Appreciating the Steps to Step

Liberation Day (Test Day -April 10th) is sneaking up on me faster than I expected it to…which just means that I’ll be free even sooner than I expected to be! I’m only two weeks away from taking Step and to tell the truth, I’m much more calmer about it than I ever thought I would be. Granted, I’m not ready to take it tomorrow or anything…but after taking a practice exam last Monday and enduring this past week of intense studying, I actually sincerely believe that I’ll be 100% ready for this Step exam on Monday, April 10th. Speaking of, I actually performed better than I thought I would on that practice exam! I’ve also continued to witness an overall improvement in my performance on these UWorld practice questions. I’m taking another practice exam tomorrow and I pray that I continue this trend of ascension as I continue to double-down on preparing for Liberation Day.

It’s honestly been pretty cool to be able to synthesize and apply all of the information I’ve learned this past year-and-a-half. Sometimes, dare I say, it’s even fun! Well, it’s only fun once I finally understand a concept. I legit feel 10x smarter than I did just 3 weeks ago lol. But even when I feel like I’m finally starting to get the hang of everything, these practice questions have this uncanny ability to humble the hell outta me by instantly getting like 50x harder. It’s soooo annoying, but very necessary because it gives me the opportunity to learn and harmonize new sets of information that I wouldn’t have learned or harmonized otherwise. All in all though, I haven’t really had a negative experience with this study block so far. Plus, having something to look forward to after taking this test has been really helping me power through everything lol.

While I’m on the topic of looking forward to things, I had the opportunity to accompany my girlfriend as she attended an Open House at the UNC Gillings School of Public Health this past Friday! Having that to look forward to gave me the necessary drive I needed for the first half of this Step Study block. It also served as a much-needed break from the mundaneness that I’ve grown accustomed to these past couple of weeks. We stayed in Chapel Hill for a couple of nights and were able to explore the UNC campus (including Franklin street) while we were there. She was accepted into the five-year MSPH/PhD program at the public health school there, so we were able to meet and interact with a bunch of people associated with that program, which included faculty members, current students and prospective students. We were both thoroughly impressed with what UNC had to offer overall! Considering that it’s the #2 public health school in the nation, there was plenty to be impressed about. Plus the campus was quite scenic, even with the bare trees and all. I can only imagine what it looks like during the spring and summer months. Now it ain’t no University of Miami, which has the best campus design of all time (I’m bias and I don’t care) but I can definitely appreciate the beauty of UNC’s campus. We tried to go to Franklin street and watch the UNC-Butler game at a restaurant, but we made the freshman mistake of getting there too late smh. Every single restaurant and bar was PACKED. But we ended up finding a restaurant near the inn we were staying at and had a great time there lol. I’m honestly extremely proud of all of her amazing accomplishments and of the fact that she was able to secure one out of the less than 15 spots available in this prestigious program. You go girl!!

 drink leonardo dicaprio hd cheers the great gatsby GIF

I’m now back on the mundane grind and with only two weeks left till Liberation Day, I’m only going to be grinding even harder. With calmness, flexibility, confidence and determination, these next 14 days will only make me an even stronger candidate who will be fully able to step up to the challenge that is the USMLE Step 1 exam!

Make your week an astounding one!

“When you are progressing toward a goal that matters to you and appreciating the steps along the way, that’s a good life.” – Ruben Chavez

– Black Man, M.D.

I See Freedom Around The Corner

I want to start off my post by wishing all the amazing mothers out there a

Happy Mothers’ Day!!!

You Africans out there know what’s good! Sweeet Mooothaaaa!!!

Being a mother is a very difficult 24/7 job that hands out no paychecks, but it’s one of the most precious jobs that we have in our society. I know firsthand how hard my own mother has worked all these years in raising me & my clan of siblings…it wasn’t easy. At all. So I appreciate her strength and sacrifices each and every day. I once told her that I would never know how to pay her back to show how much I appreciated her…she told me to finish school, become a doctor, look after my siblings and to buy her a Mercedes-Benz for her and my dad so that they can ride all around Cameroon when they retire. Guess I gotta follow through now huh? 😂 If you’re fortunate enough to have someone you can call your mother, please value her and try not to take everything she does for granted. More likely than not, she has made tremendous sacrifices for you that you may or may not know about.

As for me, I feel like I just wrote my previous post a couple of days ago. This past week really flew on by. Now I just have a couple more days of lecture and three tests standing in my way between now and the end of my first year! Gotta power on through to the finish line! I knocked out my last Clinical Skills exam of the year last week and I gotta say, I’ve come a hell of a long way from my very first one back in October. I couldn’t even take a proper HPI (History of Present Illness) back then…now I can breeze through the entire interview (HPI, Review of Systems, Past Medical History, Family History, Social History, Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual History) with relative comfort. 😁 I handled my interview during my exam pretty well and managed to remember most of the components of the Neurological physical exam too. It was a lot to remember man. I actually almost ran out of time (45 minutes) for once lol. I did forget to do a few minor things, and had a hiccup when I forgot how to turn on the fundoscope 😂😂😂. A fundoscope is a handheld instrument that you can use to look into the back of a person’s eye (the retina). I stood there in the dimly lit room for almost 30 seconds trying to turn on the light on that freakin’ thing while trying to dissolve any awkwardness by maintaining a conversation with my standardized patient. I never did figure out how to turn it on on my own. My grader, who was on the other side of the one-sided glass/mirror, had to speak through the microphone to tell me to hit the switch on the wall the fundoscope was connected to in order to turn it on….😅. Boy did I feel stupid. Overall, I felt pretty comfortable with the patient encounter and my grader told me that I did a very good job! So that means that I can basically be your doctor…..just don’t come to me when you actually get sick or hurt. All I’m gonna do is take a history and maybe a physical exam then look at you like:

Lol, but seriously, don’t call me for any medical questions or advice. I’m not the one 😂. I’m just a med student tryna make it, go and get your actual doctor on the phone.

Remember that one ophthalmologist I talked about back in January in my Knowledge is Power post? The one who I went to have a meeting with in his office and ended up having me ask my questions to him in the operating room where he was operating on the retina of a newborn baby? Well I ended up shadowing him again a couple of days ago, and all I can say is that this man is a BOSS. I spent all morning with him power walking (And I thought that I walked fast…) around the clinic to see patients and to watch him give eye injections to certain patients. We must have seen about 25-30 patients in that short time period…it felt like we saw 60.While he was attending to each patient, he was doing like 10 other things, not to mention informing me of what he was doing and answering my questions as the morning went on. He was extremely busy, but what really struck me was how calm and collected he was throughout the whole morning. It was obvious to each patient that he was very busy, but they were all pleased with the time he spent with them because he never rushed the patient and he made sure to answer any questions the patient may have had. We even spent about 25 minutes with one elderly patient who was worried about getting an eye injection that she needed. She was actually 98 years old, but she looked like she was just hitting 70! She was walking on her own and everything too! Black don’t crack y’all lol. It took her niece, her son on the phone and the doctor to finally convince her to go through with the treatment. Throughout it all, the doctor never rushed anyone although he was starting to really fall behind schedule. So that just meant more power walking for us after he finished with that patient. All in all, it was a fabulous experience and I can really see myself doing what he was doing in the future.

That’s all I gotta say today. Make sure to have a wonderful Mother’s Day and a sensational week!

“A person who feels appreciated will always do more than expected.” – Amy Rees Anderson

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. Congratulations to all of you that are graduating from college this month! A special congrats to the Class of 2016 from the University of Miami!!! I wish I could have been there to watch you all walk the stage! It’s wild to think that I graduated from there on this date a year ago…

Final Hurdle!

One More Week!!

You would think with the three examinations I had last week and with the never-ending supply of information being force-fed to us throughout these past couple of weeks that I would be crawling and gasping for air while hopelessly searching for the finish line…but I’m honestly not. As a matter of fact, I feel like I’ve caught my second wind. I feel like I’m in total control of my studies and that I’m at a very reasonable pace for my Genetics exam this Friday. It’s a glorious feeling. And yes, it’s entirely possible to feel calm and collected in the frenzied heat of medical school.

But to get to where I’m currently at, I had to get through last week….starting with the Biochemistry test bright and early last Monday. Have you ever taken a test where you blaze through a few easy questions and then get to a sequence of questions that tests you on topics that either go into WAY more detail than you covered in class or that you “weren’t supposed to worry about”, according to the professor? And the cycle just repeats itself over and over? That pretty much sums up that whole exam. I swear I had a couple cold sweats and gave more than a few blank stares to my computer screen while taking that exam. After finishing it, I felt like I had passed it but I didn’t really know by how much. We found out a couple days later that they ended up throwing out eight questions (GO FIGURE) from the 87 questions on the test, so my grade ended up being a lot higher than I expected. 😁

We ended up having afternoon classes the same day as the test, which dragged the day on..but I got through all that. We started Genetics the very next day, which actually wasn’t bad…but I was already busy preparing for my clinical skills exam (CPX) I had on Wednesday. I had decided to myself that if I was gonna do great on any test that week, it would be that one because I had to redeem myself from the first CPX exam I took back in October. Granted, I had done well on the physical exam portion of that first CPX, but my history-taking skills had fallen flat. They were so bad that I had been advised (required) to create and implement a plan to get better with history-taking, since it’s such an important part of being a doctor. 😅  So for the next few weeks, under the supervision of my coaches, I ended up getting extra practice with taking HPI’s (History of Present Illness) from patients as well as taking social, family and past medical histories. So with all that said, acing the interview portion of the exam this time around was a necessity. I went into the exam room with the standardized patient on Wednesday afternoon, where I was challenged with obtaining the chief complaint, HPI, Past Medical History, Family & Social History and to ask a series of general health questions called the Review of Systems, all before doing the actual physical exam where I would be taking her vitals (Heart & Respiratory rate, Blood pressure), performing a HEENT (Head, Eyes, Ears, Nose, Throat) exam, and palpating both her lymph nodes and thyroid.

I fell flat, again. 😔

Nahhhh I’m playing, I killed that interview! Turns out that all that extra practice paid the hell off, because I felt comfortable and relaxed throughout the whole encounter. I miraculously remembered everything I was supposed to ask her and I really just let the conversation flow while tailoring all my questions to whatever she was telling me. You know you’re doing it right when your 30-minute patient encounter feels like 10 quick minutes. The doctor that graded me pointed out a few mistakes I made, but overall she thought I did great and gave me an “effective performance” grade!

So I plan on only going up from here when it comes to interviewing patients and just doing my best to perfect that craft. The next day, my clinical skills group and I went up to the cardiology wards to do some more patient interviewing in order to become even more familiar with it. Before we did that though, we learned and practiced the new skill of taking a sexual history on each other. (Role-playing scenarios, of course.) It was…..different. It will absolutely be a skill that I’ll need to work on. Asking patients about their sexual history is definitely going to be quite the experience.

Then Friday came around, and our medical ethics exam/quiz came with it. That quiz was……yeah. I’m just going to say that giving a multiple choice examination on ethics is not the best idea, in my opinion. They should just stick to giving us papers to write and letting us have our discussions, not trying to force ethical questions from readings into multiple-choice format. We already have enough tests to worry about. I mean, I think I did fine but I won’t lie, there were some tricky questions/answer choices up there. But whatever, I took it and got it over with.

Then I had an awesome weekend. A couple of my classmates threw a holiday party Friday night where I sipped on some eggnog for the second time in my life, saw a ornamented deer’s head hung on a wall and made S’mores on an actual fire. Lol. Then on Saturday, I got the chance to be one of Santa’s little helpers at a church that was throwing a Christmas party for children diagnosed with sickle-cell anemia. We helped the kids make Christmas cards, paint masks on their faces and make reindeer out of candy canes. Then we passed out wrapped, donated gifts to the kids, who all for the most part were pretty excited to receive them. It was a fantastic experience. Later that night, I found myself in Durham at an SNMA (Student National Medical Association) social, networking with other minority medical students from Duke and UNC with my fellow Wake friends. That was a ton of fun, if I do say so myself. It was awesome to be able to connect with medical students from other schools and to compare curriculums as well as share experiences. Also, you can’t beat free full-rack ribs and a turn up.

Now I’m here working on trying to end this semester with a BANG by doing the best I can on this test on Friday, which means I gotta get back to studying. THE GRIND NEVER STOPS.

Y’all make sure to have a positive week!

Walk with a smile and do to others what you would want done to you! 

– Black Man, M.D.