Stepping Into Step

WELLLLLLP.

The time has finally come.

I’m officially stepping into my Step Study Block period.

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I took my final subject exam last Friday, which effectively ended the five-week long Endocrine/Reproductive block that actually happened to fly by pretty quickly. With the end of that block comes the end of my basic science curriculum. Well, I actually still have a 225-question final exam to take this Tuesday that covers Dermatology, Renal, Rheumatology and Endo/Repro, so there’s that. I guess after that final exam is when I’ll truly be free to step into studying for Step. But I’ve also been doing what I can to prepare for Step for the past month while studying Endo/Repro, and I have been actively using Step study materials throughout this past year alongside my coursework, so overall I feel more than prepared to begin this study block.

During my last week of classes, I had the opportunity to attend two different talks that focused on mental toughness and resilience in the medical profession, respectively, and to deliver a baby in a simulation lab. I’m gonna start with the simulation lab. It was such a neat experience! While we were in the hour-long session, we palpated plastic vaginas, performed bimanual exams on plastic uteri, palpated plastic cervices, and actually delivered a dummy baby from a dummy mom! Like, I was pulling the baby out of the mother’s vagina and going through all the motions that a doctor would go through! It was pretty cool, although the dummies weren’t real. That hands-on experience will DEFINITELY come in handy when I actually begin delivering real-life babies during my OB/GYN rotation in about six months. LMAO. Me?? Delivering babies??? I can hardly picture myself doing so. Try to picture me delivering a baby without snickering to yourself. Yeah, I can barely do it either lol. But then again, I’ve done a lot of things in my life that I never pictured myself doing in a million years. You know, like blogging.

point you da man

I appreciated being in attendance for the talk on mental toughness, because I feel like it was very necessary for myself as well as the rest of my class to hear what the presenter had to say, considering the fact that we’re all about to embark upon a marathon of constant studying. There was about a third of my class in attendance and I believe that just about everyone who attended got something positive out of the talk. The presenter, who is a 4th-year MD/PhD student, focused on how unbelievably powerful the mind is and how we can harness it to catalyze outcomes that are ultimately beneficial to us. What we think on a constant basis is literally what we become. So with that in mind, she talked about the power of having a “shooter’s mentality”, a basketball metaphor describing the mentality that you’ll make your next shot, no matter what. So in our case, we’ll be confident about getting our next question right on our practice tests, no matter what. She also touched on the strength of setting and completing goals that you set for yourself, having a “winner’s circle”, and making the most out of your current situation by having a “true realism” approach to life. In addition, she gave us practical mental exercises to use during our study block and in life in general, which included practicing the art of visualization, having a “game-face” & a “game posture” when we’re doing our practice questions, breathing techniques (mantra breathing, inhale for 6 seconds/hold for 4 seconds/exhale for 8 seconds), and developing pre-day and post-day routines. I’m happy to say that I’ve been blessed to have been able to adopt an outlook on life years ago that is similar to what she had to say in her presentation, but I was also able to learn some very useful information as well!

The other talk I attended was actually a panel discussion that featured distinguished faculty members from different departments at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The event, which was called BOUNCE: Stories of Resilience and Courage in Medicine, focused on the pitfalls that each of these faculty members had in their respective careers and how they successfully recovered (or should I say, bounced back) from their setbacks! I actually attended this same panel discussion around this time last year and wrote a bit about it in my post, Growth, Control & Breaking Stereotypes. This year they discussed the dire importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance/flow, making sure to never lose sight of who you are as you get busier working in the field of healthcare, and to not allow your work to completely consume you. Each of the stories that the faculty shared with us had the common theme of making the most out of a situation that you didn’t foresee yourself being in and following your path with faith, even if it doesn’t necessarily lead you in a specific direction that you intended to follow. One more important thing that was shared with us was the fact that everyone will make mistakes as a healthcare provider, for we are all human. With those mistakes comes the importance of transparency between the provider and the patient, because being completely honest with your patients will facilitate a trusting relationship overall. It was a great discussion and as always, I’m happy that I made the decision to attend. The free Chipotle dinner was a very satisfying added bonus. 😁

Mannn, I’m really about to take Step 1 in about five weeks. I feel like I JUST registered for the exam. Hell, I still remember penning One Chance as if it were just yesterday (I wrote it last summer). It’s crazy that I’ve actually learned all the organ systems in the body. Now it’s just a matter of synthesizing that information and being able to critically think through thousands of questions during this study block before finally sitting in front of my testing computer in Greensboro on the morning of April 10th to slay this exam once and for all. Lol it’s almost like I’m playing a video game that I’ve been trying to beat for years. I’ve finally gotten through most of the levels and I’m at the level closest to the level where I fight the final boss of the game! Let’s gooooooo!!!

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

Pray for me y’all.  😂😅🙏

“When you’re up against a trouble, meet it squarely, face to face; Lift your chin and set your shoulders, plant your feet and take a brace. When it’s vain to try to dodge it, do the best that you can do; You may fail, but you may conquer, SEE IT THROUGH!” – Edgar Albert Guest

– Black Man, M.D.

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.

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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.

War On Ignorance

The grind has been real mayyyne.

Between keeping up with my classes, gearing up for the Step Study Period, transitioning between leadership roles in multiple organizations and taking care of necessary errands in between all that, it’s been a very, very busy week. This upcoming week is only about to be busier due to the fact that I’ll have to continue doing all that in addition to completing my final Clinical Skills exam for the year and participating in my last shadowing opportunity before I begin to study for Step.

Mashable meme what surprised huh

Although I spent like 93% of my waking hours last week studying at a desk of some sort, there were in fact some very interesting aspects of my week. To start off, I learned how to conduct a pelvic and rectal exam in my Clinical Skills class last week…picture that. I was also taught how to perform a Pap smear, which I had never actually seen performed before. We practiced each of these maneuvers on plastic dummies (THANK GAWWD) and it safe to say that I definitely learned quite a lot in that session. Also, I can only imagine how uncomfortable getting a Pap smear must be…that speculum is huge AF!! I know I said it last week but ima say it again; y’all ladies out there are the REAL MVPs. There’s just so much that y’all gotta go through that a lot of guys just aren’t aware of lol. It’s so wild. Y’all deserve so much respect.

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In an effort to prevent myself from Drake-ing the rest of this post, I’ll now briefly talk about my experience while volunteering in the Ronald McDonald Brenner’s Family Room in the hospital this past Saturday. Well, before my shift there was a refresher meeting at the actual Ronald McDonald House of Winston-Salem that a bunch of other Family Room volunteers, including myself, had to attend. It was a very light atmosphere in which we were reminded about why we do what we do and about the rules that are to be enforced in the room. We were also given a free Chick-Fil-A breakfast and played icebreaker games to learn more about the other volunteers in the room. It was real cool to actually meet and interact with other volunteers of different backgrounds and ages! As for my actual shift that day, I was reminded how important it was for many stressed families that the room was kept open. A few family members came up to me to express their deep gratitude for the Family Room and one person even asked me how he could donate to the Ronald McDonald House! Also during my shift, I watched as different families interacted with one another and I witnessed connections being weaved as they discussed diseases and conditions afflicting their loved ones that I had either never heard of, or had only seen in books and lectures. Listening to how a disease affects a family is very different from having to learn about it in a didactic nature; their conversations emphasized the critically important human side of medicine, which I really appreciated.

Lastly, I got the incredible opportunity to attend a session that featured the Co-Chairs (Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez & Linda Sarsour) of the massive Women’s March that took place this past month. The session, named “Reckoning and Resistance: A Discussion of What’s Next”, was moderated by Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry and was a very well attended discussion that pinpointed many various issues in this current political climate. I knew that it would be a good event overall, but what surprised me was just how electric the co-chairs were! They touched on so many necessary topics, some of which included:

  • How being personally impacted has caused great numbers of the “silent majority” to speak up and fight against concerning issues, something that marginalized populations have been having to do for a LONG time
  • The vital importance of communities standing up for one another
  • How we often underestimate our power as individuals
  • Emphasizing the fact that many of the distressing issues currently being broadcast on a larger stage have been distressing issues long before the Trump administration showed up
  • The undeniable fact that Trump and his administration were able to come to power because they reflect the unnerving beliefs of an unsettling amount of Americans
  • Being patriotic about our country but refusing to be blinded by the injustices in this country
  • Working towards the liberation of Black people in this country in order to help the liberation of other marginalized people here
  • The danger of the “silent majority” (well-intentioned people who turn a blind eye to issues that don’t affect them) and how the spirit of knowing people and sticking up for others being affected by certain issues can make us stronger as a country
  • The endless distractions that Trump is making in the media
  • The way that the media negatively portrays marginalized populations without covering why we’re in the various situations that we’re in
  • What White people can do to counter Trump’s agenda
    • Have courageous conversations with people who voted for Trump
    • Donate money to organizations looking to move this country in a progressive direction
    • Stand up for something that gets you out of your comfort zone; Show up for issues that affects others
    • Being CONSISTENTLY public and actively contacting Congressional leaders
    • Truly understanding the notions of White privilege and “White tears”
    • Being aware that they could be unknowingly benefiting from the oppression of other people, which could help them truly realize the pain that marginalized populations feel
  • The vital importance of taking back Congressional seats in 2018
  • Having to get uncomfortable due to the fact that the world as a whole is quickly becoming an uncomfortable place
  • The importance of having difficult conversations, for the lack of them helped propel Trump to the presidency

It was a fantastic discussion that surpassed my expectations and I’m real glad that the crowd that was present was able to hear what they had to say. I’m happy that I made the time to attend!

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Now that I’ve spilled my mind into this post, it’s time for me to get back to studying. I have so much to do man. Smh. Have a productive week and be sure to keep your head up!

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama

– Black Man, M.D.

Strange Love

Whoa…when did we get to mid-February?? I swear it was just February 1st like two days ago…but then again, I shouldn’t be surprised at how fast time flies at this point. But being in mid-February means that I’ll be starting my dedicated Step Study Period in about three weeks. Which then means that I’ll be taking Step very, very soon. Sheesh. Can’t wait to finally get that exam over with! I’m already sick of talking about it.

Meanwhile, I’m getting through this last new block of new material and I actually love this stuff! It’s strange, I really didn’t picture myself having fun learning about hormone regulation and reproductive systems. Maybe it’s because when I “learned” it while studying for the MCAT, I really had no physiology foundation to build from so it was very hard for me to grasp back then. Ever since then, I had dreaded learning about the menstrual cycle again (shoutout to y’all ladies out there…y’all the real MVPs for having to live through that every single month) as well as about reproduction and hormone feedback systems. But now it’s all clicking so well for me and I’m having a blast lol. I’ve learned a while ago that I love thinking through systems and concepts as opposed to strict memorization, and that’s exactly what this block of endocrinology and reproductive systems emphasizes. You have to map out how different organs interact with one another and what the consequences are as a result of those interactions, which is really interesting. It’s a long block however, which means we about to be taking a long test in early March…but I’m definitely enjoying the ride so far!

Last week was pretty chill, apart from the Cabinet nominees who got confirmed and the continuing flood of BS our country is going through. Smh. Miami was fun though, although my girl, along with a sizable portion of the nation, took the dramatic Falcons loss pretty hard. Nevertheless, having dinner with her and bunch of friends at a sports bar while watching the game was a great time. I was also able to see more people on campus before I left, which was fantastic. After getting back to Winston, I proceeded to power through classwork while baking a cake for the annual bakeoff my school had. Lol yes, I said I baked a cake. Wanna see?

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Presenting to you, Christel’s Strawberry Cheesecake Poke Cake!

I didn’t win the bakeoff or anything, but it tasted really good so I’m proud of myself for that. 😊 Shoutout to the Tasty cookbook! I also got the chance to participate on yet another medical school panel down at Davidson College last Friday, where they were having a Pre-Health Professions Symposium. That was pretty cool! It’s always a pleasure being invited to talk to young students who are vying to become a healthcare professional. And last but not least, I volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House’s Brenner’s Family Room in the hospital yesterday afternoon for the first time in a couple of months. Gotta do better about that lol.

That’s all I got today! Have a lovely Valentine’s Day (Or Single Awareness Day, however you wanna look at it) and keep up the good fight against this imposing administration!

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” – Jim Rohn

– Black Man, M.D.

Switching Up The Scenery

First of all, allow me to wish you a Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

The game tonight should be an interesting one. New England may be excited for another chance at being the best team in the league (yet again), but Atlanta is rising the hell up for this shot at greatness! I don’t really have an emotional investment into either team, but my eyes are gonna be glued to this game because it’s shaping up to be a great matchup. I’ll also be watching it with my girlfriend (who is a die-hard Falcons fan) and other friends, so tonight is going to be a great time! Well, unless the Falcons get pummeled…but I don’t forsee that happening.

You may be asking “how is this man watching the Super Bowl with his girl?” Or you may have cared less. Regardless, I’ll tell you how. I made an executive decision to take the time to visit her here in Miami since I’ll be stuck studying for Step in a few short weeks. Also, I wanted to change my scenery up a bit and study on the beach under palm trees and whatnot as opposed to my apartment in Winston or in a classroom in the medical school. It’s been quite lovely, to say the least. Sure, I may not be getting as much work done as I usually do, but I’m also not struggling to catch up. As a matter of fact, being down here has been extremely refreshing. I’ve talked to many of my old friends here and it’s been awesome seeing what they’ve been doing with their lives so far. While talking with them, they’ve been sure to remind me how amazing it is that I’m not only close to finishing my second-year in med school, but that I’m also handling the rigor pretty well while managing a whole blog on the side. It’s funny because although I tell myself that I’m blessed to be where I’m at on a constant basis, it’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day life of school and to almost forget that the material that I’m studying is not only advanced but also life-changing (all puns intended). It’s also easy to forget that having a blog isn’t really typical for a med student, because updating it has literally become second-nature to me now. Like, I don’t even think twice when I update it weekly and do the Health Career Spotlight Features on a regular basis. Speaking of, I’ve been repeatedly told by my friends down here that they absolutely love those features and have been imploring me to keep them up! Just hearing people say that, especially in person, has revitalized my efforts and has also proven to me how important this initiative is to a vast number of people, pre-med or not. So with that said, expect to see many more features in the future! In the words of Puff Daddy/P.Diddy/Diddy/Diddy-Dirty Money/Sean Combs, “And we won’t stoppp…’cause we can’t stop…

I don’t have much else to update you with…I’ve been down here since last Wednesday and have been balancing fun with work. I also took my MSK/Rheumatology exam this past Monday and passed it, although the test was more difficult than I anticipated. But alas, these subject exams have mattered less and less to me as Step has gotten closer and closer. We started the Endocrine/Reproductive block this past Tuesday and this final block of new material will go on until the beginning of March. Let me just tell you…you have no idea just how important and complicated your hormones are. The mechanisms are pretty insane…but I also find it so fascinating. I’m finding that I’m actually enjoying learning about the various hormones of the body and how they work in concert with one another. It’s going to be interesting learning about reproduction though…that hasn’t been one of my strongest areas in the past. But I believe that I’ll be able to master it once and for all this time!

That’s all I have for you today. Keep your head up and make this week an awesome one! Keep making those calls to your representatives and making your voice heard during this tumultuous time in this country! Don’t be afraid to make office visits too!

Stop limiting yourself to what you THINK you know you can accomplish. You’ll surprise yourself with what you can handle.

– Black Man, M.D.