Gratitude, Health & Stereotypes

First off, shoutout to all of you that actually read these blog entries. People have actually stopped me and told me how much they loved reading my blog, which pleasantly surprises me every time. Some have even told me they look forward to reading what I post every week! It may just seem like a nice compliment, but it actually means A LOT to me to see that my classmates, old friends, and family really enjoy reading these posts. Typing my thoughts out is really helping me organize both my experiences in medical school and my mind in general. I always have a thousand things going on in my head and don’t really know what to do with it all, so this is helping quite a bit. I also hope I’m helping to inspire or motivate somebody out there in some way by pouring my thoughts out here. That’s becoming a bigger goal for me with these posts, because I know how it feels to be inspired…it can completely change your life. So to everyone that is keeping up with this blog and spreading the word about it, I APPRECIATE YOU!!!

Now about this test I took a couple days ago…

It was definitely harder than I thought it was gonna be. I felt that I had adequately prepared for it, but mannnn those brain lesion artery questions got my ass. That was the one thing I kind of skimmed over while studying…and I got like 10 questions about them. 😐 Plus they asked some questions in the weirdest ways and had strange answer choices. And y’all would be hella surprised at how many nerves we got in our heads. Bruh. They tagged SO MANY different nerves on the cadavers in the practical portion. Had me looking at those poor dead faces like:

All I can say is that I did my absolute best on that test. I’m not afraid that I failed or anything (failing isn’t an option, I worked too damn hard to get here), but I also don’t know if I did better than I did on my last test. You see, I’ve been playing this game with myself where I try and see how much higher of a score I can get on a test compared to my previous one. I’ve had a hot streak so far (1-for-1) and I’m not tryna break it lol. But we’ll see. It wasn’t a terrible test, because there was a good amount of info I was sure about…thing is, you tend to just really remember the shit that tripped you up.

Oh well.

At least I’m about to be done with anatomy after this last block! This last section is dealing with the arms and legs, which hopefully will be less intensive than the head & neck region we just got tested on. But because its supposedly less intensive, we got extra clinical skills sessions, case-centered learning sessions and medical ethics discussions packed into these next two weeks as well. The faculty were pretty much like, “Y’all thought y’all was gonna get off that easy?? Nahhh B, lemme serve you some more stress.” I swear they be laughing at us man. Smh. I just can’t wait till I get to see my girl again in a few weeks and to see my family during Thanksgiving. They’re slick getting me thru this last stretch of anatomy.

On another note…

I’ve been reading up on Black Man in a White Coat by Dr. Damon Tweedy, and he’s been saying some pretty interesting stuff regarding his experiences as a medical student in the 90’s at Duke. As a matter of fact, he’s talked about a few things that I can already relate to. One thing that happened to stick with me was when he talked about how “healthy” he was because of the fact that he had been skinny all his life and that he also played basketball on a regular basis for exercise. He admitted to having a “high-salt” diet and to not eating as healthy as he should be eating, but he never thought twice about it because he had a high metabolism and never really gained any weight. So he shouldn’t have anything to worry about right? Turns out sometime during his first year in medical school while he and his classmates were learning how to take a blood pressure reading, a classmate took his and found it to be at a hypertensive level. Not only that, but he learned that he was starting to have symptoms of kidney disease. After learning all that, he became highly distressed and started eating healthier as well as supplementing the exercise he got from playing basketball with running. He eventually got down to a normal blood pressure (120/80) and became much more interested in hypertension and why it was 50% more common in black people than in white people. He found different reasons that ranged from evolutionary scientists theorizing that the African slaves that were best able to retain water during the Atlantic journey to America were able to survive and pass along their genes (in the modern world, retained water can increase blood pressure in blood vessels) to public-health writers that commented on how a good proportion of blacks suffered many inequities in the health care system as well as on their “cultural differences in dietary and physical activity patterns.” The young Dr. Tweedy also started doing research with a faculty member that focused on lifestyle-based approaches on treating hypertension and heart disease.

When he talked about how “healthy” he was based on his weight and appearance, it stuck with me because that’s how I’ve been personally judging my health for years…I figured as long as I went to the gym regularly, avoided trans fats and maintained my weight range, I’d be good to go. But I’m learning that there is much more to good health than feeling healthy. It sounds very simple and intuitive, but here I am assessing my health based on appearance while blinding myself from other vital signs that matter. With an unhealthy diet, you can be as fit as a beach model and have a blood pressure of 150/100. It’s kinda scary ain’t it? Turns out one of the measures of gauging your true healthiness is taking your blood pressure and keeping it at a safe level. Reading what Dr. Tweedy had to say on that has also made me a bit more conscious of what I put in my body because I found that I have a pretty high-salt diet too…and when I practiced blood pressure readings with my classmates earlier this semester, I had a bit of a higher blood pressure reading than normal…😰😰😰. Now I’m finding myself examine in detail the sodium content of every food item I buy and I’m realizing there is a TON of salt in almost everything I like to eat. Great. Now I gotta cut back on homemade quesadillas, ham sandwiches, meatballs, and all the convenient processed foods I’ve been eating for so long. Ima have to be eating a damn apple for lunch and lettuce for dinner.

One more thing that has been randomly on my mind recently is the issue of racial categorization in America and across the world. I honestly don’t get it.  How can you try and categorize a person’s ethnicity based on appearance alone? Who comes up with the rules regarding what a person’s ethnicity and race is? Is a white woman who was born in Ghana and whose parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents lived in Ghana not an African woman? Or is she still labeled as Caucasian because of her appearance even if the only culture she associates with is the Ghanaian culture? Or is an Asian-American man who only knows Swedish culture and whose ancestors happened to come from Sweden not Swedish because he has the ”stereotypical features” of an Asian man? How many of y’all automatically assumed I was talking about a Chinese-American man when I said Asian? Isn’t a man from India technically an Asian man? Or can a black woman born and raised in Germany not automatically be assumed as German because of the color of her skin? Does an American-born black woman with Japanese, Egyptian and French blood running thru her veins have to still check the African-American box because simply because she’s black? Is she not 1/3 Japanese, 1/3 Egyptian and 1/3 French? Or is she also “part-American”? Or is being American classified as a culture? Why does she have to be fractioned, can she not be 100% Japanese, 100% Egyptian and 100% French? Again I ask, who the hell controls these categorizations?? Are stereotypes really powerful enough to allow us to judge one another’s characteristics and nature based on appearances alone? Better yet, is the media responsible for reinforcing the stereotypes that control the way we think about one another? Does the media take certain aspects of different cultures, attach them to people of that culture and create the stereotypes that are ingrained in each of our heads?

Hell, maybe I’m crazy. I’m here asking questions that very few people, if any, actually have the true answers to. But it does get you thinking. I mean, I’m just as guilty when it comes to assuming what someone’s personality traits are based on appearances alone because I’m human like everyone else. I’m exposed to the media that everyone else is exposed to on a constant basis. I’ve had countless people tell me numerous things about people of other races and ethnicities throughout my lifetime. But I’ve made it, and continue to make it, a mission to break the habit of assuming what other people are like whenever I can by meeting new people and learning from their experiences and their respective cultures, which in turn helps to hopefully improve their ingrained perceptions about people that look like me. I just believe that there is much more to each human being on this Earth than their appearance. Each person has a story that is made up of a collection of their thoughts, experiences, habits, overall culture, etc. Will every person in the world realize that? Probably not. All I can do is continue to break down negative stereotypes and try to show people that we are all much more than what we look like.

That’s all I gotta say on that, thanks for listening to my rant. 😁

Now I gotta figure out what I’m gonna be for Halloween.

Y’all be blessed!

– Black Man, M.D.

Where Has The Time Gone???

Bruhhhh my little brother turns 19 tomorrow…😳😧😰

Where has the time gone?? I still distinctively remember when I was 19, living out my sophomore year of college without a care in the world. Okayyy I cared a little. Had to keep up my GPA to keep my scholarship…and to make sure I became a doctor…but still, I was having an awesome time. I remember telling myself how grown I was…which means my little brother is pumping himself up on how grown he is. Thing is, he’s actually a man now…that’s crazy to me.

What happened to the good old days man?? Back when my biggest stressor was deciding what starter Pokemon I should pick on my Game Boy Advance? Or what character I should choose to whup my brother’s ass in any given Dragonball Z game on PS2? Or even missing most of my Saturday morning shows because my mom STAYED making us clean the house from top to bottom? Shiii, I wouldn’t mind relieving some of my childhood experiences for a day or two…life was so easy back then. I wasn’t worried about trying to differentiate between the tensor tympani and tensor veli palatini muscles or about trying to figure out the innervation of the 12 cranial nerves and its a-thousand-and-one branches. Only branches I knew back then were the ones I used to climb on…*deep sigh* 😔

Well I’m now 22 and I got my third anatomy test this Friday. Talk about a stressor. However, now that I know that anatomy grades don’t really matter in the long run and aren’t even high-yield for the Step 1 Board Exams, I’m not really trippin’. But anatomy still isn’t something you can just glaze over and BS. You do that and you’ll fail. Quick. So I might as well keep doing the best I can do since it’s been working for me so far. But ima be real…as of right now, I ain’t ready for test at all lol. But I do know that I’ll be good come Thursday night, because when you keep telling yourself failing is never an option, you eventually end up believing it and you tend to find ways to make things go the way you want it to. Sooo I’m not ready, but I simply refuse to fail, so I’ll find a way to not only pass, but do better than I did last test, Lord willing.

I’ve also come to realize that there’s a general pattern to this anatomy BS. We go in the first day of a new block and our lecturers throw hella info at us, expecting us to whine and pull our hairs out about it while they (most likely) smirk in their offices. That whole first week of the block, a majority of us are complaining to each other about how completely lost in the sauce we are. I’m usually asking myself “how the hell am I gonna learn all this??” Then I laugh to myself in a delusional manner and hit the gym. Second week comes around and I’m starting to very slowly piece certain things together while going thru all the lectures and labs getting hurled at us. I’m still pretty lost at the beginning of this week, but I’m lost in a more confident and upbeat way. By the end of the second week, I feel like I have a little more than a basic understanding of the material because I realize that although we continue to get new lectures, there is a lot of repetitive information that ends up getting drilled in my head. Then the third week (exam week) hits and we STILL learning new material, but by this point I’m screaming to myself, “only ___ more days until my free weekend!!” Then Thursday night I have a nice chat with the Father before going to sleep earlier than usual. On Friday morning, I throw another Hail Mary prayer before I click Start on my exam. By Friday afternoon, I feel like Diddy. Then by Sunday night of the same weekend, I’m silently weeping myself to sleep about starting the cycle all over again the next day.

It’s all good though, because after this upcoming test I’ll have one more block of anatomy!!! 😄

Then Biochemistry starts and I’ll have to start listening to three-hour lectures while taking notes on 100+ Powerpoint slides.

Honestly, other than having made some incredible friends here and having an enormous amount of support from old friends and family, only reason I’m getting thru all of this with a smile on my face is the fact that I continue to put time aside to volunteer for various things. It reminds me that the world is very much alive outside of the four walls that tend to trap me more often than I would like. I actually started participating in a once-a-week tutoring initiative this past week called Project TEACH through the SNMA (Student National Medical Association) group at Wake. I went in last Tuesday thinking that I would be helping out underrepresented high school kids that were having trouble with their school assignments….but I quickly found out as I walked in my first session that we would actually be helping out not-so-underrepresented gifted middle school children. I admit, I was a bit confused because I did expect quite a bit more diversity, and the kid I ended up getting paired with was smart as hell. He’s actually a pretty funny kid with a very thick Southern accent that loves to fish and hunt, both of which I have actually never done 😅. It was a good time though, we vibed for a while after I helped him a bit with his homework. I have a feeling that tutoring him is going to be a blast. I also get to be a role model for a young guy that doesn’t look like me, which I find to be a pretty cool and unique experience. I would also love if we could add some color to the mix of students, because I know that if I had come, as a young black middle school kid, to a nice tutoring facility and saw some medical students that looked like me trying to achieve great things with their lives while taking the time to make sure I was doing alright in school, I would highly appreciate it. I would even internalize it. Who knows, it could potentially spark a flame of ambition in my young mind.

Another thing that’s been keeping a smile on my face is hearing all the good news about friends that have already gotten interviews and even acceptances from medical schools around the country! CONGRATS to all of you already hearing back from medical schools, y’all highly deserve it!! It really makes my day every time I hear about someone I know getting either an interview or an acceptance because Lord knows I know the feeling. Especially that feeling of your first acceptance. It’s amazing to think that I was applying to schools as well as painfully waiting for replies around this time a year ago. At that time, I had absolutely no idea what my future would look like, much less where I would end up. Hell, I didn’t know until six months ago if I would even be going to medical school this fall. (The MCAT can go to hell. t(-_-t) ) So to all of you that may be painfully waiting right now to hear back from schools and may be painfully waiting for the next few weeks or even months ahead, keep your head up. Anything can happen at any given moment. And congratulations on having the drive to get thru the MCAT and the application cycle, that in itself is a feat to be proud of. Not everyone is blessed with that gift.

And to all of you going on interviews, honestly just be yourself. It’s cliché as hell but it’s cliché for a reason. It works. You already know all the answers to the questions they’re gonna ask you because you’re the only person that’s lived your life. If they’re putting time aside to talk to you, they want you at their school. All they need you to do is talk about yourself, and ask them questions about their job and institution. Think about how hard it is to screw that up. So don’t stress about it, just do it! Plus there’s plenty of stress to choose from after you make it into your school.

With that said, GOOD LUCK to all of you applying to medical schools! Patience and persistence is key!

Y’all be blessed!

– Black Man, M.D.

Halfway thru Anatomy!

I can’t believe that I’m already halfway done with anatomy…

We literally started anatomy six weeks ago. The weeks have flown by like crazy…like I would go to sleep Monday night and before I knew it, I was waking up on Friday morning. But at the same time, I feel like our first day of anatomy (August 24) was a lifetime ago. Six weeks have passed but I feel like I’ve mentally aged about five years. It’s like I’m in some kind of time-warp shit, like I’m in the Matrix and I’m Neo. Or like I’m in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber for any DBZ fans out there.

Okay that sounds kinda stupid. Just know that it feels weird.

Although I have half of the anatomy block under my belt, I still have another six weeks to go…which means two more tests plus a final CUMULATIVE exam. 😀🔫 Oh yeah and the final exam is FIVE DAYS after my fourth exam. That’s just cold yo. But that’s another topic for another day. I’m finding that my least favorite part about anatomy (other than repeatedly figuring out that damn near half of the structures in anatomy has multiple names 😒)  is the fact that I always have to gear up for another brutal three weeks of a different region of the body right after taking a test for the previous topic the previous Friday. It sucks because my favorite part about anatomy is finishing up a body region and the free weekend I have right after taking a test. So it just ends up becoming a cycle of straight bull. Also, this upcoming region we’re about to delve into is the head & neck. Maannn do you know how much crap is in the head alone?? The fact that we have a whole test dedicated to just the head & neck is baffling. The brain damn near controls everything. I don’t even wanna think about all the little bones, muscles and NERVES that we’re going to have to memorize…

On a dimly brighter note, the test that I took on the abdomen/pelvic/perineum region this past Friday was not as tough as the one I took three weeks ago, in my opinion. Well at least the written portion wasn’t. The practical portion, where we have to identify structures in different cadavers and on CT scans/tissue samples/bones, wasn’t too pleasant this time around, just like last time. But I felt like I answered more questions confidently this time around on the written portion than I did on the first test. I was so shocked that I spent another 20 minutes going over each of the 123 questions I had to answer. It was also weird because a number of my peers felt that it was really hard and I usually tend to agree with them since I have already gotten used to getting my ass constantly handed to me in medical school. But it was different this time around. I don’t think the content got any easier, and the questioning style didn’t change much from the first test either. Maybe my no-stress strategy is actually working? Maybe I’m actually learning how to study smarter???

I must admit, I focused my attention much more on overall concepts like how nerves actually work and the routes of blood flow, specifically what arteries supply which organs. I also made myself think more in terms of spatial relationships, which I think really helped for this test. Regardless of how I feel about the test, I’ll find out how I really did sometime this week when I get my grade back. I could be talking up all this hype and end up finding out that I barely passed. That’s tends to be a trend in med school.

Another thing to look forward to this week is the Clinical Practice Assessment Exam we have to take. To put it simply, it’s an assessment of how well we can interview a patient and perform a physical examination on him/her. I find it pretty cool that Wake has us learning how to interact with patients early on in our first year. Problem is, ain’t no way in hell I’m ready to perform any type of physical exam on a patient. I still have trouble getting an accurate blood pressure…but thank God it’s not a graded exam this time around. It’s more of an assessment of what we need to work on, so I’m about to get hella constructive criticism by the doctors observing me. I’m cool with it though, because I really want to be the best doctor I can be which means I need to get the patient interview and physical exam down cold. It’s just crazy how hard it is to get the process right and I really don’t want to mess up even if this is a formative assessment. You would think talking to a patient was easy…turns out there is a whole interview technique that we learn to adopt when it comes to talking to a patient and my biggest problem is trying to remember to do everything in that technique while actively listening with empathy and not looking like I’m actually trying to remember what I’m supposed to say. I’ve had to really swallow my pride and allow myself to screw up during our clinical skills sessions, and I’ll have to keep doing so for a long time until I actually perfect this skill. I’ve never been graded in this way before, so it’s a whole new adjustment to me and I’m probably psyching myself out about it more than I need to. Idk, i just like getting things down fast, especially a skill that I absolutely need for my future profession.

But hey, every failure is a chance to improve right? As a matter of fact, now that I’m reflecting on my thoughts, I’m reminded of one of my mantras:

The greatest mistake in life is being too afraid to make one.

So with that said, I’ll stop complaining. I’ll be fine.

One last thought. I’m coming to dreadfully notice that the more things I learn in medical school, the more things I realize I don’t actually know. I’ve learned a ton of info, but I’m also finding that I’m only left with more questions. Even after anatomy is all over, I still won’t know how exactly everything works in unison, much less how to fix things when something in the body goes wrong. Hell, everything I’m learning in lecture is based off a perfect body…something nobody has. It’s amazing to see how many of us live our everyday lives without actually knowing what our bodies are made of and how our bodies really work. I’ve really began to appreciate the human body and all its wonders and I wish that everyone actually knew what their bodies were capable of. But then everyone would be studying medicine and in debt. That being said, I’m still very much grateful that Wake Forest gave me a chance to pursue my passion. As much as I may roll my eyes at country-ass Winston-Salem and at the fact that I study damn near 24/7, I’m very much glad and honored to be in the position I’m in. Many would give anything to be where I’m at and I realize that. That’s why I try to not complain whenever things aren’t going my way, even when everyone around me feels like throwing shade on their experiences here. Ultimately, I made a promise to myself a while ago that I will make the most of my blessing and do what I can to help those that want a chance to prove themselves in medical school or in any other profession get that chance.

Okay I’m done.

Hope y’all have an outstanding week! Y’all be blessed!

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S:  Black Man in a White Coat is really proving to be an interesting read!