Sessions.

Well, this past week has been quite an interesting one. From attending a session based on the perspectives of respiratory patients, where I learned that my course director was Dr. Maya Angelou’s doctor for about 20 years, to meeting Dr. John Carlos (the Olympian who raised his fist in the 1968 Olympics after receiving the bronze medal in the 200-meter race) well as Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry (again), it’s been a phenomenal experience! I feel like I have so much to say about what I’ve done these past seven days…so bear with me!

So to start off, our course director had us going through various sessions to better synthesize our knowledge of the course material in the days leading up to the Pulmonology exam that I took on Friday. The first session I attended was an ultrasound session, where I observed my lungs via, well, ultrasound. I could see my lungs move across the screen as I took deep breaths in and out. It was pretty cool, if I do say so myself. I also took an ultrasound of one of my group members and was able to see his diaphragm as he breathed in and out. Ultrasound is such a neat feature and is real fun to use, especially after you learn how the hell to use it and what organs look like in an ultrasound screen.

The next day, I attended a “field trip” session at the hospital, where a group of my classmates and I wandered around the Pulmonology wards to view patients being treated for respiratory issues and to witness how the information we’ve been learning over the course can be used in a practical setting. This involved a TON of walking around the hospital though…I swear I walked over a mile overall. Our first stop was a pulmonary rehab center, which is where recovering respiratory patients go to recover their lung function with a personal trainer. There was a nice mini-gym in the rehab center as well. We were shown an oscillatory vest, which is a vibrating vest worn by patients that have a lot of mucus trapped in their chest. The vest works to squeeze and shake up their chest, loosening the mucus which then allows them to cough it all up. Pretty picture huh? I tried on the vest and it felt really weird…I can’t imagine having to wear that thing multiple times a day. We then hit up the MICU (Medical Intensive Care Unit) where we walked into a room occupied by an elderly, unconscious man who had tubes and IV’s all in him. While there, the fellow showing us around described the machines being used to keep the man alive and showed us how they worked. We then walked around the MICU unit to other rooms and saw other patients who had a number of other procedures done on them, one of which was a tracheotomy. After that, we walked to a spirometry lab where one of my group mates blew into a huge spirometer machine in order to have her lung function read. I wish I had taken a picture or video of that 😂. Our last stop was a small lab where we watched a bronchoalveolar lavage being performed on video. All in all, the “field trip” was pretty awesome!

The next day, our whole class attended a session where various patients of our course director came in to talk about their experiences with the respiratory conditions they’ve been afflicted with as well as about their appreciation for our course director. The patients who came to talk to us included a man who suffered from acute lung failure while driving his cab, a nurse who was diagnosed with the rare lung disease of lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), and a woman diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis as a result of her prior condition of lupus, who also came with her sister and father. The cab driver made his appreciation for our course director well known and said that before him and the staff at the hospital worked to save his life, he had a distrust for doctors. After he was treated, he worked to lose over 120 pounds in a single year and really made an effort in eating healthier. He was a pretty funny guy. When the nurse diagnosed with LAM came in to talk with us, she described how the disease completely changed her life at the age of 31 as well as the life of her husband, who just so happened to be a Pulmonologist. She had been confused as to why she was always short of breath, especially since she exercised a lot and did her best to stay healthy. She now had to learn how to become a patient after being a healthcare provider for so long and she admitted that she probably wasn’t the best patient to deal with. She also talked about how she couldn’t become pregnant due to her condition and how she had to have her children via a surrogate mother. Since her diagnosis, she has worked to link up with other people diagnosed with LAM in the country and has also helped to raise funds for LAM research since it’s such a rare disease. There’s currently no cure for the disease, so treatment mainly involves managing symptoms. As for the woman diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis as a result of lupus, the fact that she survived her ordeal is simply a miracle. She had been admitted to the hospital on Christmas Eve of 2006 where she became comatose after presenting with septic shock, liver failure, GI bleed, multiple organ failure, hypertension, diabetes, and end-stage renal disease. Sheesh. Because of her critical condition, she stayed in the hospital for SIX MONTHS. SIX. MONTHS. During that time, there were multiple occasions where various providers in the hospital thought that she was going to die. Her sister specifically told us of an instance where a doctor literally told them that she wasn’t going to make it through the night. But she did end up recovering and was able to finally leave the hospital in May of 2007. After the woman was asked about how she was able to get through all of that and continue pushing through life to this day despite her limitations, she said that her faith, her family, her friends and the good doctors that helped heal her were her nonstop support systems and that they all played, and continue to play, a key role in keeping her going. Talk about inspiring. After she told her story, her sister specifically asked for us to become great doctors because our patients will forever remember us and will forever be grateful, as they are for our course director. She also said that she can specifically remember the mediocre doctors who didn’t have any hope for her sister and advised us to not be mediocre. After those conversations, our course director then shared a few messages from other patients who couldn’t make it to the session which included the power of a smile and how important it is to live a life with no fear. He then proceeded to share a message from another former patient of his, who just so happened to be the legendary Dr. Maya Angelou. He read one of her poems to us and told us how she always used to come in to talk to the medical students about the wonders of humanity. He also told us of how she would become a bit nervous about talking to medical students because she saw the immense potential we had of touching the lives of many of our future patients and their families. What a session. I’m very grateful I was able to take part in it.

Later that afternoon, me and another small group of my classmates took part in a simulation lab session, where we worked as a team to treat an interactive mannequin for his respiratory condition. With the help of a Critical Care Pulmonologist, we thought through the “patient’s” condition using the vital signs projected to us on a screen while at the same time actually treating him via various mechanisms. We also gathered a history of the “patient” by asking him questions and receiving answers from a speaker. Throughout the encounter, our “patient” went from having an asthma exacerbation to having bacterial pneumonia infection to having a tension pneumothorax. Some of the procedures we had to actually do included giving the “patient” oxygen, giving him mechanical ventilation through his mouth and trachea, listening to the “patient’s” lungs and stabbing his chest with a needle in order to decompress his lungs. It was a really cool experience overall. It’s one thing to sit and study lectures and another thing to actually take what you’ve learned and use it in a practical way. I found that even though I had already learned and studied everything that we had to do in the simulation lab, it was still kind of difficult to actually work through the various decisions we had to make on the spot. It just goes to show that no matter how much you’ve learn and study, you can only get better as a clinician by actually using your knowledge in practical situations. I loved the fact that I got the chance to use my knowledge in a practical way; I definitely feel like what I learned in this simulation experience has stuck in my head much more than the information I learned through the countless hours I spent studying lectures.

I took my Pulmonology exam Friday morning feeling much more prepared than I had felt at the beginning of the week. It was 117 questions, and we had 3 1/2 hours to finish it. It was pretty much like any other test I’ve taken in the past; there were some questions that tripped me up like always but I felt comfortable with my overall knowledge and I know I did my best. I don’t have any worries about the exam, I’m just glad it’s over with. Later on that day, I got the opportunity to listen to Dr. John Carlos speak about the topic of race relations and how it’s interwoven in sports. He spoke about why he raised his fist along with Tommie Smith in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City and also spoke in great detail about the overlooked greatness of one of best friends who is also pictured in the legendary photo, Peter Norman. An Australian who was born to parents who worked in the Salvation Army, Peter was very passionate about humanity and he was very supportive of the Civil Rights Movement. He also wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge in solidarity with both Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Dr. Carlos spoke on the similarities he is witnessing in present-day with the protesting of the national anthem by professional athletes and how much spending power we as consumers have when it comes to making corporations and the government listen to us. The conversation, moderated both by Dave Zirin (a political sportswriter) and Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, was a very electric one indeed! Plus, Dr. Carlos was hilarious! He reminded me of a granddad who’s always slapping his knee telling jokes and talking about “back in my day”. I even managed to get a picture with him! 😁

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And last but not least, I attended a Regional Leadership Institute conference for SNMA at the Campbell University-School of Osteopathic Medicine near Raleigh, NC yesterday. I had to wake up at 5 AM to get there by 8 AM with one of the SNMA presidents of my chapter, but it was a fantastic experience! We had a few speakers come in and talk to us about leadership, Step 1 study tips, and what osteopathic medicine looks like. The first speaker, Dr. Tiffany Lowe-Payne, presented a phenomenal talk to us. She talked about where she came from and how her circumstances led her to who she is today. She specifically emphasized four main points in her interactive talk: 1) Putting down your insecurities, 2) Picking up your signature banner, 3) Being intentional in everything you do and 4) Speaking your success into existence. Not gonna lie, by the time she had finished her talk, I was left feeling very inspired. She also had such a great delivery with her speech that I had to ask her how and where she learned to speak so effectively. In the Step talk, we got some useful info about different ways to plan for the exam as well as different tools available for us to use for both the USMLE exam as well as the COMLEX exam for D.O. students. The last talk was one where another doctor by the name of Dr. Charles Smutny III came in to speak to us about osteopathic medicine and what he does on a daily basis as a neuromuscular specialist. In addition to speaking to us about the overall concept of osteopathic medicine, he spoke on the unification of the mind, body & spirit and how important it was for us as future physicians to realize that importance. He then proceeded to perform a demonstration of his osteopathic manipulation skills on a student, where he talked through what he was doing as he felt the bones and muscles of the student after watching her gait as she walked back and forth towards him and away from him. After about ten minutes or so, he found some tightness in her neck….and popped it! We all were like “yoooo!!” Okay okay, I was like “yoooo!!”. Everyone else just gasped. And just like that, the student no longer had that tightness. My words aren’t doing it any justice though, you just had to see it for yourself. I lowkey want to learn some more about osteopathic medicine; I think it would be a pretty useful tool to have in the future, to be honest. After that presentation, we had a business meeting where the representatives of each school updated everyone else about what was going on in their respective chapters and then a small group of us went on a tour of the school. I’m really glad I decided to go to the conference…I feel like I took a lot from it overall. Only downside was that I had absolutely NO phone service in the building. 😒

Good God.

I damn near wrote a dissertation.

I’m done.

I now have to pack up and start getting ready for my week-long stay in Lenoir for my CPE. Should be a fun time. Fun time indeed.

Thanks for listening to me! I know you have better things to do but you chose to rock with me! I really appreciate you! Please make your week a stupendous one!

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude about it.”

– Maya Angelou

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – If you haven’t watched the 13th documentary on Netflix, PLEASE WATCH IT. PLEASE.

Putting It All Together

Guess who’s all caught up with his lectures? THIS GUY. *points to self*

Guess who has an exam in five days? THIS GUY. *points to self again*

Guess who’s totally not ready for it? THIS GUY. *points to self yet again*

Thankfully, there won’t be any new material presented to us this week. We’ve pretty much already learned everything that is going to be on this upcoming exam, which is nice to know. Instead, we’ll be using the knowledge we’ve acquired over the past two-and-a-half weeks to solve patient cases in class. We will also have a class session on Wednesday where patients with respiratory problems will come in and talk to us about how they’re coping with their respective conditions. I always appreciate when patients take time out of their day to come and talk with us; it really brings a lot of what we learn to life, which makes it easier for me to remember certain things and also allows me to fully appreciate the fact that what I’m learning has the power to literally influence and save the lives of other people. A couple other things on our schedule this week include an Ultrasound Lab, a simulation lab with a dummy patient, a Jeopardy review game and a “field trip” to the hospital wards. Overall, I think that the integrative nature of this week will really help synthesize a lot of the subject material we’ve learned. Also, it’s awesome that we get a week just to review everything we’ve learned because I very much so need it. Like, very much so.

While I was playing catch-up with my lectures this past week, I got the chance to go to the annual Medical Student Research Poster Presentation Day at the old medical school next to the hospital, where a lot of my friends presented the research projects they worked on during the summer. There was such a diverse array of research topics that were undertaken by my classmates. It was so cool man. These research topics included: The Influence of Summer Camp Cooking Classes on Children, Assessing Cultural Awareness and Peer-Peer Microaggressions in Medical Education, The Mortality Gap in Black and White Breast Cancer Patients in Chicago and the Comparison of that Data to other US Cities, The Association Between End Stage Renal Disease and Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia, The Use of Information Technology Among a Diverse Sample of Adults with Type 2 Diabetes, Sustainability of CPAP in a Regional Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Accra, Lineage Tracing and Labeled Stem Cell Fate-Mapping in Murine Bladder Regeneration, and The Effects of Trauma on Reproductive Behaviors in HIV Populations. There were over 50 students presenting their posters, and they all looked splendid and professional while presenting their summer work. I was happy to show up and help support them! It also reminded me that I still have yet to perform some kind of meaningful research project, let alone present a research poster…

A few other things I ended up doing this past week included helping set up a Ophthalmology Interest Group lunch talk where we had an Ophthalmologist come in and talk to the audience all about her journey and what life is like in her career path, learning how to use respiratory support equipment by actually using them on dummies, going through a few patient case presentations with a facilitator and a small group of students, attending a lecture about healthcare disparities and how it relates to respiratory diseases, and talking with the Dean of the medical school about how my experiences here at Wake have been so far. Each of these events were great in their own way, and I was able to take away quite a bit from each experience. I could talk more about each of these experiences in detail, but I don’t feel like making this an unnecessarily long post. Plus, I need to go back to reviewing for this upcoming exam. 😭😒

Before I leave you though, I have one more thing to say. Guess who’s about to be back in Lenoir next week for his second and final week of his Community Practice Experience? THIS GUY. *points to self one more time*. I know some of you remember what my time was like the last time I was in the quiet town of Lenoir…if not, here’s a reminder. Last time was cool and all, but I have a feeling that this time will be even better because I know a bit more than I did before and I’m also a lot more confident in talking to patients than I was back in February. Plus, there’s good Southern food waiting for my roommates and I at the restaurants that we dined at last time. I’m sure it’ll be a fun time, especially since I don’t have to worry about really studying anything that whole week. I just gotta get mentally prepared for the severe lack of diversity that I’m about to walk into in that little country town…

Y’all have a great week!

“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” – Bertrand Russell

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – Yes, I’m VERY salty that Miami lost to FSU…BY ONE POINT. I missed most of the second half because I was at a birthday party, but best believe when I got the update of the final score on my phone, I was not pleased. Damn it Florida State…

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.