Rejuvenated.

My summer vacation is officially over.

I’m sitting here back in Winston-Salem wondering how fast time can fly by as I prepare myself to start my second year tomorrow. My summer vacation was very relaxing, thrilling and rewarding to say the least. I enjoyed every minute of it. As a matter of fact, my summer break was so great that I feel completely rejuvenated! I’m actually very excited to begin this new chapter in my medical career! Everything we will be learning this year will be absolutely critical to know if we want to blossom into effective doctors. It will also just so happen to be vital information for our impending Step 1 exam, which is my #1 priority this school year. (The fact that I’m taking it in less than a year though…) This year, we’ll be focusing on organ systems and learning about the physiology and pathophysiology of each one, starting with Hematology/Oncology (Blood & Cancer) tomorrow. Studying the organ systems and how they make the body work is what I thought I would be doing when I first embarked on the pre-med track in college…instead, I got bombarded mercilessly with multiple years of Evolutionary Biology, Organic Chemistry, Physics, etc. So being finally able to actually learn about how the human body functions on a day-to-day basis sure does invigorate me! Plus, the medical school building moved to a new building downtown…which just so happens to be literally next door to my apartment 😁. I can actually make it from my bed to the classroom in less than 5 minutes if I really wanted to! So needless to say, this is going to be a hell of a convenient year.

Before getting back to the good ol’ Dash city, I spent a week at home with family and friends. I didn’t really do much except hang with my little brothers, run errands for my mom, watch the Democratic National Convention (I just might drop a few tears when President Obama leaves office 😢😭), chill with some of my cousins, catch up with childhood friends, and play FIFA/Mortal Kombat/Monopoly. It was such a chill final week of summer. Oh and guess what?

I FINALLY FINISHED BLACK MAN IN A WHITE COAT.

Martin laughing cheering cheer 2x01

Took me almost a year to get through it, but I did it! It really shouldn’t have taken me that long to read through it…but on the other hand, in that long span of time, I was able to fully absorb Dr. Tweedy’s story chapter-for-chapter. There are so many topics in the book that could potentially used for great discussions, that’s for sure. Lol, I could literally write a series of posts concerning several of the many topics brought up in the book.

On a side-note, before I left home to come back here, I visited an older cousin who works as a Nurse Practitioner and her two kids. While I was there, we had an interesting conversation about how different the mentality of receiving healthcare is in Cameroon and other countries like it. I don’t even know how we came up on the topic…but we ended up talking about it for almost an hour. She was telling me how a good number of people in Cameroon would rather pray or look for other sources of “traditional” care whenever them or one of their loved ones became ill and because of this resistant mentality against Westernized medicine, the nation of Cameroon as a whole has a lower life expectancy and people there tend to wait until the last minute to receive adequate care. She also talked about how certain conditions are stigmatized there, with an example being epilepsy. The craziest thing about it all is that if any one of us from America were to go there to help inform them about the benefits of Western medicine as well as the inherent dangers of some aspects of their traditional mentality, we would most likely be seen as “know-it-alls” and viewed as if we thought we were in some way “better than them”. It just goes to show how powerful a mentality can be, especially when it comes to giving and receiving healthcare. This is very important to keep in mind if you are going to be providing healthcare to people of various populations. Hell, it’s important to keep in mind in general. Trying to understand where someone else is coming from can really help you reach a compromise when it comes to solving issues.

Man, I lowkey can’t believe I’m about to start up my study routine again. Yes, I’m ready, but at the same time this really is the last day of my vacation. So I suppose I’ll go and enjoy it now before having to start classes at 8 AM tomorrow. But before I do, I just need to shoutout the students I worked with in the Motivation Program this summer one more time. They actually made an appreciation video where each of them expressed their gratitude to the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs for their experiences in the program. Click here to view the video that warmed our hearts!

Here’s to a spectacular start to this new school year! Shoutouts to all the new medical students around the nation starting off their medical school careers!

Make sure you have a resplendent week! You have the power to do so!

“When someone tells you it can’t be done, it’s more a reflection of their limitations, not yours.”

– Black Man, M.D.

Gratitude, Health & Stereotypes

First off, shoutout to all of you that actually read these blog entries. People have actually stopped me and told me how much they loved reading my blog, which pleasantly surprises me every time. Some have even told me they look forward to reading what I post every week! It may just seem like a nice compliment, but it actually means A LOT to me to see that my classmates, old friends, and family really enjoy reading these posts. Typing my thoughts out is really helping me organize both my experiences in medical school and my mind in general. I always have a thousand things going on in my head and don’t really know what to do with it all, so this is helping quite a bit. I also hope I’m helping to inspire or motivate somebody out there in some way by pouring my thoughts out here. That’s becoming a bigger goal for me with these posts, because I know how it feels to be inspired…it can completely change your life. So to everyone that is keeping up with this blog and spreading the word about it, I APPRECIATE YOU!!!

Now about this test I took a couple days ago…

It was definitely harder than I thought it was gonna be. I felt that I had adequately prepared for it, but mannnn those brain lesion artery questions got my ass. That was the one thing I kind of skimmed over while studying…and I got like 10 questions about them. 😐 Plus they asked some questions in the weirdest ways and had strange answer choices. And y’all would be hella surprised at how many nerves we got in our heads. Bruh. They tagged SO MANY different nerves on the cadavers in the practical portion. Had me looking at those poor dead faces like:

All I can say is that I did my absolute best on that test. I’m not afraid that I failed or anything (failing isn’t an option, I worked too damn hard to get here), but I also don’t know if I did better than I did on my last test. You see, I’ve been playing this game with myself where I try and see how much higher of a score I can get on a test compared to my previous one. I’ve had a hot streak so far (1-for-1) and I’m not tryna break it lol. But we’ll see. It wasn’t a terrible test, because there was a good amount of info I was sure about…thing is, you tend to just really remember the shit that tripped you up.

Oh well.

At least I’m about to be done with anatomy after this last block! This last section is dealing with the arms and legs, which hopefully will be less intensive than the head & neck region we just got tested on. But because its supposedly less intensive, we got extra clinical skills sessions, case-centered learning sessions and medical ethics discussions packed into these next two weeks as well. The faculty were pretty much like, “Y’all thought y’all was gonna get off that easy?? Nahhh B, lemme serve you some more stress.” I swear they be laughing at us man. Smh. I just can’t wait till I get to see my girl again in a few weeks and to see my family during Thanksgiving. They’re slick getting me thru this last stretch of anatomy.

On another note…

I’ve been reading up on Black Man in a White Coat by Dr. Damon Tweedy, and he’s been saying some pretty interesting stuff regarding his experiences as a medical student in the 90’s at Duke. As a matter of fact, he’s talked about a few things that I can already relate to. One thing that happened to stick with me was when he talked about how “healthy” he was because of the fact that he had been skinny all his life and that he also played basketball on a regular basis for exercise. He admitted to having a “high-salt” diet and to not eating as healthy as he should be eating, but he never thought twice about it because he had a high metabolism and never really gained any weight. So he shouldn’t have anything to worry about right? Turns out sometime during his first year in medical school while he and his classmates were learning how to take a blood pressure reading, a classmate took his and found it to be at a hypertensive level. Not only that, but he learned that he was starting to have symptoms of kidney disease. After learning all that, he became highly distressed and started eating healthier as well as supplementing the exercise he got from playing basketball with running. He eventually got down to a normal blood pressure (120/80) and became much more interested in hypertension and why it was 50% more common in black people than in white people. He found different reasons that ranged from evolutionary scientists theorizing that the African slaves that were best able to retain water during the Atlantic journey to America were able to survive and pass along their genes (in the modern world, retained water can increase blood pressure in blood vessels) to public-health writers that commented on how a good proportion of blacks suffered many inequities in the health care system as well as on their “cultural differences in dietary and physical activity patterns.” The young Dr. Tweedy also started doing research with a faculty member that focused on lifestyle-based approaches on treating hypertension and heart disease.

When he talked about how “healthy” he was based on his weight and appearance, it stuck with me because that’s how I’ve been personally judging my health for years…I figured as long as I went to the gym regularly, avoided trans fats and maintained my weight range, I’d be good to go. But I’m learning that there is much more to good health than feeling healthy. It sounds very simple and intuitive, but here I am assessing my health based on appearance while blinding myself from other vital signs that matter. With an unhealthy diet, you can be as fit as a beach model and have a blood pressure of 150/100. It’s kinda scary ain’t it? Turns out one of the measures of gauging your true healthiness is taking your blood pressure and keeping it at a safe level. Reading what Dr. Tweedy had to say on that has also made me a bit more conscious of what I put in my body because I found that I have a pretty high-salt diet too…and when I practiced blood pressure readings with my classmates earlier this semester, I had a bit of a higher blood pressure reading than normal…😰😰😰. Now I’m finding myself examine in detail the sodium content of every food item I buy and I’m realizing there is a TON of salt in almost everything I like to eat. Great. Now I gotta cut back on homemade quesadillas, ham sandwiches, meatballs, and all the convenient processed foods I’ve been eating for so long. Ima have to be eating a damn apple for lunch and lettuce for dinner.

One more thing that has been randomly on my mind recently is the issue of racial categorization in America and across the world. I honestly don’t get it.  How can you try and categorize a person’s ethnicity based on appearance alone? Who comes up with the rules regarding what a person’s ethnicity and race is? Is a white woman who was born in Ghana and whose parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents lived in Ghana not an African woman? Or is she still labeled as Caucasian because of her appearance even if the only culture she associates with is the Ghanaian culture? Or is an Asian-American man who only knows Swedish culture and whose ancestors happened to come from Sweden not Swedish because he has the ”stereotypical features” of an Asian man? How many of y’all automatically assumed I was talking about a Chinese-American man when I said Asian? Isn’t a man from India technically an Asian man? Or can a black woman born and raised in Germany not automatically be assumed as German because of the color of her skin? Does an American-born black woman with Japanese, Egyptian and French blood running thru her veins have to still check the African-American box because simply because she’s black? Is she not 1/3 Japanese, 1/3 Egyptian and 1/3 French? Or is she also “part-American”? Or is being American classified as a culture? Why does she have to be fractioned, can she not be 100% Japanese, 100% Egyptian and 100% French? Again I ask, who the hell controls these categorizations?? Are stereotypes really powerful enough to allow us to judge one another’s characteristics and nature based on appearances alone? Better yet, is the media responsible for reinforcing the stereotypes that control the way we think about one another? Does the media take certain aspects of different cultures, attach them to people of that culture and create the stereotypes that are ingrained in each of our heads?

Hell, maybe I’m crazy. I’m here asking questions that very few people, if any, actually have the true answers to. But it does get you thinking. I mean, I’m just as guilty when it comes to assuming what someone’s personality traits are based on appearances alone because I’m human like everyone else. I’m exposed to the media that everyone else is exposed to on a constant basis. I’ve had countless people tell me numerous things about people of other races and ethnicities throughout my lifetime. But I’ve made it, and continue to make it, a mission to break the habit of assuming what other people are like whenever I can by meeting new people and learning from their experiences and their respective cultures, which in turn helps to hopefully improve their ingrained perceptions about people that look like me. I just believe that there is much more to each human being on this Earth than their appearance. Each person has a story that is made up of a collection of their thoughts, experiences, habits, overall culture, etc. Will every person in the world realize that? Probably not. All I can do is continue to break down negative stereotypes and try to show people that we are all much more than what we look like.

That’s all I gotta say on that, thanks for listening to my rant. 😁

Now I gotta figure out what I’m gonna be for Halloween.

Y’all be blessed!

– Black Man, M.D.

First Exam Down!

So I took my first anatomy exam last Friday…

And it actually wasn’t that bad! As a matter of fact, out of the 120 questions that were on the written portion, I felt unsure about 20 questions at most, which means there’s a great chance I passed! And the practical portion was pretty straightforward too, much better than I expected. And there were hella CT scan questions, something I literally reviewed for the first time the day before…God was looking out y’all. Thanks for all the prayers y’all lol. So with that out of the way, my weekend has been pretty chill overall. Got to go out for a lil bit last night and also got to get some late night iHop…it reminded me of college. I freakin’ miss undergrad man. Also saw The Perfect Guy with Morris Chestnut, Michael Ealy and bad-ass Sanaa Lathan. That movie was too much 😂. Too bad the weekend is already all over now and that the whole study cycle is about to start all over again tomorrow. These next three weeks are going to be all about the abdomen and the pelvic area.

*Sigh.*

Plus this week is about to be 8-5 days pretty much every day. I have seven lectures, five labs, a case-centered learning session, a clinical skills foundation session, and an ethics in medicine discussion. Why they doing this to us man? How TF am I supposed to review and study my lectures everyday and get adequate sleep if we got all this other stuff going on? They really tryna make us embrace the skill of time management…or maybe they’re secretly enjoying watching us struggle on a day-to-day basis. I’ve personally been slowly increasing my coffee intake too (free coffee at my apartment complex has been hella clutch). Guess I just gotta make it all work some way, shape or form. Nobody said becoming a doctor was easy.

On another note, having lunch with Dr. Damon Tweedy right after my anatomy exam was fantastic. We all talked about how although black female enrollment to medical schools has more than doubled since 1978, black male enrollment to medical schools has decreased nationwide since then. We discussed reasons as to why that may be happening and also possible ways to fix that. He also talked to us about some interesting aspects of his life and how he came to writing the book “Black Man in a White Coat”, a book that I ended up buying and getting signed by him. He ended up being a pretty cool guy and is tall as hell too (6’6). He also apparently was pretty personal in the book, so I’m definitely gonna give that book a read whenever I get a chance. It’s also obviously pretty applicable to me since I AM a black man trying to earn my white coat.

So yeah, now I gotta cook some pasta or something for dinner and get ready for this packed week ahead of me. Gotta keep pushing if I want to be the best physician I can be! Y’all stay up!

– Black Man, M.D.