Motivation Program Kickoff!

This South Florida rain gotta stop.

I know it’s rainy/hurricane season and all…but that doesn’t mean it has to randomly rain EVERY freakin’ day. Like, the forecast for this week is straight thunderstorms every day in 90-degree weather. There’s a day where it’s “supposed” to be partly cloudy, but chances are that the floodgates up in the clouds will open up anyway. I’ve taken my umbrella everywhere with me, but I haven’t really had to use it yet because I refuse to go outside whenever a torrential  downpour decides to show up. But OF COURSE, the ONE time I don’t have my umbrella with me, I get trapped in a downpour. I had to run almost blind from the gym back to my dorm soaking wet. I’m currently rolling my eyes as I think about it. *Sigh* Well hopefully it starts becoming sunny and beautiful again, although the humidity always ruins the fun. Can’t do anything about that though.

In other news, the first week of the Motivation program is already over! And it was a very successful week! I’ve (hopefully) already got the names of all the students down too! This group of students have been pretty interactive & inquisitive and all seem to be enjoying the program so far. They’ve also already been quickly put to work. With classes in Reading & Study Skills, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Anatomy Lecture & Lab (I can’t get away from these cadavers man), Histology & Health Equity Research, they really are getting a feel of the demands of med school. Before being put to work though, they had to go through Orientation where they were given the rules & regulations of the program, listened to a seminar on diversity and sat through HIPAA/Privacy training. The HIPAA training was, of course, full of important information that detailed how crucial it is to maintain digital security and different ways in which the secure nature of the medical center could potentially be breached. It’s kinda scary to think about how a simple mistake like leaving your laptop open and unattended for a few minutes could endanger the lives of so many people. Also did y’all know that there is a black market for stolen usernames & passwords? Someone can steal thousands of them and sell them to a bidder for a TON of money. Jerks. As important as the talk was, it wasn’t the most exciting thing I’ve ever sat through. If there was a way to make this training engaging and interesting across the board, I’m sure that people across the nation would greatly appreciate it. Hell, that’s a million-dollar idea right there for anyone willing to take that challenge on. Don’t let me beat you to making it happen 😉. The seminar on diversity was pretty interesting though. One thing that stuck with me from it was when the doctor presenting talked about having to learn from the diverse nature of all areas of life, no matter how ignorant the beliefs of some people may be. Just because you don’t agree with the beliefs or attitudes of a patient doesn’t mean that you can’t learn something from them. Besides, it’s mandatory that you care for each and every patient entrusted to you, so coming into contact with people that you may not agree with is very likely to happen…so might as well learn something from them, such as why these certain patients believe what they believe and what in society made them come to that viewpoint.

The students have learned quite a bit in each of their classes so far, but what I find really cool is the fact that they have been given an opportunity to be published via their Health Equity Research class. In this class, they’ll be able to choose a topic within health disparities that resonates with them, perform some literature research on this topic throughout the program and present it to the class at the end of the program along with submitting their manuscript to a journal for potential publishing. During the course of the class, they’ll learn how to use medical research sources such as PubMed, efficient strategies in regards to publishing research material, and how to read & write a literature review. I really believe that it’s a fantastic opportunity…so fantastic that I’ve even slightly considered doing it along with them 😅. We’ll see tho, we’ll see.

Finally, both the members of the MCAT prep and Motivation programs along with the TAs attended a day-long clinical rotation seminar last Friday. They were exposed to a clinical case and had to think through it while offering suggestions as to why the person in the case was sick. They were also told what to expect when they participate in their clinical rotations for the next five weeks. Along with that, they were given talks on what it means to be Hispanic and/or Latino as well as how to engage with these patients and on cultural identity and awareness in general. The day wasn’t all full of talks though. We all participated in a fun activity that involved the PACE Palette, which is a type of “personality test” that assigns a dominant color to your overall personality. (My dominant color was blue, which symbolizes Harmony. Lol.) I also received the honor to join a panel with five other medical students that worked to answer the many questions that were bouncing around in the students’ heads. That was a cool experience. Believe it or not, it still baffles me sometimes to think that I’m on the other side of the application process and that I’m exactly where most of these students desire to be. I was in their same shoes not so long ago, so I know exactly what they’re thinking and how they feel. I guess that’s one of the reasons as to why I’m really big on helping students that are trying to cross the barriers that stand between themselves and their goals.

2016 MCAT & Motivation Summer Programs

 

That’s all I have to say for today, thanks for reading!

Okay I lied, I have one more thing to say. You may have noticed that I’ve been rolling out new additions to this blog. If not, be sure to check these pages out by clicking on the left upper icon on the page! The sections that I’ve added include Useful Blogs, Good Vibes and Med School 101. Now that I have more free time on my hands, I’m able to do some of the things that I wasn’t really able to focus on during the school year. It’s all about growth man! I hope that they prove to be of some worth to you!

Have a delightful week!

“Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.” – Christian Larson

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – Please pray for the families and the victims of the Orlando shooting. We’re living in some insane times.

Summer Vibes

I gotta say, I’m absolutely loving my time off from school so far.

It feels good to be back home in the 757 with friends and family after having to make a pit stop (more like a week-long stop) in Miami to attend two orientations for the program I’m working with this summer. I also randomly ended up at a concluding breakfast for an annual conference for the Association of Black Psychologists soon after arriving in Florida…but that’s besides the point 😅. The orientations I had to attend were spaced out three days apart with the first one being on Monday and the second one being on Friday. How convenient. The one on Friday was very useful and it directly related to the summer program. It got me even more excited to work with the students in the program. Free Dunkin’ Donuts and Panera didn’t hurt either. 😏 I only went to the one on Monday because the university made me. The info given to us in that SIX-HOUR long new-hire orientation session did not relate to me in terms of my summer employment. Being a current medical student and an alumni of the university, I was already familiar with the information that they presented, which ranged from university history to HIPAA, safety procedures and everything in between. Simply put, I really did not need to be there. But alas, I am a mere speck of paint in the spectacular mural that is the University of Miami. I also needed my name to be on summer payroll. So I silently suffered through it with my co-workers.

I guess I should elaborate a bit more on this program I’m working with huh? I’ve name-dropped it a few times but there are a few of you out there that probably aren’t too familiar with it…my bad! As I mentioned in a previous post (Testing My Brain on a Test on the Brain), the program is called the Minority Students In Health Careers Motivation Program, which is run by the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. This seven-week, tuition-free program is one of the three summer programs run by the office with the other two being the High School Careers in Medicine Program and the MCAT Preparation Program. The Motivation program is designed to resemble a “mini” medical school experience where the selected students (ranging from college sophomores to recent college graduates) take a sample of classes such as Anatomy, Biochemistry, Microbiology, & Histology. There is also an opportunity every week to participate in a discussion on a selected topic with a featured speaker while enjoying a free, catered dinner. Not only that, but the students are exposed to Health Equity Research, have the chance to attend supplemental workshops and have the opportunity to shadow physicians every week on clinical rotations. As if all that wasn’t good enough, housing & meals as well as metro transportation between campuses are all free for the selected students! What a program! The overall goal of this program is to promote diversity in the health field by providing students from underrepresented backgrounds an opportunity to develop skills that will increase their competitiveness when it comes time to apply to medical school. As a Teaching Assistant of the program, I’ll work with my co-Teaching Assistant and the Executive Director in facilitating the overall experience of the students in the program. I’ll be in the classroom each day with them and will assist the faculty in executing lectures and activities. I’ll also serve as a useful resource for the students by answering the various questions they will have and I’ll be able to share my experiences in medical school with them. Needless to say, I’m hyped about being able to work with the program!

In between going to the orientations, I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t enjoying my free time. From taking time to continue reading Black Man in a White Coat (I KNOW I’M TAKING FOREVER TO FINISH IT, DON’T JUDGE ME) to chillin’ at the beautiful Venetian pool with some great friends, I’ve been doing a lot of not-studying. It’s been glorious. I’m only gonna continue this period of relaxation, at least until I start the program next week.

I freakin’ love Summer!!!

I definitely can’t close out this post without shouting out the big homie and Doctorate of Education student, Mr. Donovan Livingston, for his incredible graduation speech (#LiftOff) at Harvard last week! You’re a clear example of a positive force and are an inspiration to many bro! I also appreciate you for being a supporter of this blog from the very beginning and keeping up with it weekly! Thanks for being an awesome friend and a great human being in general!!

As you may or may have not noticed, I don’t usually name-drop people in my blog for various reasons…but since he already done broke the internet and all, I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal this time around. If you haven’t heard his speech by now, you can click on the link below to check it out. I know you have five minutes to spare…so go ahead and click on it. You won’t regret it.

 

Have a fun and safe Memorial Day weekend! My appreciation runs deep for all those men and women who have sacrificed their lives to protect this country! Remember that this country stands because of the bravery and courage they exuded!!

Don’t chase people. Be you. Do your own thing and work hard. The right people who belong in your life will come find you and stay. – Will Smith

– Black Man, M.D.

 

City Boy in a Country World

Hey.

Guess what?

IT’S SPRING BREAK BYYOTCHHH!!!

And it couldn’t have come at a better time. Okay it actually maybe would have been a bit better if it came a week later, which means it would have then lined up with the spring break of most universities that I know of…but no complaints here. I’ll take what I can get. This week I’m only focused on relaxing, having an unforgettable time down here in Miami, and recharging for the final block of my first year, which starts next week. 😳 I’m honestly feeling a mix of both excitement and astonishment at the same time at the fact that after this next block, it will be summer…meaning that I will officially be a 2nd year medical student. Wow. They say time flies by in medical school….well they weren’t lying. Better yet, it damn near flashes by. I’ve learned so much and although it feels like anatomy was a lifetime ago, it also feels as if I graduated from college last week. I actually still feel like a college kid at times that just happened to make it to the next level by the grace of God. I’ve already accepted that it will take a good while for me to fully mature into more of an adult mentality, so I’m content with happily living out my days as a youngin’.

Now about my Community Practice Experience last week. Lenoir, Lenoir, Lenoir. I’m not even sure where to start. It was definitely an unforgettable experience, to say the least. The clinical exposure I received at the pediatrics clinic was amazing, and I’ll be happy to go back for my second and final week later in October. The nursing staff was fabulous, the doctors were very willing to teach students and the patients were suprisingly overwhelmingly willing to allow me to interview them as well as physically examine them. As for the actual town of Lenoir…..let’s just say that it makes Winston-Salem look like a metropolis. I swear I saw black cows roaming around the front lawn of a house at one point while driving to the clinic. No offense to anyone that loves the countryside but in my opinion, the town looked kind of depressing… and the fact that it rained all throughout my first two days there didn’t help much at all. The rain also showed me the epic driving skills of Lenoir residents. Someone hydroplaned and rear-ended into my rental car at one point, and on another occasion somebody in front of me was really begging to get T-boned by another car. Jeez. (It was a minor dent in my car and I got everything taken care of in regards to insurance. Thank God for Trip Protection. 😊) I also just want to add that one of the officers that helped to take care of the rear-end collision assumed that I was a ball player from Wake. Typical. I politely corrected him and told him that I was actually a medical student that was on a week-long clinical rotation in Lenoir, which really surprised and impressed him. I love the responses I get whenever I completely flip a stereotype on someone. In Lenoir, a highway literally cuts through the town and the roads are typically full of trucks. (I absolutely HATE driving anywhere near trucks.) The town also went nighty-night around 9 PM at the latest and from what I experienced first-hand, there was an amazingly low amount of diversity. As a matter of fact, my classmates/roommates that were placed in Lenoir with me and I walked into a brewery at one point to get some 50-cent wings and to taste some of the local beer there. My group consisted of two Asian guys, an Indian guy, and two black Africans, including me. We literally WERE the diverse element in the brewery that had about 50 people in it at the time. I’m not kidding. Everyone else was white. We got a few stares as we walked in. 😐 It was kind of strange to me because I’ve always been in diverse environments, so being in an environment like that made me slightly uncomfortable. I won’t lie though, those wings were definitely bomb as hell. Plus the waitress served us with some good ol’ southern hospitality, so I had no complaints about that dinner. Also my classmates and I ended up having an interesting convo about race and how people decide to classify themselves/how society pressures all of us to check boxes of race in order to categorize all of us accordingly. It definitely proved to be an interesting conversation. Alas, I can’t talk about the finger-lickin’ wings without talking about the barbeque restaurant we went to a couple days later. My dinner there consisted of pulled pork with barbeque and specially made hot sauce, baked apples, mac & cheese and a roll. It was simply AMAZING. Plus the staff was the definition of southern hospitality. We will definitely be hitting that spot again in October.

In regards to my actual experience in the pediatrics clinic, I’ve really surprised myself on how comfortable I’ve become in obtaining an accurate history. I still tend to miss small things here and there, but I’ve also noticed how often patients conveniently tend to leave out vital information in an interview even after I specifically ask them for it. 😒 By the end of the week, I was literally interviewing every patient that came to the clinic to see my 2nd preceptor. Talk about practice. Backing up to the first couple days of my clinical experience, I quickly saw both the value of the clinic to the community and the closeness of the community as a whole. So many patients came in on a regular basis to maintain their health and the vast majority of them had some kind of relationship with both my first and second preceptors. I thought that it was pretty cool to witness how much the people in the community depended on the expertise of the doctors in the clinic and how vulnerable they were willing to be in order to maintain their quality of life. However, I’m not a doctor, nor do I look like one. So when I started interviewing patients on my first day, I made sure to wipe off the look of surprise on their faces by reassuring them that I wasn’t posing as a doctor or anything and that I was simply there to practice my interviewing skills with them. After that whole spiel, they tended to be more relaxed with me in the room. I also quickly realized how different it was to interview the guardian of a patient that couldn’t talk, like a baby. I had to shift my questions around a bit because I couldn’t ask the patient directly about how he/she felt. That was definitely a new and vital experience for me. My 1st preceptor made sure to ingrain in me that whenever I interview a patient, I should not be merely checking off a checklist. I should be able to walk out of the room understanding who the patient is and how he/she is suffering from their reduced quality of life. He also allowed for me to perform simple physical exam maneuvers on his patients, like the HEENT exam (Head, Eyes, Ears, Neck & Throat) and the respiratory exam. Note to self: Babies HATE having their ears looked into. To add to my unique experience, I saw circumcisions performed for the first time in my life while I was there. That…was….unexpected. My preceptor didn’t even warn me man. He just took the baby into a room with his mother and by the time I realized what was about to happen, it was far too late to brace myself. It looked hella painful. Poor kid.

My 1st preceptor was a pretty cool guy from Canada who bought me lunch and answered my many questions about medicine and the difference between the Canadian and the American healthcare systems. But he had to leave midway through my experience so I got paired up with another preceptor for my last couple of days who had a more grandmotherly approach to interacting with patients. She was very nice and willing to work with me, but she also did not hesitate to work me. She had me interviewing all of her patients and reporting to her their history before we would both walk in and see the patient again. I probably took a medical history of close to 25 patients in those last two days alone. Being exposed to these children so much also meant being exposed to various illnesses. 😰 I was constantly praying that I wouldn’t catch something from any of these kids who came in with illnesses ranging from a common cold to strep throat. Best believe, I was using hand sanitizer religiously and drinking massive amounts of orange juice. I’d be damned if I caught strep as soon as spring break started. There was one occasion where I was interviewing a little black girl and her mother about a condition the girl had. The girl really seemed to like me and was shy, but was also smiling and chirping answers to my questions whenever she wanted to. She was pretty fun to interact with. After that interview, my 2nd preceptor told me that I was a valuable asset to the clinic because she constantly sees little black children come into the clinic who neither have a positive male role model to look up to that looks like them nor has even been exposed to one. I wasn’t really expecting that statement from her at that moment, but it really moved me. Looking back on it, there’s a good chance that this little girl had never seen a black man in a doctor-like role before, and that maybe because of this brief exposure she was able to perhaps subconsciously attribute that she too could grow up to be in a similar role of success. I’m probably stretching it a bit, but it’s real awesome to ponder on.

All in all, I realized how chill the pediatric clinic lifestyle was. It was very low-stress and fun to work in. But just because it was chill didn’t mean that it wasn’t busy. It sure was busy most of the time. And the days were remarkably long. I would be in the office from around 8 AM to around 5:30 PM. That was a struggle to adjust to at first, but I adjusted a bit better as the week went on. Also, I haven’t heard so many babies cry in such a short span of time ever since those communal Cameroonian meetings I used to go to as a kid with my family. Bruh, I heard children screaming in my head as I lay my head to sleep at night on two separate occasions. That’s not normal.

I definitely had a very interesting week in Lenoir. But I was happy to leave in order to start my spring break, and I wasted no time in coming down to Florida to spend it. So with that said, please have a remarkable week!!

The greatest mistake in life is being afraid to make one.

– Black Man, M.D.

Gratitude, Health & Stereotypes

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

Now about this test I took a couple days ago…

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

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

Oh well.

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

On another note…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Y’all be blessed!

– Black Man, M.D.