Crunch Time

So I’m still out here grindin’. But y’all already knew that.

This Endocrine/Reproductive exam that we have on Friday snuck up so fast on me man. March snuck up even faster! How we’ve already managed to get through February, I’ll never know. Also, with March comes Step Study Block. As a matter of fact, the study block starts NEXT WEEK.

HULU tv fox empire worried

It’s so unreal that I’m actually about to start tackling this exam head on. But I’m honestly ready to get it over with and even more ready to blaze past this Endo/Repro exam on Friday as well as the cumulative final next Tuesday that’ll be testing us on everything that we’ve learned ever since we got back from Thanksgiving. Yes, I said Thanksgiving. And yes, I know that’s a hell of a lot of stuff to be tested on. But guess what else is gonna test us on a hell of a lot of stuff? *DING DING DING* You guessed it! Good ol’ Step.

Life after Step is gonna be strange and awesome at the same time. Strange because I’ve been having to work towards this exam ever since I first stepped foot into med school, so completing that checkpoint will be like closing a chapter of my experience here. With the closing of that chapter comes a new one, which is where the awesome part comes in. I’ll be in the hospital on a daily basis actually taking care of patients! It’ll be an experience completely different from what I’ve been accustomed to and I feel like I’ll be able to learn even better by actually going through the motions on the wards. Speaking of, we actually FINALLY got our third-year schedules a few days ago! I got my second-preference schedule, which I’m very happy about! I’ll start off in the summer with three months of Internal Medicine, followed by six weeks of OB/GYN, six weeks of Pediatrics, a month of Psychiatry, a month of Neurology, eight weeks of Surgery, a month of Family Medicine and lastly, a month of Emergency Medicine. It’s going to be a grueling, yet fulfilling year. I’m also just gonna have to get over the fact that my already shortened free time will be even more severely shortened. 😅😰😭

This past week, in between studying for my upcoming exams, I completed my final Clinical Skills exam (CPX) for the year, attended my last Clinical Skills class of the year and shadowed another ophthalmologist at the hospital. My performance in CPX was fine overall, but I forgot to ask my standardized patient a couple of critical questions that would have made the diagnosis very clear to me. As I was doing the write-up, I was kicking myself about missing those questions because not asking those easy yet critical questions made it harder to complete my write-up. But on the bright side, I’ll never forget to ask them again when I come across real patients in the future! It’s definitely better to screw up and learn from my mistakes now rather than later when I’ll actually be at least partially responsible for the lives of actual patients. Overall though, I’ve come a LONG way from my very first CPX, after which I was advised (forced) to get extra practice with my history-taking skills by interviewing patients in the wards. Thank God for growth lol. It was also crazy attending my last Clinical Skills class, because I had been with that same small group of people ever since I first started school. I learned so many practical skills in that class over the past year-and-a-half that will undoubtedly be critical to my success in the wards in a few short months.

Finally, my shadowing experience was pretty dope, as always. I was running in and out of various operating rooms with the ophthalmologist and the resident working with him, where they were performing some fascinating surgeries. The amount of procedures that you can do on the eye is pretty insane. One patient was getting laser treatment on her retina, another patient was getting her diabetic retinopathy treated and another one had an epiretinal membrane that she needed to get treated. There was also a patient with this condition called “morning glory syndrome“, a condition in which one’s optic disk fails to fully develop in utero. The field of ophthalmology just continues to fascinate me. It was a pleasure, as always, to be able to shadow that physician.

Alright, back to studying. Y’all have a great week! And keep the resistance up; never allow yourself and the goodness of humanity to be oppressed!

“The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.” – Benjamin E. Mays

– Black Man, M.D.

Straight Grindin’

Alright I knew I would be hitting the ground running when I got back to school…

BUT DAMN!!! *in my best Chris Tucker voice*

I don’t think I’ve really been able to catch much of a break since getting back from Atlanta last Monday. I started class Tuesday morning with four lectures of Renal Pathology (that I FINALLY finished getting through yesterday), followed by another four lectures the next day that I’m still working on getting through. (Yes, I’ve been playing the catch-up game again. 😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊) And I have about ten or so lectures this week before my Renal Pathology exam on Friday. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Well, it is. But you would think I would have been able to get through my eight lectures from last week by now. You know why I haven’t been able to? I’ll gladly tell you. Because I had another Clinical Skills Exam (“affectionately” called CPX for those of you not familiar with it) this past Wednesday where I not only had to go in and interview a standardized patient before performing a focused physical exam on her, but also had to document our encounter as well as provide an assessment and plan for her care. That took quite a chunk of my Wednesday overall. In my opinion, it may have been my best performance yet, but you never know these days. I’m just gonna hold my breath and hope that I don’t get another email stating that the history-taking portion of my encounter was “Unsatisfactory” and that I will need to “remediate my history-taking skills”. I don’t even wanna hear the word ‘remediate’ anymore. I’m tired of remediating my history-taking dammit. Lol.

I then tried to get through some more of Tuesday’s lectures after finishing my standardized patient documentation, but I didn’t get very far. Plus I was tired and wanted to get some sleep in order to attend a Case-Centered Learning (CCL) session early the next morning. Thursday turned out to be a pretty long day as well. I attended the CCL lecture and then attempted to study some more before having to go to my actual Clinical Skills class, which ended up taking up most of my afternoon. The class was especially interesting this time around though, for we learned a practical and helpful method to go about breaking bad news to patients as well as how to take a “SOAP Note”, which is a quick daily progress note of a patient that includes an evaluation of how the patient is doing from both a subjective and an objective perspective, a current assessment of the current health of the patient and a plan of care for the patient based on the overall evaluation and assessment of him/her. We also learned how to access patient files, which comes with a HUGE amount of responsibility and actually made me feel more like a healthcare provider instead of a second-year med student tryna stay afloat in this choppy sea of lectures and exams. It was pretty cool, to say the least.

After getting back from Clinical Skills, I played the catch-up game a bit more before having to attend a meeting for the annual “Share the Health Fair” taking place this Saturday. I’m going to be working as a station leader at the glaucoma screening station at the health fair all day, so I had to make sure I knew what the set-up was going to look like as well as make sure the volunteers working at the station that day knew what to expect. On top of all this going on that day was the fact that it was my Founders’ Day, so of course I had to celebrate for a bit with some other fraternity brothers in the area. I finally got back to my place later that night, studied for a bit and then crashed in order to attend a review session the next morning because Lord knows I definitely needed that. I attended the review session and then was able to get some more studying in after that, but my studying was cut short (yet again) by a mandatory presentation I had to attend where my class was formally introduced to the scheduling procedures for our third-year clinical rotations. By the way, this presentation further proved to me how freakin’ close third-year is. The fact that I’ll have patients in the near future that I’m somewhat responsible for is mind-blowing man. In addition, clinical rotation schedules are strict AF. I’ll have to be at the hospital damn near every waking hour of my week, although I’ll get weekends off on some rotations. So that means I’ll have much, much less control of my time. It’s gonna be a hell of a ride, that’s for sure.

Right after leaving that presentation, I made my way to Charlotte in order to fly to Irving, Texas (it’s near Dallas) for the SNMA National Leadership Institute. First off, I traveled back in time. That’s just cool to say. Also, it was ’bout cold as fuhhh over there! You would think Texas would be hot or whatever. But nah. It was 22 degrees when I landed. And it stayed cold the whole weekend. I wasn’t reaaadyyyyy! *in my Kevin Hart voice* But it IS January, so I guess I should have known better lol. The conference was fantastic overall though! I was able to interact with regional and national leaders in the organization from all over the country while representing my school. I also learned quite a bit from the sessions that I attended, including tips on how to efficiently plan your goals, why understanding the business side of medicine is particularly important, the importance of understanding the value of a personal brand, how to verbally communicate with people in a proficient manner in under a minute, and how to take advantage of the plethora of post-career opportunities available for medical school graduates. In addition, there was a SNMA Leadership Panel presented to us, which was made up of prior SNMA leaders who are now practicing physicians and the Dean of Texas Christian University’s future medical school came to talk to us about the innovative curriculum that they’re working to provide to their future students. Finally, we were given a talk during dinner last night that focused on the vital importance of voting in all government elections and being leaders in our respective communities. All in all, I’m happy that I had the opportunity to attend this conference and I feel that I’ll be making use of many of the connections that I made here, as well as many of the lessons that I learned here, in the future.

So now I’m back in Winston, where it actually snowed quite a bit while I was gone! Now all I need is to throw a snowball at someone and to drink some hot cocoa to be perfectly content. I’m lying, I won’t be content because I still gotta get through these lectures.

confused hand robert downey jr frustrated sigh

I hope you’ve started off the New Year on a phenomenal note! Keep on working towards your goals and powering through your resolutions! Those who say they can and those who say they can’t are usually both right!

Be the one who says they can!

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston  Churchill

– Black Man, M.D.

The Power of Discussions

That extra hour of sleep was very, very clutch.

But this also means that it’s going to get darker earlier, which is annoying.

eye roll atlanta come on atlanta fx paper boi

Winter is officially coming. And you know what else is coming?

ELECTION DAY. 😭😭😭😭😭

I don’t want the Obamas to have to leave the White House!! President Obama is the coolest & chillest president we’ve ever had man. I remember watching him the night he got elected into office 8 years ago…I also remember that stunning black & red dress the FLOTUS was wearing that night too lol. I had actually (unnecessarily) recorded President Obama’s whole acceptance speech on my family camera, and I remember thinking to myself: “If he stays in office for 8 years, I’ll be 23 by the time he has to leave! He’s going to be president forever!! YES!!!”

Well.

I’m 23.

crying tears oprah emotional

This election season has been an insane one…very truly an insane one. We all know that, so I don’t even need to begin to explain how I feel about it. Just please, please, PLEASE exercise your right to vote if you haven’t already! Let’s keep America on track towards progress, and not rewind ourselves back towards our troubling history.

*Sigh.*

I’m gonna need a couple drinks Tuesday night.

On another note, the SNMA chapter at my school just finished hosting the annual Regional Medical Education Conference! It was an awesome experience, even though I had to miss UMiami’s Homecoming for it 😓. (There’s always next year, right?) Being able to not only watch, but participate in the sessions that I personally helped plan for was a great and rewarding feeling. The conference started off Friday night with registration and a welcome reception where SNMA students from around the region came and mingled with faculty members here at Wake. It was nice to meet some minority residents who worked here at Wake Baptist and to see the Dean again, who I had the pleasure of chatting with the previous night at the Twin City’s Medical Society Mentorship Program reception. I then had a chill night with some of the other medical students, where we played card games and taboo and whatnot lol.

The next morning started off early with a light breakfast at the school, picture-taking, and more registration. We then had a plenary session about Racial Disparities in Receiving Mental Health Care, which was facilitated by Dr. Rahn Bailey, the current Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. In his talk, he discussed various issues including the dangers of implicit bias in health providers against minority populations, the fears that people with a lower education level have when it comes to talking with their health providers, the importance of value-based metrics as a future payment method, what the ACA has the potential to do for patients, and the stigma of mental health in the cultures of minority populations, especially in African-American populations. Next came a session involving the topic of Harm Reduction and how it can be used to treat drug addiction. The speaker was a man who had actually dealt with homelessness and drug addiction in his past, but has now been clean for over 10 years due to the powers of harm reduction, which he described as the “middle ground between addiction and sobriety”. He discussed how drug users who participate in harm reduction are 5x more likely to seek help in order to quit as well as how harm reduction works to reduce costs for future potential treatments for people using drugs. He also stressed how important it was to stay patient with patients when trying to wean them off drugs and to try and not get jaded about it, for seeing positive results in patients trying to achieve sobriety can take a very long time.

Following that session was another one based on the importance of Mentorship in Medical Education, where a faculty member from this institution stressed how vital it was to seek out mentors in order to maximize our opportunities in medical school. He also touched on the Twin City Medical Society Mentorship program here, where an advisee is paired with an advisor who is in the field that the advisee is interested in. Soon after that session was one that was based on the topic of Microaggressions, led by one of the co-presidents of the SNMA chapter here. In this session, we participated in an activity where we were presented with a couple of scenarios and chose our own path within the scenario by deciding what we wanted to do after a question was posed to us. It was pretty cool and it opened the floor for us to discuss various instances where we experienced microaggressions from either peers, faculty or other people while living out our lives. Then after that one came a suturing clinic, where I finally learned how to perform a basic suture! My first couple of stitches were rough, but I got a little better as I continued to work on it 😁.

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Next came lunch and a short talk given by a representative from Be The Match where she discussed the importance of signing up for the bone marrow registry and the potential opportunities that we have when it comes to saving a life. (Rest in Peace Tori.) Then came the next session, which was a panel discussion focused on the topic of Gun Violence, Police Brutality and the Mental/Public Health Effects they have on minority populations. I happened to be the moderator of that discussion and thus facilitated the discussion between the three panelists and the audience. We talked about what we as medical students could possibly do when it comes to effectively addressing these issues, the power of the Black Lives Matter movement and the impact that police brutality and gun violence has on the health of the populations they target, just to name a few points. It turned out to be a great conversation overall! After this panel discussion were two more sessions based on Financial Planning for Millennials and Addressing the Health Needs of East Winston-Salem, an area of the city that has a high number of low-income residents. We then all took a bunch of pictures together, checked out the exhibitor’s fair and attended a business meeting for the region to discuss, well, business. By the time that meeting ended, it was 5:00 PM.

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Some of the RMEC Attendees!

But my day wasn’t over just yet.

We all ended up at a country club nearby where we attended a banquet to close out the conference. It was the fancy type of banquet where we had 3 forks, 2 spoons and 2 knives or something like that. Plus, the whole four-course meal was served to us as we sat at our tables. The featured speaker at the banquet was Mr. Cornell P. Wright, who serves as the Executive Director of the North Carolina Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities. He touched on many things in this discussion, a few of which were, of course, the state of minority health in North Carolina, the infuriating truths that the 13th documentary brings up to the surface and the critical importance of health equity for all. He was also a really funny and interactive guy! It was an awesome ending to an awesome conference. I was so tired though, so I was looking forward to crashing in my bed…which I got to do only after hosting a kickback at my apartment complex for the SNMA medical students, which was a great time too. Like I said earlier, that extra hour proved to be REALLY clutch.

Jeez, I didn’t think I was going to write this much about the conference. I have one more unrelated thing I wanna say before closing off this post though. So bear with me!

As you may or may not know, I took my clinical skills exam about a month ago and I felt decent about my performance overall. Turns out my evaluators thought so too for just about every part of the standardized patient encounter…except for the history-taking portion of the encounter.

The freakin’ history-taking portion.

I swear I thought I did okay when it came to taking an HPI, Family/Social/Past Medical History, and Review of Symptoms. It wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t think I was going to get an unsatisfactory with my history-taking. It also didn’t help that the standardized patient was confusing me with her two different conditions (she made it seem like she had three different problems). Boiiiii you shoulda seen my face when I got the email about having to fill out a form requiring me to meet with my coaches in order to work on taking a more effective history.

done steve harvey over it family feud give up

Like, C’MON MAN!!

I’ve been working on this ever since I pretty much got told to do better on taking a history early on in my first year. However, we weren’t given any type of template this time around like in past clinical skills exams, so we had to reason our way through the interview and ask questions we felt were pertinent to the task at hand. I guess I did fine from a first-year med student point-of-view, because I pretty much asked the same open-ended questions that I’ve been taught to ask for the past year. However, the criticism came from the fact that I didn’t ask enough closed-ended questions, which are questions that are meant to pinpoint specific symptoms in order to formulate a working diagnosis in my head. After watching the recording of my encounter and viewing the evaluation form that my evaluators used, I began to realize how apparent the holes in my history-taking were. But even though I passed the exam overall, I still couldn’t really wrap my head around the fact that I really got an unsatisfactory on that part of the exam until I finally met with one of my coaches a couple of days ago to go over it with her.

After viewing the recording of my performance again with her and thoroughly discussing how I did, I truly then began to realize where my true problem lay. It wasn’t that I was necessarily bad at history-taking; I was actually very much calm and in control throughout the whole interview. It’s that, up to this point, I have been thinking of the questions I had to ask as a checklist that I had to fill out, even though I had been fighting to not think of it as that. It’s just that over time, it just became easier to think of it as a checklist as opposed to actually trying to think critically about what was going on with the patient, something I hadn’t even really realized I was doing until I had this discussion with my coach. It was a much-needed learning experience I didn’t realize I needed and that I honestly didn’t even want to accept at first because I had grown comfortable to my style of questioning. It also became vividly apparent to me that we didn’t get a template of questions this time around because we need to be able to critically think about the patient on the spot, something I honestly wasn’t doing well enough. Although I was extremely annoyed when I first got my evaluation back, I’m now very grateful about the feedback I’ve been given, which will work to make me that much better of a physician in the future. I also have a good feeling that there will be many more instances like this as I go about my training in the coming years…so I just can’t ever get too comfortable with anything.

Aiiight, I gotta get back to studying guts and butts, a.k.a. the GI system.

Hope you have an amazing week!

“Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it’s a small price to pay for living a dream.” – Peter McWilliams

– Black Man, M.D.

Growing Pains

Tell me why I went into this weekend TEN lectures behind in material.

TEN LECTURES BEHIND.

The sad part is, I was actively trying to keep up all last week. But between the SIXTEEN lengthy lectures given to us just last week, my three and-a-half hour clinical skills class, my Clinical Practice Assessment Exam (CPX) where I had to interview & perform a physical exam on a standardized patient and then complete a write-up which took me FOUR HOURS to finish, and all the other little things I did on the side this past week, it’s been one hell of a struggle trying to keep up. So much for Pulmonology being a chill block.

sad annoyed whatever done facepalm

But let’s backtrack to my CPX first. Why did it take me four hours to complete that write-up man? I’ll tell you why. It’s because not only did I have to summarize the patient’s History of Present Illness, Past Medical History, Review of Systems, Family History and Social History, but I also had to go on and describe her physical exam findings, write up an assessment of the patient, come up with a differential diagnosis of what I believed the patient had, and then describe in detail as to why I picked each of the conditions I believed she had. Ohhh but that’s not all folks. After describing my differential diagnosis, which took over an hour itself, I then needed to come up with a structured plan as to how I was going to move forward with this patient, which included my diagnostic work-up, the anticipatory guidance I was going to provide to the patient, my treatment recommendations, and my disposition of the patient (where I’m going to eventually send her). That’s an unbelievable amount of work yo. And to think that this will become a regular routine as I get further in my training and eventually work as a doctor…😥. Why do I get the feeling that the doctors out there reading this are chuckling to themselves? Maybe because writing patients up isn’t actually as big of a deal as I’m making it seem and I’m just being all dramatic about it. Or maybe I went way overboard with my assignment. Regardless, I put my best effort in it and it took me a really long time to finish it. I pray that no other write-up will take me as long to finish. But if I get this diagnosis right thoooo…..😏.

The actual encounter with the patient was straight though. I’ve really come a long way in my interview skills, but I can still be better. I kicked myself for missing a couple of questions that I would have liked to ask and as for the physical exam portion, I did just about everything I needed to do but forgot to do one or two maneuvers that just so happened to conveniently spring back into my mind right after I walked out of the exam room. It’s whatever though, I felt like it was my best CPX performance yet. Can’t wait to finally get some feedback this week from the doctor who was grading me. Also the standardized patient did a phenomenal job acting out her severe chest pain…I did get her to crack a few smiles though, hehehe.

A couple days prior to my CPX, I watched a documentary screening with other classmates who are in the Service Learning Scholars program like me. The documentary was called “Private Violence“, and it followed the lives of a few women who had tragically been in very abusive relationships. These women had been beaten very badly by their spouses on a constant basis, but were also finding it hard to leave their spouse for good due to the unhealthy psychological nature of their relationships. It also didn’t help that the varying state laws in place for domestic violence cases were flawed enough to not help the victims feel any safer from their spouse. One woman was severely beaten over and over again and when she finally mustered up the power to seek justice, her pictures of her bruised and bloody body didn’t meet some type of “standard” set by specific states’ laws, so the man accused would only have to go to jail for a maximum of 180 days. It’s insane. In some states, you sell weed and go to jail for years…but then you can beat up your partner on a constant basis and the most you’ll go to jail for is six months?? There are a lot of flawed laws out there that need to be changed. We then also had a discussion about the documentary as a group and touched on the challenges that physicians need to face as well as what needs to be done when dealing with the issue of domestic violence in their patients’ lives. It was a very interesting and necessary event to have overall. It also gave me a framework to keep in my head whenever I interact with patients in the future who are dealing with domestic violence issues. After attending that, I proceeded to go and watch the first presidential debate…mannnnn don’t get me started on that bull. Actually I’m not even gonna go into how I’m feeling about this “presidential race” right now. Just please go out and VOTE for the sake of not only you but this country as a whole.

One more thing, I officially applied for my Step 1 exam this past week. Let me repeat that. I’VE OFFICIALLY APPLIED FOR MY USMLE STEP 1 EXAM. This has gotten so real so fast. I registered to take it in mid-April so I got a good amount of time before then, but I’m well aware of how fast time can fly. I’m just gonna work my tail off until then and pray that I get the score that I feel I deserve. I’m already thinking about how my nerves the night before will probably keep me from being able to fall asleep…I’m gonna have to find a solution to that. Oh, and you wanna hear something ridiculous? The exam costs $605 to take! SIX HUNDRED AND FIVE MOTHERLOVIN’ DOLLARS!!! I very audibly gasped when I saw that amount and immediately closed my laptop. But then guess what I remembered? My school reimburses us for the cost of the exam! Wake is soooo clutch man! THE REAL MVP. So I deposited the check that Student Affairs gave me, applied for the exam, and gleefully checked my bank account to verify that the amount in my checking account was unchanged. And lo and behold, it was unchanged.

Geek & Sundry dancing happy dance kid president dance

Gotta get back to catching up to these lectures though, I only have three more to go before I’m all the way caught up again! I definitely don’t wanna be behind before facing the four lectures we have tomorrow morning along with the longitudinal classes that will be taking up my afternoon. Jeez.

Have a marvelous week! 

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie

– Black Man, M.D.

Breathe In, Breathe Out.

I officially finished my Cardiology block last Monday!

Nick At Nite dance dancing celebrate backflip

It was a tough block, but I found the material to be interesting overall and contrary to a large portion of my classmates, I actually liked interpreting EKGs 😅. I took my Cardiology exam and I ended up doing pretty decent on it…I missed a few questions that I definitely shouldn’t have missed, but that’s neither here nor there. I feel comfortable with what I’ve learned in that block overall. I then found myself in Greensboro after the exam with some friends and had lunch at this pretty good burger restaurant, where I ate this massive burger that definitely didn’t help raise my HDL levels (good cholesterol) or lower my LDL levels (bad cholesterol). Talk about irony. We then ended up bar hopping for almost four hours…and since it was a Monday afternoon, you can imagine how empty the bars were. And no, I did not get drunk lol. To tell the truth, I was ready to leave after the second hour…but between playing Catchphrase at one bar and Shuffleboard at another, I did have a great time winding down with friends. Then that night, I proceeded to finally start watching Atlanta, which is Donald Glover’s very popular new show. So far, I absolutely love it. And this is coming from a guy who doesn’t like to watch TV. I then had a free day of rest on Tuesday, where I got a lot of things outside of schoolwork done. Needless to say, it was awesome not having to open a book or read notes that day.

Then we started the Pulmonology block on Wednesday morning. I had heard very good things about both the course director of this block as well as about this subject in general, so I was ready to get going with it. The very first thing the Pulmonology course director did after we walked into class was read a wonderful poem for Tori and express his condolences to us. I immediately knew that I would like this guy as well as this block. And so far, I have very little to complain about in regards to subject material. Compared to the vast intricacies of the heart, the physiology of the lungs have seemed pretty straightforward to me. Then again, maybe that’s because I’ve already learned a ton about both the heart and the blood, both of which the lungs work very closely with. How cool is it that the more organ systems I learn about in the body, the easier it is to grasp the new ones I come across? It’s like a huge game of Pokemon or something; the more experience I have in learning how certain organs of the body function, the higher of an overall level I achieve! Just like the more experience your Pokemon get in battles, the more they level up. And the exams are like gym leaders that I have to battle in order to move on to the next block/the next gym leader! Lol, this analogy is actually so stupid. I’m mad I actually had the nerve to come up with it. I was such a Pokemon nerd growing up, can you tell? I was the guy who would play the games on the Game Boy, beat the game and restart the game just to beat it again. I was so damn proud of myself when I finally completed my PokeDex with the 150 original Pokemon…I don’t have Pokemon Go though. I admittedly was gonna download it when it first came out, but the servers were crashing…so I took it as a sign that I wasn’t meant to have it because Lord knows I would have been looking like a fool trying to catch ’em all.

Okay I’m starting a new paragraph because I just went way off-topic for no good reason. I have my first Clinical Skills exam (CPX) this Wednesday, where I will be tested on a standardized patient encounter. I’ll be interviewing the patient as well as performing any necessary physical exam maneuvers on him/her. Here’s the catch though: I have to come up with my own interview questions and physical exam maneuvers. In the past, we were told what we had to do during the CPX, but now they’re loosening our leash quite a bit. I’ll also have to do a write-up of the patient and turn it in within 48 hours of the encounter. Oh the joy of being a second-year student. This is gonna be fun.

On a more serious note, I really can’t stand the fact that more and more black men are being murdered by law enforcement. It’s really sickening, to say the least. I could write down all my feelings about it, but that’s not going to do much of anything. I’d only be preaching to the choir for the most part. Plus, I’ve already penned most of my feelings about this issue back in my Chills post. The level of ignorance that is currently present in this country when it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement just baffles me. The fact that many of the people who have much to say about Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem come up short of something to say when a black man is unjustly silenced by a bullet is painfully astounding. The fact that we have to protest and demand that our lives be seen just as equal and precious as the lives of other Americans is pretty damn sad. The poisonous mentality of seeing white as “Okay, let’s de-escalate the situation” and black as “UP TO NO GOOD” just reinforces the prejudice that certain groups of people have for Black people as a whole. That unfair bias is a HUGE part of the issue that we are facing today in terms of racial equality. The different shades of color and various cultures that make up the people of both this country and this world is what makes humanity so beautiful. Black lives matter just as much as the lives of any other human life in this world. So why are we being disproportionately killed off? Why is the killing of a black man by law enforcement becoming more and more desensitizing in this country? Why does it seem that hashtags of the slain have become a part of daily life in this country?

nightmare

WHEN WILL THIS NIGHTMARE END?

“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but it is fear.” – Ghandi

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – I had a dream a couple nights ago where I was talking to Rihanna and she told me how much she loved reading my blog. Lol, a man can only dream, right? But they say dreams do come true…

Growth, Control & Breaking Stereotypes.

February is already looking like its going to fly by very quick. But then again, when has time not flown by since I started medical school back in late July? It’s damn near impossible to fathom how fast I’m approaching my second year of medical school…almost nerve-wracking. I don’t feel that much different from when I graduated college back in May, but at the same time I’ve been exposed to an entirely new mentality as well as a raging waterfall of information that persistently tries to drown me on a constant basis. But truth be told, I’ve so far been faring a lot better than I had imagined I would be. Back before I even got accepted into a medical school I had imagined that whenever I started studying medicine, my life as I knew it would be over. I thought that I would be endlessly memorizing facts and studying during most of my waking hours while hopelessly watching my social life fade away from me like Michael Jackson moonwalking into a misty graveyard. I also believed that no matter how hard I tried, I would fall short of the grades that I managed to obtain while in undergrad. The thought of attempting to take on extracurricular activities, much less leadership positions while in medical school was a joke to me and I believed that although I would enjoy what I was learning, I would be silently miserable at the same time.

Well, that’s how you tend to imagine med school after asking the majority of the people you know about what means to be there. I’m happy to say that I was wrong. Okay, sort-of wrong. I sure as hell am studying during most of my waking hours and endlessly memorizing facts, but so are all of my peers. So it doesn’t really feel like I’m missing out on anything. Plus I’m in Winston-Salem. So I know for sure I’m not missing out on anything spectacular. The social life I knew changed as soon as I left Miami, but it never faded away…it simply transformed. I definitely have had a great time with the friends I’ve made here and am far from miserable. I’ve even been able to participate in different extracurricular activities such as service learning opportunities and SNMA. As for obtaining the grades that I had back in undergrad…..yeah I’m falling shorter than a muhhh. I’ve had like one or two tests where I’ve reached the grades that I was used to making back then, but other than that, it’s been an uphill struggle trying to achieve high grades. But I haven’t been doing bad either so that’s okay. The Pass/Fail grading system truly is a beauty. I guess what I’m trying to say is, just like with anything in life, medical school is what you make it. If you want it to be a miserable experience, it definitely will grant your wish. If you want to have an awesome experience while studying medicine, you can definitely make it happen. It’s your decision. I chose the latter. I won’t lie though, the city I’m in has also made it undoubtedly easier to stay focused on school. 😅

Looking back on my CPX (Clinical Practice Assesment Exam) I told you about last week, I ended up doing fairly well. My ever-expanding interview skills didn’t fail me, and I actually took a correct blood pressure reading on my own for the first time! Hella embarrassing I know, but up until that point I had been faking my way through that portion since we don’t have to report vital signs at this stage in our careers…we just have to go through the motions. But I actually heard the thump, thump of the pulse in the brachial artery that I’m supposed to hear and got a decent systolic/diastolic blood pressure for the first time. That was probably the most exciting part of my exam haha. I also performed the physical exam maneuvers decent enough, so I ended up passing. I forgot that I was supposed to use a drape for my standardized patient though…..I had seen it, but I just threw it aside. 😂 Still passed thooo!!!

I also met and interviewed a patient that was suffering from ulcerative colitis last week during my clinical skills rotation. Needless to say, this patient was in pretty severe pain. I almost felt bad asking him about his pain, but he was pretty engaged in our conversation and happy to help me practice my interviewing skills on him. Seeing how far those skills have come from when I first started amazes me. There was a point where I didn’t even know how to properly ask a patient to describe their pain. Now obtaining an HPI has almost become second nature to me, although I have to now start learning how to obtain it in a quicker and more efficient manner. My clinical skills coach also had me and my small group present our patients to her (which I absolutely suck at) and develop a write-up of our patients in order to critique us (which she is absolutely stunning at). Good thing I won’t have to truly utilize these skills until my third year, but it’s real nice that we get this early clinical exposure so that we are comfortable with doing all that when it comes time to put these skills to good use. Right after my clinical skills class, there was an event where a few members of the Wake Forest School of Medicine faculty talked about times where they felt like they failed and how they bounced back from those failures in order to become better and stronger people. I just thought that it was an amazing event and I felt like the lessons that these faculty learned through their struggles are lessons that could benefit not only us as medical students, but you, the reader, as well. These lessons included:

  • Recognizing that you are in control of building your life the way you want to after hitting rock bottom
  • Seizing the moment and doing something nice for yourself each day
  • Not letting your grades nor comments, criticisms or negativity from other people define who you are
  • Communicating your needs while setting standards for yourself that is consistent with your values

 

Okay I know I’m talking a lot, but I just thought about an encounter I had with my barber a little over a week ago that I forgot to put in last week’s entry. This is my last story for today, I swear lol. I was at the barber shop getting a line-up for Wake’s medical school prom a couple of Fridays ago and I had my Wake Forest School of Medicine hoodie on. When it was my turn to get my line-up, the barber introduced himself and everything and we had a light convo as he was getting all his supplies ready. Then as he began lining me up, he asked me, “You play ball for Wake Forest?”

I guess he didn’t get the ‘School of Medicine’ memo on my hoodie. I was like, “Nah, I’m a first-year medical student at the Wake Forest School of Medicine.”

He abruptly picked up his razor off of my head, looked at me and was like, “Oh word? For real? That’s what’s up man. You must get that question a lot huh?”

I laughed and replied, “Yeah man, more times than I can remember. I may look like a ball player but funny thing is, I’m trash at basketball. So I just stuck to what I knew best, which was the books. I really just want to help break the stereotype that has been cast on us as young, black men.”

He laughed, himself an older black man, and said, “Well that’s great man, I’m happy for you.” As he started to return to his task, he went on, “You know, the media really does try and stick us all in a box. They expect us to be rappers, basketball players, football players, you name it. The news also covers all the bad things that black people do but does little to highlight our accomplishments. Like for example, the news will never tell you who the second richest black person in America is (Robert F. Smith) because he isn’t an athlete or an entertainer. He’s a business man. You’re doing a great thing man, don’t let up. Young black men are always trying to find the fastest way to becoming rich, which is why we fall in the stereotype trap, but the road you’re taking is definitely worth it in the end. You just gotta do your thing and own your own practice and show other young black men that they’re capable of what you’re doing.”

I wasn’t expecting a TED Talk from my barber, but I deeply appreciated what he had told me. All I could say was, “Thanks man, I really appreciate that. That’s a big reason why I’m doing what I’m doing.”

He then said it was no problem and went on to talk about how diabetes and glaucoma had affected his family as a whole and why he decided to change the way he ate and lived so that he wouldn’t suffer the same consequences that some of his loved ones did. It ended up being one of my more memorable barber experiences and needless to say, I ended up tipping him a good amount after the cut. I think I’ve finally found my new favorite barber in Winston-Salem.

Alright that was a lot. But the more I typed, the more I realized how much more I wanted to say. I hope you enjoyed this post and that you perhaps took something out of it. As for today’s positive memo:

You may not always have control of your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them. Don’t let your circumstances control you.

Enjoy Super Bowl Sunday!!!

 

– Black Man, M.D.

Ready For February.

I hope y’all had a great weekend! I know I did 😁. I ended up spending it with a special person, who also came with me dressed hella nice to Wake’s medical school prom. By the way, the prom was a good time, and the open wine bar was a fabulous (and dangerous 😳) addition. So with that plus having a fun time with my girlfriend and Netflix, I ended up doing absolutely nothing productive this weekend. Now that real life has hit me square in the chin once again, I guess I need to take the rest of today to get some work done and to prepare for my third Clinical Practice Assessment Exam (CPX) this week.

Now this clinical skills test (which I’m actually not mentally ready for yet by any means), will be testing us on the same skills that we were tested on last time. That includes taking a proper History of Present Illness, a complete Review of Systems, a Social and Family History, a Past Medical History and vital signs. However, we’re also now going to be taking a Sexual History and a musculoskeletal physical exam. That’s the little game that you play every time you go to the doctor for a checkup, you know, where the doctor tells you to push against his/her hands, tells you not to let him/her bring your arms down, etc. I used to think I was such a Hulk whenever my doctor performed that physical exam on me as a kid. She always had me feeling that I was stronger than I really was…but I digress. This CPX won’t really be bad or anything, I just have to get my mind straight and prepare for it. I did pretty well last time, so if I can repeat that performance, I’ll be fine.

On another note, my whole first-year class has our first Community Practice Experience coming up in a few weeks. This is where we each get paired up with a physician practicing family medicine in different parts of the state (mostly rural areas) and learn first-hand what it’s like to practice as a physician in primary care. The experience lasts about a week and in that week, we’ll be shadowing the doctor and doing whatever tasks he/she needs to be completed. Now I want you to go ahead and guess where I got placed in North Carolina.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

If you guessed Charlotte, you’d be wrong.

Greensboro? Nahhh.

High Point? Raleigh? Winston-Salem??

Nope, Uh-uh, No.

Try Lenoir. Never heard of it? You and me both. It’s some small town of about 20,000 people that lies about an hour and a half west of Winston-Salem, somewhat close to the Tennessee border. Near the mountains and whatnot. And I thought Winston-Salem was in the middle of nowhere. Lenoir makes Winston-Salem look like a metropolis. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Well it is. It should prove to be an interesting experience, that’s for sure. After that week though, we got our Spring Break!

Spring Break is gonna be dope, I just gotta figure out what exactly I’m gonna do and finalize those plans…sooner rather than later. I got DC and Miami in mind…but it all depends on the state of my finances 😅. Speaking of finances, if anyone has several thousand dollars that they’re just DYING to get rid of, feel free to send it my way. I’ll promise I’ll put it to excellent use! Sending a car over to me works too 😄. Haha I’ll take whatever donations I can get.

Before I finish off this entry, I want to share something that was shared with me this weekend. I personally found it pretty encouraging as well as rejuvenating. To sum it up, it’s a short video that features Dr. Curtiss Moore, a cardiology fellow, giving a motivational message about being a Black Man, M.D. (Hehehe I’m clever). Hope it helps you in some sort of way!

Black Men In White Coats – Dr. Curtiss Moore, UT Southwester Medical Center

And finally, I’ve decided to start sharing inspirational messages with you each week. If you didn’t already know, I’m a firm believer in the tremendous value of positive energy. I believe that you can change not only your daily experiences, but your life overall just by changing the way you think. It may sound crazy, but it’s gotten me this far, so why stop now? In the words of one of my old high school friends, “I aspire to inspire.” With that in mind, I would love to help provide some sort of inspiration to someone out there in order to help him/her catalyze a better perspective of life.

Having said all that, today’s positive memo is simple:

Change in your life only comes from a change within yourself.

Stay Blessed!

– Black Man, M.D.

Final Hurdle!

One More Week!!

You would think with the three examinations I had last week and with the never-ending supply of information being force-fed to us throughout these past couple of weeks that I would be crawling and gasping for air while hopelessly searching for the finish line…but I’m honestly not. As a matter of fact, I feel like I’ve caught my second wind. I feel like I’m in total control of my studies and that I’m at a very reasonable pace for my Genetics exam this Friday. It’s a glorious feeling. And yes, it’s entirely possible to feel calm and collected in the frenzied heat of medical school.

But to get to where I’m currently at, I had to get through last week….starting with the Biochemistry test bright and early last Monday. Have you ever taken a test where you blaze through a few easy questions and then get to a sequence of questions that tests you on topics that either go into WAY more detail than you covered in class or that you “weren’t supposed to worry about”, according to the professor? And the cycle just repeats itself over and over? That pretty much sums up that whole exam. I swear I had a couple cold sweats and gave more than a few blank stares to my computer screen while taking that exam. After finishing it, I felt like I had passed it but I didn’t really know by how much. We found out a couple days later that they ended up throwing out eight questions (GO FIGURE) from the 87 questions on the test, so my grade ended up being a lot higher than I expected. 😁

We ended up having afternoon classes the same day as the test, which dragged the day on..but I got through all that. We started Genetics the very next day, which actually wasn’t bad…but I was already busy preparing for my clinical skills exam (CPX) I had on Wednesday. I had decided to myself that if I was gonna do great on any test that week, it would be that one because I had to redeem myself from the first CPX exam I took back in October. Granted, I had done well on the physical exam portion of that first CPX, but my history-taking skills had fallen flat. They were so bad that I had been advised (required) to create and implement a plan to get better with history-taking, since it’s such an important part of being a doctor. 😅  So for the next few weeks, under the supervision of my coaches, I ended up getting extra practice with taking HPI’s (History of Present Illness) from patients as well as taking social, family and past medical histories. So with all that said, acing the interview portion of the exam this time around was a necessity. I went into the exam room with the standardized patient on Wednesday afternoon, where I was challenged with obtaining the chief complaint, HPI, Past Medical History, Family & Social History and to ask a series of general health questions called the Review of Systems, all before doing the actual physical exam where I would be taking her vitals (Heart & Respiratory rate, Blood pressure), performing a HEENT (Head, Eyes, Ears, Nose, Throat) exam, and palpating both her lymph nodes and thyroid.

I fell flat, again. 😔

Nahhhh I’m playing, I killed that interview! Turns out that all that extra practice paid the hell off, because I felt comfortable and relaxed throughout the whole encounter. I miraculously remembered everything I was supposed to ask her and I really just let the conversation flow while tailoring all my questions to whatever she was telling me. You know you’re doing it right when your 30-minute patient encounter feels like 10 quick minutes. The doctor that graded me pointed out a few mistakes I made, but overall she thought I did great and gave me an “effective performance” grade!

So I plan on only going up from here when it comes to interviewing patients and just doing my best to perfect that craft. The next day, my clinical skills group and I went up to the cardiology wards to do some more patient interviewing in order to become even more familiar with it. Before we did that though, we learned and practiced the new skill of taking a sexual history on each other. (Role-playing scenarios, of course.) It was…..different. It will absolutely be a skill that I’ll need to work on. Asking patients about their sexual history is definitely going to be quite the experience.

Then Friday came around, and our medical ethics exam/quiz came with it. That quiz was……yeah. I’m just going to say that giving a multiple choice examination on ethics is not the best idea, in my opinion. They should just stick to giving us papers to write and letting us have our discussions, not trying to force ethical questions from readings into multiple-choice format. We already have enough tests to worry about. I mean, I think I did fine but I won’t lie, there were some tricky questions/answer choices up there. But whatever, I took it and got it over with.

Then I had an awesome weekend. A couple of my classmates threw a holiday party Friday night where I sipped on some eggnog for the second time in my life, saw a ornamented deer’s head hung on a wall and made S’mores on an actual fire. Lol. Then on Saturday, I got the chance to be one of Santa’s little helpers at a church that was throwing a Christmas party for children diagnosed with sickle-cell anemia. We helped the kids make Christmas cards, paint masks on their faces and make reindeer out of candy canes. Then we passed out wrapped, donated gifts to the kids, who all for the most part were pretty excited to receive them. It was a fantastic experience. Later that night, I found myself in Durham at an SNMA (Student National Medical Association) social, networking with other minority medical students from Duke and UNC with my fellow Wake friends. That was a ton of fun, if I do say so myself. It was awesome to be able to connect with medical students from other schools and to compare curriculums as well as share experiences. Also, you can’t beat free full-rack ribs and a turn up.

Now I’m here working on trying to end this semester with a BANG by doing the best I can on this test on Friday, which means I gotta get back to studying. THE GRIND NEVER STOPS.

Y’all make sure to have a positive week!

Walk with a smile and do to others what you would want done to you! 

– Black Man, M.D.

 

 

Gotta Keep Pushing…

So I took a morning stroll today to CVS. It was a nice, brisk morning, not too hot and not too cold…it was pretty chill. It was also a very slow morning. Winston-Salem is the kind of city that has traffic lights on every corner because it wants to act like it’s poppin’…thing is, I saw like three cars on the road this morning. And it was 11 AM. But anyway, the walk to CVS and back gave me time to do some reflection and goal-setting while appreciating my surroundings. It reminded me of when I used to take walks to Sunset down in Miami, minus the drowning in my own sweat under Miami’s unforgivable sun.

I actually don’t have a good reason as to why I wrote that. I just figured I’d tell y’all I had a nice walk this morning. You tend to walk a lot when you don’t have a car…you’d be surprised at how far your two legs can take you.

In other news…

I’ve been dealing with Anatomy for seven weeks now. It’s not getting any easier, but it’s not getting much harder either. It’s just a steady monsoon of information thrown at us every day…it’s actually starting to get old. Learning about the body is cool and all but I’m starting to get tired of these lectures and labs. It’s just the same thing every day, go to lecture, go to lab, fall behind all week and catch up on the weekends. I don’t hate anatomy or anything, I actually like dissecting in anatomy lab. Maybe it’s not actually anatomy I’m getting tired of…maybe it’s just this repetitive cycle of doing the same damn thing over and over again that’s wearing me down. Maybe it’s also the fact that I haven’t left this area since moving down here in July. I’m used to being up and about, but I haven’t done much of that since I’ve been here because Uber and my two legs can only take me so far. Shiiiii if it wasn’t for great friends that offered me rides on a constant basis, I probably would never leave my apartment. And that’s just a sad life man.

Screw what I said earlier, I’m definitely getting sick of learning new anatomy on a constant basis. I’m so ready for the next block of material, which happens to be Cellular & Sub-cellular Processes (AKA Biochemistry). Never thought I would be saying that since it was the BANE of my existence my senior year of college, but at least I have a background in it…which means I won’t be lost and gasping for help every time I go to lecture…

But that’s weeks away. Gotta deal with things one day at a time. These weeks tend to fly by anyway whether I would like for them to or not. I did get to play doctor last week for that clinical experience “exam” I was talking about last post! It was kinda cool, I had a patient interview and then literally performed a 20-minute physical examination that included the lungs, heart, abdomen and extremities. I’m amazed I didn’t forget any part of the physical exam…makes you appreciate how much your doctor has to remember whenever you go in for a checkup. The best part about the whole experience was that I didn’t have a damn clue as to what I was doing. I was just literally going thru the motions that I was taught and feeling for pulses like I could actually tell my patient about his health or something. But that was good enough for my evaluator, who said I did a great job with the exam and the interview 😅. He made a strong point about liking my personality too, and told me to feel good about myself. So I did.

Turns out he was just warming me up for those burning flames of criticism.

RIght after he pumped me up about how personable of a doctor I will become, he hit me with that “HOWEVER.” He then proceeded to very nicely rip me apart on my history-taking skills. Good thing I’m not sensitive and that I’m one to fully appreciate feedback, because he was very much sonning my ass on how to take a good history from a patient during the patient interview. I actually learned a lot from what he told me and am glad he gave me ways to improve on that. And it turned out that I got to use his advice when I played doctor again a couple days later while taking a real patient’s family and social history in the hospital wards. It was a lot easier than I expected, because she was actually very happy to talk to me and she also literally spilled her life story on me. Taking notes while she was talking was a hassle though, I could barely keep up! I’ve finally come to realize that patient interviewing is not just simply talking to patients…it’s a complex process that takes hella practice. But it’s all good, I got a good four years to work on it, not to mention the fact that I’ll be doing it for the rest of my life. 😄

This past Saturday, I got the chance to do glaucoma screenings at a church. I was performing visual field, visual acuity and eye pressure tests on a number of people and was having a great time doing it! I tried sharing my enthusiasm with the patients I was testing. Thing is, they all spoke Spanish. I just ended up looking stupid trying to have conversations in broken Spanish, so I stopped trying after my second patient. Thank God for my translator. That lady was my savior for the three hours I was there. It was a great time though, and so was the dinner I had on Friday night with a number of upperclassmen of color. Talking with them gave me a much-needed reality check of my future in med school. Something that really stuck with me was the way they were talking about the USMLE Step 1 Board Exam. I already knew how important it was, but its still shocking how vital that test is. Like, that shit dictates your destiny. Your score can literally cut you off from a specialty that you want to pursue if you don’t score high enough. Worst part is, you can only take it once. There isn’t a round 2. You take it once and that’s it. One and done. Had me like:

As if getting into medical school and surviving the bull wasn’t stressful enough. But aye, can’t waste energy and time worrying about that right? Being afraid of the test will only make it even worse than it has to be…fear is a mind-killer. So I’ll deal with that challenge when I get there, I still have well over a year until I take that test. Just never thought that there was something potentially worse out there than the MCAT…or more challenging, depending how you wanna look at it. Matter of fact, I’ll start calling it a challenge, it kind of turns it into a game that I want to beat. Doing that will also help me stay positive about it, because I don’t got time for negativity or worrying. I just gotta trust I’ll be ready when the time comes. For now, I just gotta pass my next exam in a couple of weeks so I can hurry up and get closer to finishing anatomy.

So with that said, here I go with the start of another week.

Hope y’all start your week off strong! I also appreciate all the support y’all continue to give me! All those calls and texts I get from people checking up on me really mean more than you can imagine…they keep me optimistic and driven!

Stay blessed!!!

– Black Man, M.D.