Unforgettable Memories

I had to take a step back a few days ago to fully process the fact that it’s already been three years since I first created this blog.

Three years!

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That’s crazy man. Three years of typing out weekly posts about my experiences as a medical student. I didn’t know how possible that would be when I first started, but I remember telling myself that if I just focused on making a habit of typing up one post at a time on a weekly basis, things would eventually work themselves out. And look what happened; things really did work themselves out! Now I can’t fathom not typing up an update on my life each week lol. I’m so glad that I had the foresight to do this and am grateful of all the love and support that I have recieved as I’ve worked to expand this blog. I’m also very grateful for all the people across the nation that I have met over the years as a result of my blog and my growing online presence. I literally wouldn’t know about a quarter of the people I know now if I hadn’t started blogging! It’s so wild just how much this hobby has expanded my network, which just continues to grow more and more with each passing day!

And to think that this whole project was birthed from the fact that I couldn’t find a blog that I could fully relate to while I was transitioning from college to medical school. Who knew that it would become the cathartic and inspiring entity that it is today? I sure didn’t. I thought that I would just be scribbling down my thoughts on a routine basis. I had absolutely no idea that I was going to add sections such as Med School 101, Useful Blogs or the popular Health Career Spotlight Series further down the road. I didn’t know that I would teach myself basic HTML and CSS code simply to design parts of my website in a particular way. And the thought of this blog being a potential talking point on my residency interviews never once crossed my mind until one of the physicians that I look up to suggested that I put it on my CV! Overall, it really has been an honor to serve as a source of inspiration for those of you who are motivated by the content in this blog, and I hope that I’ve been able to adequately fill the void that inspired me to start all of this in the first place as a rising first-year medical student.

Now onto my last week at Victory Junction. 😭

I spent my final week at camp working as a medical volunteer again, but this time I was given the opportunity to float around different units to maximize my exposure to as many medical conditions as possible. Because I was able to do this, I ended up interacting with a lot of the kids at camp, all of whom ranged from ages 6 to 16. Having this kind of exposure also allowed me to connect various conditions (some of which I had never even heard of) to their presentation in children, which was very helpful to me. The campers this week all had some sort of past or present disorder involving either their hearts, lungs and/or kidneys, so you can only imagine the variety of illnesses that were present in this group of kids. Also, because some of these children were immunosuppressed, there were A TON of medications to sort through and distribute. Like, I literally spent 30 minutes on accurately sorting out one camper’s 15+ different medications. Can you imagine having to take 15 medications every single day of your life? Or even having to accurately distribute 15 medications to your kid at specific times throughout the day? I had many experiences like this throughout my time at camp that gave me some perspective on the lives that these kids live on a daily basis. For example, I witnessed a couple of kids get a 4+ hour session of hemodialysis while at camp. They get these types of sessions about three times a week, every week. I was also with a couple of other kids who had to get peritoneal dialysis on a daily basis as well as very frequent dressing changes on their catheter site.

I remember the many kids with sickle cell the week prior who needed to take many extra precautions such as keeping warm and staying hydrated constantly to ensure that they wouldn’t suffer from a sickle cell crisis. Yet, they will still have medical complications down the road and will need to have access to pain medications to alleviate their chronic pain while trying to avoid being unfairly categorized as “pain medication-seeking patients”. And I can’t forget those kids living with ostomy bags that needed frequent changes throughout the day, or the kids with various levels of neurological impairment that I helped care for as a camp counselor. Yet, even though all of these young people have either faced or are currently facing challenges that would potentially cripple you and I, they seemed to just treat them as an everyday thing as they had the times of their lives at camp. I was especially blown away at their stage day (talent show), where one of the teenagers performed various acrobatics such as back handsprings and backflips, and couple of other teens performed songs that they composed themselves. I was equally touched during one of our nightly “cabin chats”, where a few of the teens shared some very personal details about their lives with a small group of their peers, counselors & us medical volunteers. Witnessing all of the great memories that these kids were creating gave me great strength and further reaffirmed my decision to dedicate my career towards helping young people like them live the best lives that they possibly can.

I’m bummed that my time at camp has all come to an end. I’m really going to miss many of the aspects of it, especially the positive & laid-back atmosphere, and the connections that I made with the many kids, counselors and medical volunteers. And I can’t lie, I’m really going to miss having three free and filling meals a day. 😭 The good news is that I can always go back to work as a medical volunteer after I recieve my medical degree!

With my second rotation coming to an end, I now have my upcoming NICU experience to look forward to. I haven’t worked in the hospital ever since I finished my Emergency Medicine rotation a couple of months ago, so I’m going to have to quickly calibrate myself back to the hospital environment and to waking up at like 5 AM. 😅 I’m interested to see how this next month is going to turn out, and am so looking forward to finally taking my Step 2 Clinical Skills exam in Atlanta this Friday and getting it over with! 🙏🏿

I hope that you all have an outstanding week!

“Do you really want to look back on your life and see how wonderful it could have been had you not been afraid to live it?” – Caroline Myss

– Black Man, M.D.

In My Feelings

As per usual these days, my week has been a pretty great one.

Well, except for the moment of utter shock and disbelief I had in the middle of the week that left me with a bruising “L” (for those of you unaware, L stand for Loss) that I’m still working on getting over. If not for that “L”, this week would have been an awesome one….but whatever. More on that later.

Unlike the first two weeks at Victory Junction where I worked primarily as a camp counselor helping care for the kids in my cabin 24/7, this week I worked as a medical volunteer where my duties primarily consisted of organizing and distributing medications to kids in the two cabins assigned to my partner and I, attending to any immediate medical needs of the campers, and playing with them throughout the day while trying to anticipate any medical needs that they’ll suddenly require. It was intriguing to be able to participate on the medical side of the camp and I got the opportunity to learn new things from the nurses and the doctor that I was working with. Also, because I was now a medical volunteer I got my own room and bathroom, which was a nice change from having to share a cabin with a bunch of counselors and children. I can definitely say that my sleep quality was much better this week lol. It also didn’t hurt that I had WiFi in my new room, so I could actually get some work done in my downtime without having to travel across camp to a WiFi hotspot. And last but certainly not least, I can now drive the golf carts across camp to get to where I need to go as opposed to walking everywhere! I loved being a camp counselor, but the medical volunteer gig definitely wins the convenience factor!

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With this past week being Sickle Cell week, we had to take a number of precautions at camp to ensure that we minimized the risk of anyone suffering from a crisis. We had to warm the pool up to almost hot tub temperatures, we kept all the buildings warm, we made sure that all the campers stayed hydrated, and we kept everyone inside the various facilities the one afternoon it rained so that the campers wouldn’t get wet and cold. Although the vast majority of the kids this week had some sort of variant of sickle cell, there were a few kids who were dealing with other illnesses that weren’t sickle cell but just so happened to come to camp this week for whatever reason. This allowed for the campers to learn from each other and make friends with people that they may have otherwise never met. I noticed this with the campers that I was medically responsible for. A lot of them had sickle-cell disease, but there was also a few of them with a variety of other conditions. They all ended up getting along fairly well and it led me to wonder if they would end up keeping in contact with one another outside of camp. They may have been the second-youngest group of campers (10-12 years old) but with technology these days, anything is pretty much possible. All in all, I’m absolutely honored and grateful to have been able to meet and care for these kids. They were an active and hilarious group of kids with a good number of them gravitating towards myself and some of the other Black counselors I was working with, presumably because we looked like them and they felt that they could relate to us.

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Okay so about that bruising “L” I was talking about earlier. I’m shaking my head as I’m typing this because I still can’t believe that this happened to me. But sometimes life hands you lemons, whether you’re ready for them or not. In this case, I was pelted with a 50-pound, absurdly salty and ripened lemon. And some of the lemon juice got in my eyes. And nose too. It may have even chipped a tooth. Simply put, it was a disastrous lemon.

On Wednesday afternoon, I finally got my Step 2 CK score report back. You know, the exam I took in mid-June that I spent close to a month vigorously preparing for. Although I had been anticipating my score results for a while, I hadn’t thought much about it in recent weeks simply because I was too busy preoccupied with other things going on around me. I was actually a bit surprised when I got the email that my score was ready to be viewed. During my scheduled personal break time, I went to the common area of my two-room cabin and logged into the NBME website. Then I clicked on my Step 2 CK score report and closed my eyes. I quickly recapped my strong performances on the question blocks I answered during my preparation for the test and my opinion of how test day went. I thought about how calm and collected I was when I walked into the test center and how my aura of confidence helped me get through both the easier as well as the tougher questions on the test. I reminisced on how good I felt after answering the last question on the exam and how accomplished I felt as I walked out of the testing center and got into my car. I didn’t feel like I aced the exam or anything, but I was absolutely certain that I hadn’t failed it. At the very least, I felt better about this exam than I had felt when I left the testing center after completing my Step 1 exam last year.

As I began to open my eyes, I braced myself for a score that would reflect all the incredible amount of time and effort that I had put into preparing for this exam ever since the beginning of my Internal Medicine rotation over a year ago. My eyes finally locked onto my computer screen and I cautiously scrolled down the report towards my score. The first segment I hit was the Pass/Fail block. My eyes locked onto the word “PASS“. I had passed Step 2 CK! I gave myself a fist-pump and then took a deep breath, closed my eyes for a quick second, sent up a quick prayer, opened them and scrolled down in a quick motion to the numerical score.

When my eyes finally locked onto my numerical score, my world came to an abrupt halt. I stared at the score in complete shock and disbelief. I literally couldn’t stop looking at it.

My mouth gaped open.

I blinked.

Then blinked again.

Then kept blinking because for several ridiculous seconds, I had convinced myself that this was all a dream and that I hadn’t really seen my real score yet. When I realized that I obviously wasn’t asleep, I began to look at the room around me in a daze. I really was in a state of mental shock. I looked up at the ceiling, then looked down at the screen back to that damn number. I scrolled up and scrolled back to it. I then scrolled down further on the score report to see the very generic section breakdown that graphed my performance on various concepts. The graph was all over the place. It claimed I had performed okay on some concepts, relatively well on others and not so well on the rest.

My ears began to ring in the stale silence that surrounded me. I exited the score report, logged out and logged back into the site. I was now beginning to feel the initial stages of panic within me. I clicked on the report again and, you guessed it, nothing had changed. I then started asking the silence around me, “What? How? Why?” These questions then morphed into statements such as “This has got to be a mistake. This can’t be real. How could this have happened? There’s no way that this is my score. I prepared so well for this test! I thought I was doing okay throughout the exam!!” I began to Google the possibility of rescoring my exam and once I learned it was possible to do so, I started reading more into what the process was like. (FYI it costs $80 to do so and there’s almost a zero chance that anything will change. Talk about a ripoff.)

By this point, my panic had transformed into anger. The thing was, I didn’t know who or what to become angry at. I wasn’t angry at myself because I had genuinely believed that I had given my all as I prepared for the test and I really did feel like I was doing relatively well on the test overall. Sure, there were some questions that I didn’t feel confident about and there was also a pretty tough block of questions that I had some trouble with. But overall, I thought that I had performed decently on the test, especially since there were a ton of questions in multiple blocks that I felt sure that I knew the answers to. I had walked out of the test center not entirely sure of how I performed but like I said earlier, I felt better leaving it than I had felt after taking Step 1. Plus, there were absolutely NO indications during my preparation that would have foretold this result. No red flags, no warnings, nothing. Also, it wasn’t like I had a bad day or no sleep the night before. I slept okay, had some breakfast and coffee, had many snacks on hand at the test center and wasn’t distracted by other things while I was taking the test. I literally had no excuse or reason as to why I recieved the score that was coldly staring back at me. I wasn’t angry at the test or the testmakers either because I thought I had done alright on it. I had believed that everything had gone right. There was literally no place to direct my growing anger to except the pillows around me. Shoutout to them pillows for enduring my rage.

I ultimately ended up wasting over an hour being all caught up in my feelings about my score result, which annoyed the hell out of me. But I was sincerely at a loss of what my next move should be. We’re always told that Step 2 CK is an overall better test to take than Step 1, and that our score on this test almost always is better than our Step 1 score. I really did, and still do believe that studying for and taking Step 2 CK is more bearable than Step 1, mostly because it’s very much clinically based and all of third-year helps to prepare you for the exam. However, when it comes to the score part, I guess I just happened to be thrown into the rare category. The Step 2 CK score I recieved was THREE POINTS LOWER than my Step 1 score.

Yeah, I’ll say it again.

I recieved a lower score on Step 2 CK than I got on Step 1. I’m absolutely certain that this Step 2 CK score isn’t truly indicative of my knowledge base, because I know what I’ve learned and it has shown on my performances throughout third-year as well as on my practice exams. But with that said, I also am not blind to the fact that this score is what will be seen by residency programs, not my practice scores or my intensive preparation for the test. Although I know that this score won’t necessarily hurt my chances of matching, it still is really frustrating that I recieved the score I did because like I said, it really isn’t a true representation of where I stand. I’ve already spoken with a couple of advisors as well as some loved ones and they’ve all been able to reassure me that I’m going to be alright. I believe them and I know that I’ll be good.

I’m now in a much calmer mental place than I was a couple of days ago. Having to go to the weekly talent show at camp right after I saw my score report helped me put things into clearer perspective. Even though I got thrown into an unfortunate situation, I’m still a healthy soon-to-be doctor whose low point of the month was getting a less-than-ideal test score. At the talent show, I watched how joyous those kids suffering from chronic illnesses were as they went on stage to perform various talents and acts. They were happily and blissfully living in the moment. It forced me to think of just how much they have to power through on an everyday basis just to survive, let alone perform strenuous tasks that you and I may do without second thought on a daily basis. With that said, I’ll be fine in the grand scheme of things. The infectious happiness at camp as well as my conversations with my girlfriend definitely helped me mentally get through the rest of that day. In addition, I think that typing this out and sharing it with you all will further help me deal with this “L” , and if you know me then you already know that I plan to use this setback to my advantage….once I figure out how to. 😉

Phew, that was a lot! Thanks for bearing with me as I spilled my feelings onto y’all. I would join in the #InMyFeelings challenge to shake them all off, but there ain’t no way in hell that I’ll top Will Smith. I hope that you all have an extraordinary week!

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” – Maya Angelou

– Black Man, M.D.