Closing Of A Chapter

Only a week left until I finally start my clinical rotations!

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The closer I get to my first day on the wards, the more excited I’m becoming! I’ve also noticed that I’m feeling much lower levels of apprehension about this shift in my life than I was feeling just last week. Much of that has to do with these orientation (third-year boot camp) sessions that I’ve been attending as of late. We’ve gotten repeated exposure to our clerkship directors, who’ve made themselves available to us for any questions that we may have of this next step in our medical careers. We have also listened to multiple student panels made up of rising 4th-years, who’ve worked to appease our anxieties by giving us the rundown as to how third-year works and on what to expect going in. We also have been led on tours of the hospital and have been instructed on how to utilize the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) that we will be using throughout not only this upcoming year, but for the rest of our careers. As a matter of fact, this past Monday was dedicated to learning how to use that system….it was not the most fun thing I’ve ever done. And it wasn’t easy to use. Hell, I still don’t know how to effectively use it. It’s one of those things that you gotta continuously play with until you get into your groove with it. Just one more thing to add to the steep learning curve that I’m already facing starting next week.

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Along with “learning” how to use the EMR, we learned how to electronically track our patients & procedures that we’re expected to do. We also listened to presentations about communicating bad news with patients, making the most out of the countless opportunities that will be available to us during third year, tips for studying for our shelf exams and performing successfully on them, conflicts of interest, and how to stay professional while caring for our patients. On Wednesday, I got to know my third-year team some more via a group exercise where we shared our personal stories with each other. I’m glad that we were able to do that because although I knew who each of these people were (I’ve been in the same class as all but one of them for the past couple of years), I realized how little I actually KNEW of most of them until I listened to each of their stories. I’m looking forward to working with them for the next year and I hope that we all manage to continue getting along throughout our rotations!

On that same day, I FINALLY got my Step score back.

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There was actually an annoyingly dramatic sequence of events that preceded my viewing of my score. I got the email notification that my score could now be viewed as I was getting out of the group exercise session that I previously mentioned. I then proceeded to go home, place my free chicken salad on my kitchen counter (I managed to lose my appetite, even though I was starving just 10 minutes ago), plop on my (roommate’s) couch with my roommate, stare at my phone for a good 20 seconds, take a few deep breaths, and finally open my email…..only to realize that I needed to click a link in the email to see my actual score. I rolled my eyes as my roommate chuckled and clicked the link after a couple more deep breaths. I was then led to a sign-in screen, which annoyed the hell out of me. I then signed in and was led to another screen that informed me to click on ANOTHER link, which held my score via PDF format.

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Now I was getting extremely annoyed and nervous at the same time. I stared at my screen for another 30 seconds while my roommate repeatedly told me that I did fine and coaxed me to click and get it over with. I then held my breath and clicked the link, only for my phone to tell me to disable my pop-up blocker! Seriously??? Now I was getting mad while my roommate just busted out laughing at me. After a few more futile attempts to open the PDF on my phone after trying to disable my pop-up blocker, I gave up and logged onto my laptop in order to view my score. This process took an additional (and painful) three minutes. When I finally got to the PDF link again, I stared at my screen for what seemed like an eternity before holding my breath again and FINALLY clicking on the link. It led me to the score that served as the culmination of all the strenuous studying I had put towards preparing for that exam. When I ultimately laid my eyes on my score, I paused for a couple of seconds before exclaiming, “I’lllllll TAKE IT!!”  Granted, it wasn’t as high of a score as I was aiming for…but I am perfectly content with the score, especially since I had absolutely no idea how I did after taking that test. It really could have been potentially A LOT worse. Plus, my score still keeps all the specialty options that I’m considering relatively open, which is what my true end-goal was. So with that said, I’ve officially closed the Step 1 chapter of my life! However, it’s just incredible to see how I still wasn’t able to get that close to the score that I aimed for even after all the hard work and long hours I put into preparing for that exam. That test really is something else man. Although I didn’t make it to the stars, I sure as hell landed on the clouds!

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Thursday and Friday consisted of other useful sessions including personal wellness during third-year, financial aid, and a session called “What I Wished I Knew Before Third Year”. The main points I gleaned from that last session were to be assertive with my learning, to appreciate the growth that I will experience as I get comfortable with procedures and coming up with plans for the patients, to be unafraid of being wrong because I still will have relatively fewer responsibilities than my upper levels, to look at every day as an opportunity to do something that I’ll probably never be able to do again, to have very few expectations of going home early, to inquire what my upper levels expect of me as and to use “pimping” questions as a method of learning. Friday’s day-long session centered around inter-professionalism and working in teams with healthcare providers in other career paths such as physician assistants and CRNAs. In this session, we listened to a number of presentations regarding the importance of teamwork and got into smaller groups that included medical students, PA students and CRNA students, where we worked through a patient case and used root cause analysis to improve the quality of patient care. It was a long, yet interesting day!

And last but not least, I was invited to both a scholarship dinner for the Wake Forest School of Medicine Class of 1967 last night (it was their 50th reunion!) and a scholarship brunch this morning for all scholarship donors and students on scholarship. I was invited to the former dinner because I was awarded a scholarship this year from a late member of the Class of 1967. I’m still not entirely sure why I was blessed with the scholarship, but I’m not about to start asking any questions 😊😊😊. At the dinner, I found myself in a friendly room of elderly physicians and their spouses, all of whom were very excited to see the product (me) of their donation to their scholarship fund. As they shared stories of the man whom my scholarship is named after, I found myself feeling even more honored to have been selected to receive this scholarship because it was very obvious how much it meant to these physicians, for everyone I spoke to had very fond memories of this man. As for the actual food, I found myself eating the salad with a fork and knife lol. I also thoroughly enjoyed the free salmon, steak and mashed potatoes + vegetables that made up the dinner! As for the dessert, I took a bite of it and decided that I didn’t vibe with it. The dinner reception was marvelous overall and I had a blast this morning at the scholarship brunch as well! I’m really making it a mission of mine to provide scholarships to deserving students in the future, for these generous gifts of money have been changing my life ever since I received the Ronald A. Hammond Scholarship that allowed me to attend the University of Miami.

Alright, my word vomit has finally ended. Be sure to have an exceptional week! And congratulations to all of you graduating from your respective universities! That’s a major accomplishment that you should be extremely proud of! I’ll be in Miami this week to watch my girlfriend cross the stage and officially become a UM Alumni! 😆

“A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown.” – Denis Waitley

– Black Man, M.D.

Vision Within Division

I’m finding it harder and harder to focus on my studies in the midst of all this BS happening around us.

It’s only been a little over a week since Inauguration Day and Donald Trump has already caused chaos in this country by issuing 14 executive orders (including one banning immigrants from several countries in a racist manner), trying to rush through the hearings for his cabinet picks (the vast majority of them are highly unqualified/unsuitable for their chosen positions), removing critical areas of American policy from the White House’s website, and repeatedly AND BLATANTLY to the American public, just to name a few of his actions.  As a matter of fact, click here to get a better overview of what his first week in office has looked like. It’s so sad to see how quickly he’s dismantling the progress that we’ve made as a country and how much he’s embarrassing us as a country. It doesn’t help that he has lil’ friends in the government are helping him embarrass us as well. From the topics of education, immigration and women’s rights to healthcare and climate change, the Trump administration just seems to want to set us back decades while increasing their wealth and political power. It’s insanely frustrating. Although I’ve been signing countless petitions, calling Congress multiple times a day on a daily basis, encouraging others to contact their representatives, and keeping up with current bills via this new app called Countable (you should really check it out), I still feel like I should be doing more to save the progress we’ve made in this country. But even with all the pressure people are putting on the current government, it just seems like things are rapidly getting worse. Plus, how much more can I do before I start to see a negative impact on my grades? And with my Step study period approaching, I really need to be able to adequately focus on studying the enormous amount of material that the exam covers. This all just sucks man. It really does.

And it’s only been a freakin’ week. Jesus.

Ima keep fighting though. And I have a good number of friends who are just as frustrated as I am but who are still fighting as well. We just gotta stick together and keep resisting this oppressive system of hatred and racism.

Alright I’m done venting for today. In other news, I just recently ranked my clinical rotations schedule for third-year! I’m sure different medical schools have different ways of choosing rotations, but here at Wake we are given 16 different schedules that all have the same rotations, but in different orders. After we are given those schedules, we need to choose the rotation order that we prefer the most and then rank the rest of them in preference order, all the way to 16. Hopefully I’m able to at least get one of my top three choices, although they say that it doesn’t necessarily matter what order we get since we’re all going through the same rotation schedule. But still. After we send our rankings in, a computer chooses which students get what schedule via some weird algorithm and we find out our finalized schedule a couple weeks later. So I should know what my third-year schedule is going to look like by mid-February! Regardless of what schedule I get, third year is definitely going to be one hell of a experience. I’m really hoping that I’ll enjoy it!

Earlier last week, I got the opportunity to shadow an ophthalmologist at a nearby clinic for an afternoon. He performed three different cataract surgeries while I was there, and they were all absolutely fascinating. The first two surgeries involved a laser breaking down the cataract in the lens of the patient’s eye. The doctor then scrubbed in and took out the pieces of the cataract manually as I looked on. I was actually able to scrub in for the third surgery though! It was my first time ever scrubbing into a surgery, so of course I was awkwardly going through all the motions that scrubbing in entails…but then once I was scrubbed in, I was able to view the surgery through the microscope! It was so cool man. This specific patient had to have his cataract removed manually without help from the laser, which made the surgery a bit longer. He actually went into asymptomatic atrial fibrillation during the surgery and also had this condition called “floppy iris syndrome“, where his iris just kept flopping around during the surgery. I saw firsthand just how steady and calculated the doctor’s hands had to be in order to successfully complete his eye surgeries. One bad move and you could literally rip a hole in someone’s eye. Then before you know it, you’re facing a judge. You don’t want those problems. It was quite an experience overall! I’m thankful to be in a place where physicians are more than willing to have students come in and witness what they do in real-time.

This past Friday, I was able to attend a talk on the current state of the nation that was hosted by the hospital. The keynote speaker was Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry and she gave some hypotheses as to how and why we ended up in the current situation we’re in. Some of the things she touched on included the surprisingly large number of white women in this country who actually haven’t historically voted for Democrats, how Trump supporters reflect race/gender values that have been salient throughout the history of this country, our incredible ability to filter and forget things about certain people, the true nature of the 13th & 14th amendments, picking the right battles to fight that are in line with your social justice mission and how strategic cooperation is intertwined with the very nature of democracy. She also made a good point about the hallucinatory effects of the media and that there’s a good chance that representatives higher up in the government are actively working on solving the current issues plaguing our country right now, even if we don’t see them on the news or anything. It was quite an interesting talk, especially since Dr. Harris-Perry was giving it from the perspective of a self-proclaimed black feminist. In the interest of not going on another long rant, I’ll end here.

Shortly after the talk with Dr. Harris-Perry, I met with my lil’ 5th grade mentee again along with the mentors & mentees involved with the S.Y.S.T.E.M. initiative that I talked about in my previous post (Resisting The System). The kids were even more excited to interact with us than they were last time! During our time with them, we talked about how they’ve been implementing the lessons we discussed in the previous meeting in their daily lives. We also played an icebreaker game with them and continued to expand on the importance of understanding one’s emotions and stress levels. I’m loving the program so far! And last but not least, I had the opportunity to sit on a medical student panel at the annual Pre-Med conference hosted by our medical school yesterday morning. There were about 80-or-so students (high school, college and post-grads) in attendance in all! Being able to sit and talk with students in a position that I was dying to be in just two short years ago continues to humble me and allows me to continue to appreciate my growth as well as the circumstances that allowed me to get to where I’m at.

Another blog entry complete! Let’s continue to stay as positive as we can while fiercely resisting the forces that threaten our inherent goodness!

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” – Jesus Christ (John 13:34)

– Black Man, M.D.

Money Talk, Challenges & Code Black.

Gotta love 4th of July weekend.

It’s pretty much the only major holiday in the summer months, if you don’t count Labor Day. It’s a time where you can catch people grilling, take in some sun at the beach, celebrate our independence by submitting to the power of the liquor, and who can forget the spectacular fireworks that stretch across the starry summer skies? It’s a feel-good time, a break for those that work a job in the summer and a day of free food for people like me. The only thing that can ruin this weekend are aliens that are trying to take over our planet…but then we can just call up Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) and friends to save the day by blowing up the alien motherships! Speaking of, it aggravates me that he’s not gonna be in the Independence Day sequel…but Bad Boys III bout to be lit as fuhhh!!! June 2, 2017 is less than a year away!

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As of late, I’ve been getting more serious about learning how to manage finances not only as a med student, but even more so as a physician. I don’t know if I already told you but during the course of my first year, I was reading a book on finance specifically designed for physicians. This book, called The White Coat Investor, was such an eye-opener for me when it comes to money management. I mean I took Money 101 during my last semester of college so I had a little bit of background knowledge, but this book really took my financial IQ to another level. Not only that, it made me want to learn more about how money works in general. So I checked out the author’s blog, also named The White Coat Investor. Doesn’t it bother you that there’s so much you may not know about using the one thing that makes the world go round? Cash rules everything around us and you literally use money every single day…but could you tell me what a Roth IRA was? Backdoor Roth IRA?  Do you know the difference between a common stock and a preferred stock? How about the difference between a tax deduction and a tax credit? Have you heard about the rule of 72? Mutual funds? Index funds? For you aspiring doctors out there, do you know of the different methods you can use in order to pay back your federal loans? And all of this is the simple stuff. My point is that there’s so much financial literature that is foreign to a large amount of the population, yet a lot of people invest their money in a variety of things as if they know what they’re doing. It’s pretty crazy man. And by the time most people want to learn more about how money works, they’re already in dire financial circumstances and are “too busy with life” to learn financial literature. That’s one of the main reasons why I’ve decided to equip myself with this knowledge early on; I want to be prepared for whatever financial challenges arrive on my doorstep in the future. I also want to be financially independent because I’ve been SOOO BROKE FOR SOOO LONG!!! People tend to shy away from learning about finances because it’s such a dry subject. I agree, it’s pretty damn dry. I can only learn about this subject in doses. But like it or not, you’re gonna be using money for the rest of your life…so you might as well learn a thing or two about how you can use it to benefit you and those you love.

On another note, this week was just as much of a breeze as the ones that came before it. Well for me that is. The students were going through it with the quizzes, presentations and tests that they had to complete. And now that we have only three weeks left of the program, it’s only gonna get tougher for them. I believe in them though 😊. They’re putting forth their best effort and although they’re stressed about the grades they’re getting, they are gaining vast amounts of knowledge whether they know it or not and are getting a lot out of this summer experience. They also were given the opportunity earlier this past week to present to the class what they each learned in their assigned weekly clinical rotation the Friday prior. The presentations included rotations in Anesthesia, Pediatrics, Trauma and Internal Medicine. The patients they saw included a teenager that was hit by a car before getting into a fight and suffering from a seizure, a physician that was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, a young man who acquired a staph infection after popping a pimple and a medical student that was shot while in Haiti. Wild. They also cleverly used their newly acquired anatomy knowledge in their presentations in order to describe what they saw during their rotations. Speaking of, the test they took this week was actually an anatomy practical where they looked at different parts of a cadaver and named the structure that the pin was in. I won’t lie, I got a couple flashbacks while I was in the lab with them as they were taking their test. I do NOT miss taking lab practicals. It was kind of funny to see them all freaking out beforehand, only for them to find that taking the practical wasn’t really that bad at all. Some of them even found it fun. I wanted to say that “it’s because y’all had only 23 questions and were able to go back to previous stations and check your answers before turning your paper in!”, but I let them be great lol. I’d rather have them think that anatomy is fun than have them absolutely dread it.

One more thing. For our weekly (free) dinner & discussion, we watched this medical documentary called Code Black. It was based in Los Angeles and focused on the emergency department in the Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center, a public hospital dedicated to serving all of those who come in, no matter what their insurance status is, how much they make, or their immigration status. It was a very riveting and raw perspective of what the busiest Emergency Department in America looks like. It showed how the health workers at the center struggled with the extremely packed waiting rooms and how they found innovative ways to tackle that challenge. It also touched on the reality of having to immediately treat a new sick patient after having a patient die, the bureaucracy of medicine & all the paperwork, rules, regulations, policies, etc. that it comes with, the doctors having to defend themselves against lawsuits from patients that are encouraged by the media to press charges, and the state of healthcare as we know it in this country. I definitely recommend watching it, especially if you’re looking into working in the healthcare field and double-especially if you want to pursue a career in Emergency Medicine. You can find it on Netflix. Now all you have to do is find someone to chill with. I should warn you though, there are many graphic images in the film. If you don’t like blood, then this documentary probably won’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Okay I’m gonna go and enjoy the rest of my long weekend with my girlfriend, who flew across several states to come and spend time with me 😁. Savor the barbecue and relish in the fireworks!

“In order to receive something you’ve never had before, you have to do something you’ve never done.”

– Black Man, M.D.