Golden Opportunities

With my time in the NICU having now come to an end, I am now one less block away from finally receiving my M.D. in May!

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My next rotation will be on the Hematology/Oncology service, where I’ll be completing my first Acting Internship (AI). For those of you not familiar with the concept of an AI, it’s a rotation where you literally act like you’re an intern (first-year resident) on the service. You have additional responsibilites that aren’t typically expected of medical students and it’s supposed to be one of your tougher rotations as a fourth-year student because of the fact that there is more expected out of you. At my institution, we’re required to do two of these AIs as well as an ICU month. After selecting those required rotations, you are free to fill the rest of your schedule with any electives you want. In addition, we can’t select two AIs in the same specialty here…so my other AI in January is currently in Anesthesiology. I also unexpectedly got hit with another AI rotation for my away rotation in Philly, bringing me to a total of three AIs for the year. I had initially selected an elective for that away rotation, but there weren’t any other spots left in the preferences I selected…so I’m just gonna have to go and perform my best in my AI up there!

But yeah, back to the Heme/Onc service I’m starting tomorrow.

I’m actually really excited about starting this rotation, because I had heard such great things about the learning opportunities present as well as about the faculty on this service. To be honest, I actually don’t think I’ve heard one person say that they had an unpleasant experience on this rotation. This is one of the sub-specialties that I’ve developed a bit of an interest in, so I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s all about. However, I am also very aware of how emotionally draining this experience could potentially be. There will likely be many ups and downs throughout this month, so it’ll be important to remain emotionally healthy as I do my best to provide adequate care to these patients.

My last week in the NICU was a great one, just like the other weeks have been. I got some sort of closure for one of my patients that I had been following the entire month that I had been on service and I also got to do more things than I had done in past weeks, such as watching the birth of twins via C-Section. That was a beauty that I hadn’t seen since my Ob/Gyn rotation last summer. (Fun fact: the last time I saw a birth of twins was on my 24th birthday 😄) In the delivery room, my team and I were responsible for APGAR scoring the twins (I quickly learned how stressful resuscitating an infant can be 😰) and transporting them to the NICU for further evaluation. Because the father wasn’t in the room at the time, I was given the opportunity to cut the cord of one of the twins and I must admit, I had a bit of a moment. 😂

Flattered Happy Tears GIF by America's Got Talent

In addition to participating in the birth of twins, I also got the chance to place an umbilical vein catheter (UVC) into an infant! This catheter literally goes into the umbilical vein of the baby in order to allow for access to the central venous system so that we can administer IV fluids, nutrition, antibiotics, etc. It was a pretty simple task, but because the fellow and I had to get all gowned up and sterile, it felt like a huge deal lol. I ended up placing it EXACTLY where it needed to be and got some praise from both the fellow and attending on service 😄. And lastly, I gave an informative presentation on Epidermolysis Bullosa to my team, which was well-received. If you aren’t aware of this rare condition, just know that it’s a terrible disease to live with. I added a download link to my PowerPoint if you care to learn more about it! You could also just Google it too. Or just keep reading the rest of my post.

Man I can’t believe we’re already coming up on the end of August…I don’t want summer to end!! Once my birthday comes up on the 29th, summer is pretty much over and the weather will begin to cool off again. Well actually, with this North Carolina weather, that definitely isn’t a given. It may stay hot until we get slapped in the face with a random 40 degree wind chill in October. I’ll make sure to enjoy the rest of the summer as much as I can though. Also with the end of August comes the submission of my residency application and the nearing of my first away rotation in D.C.

Yikes.

Things suddenly seem to be moving faster than I anticipated. 😅

I’m done for now. Make sure to have a blessed week! And just as a heads up, the SNMA is partnering with the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) in getting people to pledge to vote in the midterm elections! Visit the #MedOutTheVote website to learn more about this movement!

“Diligence is the mother of good luck.” – Benjamin Franklin

– Black Man, M.D.

 

Ready Or Not

Y’all, I have about a month until my residency application is due. A month. That’s like no time at all, especially if you live in my world where time insists on zipping by like a shooting star. I remember first learning about the ERAS (Electronic Residency Application Service)  and the whole timeline of fourth-year like it was yesterday. I also remember feeling like I had so much time left during that fourth-year information session back in the late fall of last year. Back then, I was more concerned about powering on through my Psychiatry and Neurology rotations so that I could get to winter break. Fourth year seemed like a mile away…..but here I am now, about to start the last week of my third rotation of my final year of medical school, only about a month out until the application is due.

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Luckily for me, my school ensures that we are prepared to submit our application well in advance by not only making us go to information sessions throughout the year, but also allowing us to pair with residency advisors during the summer in order to review the various elements of our application. Because I had to have drafts of my personal statement, CV and MSPE characteristics completed before my advisor meeting, I’ve already done all the hard work. I’ve even gotten a few people to review my personal statement already. All I need to do now to complete my application is to finish revising my personal statement, ensure that the people I’ve asked to write a letter of recommendation for me do so before the deadline, and complete the other fill-in-the-blank sections of my application. Then I’ll be pretty much set to submit! Oh wait, I also have to come to a final decision on which programs I’m actually going to apply to. 😅 Whittling my list down to about twenty-or-so programs is still a work in progress and is actually harder than I had anticipated, especially when there are so many fantastic pediatric programs across the East Coast. But I assure you, it’s getting done!

This past week was another one that went by in a blur. I woke up on Monday morning ready to start my week and before I knew it, I was leaving the hospital on Thursday afternoon wondering how the heck I was already approaching Friday. Carrying up to four patients at a time most of the week kept me pretty busy, which at the same time also helped make time fly by. By being responsible for this many patients, I felt like I was getting a taste of what being an intern was going to be like. I was writing notes for my patients, presenting them on rounds, assisting in coming up with plans of care for them, assisting in procedures (I helped perform a couple more of those 15-minute head taps that I wrote about last week lol) and even helping write orders for them. I really was feeling like the doctor that I’m going to become in less than a year!

Barack Obama Swag GIF

Overall, this past week in the NICU was another solid one. I even had a baby smile at me multiple times as I played with him! 😄 That about made my week, especially because of the straight-up sad nature of the NICU. These babies are literally the sickest infants that I’ve ever seen. Some of them fortunately end up getting better and going home, but many of them have been there for an extended period of time, with some of them having spent their entire lives in the hospital. It’s pretty depressing man. As a healthcare provider for these infants though, it’s extremely important that you don’t let your feelings cloud your judgment, no matter how sad and unfortunate the patients’ circumstances are. Of course you need to be able to emphasize with these patients and their families, but you also have to ensure that you’re not letting their circumstances affect your life in a negative and destructive way. It’s a much harder rule of thumb to follow than you may expect. Or maybe you actually do expect it to be a hard thing to do because, well you know, sick babies are naturally a sad sight to see.

While I feel like I’ve been able to emphasize with the patients and their families in an appropriate manner, I’ve found my mind frequently drifting off to what this experience in the NICU must be like for the families that come to visit their loved ones. Whereas each day in the NICU is just another day of school to me, it’s surely an emotional and unforgettable experience for each of the parents whose children are recieving care there. During these times of reflection, I tend to be brought back to the times I volunteered in the Ronald McDonald House’s Brenner’s Family Room in the hospital (located on the same floor as the PICU and the NICU), which is a place where families of the hospital’s pediatric patients can get together in a comfortable place close to their loved ones and rest while having access to free food and coffee. I remember witnessing how distressed and hopeful these families were about their loved ones, and being reminded that there was another world outside of the hospital that was full of the worried relatives and friends of each patient. It’s pretty terrifying how easy it is to go about your daily routine in the NICU without even taking a moment to seriously consider the perspective of the families who are scared to death about their loved ones. I hope to continue this habit of making time to consider the perspectives of others so that I can be that much more of an empathetic, caring and effective physician.

Well that’s it for today! Go on and live your best life this week!

“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand

– Black Man, M.D.

Lessons In The NICU

This week flew by so fast man.

And I’m already at the halfway point of my NICU rotation.

Like, how??

kevin hart jokes GIF by Kevin Hart: What Now?

Between the long hours at the hospital each day and the great learning experiences that I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy, I guess it’s easy to see why time has seemed to pass by so quickly. My mornings are primarily spent pre-rounding, pre-charting, rounding with Radiology, rounding on patients with my regular team, and finishing my notes. I’ve learned so much about routine care in the NICU just by paying attention to other providers during rounds and keeping up-to-date with my assigned patients. Although I had an idea of what day-to-day patient care looked like, it amazed me just how many calculations need to be done on a daily basis in order to adequately maintain the status of these infants.

After eating whatever I manage to come across for lunch, I typically spend my afternoons checking on my patients, finishing up whatever notes I have left, attending various learning sessions, and/or observing/participating in various procedures. As a matter of fact, my colleague and I actually performed a ventricular tap on an infant who was suffering from brain swelling and increased cranial pressure due to her overproduction of cerebrospinal fluid. The Nurse Practitioner supervising us walked us through the procedure, but we were literally the ones doing it. Can you believe that I actually stuck a needle into the baby’s fontanelle (“soft spot”) so that my partner could draw fluid from her brain? Wild man, just wild. Can’t lie though, it was pretty cool…..until I realized that I had to be immobile with the needle for about 15 minutes as my partner SLOWLY drew the fluid out of the baby’s head at a rate of about 1 mL a minute. We had to draw out 15 mL.

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The little kid took it like a champ though! What a soldier.

I spent part of another afternoon with a Neurologist and a group of third-year med students who were learning how to perform an effective neurological exam on a newborn at the bedside. That ended up being a really good review, and I also learned about the 5 S’s for the first time. Best believe I took notes on that. And speaking of third-years, I got the chance to orient another group of them to their Pediatrics rotation earlier on in the week. Like, I was one of the people giving them tours and tips during their rotation orientation! Talk about having things come full circle!

There were other various afternoon learning sessions that I attended during the week such as lectures on antibiotics and ventilators, interdisciplinary meetings about the next steps for our patients’ care, and my partner’s talk about abdominal wall defects. I even gave my own presentation about the development and usage of the HeRO score in a clinical setting! (The link lets you download my powerpoint, in case you were interested in the topic for whatever reason. It’s pretty interesting, but then again I’m biased. 🤷🏿‍♂️) However, the two sessions that I’ll probably take the most away from were the Medical Improv session and the Brenner Schwartz rounds. The Medical Improv session was actually a fun group activity that took the idea of improvisation and applied it to clinical settings. All the various healthcare providers in the room practiced using affirmative phrases such as “I appreciate you said that” & “yes, and” on each other in order to get an idea of how much more effective conversations can be. We also used negative statements such as “yes, but” and “no” to capture the feelings that patients can get when providers use them without thinking twice about it. We all had a good amount of laughs from the activity, and it made us more aware of the different ways that we can build rapport with patients as well as with our colleagues and other people in general.

The Brenner Schwartz rounds was a multidisciplinary forum that focused on discussing the experiences that various healthcare providers have gone through. There was a panel made up of two nurses and a Neonatologist, all of whom talked about various “best days of their lives” in their careers. It was neat to hear each of their stories and how much of an impact some of their patients have had on their lives and careers. Listening to their stories also motivated me to begin documenting my best experiences with patients so that I can look back on them whenever I’m having a tough day in the future. But then I quickly reminded myself that I have a whole blog to look back on whenever I’m having a tough day lol. But still, having a place where I have my patient encounters documented wouldn’t hurt. There are a good number of experiences that I just haven’t written about, simply because I don’t have the time to write them all out in the manner that I would like to write them out in. But even with that said, I’ve been able to touch on many of my experiences at one point or another in prior posts. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up creating a separate section on the blog dedicated to patient encounters at some point in the future…

That’s all I got for this post! Even though I don’t have to spend my time studying for a Shelf exam, I still managed to find a way to keep myself busier than I would’ve liked to be…so with that said, I’m gonna go and get some work done.

You all be sure to have a spectacular week!

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas Edison

– Black Man, M.D.

A Smaller World

You know, waking up at 5:20-ish AM this past week hasn’t been so bad at all. Yeah I know, sounds kind of absurd, doesn’t it? Here I was thinking that I was going to be struggling to wake up before sunrise, especially since it had been a number of months since I’ve had to do that. (It’s hard to believe that I was consistently waking up at 4:15 AM for three weeks of my Surgery rotation…now THAT was a struggle. 😩) I didn’t really mind waking up so early this past week because it turns out that I had a very positive first week in the Neonatal ICU!

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Now I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting when I first started. I just figured that because it was such a high-stakes environment, all the health providers on the floor would be very serious. I also thought that seeing all of the sick babies would bring about a somber atmosphere and that I would be the only student on the service working with residents, fellows, attendings and all of the other people on the team who worked in various specialties. Plus, the ICU literally stands for Intensive Care Unit, so I assumed that it was about to be an intense experience in a world that I had no familarity with.

Booooy was I wrong.

Okay, I wasn’t totally wrong. There definitely were a lot of sick babies on the floor, with some of them being as premature as 24-26 weeks. It was sad to see these babies suffering from the medical conditions that they have been unfairly afflicted with and to see them with multiple IVs, tracheostomy tubes, and dialysis ports, amongst other things. We tried to help alleviate their suffering by talking to them and playing with them whenever we were pre-rounding or visiting them throughout the day. Also, of course everyone was very serious about taking proper care of the patients. However, although they were serious in delivering excellent care to the babies, the atmosphere of the NICU was actually much lighter than I had anticipated. The team that I was working with was full of laid-back people who liked to laugh and have fun while at work (probably to help process the emotional turmoil that the NICU can bring), which surprised me a bit. It probably shouldn’t have though, because this is literally what the field of Pediatrics is all about. Plus, to my total surprise, I wasn’t the only student who showed up on the first day of the rotation. There was a PA student starting at the same time as me who was going to be working with me for the duration of the rotation, which was a relief to me. I can definitely handle being the only student on a service (I’ve done it numerous times before), but I’ve always had an even better time whenever I’ve been paired with other students!

With everyone on the team being really nice, likeable and compassionate, my first week in the NICU has been a wonderful experience. And of course they’re all really intelligent, so I’ve learned a ton of information as well, especially from the fellows who have given my colleague and I some useful presentations regarding both the maintenance care of infants and the various pathologies that affect infants. And what’s probably the best part of the experience so far is that I don’t have to worry about having to study for a Shelf exam! I can literally learn whatever I want without worrying about the fact that I need to answer study questions and learn high-yield things!

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Because I don’t have to focus on learning specific topics, I’ve been able to learn more about maintenance care of these patients, about the various machines that are helping these babies survive, about the psychosocial factors regarding the care of these patients and their families, and about all the random things that I come across while exploring this new world of medicine. The only assignments that I have are to deliver two separate presentations on topics of my choosing, but otherwise I’m free to learn whatever I want! I’ve also found myself thinking about what the futures of these patients are going to look like and if they would eventually end up going to camps like Victory Junction when they were older. Overall, I’ve had an awesome time so far and I hope that these next three weeks are just as awesome!

In addition to starting my NICU rotation, I had the “pleasure” of finally taking my Step 2 Clinical Skills exam in Atlanta on Friday. I literally had to drive straight from the hospital to ATL on Thursday afternoon, but I ended up getting there at a decent time thanks to my team allowing me to leave from the hospital earlier than usual. Being able to stay with my girlfriend’s parents at their house was also VERY clutch. I got a good night’s sleep and was fed very well both before and after my exam. The actual exam itself was pretty similar to the clinical practice exams that I had taken on two separate occasions throughout this past year, so I thankfully wasn’t blindsided by anything. It was pretty long (I interviewed and wrote notes for 12 standardized patients) but the day honestly flew by very quickly. Plus, we were fed lunch during one of our breaks at the testing site, which ended up coming in pretty clutch. (I had forgotten to pack snacks for whatever reason 🤦🏿‍♂️).

Even though my school had given me good preparation for the exam and I’ve repeatedly heard that Step 2 CS was a exam that pretty much just tests your English proficiency and your communication skills with another person, I didn’t want to blow it off as something not to take seriously. Plus, I had already been recently burned by my Step 2 CK score, so with that in mind I took the time a few weeks leading up to the exam to review various standardized cases in order to review all the different diagnoses and workup plans that could come in handy on test day. I also visited the USMLE site a week in advance to make sure that I knew all the information regarding the test and even watched the video on the site to ensure that I was familiar with everything on test day. I wasn’t about to give myself any chances to drop the ball! Although there are a few things that I could have done better throughout the test, I want to say that I feel satisfied with my performance overall. But I’m gonna just wait and see what my score is looking like before I proceed to jinx myself. 🤞🏿

After a very easy drive back from ATL, I’m now back in Winston, all ready to focus on learning some more in the NICU this week!

Let’s all make this week an extraordinary one!

“It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.” – Mother Teresa

– Black Man, M.D.

Unforgettable Memories

I had to take a step back a few days ago to fully process the fact that it’s already been three years since I first created this blog.

Three years!

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That’s crazy man. Three years of typing out weekly posts about my experiences as a medical student. I didn’t know how possible that would be when I first started, but I remember telling myself that if I just focused on making a habit of typing up one post at a time on a weekly basis, things would eventually work themselves out. And look what happened; things really did work themselves out! Now I can’t fathom not typing up an update on my life each week lol. I’m so glad that I had the foresight to do this and am grateful of all the love and support that I have recieved as I’ve worked to expand this blog. I’m also very grateful for all the people across the nation that I have met over the years as a result of my blog and my growing online presence. I literally wouldn’t know about a quarter of the people I know now if I hadn’t started blogging! It’s so wild just how much this hobby has expanded my network, which just continues to grow more and more with each passing day!

And to think that this whole project was birthed from the fact that I couldn’t find a blog that I could fully relate to while I was transitioning from college to medical school. Who knew that it would become the cathartic and inspiring entity that it is today? I sure didn’t. I thought that I would just be scribbling down my thoughts on a routine basis. I had absolutely no idea that I was going to add sections such as Med School 101, Useful Blogs or the popular Health Career Spotlight Series further down the road. I didn’t know that I would teach myself basic HTML and CSS code simply to design parts of my website in a particular way. And the thought of this blog being a potential talking point on my residency interviews never once crossed my mind until one of the physicians that I look up to suggested that I put it on my CV! Overall, it really has been an honor to serve as a source of inspiration for those of you who are motivated by the content in this blog, and I hope that I’ve been able to adequately fill the void that inspired me to start all of this in the first place as a rising first-year medical student.

Now onto my last week at Victory Junction. 😭

I spent my final week at camp working as a medical volunteer again, but this time I was given the opportunity to float around different units to maximize my exposure to as many medical conditions as possible. Because I was able to do this, I ended up interacting with a lot of the kids at camp, all of whom ranged from ages 6 to 16. Having this kind of exposure also allowed me to connect various conditions (some of which I had never even heard of) to their presentation in children, which was very helpful to me. The campers this week all had some sort of past or present disorder involving either their hearts, lungs and/or kidneys, so you can only imagine the variety of illnesses that were present in this group of kids. Also, because some of these children were immunosuppressed, there were A TON of medications to sort through and distribute. Like, I literally spent 30 minutes on accurately sorting out one camper’s 15+ different medications. Can you imagine having to take 15 medications every single day of your life? Or even having to accurately distribute 15 medications to your kid at specific times throughout the day? I had many experiences like this throughout my time at camp that gave me some perspective on the lives that these kids live on a daily basis. For example, I witnessed a couple of kids get a 4+ hour session of hemodialysis while at camp. They get these types of sessions about three times a week, every week. I was also with a couple of other kids who had to get peritoneal dialysis on a daily basis as well as very frequent dressing changes on their catheter site.

I remember the many kids with sickle cell the week prior who needed to take many extra precautions such as keeping warm and staying hydrated constantly to ensure that they wouldn’t suffer from a sickle cell crisis. Yet, they will still have medical complications down the road and will need to have access to pain medications to alleviate their chronic pain while trying to avoid being unfairly categorized as “pain medication-seeking patients”. And I can’t forget those kids living with ostomy bags that needed frequent changes throughout the day, or the kids with various levels of neurological impairment that I helped care for as a camp counselor. Yet, even though all of these young people have either faced or are currently facing challenges that would potentially cripple you and I, they seemed to just treat them as an everyday thing as they had the times of their lives at camp. I was especially blown away at their stage day (talent show), where one of the teenagers performed various acrobatics such as back handsprings and backflips, and couple of other teens performed songs that they composed themselves. I was equally touched during one of our nightly “cabin chats”, where a few of the teens shared some very personal details about their lives with a small group of their peers, counselors & us medical volunteers. Witnessing all of the great memories that these kids were creating gave me great strength and further reaffirmed my decision to dedicate my career towards helping young people like them live the best lives that they possibly can.

I’m bummed that my time at camp has all come to an end. I’m really going to miss many of the aspects of it, especially the positive & laid-back atmosphere, and the connections that I made with the many kids, counselors and medical volunteers. And I can’t lie, I’m really going to miss having three free and filling meals a day. 😭 The good news is that I can always go back to work as a medical volunteer after I recieve my medical degree!

With my second rotation coming to an end, I now have my upcoming NICU experience to look forward to. I haven’t worked in the hospital ever since I finished my Emergency Medicine rotation a couple of months ago, so I’m going to have to quickly calibrate myself back to the hospital environment and to waking up at like 5 AM. 😅 I’m interested to see how this next month is going to turn out, and am so looking forward to finally taking my Step 2 Clinical Skills exam in Atlanta this Friday and getting it over with! 🙏🏿

I hope that you all have an outstanding week!

“Do you really want to look back on your life and see how wonderful it could have been had you not been afraid to live it?” – Caroline Myss

– Black Man, M.D.

In My Feelings

As per usual these days, my week has been a pretty great one.

Well, except for the moment of utter shock and disbelief I had in the middle of the week that left me with a bruising “L” (for those of you unaware, L stand for Loss) that I’m still working on getting over. If not for that “L”, this week would have been an awesome one….but whatever. More on that later.

Unlike the first two weeks at Victory Junction where I worked primarily as a camp counselor helping care for the kids in my cabin 24/7, this week I worked as a medical volunteer where my duties primarily consisted of organizing and distributing medications to kids in the two cabins assigned to my partner and I, attending to any immediate medical needs of the campers, and playing with them throughout the day while trying to anticipate any medical needs that they’ll suddenly require. It was intriguing to be able to participate on the medical side of the camp and I got the opportunity to learn new things from the nurses and the doctor that I was working with. Also, because I was now a medical volunteer I got my own room and bathroom, which was a nice change from having to share a cabin with a bunch of counselors and children. I can definitely say that my sleep quality was much better this week lol. It also didn’t hurt that I had WiFi in my new room, so I could actually get some work done in my downtime without having to travel across camp to a WiFi hotspot. And last but certainly not least, I can now drive the golf carts across camp to get to where I need to go as opposed to walking everywhere! I loved being a camp counselor, but the medical volunteer gig definitely wins the convenience factor!

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With this past week being Sickle Cell week, we had to take a number of precautions at camp to ensure that we minimized the risk of anyone suffering from a crisis. We had to warm the pool up to almost hot tub temperatures, we kept all the buildings warm, we made sure that all the campers stayed hydrated, and we kept everyone inside the various facilities the one afternoon it rained so that the campers wouldn’t get wet and cold. Although the vast majority of the kids this week had some sort of variant of sickle cell, there were a few kids who were dealing with other illnesses that weren’t sickle cell but just so happened to come to camp this week for whatever reason. This allowed for the campers to learn from each other and make friends with people that they may have otherwise never met. I noticed this with the campers that I was medically responsible for. A lot of them had sickle-cell disease, but there was also a few of them with a variety of other conditions. They all ended up getting along fairly well and it led me to wonder if they would end up keeping in contact with one another outside of camp. They may have been the second-youngest group of campers (10-12 years old) but with technology these days, anything is pretty much possible. All in all, I’m absolutely honored and grateful to have been able to meet and care for these kids. They were an active and hilarious group of kids with a good number of them gravitating towards myself and some of the other Black counselors I was working with, presumably because we looked like them and they felt that they could relate to us.

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Okay so about that bruising “L” I was talking about earlier. I’m shaking my head as I’m typing this because I still can’t believe that this happened to me. But sometimes life hands you lemons, whether you’re ready for them or not. In this case, I was pelted with a 50-pound, absurdly salty and ripened lemon. And some of the lemon juice got in my eyes. And nose too. It may have even chipped a tooth. Simply put, it was a disastrous lemon.

On Wednesday afternoon, I finally got my Step 2 CK score report back. You know, the exam I took in mid-June that I spent close to a month vigorously preparing for. Although I had been anticipating my score results for a while, I hadn’t thought much about it in recent weeks simply because I was too busy preoccupied with other things going on around me. I was actually a bit surprised when I got the email that my score was ready to be viewed. During my scheduled personal break time, I went to the common area of my two-room cabin and logged into the NBME website. Then I clicked on my Step 2 CK score report and closed my eyes. I quickly recapped my strong performances on the question blocks I answered during my preparation for the test and my opinion of how test day went. I thought about how calm and collected I was when I walked into the test center and how my aura of confidence helped me get through both the easier as well as the tougher questions on the test. I reminisced on how good I felt after answering the last question on the exam and how accomplished I felt as I walked out of the testing center and got into my car. I didn’t feel like I aced the exam or anything, but I was absolutely certain that I hadn’t failed it. At the very least, I felt better about this exam than I had felt when I left the testing center after completing my Step 1 exam last year.

As I began to open my eyes, I braced myself for a score that would reflect all the incredible amount of time and effort that I had put into preparing for this exam ever since the beginning of my Internal Medicine rotation over a year ago. My eyes finally locked onto my computer screen and I cautiously scrolled down the report towards my score. The first segment I hit was the Pass/Fail block. My eyes locked onto the word “PASS“. I had passed Step 2 CK! I gave myself a fist-pump and then took a deep breath, closed my eyes for a quick second, sent up a quick prayer, opened them and scrolled down in a quick motion to the numerical score.

When my eyes finally locked onto my numerical score, my world came to an abrupt halt. I stared at the score in complete shock and disbelief. I literally couldn’t stop looking at it.

My mouth gaped open.

I blinked.

Then blinked again.

Then kept blinking because for several ridiculous seconds, I had convinced myself that this was all a dream and that I hadn’t really seen my real score yet. When I realized that I obviously wasn’t asleep, I began to look at the room around me in a daze. I really was in a state of mental shock. I looked up at the ceiling, then looked down at the screen back to that damn number. I scrolled up and scrolled back to it. I then scrolled down further on the score report to see the very generic section breakdown that graphed my performance on various concepts. The graph was all over the place. It claimed I had performed okay on some concepts, relatively well on others and not so well on the rest.

My ears began to ring in the stale silence that surrounded me. I exited the score report, logged out and logged back into the site. I was now beginning to feel the initial stages of panic within me. I clicked on the report again and, you guessed it, nothing had changed. I then started asking the silence around me, “What? How? Why?” These questions then morphed into statements such as “This has got to be a mistake. This can’t be real. How could this have happened? There’s no way that this is my score. I prepared so well for this test! I thought I was doing okay throughout the exam!!” I began to Google the possibility of rescoring my exam and once I learned it was possible to do so, I started reading more into what the process was like. (FYI it costs $80 to do so and there’s almost a zero chance that anything will change. Talk about a ripoff.)

By this point, my panic had transformed into anger. The thing was, I didn’t know who or what to become angry at. I wasn’t angry at myself because I had genuinely believed that I had given my all as I prepared for the test and I really did feel like I was doing relatively well on the test overall. Sure, there were some questions that I didn’t feel confident about and there was also a pretty tough block of questions that I had some trouble with. But overall, I thought that I had performed decently on the test, especially since there were a ton of questions in multiple blocks that I felt sure that I knew the answers to. I had walked out of the test center not entirely sure of how I performed but like I said earlier, I felt better leaving it than I had felt after taking Step 1. Plus, there were absolutely NO indications during my preparation that would have foretold this result. No red flags, no warnings, nothing. Also, it wasn’t like I had a bad day or no sleep the night before. I slept okay, had some breakfast and coffee, had many snacks on hand at the test center and wasn’t distracted by other things while I was taking the test. I literally had no excuse or reason as to why I recieved the score that was coldly staring back at me. I wasn’t angry at the test or the testmakers either because I thought I had done alright on it. I had believed that everything had gone right. There was literally no place to direct my growing anger to except the pillows around me. Shoutout to them pillows for enduring my rage.

I ultimately ended up wasting over an hour being all caught up in my feelings about my score result, which annoyed the hell out of me. But I was sincerely at a loss of what my next move should be. We’re always told that Step 2 CK is an overall better test to take than Step 1, and that our score on this test almost always is better than our Step 1 score. I really did, and still do believe that studying for and taking Step 2 CK is more bearable than Step 1, mostly because it’s very much clinically based and all of third-year helps to prepare you for the exam. However, when it comes to the score part, I guess I just happened to be thrown into the rare category. The Step 2 CK score I recieved was THREE POINTS LOWER than my Step 1 score.

Yeah, I’ll say it again.

I recieved a lower score on Step 2 CK than I got on Step 1. I’m absolutely certain that this Step 2 CK score isn’t truly indicative of my knowledge base, because I know what I’ve learned and it has shown on my performances throughout third-year as well as on my practice exams. But with that said, I also am not blind to the fact that this score is what will be seen by residency programs, not my practice scores or my intensive preparation for the test. Although I know that this score won’t necessarily hurt my chances of matching, it still is really frustrating that I recieved the score I did because like I said, it really isn’t a true representation of where I stand. I’ve already spoken with a couple of advisors as well as some loved ones and they’ve all been able to reassure me that I’m going to be alright. I believe them and I know that I’ll be good.

I’m now in a much calmer mental place than I was a couple of days ago. Having to go to the weekly talent show at camp right after I saw my score report helped me put things into clearer perspective. Even though I got thrown into an unfortunate situation, I’m still a healthy soon-to-be doctor whose low point of the month was getting a less-than-ideal test score. At the talent show, I watched how joyous those kids suffering from chronic illnesses were as they went on stage to perform various talents and acts. They were happily and blissfully living in the moment. It forced me to think of just how much they have to power through on an everyday basis just to survive, let alone perform strenuous tasks that you and I may do without second thought on a daily basis. With that said, I’ll be fine in the grand scheme of things. The infectious happiness at camp as well as my conversations with my girlfriend definitely helped me mentally get through the rest of that day. In addition, I think that typing this out and sharing it with you all will further help me deal with this “L” , and if you know me then you already know that I plan to use this setback to my advantage….once I figure out how to. 😉

Phew, that was a lot! Thanks for bearing with me as I spilled my feelings onto y’all. I would join in the #InMyFeelings challenge to shake them all off, but there ain’t no way in hell that I’ll top Will Smith. I hope that you all have an extraordinary week!

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” – Maya Angelou

– Black Man, M.D.

Life In A Cheat Code

Yeah, yeah I know it’s Saturday. You probably weren’t expecting a post today but since I’m going back to camp tonight to start my third week there, there’s no telling when I’ll have time to type something up tomorrow. My schedule has been in a bit of disarray as of late with the SNMA conference last weekend and with camp and all, but I’ve been able to keep on top of things…for the most part. So with that said, posting today is part of me keeping on top of things and making sure that I have something to update you with.

black think about it GIF by Identity

The end of this week marks the halfway point of my time at Victory Junction. Yeah I know, it’s like I just started right? At least that’s how I feel. I’ve been getting into the groove of camp life and I’ve been having such a good time that I sometimes forget that I’m on a rotation. I can’t lie, I feel like I’m living in a cheat code lol. Although it kind of feels like I’m on a summer vacation, I’ve been gaining a ton of perspective these past two weeks as a camp counselor. Not only have I been able to put things into perspective while interacting with the kids here, but I’ve also developed useful skills on how to effectively communicate with them. These skills have been especially useful this past week, where my cabin counselors and I were tasked with caring for seven teens with various neurological & developmental disorders. While these teens were overall a calmer bunch of campers than the little kids from the previous week, they definitely came with their own unique set of challenges. To start off, the personalities of the campers in this group were very different from one another. Like, VERY different. As a matter of fact, they were so vastly different that the campers didn’t even have any conflicts with one another. To be honest, they all seem to be in their own little worlds. Their respective conditions also varied widely on a scale from relatively mild developmental delay to extreme developmental delay. And to top it all off, a couple of them liked to wander off on their own, with one kid having the tendency to spontaneously take off in a full sprint away from the group.

annoyed kobe bryant GIF

It was a pretty interesting week, to say the least. The campers were fun to be around though, and I personally had a wonderful time getting to know them while they were at camp. I had a couple of inside jokes with a few of them and one of the campers even made a special handshake with me! 😄 (He only used it for one day and then forgot about it, but that’s besides the point.) I also found out during the camp’s weekly stage day (talent show day) that one of the campers was pretty decent on the piano. That was dope to see!

This week was ultimately shortened due to the 4th of July holiday, so I’ve actually had an extra day and a half of rest outside of the camp. I was able to go to the 42nd USA vs. Japan College All-Star baseball game in Durham (didn’t know this was a thing) and viewed some fireworks with my girlfriend after that painfully low-scoring game. In addition to that, I’ve been putting in some serious work on my residency application, some work in the SNMA, and am working on updates to the blog. I also need to carve out some time to review some Step 2 Clinical Skills stuff, since I’ll be traveling to Atlanta at the end of this month to take that day-long exam and all. Speaking of, you remember that CPX I had to take back in May? You know, the same clinical exam that I was forced to remediate after my performance on the first one of my third-year back in October? You probably don’t, but that’s okay. Well, I finally got my results back and I’m happy to say that I passed it this time with flying colors!

College Basketball Dancing GIF by UNC Tar Heels

Turns out that the extensive remediation that I had to go through helped a lot lol. It also helped that I was much more familiar with the test setup, and I also didn’t skip whole sections in my write-ups like I accidentally did the first time. As you can imagine, this score report is a very welcome confidence boost for the Step 2 CS exam that I’ll be taking in a few weeks. While I’ll still take some time to review key concepts, I can walk into the testing center on July 27th with very minimal doubt in my abilities to think through and treat a chief complaint in a clinical setting while at the same time keeping my patient comfortable throughout the encounter.

That’s a wrap for this post! I hope that your week is a positive one! And be sure to appreciate the final games of the World Cup, because we won’t be getting this for another four years. 😭 I can’t believe it’s already coming to an end soon!

“There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed.” – Ray Goforth

– Black Man, M.D.

The Strength of Endurance

Well, this week was quite an adventure, to say the least.

In fact, it was so much of an adventure that I’m actually typing this post on a plane back to North Carolina from Minnesota. Wait, why am I on a plane? Better yet, why was I in Minnesota? Aren’t I supposed to be at camp getting ready to start the week? Lol, I’ll get to all that later on in the post. 😉

I want to start off by talking about my first full week at the Victory Junction Summer Camp. Simply put, it was both a touching and challenging experience. It was also pretty tiring, yet very fun! And I’ve been eating reeeal good here. (Shoutout to all the free meals I’ve been getting here on a daily basis.) Me and the other counselors in my cabin were assigned to care for a young group of boys aged 6-9 who were diagnosed with various blood disorders and gastrointestinal conditions. If you didn’t already know, having to look after seven little boys who like to play around at all times of the day isn’t the easiest thing to do. Them being hyperactive, hating to go to sleep, having very different personalities and testing our rules to their hearts’ desire didn’t make things any easier either. Plus let’s not forget, they have chronic medical conditions that require our attention. At the same time though, it was really fun interacting with them and engaging them in various activites across the camp! Some of the activites we did included fishing, paddle-boating, archery, playing with horses, bunnies, goats & llamas at a barn, playing in a waterpark, making arts & crafts, playing video games, watching Joey Logano speed around our camp in a racecar at what we call “NASCARnival”, and various other things. Before last week, I had never even done half of those things before! Also, the kids who were NASCAR fans flipped when they saw Joey, who just so happens to be a famous NASCAR driver. I had no idea who he was, so I looked him up and he happens to have a net worth of over $20 million. Go figure.

Although I was working as a camp counselor for the week, I made sure to observe what the medical volunteers were doing with our kids whenever they came around so that I had a better understanding what measures these kids needed to take in order to keep their lives as “normal” as they could. Although the kids were living their best lives at camp like any other kid would, their conditions still had to be managed quite frequently by the medical team as well as by us counselors. There were a lot of ostomy bag changes, IV flushes, device recalibrations, trips to the onsite clinic after any one of the kids with his respective bleeding disorder would suffer from a fall, wound or sustained nosebleed, and dressing changes. It was unreal to witness the resilience of these little warriors and how candid they were to each other when talking about how they live with their respective illnesses. Like, two kids would be having a candid conversation about how many times per day one of them would have to change his ostomy bags and how many times the other boy had to get ports placed in him due to various infections. Then a minute later they would talk about a movie or something and I would be just standing there like:

shocked eddie murphy GIF

It was amazing to see how the kids interacted with each other, especially when some of them found out that they had the same condition. It was as if they had never met someone else with their same illness, much less someone their own age. The moment that those particular kids discovered they had the same diagnosis was a precious one that I’ll never forget. Moments like that was one of the reasons why this camp was built in the first place. Alongside moments like that, there were other times where the boys would spontaneously get into altercations with one another. Having to deal with those issues weren’t as precious, as you could probably imagine. But with that said, I think that because this camp is structured the way it is, it forces the kids to learn how to get along with their peers in a non-school setting away from home. Good thing with most kids their age is that they’re good at brushing off conflicts and can get back to playing together rather quickly. Reminds me of how simple my own life used to be when I was a kid…good times, good times.

All in all, my first week at camp was a successful and unforgettable one, even though I was missing the majority of the World Cup games and felt like the world was passing me by while I lived in the camp bubble. Along with interacting with the kids, I’ve made good friends with the counselors in my cabin as well as with various summer staff workers outside of my cabin. I’m looking forward to getting back to camp and meeting our next group of campers, who will apparently have various types of neurological disorders and will be teenagers. It’s also going to be a short week due to the 4th of July taking place on Wednesday, which only gives me less than three days to establish relationships with them. That just means that I gotta make the most of my time with them!

Alright that’s all I got for today! See ya later!

Lol I’m just messing with you, you thought I forgot about the whole Minnesota thing didn’t you?

Yeah you did, don’t lie.

The reason that I traveled to Minnesota a day after leaving camp was because I had to be in attendance for the SNMA’s first National Leadership Institute of the 2018-2019 term. As a member of the Board of Directors, I’m required to attend these conferences, which take place every three months at different locations throughout the country. This conference just so happened to take place at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. I must admit, Minnesota wasn’t on my bucket list of places to travel to. However, I was very surprised at the incredible diversity of the city and was completely blown away at how enormous the Mall of America was! Like bruh, there’s a whole amusement park with rollercoasters and ferris wheels and whatnot in that mall! Not to mention the Marriott hotel and the aquarium. And don’t even get me started on the ridiculous number of stores and restaurants (*cough* Benihana’s *cough* Hard Rock Cafe *cough*).

We had a meet-and-greet on Friday night, where all the pre-meds, medical students, physicians and University of Minnesota SOM faculty mingled and chatted with one another. The majority of the conference took place on Saturday, where we had several excellent presentations concerning various topics such as working to combat the current devolution of our society, being an effective leader, the rich history of the SNMA, adequately caring for people afflicted with disabilities while addressing their concerns in an effective manner (this session was led by people who actually suffer from various disabilities, which made it even more engaging), the potential dangers of social constructs and how they can be used to oppress various populations of people, the incredible importance of social workers, the hazardous nature of making assumptions, dealing with microaggressions, the importance of health equity and advocacy (this presenter used the Black Panther movie to reinforce his message which was very effective), the power of social media and writing op-eds, the various ways in which business can affect the practice of medicine, being knowledgeable about health insurance in order to effectively advocate for the patient, and financial planning. I was also able to attend and participate in the two Board of Directors meetings that took place at the conference. Yeah yeah I know, that was a lot. But there were just so many great things that were shared with us, and I want you to get a good birds-eye view of what we talked about at the conference. I wish I could go into more detail about some of the topics that I’ve listed here, but I don’t got all day to type this already lengthy post out. Plus, I’m going to be landing soon and I want to be pretty much done with this post by the time I get to NC.

So with that said, I’m going to go ahead and end this novel here. I had a great time at the conference and was able to not only reconnect with people but also make new connections with some wonderful people. Overall, the week was quite an eventful one! I’m looking forward to seeing what this upcoming one has in store!

I hope that your week is a splendid one! And have a Happy 4th of July!

“Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.” – Bernard Williams

– Black Man, M.D.

Second Time’s The Charm

After my scarring camping experience as a Boy Scout in 5th grade (I quit Boy Scouts shortly after this escapade), I swore to myself that I would never go to a camp again. And ever since then, I haven’t stepped foot on a campsite.

Until now.

cardi b hd GIF by 2017 MTV Video Music Awards

After almost 15 years of avoiding campsites, here I am typing this post at, you guessed it, a campsite. However, if you’ve been reading my posts, then this isn’t coming as a surprise to you. We’ve known for a while that my next rotation would consist of me attending a summer camp specifically designed to cater to kids with various chronic illnesses. And because I willingly picked this as one of my fourth-year electives, it’s obvious that the chances of me hating this camping experience are very minimal, if existent at all. You see, unlike my Boy Scouts trip where I had to face the wilderness with my troop as a ten-year-old child, this camp is moreso an oasis located out on the countryside where I’ll be alongside many counselors and medical volunteers helping kids have fun!

Kids from all over the country come to Victory Junction because of the ubiquitous fun-loving and benevolent atmosphere found here. This atmosphere is fortified by all the various exciting activites there are to do here as well as the engaged nature of the counselors and summer staff. I’ll be spending the next four weeks here, where I’ll be spending half my time working as a camp counselor and the other half working as a medical volunteer. It’s going to be a busy month, but I also get the feeling that it’s going to be very entertaining as well! However while I’m here, I won’t be able to use my laptop and phone as much because being engaged with the kids is a priority at camp. This means that my weekly posts will most likely come at different times that you and me both aren’t used to. My next few posts will probably come on Saturdays as opposed to Sundays, just as a heads-up. I get time off from Thursday afternoons-Saturday afternoons where I’m able to go back home and recuperate, which is why it’ll be easier for me to just post during that time as opposed to Sunday when I’m already back at camp checking in a new set of kids for the week. But it’s all good though, it’s not every day that I get to rotate through a summer camp!

The vibe that I’ve gotten from the people I’ve met so far during orientation has been an energetic and genuine one, which makes me even more excited to start working as a camp counselor this week! Most of the people I’ve met are either still in college or have just graduated, making me one of the older counselors here. That’s something that I’m not used to, for I’m usually the baby of whatever group I end up being in. It’s cool to be one of the older people for once. 😎 People like to think that because you have a few years on them, you must be way more mature and wiser. This is probably not so true in my case. But regardless, I’m not about to call my own bluff lol.

Outside of finally coming to camp, I’ve had a pretty uneventful week. Okay that’s partially a lie; I was on Hilton Head Island from last Saturday up until Tuesday and I had such a relaxing time while I was there! Some of the things that we did included going to the beach multiple times, eating some tasty seafood at various restaurants on the island, and hitting up a couple of bars.

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I honestly wasn’t ready to leave so soon, but my girlfriend had another trip to go on in a couple of days. Plus, I needed to spend the next couple of days getting my life together before coming to camp. I ended up getting a lot of work done that I had been pushing off and although I still have quite a bit more to get through, I’m confident that I’ll be able to do so during my weekends off this next month. I was also able to catch a few exciting games of the World Cup! I’ve found myself cheering hard for Mexico and Nigeria since my usuals didn’t make the tournament this time around. Both of these teams have been doing pretty well so far. Hopefully they continue their winning streak!

Alright, I gotta go to bed and rest up for what’s looking to be a full day tomorrow. I hope that your week is an eventful one!

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” – George Addair

– Black Man, M.D.

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!!

Steph Curry GIF

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.

Thank God Singing GIF by WE tv

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. 😊

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. 😅

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. 😎

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.