State Of Emergency

In case you hadn’t already heard, my residency application was finally submitted on Wednesday, September 12th at 8:09 PM! I’ve officially applied for my first big boy job!

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Talk about getting a weight lifted off your shoulders. My application was actually already complete on Tuesday, but for whatever reason I refused to submit it that day. I just couldn’t bear to send it off knowing that I wouldn’t be able to revise it at all once it was gone. Plus I had until Saturday to submit it, so why rush to get it in? Thanks to my growing anxiety and hesitation, you can probably guess what I ended up doing. My application ended up going through a scrutinizing process, where I couldn’t help but double-check everything that I had typed into the application. My double-check was soon followed by a triple-check, then a quadruple-check, a quintuple-check, etc. etc. I continued this maddening routine the rest of Tuesday evening and all throughout Wednesday evening until my girlfriend called me out on it and encouraged me to press “Submit”. After sitting with me for about 20 minutes, I finally mustered up enough courage to send my application in. Even after sending it in, I felt some anxiety about not being able to edit it again…but then after looking at the PDF version that was still accessible in the ERAS system one last time, I finally felt at peace with my decision to send it out early. It was liberating to not have to think about sending it out as the deadline of Sept. 15th neared. If it wasn’t for my girlfriend though, I definitely would have sent it out much closer to Saturday lol. I was also pressured to submit it by the impending hurricane that was forecasted to slam the East Coast the same weekend that my application was due. And I would be damned if I lost power before being able to submit my application.

Speaking of Hurricane Florence, this storm really screwed up all my plans for the weekend. I didn’t even know about this storm until last Sunday evening, and it very quickly became the talk of the town as we advanced through the week. By Wednesday, it became very clear that North Carolina was going to endure a direct hit from this Category 4 storm.

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With that said, the state proceeded to declare a state of emergency and widespread panic ensued. The coastal areas definitely needed to evacuate, but the forecast wasn’t as certain for more inland areas like Winston-Salem and Charlotte. We still had to take precautionary measures though, so I ended up being relieved of all clinical duties from noon on Thursday and throughout the weekend. That was actually a bummer, because it was my last week on the Peds Heme/Onc service, a service that I had grown to love. But the precautionary measures didn’t stop there. I had been recently selected to be one of the student interviewers for this cycle of medical school applicants (yay me 😄) and the mandatory training that I needed to attend was supposed to be last Thursday. That ended up getting rescheduled to this Tuesday afternoon. The annual Millenium Ball, a school-sponsored party that allows for all of the classes to celebrate the beginning of a school year together, was also cancelled.

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In addition, the World Congress of Ultrasound Medical Education conference that had been scheduled to take place at Wake Forest on Saturday, Sept. 15th was cancelled too. I mention this because I had signed up to volunteer for this conference back in the spring and I really wanted to learn all sorts of things from the world-renowned ultrasound experts scheduled to attend this event. So best believe that I was pretty annoyed about that, though I’m sure that Wake Forest was 1000x more annoyed than I was because they had been planning for this conference for God knows how long. I was then supposed to FINALLY get my locs retwisted, but I had to reschedule that for this Tuesday as well. And my girlfriend and I were looking forward to going to a nearby vineyard this weekend after I had submitted my application, but you can already guess what happened to those plans.

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So because of this hurricane-turned-tropical-storm, we’ve been chillin’ in my apartment all weekend getting work done while watching a ton of college football. The worst part is that the storm really didn’t even hit Winston that bad! I’ve thankfully had power this whole weekend, and we even went out to eat last night. So much for buying extra bottles of water and groceries. I even finally broke out my heavy-duty flashlight that my dad got me for Christmas last year! (Yes, my dad got me a flashlight for Christmas. And no, I did not ask for one. 😂) Turns out that none of our extra supplies have been necessary up to this point. But I sure ain’t complaining! I’m really glad to have been fortunate enough to not suffer the very real consequences of this storm that other people along the coastline have had to suffer. I feel so bad for all the people who have been severely affected by the storm though. Even though Winston mainly got a lot of rain and wind, I don’t want to downplay the havoc that this storm brought when it hit land as a Category 2 hurricane. R.I.P. to all of the people who lost their lives to this storm.

Now that my Peds Heme/Onc rotation is sadly officially over, I have a week “off” until I head to D.C. to start my first away rotation in Allergy & Immunology at Children’s National Medical Center! I have a week “off” because the rotation schedules at my school and George Washington University are off by a week, so I had to use one of my “flex” weeks this week to compensate for that. It’s great because I can take care of a lot of tasks that I’ve been pushing off for a while and also get some downtime to rest for a bit. I can also attend the quarterly SNMA’s National Leadership Institute that is taking place in Delaware this weekend. I’m excited to see all the thrilling attractions that Delaware has to offer!! Said no one ever. But still, I think that I’ll get some great networking opportunities at the conference and learn valuable things from the speakers there. Plus, the conference site is only about a couple hours from D.C., which is pretty convenient for me. So Delaware, here I come!

That’s it from me today. Oh and before I leave, I just want to remind you that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month as well as Sickle Cell Awareness Month. How crazy is it that I was on my Heme/Onc rotation this month? If you can find a way to support the eradication of both childhood cancer and sickle cell disease this month, I encourage you to do so! And then while you’re at it, be sure to register to vote if you haven’t already! 😄

Make sure to have an exceptional week!

“Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” – Winston Churchill

– Black Man, M.D.

 

Leap Of Faith

The time has finally come.

I’ll finally be submitting my application to residency programs this week.

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People who have gone through this process always told me that the due date would sneak up on you fast. And whaddya know, it did just that. For the longest time, September 15th was a date that seemed so far out into the future. I had filed away the date in my brain a long time ago and slowly began working on my application little-by-little. Although I was aware of the approaching due date, I don’t think it really hit me that it was coming up so soon until about a week ago. Thankfully I had been working on my application all summer, so I didn’t have a freakout moment or anything once the realization hit me. But with that being said, I spent all of yesterday finalizing my application so that I could print it out, review it all one last time in PDF form, and officially submit it at some point this week. My letters of recommendation have also been trickling in, which I’m very thankful for. In regards to where I’m applying to, I’m looking at programs across the East Coast, with most of them being concentrated in the Southeast region of the U.S. I initially had over 30 programs on my list, which I’ve successfully whittled down to 18. Man I swear, I can’t wait to finally submit this application so that I won’t have to think about it anymore!

This upcoming week is also the last week of my Peds Heme/Onc AI. 😔 I must admit, I’m not ready to finish up this rotation just yet. I’ve learned A TON about cancer therapies, treating various blood disorders, how to effectively communicate with the families of cancer patients and how to write my patient notes in a more effective manner. My team has been absolutely wonderful to be around, and I’ve loved the time I’ve spent with the patients on the floor. I’ve also surprised myself on how well I’ve been able to manage my emotions during the rotation so far. There have been some really sad moments as well as some very happy moments, all of which have been memorable. We even had a taco party for one of our patients, much to the delight of both him and his mother! Along with the experiences I’ve had here, I’ve found that I am quite interested in the pathophysiology of cancer and the innovative ways that are being used to treat the various types of cancer that exist. As of right now, I can definitely see myself working in this sub-specialty in the future! However, my mind is still open to other possibilities and it will remain open as I continue to get through fourth-year and work through my various electives in residency.

In addition to caring for my patients last week, I got the opportunity to attend the Department of Pediatrics session of the Dean’s Research Symposia Series as well as another Schwartz rounds, a multidisciplinary forum focused on discussing the experiences that various healthcare providers have gone through. The research symposium was styled like a TED Talk, where pediatricians in various specialties spoke for five minutes at a time about some of the research they were doing. The topics ranged from things like obesity, food insecurity and literacy promotion to NICU clinical trials, palliative care and medical education. It was pretty interesting to see such a plethora of ideas being presented and reminded me of just how vast the field of pediatrics is.

The theme of this month’s Schwartz rounds was focused on medical error and how the healthcare professionals on the panel dealt with it in their careers. It was powerful to watch them talk about their experiences with error and learn how it has impacted the way they practice medicine as well as their own personal lives. As much as I want to believe otherwise, I know that there will come a time in my life where I’ll unfortunately make a medical error. When that time comes, I’ll be able to draw from the experiences of these professionals to help me cope with the emotions and consequences that I’ll face. Especially after having attended that session, I believe that it is incredibly important to be in an environment where you feel comfortable enough to share experiences like this with others without feeling judged. Medical professionals have to deal with this unrelenting pressure of having to be perfect, which is unrealistic because we are all human. Because of this pressure, people in healthcare are naturally afraid of admitting mistakes, which can ultimately have negative consequences for the patients. By admitting errors, working to resolve them, and making sure that they don’t happen again in the future, medical professionals will ultimately be delivering healthcare in a safer manner. It is also worth mentioning that it is much better for your mental health if you feel that you can be open and honest about your mistakes with others. I’m really glad that I was able to attend and learn from this session!

Alright, gotta go now. I hope that you start your week off on a positive note!

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – That finals match in the U.S. Open between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka was WILD. Definitely one of the craziest tennis matches I’ve ever seen. Oh, and Drake and Meek are friends again. I just figured that was worth noting lol.

Ready Or Not

Y’all, I have about a month until my residency application is due. A month. That’s like no time at all, especially if you live in my world where time insists on zipping by like a shooting star. I remember first learning about the ERAS (Electronic Residency Application Service)  and the whole timeline of fourth-year like it was yesterday. I also remember feeling like I had so much time left during that fourth-year information session back in the late fall of last year. Back then, I was more concerned about powering on through my Psychiatry and Neurology rotations so that I could get to winter break. Fourth year seemed like a mile away…..but here I am now, about to start the last week of my third rotation of my final year of medical school, only about a month out until the application is due.

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Luckily for me, my school ensures that we are prepared to submit our application well in advance by not only making us go to information sessions throughout the year, but also allowing us to pair with residency advisors during the summer in order to review the various elements of our application. Because I had to have drafts of my personal statement, CV and MSPE characteristics completed before my advisor meeting, I’ve already done all the hard work. I’ve even gotten a few people to review my personal statement already. All I need to do now to complete my application is to finish revising my personal statement, ensure that the people I’ve asked to write a letter of recommendation for me do so before the deadline, and complete the other fill-in-the-blank sections of my application. Then I’ll be pretty much set to submit! Oh wait, I also have to come to a final decision on which programs I’m actually going to apply to. 😅 Whittling my list down to about twenty-or-so programs is still a work in progress and is actually harder than I had anticipated, especially when there are so many fantastic pediatric programs across the East Coast. But I assure you, it’s getting done!

This past week was another one that went by in a blur. I woke up on Monday morning ready to start my week and before I knew it, I was leaving the hospital on Thursday afternoon wondering how the heck I was already approaching Friday. Carrying up to four patients at a time most of the week kept me pretty busy, which at the same time also helped make time fly by. By being responsible for this many patients, I felt like I was getting a taste of what being an intern was going to be like. I was writing notes for my patients, presenting them on rounds, assisting in coming up with plans of care for them, assisting in procedures (I helped perform a couple more of those 15-minute head taps that I wrote about last week lol) and even helping write orders for them. I really was feeling like the doctor that I’m going to become in less than a year!

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Overall, this past week in the NICU was another solid one. I even had a baby smile at me multiple times as I played with him! 😄 That about made my week, especially because of the straight-up sad nature of the NICU. These babies are literally the sickest infants that I’ve ever seen. Some of them fortunately end up getting better and going home, but many of them have been there for an extended period of time, with some of them having spent their entire lives in the hospital. It’s pretty depressing man. As a healthcare provider for these infants though, it’s extremely important that you don’t let your feelings cloud your judgment, no matter how sad and unfortunate the patients’ circumstances are. Of course you need to be able to emphasize with these patients and their families, but you also have to ensure that you’re not letting their circumstances affect your life in a negative and destructive way. It’s a much harder rule of thumb to follow than you may expect. Or maybe you actually do expect it to be a hard thing to do because, well you know, sick babies are naturally a sad sight to see.

While I feel like I’ve been able to emphasize with the patients and their families in an appropriate manner, I’ve found my mind frequently drifting off to what this experience in the NICU must be like for the families that come to visit their loved ones. Whereas each day in the NICU is just another day of school to me, it’s surely an emotional and unforgettable experience for each of the parents whose children are recieving care there. During these times of reflection, I tend to be brought back to the times I volunteered in the Ronald McDonald House’s Brenner’s Family Room in the hospital (located on the same floor as the PICU and the NICU), which is a place where families of the hospital’s pediatric patients can get together in a comfortable place close to their loved ones and rest while having access to free food and coffee. I remember witnessing how distressed and hopeful these families were about their loved ones, and being reminded that there was another world outside of the hospital that was full of the worried relatives and friends of each patient. It’s pretty terrifying how easy it is to go about your daily routine in the NICU without even taking a moment to seriously consider the perspective of the families who are scared to death about their loved ones. I hope to continue this habit of making time to consider the perspectives of others so that I can be that much more of an empathetic, caring and effective physician.

Well that’s it for today! Go on and live your best life this week!

“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand

– Black Man, M.D.