The Five-Day Block.

Good God.

Last week was a lot.

Buuut I finished the Derm block thooo!!

Having a week-long block was an intriguing, yet annoying experience that I would never want to have to go through again. I was literally studying at all times, even having to sacrifice an hour or three of sleep in order to stay caught up. It didn’t help that I was also busy doing other things outside of studying during the week. Felt like finals in college all over again B. Wasn’t fun. But looking back, it’s amazing how much I was able to learn between 8:00 AM on Monday morning and 1:00 PM on Friday afternoon, which is when I took my Derm exam. The amount of material I learned and hammered in my brain during that short time frame could EASILY be covered in a college semester. EASILY. Shiii, it was a bit fast-paced even for medical school standards. But whatever, I learned everything I needed to learn and I felt pretty good through the test, which was one of the most straight-forward tests I’ve taken since being at this school. Another thing I realized while studying; you gotta have a strong stomach to be a Dermatologist. There were a ton of disturbing images that we had to look at, a few of them even making me cringe a little. Also, when it came to viewing disease images on the body, NO parts of the body were spared. Yeah, think about that for a sec. You can imagine how unpleasant some of the sights must’ve been. If you want to check out some of the skin diseases for yourself, go ahead and Google either psoriasis, bullous pemphigoid, seborrheic keratosis, elephantiasis, herpes simplex virus type 2, intertrigo, human papillomavirus, epidermolysis bullosa, toxic epidermal necrolysis, and/or hidradenitis suppurativa. Those should give you a good idea of what I’m talking about.

And that’s only a small sample of what skin conditions are out there. Happy clicking!

Aside from being in lecture and studying, we were given the opportunity to practice basic cryosurgery, punch biopsies and shave biopsies on a cadaver in the anatomy lab. Before I go on though, I gotta comment on the body that we used. She hadn’t even been embalmed yet, so she looked as if she was asleep. She also looked as if she was in her 30’s, and she even had highlights in her hair! It was soooo weird yo. You would think going through anatomy lab last year would have prepared me for anything…but those bodies last year were embalmed already, so they were grayish and pretty much all of those cadavers were of elderly people. This one looked as if she could have been alive just yesterday, and she was mad young. I couldn’t even manage to look at her face, which was thankfully covered. It was all just way too real. But anyways, it was fulfilling to have been able to practice performing those different types of biopsies and to have been able to use the liquid nitrogen “freeze gun” to freeze pieces of skin. It’s not really called a freeze gun, but I like the sound of that lol. We were also able to practice suturing skills, which I may or may not be getting better at. But I did suture a cut shut, so I’m getting somewhere!

The next day, we got the opportunity to go on a “field trip” in a dermatology outpatient clinic, where we rotated through 11 different stations to get some first-hand experience with the subject. Most of the stations had real patients with real skin diseases and were able to explain what their life has been like with their respective conditions. Some of these conditions included CREST syndrome, necrobiosis lipoidica, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, alopecia areata, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and vitiligo, just to name a few. It was absolutely fascinating. There was also a station where we looked at slides through a microscope, a station where we were given a mini-lecture on certain diseases, and a station where we learned how skin allergies were tested. It was a fun experience overall! Even after everything I’ve gone through with this block though, I don’t think I want to be a Dermatologist. It’s hella chill and fascinating and all, but I don’t know if it’s for me. But I’ve learned to never say never, so we’ll see.

Outside of this block, I was given an opportunity to travel to NC State in order to participate in a medical school panel for some of the students there. It was refreshing to talk face-to-face with pre-meds and to realize how far I’ve come since being a pre-med student myself. It was actually stunning to realize how far I’ve come. Some of the students were asking things that seemed to be common sense to me now, but I know for sure that I had once asked those same questions when I was in college. It was also invigorating to be able to tell them that although med school is tough, it’s probably not as crazy as they expect it to be. With my week being as busy as it was already, you may be sitting there asking yourself why the hell I decided to go to Raleigh to participate in a medical school panel on a Tuesday night? Well, to tell the truth, I was asked to do so over a month ago and I agreed without actually knowing what my schedule was going to look like lol. But even when I got my schedule, I decided to stick with it because I know myself. I knew I’d be able to manage that and still stay caught up in my classes. Plus, I love getting opportunities to help motivate college students achieve what they want to achieve. I truly do believe that if you really want to do something, you’ll find a way to make it happen. So I made it happen.

A couple days later, I helped set up a training event for people interested in Sight Savers, a glaucoma screening program run by the Student National Medical Association here at Wake. It was pretty cool to see how many people showed up to be trained. The free Qdoba’s was also fantastic. Students were trained to use machines that are designed to calculate visual fields and visual acuity. They were also trained to calculate eye pressures using a tonopen, which is a little pen-shaped device that you tap into someone’s numb eye repeatedly in order to get an eye pressure reading. It sounds terrifying, but it’s not. Trust me. Now that we got a fresh new crop of students trained to use the machines, hopefully we can do some good work in the community sometime soon.

A couple of days later (yesterday), me and a small group of SNMA members got together and helped construct a couple of houses with Habitat for Humanity. We used the experience as fellowship while at the same time doing some good for the community. It was a great experience! Me and a couple of friends were crawling around in a crawl space under the house though, which was actually pretty crazy. But I learned quite a bit about how insulation works in a house, as well as how water is pumped through the pipes that I saw while in the crawl space. There was even free Bojangles thrown into the mix. Great times, great times.

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I only got two weeks until winter break. The only thing standing in my way is the first part of the Renal block, which I have an exam for on the last day of school before winter break. I’ve heard mostly bad things about the Renal block, but y’all know by now that the things I hear don’t faze me as much as they faze other people. But I definitely know that it’s not going to be an easy block, especially if they had to separate it in parts. I can do this…I can do this…I can do this…WOOSAHHH, WOOSAHHH.

Make your week a fantastic one!

“If you’re distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – Marcus Aurelius

– Black Man, M.D.

Sessions.

Well, this past week has been quite an interesting one. From attending a session based on the perspectives of respiratory patients, where I learned that my course director was Dr. Maya Angelou’s doctor for about 20 years, to meeting Dr. John Carlos (the Olympian who raised his fist in the 1968 Olympics after receiving the bronze medal in the 200-meter race) well as Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry (again), it’s been a phenomenal experience! I feel like I have so much to say about what I’ve done these past seven days…so bear with me!

So to start off, our course director had us going through various sessions to better synthesize our knowledge of the course material in the days leading up to the Pulmonology exam that I took on Friday. The first session I attended was an ultrasound session, where I observed my lungs via, well, ultrasound. I could see my lungs move across the screen as I took deep breaths in and out. It was pretty cool, if I do say so myself. I also took an ultrasound of one of my group members and was able to see his diaphragm as he breathed in and out. Ultrasound is such a neat feature and is real fun to use, especially after you learn how the hell to use it and what organs look like in an ultrasound screen.

The next day, I attended a “field trip” session at the hospital, where a group of my classmates and I wandered around the Pulmonology wards to view patients being treated for respiratory issues and to witness how the information we’ve been learning over the course can be used in a practical setting. This involved a TON of walking around the hospital though…I swear I walked over a mile overall. Our first stop was a pulmonary rehab center, which is where recovering respiratory patients go to recover their lung function with a personal trainer. There was a nice mini-gym in the rehab center as well. We were shown an oscillatory vest, which is a vibrating vest worn by patients that have a lot of mucus trapped in their chest. The vest works to squeeze and shake up their chest, loosening the mucus which then allows them to cough it all up. Pretty picture huh? I tried on the vest and it felt really weird…I can’t imagine having to wear that thing multiple times a day. We then hit up the MICU (Medical Intensive Care Unit) where we walked into a room occupied by an elderly, unconscious man who had tubes and IV’s all in him. While there, the fellow showing us around described the machines being used to keep the man alive and showed us how they worked. We then walked around the MICU unit to other rooms and saw other patients who had a number of other procedures done on them, one of which was a tracheotomy. After that, we walked to a spirometry lab where one of my group mates blew into a huge spirometer machine in order to have her lung function read. I wish I had taken a picture or video of that 😂. Our last stop was a small lab where we watched a bronchoalveolar lavage being performed on video. All in all, the “field trip” was pretty awesome!

The next day, our whole class attended a session where various patients of our course director came in to talk about their experiences with the respiratory conditions they’ve been afflicted with as well as about their appreciation for our course director. The patients who came to talk to us included a man who suffered from acute lung failure while driving his cab, a nurse who was diagnosed with the rare lung disease of lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), and a woman diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis as a result of her prior condition of lupus, who also came with her sister and father. The cab driver made his appreciation for our course director well known and said that before him and the staff at the hospital worked to save his life, he had a distrust for doctors. After he was treated, he worked to lose over 120 pounds in a single year and really made an effort in eating healthier. He was a pretty funny guy. When the nurse diagnosed with LAM came in to talk with us, she described how the disease completely changed her life at the age of 31 as well as the life of her husband, who just so happened to be a Pulmonologist. She had been confused as to why she was always short of breath, especially since she exercised a lot and did her best to stay healthy. She now had to learn how to become a patient after being a healthcare provider for so long and she admitted that she probably wasn’t the best patient to deal with. She also talked about how she couldn’t become pregnant due to her condition and how she had to have her children via a surrogate mother. Since her diagnosis, she has worked to link up with other people diagnosed with LAM in the country and has also helped to raise funds for LAM research since it’s such a rare disease. There’s currently no cure for the disease, so treatment mainly involves managing symptoms. As for the woman diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis as a result of lupus, the fact that she survived her ordeal is simply a miracle. She had been admitted to the hospital on Christmas Eve of 2006 where she became comatose after presenting with septic shock, liver failure, GI bleed, multiple organ failure, hypertension, diabetes, and end-stage renal disease. Sheesh. Because of her critical condition, she stayed in the hospital for SIX MONTHS. SIX. MONTHS. During that time, there were multiple occasions where various providers in the hospital thought that she was going to die. Her sister specifically told us of an instance where a doctor literally told them that she wasn’t going to make it through the night. But she did end up recovering and was able to finally leave the hospital in May of 2007. After the woman was asked about how she was able to get through all of that and continue pushing through life to this day despite her limitations, she said that her faith, her family, her friends and the good doctors that helped heal her were her nonstop support systems and that they all played, and continue to play, a key role in keeping her going. Talk about inspiring. After she told her story, her sister specifically asked for us to become great doctors because our patients will forever remember us and will forever be grateful, as they are for our course director. She also said that she can specifically remember the mediocre doctors who didn’t have any hope for her sister and advised us to not be mediocre. After those conversations, our course director then shared a few messages from other patients who couldn’t make it to the session which included the power of a smile and how important it is to live a life with no fear. He then proceeded to share a message from another former patient of his, who just so happened to be the legendary Dr. Maya Angelou. He read one of her poems to us and told us how she always used to come in to talk to the medical students about the wonders of humanity. He also told us of how she would become a bit nervous about talking to medical students because she saw the immense potential we had of touching the lives of many of our future patients and their families. What a session. I’m very grateful I was able to take part in it.

Later that afternoon, me and another small group of my classmates took part in a simulation lab session, where we worked as a team to treat an interactive mannequin for his respiratory condition. With the help of a Critical Care Pulmonologist, we thought through the “patient’s” condition using the vital signs projected to us on a screen while at the same time actually treating him via various mechanisms. We also gathered a history of the “patient” by asking him questions and receiving answers from a speaker. Throughout the encounter, our “patient” went from having an asthma exacerbation to having bacterial pneumonia infection to having a tension pneumothorax. Some of the procedures we had to actually do included giving the “patient” oxygen, giving him mechanical ventilation through his mouth and trachea, listening to the “patient’s” lungs and stabbing his chest with a needle in order to decompress his lungs. It was a really cool experience overall. It’s one thing to sit and study lectures and another thing to actually take what you’ve learned and use it in a practical way. I found that even though I had already learned and studied everything that we had to do in the simulation lab, it was still kind of difficult to actually work through the various decisions we had to make on the spot. It just goes to show that no matter how much you’ve learn and study, you can only get better as a clinician by actually using your knowledge in practical situations. I loved the fact that I got the chance to use my knowledge in a practical way; I definitely feel like what I learned in this simulation experience has stuck in my head much more than the information I learned through the countless hours I spent studying lectures.

I took my Pulmonology exam Friday morning feeling much more prepared than I had felt at the beginning of the week. It was 117 questions, and we had 3 1/2 hours to finish it. It was pretty much like any other test I’ve taken in the past; there were some questions that tripped me up like always but I felt comfortable with my overall knowledge and I know I did my best. I don’t have any worries about the exam, I’m just glad it’s over with. Later on that day, I got the opportunity to listen to Dr. John Carlos speak about the topic of race relations and how it’s interwoven in sports. He spoke about why he raised his fist along with Tommie Smith in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City and also spoke in great detail about the overlooked greatness of one of best friends who is also pictured in the legendary photo, Peter Norman. An Australian who was born to parents who worked in the Salvation Army, Peter was very passionate about humanity and he was very supportive of the Civil Rights Movement. He also wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge in solidarity with both Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Dr. Carlos spoke on the similarities he is witnessing in present-day with the protesting of the national anthem by professional athletes and how much spending power we as consumers have when it comes to making corporations and the government listen to us. The conversation, moderated both by Dave Zirin (a political sportswriter) and Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, was a very electric one indeed! Plus, Dr. Carlos was hilarious! He reminded me of a granddad who’s always slapping his knee telling jokes and talking about “back in my day”. I even managed to get a picture with him! 😁

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And last but not least, I attended a Regional Leadership Institute conference for SNMA at the Campbell University-School of Osteopathic Medicine near Raleigh, NC yesterday. I had to wake up at 5 AM to get there by 8 AM with one of the SNMA presidents of my chapter, but it was a fantastic experience! We had a few speakers come in and talk to us about leadership, Step 1 study tips, and what osteopathic medicine looks like. The first speaker, Dr. Tiffany Lowe-Payne, presented a phenomenal talk to us. She talked about where she came from and how her circumstances led her to who she is today. She specifically emphasized four main points in her interactive talk: 1) Putting down your insecurities, 2) Picking up your signature banner, 3) Being intentional in everything you do and 4) Speaking your success into existence. Not gonna lie, by the time she had finished her talk, I was left feeling very inspired. She also had such a great delivery with her speech that I had to ask her how and where she learned to speak so effectively. In the Step talk, we got some useful info about different ways to plan for the exam as well as different tools available for us to use for both the USMLE exam as well as the COMLEX exam for D.O. students. The last talk was one where another doctor by the name of Dr. Charles Smutny III came in to speak to us about osteopathic medicine and what he does on a daily basis as a neuromuscular specialist. In addition to speaking to us about the overall concept of osteopathic medicine, he spoke on the unification of the mind, body & spirit and how important it was for us as future physicians to realize that importance. He then proceeded to perform a demonstration of his osteopathic manipulation skills on a student, where he talked through what he was doing as he felt the bones and muscles of the student after watching her gait as she walked back and forth towards him and away from him. After about ten minutes or so, he found some tightness in her neck….and popped it! We all were like “yoooo!!” Okay okay, I was like “yoooo!!”. Everyone else just gasped. And just like that, the student no longer had that tightness. My words aren’t doing it any justice though, you just had to see it for yourself. I lowkey want to learn some more about osteopathic medicine; I think it would be a pretty useful tool to have in the future, to be honest. After that presentation, we had a business meeting where the representatives of each school updated everyone else about what was going on in their respective chapters and then a small group of us went on a tour of the school. I’m really glad I decided to go to the conference…I feel like I took a lot from it overall. Only downside was that I had absolutely NO phone service in the building. 😒

Good God.

I damn near wrote a dissertation.

I’m done.

I now have to pack up and start getting ready for my week-long stay in Lenoir for my CPE. Should be a fun time. Fun time indeed.

Thanks for listening to me! I know you have better things to do but you chose to rock with me! I really appreciate you! Please make your week a stupendous one!

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude about it.”

– Maya Angelou

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – If you haven’t watched the 13th documentary on Netflix, PLEASE WATCH IT. PLEASE.