. However, this boot camp that I’m currently in has really been instrumental in mentally preparing me for this dramatic shift in my lifestyle. Also, it gives me comfort to know that MANY other people have gone through this rite of passage, and that others are traveling along this same journey as we speak. So with that said, I’ll be alright!

I’m happy to say that my experience in this third-year boot camp has been quite fantastic so far! We’ve had a good amount of sessions in this first week, and we’ll have even more to learn from this upcoming week as well. I won’t go into a huge amount of detail about my sessions so far, but I’ll go ahead and tell you that in this past week I’ve been able to:

  • Practice putting in a Foley catheter and a peripheral IV
  • Practice drawing blood from a dummy as well as a classmate, who insisted that I practiced on him! (It was my first time drawing blood from a real person and I won’t lie…I got a bit of a rush from doing it 😂)
  • Practice putting in an OPA (oropharyngeal airway) & an NPA (nasopharyngeal airway)
  • Practice applying a bag-valve-mask on a dummy patient
  • Listen to lectures about women’s health, intimate partner violence, radiology, email etiquette, the relationship between social media and healthcare, and the Doctor-Patient Relationship and how just simply being there for the patient is sometimes more important than trying to do something
  • Witness an interesting discussion about abortion ethics between two doctors with opposing views about abortion
  • Listen to what the panel of third-year clerkship (clinical rotation) directors had to say about life as a third-year medical student in each of their respective clerkships (Coffee is really about to become my ride-or-die.)
  • Become certified in initiating Basic Life Support/CPR after a morning of training and an examination
  • Take a tour of the surgery unit and become oriented in how the Operating Room works
  • Practice scrubbing in and changing into surgery gear
  • Meet Dr. Bryant Cameron Webb and unintentionally crash his scheduled dinner with a few other physicians
  • Take updated photos for my clerkship years
  • Participate in an interactive and eye-opening simulation focused on Health Equities and the lives that patients from various backgrounds may live outside of the clinic
  • Go apartment hunting, chill with friends and look for resources necessary for success in my clerkship years

Needless to say, it’s been quite a busy week. But I’ve also had a good amount of free time that I’ve been able to adequately enjoy! Gotta make the most of it all before I begin rotations in a couple of weeks!

And as for you, be sure to have a marvelous week!

“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.” – Max DePree

P.S. I think I’m receiving my Step 1 score this week…….

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Entering A New Dimension

I’m not gonna lie, life has really been treating me pretty well as of late.

Ever since taking Step a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been in straight vacation mode. But I’m sure you already knew that. I already told you all about my trip to the medical education conference in Atlanta that I was a participant of in my last post, so there’s no need to talk about that again. What I haven’t told you yet is how I supercharged my vacation by flying to Cancun for a few days with some college friends! As a matter of fact, I just got back to North Carolina from the trip lol. This trip was pretty awesome overall! I’m not gonna get into the details of all our shenanigans because I’ll be sitting here all day typing them out, but I’ll go ahead and say that it’s the most fun I’ve had in quite a while 😂. It rained a lot the first couple of days we were here, but best believe that didn’t stop us from having a great time! We weren’t about to let some random thunderstorms stop us from getting our money’s worth. The last couple of days were much sunnier and we were actually able to the things we intended to do on our trip, like sipping on pina coladas with a backdrop of palm trees on the beach and going on a “jungle tour”, where we sped through the coast in speedboats and snorkeled on the reefs. (I thought I knew what snorkeling was…until I actually did it for the first time 😅) Throughout the trip, we ate out at various authentic Mexican restaurants, visited various bars, ruthlessly made fun of each other, explored downtown Cancun, experienced the insanity of Cancun driving, endlessly struggled with USD à Pesos conversions, became besties with a dope waitress who became our personal DJ at the restaurant we were at, spent hella pesos, enjoyed Cancun’s nightlife, befriended & partied with other Americans on vacation, and were endlessly & aggressively harassed by club promoters (bruh, these promoters were so damn persistent…like I encountered at least 100 different promoters during my time in Cancun. There were even little kids following us around trying to sell us bracelets wayyyy after their bedtime! It was all just insane.) As you can probably tell, I did NOT get much sleep these past five days. But it was absolutely worth it!

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It was a dope vacation overall and am extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to travel to Mexico for fun. My friends and I decided to try and make traveling an annual occurrence, so I’m looking forward to the crazy adventures that the world has in store for us in the future! Now that my two-week vacation is just about over, I plan on catching up on some sleep before dealing with the fact that I’m about to officially be a third-year medical student in a few short weeks. Ain’t that crazy?? It’s pretty weird to even say that I’m going to be a third-year. I’ve been in the classroom environment for so long…so not having to adhere to that lifestyle anymore is totally strange. I actually start third-year orientation this week, which consists of jam-packed 8am-5pm days full of information about what our next couple of years is going to look like. Needless to say, it’s going to be a very interesting couple of weeks and an even more interesting couple of years. But I’m ready for it. Okay I’m lying; another week of vacation would be absolutely lovely. But whatever, I’ll take what I can get lol. Ultimately, this two-and-a-half week-long orientation will definitely help to prepare me for the new dimension of learning that lies ahead, a dimension that will help to equip me with the practical and necessary skills that I need in order to become an effective and successful Black Man, M.D.

Y’all have a splendid week!

“To the degree we’re not living our dreams, our comfort zone has more control of us than we have over ourselves.” – Peter McWilliams

– Black Man, M.D.

Life After Step

It’s OVER!! I made it to the light!

I’ve finally completed the USMLE Step 1 Exam!!!

WHOOOOO-HOOOOOO!!!!!

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It’s been almost a week since I took the exam, so I’ve had some time to process the surreal feeling that came with finally finishing it. After I wrote last week’s post, I got some snacks for the big day and relaxed the rest of the afternoon, as I said I would. I ended up watching Neighbors 2, which was ridiculously hilarious. I slept okay that night, although it wasn’t the best sleep I’ve ever had due to the fact that I was so hyped up and ready to take Step. As soon as my alarm went off the next morning, I immediately jolted out of my bed and began getting ready to leave. I got to the testing center and because I had visited the center a couple of days prior, I was familiar with the whole layout. After checking in and going through all the required procedures, I began my 7-block exam. I won’t lie, I felt my nerves creeping up on me for the first few minutes of the test…but then I eventually got into my zone and was able to answer the questions just like I had been answering them during my whole study period. However, that test was pretty long. Time was actually flying by but I definitely felt myself getting fatigued, especially during the last block of questions. Taking any kind of test for eight hours can really mess with your head, no matter how many practice questions you complete or how often you simulate exam day. We were granted an hour-long break that could be used in whatever way we wanted to use it throughout the day, so I actually spent seven hours answering questions. Oh and my computer decided to turn off on me during my fifth block 😳. Isn’t that lovely? Thank God I didn’t lose anything and that I could continue exactly where I left off after about five minutes of waiting for the IT crew to fix the issue.

When I finally finished the exam, I walked out of the testing center not really knowing how to feel. To tell the truth, it was a pretty weird feeling. I had just taken the test that I’ve been preparing for in one way or another ever since entering medical school. I felt that I answered a good number of the questions correctly, but there were also a solid number of questions that I had to go with my gut for, especially in the final block of questions (which ended up being the hardest block of the test and contained the longest question stems). Those questions were the reason as to why I didn’t feel too certain about my performance because ideally, I would have liked to have been sure about all of my answer choices. But this is the USMLE Step 1 exam we’re talking about, so of course that wasn’t about to happen. I also realized that although I worked extremely hard to prepare for this exam, there was no way that I could have been FULLY prepared for the test I took. Some of the questions were just straight-up bizarre. So with that said, I was glad that I took it when I did because I don’t think that waiting a few extra days would have done me any good overall. The test was going to be hard as hell regardless. All in all, I know that I put an intense amount of energy into preparing for Step and I genuinely felt that I did the best that I could do on that test. So as long as that holds true, I’ll accept the score that is given to me because it simply is the score that I was meant to have. But until I get my score back, I won’t even entertain thoughts about my performance anymore unless I’m asked about it. I’m just going to continue celebrating the fact that I’ve finally completed this phase of my medical education!

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In regards to how I’ve been celebrating life after Step, I’ve done so this past week by chillin’ for a couple of days and then attending the SNMA’s Annual Medical Education Conference (AMEC), which took place in Atlanta this year! I actually just got back from that and I’m extremely glad that I was afforded the opportunity to attend. There is SOOOO much that I could say about my time at the conference, but I also don’t want this post to turn into a dissertation. So with that said, I’m going to try and give you a captivating synopsis of my experience at AMEC!

I got to the conference with friends from Wake on Thursday morning and we literally hit the ground running. We checked into both the hotel and the conference before splitting up to go to the various sessions that were made available to us. I ended up going to the Professional Exhibitor’s Fair, where many institutions were advertising their respective residency programs. I also went to an interesting talk where a neurosurgeon shared his incredible life story that contained various elements of adversity, a House of Delegates meeting where representatives of all the ten regions of the SNMA get together in order to vote on a number of official things, and a presentation skills workshop where we were given tips on how to give effective and memorable presentations. After that, I attended a Regional Meeting before heading out to enjoy Atlanta’s nightlife.

I woke up early Friday morning with a good amount of sleep still in my eyes, but determined to make it through the day! The first session I attended was a discussion facilitated by Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee, who just so happens to be one of Diana Ross’ siblings and an aunt of Tracee Ellis Ross! She hit on great points in the discussion, including the importance of understanding that studying medicine is a lifestyle, realizing that communication is fully based on how the person you’re communicating with interprets what you’re saying, appreciating the fact that every patient encounter is a cultural encounter, and taking notice of how majority populations are usually judged by their strengths while minority populations tend to be judged by their weaknesses. I then attended a talk that was focused on historical and future perspectives of Blacks in Medicine and on the necessity of learning this very important history. Soon after that, I attended a panel discussion that was focused on Minority Men in Medicine. A couple of things we touched on in this session included realizing that you could potentially “pigeonhole” yourself by trying to solely find mentors who look like you, understanding the greatness of organic relationships, and understanding that the government will very likely not be willing to look out for our best interests as minority men, so we must be comfortable taking care of ourselves.

After that session came the President’s Luncheon, where guest speaker Dr. Camara Jones spoke to us about how racism plays into health disparities and how these disparities can disappear if health equity was achieved. She especially emphasized the power that social constructs have on health conditions, using herself as an example by stating how she could go to different countries and be classified as a different race in each country, which would eventually affect her health outcomes in the long run if she were to stay in one of those countries long enough. After the luncheon, I attended another panel discussion that was focused on nontraditional career paths in medicine. The people on this panel had some very interesting things to say and some useful pieces of advice to give, which included having a “Board of Directors” of your life, getting “off the tracks” of the traditional path for a bit in order to learn about how other people in different professional fields think about certain things, taking leaps of faith, understanding the incredible power of self-confidence in every aspect of life, and thinking in a big and disruptive fashion with a very open mind. This session was actually one of my favorite ones of the whole conference!

After leaving that one, I attended the second Regional Meeting of the conference, where I actually ran for the Regional Community Service Liaison position for Region IV of SNMA! Unfortunately, I completely bombed my speech in an embarrassing fashion and although I had some great ideas to share, my speech delivery was one of the worst ones I’ve ever given. Maaannnnn it was quite uncomfortable, to say the least. Crazy thing is, I wasn’t even that nervous on the podium. It was just that the words that I was looking for weren’t coming to me. It was so unlike me. In all honesty, it may not have been as terrible of a speech as I’m making it seem but because I know what I’m capable of, I sincerely feel that it was one of the worst speeches I’ve given. But nevertheless, I finished my speech with a smile without falling apart or anything and returned to my seat in confusion as to why that had just happened to me. Needless to say, I believe that my speech helped me lose votes to my competitor, who had a great delivery and even gave out snacks to the audience, which is always a plus lol. Thing is, losing to my competitor didn’t even bother me. What really annoyed me was the fact that I performed so poorly in doing something that I believed I had prepared myself for and that I’ve done on numerous occasions. Giving a speech wasn’t supposed to be a hard thing for me to do. But I dropped the ball. So now the best thing for me to do is to use this experience to my advantage and to ensure that this doesn’t happen again, which I’ll do by further honing my skills as a public speaker. My ideas didn’t go unnoticed though, for one of the chairs of the National Community Service Committee approached me later on and expressed interest in working with me because she liked the ideas that I shared. Plus, the Regional Director of Region IV told me that she would still love to work with me in some kind of way. So I actually did end up gaining something positive out of this painful, yet humbling experience. As one of my good friends loves to say, you miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take. 

The final sessions I attended on Friday were a couple of mixers hosted by residency programs from various institutions. At the mixers I attended, I got the opportunity to meet with a number of residents who talked about what their programs were like and how they’ve been able to flourish in their respective programs. I then proceeded to take a nap before venturing out into Atlanta’s booming nightlife once more 😎. Saturday morning was pretty rough…but just like Friday morning, I was determined to learn as much as I could from the sessions made available to us! So I attended four sessions in a row, which included useful tips on how to succeed in your clerkship years, tips on how to choose a medical specialty, how to effectively manage your social media presence, and how to implement strategies to increase the presence of underrepresented minorities in the faculty population of academic medical institutions. After this marathon of sessions, I caved in and took a pretty long nap before working to get a few things done and going to the closing banquet. I then enjoyed Atlanta’s nightlife for the third night in a row 😅!

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LMAO. Throwback to when I said I was going to give a synopsis of my AMEC experience. I wrote a damn essay without even meaning to. Lol, I promise I was trying to keep it short. But it was such an exciting and memorable experience and I just had so much to say about it! I ran into so many people that I hadn’t seen in a really long time and I met an even greater number of awesome people! The networking opportunities were absolutely mind-boggling. I even unexpectedly met the author of the Overcoming The Odds book that I had finished reading a few months ago, Dr. Antonio Webb! Like I said before, I’m extremely glad that I was afforded the opportunity to attend this conference and I really hope that I’ll be able to go to next year’s conference, which will be taking place in San Francisco! I’ve never been to Cali, so I REALLY hope that I’m able to go!

If you’ve made it this far into this post, I sincerely commend you. I owe you a high-five next time we meet!

I hope that you had a marvelous Easter weekend and that you have a stupendous week! And much thanks once again to all of you who prayed for me as I worked to overcome the challenge of Step 1!

“Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.” – Jack Canfield

– Black Man, M.D.

Stepping Into The Light

THIS IS IT! 

It has ALL come down to this!!

Liberation Day is finally upon us!!! (Well, upon me that is.)

My performance on tomorrow’s 8-hour long, 280 question exam will be the result of all the endless studying I’ve committed damn near all of my waking hours to these past five weeks. Even more so, it’ll be a reflection of all the knowledge that I’ve gained ever since I first stepped foot into medical school almost two years ago. I sincerely hope that my performance tomorrow accurately depicts just how hard I’ve worked for this exam…I haven’t studied this intensely for any other test in my entire life. When I tell you I’ve sacrificed almost every waking hour these past five weeks for this test, I literally mean it. I’m talking about waking up at around 7:15 AM each morning, doing practice questions and reviewing answers until lunchtime, then studying whatever material I needed to get through for the day up until like 10:30 PM. Then I would be asleep a little after 11 PM. Granted, I definitely took breaks here and there for various things like the gym, grocery shopping, running errands, etc. But for the most part, I’ve been grinding. There were times where I didn’t even know what day it was, because I was literally doing the same thing every single day. It was like I was in my own little world…I would sometimes forget that life was happening all around me as I continued to study the endless droves of material in front of me. I even got pranked on April Fools’ Day because I forgot it was April Fools’ Day! And I’m never one to fall so hard for a prank. SMH. Hell, a season literally changed while I was in my study block! I didn’t realize it was officially Spring until like a week ago. It’s crazy how fast time can move when you’re intensely focused on one thing.

But alas, my Step Study Block is officially coming to an end! It honestly wasn’t horrible or anything overall, but I sure am glad that I’ll be able to move on with my life very soon! And I couldn’t be more excited! Okay I’m lying. I’m not even excited right now. I actually have a stale face on as I’m typing this sentence. I’m not allowing myself to come even close to excitement until I leave the testing center tomorrow afternoon. Right now, I’m fiercely focused on the mission, which is to give it my all plus some on Step 1. As I’ve said before, I’m going to attack the exam with 110% effort and as long as I know I’ve done my absolute best, I’ll be comfortable knowing that the score I’ll eventually receive is the score I was meant to have. Only after I walk out of the Prometric Center tomorrow will I do heel-clicks and screams of praise and all that. But until then, concentration is key.

With that said, I’m going to end this post and relax for the rest of the day. I spent all morning reviewing the last-minute material that I believed was relevant, so I’m now at peace with resting my mind for tomorrow. Trying to continue studying at this point would be futile, because then I would just go on a never-ending cycle of trying to review things I’ve already reviewed 156 times. I have complete faith that I’ve learned everything that I need to know at this point. If, by any chance, I come across something tomorrow that I’m not too familiar with, I’m confident that the test-taking skills I’ve been sharpening throughout this study period will help guide me towards the best answer choice. I’m also glad that I took the time a couple days ago to actually drive over to the testing center in order to get a feel for the place. Knowing exactly what to expect when I arrive at the center tomorrow morning has helped put me at even greater ease about taking this exam.

Okay, I’m actually ending this post now. Wish me luck!

And thank you for all of your prayers, I GREATLY appreciate each of you!!

Have a spectacular week! Lord knows I’m about to have one!

“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” – Dr. Benjamin Spock

– Black Man, M.D.

Stepping Up To The Pressure

I’m about eight days out from taking my Step exam…

And I’m just about over this insanely repetitive lifestyle of intense daily studying. To be real, I highkey just want to take this test and move on with my life. It’s cool and all to be able to synthesize everything I’ve ever learned plus more and to think through various mechanisms, but there’s only so much of this that I can take. Although I know I’ll learn even more useful information during this final week of preparation, I’m honestly real glad that the test is finally coming up soon lol. I’m just going to keep putting 110% effort into preparing for this exam and leave the rest up to God. As long as I know that I’m working harder for this exam than I’ve ever worked for any other test in my life and know that I’m giving it my all plus more, I’ll graciously accept the score that I produce next Monday and continue moving forward with my life. There’s only so much you can do before you begin to feel like you’re burning out. The pressure is definitely building up, but the worst thing that you can do whenever it does build up is lose your cool. So I’m keeping my cool like I usually do. Matter of fact, I’m stepping right up to the pressure face-to-face. Kinda like that picture with 50 Cent and Kanye back in ’07 when they dropped their albums on the same day. I’m Kanye and “The Pressure” is 50 Cent. And we ALL know how that panned out.

Life after Step still seems like a distant realm in the future to me, but it’s literally starting next week. It’s hard to believe that I’ll be mingling with other medical students from around the nation at the SNMA’s Annual Medical Education Conference in Atlanta starting next Wednesday and that I’ll be kickin’ it in Cancún in a little over two weeks! Just thinking about it all is getting me excited!

But first, I gotta go Beast Mode in these final days leading up to Step.

Then I gotta go Triple Beast Mode while I take the actual exam.

I. CAN. NOT. WAIT. TO. BE. DONE. WITH. STEP. 

Y’all have a great week!

“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

– Black Man, M.D.