Life After Step II

After a solid month or so of strenuous preparation for my nine-hour long Step 2 CK board exam, I can finally say that I’m OFFICIALLY DONE with that test!!

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As you may or may not have read last week, I had started to get sick of constantly answering and reviewing questions. My motivation to study was rapidly declining, I was achieving scores in a range that I was comfortable with, and I felt like there were some things that I was starting to forget simply because I had last reviewed those details weeks ago. Although I was very comfortable staying with my girlfriend (who had been making the study block a MUCH more tolerable experience), having to use the majority of my day to complete study questions and review concepts was getting really annoying. I was so ready to take the test and move on with my life, which I finally did last Friday.

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In the days leading up to the test, I actually toned down my studying quite a bit. As a matter of fact, the last question blocks I completed and reviewed were on Tuesday. I did a light, final review on Wednesday and by mid-afternoon, I was completely done with my preparation. A part of me wanted to go back and look at some more stuff later on that evening as well as on Thursday, but I wouldn’t let myself. Okay, I cheated for a few minutes on Thursday morning and let myself look at a few things that I thought I was a little shaky on before realizing that doing so was a waste of time. Plus, I didn’t want to throw myself into a panicked frenzy the day before the exam. That’s just ridiculous. Deep down, I knew that I had already looked at everything worth looking at and I knew that I was ready to go in and take the exam. But even so, it’s hard to shake off the feeling that I may have either missed some small details or failed to study a concept all the way through. That feeling will probably never go away, which is why it’s important to just simply trust that you prepared yourself adequately and that you know the necessary information to perform well on the test, even if you have to end up working through questions that you’re unsure about.

I spent my Thursday getting snacks for the day-long exam, sending out emails, getting some other parts of my life together and watching Netflix. It was a pretty relaxing day, to say the least. By the time I had to go to sleep, I was pretty worn out. Just to be safe, I took a little ZzzQuil because trying to sleep before huge exams has historically been a very irritating issue for me. But even with that added help, I had some trouble falling asleep for about an hour or so. Thankfully, I eventually fell asleep after some tossing & turning and ended up feeling pretty well rested the next morning.ย ๐Ÿ˜Š

The routine on test day was pretty similar to when I took Step 1 last year. I got to the testing center, packed my stuff up into a small locker, verified my identity and proceeded to begin the exam. I must admit, my heart started racing a bit as I answered the first few questions of my first block. However, after answering some more questions, I quickly fell into the routine that I had been following for the past month. Each of the eight blocks ended up flying by pretty quickly and I found that although I was beginning to become mentally fatigued in the later blocks, I was faring better than I had been when I hit the last couple of blocks during my Step 1 exam. It was great to see how much more endurance I had this time around. I also noticed that I felt relatively calmer overall throughout this test, mainly because I had been taking Shelf exams all year long and I also already knew what taking a day-long test felt like. And unlike last year, my computer didn’t turn off in the middle of a question block, which is always a plus!

If you were to ask me how I felt the test went, I would say that “I think I did okay overall, but then again you never really know with these kinds of tests.” There were a good amount of questions that I felt sure that I got right, but there were also quite a few that I wasn’t entirely sure about even though I could whittle down the answer choices to increase my chances of picking the right one. And of course, there were a couple of dumb questions that I had to straight-up guess on because I literally did not know where to begin picking the right answer. I felt relatively comfortable with my performance on almost all of the question blocks. I say almost all because there was one block specifically that threw me for a hell of a loop. I pray that that block was full of questions that are going to be thrown out because I was unsure of about half of the answers that I picked in that section. But like I said, you just never know how things will end up going until you finally get your score back, which won’t be for another month or so.ย ๐Ÿ˜…

Now that Step 2 CK is behind me, I have a week to relax and get my life together before heading into my second rotation of fourth year, which will require me to work as a medical volunteer/camp counselor at a summer camp for kids with chronic illnesses. I’m really looking forward to this experience and am pumped to meet the team at the camp as well as all the kids that I’ll end up interacting with! Until then, I’m gonna just chill and give my mind a break. I’m over at Hilton Head Island right now and will be here until Tuesday. It’s been a minute since I’ve been able to relax on a beach…so excuse me as I finish up this post and continue to bathe in this radiating sun while taking the time to appreciate the warm sand and ocean ripples around me.ย ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Make sure to have an incredible week! Happy Fathers’ Day to all of you amazing fathers out there! And Incredibles 2 was a much better movie than I expected it to be! Go check it out when you have time to!

“The limits of the possible can only be defined by going beyond them into the impossible.” – Arthur C. Clarke

– Black Man, M.D.

Stepping To The Finish Line

Boooyyy am I glad to be on my last week of my Step Study Block.

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My motivation to study is reaching all-time lows. I’ve been having to force myself to stay focused during question blocks as of late, and I’m sick of having to review the answer explanations to the questions. The only reason I’ve still been able to miraculously wake up around 7:30 AM each morning is because it has become a routine drilled into me these past few weeks. My circadian rhythm is very stubborn, to say the least.

Although my motivation to study has been declining recently, I’ve been able to maintain my performance on my question blocks. My scores have even improved a bit from the week before, and I’ve been consistently scoring within a specific score range that I’m comfortable with. Of course I’ve been trying to improve even more because the sky’s the limit and all, but at this point I’m just so ready to get this test over with so I can move on with my life. I feel like I definitely got pretty much all of the major concepts down and the questions that I’ve been getting wrong mostly have to do with minute details that I have either never heard of or had already forgotten because I had reviewed it briefly eariler on in my study block. Reviewing these details is only going to help me as I prepare for Friday’s exam, so I’m glad that I’m encountering them now as opposed to on test day. At the same time though, I know I’ve been studying too long when I start to forget things that I know that I reviewed weeks ago. So I just gotta go on and take this test, especially because I’m SO ready to start my vacation week that I had moved from the end of third year to the end of my study block. Don’t worry though, best believe I’m still gonna keep my head straight and blaze through this final week of preparation, regardless of how much I don’t feel like studying anymore.

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In other unrelated news, I found out recently that I’ve been accepted to two scholarship away rotations at Children’s National Medical Center and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia! I’m honored to have been given the opportunity to rotate at these hospitals and I’m looking forward to my experiences in these month-long rotations, which I’ll be completing this fall. It’ll be awesome to meet the physicians at those institutions and to learn about how things operate at hospitals outside of the one that I regularly train at. It’ll also be wonderful to learn how to go about treating patient populations that are different from the populations that I’ve grown accustomed to treating at Wake. These experiences will definitely diversify my medical training, which will in turn make me an even stronger medical student who will be able to carry the important lessons learned in my experiences into residency and beyond.

Speaking of residency, I recently attended a group session hosted by the Pediatrics Department at Wake that brought together those in my class who are interesed in this field of medicine. We talked primarily about ways to go about applying to programs, getting letters of recommendation, drafting our personal statements, and other related topics regarding our not-too-distant futures. I can’t believe that the time to begin applying to residency programs is finally here. For the longest time, applying to residency programs was something that I knew was coming but could also brush off as something that I’ll complete later in the future. Well, now that “later” is now. I’m going to be working on my application for the next phase in my life, just like I was working on my application to medical school around this time four years ago. Lol now that I think about it, I was actually studying for my MCAT at that time. My, my, how much things have changed. (Not gonna lie, I still got some ill will towards that test…I bet it still sucks just like it did all those years ago.) I’ve heard that applying to residency programs is an overall better experience than applying to medical school, which is really good news to me. It’s definitely going to be a busy summer though and an even busier fall semester, but I’m sure that the end result is going to be worth all the hustle. Till then, I’m just going to enjoy the process that I’ve grown to trust.

Make sure to have a fantastic week! Too bad the NBA season has come to an anticlimatic end…good thing we have the World Cup to tide us over! Even though neither America nor Cameroon made it. Jeez.

“Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.” – Ingrid Bergman

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S.Grandma, it’s been exactly a year since you left this Earth to be with our Father. We miss you, and I hope that you’re resting peacefully in Paradise!ย ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿฟ

Gaining Ground

Well, I’m still studying for Step 2 CK. Nothing much has changed regarding that aspect of my life. My question block scores have been pretty stable this past week, with many more highs than lows. I also took a diagnostic test on Thursday and according to my results, I’m at a much better level of preparation than I had anticipated! I wasn’t feeling too confident while I was answering those questions, but after I got my score back I felt like I could just go on ahead and take Step 2 the next day just to get it over with lol. I have a little less than two weeks to finish preparing for this exam, which is both good and annoying. It’s good because I can only get better from where I’m at, and I have the potential to have a high peak performance on test day. On the other hand, it’s annoying because I’m starting to lose patience with these study days and this endless cycle of answering questions and reviewing them is actively draining my desire to study. Plus, I don’t want to end up performing at my peak before test day. That would really, really, reeeally suck. But alas, the grind must never stop. I’ll continue to chug along with this study process and ensure that all this hard work brings about a fruitful result.

In other news, I took some time off last Wednesday to participate in patient advocacy at the state capital! The event, White Coat Wednesday, is an annual event hosted by the North Carolina Pediatric Society that is focused on meeting with state legislators in order to discuss pertinent issues relating to the health of children and families in NC. My whole morning was spent having important discussions with various legistators alongside Wake Forest faculty members, residents and fellow classmates who are also interested in a career in Pediatrics. It was a pretty neat experience, because it allowed me to witness firsthand what engaging in patient advocacy on a legislative level was like. It’s really not as intimidating as you would think it is. Before meeting with the legislator, you come up with a few talking points that you want to emphasize during your conversation. Ideally, they would be topics that you believe would be most likely for both you and the legislator to agree upon, because you want to ensure that the meeting will be a productive one. Once you have those set talking points, you literally walk up to your legislator’s office and attempt to talk with him/her for a few minutes. Of course this part is easier if you have already scheduled a meeting with them beforehand. You hit on your talking points during the conversation and hope to inspire the legislator to act upon at least one of your suggestions. Then the meeting is over and you both go your separate ways as you work to locate the next lawmaker that you want to influence.

It’s actually a pretty simple process once you get the hang of it. But then again, the lead Pediatrician we were with has been doing this type of work for a while now, so I’m sure that this is all second-nature to her. She really made the whole process look so easy! As a future Pediatrician, I know that I’ll certainly be drawn to advocate for my patients on many levels, especially the legislative level. With that said, I really am glad that I decided to participate in this event because not only did it make the whole process less intimidating than it initially seemed, but it also proved to me that I could really help make a difference in the lives of others on a larger scale just by talking to the very people who help create the laws we live by.

All done here! Now go on and have a sensational first week of June!

“Everyone has inside of her a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be, how much you can love, what you can accomplish, and what your potential is.” – Anne Frank

– Black Man, M.D.

Dรฉjร  Vu

I’ve been having some serious dรฉjร  vu as of late.

Waking up at the same time every morning to complete multiple UWorld question blocks only to have to spend most of my afternoon reviewing my answers and related material…hmmm, sounds familiar doesn’t it?ย However, unlike my Step 1 preparation, preparing for this exam has not been nearly as taxing on my mental health ๐Ÿ˜ย (although I did do my best to maintain a positive attitude while studying for that test). Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a tough week having to study for this exam. Having the same monotonous routine on a daily basis is never fun. But I’ve found that my overall scores on my question blocks have improved in a much more rapid manner than they had done when I was preparing for Step last year. I remember going through question blocks for almost two straight weeks last year before starting to see some substantial overall improvement in my performance.

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This time around, I’ve been doing questions for a little over a week so far and although I’ve had a few less-than-desirable scores, my average peformance has already vastly improved with over half of my scores already at or close to the level that I would want to be at by the time exam week rolls up on me. I must say, this is a much better feeling than feeling like you’re constantly fighting an uphill battle that you’re always losing at. It definitely helps that I’ve had prior experience with Step studying before, so I pretty much know what to expect throughout this study block and I also have a pretty solid idea of what Step 2 is going to look like. In addition, being an attentive and hard-working third-year medical student has prepared me a lot for Step 2. Having to think through diagnoses and management plans for real-life patients all throughout the year, coupled with the constant barrage of content and study questions I had to drill through all year long ultimately transformed my mind into one that is more suitable for a great Step 2 performance…..not to mention that it’s a mindset that is absolutely required for a great physician to have.

These factors have made my time during this study block very tolerable so far, but it would be very remiss of me to not mention that I’ve been spending my study block with my girlfriend, which has seriously made all the difference in the world. She has made my life this past week so much easier and relaxing, even with my marathon study days. It helps tremendously that she understands how much effort I need to put in preparing for this test, and she goes out of her way to ensure that I’m comfortable during this study period. Even with all this studying though, we make time to have fun together as much as we can. Like, we went to a TDE concert last night and I saw Kendrick Lamar along with the rest of the crew (minus SZAย ๐Ÿ˜”) for the first time! We also have been watching our favorite shows together and will be having a number of movie nights in the forseeable future lol. Oh, and how could I forget the glorious home-cooked food. She’s been feeding me a LOT better than I’ve been feeding myself these past few months with good food that I probably would never even consider making on my own. And she’s been doing all of these things while completing her own graduate school-related summer work! Yeah I know, she’s pretty awesome. Lucky me!ย ๐Ÿ˜„

Now I must go back to reviewing my answers and making sure that the information I’m relearning sticks long enough for me to use during the exam. Then I gotta go and get some SNMA stuff done. Then I’ll chill for a bit after that.

Be sure to have a wonderful and productive week! At the very least, aim to be more productive than the U.S. government currently is. Then again, they haven’t set a high bar for us to jump over. The bar is actually pretty low. Very low even. Lol, there hasn’t even been a bar set. All you gotta do is make someone smile and you would have already done more than they’ll probably be able to do all month. But you get the idea. Just go on and live your best life.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs โ€“ even though checkered by failure โ€“ than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” โ€“ Theodore Roosevelt

– Black Man, M.D.

Stepping Back Into Step

Well I must say, I like being a fourth-year so far.

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Yeah I know it’s only been a week and all, but man has it been chill. It has actually been one of the most relaxing weeks I’ve had in a while. I mean, I did have to go through my Procedures OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination), my final CPX (Clinical Practice Examination), and ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) training over the course of the week, but even with those things in place, it’s been a chill week overall. I haven’t had to study for another looming Shelf exam nor have I had to prepare myself for a shift in the ED/clinic/OR/wards. I literally have been able to calm all my nerves down and relax for a little while….sort of. I may not have another Shelf exam coming up, but I do have this little thing called Step 2 CK that I’m gonna have to pounce on in less than a month. With that said, I’ve had to mix my relaxation with the initial phase of my preparation for the exam. This means that I’ve been forcing myself to complete UWorld question blocks for the past few days while reviewing material that I’ve learned all throughout the year, just like I was doing for Step 1.

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In addition to beginning my Step Study Block, I’ve been having to make time to fulfill my duties as the External Affairs Committee Co-Chair for the SNMA. There’s quite a bit of work that goes into this position and I’m still grappling on how to be as efficient and effective in this role as possible while continuing to put forth my best efforts in my studies. I’m sure that as time passes, I’ll grow even more into this new role and I’ll also figure out ways to complete the things I need to do in a more efficient manner. There’s just so much paperwork that I need to keep straight but as long as I keep my organization game A1, I should be good. Plus with a Co-Chair as good as mine, I’m confident that our committee will be strong and healthy well before our quarterly National Leadership Institute, which is where the Board of Directors of the SNMA meet. This first one will be taking place at the end of June in Minnesota. I ain’t never been to Minnesota, nor did I think I would ever have to travel there. But then again, never in a million years did I think I would ever be blogging. Yet here I am. Just ty-ping my thoughts away.

So yeah, gist of this post is that I’m liking my final year of school so far, I’m still busy even when I’m not, I’m glad to be done with the testing I had to do this week (OSCE and ACLS went fine. This CPX was definitely my best performance yet, but even with that said I definitely screwed up a few things…and it wasn’t that easy of a test. I’m pretty sure I did alright on it overall…but I’m still gonna pray on itย ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿฟ) and I’m starting to crack down on this Step 2 studying. I’m so not looking forward to four straight weeks of question blocks and review…but whatever, it’s gotta be done. Plus, I’m going to be with my girlfriend most of the time so that should already make these next few weeks better than last year’s Step Study Block!

Alright, back to studying I go. I have a couple hours to get some in before I attend Wake Forest’s annual SNMA graudation banquet tonight. Wow! I’ll be a graduate in that banquet next year! ๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜†

Be sure to have an awesome week!

“Never limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination.” – Mae Jemison

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – Okay this is really random, but I got a professional massage for the first time in my life a couple days ago. Maaannn have I been missing out! And I also watched Deadpool 2; it’s freakin’ hilarious. You definitely gotta check it out. But be warned, there’s a lot of gruesome action scenes. And very crude humor. Lots of it.ย ๐Ÿ˜‚

Christel Wekon-Kemeni, (3/4) M.D.

My third year of medical school is officially over!

So you aaallllrrrready know what time it is!!!

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It’s so exciting to be able to finally go into fourth-year and to focus on rotating in the electives that I’ve picked for myself. Ever since my first year, I’ve heard how wonderful fourth-year is and how much fun I’ll end up having, especially after trekking through the organized chaos that is interview season. Also, I’ve been looking at all the brand new medical doctors who just graduated from medical school this weekend and it’s awesome to know that I’ll be in that very position in just a short year! Well, awesome and quite nerve-wracking. Like I know that I know a lot, but do I know enough to be a full-fledged doctor? Only time will tell lol. I have confidence that I’ve been prepared well to this point in my education, and fourth-year will only allow me to further sharpen my skills in preparation for intern year.

There’s a lot to look forward to now that I’ve finished my core clinical rotations! At the same time though, there’s a lot of work to do with Step 2 CK and CS coming up, residency applications awaiting me, interview season on the horizon and in my fourth-year electives where I’ll still be working hard even though I don’t have a test to prepare for in most of them. And I can’t forget about fulfilling my role as an SNMA National Officer throughout the coming year. Yeah, it’s going to be busy but if I take things one day at a time, I know that these tasks will be accomplished for sure!

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As I look towards a future full of promise and blessings, I would like to take a moment to reflect on this past year of growth and maturation. When I sit here and think about all that I’ve been able to witness and participate in while on my clinical rotations, I’m left feeling absolutely amazed. The connections I made with my patients throughout the year were priceless. I’ll never forget the various deep conversations and clinical experiences I had with one of them who ended up being diagnosed with a terminal condition. We had become so well-acquainted with one another that he trusted me, and even encouraged me, to place a nasogastric tube into him, which is not a pleasant experience at all.

It’s hard to forget the sight of the amputated patient being treated for heart failure looking out of her window, lost in deep thought. I always wondered where her mind was in those moments. Then there was the pleasant elderly woman (she looked about 30 years younger then her age) who always had a bright smile on her face whenever I walked into her room. The time where I de-escalated a situation between a family and the healthcare providers after pinpointing a misunderstanding and providing clarification to the family. Trying to convince a young man to quit using cocaine in order to reduce his risk of death from a heart condition he was born with. The patient with a chronic illness in his kidneys who enjoyed my company so much that he wanted to get my number so that we could grab a beer after he got out of the hospital. (Of course I had to decline the offer, but I did tell him that I appreciated his kindness).

Witnessing the birth of four children on my 24th birthday. Not getting the chance to deliver a live baby, but participating in various ways in the births of a number of children. Delivering five placentas. Coaching mothers through childbirth. Staring into the eyes of an infant who was crying in pain but not making a sound due to her tracheal tube and her medical condition that affected the muscles throughout her body. The hope and life in the demeanor of another child that I ended up spending a considerable amount of time with who was suffering from renal failure. A family’s despair as we informed them that their kid was being diagnosed with cancer.

Shocking the brains of patients with electroconvulsive therapy. Getting screamed at by a psychiatric patient five minutes before having a delightful conversation with her. Treating suicidal and schizophrenic patients as well as patients with various personality disorders. That patient who suffered from a devastating stroke that equally devastated her daughters. The very pleasant patient who presented with the re-occurrence of a rare neurological condition that my team and I decided to write a case report about. All of those patients that my surgical oncology team and I saw in the clinic. Helping perform a Whipple procedure in a patient with pancreatic cancer. Maneuvering the camera being used by the surgeons to perform a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Getting the opportunity to operate one-on-one with a fellow on a patient with metastatic cancer.

Becoming proficient at using the slit-lamp, the retinoscope and the direct ophthalmoscope during my Ophthalmology rotation. Treating the endless number of patients in the Ophthalmology clinic. Witnessing LASIK eye surgery for the very first time. Making my massive career switch from Ophthalmology to Pediatrics. Putting patients to sleep in the Operating Room. Watching a patient undergo open heart surgery while I learned about pharmacology from an Anesthesia resident. Learning how to intubate and bag-valve-mask patients. Enjoying the calm and collaborative atmosphere in the Family Medicine clinic. Flying to California for the first time in my life. Talking about my blog at a Narrative Medicine conference. Practicing my Phlebotomy skills in the clinic.

Watching a patient die in front of me right before being shocked back to life in a dramatic fashion by his implantable defribillator. Helping restrain another panicked and angry patient who suffered a gunshot wound to his face. Reassuring the concerned parents of children in the Emergency Room and letting them know that their children will be alright even though they may look sick. Witnessing firsthand the drastic consequences that come with severe dehydration. Learning how to manage trauma cases via simulations and real-life scenarios in the ED. Treating massive burns, heart attacks, septic shock and seizures. Becoming great friends with my rotation group. Giving various presentations during my rotations. Fully engaging myself in my educational activities.

The list goes on and on…..and on and on and on. These reflections are just the things that came to my mind at the moment. There are so many experiences this past year that I could write about; so many that I could literally write a book. There will be many more experiences to engage in, and I’m very much so looking forward to them! I’m so honored to have been blessed to engage in these educational and priceless experiences at such a young age. It’s wild to think that these life-altering experiences for people have become an everyday thing for me. Talk about perspective.

Well if you have made it this far into the post, I would like to thank you for taking the trip down memory lane with me! You are much appreciated! With third-year now behind me, I’m officially 75% done with medical school. That a substantial amount of schooling complete man! I have to get through some procedural testing this week as well as a clinical skills exam (CPX), and Advanced Cardiac Life Support training. Then after all of this, I’ll be free to study for my Step 2 Clinical Knowledge exam, which I’m taking on Friday, June 15th. ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ™ƒย It’s about to be another busy month, but I’m ready to head through it with full force! I just pray that everyone was right when they said that Step 2 isn’t as treacherous as Step 1.ย ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿฟ

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Be sure to have a superb week! Congratulations to all of you who are graduating from your respective programs this month! And Happy Mothers’ Day to all of you amazing, loving and spectacular mothers out there!

“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.” – Sigmund Freud

– Black Man, M.D.

ONE. MORE. WEEK.

This is it y’all!

I’m heading into my final week of third-year rotations!!

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I’m finally going to be taking my eighth and final Shelf exam this Friday, and I couldn’t be more ready to get it over with. It’s taking everything in me to get through all the material that I need to study in order to perform adequately on the exam, especially since the Emergency Medicine exam is one that can test me on just about anything. So yeah, you already know that there’s no way I’m going to know everything I need to know for this exam. If there’s one thing I learned about Shelf exams this year, it’s that the questions on the test are a total crapshoot. There’s pretty much no telling what’s coming at you once you hit “Start Exam” and enter into the 2-hour-and-45-minute time crunch that you’re given to complete the 110 questions. It’s annoying as hell. But regardless, I’m gonna put my best effort into it and deal with whatever score I manage to squeeze from it. Unlike other rotations though, I also have a 30-minute oral exam that I have to complete the morning of my Shelf. So I have the glorious opportunity to prepare for that too. Lucky me. Hopefully that ends up helping out my overall grade as opposed to hurting me!

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Before I get to finish off my third year and move on to fourth year like I so desperately want to, I have to work two more ED shifts tomorrow and Tuesday as well as participate in a Pediatrics Simulation Lab and finish writing up this required case report about a patient that I helped treat a couple of weeks ago. This is all after having completed a Peds ED shift today just prior to typing this post.

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Now don’t get me wrong, I actually do like this rotation and the people I’ve worked with in it have been some of the best and nicest that I’ve worked with all year long. Plus, both the didactic and the on-the-job teaching I’ve had the opportunity to receive while in this rotation has been phenomenal. I feel like I’ve learned an incredible amount of information in these past three weeks and like I’ve been treated as a true member of the healthcare team while working my shifts. And I can’t forget about the fact that I’ve gotten the chance to see some pretty crazy things happen to patients while on my shifts. But even with all that said, I’ve recently come to find that I’ve become quite exhausted with this school year overall. It has been getting harder for me to will myself to get things done and to engage myself in the rotation at times. There have been also times where I just completely forgoed studying and found something else to do with the limited time that I have. For a second, I had thought I was starting to perhaps experience some early signs of burnout…but I don’t think that’s really what it is. I think it’s moreso that now that I know what field of medicine I want to go into, I’m just itching to start working in that field specifically. I have most of my fourth-year schedule locked in already, and I have a fantastic start to the year with my first four blocks being Step 2 prep (๐Ÿ™ƒ๐Ÿ™ƒ๐Ÿ™ƒ), the Victory Junction Pediatric Summer Camp, Neonatal ICU and the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Acting Internship. And not only am I excited about my schedule, I’m also thrilled about the fact that I don’t have any exams to prepare for in most of my blocks next year!!

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That’s literally one of the best parts of fourth year; I’ll be able to fully immerse myself in the rotations and study the material that I want to study in the fashion that I want to do so without having to worry about getting through a certain number of questions and memorizing buzzwords and whatnot. I can read research articles to my heart’s desire, I can spend my “study time” reading up on as many patients as I want, I can fully engage with my patients without having to worry about setting time aside to study questions and when I get home I don’t have to spend most of my waking hours studying for Shelf exams! It’s going to be wonderful, I already know it lol. These, plus more, are the reasons as to why I am itching to finish up this Emergency Medicine rotation and to start off my last year of medical school. I’m really glad that this rotation is designed the way it is though, because having great people to work with in such a collegiate environment has made it easier for me to engage myself and learn, no matter how much I would like to fast forward time. However, I did enjoy the two Peds ED shifts that I’ve worked in, so Peds Emergency Medicine is definitely a possible career path for me in the future!

This past week was straight. I don’t really feel like typing anymore, especially since I have a lot of other stuff to do…so I’ll keep it brief. I worked three ED shifts throughout the week, participated in an Airway Lab where my classmates and I got hands-on learning about managing airways in patients, and attended the annual Scholar’s Brunch yesterday morning where I met one of the people that one of my scholarships was named after. It turns out that she was one of the previous Deans for Student Inclusion and Diversity at the medical school! We had some great conversation over some delicious food and I was able to take in the moment to appreciate the fact that I was in a room full of freakin’ millionaires. Like, I was meeting people whose family members had buildings around the medical center named after them! Wild bruh. Just wild. I was also featured in a video that was shown during the brunch (Here’s the link to it), so maybe some of those donors will remember my face and decide to help me pay off some more of my six-digit debt!ย ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ™๐Ÿฟ

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Aight, I’m done typing. Y’all be sure to have a fantastic week!ย ๐Ÿ˜„

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” – Jim Rohn

– Black Man, M.D.

Sifting Through Chaos

Working overnight shifts are tough as hell man. I really don’t know how my mom did it all those years as a night-shift trauma RN. Thing is, it’s not even the actual shift that makes it hard. Once you’re working, it feels like any other shift that you would usually work. It’s the preparation and recovery from the shift that makes it challenging…I just woke up from a 5-hour recovery nap from my 11 PM – 7 AM shift last night/this morning and I’m still here sipping on some coffee to make sure I make it through the rest of my day. I also took a 4-hour nap before my shift which helped a ton, especially since I had spent half of my day yesterday helping mold the minds of young high school students. More on that later. Because of this shift, my weekend has been flipped upside-down, and my nap this morning could potentially affect my sleep tonight as well. It’s wild how much of an impact the timing of a shift can have on the days surrounding it. It reminds me of my overnight shifts during Ob/Gyn, where I had a four-day stretch of night shifts. Now THAT was hard. At least with this rotation I only have one night shift scheduled.

The night shift actually went by pretty fast though and I’m glad I got the opportunity to do one because I saw some WILD stuff bruh. The moment I arrived, we got hit with a couple of trauma cases and from there we sustained a level of activity in the ED that kept pretty much everyone busy. With the vast majority of the trauma patients we treated being victims of either gun violence or burns, it was hugely important that we treated them in a very efficient and effective manner. With so much movement and activity going on during these cases, I felt like I was in the way of everyone half of the time. But during the other half, I felt like I was peforming meaningful tasks for the patient, which was a great feeling. I almost felt like I was in one of those medical dramas lol. Although we were kept busy most of the night, there were a couple of lulls where the team could catch their breath and do some learning with the attending physician. I also got the opportunity to help repair a laceration right before my shift ended! Although I moved pretty slow, I think that I did a good job stitching up the patient’s wound. There’s always room for improvement though.ย ๐Ÿ˜…

The day before my shift, I got the opportunity to participate in a Trauma Simulation Lab at the school with EMS and Nurse volunteers. In this lab, my rotation group was split into two separate groups and we rotated through three different trauma scenarios while switching between the various roles of the trauma team (airway management, secondary survey, recorder, & team leader). The three roles I played were the recorder, the physician who performed the secondary survey of the patient, and the team leader. The team leader was by far the hardest role to play because with the limited knowledge I had about these situations, I was literally calling all of the shots in the scenario. It was pretty uncomfortable to say the least, but I feigned confidence and managed to get everyone through the scenario with some much appreciated help from the EM physician observing us. This simulation lab gave me the knowledge and insight to appreciate what was going on around me in the trauma cases last night. Talk about perfect timing. Instead of viewing everything as chaos, I was able to figure out what everyone’s role on the team was and why they were doing what they were doing. As chaotic as the trauma cases last night seemed, the communication and activity between the healthcare providers were actually very organized once you got down to the core of everything. Being able to dissect the organized chaos around me was pretty neat, to say the least.

With my only other shift this past week being an evening shift in the Pediatric ED, it was a light week in regards to shift work. However, I was kept very busy with lectures, bedside teaching sessions, simulation labs, meetings and studying. The Peds ED was a great learning experience overall, where I played an important part in both assessing the patients after gathering information about them and helping ease the many worries of the parents. In the other simulation lab I participated in earlier in the week, we learned how to perform Advanced Cardiac Life Support by running a code on a dummy patient. I helped perform CPR on the patient, which is EXHAUSTING if you didn’t already know. You gotta really press down hard to effectively pump blood from the heart to the rest of the body. No wonder people’s ribs get shattered during CPR.

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I also led one of the codes in this simulation, which was actually more uncomfortable than the simulation I led later in the week. But I figured that I might as well get this experience now, where screwing up would be much more forgiven than in a real-life scenario. I have to give props to the physicians who lead these situations man. Having to manage life-and-death situations on the spot produces such a significant amount of stress, which makes it all the more incredible how well the doctors I’ve seen lead these codes do so. But I was also told that leading these situations are never easy, no matter how experienced you are as a physician. That’s not hard to believe though; it’s literally a matter of life and death.

I mentioned earlier that I spent my Saturday helping mold the minds of young high school students. Now I bet you’re asking how did I go about doing that. Or maybe you’re not. Lol, I don’t really care. These students are a part of Wake Forest’s College LAUNCH program, a year-long program that introduces them to various career options and leadership activities via monthly Saturday summits while expanding their professional networks. The summit I was helping out with was one that introduced them to careers in the STEM field, with my session specifically talking about the roles that physicians play in effective patient care and how we navigate through the healthcare system on behalf of our patients. It was such an awesome experience to be able to meet these young, surprisingly inquisitive minds and to allow them to engage in conversation with the standardized patient and I about real issues that affect patients and their families on an everyday basis. I was also able to sit in on a panel with other healthcare professional students and answer the many questions that the high school students had about college and how we got to where we’re at. I’m honored to have been asked to help out with this initiative!ย ๐Ÿ˜

Now that I’ve typed much more than I had anticipated in this post (as I frequently do smh), allow me to bring this post to a close as I focus on getting my life together before going to FINALLY watch Avengers: The Infinity War!!! I’m so pumped man!!ย ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿคฉ

Have a MARVELOUS week!

“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.” – Arthur Ashe

– Black Man, M.D.

Life In The Fast Lane

You know, I thought that the switch from Surgery to Family Medicine would be the most drastic turnaround of rotations that I would have all year. And to some extent, it still may be. However, the switch from Family Medicine to Emergency Medicine definitely comes at a close second. Although I knew that Emergency Medicine would be vastly different from clinic life in Family Medicine, I was still a bit frazzled on my first shift at just how fundamentally different it was from my previous rotation. If Family Medicine is like playing Family Feud in a chill environment with Steve Harvey, Emergency Med is like jumping through multiple rings of fire right before leaping on some chains hanging from a ceiling over water and swinging on them in order to get to the other side to do some more ridiculous stunts that you weren’t ready for on American Ninja Warrior.

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Okayย I may have made the rings of fire part up, but you get the idea.

All eight hours of that first evening shift on Wednesday was literally wild from start to finish. I probably encountered like 10-15 patients on my own and saw a number of others with my upper-level resident. I thought that having two days to prepare for that shift would get me all ready for it.

It didn’t.

Well okay, I’m being dramatic. I definitely held my own (even with all the crazy things I saw and smelledย ๐Ÿ˜ณ) and was able to engage with patients and present my findings as well as my differential and plan to the resident and attending. It’s just that I felt like I was making it pretty obvious that it was my first time working in the ED. Because I was trying to be quick with my patient encounters, I would forget to perform a couple of key physical exam maneuvers here and there and would also not think to ask a few key questions with some of my patients. Also, while my presentations were crafted pretty decently, it was clear that I was still in the Family Medicine mindset when it came to presenting patients. I learned quickly just how different presenting patients in the ED was. Because the patients in this environment need high acuity care, you need to frame your mind to rule out devastating diagnoses before working through the diagnoses that don’t require as much acuity to treat.

Also, there’s usually a thousand things going on at the same time as you try to interact with your patients, especially if they have just entered the ED. They usually need to get an EKG and chest x-ray if their symptoms are concerning enough, their airway, breathing and circulation needs to be assessed, their vitals need to be recorded, IV access needs to be obtained, etc, etc, etc. So you can imagine how chaotic the scene can be.

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And then after gathering the patient’s information, you have to find a way to gather your thoughts in this chaotic environment and then present them to your upper-level moments later. So yeah, you can see why I was a bit frazzled on my first night in the ED. I got great feedback overall though and was told that I was doing a good job so far. I was also told about specific things that I could improve on, which I’ve been working on ever since.

I was already showing signs of improvement during my next couple of evening shifts as well as during my required clinical coach session, which all occurred on Friday and Saturday. Outside of a three-hour period on Friday where the ED went berserk with an influx of patients, those shifts were overall calmer than my shift on Wednesday. Because I had begun to familiarize myself with this environment, I was starting to have more fun and I was also getting more proactive at taking advantage of learning opportunites. In addition, the teams that I was working with on both nights were simply fantastic. They really took the time to teach me various concepts and answered any questions that I had about anything concerning this field of medicine. The team members also gave me advice on how to give more effective presentations in the ED, what specific information to gather from patients with various complaints and even complimented my thought process whenever I talked through my differential and plan. In regards to my clinical coach session, it was very helpful and encouraging overall. After interviewing a patient in the ED, performing a physical exam on him and giving a patient presentation to my clinical coach, I was given specific feedback regarding my performance. The feedback was mainly positive and I was told to continue studying chief complaints and connecting what I studied in the text to real-life patients to further improve retention of that information, as well as to continue using my differential to help guide my HPI and physical exam. It’s been awesome to see how much I’ve been improving in such a short amount of time and I’ve been enjoying the huge amount of independence I’ve been given so far. I’m excited to continue this trajectory of improvement as I march through this rotation!

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Outside of my scheduled shifts, I’ve had to attend EM lectures, knock off multiple things on my to-do list and, of course, study. The lectures that I’ve attended have been very educational, interactive and memorable for the most part. There was a specific lecture that stuck with me though, where the physician emphasized how important it was to rearrange the way we thought about assessing and treating patients while on this rotation. He reassured us that we already have the skills necessary to be a successful medical student and that all we need to do now is to futher hone those skills in a way that breeds success in EM. Some of the examples he gave regarding the rearrangement of our thoughts included thinking about the disastrous diagnoses first when encountering patients before backing up and considering other diagnoses, and remembering that labs and imaging modalities should be used to support our thought processes as opposed to being used to make our decisions for us. It was a very well put-together lecture full of useful information that I’ve been sure to implement during my shifts!

And finally, I want to touch on a random yet meaningful lecture that I had the opportunity to attend early on last week. During my off-time, I decided at the last minute to go to a lecutre given by Dr. Deogratias “Deo” Niyizonkiza, who is the Founder and the CEO of Village Health Works in Burundi. During his talk, he touched on his experiences of living in rural Burundi, having to halt his medical school studies and move to America from there due to the horrific genocide and civil war occuring there at the time, suffering from homelessness and depression in New York City, attending both Columbia and Harvard University before continuing his medical education at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, and returning to Burundi to help build a medical campus designed to care for the poor in his home country. The absurd conditions in which the people in that country lived in, and still live in to this day, is simply mind-blowing to me. Dr. Deo further illustrated these conditions by showing us multiple pictures of some of the country’s residents. He then showed us the progress that his company has made in the region and how people from neighboring regions come to his medical campus to receive adequate health care. It was a really inspiring talk, to say the least! He also has a book written about his life calledย Strength In What Remainsย if you’re interested in learning more about him! I’m glad that I ultimately decided to attend the talk. It really is wild just how drastically different someone’s life can be, simply based on where and when that person was born.

All done! Y’all be sure to have an awesome week and make sure to GO VOTE IN YOUR PRIMARY ELECTIONS!!!

“The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” – Carlos Castaneda

– Black Man, M.D.

One Last Ride

I had to stop and take a moment this morning to fully take in the fact that my Step 2 CK scheduled exam date is exactly two months from today. TWO MONTHS. I actually didn’t realize how close we were to June, partly because up until about a week ago it had been so damn cold here. But now that it looks like spring is finally here to stay, I’m more acutely aware of how soon summer will be here, which means that I’ll be taking both parts of Step 2 pretty soon as well as starting my fourth-year electives and working on my residency applications.

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Man, that’s a lot to think about right now. I don’t think I’m prepared to be in Step Study Mode yet…it took so much out of me the first time around. But it just has to be done. I just gotta get myself mentally prepared for it. I just really hope that my decision to end my third year on the broad subjects of Family and Emergency Medicine ultimately pays off.ย ๐Ÿ˜…

Speaking of which, I’m really about to start my final rotation of third year tomorrow! Emergency Medicine is another four-week rotation and I have a strong feeling that these next four weeks will fly by just as fast as the month in Family Medicine did. I’ve heard only great things about this rotation, including the incredible amount of independence we as students enjoy while rotating in the Emergency Department. At this point in my medical school career, I’m beyond ready to take on patients on my own in order to assess their condition and to come up with a treatment plan for them. I’m looking forward to the wild experiences that I’m sure to come across in the ED, even though the pace is going to be vastly different from the relatively much calmer pace I enjoyed in the clinic this past month. My schedule looks pretty wild though. I have a bunch of evening shifts sprinkled sporadically throughout the month (my weekend days were not spared), a few day shifts, a good number of morning lectures, a couple of clinical coaching experiences, a Saturday overnight shift, and some other things that I’m going to learn more about in orientation tomorrow. I’ve heard that I can change shift days around though, which has been unheard of in other rotations. I might have to go on and look into doing that with some of my shifts, because I have a feeling that I’ll have a couple of time conflicts with other pre-scheduled events…we’ll see though.

As for my most recent shelf exam…I THINK I did okay overall. That mess was pretty challenging, even after all of that preparation I put into it. Even though I was uncertain about more questions than I would have liked, I believe it’s safe to say that it did NOT slap me sideways as I had feared! I finished the exam with some time to spare, allowing me to go over most of the questions that I didn’t feel too sure about. Hopefully I did better on it than I did on my Surgery shelf. That Surgery exam disrespected the hell outta me. Smh. And while I’m on the topic of Surgery, I finally got my rotation grade a couple of days ago. Not gonna lie, I wasn’t impressed with it. I actually was a bit bummed out because I had fallen short of the goal I had set for myself in that rotation, even after all the grueling hours I put into making sure that I performed well. I must say, the shelf exam didn’t really help me reach my goal either. But alas, what’s done is done. I did my best. All I can do is move on and use the lessons I learned along with the feedback I recieved to make me a better medical student and future physician. And besides, I have no desire to be a surgeon. So there’s that.

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I had a few clinic shifts to work leading up to exam day, including a couple of evening shifts. One of them was the Community Care Clinic, where I interviewed and assessed like five or six patients back to back. I definitely got a lot of practice in history-taking, patient presentation and document write-up there. The other shift was at the Delivering Equal Access to Care (DEAC) Free Clinic, where I was paired up with a first-year medical student in order to assess patients together. His main task was to gather a focused history from the patient while mine was to chart the patient and follow-up with any additional questions that I deemed necessary before going on to the physical exam. I was also responsible for presenting the patient to the attending physician. As I worked with the first-year that night, I was suddenly reminded of how far I’ve come as a medical student. I found myself casually using terms that he hadn’t learned yet, asking the patient very focused questions after the student gathered a great history in a style that I remember learning as a first-year, speaking with the attending about various medications and dosages to give to the patient, and teaching the student various things as we worked together through the shift. Although I’ve been aware of my overall growth as a student, I was still quite surprised at how much information I knew while I worked with him, and was even more surprised when the student commended me for being so knowledgeable. It was really cool to be in a position to teach him concepts that are now second-nature to me and to fully appreciate my exponential growth as a student in terms of knowledge base and comfortability in assessing patients.

The last things I’m going to talk about in this post are the two panels that I was invited to be a part of this past week. The first one was a MAPS panel at UNCG, where myself and a few other students from Wake and Duke talked to college students about our experiences in medical school. They were very appreciative of our honesty and that we all came from different backgrounds with different paths to medical school. I always love doing things like this, because seeing us talk about our experiences really helps to motivate them and shows them that they really can achieve whatever goals they set for themselves. Also, it humbles me and allows me to remember what it was like to be a college student striving to get into medical school.

The other panel was at a Narrative Medicine Symposium at Wake Forest yesterday and it involved me talking about how I use narrative medicine in my everyday life as a student in the field of healthcare. I sat on the panel with two other physicians and we all talked about the various ways we cope with the stresses of our lives. I mainly talked about why I started this blog in the first place, how I’ve been able to incorporate it into my everyday life and how I’ve expanded the platform overtime. I also touched on where my love for writing first started, how I’ve had to learn how to navigate writing about my clinical experiences without potentially violating the privacy of the patients that I encountered, and I even shared a few of the posts that I’ve written in the past with the audience! I’m so glad that I was invited to speak on the panel and that I was introduced to the notion of Narrative Medicine. It’s really wild to think about how many opportunities I’ve been able to capitalize on simply because I created this blog! And thanks to the support of each of you, I’ve been able to maintain this platform for as long as I have!

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Alright, I’m done word-vomiting. I’ve had a sort-of chill weekend but now I gotta gear back up and get ready for this last rotation of the school year. I also gotta get in on a couple of conference calls tonight for the SNMA. The grind never stops! I hope that your week is a delightful one!ย ๐Ÿ˜„

“If you can dream it, then you can achieve it. You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglarย 

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – If you want to learn more about the disastrous situation in Syria, check out the “Cries From Syria” HBO documentary. I watched it last night and it really shook me. The atrocities happening to the Syrian citizens are absolutely horrendous. Trust me, you’ll learn a lot about the crisis and will also have a better understanding of the implications that their civil war will have on our immediate future. Just to warn you though, the documentary is very graphic.