The Influence of Racism

First off, I want to give a shoutout to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as we celebrate his legacy as well as all the sacrifices that so many people in both the past and the present have made in order to guarantee everyone access to the civil rights that they deserve. While he wouldn’t be much too pleased about the current state of our country, he would be actively encouraging us all to fight for justice and to combat the racist & divisive rhetoric that is being spewed to us on a frighteningly regular basis. With that said, let’s continue to do our best to live up to the ideals that he believed in and work to make this country, as well as this world, a better place to live in!

martin luther king kindness GIF by Gilbert, Arizona

I spent the entirety of my weekend in Nashville, TN, at the quarterly SNMA National Leadership Institute, where members of the Board of Directors as well as pre-med and medical students in local chapters convened for a weekend of leadership sessions, networking, research presentations, and business meetings. Because it was my third one as a member of the Board of Directors, I already knew what the flow of the weekend was going to be like.

And sure enough, it was ridiculously busy.

Although I spent the vast majority of the weekend in board meetings discussing various matters pertinent to the organization, I did get the opportunity to sit in on a few sessions where physician-leaders of various disciplines spoke with us on topics such as what leadership in the SNMA looks like, leadership behaviors, addressing health disparities and racism as an executive, community organizing and using leadership for social justice. One common theme that kept resurfacing throughout the sessions of the conference was the powerful and negative impact that racism can have on one’s mindset. It’s almost mind-numbing to consider how something as arbitrary as race was turned into this whole social construct that was ultimately weaponized against specific populations for such an extensive duration of time that these minority populations ultimately came to believe and internalize the false and damaging stereotypes that were associated with their respective race.

I personally spent so much of my formative years internally struggling with this ordeal. Due to the media, my surroundings, the “Black” & “African” jokes and stereotypes I routinely heard throughout my adolescent years, I truly believed that Black people just simply weren’t “good enough” and that as a Black Man in America, I was supposed to be either an athlete, a rapper, an entertainer or something else along those lines in order to truly be successful. Even though I was fortunate enough to have an amazing support network and incredible parents who invested so much in me throughout my life, I still saw the intelligence I was gifted with as unusual, even embarrassing at times. I found myself desperately trying to fit in with what was considered to be “Black” as I went about my high school days and ended up suffering through an identity crisis. It didn’t help that I had a completely separate lifestyle back at home as a first-generation American.

It really wasn’t until I got to college that I began to truly feel comfortable in my own skin. My mindset about being Black also shifted dramatically during my undergraduate years and I ended up meeting many people who were just like me, including those who were raised by immigrant parents from various countries in the continent of Africa. I found strength in being Black and for the first time in my life, I was 100% proud of my heritage and of being a Black Man in America. I began to actively fight against the stereotypes that I had unconsciously internalized up to that point, instead finding traits such as resilience, wisdom, perseverance, courage and strength commonplace across the Black diaspora. I realized how troublesome it was to believe that being an intelligent Black Man could be seen as unusual and decided to not only be proud of who I was, but to also begin motivating and inspiring others like me to disregard the false stereotypes being placed upon us and to instead internalize the positive traits that we all have the ability to possess.

Even to this day, there are moments where I find myself having to mentally combat a stereotype I was conditioned to believe throughout my life. What’s so crazy about all of this is that even with the relatively comfortable upbringing that I had, I STILL went through all of this. I can’t even begin to imagine all of those young Black kids who don’t have the same resources I had growing up who have been conditioned to believe that they are inferior to others and that they don’t have the ability or potential to be just as great as, if not greater than, what they perceive to be as successful.

Yeah I know, I went off on a MAJOR tangent….but I felt that it was necessary to put all that out there. It was especially fitting, considering that it’s MLK Day.

Overall, the SNMA conference was pretty productive and I was able to catch up with some friends that I hadn’t seen in months. However, I wasn’t really able to do much of any sightseeing of the city because I was so busy 😔. Now that this leadership conference is over, it’s time to gear up for the national conference that everyone knows and loves; the SNMA Annual Medical Education Conference! It’s taking place in Philly this year and I’m really looking forward to it, especially since it will be my final year participating as a medical student 😭. The past two AMECs that I’ve been to were phenomenal experiences and I have no doubt that this one will be just as awesome!

Briefly recapping my past week, I spent it experiencing various fields of Anesthesia while working on completing some of my required assignments. I spent one day working in Pediatric Anesthesia, another day observing what life performing procedures in a pain clinic looks like, and yet another day helping manage the airway of psychiatric patients undergoing electroconvulsive therapy. I even got the opportunity to push some necessary medications into them, which was a neat experience. In regards to the midterm I took on Monday morning…..it was pretty tough, but not as terrible as I was expecting. I got my score back a few days later and it definitely wasn’t the best I’ve ever performed, but more than enough to keep my chances of comfortably passing the rotation alive. I scored about what I was expecting to score, so I wasn’t really fazed by my result at all. I just want to now get through these required readings, deliver my PowerPoint presentation that I still have to finish working on, take the final this Friday and FINALLY be done with all these assignments that I REALLY DON’T want to do anymore.

kerry washington eye roll GIF by The Paley Center for Media

Speaking of, I’m going to go ahead and sign off so that I can start working on finishing this presentation as well as get through a chapter or two of my anesthesia textbook. *Sigh* C’est la vie.

I hope that your week is a delightful one!

“Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

– Black Man, M.D.

Rude Awakening

You know, it’s hilarious just how pumped and bright-eyed I ALWAYS seem to be right after a break from school, only to be brutally reminded about what’s really good when I get slammed with work to do as soon as my first week back starts. And I’m not even necessarily talking about the work I do in the hospital; yeah it was a very busy week and I was taking care of multiple patients with various neurologic conditions, but I’m used to all that. I’m more so talking about all the extraneous tasks I told myself that I had to complete within a certain time frame, getting my fourth-year schedule in order, having to study for the Shelf exam that I’m taking this Friday (I swear that test crept up on me SO fast), and finding the time (and energy) to do all of those things in the couple hours of free time I have each day after a 11+ hour shift at the hospital. Oh, and how can I forget about the oh-so-pleasant feeling of being SNATCHED out of sleep at 4:45 AM each morning? I was up and running on Monday morning with a pep in my step, but it only took until Tuesday morning for me to remember why waking up so early sucked so much. All I could do that morning was groan, lay there in bed for a couple of minutes, chuckle randomly, roll my eyes, take a deep breath and throw myself out of bed to start another day in my General Neurology inpatient week.

tired bill murray GIF

The actual experience on the inpatient service was pretty dope, especially since everyone on my team were such great people! From the interns all the way up to the attendings, everyone was just so nice. There were plenty of good vibes to go around and I learned quite a bit through their fantastic teaching. We as a team also rounded on an interesting array of patients, some of which had rare enough conditions deserving of a case report. In addition, I was able to sit in on a family meeting with my team and further appreciate the humanity of this side of medicine. The time just seemed to fly by while in the hospital, especially in the mornings when we pre-rounded and rounded on patients before going off to lunch. My afternoons consisted of additional patient care, meetings and required lectures on multiple topics in neurology. I would leave around 5 PM each day and try to summon the strength to study and complete little tasks before eating dinner and crashing onto my bed…only to be abducted from my dreams again the next morning. Although the days were filled with long hours, the week seemed to fly by pretty quick overall!

Earlier, I mentioned having to get my fourth-year schedule in order. You may be like, “Wow, you’re scheduling your fourth-year already? Why? It’s only January!” Well yeah I agree, it is quite early. But then again, it’s not that early because if I’ve learned anything in med school, it’s that time literally flashes before your eyes on a constant basis. So with that said, some members of the current fourth-year class went out of their way to give us a presentation regarding fourth-year scheduling. God bless their hearts. Turns out that there is SO much that I have to figure out between now and the start of my final year of medical school in late May. This includes figuring out if I want to do away rotations or not, deciding which acting internships and ICU rotation I want to complete, what electives I want to take, what to do with my “flex” blocks, where I want to apply for residency, when I want to take both parts of Step 2 (I literally just registered this exam a couple days ago…here we go AGAIN 😒), who to ask for letters of recommendations, yadda, yadda, yadda. Decisions, decisions. And I gotta really start figuring this out sooner rather than later.

stressed the big bang theory GIF

Quite a bit of pressure, don’t you think? Luckily, I have a good amount of people to talk to, including an assigned career advising counselor, who can help me figure all of this out. And I’m most definitely going to be hitting them up, believe that.

Remember that meeting that I had to set up for my “Less Than Satisfactory” performance on the rapid-style CPX that I told you about back in my Stroke of Misfortune post? Well I finally had it a few days ago with the clinical skills course director and we talked about how I did and what I could do to improve my performance for the next CPX in May. The main thing that I need to work on is quickly coming up with an accurate assessment and plan while writing up the patient note in less than ten minutes. So with that said, I’ll be specifically focusing on that skill between now and May, because I’ll be damned if I can’t move onto fourth year due to another “Less Than Satisfactory” performance with some standardized patients. Also, I plan to ace the Step 2 Clinical Skills portion. Sooo yeah, I got some work to do in order to transform this temporary setback into a major comeback!

On that note, I’m gonna go ahead and sign off for today! Have a fantastic week and be sure to take some time to reflect on what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the rest of the civil rights activists sacrificed in order to make our lives and this country a better place! And wish me luck on this Neurology shelf exam! 😄

“If you can’t fly, then run: if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl; but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

– Black Man, M.D.

Keeping Steady as Time Flies

2017 is already looking like it’s about to be a fast year. Like, it’s already the middle of January and I feel like I just did the countdown to New Years’ last night! As a matter of fact, I may have said this before but second-year has been SPEEDING by really fast. When you’re always busy studying a new organ system while doing the other things that are important to you in your life, time tends to zip right past you. As of last Friday, we have completed six different organ systems this year and taken about 11-or-so exams. That’s a lot of stuff yo. We start the Musculoskeletal block this Tuesday and then our final block before our dedicated Step Study Period will be the Endocrine/Reproductive block. Two blocks separate me from Step-focused time, which starts in early March. Just two. And best believe, they will fly by very quickly. Oh boy.

upset breaking bad bryan cranston walter white oh no

We finished up our Renal block last Friday with a pretty short and straightforward Renal pathology exam. I’m happy to say that I don’t have any worries about my performance. I really love that the course director decided to split the Renal block in half, where we do physiology before winter break and pathology after the break. It made learning the material so much more manageable and because I had a pretty solid grasp of the physiology, understanding the pathology wasn’t too hard at all. (Also as an update from last week’s post, I did manage to get through all my lectures with a whole day to spare for review 😁.) Although we hit the ground running as soon as I got back from break, I was able to eventually hit a steady stride leading up to the exam. In order to do that though, I had to pretty much study most of the day everyday last week. So with that said, nothing too exciting happened to me last week. I did get to play with ultrasound in order to see some kidneys in real-time though!

Taking the test last Friday has allowed me to relax on this three-day weekend that I’m currently on. (Shoutout to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr! The legend would have been 88 years old today if hatred wasn’t so prevalent in this country.) I spent part of my weekend working as a station leader for glaucoma screenings at the annual health fair that us Wake medical students organize every year. This health fair, called Share the Health Fair, provides a number of free health screenings for the Winston-Salem community and also provides these residents a ton of information on how to live a healthier life. This health fair is the only healthcare that a good number of the attendees get all year, so it’s a very important event for them and it makes it all the more worthwhile for us to volunteer at it. It turned out that the glaucoma screening station that my volunteer team was running was the most popular station at the whole fair! The doors to the fair opened at 10 AM yesterday morning and by 10:02 AM we were swamped with patients wanting to be screened. I kid you not, there were literally like 20 people in line by 10:05 man. And that line did not get any shorter as time went on. It actually got longer on a few occasions! The screening consisted of us testing the visual field, the visual acuity and the eye pressure of every patient while the physician working with us checked their retinas and optic nerves. We all did this non-stop until about 2:30 PM. We must have screened close to 50 patients in that period of time! It felt more like 100 though! Alas, it was a fun time overall and time ended up flying by due to the fact that we stayed busy throughout the day. Our team did an awesome job in executing the screening and making sure that each patient in line got a chance to see the physician!

Lastly, I spent last night at the annual Med School Prom, which turned out to be a good time. Now, as I’m typing this post, I’m here contemplating on how best to use my free time, which is becoming increasingly rarer to come across. I guess I should stop messing around and actually do the things that are on my To-Do list lol.

Do your best to make your week an astounding one! Even though we’re about to inaugurate the new “leader” of America this Friday, who I’m highkey not claiming as my President. Sigh. Don’t get me started on the state of this nation. Just know that we’re about to walk into some strange and difficult times. Why do you have to go President Obama?? Why??? 😭😭😭😭😭

killer instinct

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

– Black Man, M.D.

Working Smarter > Working Harder

I woke up to snow this morning.

I literally haven’t seen snow fall since high school…it was a pretty neat scene. But then my amazement quickly spiraled into horror when I remembered I had to walk my friend’s dog. Try to imagine my face when I took my first step outside in those freezing white flurries.

SMH.

What’s even crazier is that the snow abruptly stopped a couple hours later and the sun came out like any other ordinary day. Looking outside now, it’s as if the snow flurries never existed; as if they were a part of some weird winter wonderland dream. But I assure you, the snow that coldly stung my face this morning was very real. And COLD.

I want to take a moment to shoutout to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for everything he did for this country & the world in general. I want him to thank him for his Dream and for helping pave the way to equality and success for people that look like me. I also want to thank him for this three-day weekend that I desperately needed. You see, we started learning about the different bacteria that cause infections in people last week and maannnn let me tell you, there are a TON of bacteria all around us at all times. There are so many different types of bacteria that have so many different ways to help us as well as attack us, and we’re expected to retain all this information. Not only do we have to know every kind of bacteria out there, but we also have to know how to identify them via the disease processes the body exhibits and we need to know how to treat each infection.

I learned about most of these pathogens in college, but memorizing (and pronouncing) everything this time around hasn’t been any easier.Well I should say hadn’t been any easier, because I started using this Godsend called SketchyMicro last Thursday…and it’s changed my life! For any medical students out there that either are studying Microbiology right now or are beginning to study for the Step 1 exam and for some reason haven’t heard about this miracle yet, PLEASE check it out. Hell, even undergrads could use it, although it’s quite a bit more detailed than is necessary for undergrad Microbio classes. Anyway, for those of you unfamiliar with SketchyMicro, the creators literally took just about every concept and organism that we need to know in the world of Microbiology and sketched a story out of it. So instead of having to dryly memorize so many facts word for word, you literally watch a story unfold with pictures used to trigger certain elements in the concept you’re trying to learn. It sounds hella weird I know, but it’s extremely creative and it’s working wonders for me so far! People were recommending it to me for so long and I can clearly see why. I’ve been binge-watching it this past weekend, and will continue to binge-watch up until my exam next Monday. SO needless to say, I’ve been pretty much a lame all weekend. But we all gotta make sacrifices to be great, right?

Also, I’m getting the opportunity to house a Wake interviewee for a night this week so that he has a place to stay for free before his interview on Thursday morning. It’s an awesome feeling to be able to do this, especially since it was done for me when I had my interview here almost exactly a year ago. Having a secure place to stay before my interview day and getting to talk to current medical students at the time definitely made my interview experience a hell of lot less stressful. I feel that it’s only right that I give that opportunity to another potential student. I’m slick excited to meet this guy and help him de-stress before his interview; he’s already called me up about any advice I had for him lol.

So with that said, if you’re currently interviewing for medical schools or any other graduate school in general, keep your head up and good luck! Always remember that if you’re being asked in for an interview, you’re already winning the battle. All you have to do is give them a good reason to pick you, which means being confident, being true to yourself and genuinely answering any question they throw at you. And smiling. Definitely smile.

Have a great week!

 

– Black Man, M.D.