Christel Wekon-Kemeni, (7/8) M.D.

SEVEN SEMESTERS. 
SEVEN-EIGHTHS.
87.5 %.

It is nothing short of amazing that I’ve not only made it this far into my medical training, but that I’ve made it about 3.5 years into medical school without losing my overall positive and resilient mindset. What’s just as amazing to me is that I’ve ACTUALLY managed to update this blog with my experiences as a medical student on a weekly basis ever since August 2015, regardless of how busy I was or what I was going through.

August 2015?? Bruh!!

That’s almost 40 months! 160 WEEKS!!

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It’s absolutely incredible what you can do if you take things one step at a time with pure determination. You’ll be amazed at all the opportunities that open themselves up to you along the way and at all the progress that you end up making when you take a moment along your journey to look back and reflect on your experiences. Just by blogging alone, I’ve been able to connect with so many people that I would have most likely otherwise never connected with, while at the same time satisfying my drive to crush negative stereotypes and to help others reach the goals that they have set for themselves. In addition, the blog has given me an avenue to express my creative side in a sustained manner, which has encouraged me to keep an innovative mindset at all times. This has helped fulfill me during my journey in medicine and continues to be not only a source of enjoyment for me, but has also ended up becoming an interesting talking point in my everyday conversations, including my residency interviews! 😯

Speaking of residency interviews, I have my fifth one coming up tomorrow at VCU in Richmond, VA! Yeah I know, they’re starting to come up faster aren’t they? As I said last week, my interview season is really starting to kick into high gear and I’m 100% ready for it. I just had my Pittsburgh interview last Monday, which I think went really well overall! My experience in Pittsburgh was actually a very positive one; it was evident how happy the pediatric residents were, the program leadership was very approachable, laid-back and hilarious, and the hospital was beautiful! It even had a 24/7 Starbucks!

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I definitely got great vibes from the program and enjoyed my time there, even though my circadian rhythm was still out of whack at the time thanks to the fact that I was still recovering from my week of nights. I had also never been to Pittsburgh before, so it was cool to check out the city for a bit although I didn’t have time to really see much of anything. However, I had PLENTY of time to appreciate how cold it was 😅.

I mentioned earlier how much you can amaze yourself if you just stay determined in reaching the goals you’ve set for yourself by taking things one step at a time. It turns out that I’ve managed to do just that throughout the course of these past four weeks as I trekked through my Sub-Internship rotation at CHOP! As I sit here typing this while reflecting on my experiences during the rotation, I am still stunned at how much my clinical skills have improved in that relatively short amount of time. I came into the rotation feeling pretty confident in the skills that I had developed up until that point, only to realize that there was so much more for me to learn and experience if I were to function effectively on an intern level.

This was an experience that was truly necessary for my growth, even though I had no idea I needed it and had initially wanted to rotate through a sub-specialty elective. While it was tough at first, I eventually started to get the flow of the team and began consistently functioning on a level that I had only occasionally functioned on in the past in a clinical setting. Once I reached that level, I continued to push myself even further than I had ever done in the past (this was noticed by my senior residents and attendings on the team, who gave me very positive feedback because of my efforts 😁) and by the end of my rotation (which was yesterday), I truly felt like I was effectively operating on an intern-level.

This realization was further cemented by a comment one of the interns made to me yesterday. While waiting for an attending to arrive so we could continue rounds, my team began talking about life in residency and a couple of the interns stated that they were actually enjoying their intern year even though the workload was heavy. I stated that I was happy to hear positive things about intern year for once, because I had just resigned to the fact that although I would get plenty of excellent and unforgettable learning experiences during the year, it was going to be one of the hardest years of my life and that it would be something that I just had to power through whether I liked it or not. The senior resident replied that once you accept that it’s going to be a hard year, it really isn’t so bad. Then one of the interns said to me, “Honestly, intern year is pretty much what you’re doing now as a Sub-I on this rotation, except there’s multiple inpatient rotations and you also don’t have the added pressure of having to perform your best everyday for a grade because you already have a secure spot in the program. Plus you’re finally getting paid.

If what he said was true, then intern year really isn’t going to be as brutal as I’ve been picturing it to be. Sure, I’ll be working my butt off and the learning curve will be pretty freakin’ steep, especially at the beginning of the year, but it’ll be all for the bigger purpose of becoming the best physician that I can be for the populations whom I’ll be serving throughout my career. Plus, if I was able to sucessfully perform intern-level work at CHOP as a fourth-year medical student, I’m pretty sure that I’ll be able to effectively adjust to the work that I’ll be ultimately responsible for once I finally begin residency next year as a true intern with an M.D. behind my name.

Wow man, I’m really almost 90% of the way there. That’s just so wild to me. 

I’m really about to be someone’s doctor in six months! 👨🏿‍⚕️

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I hope that your Thanksgiving is a very gratifying one!!

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” – Gloria Steinem

– Black Man, M.D.

Workin’ Day & Night

Man, it has been a STRUGGLE trying to switch my body from my night shift schedule back to my regular daytime schedule.

I finished my last night shift of the week yesterday morning and headed straight for my bed to crash, only to wake up four hours later to get ready for my flight to Pittsburgh. Packing on four hours of sleep is not the best idea, just so you know. I had to force myself to stay awake the rest of the day as I got to the airport, got through security (there was literally nobody in line…it was just me. Had me feeling like some sort of celebrity 😎), ate a pretzel from Auntie Anne’s, flew to Pittsburgh (the view of the city at night is niiiiice), got picked up by some friends from college, went out to dinner with them, came back to their place, did some quick reviewing of the pediatrics residency program at Pittsburgh, FaceTimed my girlfriend and finally got ready to go back to sleep around midnight. I’m glad I decided to go through the torture of staying awake though, because I was knocked out about five seconds after my head hit the pillow lol. Then my stubborn circadian rhythm kicked in and I found myself up and awake in the middle of the night for about an hour for no good reason. I finally crashed once more and woke up much later than I would have liked. It’s all good though, I definitely needed the rest. I just got back from a diversity brunch that the pediatrics program here in Pittsburgh hosted, and will be going to a pre-interview dinner later on this evening that should help prepare me for my interview tomorrow. It should be a great time! 😄

As you can see, my interview season is starting to shift into high gear. After tomorrow’s interview, I have one at VCU next Monday, followed by a flurry of interviews taking place in the following weeks at Emory, Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, UNC, Duke, UVA, EVMS, MUSC and the University of Maryland. There’s going to be a lot of money spent on gas and plane tickets, that’s for sure. Good thing I decided to get a new credit card for this season; I’m tryna make some money off of all these expenses lol. It’s going to be fun to get to see all these different programs and to meet all sorts of people, but I also feel like my tank will be on close to empty by the time this interview trail comes to an end. Then I’ll be chillin’ for real!

But before I fully shift into high gear, I have to focus on completing my last week of my rotation at CHOP. It’s crazy that I’ve finally made it to this last week! I’ve experienced a surge of growth and newfound confidence in my clinical skills these past three weeks, a surge that I know will continue as I blaze through this final week. I’m grateful for having been able to rotate through this hospital and am also very grateful that after a five-month long stretch of back-to-back rotations, I’ll FINALLY be enjoying a hard-earned break from clinical responsibilities! I remember looking at my fall semester schedule back in June and being like, “Dang, this is about to be a hell of a ride 😅”. Back then, November had seemed so far away…but look at us now! WE MADE IT!!!

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Before I forget, let me go on and tell you about my week of nights.

First off, it was strange having to be asleep in the daytime and being up all night (reminded me of my long nights during my Ob-Gyn rotation). I really felt like I was missing out on the events going on around me in the world. And at night when I was wide-awake, my phone was pretty much a brick in my pocket because everyone else was fast asleep while I was busy running around the floor admitting patients. It wasn’t like I had a lot of time to be on my phone anyway; I really was busy most of the night every shift. The team consisted of my senior resident, the intern covering the floor, and me. Yeah, just the three of us. Managing a floor that could fill up to a cap of 22 patients.

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If we weren’t managing the care of patients who had already been admitted to the floor, we were working on admitting new patients onto the floor. Most of the time, we would be doing both of those things at the same time. In the rare event that we had some off-time where we weren’t being called for something, we would either be engaging in active learning with our senior resident, reading up on some information that we wanted to learn more about, monitoring our patients’ charts for any changes in their current statuses, or just talking about our respective lives. By the time the morning came around, I would be exhausted. Yet, I would have to stick around a couple extra hours most days to present patients that I helped admit overnight. I honestly don’t even know how I was able to get through those presentations…I sincerely felt like I was babbling nonsense due to fatigue, but I apparently wasn’t because everyone seemed to get the picture I was trying to paint with each of my presentations.

Overall, I actually enjoyed my night shifts! The whole flipping-my-schedule-upside-down thing sucked but once I adjusted to that, I could really begin to appreciate the laid-back, flexible nature of working at night. Oh, and shoutout to the cafeteria being open from 1-4 AM! That was extremely clutch, but it sure was tragic that it was closed from 7:30 PM till 1 AM 😕. I had even more independence at night than I did in the daytime, which is saying a lot because I already felt like I had a ton of independence during my day shifts. I also appreciated the fact that I didn’t have the time constraints that come with pre-rounding and rounding, which allowed me more time to have some touching conversations with my patients, read about things that I found interesting, learn how to be more effective in putting in the correct orders, and write some high-quality notes about the patients I admitted. I also practiced managing multiple patients overnight by splitting the patient list with the overnight intern, meaning that I took responsibility (with oversight of course) of the care of some of the patients on the list. I was really out there feeling like a doctor, and it was pretty cool!

I had a great experience on nights, but it sure does feel good to be back on a regular schedule again. It’s too bad that I won’t get to wear scrubs during the daytime and I’ll be having to wake up real early again, but at least I won’t be messing around with my sleep schedule! Plus, it doesn’t hurt to be looking fresh at the hospital with my bowtie game on 100%!

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That’s it from me today! I hope that you have a fantastic week!

Cheers to my last week of clinical responsibilities in 2018! And Happy Veterans Day! A HUGE THANK YOU to those of you who have served this country!

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” – Alice Walker

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – I FINALLY got my absentee ballot the day before Election Day. I had to sacrifice some sleep to get it sent out but it was well worth it, even though the House representative I voted for ended up not winning the election. After my harrowing voting experience, hearing an unsettling amount of horror stories from friends who have tried to vote, and witnessing dangerous levels of corruption and irregularities in the voting system, I’m committed to helping make some very necessary changes in the way elections work in this country. Don’t ask me how I’m going to help make a change, because I don’t know yet…but I’m going to think of something and become more engaged in voter registration and reform in the overall voting system. Hopefully the results of this election will serve to restore some sort of order and sanity in the government. Shoutout to all the elected newcomers to Congress who were inspired to run because they were absolutely sick of the current state of affairs in the country!

P.P.S. – I was able to check out Philly for a bit last Sunday in my severely limited free time! I got to run up the Rocky steps, had brunch at a Lebanese restaurant, had a photo-op with the LOVE structure at Love Park, walked around downtown Philly and visited the Barnes Foundation to look at a ton of original, expensive paintings that I don’t really care about. But it was free to go, and the value of all the art in the museum is estimated to be at about $25 billion, so I had nothing to lose by checking it out!

Growth, Control & Breaking Stereotypes.

February is already looking like its going to fly by very quick. But then again, when has time not flown by since I started medical school back in late July? It’s damn near impossible to fathom how fast I’m approaching my second year of medical school…almost nerve-wracking. I don’t feel that much different from when I graduated college back in May, but at the same time I’ve been exposed to an entirely new mentality as well as a raging waterfall of information that persistently tries to drown me on a constant basis. But truth be told, I’ve so far been faring a lot better than I had imagined I would be. Back before I even got accepted into a medical school I had imagined that whenever I started studying medicine, my life as I knew it would be over. I thought that I would be endlessly memorizing facts and studying during most of my waking hours while hopelessly watching my social life fade away from me like Michael Jackson moonwalking into a misty graveyard. I also believed that no matter how hard I tried, I would fall short of the grades that I managed to obtain while in undergrad. The thought of attempting to take on extracurricular activities, much less leadership positions while in medical school was a joke to me and I believed that although I would enjoy what I was learning, I would be silently miserable at the same time.

Well, that’s how you tend to imagine med school after asking the majority of the people you know about what means to be there. I’m happy to say that I was wrong. Okay, sort-of wrong. I sure as hell am studying during most of my waking hours and endlessly memorizing facts, but so are all of my peers. So it doesn’t really feel like I’m missing out on anything. Plus I’m in Winston-Salem. So I know for sure I’m not missing out on anything spectacular. The social life I knew changed as soon as I left Miami, but it never faded away…it simply transformed. I definitely have had a great time with the friends I’ve made here and am far from miserable. I’ve even been able to participate in different extracurricular activities such as service learning opportunities and SNMA. As for obtaining the grades that I had back in undergrad…..yeah I’m falling shorter than a muhhh. I’ve had like one or two tests where I’ve reached the grades that I was used to making back then, but other than that, it’s been an uphill struggle trying to achieve high grades. But I haven’t been doing bad either so that’s okay. The Pass/Fail grading system truly is a beauty. I guess what I’m trying to say is, just like with anything in life, medical school is what you make it. If you want it to be a miserable experience, it definitely will grant your wish. If you want to have an awesome experience while studying medicine, you can definitely make it happen. It’s your decision. I chose the latter. I won’t lie though, the city I’m in has also made it undoubtedly easier to stay focused on school. 😅

Looking back on my CPX (Clinical Practice Assesment Exam) I told you about last week, I ended up doing fairly well. My ever-expanding interview skills didn’t fail me, and I actually took a correct blood pressure reading on my own for the first time! Hella embarrassing I know, but up until that point I had been faking my way through that portion since we don’t have to report vital signs at this stage in our careers…we just have to go through the motions. But I actually heard the thump, thump of the pulse in the brachial artery that I’m supposed to hear and got a decent systolic/diastolic blood pressure for the first time. That was probably the most exciting part of my exam haha. I also performed the physical exam maneuvers decent enough, so I ended up passing. I forgot that I was supposed to use a drape for my standardized patient though…..I had seen it, but I just threw it aside. 😂 Still passed thooo!!!

I also met and interviewed a patient that was suffering from ulcerative colitis last week during my clinical skills rotation. Needless to say, this patient was in pretty severe pain. I almost felt bad asking him about his pain, but he was pretty engaged in our conversation and happy to help me practice my interviewing skills on him. Seeing how far those skills have come from when I first started amazes me. There was a point where I didn’t even know how to properly ask a patient to describe their pain. Now obtaining an HPI has almost become second nature to me, although I have to now start learning how to obtain it in a quicker and more efficient manner. My clinical skills coach also had me and my small group present our patients to her (which I absolutely suck at) and develop a write-up of our patients in order to critique us (which she is absolutely stunning at). Good thing I won’t have to truly utilize these skills until my third year, but it’s real nice that we get this early clinical exposure so that we are comfortable with doing all that when it comes time to put these skills to good use. Right after my clinical skills class, there was an event where a few members of the Wake Forest School of Medicine faculty talked about times where they felt like they failed and how they bounced back from those failures in order to become better and stronger people. I just thought that it was an amazing event and I felt like the lessons that these faculty learned through their struggles are lessons that could benefit not only us as medical students, but you, the reader, as well. These lessons included:

  • Recognizing that you are in control of building your life the way you want to after hitting rock bottom
  • Seizing the moment and doing something nice for yourself each day
  • Not letting your grades nor comments, criticisms or negativity from other people define who you are
  • Communicating your needs while setting standards for yourself that is consistent with your values

 

Okay I know I’m talking a lot, but I just thought about an encounter I had with my barber a little over a week ago that I forgot to put in last week’s entry. This is my last story for today, I swear lol. I was at the barber shop getting a line-up for Wake’s medical school prom a couple of Fridays ago and I had my Wake Forest School of Medicine hoodie on. When it was my turn to get my line-up, the barber introduced himself and everything and we had a light convo as he was getting all his supplies ready. Then as he began lining me up, he asked me, “You play ball for Wake Forest?”

I guess he didn’t get the ‘School of Medicine’ memo on my hoodie. I was like, “Nah, I’m a first-year medical student at the Wake Forest School of Medicine.”

He abruptly picked up his razor off of my head, looked at me and was like, “Oh word? For real? That’s what’s up man. You must get that question a lot huh?”

I laughed and replied, “Yeah man, more times than I can remember. I may look like a ball player but funny thing is, I’m trash at basketball. So I just stuck to what I knew best, which was the books. I really just want to help break the stereotype that has been cast on us as young, black men.”

He laughed, himself an older black man, and said, “Well that’s great man, I’m happy for you.” As he started to return to his task, he went on, “You know, the media really does try and stick us all in a box. They expect us to be rappers, basketball players, football players, you name it. The news also covers all the bad things that black people do but does little to highlight our accomplishments. Like for example, the news will never tell you who the second richest black person in America is (Robert F. Smith) because he isn’t an athlete or an entertainer. He’s a business man. You’re doing a great thing man, don’t let up. Young black men are always trying to find the fastest way to becoming rich, which is why we fall in the stereotype trap, but the road you’re taking is definitely worth it in the end. You just gotta do your thing and own your own practice and show other young black men that they’re capable of what you’re doing.”

I wasn’t expecting a TED Talk from my barber, but I deeply appreciated what he had told me. All I could say was, “Thanks man, I really appreciate that. That’s a big reason why I’m doing what I’m doing.”

He then said it was no problem and went on to talk about how diabetes and glaucoma had affected his family as a whole and why he decided to change the way he ate and lived so that he wouldn’t suffer the same consequences that some of his loved ones did. It ended up being one of my more memorable barber experiences and needless to say, I ended up tipping him a good amount after the cut. I think I’ve finally found my new favorite barber in Winston-Salem.

Alright that was a lot. But the more I typed, the more I realized how much more I wanted to say. I hope you enjoyed this post and that you perhaps took something out of it. As for today’s positive memo:

You may not always have control of your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them. Don’t let your circumstances control you.

Enjoy Super Bowl Sunday!!!

 

– Black Man, M.D.

Another Week. 😒

Here goes the start of ANOTHER week of fresh, brand-new material to study.

SMH.

Is it bad that I’m not feeling as pressed about this new section of material as I was about the material before my first exam? Like my next exam is next Friday (Oct. 2) but I’ve been pretty chill about studying and I’m just more lenient with what I’m studying. Maybe it’s because I know how I’ll be tested so some of that beginner’s anxiety is gone? Maybe it’s because I’m finding more efficient ways to study? Or maybe it’s because I’m just starting to slowly burnout already?? Nahhh…It’s only been about a month since anatomy started, I can’t possibly be burning out. I’m actually all caught up in my studies from this week…or at least I think I am. We’ve gone through the whole GI (gastrointestinal) system and pelvic region in a week as well as had four lab dissections of the GI tract in the same amount of time. Try and imagine what that smelled like. 

But even with all that, I feel alright…almost like I’m starting to get used to the flow of medical school. Sure, waking up around 6:45-7:00 AM everyday sucks ass, but I’m also going to bed around 11 PM so that I can still get my 7-8 hours of sleep. I’m also starting to learn how to find what is going to be high-yield for exams in my notes, allowing for me to study more effectively. I’m really trying to learn the material not only to pass these exams, but to be a better future doctor overall…but it’s hard man. There’s just too much material to try and learn every little detail exactly, so I’m learning how to completely understand all the overall concepts while being at ease that I simply won’t ever know everything. Guess that’s just something you eventually learn while in medical school.

Something that’s been kind of bugging me though is the fact that I’m actually becoming an adult…as a matter of fact I technically am an adult. Not only that, but I literally went from college where people all around me were around my age to being the fourth youngest person in my class…damn near everyone around me is grown. I’m still tryna wrap my head around that. I feel like a small part of my mind is still down in Miami in college and is unable to accept the fact that I’m not a kid anymore. I’m in the real freakin’ world.

Ain’t no more dining hall bih.

Ain’t no more stroll-offs bihhh.

Ain’t no more free merchandise bihhh.

Just me, this crazy world and all this damn debt that I’m putting myself in. It’s still crazy to me that I have my bachelor’s from undergrad and even crazier that I made it to medical school on my first try by the skin of my teeth. Sometimes I wonder what I would have actually done if I had decided to take a year off…

I’m also trying to wrap my head around the fact that medicine is literally going to be the rest of my life. Like, I’m actually going to be working in the medical field until the day I die. This is going to be my job, my passion, my desire. This is where my place will be in this world. It’s honestly a surreal feeling. I’ve been working my whole life up to this point to make it into medical school and now that I’m actually here, I’ve really started to understand that this will be a lifelong journey. I just gotta make sure I make it worthwhile and that it doesn’t take away my sanity…

F- it, I’ll be good. I’m just airing out floating thoughts. Y’all didn’t help support me all this time just to see me get anxious about my future!

If there is NO struggle, there is NO progress.

Y’all have a blessed week!

– Black Man, M.D.