Moment of Clarity

And just like that, another week has flown by! Chai!! *in my best Nigerian accent*

I think I’m already starting to get used to this third-year lifestyle. In between the early mornings, long yet satisfying days at the hospital, lessons I’ve been learning from my upper-levels on my teams, nights of forced studying, and patients I’ve helped treat, I’ve been getting closer to establishing a steady routine. Granted, it’s kind of tough to fully establish one since I’m going to be switching services all the time (I’m starting my Renal service this week), but with each passing day I’ve been getting a better and better sense of how things flow. I’ve also been noticing fast improvements with my information gathering, physical exam and presenting skills, although I still have a ways to go. And last but not least, I’ve noticed how awesome all the people I’ve worked with so far in Internal Medicine are! Both of the teams I’ve worked with so far have been very willing to help teach my classmate and I major keys for success as we continue to acclimate ourselves as newly minted third-year students.

This past week was my second (and last) week of working on the Cardiology unit. But this time, I was on the General Cardiology service, as opposed to the Cardiac Care Unit (CCU). This meant that the patients that we cared for weren’t in as critical of a condition as the ones in the CCU, but they were still quite sick. I ended up following four patients overall while on this service, who all had various conditions that required remarkable treatments. I had a good time getting to know to each of them, and they all showed appreciation for their care and for me taking the time to just chat with them, which touched me quite a bit.

 aww kerry washington aw black people african american GIF

As for the team I worked with duing this week, they were simply fantastic. I had such a great time working with them that I found myself looking forward to going to the hospital each morning (after making myself crawl out of my bed) just so I could learn from them! The interns were so kind and were willing to explain to us practical things about being a third-year student that we didn’t understand yet. Both the resident and the fellow on the team were geniuses who actually carved time out of their schedules to give us valuable information about Cardiology while making sure we understood what they were telling us by continuously prodding (pimping) us with questions along the way. And the attending we worked with was just incredible. She was highly personable with everyone she interacted with and was incredibly kind to the team as well as to her patients (Her bedside manner is absolutely stunning!). She also was a very effective teacher who forced us to think through the questions that she shot at us routinely so that we would better remember the information that we were learning. I really appreciated that because although I was put on the spot numerous times, I found myself better remembering the things that I was asked and I also found myself more engaged in learning about the various conditions that the patients had, along with their respective treatments. To sum her all up, she’s just the type of person who makes you smile whenever you see her, which is the type of doctor that I aspire to be!

Out of all the lessons that I learned this past week from my team, there was one that really stuck with me and will continue to be with me throughout the rest of my student years as well as my professional career. I had wanted go and talk to a patient we had checked on earlier in the day about a specific issue that was concerning to me, but I didn’t know if I had the authority to do so. So I asked the fellow on the team about how I was feeling, and what he told me truly inspired me and completely shifted the way I perceived my current position as a third-year medical student. He told me that I should not only go for it and talk to the patient, but that I should aspire to take ownership of all the patients I follow from here on out and really feel as though I’m the doctor caring for them. I should never feel as if I’m not in a position to talk with them about certain issues because I’m “only a third-year student”. With that mindset, I’ll feel much more compelled to do what I feel that I need to do for my patients, allowing me to establish more solid connections with them and ultimately allowing me to become an exponentially better care provider at a much faster rate. I instantly had a moment of clarity as soon as I heard that answer. I had heard variations of that answer many times before from other people, but it wasn’t until that moment that I finally and truly understood the incredible power that I had as a third-year. I may still be a student, but I’m here to learn how to become an effective physician. In order to become an effective physician, I need to learn how to do what effective physicans do. And the best way for me to learn how to do these things is to do them myself. I don’t have to merely be a chronically unsure errand-boy constantly doubting my own thought processes. I already have the power to really help change lives through conversation and decision-making. All I had to do was believe that I possessed this power and then act upon this mentality. So I did and I went to talk to the patient, who was actually quite appreciative that I did so. This is definitely a mentality that I plan on fully upholding from here on out!

Overall, I had another great week in this Internal Medicine clerkship. I actually had forgotten that Memorial Day weekend was coming up, so now I’m here on a three-day weekend without any plans except to chill for a bit, complete tasks I hadn’t been able to do during the week, and prepare myself for my upcoming service on the Renal unit. I actually have weekend days to work during this upcoming service as well, so that’ll be quite interesting…😅😅😅.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend and a magnificent week! Make sure to take some time to give gratitude to all the soldiers who have sacrificed their lives over the decades in order to continue keeping us and our country safe from harm!

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marriane Williamson

– Black Man, M.D.

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.