Makin’ Moves

So this is very random, but I figured that I had to start of by saying that I just googled “Black Man, M.D.” for fun and this blog is actually one of the first things that pop up as a search result! Ayyyeeee!!! And then I googled “black medical student blog” and I’m also on the first page!!

We movin’ on up!!!

dancing drake

In other news, Test #1 of my second year is coming up in a couple of days…and to tell the truth, I’m feeling pretty good about it. I feel like I’ve sufficiently been able to take in almost everything that has been dished out to me, mainly because this block was effectively taught. Like, the course director of this block has been absolutely phenomenal. Because of her love for teaching, she has gone above and beyond for us in making sure that we understand hematology. It’s been such a good block that I’ve physically gone just to about every class this month, something I didn’t do as much in the past couple of blocks. (It also helps that I can skedaddle from my kitchen to school in under two minutes.) As I’ve said before, this material has been very interesting and applicable to the clinical setting, which has helped in digesting everything. I can effectively read a complete blood count (CBC) now and, for the most part, decipher what’s going on in the patient’s blood! I also understand how blood clots are formed as well as the mechanisms of a large number of cancer drugs. It’s all been really cool and although the piles of lectures I had to face looked quite daunting during the first week of classes, I can happily say that I’ve blazed through them all and it hasn’t been that bad!

The morning after Tuesday’s test, we start our Cardiology block. I have a fascination with how the heart works, so I’m pumped to get to that unit…but I’ve heard that: 1) it’s not easy at all and 2) it’s nowhere near as effectively taught as the heme block. Ehhh, nothing’s really easy in med school so I’m fine with that, but if the teaching isn’t effective then I’ll just find other ways to take it all in. That’s never stopped me in learning what I have to learn. I still gotta pay my tuition either way. Then I gotta become a doctor and scrape myself out of this negative-net-worth hole that I’ve been free-falling in. So, yeah.

Apart from my test, I was able to attend an Emergency Medicine lunch talk last Monday and was also able to help host a lunch talk with the Doctors In Training program with SNMA on Wednesday. I enjoyed both of the talks. The doctor giving the EM talk was a very good presenter and it was blatantly obvious that he absolutely loved his occupation. He made Emergency Medicine look so exciting and fulfilling; I’m sure he enthralled a number of the first-years that were present. I have absolutely no interest in EM, but I must say, he did present the occupation as if it were one of the best jobs in the world. As for the Doctors In Training lunch talk, I served as a campus representative for them and as such, I was able to connect the representatives from the program to the first and second-year students here. They mainly talked about how we could use their program to study for Step 1 and how well students that use their program do on average. (They said that their most recent data states that students using DIT score an average of 233. That’s a pretty decent score.) They also gave out free shirts, some pretty good lunch from Jason’s Deli and they even raffled a free full program to a lucky student. Oh yeah, can’t forget the most important part…they served us free chicken biscuits from Chick-Fil-A earlier that morning. That’s real yo.

This past Friday, our course director of Hematology brought in some of her patients to talk to us in order to give us a patient perspective on the diseases that we’ve been learning about. One of the patients was afflicted with Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria, another one was afflicted with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and the last one had been afflicted with Burkitt’s Lymphoma. It was amazing being able to listen to their experiences with their illnesses and how they’ve worked to combat them alongside our course director. They told us how vital it was to listen with your heart as well as with your ears when talking to patients and to keep in mind that patients are pretty nervous, if not scared when we interact with them. What could be another normal, everyday encounter for us could be a pivotal and life-changing moment in the patient’s life. They also pointed out that medical students play a much larger role in patient care than we realize. Medical students tend to spend more time with the patient than the residents or doctors do, so they get to know the patient more, which the patients really appreciate for the most part. I never really personally thought of it that way…I just assumed I would be running around as a third-year, being useful for errands but being useless at the same time when it came to actually helping diagnose and treat the patient. Guess I was wrong, thankfully. Finally, they extensively talked about how critical it was for them to have support systems as they were fighting off their illnesses and how it was important for the health care provider to know that each patient has a full life to live outside of the hospital, just like the provider. All in all, it was a really cool presentation. I love it when we get to interact with patients that have had first-hand experiences with the conditions that we are learning; it humanizes the diseases and allows me to appreciate learning about them more.

A couple more things, and then I’m done. I promise. 😉

I’m participating in this initiative called the Melanin, M.D. Mentorship Project, where medical students and residents of color get paired with pre-med students of color nationwide and work to serve as a mentor for those students. I finally got to meet my mentee last night and he seems to be a pretty cool guy overall. He’s an upcoming sophomore and he’s working to get into medical school in order to become a physician. This whole project is pretty awesome and necessary and I’m just excited to be able to directly impact someone else’s life in a positive way in this fashion, especially another young, black man trying to get to the position that I’m blessed to be in.

Finally, I’ve been volunteering at the Brenner’s Family Room on the Pediatric unit of the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center for the past several months now and my experiences there have allowed me to witness another side of medicine. The Brenner’s Family Room, which is an adjunct to the Ronald McDonald House across the street, serves as a safe haven for families whose children are being treated in the hospital. The room has couches to relax on, snacks and coffee for anyone that needs it, and both telephones and computers for the families to use. The best part about all of this is that it’s all free. Because the room is on the same floor as the Pediatric unit, it’s very convenient for the families to utilize it and I’ve found that they are extremely appreciative of it. The thing is, in order for the room to be open, there must be a volunteer present. This isn’t much of an issue on the weekdays, but when it comes to the weekends, the room struggles to stay open. Because of this, I’ve volunteered early in the afternoon these past two Saturdays and it has amazed me how many people have showed up within both of my three-hour shifts. The people that have come in during my shifts have been so thankful and appreciative that the room was open, which always makes it hard for me to tell them that no one is coming after me when my shift is over, since I’m usually the only one volunteering to come in on Saturdays. I remember one man telling me I have the most chill job in the world and after I told him that I don’t get paid for this, he was so surprised and sincerely thanked me for being there. Another woman expressed her support of the room to me and told me how she has benefited from the room although she lives down the street from the hospital. She said that she couldn’t imagine how valuable it must be for families that are from out of town. Because these families are so appreciative of the service, I want to be able to do more to keep the room open on a consistent basis during the weekends. As a matter of fact, I’m going to try and find a way to make it happen. I got the power to do so, so why not?

With that said, y’all have an incredible week! You have the power to make it a great one!

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

– Black Man, M.D.

Shifting Gears

Any of y’all know the difference between Leukemia and Lymphoma?

I thought I did…until last week happened.

I really had no idea how complex these cancers were. Like, you don’t just have leukemia. It’s broken up into various subtypes such as acute myelogenous leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, chronic myelogenous leukemia and chronic lymphoblastic leukemia. Same with lymphoma, it’s divided into two categories: Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Hodgkin’s is one type of lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin’s encompasses all the other types of lymphoma that isn’t Hodgkin’s. How convenient. 

Now you may be asking why I’m talking about these cancers.  Or you may not care as to why I’m talking about them and are just passively reading along. Well regardless, I’m talking about them because we just spent the last six days being lectured on everything about both of those cancers as well as other cancer-like disorders of the blood, radiation oncology (the Chair of the radiation oncology department at Wake gave us this lecture…and he’s another black man! Ayyyeeee!!), and all the different types of chemotherapy that exist, along with all the thousand-billion-million-gazillion freakin’ cancer drugs that come with it. (Our chemotherapy lecture was four hours long in total and the PowerPoint was 175 slides. How Sway? HOW???) So needless to say, that’s pretty much the only thing on my mind right now lol. While it has all been interesting, it’s also been hell trying to sort all this information out in an organized way…but I THINK I’ve finally been able to do so. I’ve realized that I’ve got to be even more flexible than I was last year in regards to learning and retaining all of the information coming at me from all directions. Too bad we have another whole week of new material to learn that has to do with clotting factors of platelets and all the disorders and drugs that come with it 😭😭😭😭😭. And that’s not even the best part. Our test on Hematology/Oncology is next Tuesday.

will smith church fresh prince of bel air faint fresh prince

It crept up on me so fast man. I don’t want to even think about how many questions could be on this exam. But here’s the thing. I don’t even care about these tests anymore…to an extent. I haven’t lost my mind, I promise. Of course I’m still going to put my best foot forward and do the best I can on each exam that I encounter. But unlike last year, doing well on these exams is not my main priority. I have this hell of a beast called Step 1 coming up sooner than I would like to think, and I fully plan on doing whatever it takes to effectively slay it. This means that during these organ system blocks, instead of trying to figure out what I think is going to be on the subject tests and studying accordingly, I’m going to be deeply entrenched in everything I’m learning. This means that I’ll be memorizing facts less and actually understanding pathways and systems more. I was doing this during the Neuroscience block last year as well, but not to the extent that I will be doing it this year, for everything I’m going to be learning now will be very high-yield for both the Step 1 exam and for my future as a physician. Besides, I believe that by studying in this fashion, I should be able to do well on the subject tests anyway. So bottom line is, I’m Step focused and am not gonna be sweating these tests that come along the way.

In addition to learning all of that info last week, we started our Healthcare Systems & Policy class as well as our Medicine and Patients in Society class (MAPS). In the policy class, we spent our first day learning a bit about economics and how it relates to healthcare in general. We then did a group activity where each group had to choose insurance policies for a population using limited funds. That was hard, I must say. Boy am I glad I don’t have that job in real life…I would feel horrible having to cut out funding for one service in order to fund another service. Based on how our professor described the overall objectives of this course, I have a good feeling that I’m going to like this class! As for the other class (MAPS), it’s literally the same ethics class that I was in last year. However, they’ve totally revamped it. (THANK GOD!) To sum up some of the changes they’ve made:

  • Instead of being tested on readings, we’ll be tested with questions that are similar to the ones we’re likely to see on Step
  • We don’t have to sit in small group discussions for 90 minutes anymore
  • Our assigned readings will be more up-to-date instead of being from the Stone Age
  • We have a poster presentation that’s due at the end of the semester…
    • I honestly don’t really wanna do it…but it’s definitely a vital skill that I don’t have yet. I gotta learn how to put together a research poster at some point 😅

I think that these changes will help to make this class more enjoyable overall. The class sure does have a lot of potential to be an awesome class…hopefully that potential will be realized this semester.

Welp. Gotta get back to studying now.

I hope that you had a great weekend and that you have a stellar week!

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” – Mark Twain

– Black Man, M.D.

Bloody Start

They not playing around this year fam.

From day one, we’ve been bombarded with information about hematology, also known as the study of blood. Ever since our two-hour orientation last Monday morning, we’ve learned where and how blood is made, the different types of cells that make up our blood, the dire importance of hemoglobin (an oxygen-carrying protein) in our red blood cells, how platelets (cell fragments that help cause blood clotting) are created and what disorders can manifest with them, some of the important anti-emetics (anti-vomiting/nausea drugs) in use today, various hematologic disorders, the importance of blood banking, etc, etc, etc. As you can see, it has been an intense first week back. However, my excitement to be back hasn’t faded yet lol. I’ve been having a good time learning about all of this, because it’s so vital for my future profession. I’m going to definitely need to know how to read a CBC (complete blood count) and how to think through a differential and diagnose various conditions simply from reading blood charts. As a matter of fact, we got the chance to have our own blood drawn (it wasn’t as bad as you might think…for me at least) in order to not only receive our own blood chart, but to also look at our own blood sample under a microscope!

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It was pretty damn cool, if I do say so myself. Taking these pictures through a microscope took forever though. Smh.  Also, our main professor of our Hematology/Oncology block created a house contest that we’re participating in throughout the block called the “Blood Cup”, where each of our respective houses accumulate points for participating in class, donating blood to blood banks, getting questions right on our formative quizzes, signing up to be a bone marrow donor, etc. The house with the most points at the end of the block will win “a spectacular prize” at the Awards Ceremony at the end of the block. So that has added some flair to this block as well. In addition, I think that it’s worthwhile to note that last Friday was the first time that I had a black male professor lecture to me since I’ve been in medical school. (He was also Nigerian. ✊) I won’t lie, I was both pleasantly surprised he was going to lecture to us and intrigued with what he had to say. His lecture was about blood banks and blood typing, more practical and useful information for me. Although it was just another typical lecture with nothing too exciting happening in it, I found myself sitting up and listening attentively for the majority of the 90-minute lecture without really trying. The subconscious mind is a powerful force indeed. After he was finished, I couldn’t help but walk up to him and thank him for giving the lecture as well as tell him that he was the first black male that has given my class a lecture. He was pretty surprised and I guess he was expecting me to ask a blood bank related question, but he appreciated it nonetheless. Representation really does matter y’all.

Outside of school, I was able to spend some quality time with my girlfriend, who stayed with me last weekend up until Wednesday morning. It’s crazy to believe that we’re coming up on our two-year anniversary…sheesh! We watched movies, played some pool, sipped on some wine, ate at a couple restaurants, etc, etc. It was fun having her here as I started my second year at the new school building right next to my apartment. (I’m still not over the fact at how convenient it is to live next-door to it…plus the inside of the school is amazing! It’s an incredible upgrade from where we had classes last year!)

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I’ve also been granted a “little”, which is a first-year student whom I’ve been entrusted with the responsibility of facilitating his adjustment to medical school and with facilitating his time here in general. I just met him earlier at lunch for the first time, and I’m happy to say that we got along quite well. He’s pretty interesting in general, considering that he used to do stand-up comedy for fun, toured the East Coast in a band during college and co-owned/worked a grilled cheese food truck during college as well. He’s a cool guy overall and funny too; I’m looking forward to getting to know him more. Oh and I’m excited about the Olympics starting, although I won’t be able to see the majority of it due to, well, you know, school. I’m definitely gonna catch track & field though, can’t miss that event! And shoutout to Cameroon for coming out in fresh style during the Opening Ceremonies!!

One last thing, I was invited to attend a city forum that engaged the local community with the local police in Winston as well as with a lawyer that practices law around here. We received a very useful pamphlet from the National Black Police Association that informed us of what to do when stopped by police officers whether it be on the street, in our car or even when they come to the front door of our house. It also emphasized the DO’s and DON’T’s during an engagement with officers and what to do when arrested or taken to a police station. I’m definitely keeping this little pamphlet with me at all times. In regards to the actual discussion, the lawyer informed us about our many rights as citizens, some of which I had no idea about. He talked about our right to deny an unjustifiable search of our personal property, which is actually stated in the 4th amendment and about the 5th amendment in general. He also informed us about the existence of civilian review boards, which are entities filled by citizens of a city who have the task of reviewing complaints regarding police misconduct and making recommendations as to how the accused officers should be disciplined. In addition, he told us how it was possible for us to ask for an officer supervisor if we felt that we have been unjustly pulled over, to which the police in attendance agreed. Granted, it would make the stop that much longer but if you truly feel that it was unjust, that’s an option for you. After the lawyers spoke, the police officers spoke with us on how to formally file complaints about police misconduct, the importance of compliance and getting home safely in the event of an encounter with law enforcement, and how it’s within our rights to ask the officer as to what means of probable cause or reasonable suspicion made him/her pull us over. They also told us that in the event of an unjust encounter, we should make a mental note of the names, badge numbers and any other relevant information of the officers involved and write them down along with the details of the encounter as soon as we’re free to go. Then we could either go to a police station or City Hall in order to file a formal complaint. They repeatedly stressed how most officers are good people and that they just want to have a good day at work and go home to their families, much like any other citizen that they’re working to serve. They also said that they recognized that there are a handful of unjust officers out there and that they’re very willing to work with us to identify them and relieve them of their duties as a law enforcer. All in all, there was a lot of helpful information presented and I’m glad I took some time to check it out. It’s crazy how many people don’t truly understand their rights as citizens. With that said, I believe that in order to help change a system, we must make a concentrated effort to understand what we don’t know in regards to that same system.

Make sure to have an awesome week! And always remember, your circumstances don’t define who you are…your choices do!

“Your outer world is a reflection of your inner world. To change your circumstances, you must start by changing your internal beliefs, attitudes and emotions.” – Ruben Chavez

– Black Man, M.D.