Ready Or Not

Y’all, I have about a month until my residency application is due. A month. That’s like no time at all, especially if you live in my world where time insists on zipping by like a shooting star. I remember first learning about the ERAS (Electronic Residency Application Service)  and the whole timeline of fourth-year like it was yesterday. I also remember feeling like I had so much time left during that fourth-year information session back in the late fall of last year. Back then, I was more concerned about powering on through my Psychiatry and Neurology rotations so that I could get to winter break. Fourth year seemed like a mile away…..but here I am now, about to start the last week of my third rotation of my final year of medical school, only about a month out until the application is due.

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Luckily for me, my school ensures that we are prepared to submit our application well in advance by not only making us go to information sessions throughout the year, but also allowing us to pair with residency advisors during the summer in order to review the various elements of our application. Because I had to have drafts of my personal statement, CV and MSPE characteristics completed before my advisor meeting, I’ve already done all the hard work. I’ve even gotten a few people to review my personal statement already. All I need to do now to complete my application is to finish revising my personal statement, ensure that the people I’ve asked to write a letter of recommendation for me do so before the deadline, and complete the other fill-in-the-blank sections of my application. Then I’ll be pretty much set to submit! Oh wait, I also have to come to a final decision on which programs I’m actually going to apply to. 😅 Whittling my list down to about twenty-or-so programs is still a work in progress and is actually harder than I had anticipated, especially when there are so many fantastic pediatric programs across the East Coast. But I assure you, it’s getting done!

This past week was another one that went by in a blur. I woke up on Monday morning ready to start my week and before I knew it, I was leaving the hospital on Thursday afternoon wondering how the heck I was already approaching Friday. Carrying up to four patients at a time most of the week kept me pretty busy, which at the same time also helped make time fly by. By being responsible for this many patients, I felt like I was getting a taste of what being an intern was going to be like. I was writing notes for my patients, presenting them on rounds, assisting in coming up with plans of care for them, assisting in procedures (I helped perform a couple more of those 15-minute head taps that I wrote about last week lol) and even helping write orders for them. I really was feeling like the doctor that I’m going to become in less than a year!

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Overall, this past week in the NICU was another solid one. I even had a baby smile at me multiple times as I played with him! 😄 That about made my week, especially because of the straight-up sad nature of the NICU. These babies are literally the sickest infants that I’ve ever seen. Some of them fortunately end up getting better and going home, but many of them have been there for an extended period of time, with some of them having spent their entire lives in the hospital. It’s pretty depressing man. As a healthcare provider for these infants though, it’s extremely important that you don’t let your feelings cloud your judgment, no matter how sad and unfortunate the patients’ circumstances are. Of course you need to be able to emphasize with these patients and their families, but you also have to ensure that you’re not letting their circumstances affect your life in a negative and destructive way. It’s a much harder rule of thumb to follow than you may expect. Or maybe you actually do expect it to be a hard thing to do because, well you know, sick babies are naturally a sad sight to see.

While I feel like I’ve been able to emphasize with the patients and their families in an appropriate manner, I’ve found my mind frequently drifting off to what this experience in the NICU must be like for the families that come to visit their loved ones. Whereas each day in the NICU is just another day of school to me, it’s surely an emotional and unforgettable experience for each of the parents whose children are recieving care there. During these times of reflection, I tend to be brought back to the times I volunteered in the Ronald McDonald House’s Brenner’s Family Room in the hospital (located on the same floor as the PICU and the NICU), which is a place where families of the hospital’s pediatric patients can get together in a comfortable place close to their loved ones and rest while having access to free food and coffee. I remember witnessing how distressed and hopeful these families were about their loved ones, and being reminded that there was another world outside of the hospital that was full of the worried relatives and friends of each patient. It’s pretty terrifying how easy it is to go about your daily routine in the NICU without even taking a moment to seriously consider the perspective of the families who are scared to death about their loved ones. I hope to continue this habit of making time to consider the perspectives of others so that I can be that much more of an empathetic, caring and effective physician.

Well that’s it for today! Go on and live your best life this week!

“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand

– Black Man, M.D.

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.

Starting Off Strong!

Well would you look at that, it has already been a week into the New Year!

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My first week of 2018 was spent in Atlanta, where I enjoyed a fantastic week full of relaxation, goal-setting, and brainstorming. New Year’s Eve was a blast, and New Year’s Day was full of some spectacular college football games. The other days of the week seemed to blend together, all the way up until yesterday when I returned here to good ol’ Winston. Within those days, I FINALLY watched Girls Trip, Bright (wasn’t a bad movie at all, despite what the movie critics say), the new season of Black Mirror (shoulda seen my face when I realized there were only six new episodes), the new Dave Chappelle Netflix specials, the series premiere of Grown-ish, and some other stuff I can’t think of at the moment. I can’t remember the last time I watched that much TV. I also ate a lot of good food from multiple restaurants, met a few of my girlfriend’s old friends and went ice skating for the second time in my life (first time was as a first-semester college freshman and my dumbass had decided to wear a v-neck t-shirt with some cargo shorts back then…I wasn’t so dumb this time 😊). I was wobbling about 97% of the time….buuuutttt I DID NOT FALL!!!

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It was a fun and restful week overall, and an awesome way to finish up my two-week long break from my clinical rotations. I honestly don’t even know when I’ll have that much time off from school again. Probably sometime deep within my fourth-year. Who knows. All I know is that I made the most of my break and I feel more than ready to return to the grind and knock out these last two weeks of my Neurology experience! Then comes my eight-week Surgery rotation, and I’ll be ready for that too, belieeeve that! I’m not letting anything stop me, scare me or slow me down man! Remember, a positive mindset = positive results!

Lol can you tell I’m pumped up? This holiday break really invigorated me, just like pretty much all my breaks in the past have done. Also, I just feel so grateful for where I am in my life and where I’m headed, Lord willing. There are hundreds of millions of people in this world who would kill to be living the life I’m living, so why wouldn’t I be pumped up about being able to continue my medical journey? I know how hard I’ve worked to get this far, how hard I’m willing to work to reach and surpass the goals I’ve set for myself and how much support I’ve been blessed to receive along the way, so what reason do I have to complain or become discouraged? As you can see, when you take some time to put things into perspective, you realize just how great your life is and how much worse off you could be! Perspective is key, never forget that!

That’s all I got for you today, short and sweet! I have a really good feeling that 2018 is going to be such a dope year; I hope that you feel the same about this year as well! Let us continue to prosper and reach our desired goals as we move further into this year!

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” – Stephen Covey

– Black Man, M.D.

Same Building, Different Views.

Happy Fathers’ Day to all of you dedicated and respectable fathers out there adequately taking care of your families!

I was thankfully able to make it home this weekend to not only spend Fathers’ Day with my dad, but to also celebrate my siblings’ graduation from high school as well as to spend some necessary quality time with my family after several tough weeks of dealing with my grandma’s rapidly deteriorating health and eventual passing. I wasn’t able to stay home for long, but the time I spent with everyone was extremely worthwhile and refreshing. I didn’t get much studying done while at home, but I did get a rejuvenating dose of motivation to continue grinding! I also received an unexpected dose of motivation from the Financial Aid office a few days ago, who decided to update me on the amount of money that I currently owe to the government.

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Go ahead and try to guess the amount I’m currently shackled with. Here’s a hint: I currently have a six-digit negative net worth. Let’s just say that with the amount I owe, I could easily purchase a $200,000+ house in a nice surburban area.

LAAAWWWWD.

But it’s all good though, I’m gonna pay it all off in the distant future. No point in worrying about something that I can’t necessarily control for the moment. All I can do is continue learning from my clinical experiences and formulating a foundation of knowledge that I’ll effectively utilize for the rest of my career as a physician.

Speaking of which, I had quite an interesting week in my most recent week as a third-year medical student. I was afforded the opportunity to participate in a week-long collaborative interprofessional practice immersion experience (Walk In Their Shoes “WITS”), where I took on the role of various providers of healthcare and learned about their respective responsibilities on the healthcare team. I was also able to gain valuable insight from these different providers of care and appreciate the various perspectives that they harbored. I ended up taking on the role of seven different healthcare professionals overall! At certain times of the week, you could find me working as a Nurse Assistant, a Speech Therapist, a Bridge Nurse (Nurse Navigator), a member of the Rapid Response Team, a Charge Nurse, a Pharmacist, and a Bedside Nurse.

  • Nurse Assistant: I spent the majority of the morning watching the nurse assistant routinely take vital signs, attending to the patients’ needs and helping clean patients as needed. It was a relatively slow morning so I was able to study a bit as well!
  • Speech Therapist: I assisted with monitoring and testing the swallowing function of various patients. In between seeing patients I ended up learning A TON about this profession from the speech therapist that I was following, who was very enthusiastic about teaching me everything she did! She was also quizzing me constantly in order to make sure I understood what she was saying. It was a very interesting experience!
  • Bridge Nurse (Nurse Navigator): In this role, I observed how these nurses worked to “bridge the gap” for patients as they were getting ready to be discharged from the hospital. They did so by communicating interprofessionally with other folks on the team (social workers, physicians, pharmacists, etc.) with the goals of not only preventing the patients from having to return to the hospital, but to also make sure that they understood what they needed to do once they were officially discharged. This is such a neat and highly necessary concept that I very-much-so believe positively influences the quality of patient care.
  • Rapid Response Team: I spent the afternoon responding to calls from different departments of the hospital and adequately managing the situations that we were informed about. Nothing too crazy happened during my experience, so we were able to have some great conversations with one another during our downtime. The people I worked with on the team, who were all nurses, were extremely laid-back and just simply cool people to be around. I had a blast spending my afternoon with them!
  • Charge Nurse: My morning as a charge nurse was pretty chill overall. I helped monitor a couple of patients and observed the charge nurse manage the other nurses on the floor. She was fun to be around and had a great personality that the rest of the nursing staff thoroughly enjoyed!
  • Pharmacist: As an inpatient pharmacist, I was given a tour around the pharmacy lab as well as the pharmacy “outpatient clinic” located in the hospital. I also learned a great deal about the roles of the different staff members of the pharmacy team in the hospital and observed as the pharmacist gave updates about each patient’s medications. This was a really cool experience!
  • Bedside Nurse: This was my busiest experience all week. We were literally on our feet all morning as we gave scheduled medications to our patients, educated them about various things and attended to each of their specific needs. It was great!

It was so cool to experience each of their perspectives of healthcare and to witness the impact that each of their respective professions had on the quality of patient care. In addition, my already immense respect for nurses only further increased after having worked alongside them all week. From the Nursing Assistants to the Nurse Practitioners, it’s very obvious just how critical the nursing staff as a whole is to maintaining quality patient care.

Now that WITS week is over, I’m spending this upcoming week at an outpatient health clinic. I’m looking forward to not having to wake up at 4:45 AM! If you didn’t already know, the hardest part of third-year so far for me is getting out of bed at ungodly hours of the morning. But I’ve been getting used to it!

Time for me to get a bit of studying in. Make sure to have a wonderful week!

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:31

– Black Man, M.D.

Beginning A New Lifestyle

I’m a week deep into my Internal Medicine clerkship and I’m happy to report that I’m loving it so far! Sure the days have been long, but there has been virtually ZERO instances of boredom within these past few days. Plus, the interns and residents I worked with this past week have been gracious enough to let my classmate and I out at least a couple hours early each day. (I’m supposed to be at the hospital from 6AM-7PM. Lol, yeah.) I’ve been learning so much new & pertinent information so far and have been able to watch that information be applied on real patients. I was in the CCU (Cardiac Care Unit) this past week, so the patients that I saw were those who had critical heart issues and who needed to be monitored on a constant basis. It was an intense environment full of healthcare workers who had to be attentive at all times to all the patients there. There was also a death on my first day there and a couple of other patients who were transferred to hospice care to prepare for their own passings. A pretty sad way to start off my third-year…but on the other hand, there was a good number of patients who were adequately treated and discharged from the unit! Also, the team that I worked with all week was full of pretty awesome people!

But before I get too deep into my experience at the CCU, let me step back real quick and touch on what I did on the day before I started working in the CCU. On Monday of last week, we (we as in the 30-or-so of us in the IM clerkship) had an orientation session specific to the Internal Medicine clerkship. Because I had flown in late the previous night from Miami and had gone to sleep around 2 AM, I was TIIYYAAD all day on Monday. But I was able to stay awake long enough to glean the important information given to us that day. We finally began to understand the sub-rotations that we were assigned to within the overall IM clerkship and we made our call schedules for specific sub-rotations that necessitated them. (I’ll be working four weekend days and a week of nights during this clerkship. Say it ain’t so! 😅) My IM schedule consists of:

  • 1 week of Cardiac Care Unit
  • 1 week of General Cardiology
  • 2 weeks of Renal
  • 1 month of Transitional Care
  • 1 month of General Medicine

So as you can see, third-year is quite complicated to understand. I’m here still trying to figure out how all of this works, and I’m the one living through it! However, we got a better understanding of what to expect during this clerkship and we were handed a bunch of papers to better supplement our knowledge. We then attended a few sessions, which included a Geriatric interactive presentation where we talked about different ways to properly care for the elderly, an ultrasound activity where we practiced how to perform a transthoracic echocardiogram, and a trip to the Crisis Control center where we participated in a simulation that enabled us to consider what living in relative poverty felt like and how powerful the concept of “generational poverty” can be on underserved populations. ‘Twas an interesting & busy day but by the time the last session (Ultrasound) rolled around, all I could think about was how nice it would be to collapse on my bed. I ended up crashing around 9 PM…only to wake up at 4:30 AM to start my first day on the CCU.

My first day up there was not really what I expected it to be. Then again, I had absolutely no idea what to expect in the first place. I walked up to the unit dressed up in a shirt and bowtie, only to be notified that I was supposed to be wearing scrubs. Go figure. After changing into scrubs, my classmate and I got assigned patients, which surprised us because we were previously told that we were going to be merely observing today. So we researched our patients and went to meet them. My patient had suffered a heart attack and was scheduled to have stents placed in his heart to open his occluded coronary arteries. He was a pleasant man to take care of, and I was actually able to watch the procedure he needed (Percutaneous Coronary Intervention) the next day! After getting the information I needed for my patient, the team and I all began our morning rounds, where we presented our patients to the attending (head doctor in charge) and visited our respective patients as a group. This took almost FOUR hours. FOUR. HOURS. It turned out that this was a particularly busy morning and that rounding this long was unusual, which relieved me. The experience was really cool though and having to present to the attending on my first day was quite challenging, to say the least. Especially since I wasn’t aware that we would have to do so. But she was understanding and gave both me and my classmate some useful advice for presenting patients, something that she continued to do throughout the week. After that marathon morning of rounding, we were notified about a patient who was not recovering from his acute condition and who would end up passing away that day since there was nothing that the team could do for him anymore. My classmate and I joined the Cardiology fellow on our team as he sat with the patient’s family to discuss the unfortunate circumstances that he was in. The conversation was a heavy and sad one where the whole family was in tears, but they were also understanding of the situation. The fellow handled the conversation very well and I’m grateful to have been able to witness that conversation, because I’ll definitely have to have those conversations with the families of patients that I will be helping to treat in the future.

The afternoon consisted of a third-year med student conference that we were required to attend (we have these conferences almost every day), following up on our respective patients, writing notes on them, sitting in on an impromptu lesson from the fellow, and talking with the team about a variety of things. I was actually surprised as to how flexible our time in the afternoon was. I found that I could actually get quite a lot of stuff done in that time, which is very good to know moving forward. We were free to leave around 5 PM and I immediately felt the fatigue hit me once I got back home. Crazy thing is, I needed to study and review material that I had forgotten during my post-Step vacation. I also realized that my mind was still in vacation mode, so I had to force myself to snap out of that mentality. I got a little studying in, but ended up crashing again around 9 PM, only to do it all over again the next day.

I won’t go into length on what I did each day because then I’ll be sitting here typing this forever. But it’s worth noting that each day had a similar schedule and although it has been a busy week, it certainly beats having to watch a lecture in the classroom. Even the whole “having way less free time” thing hasn’t bothered me that much (yet). I think my body is quickly adjusting to this new lifestyle of waking up before dawn and going to sleep at the same bedtime I used to have when I was like 10. In addition, I was able pick up a new patient on my second day, but I struggled on my presentation because he had multiple co-morbidities that needed to be addressed in addition to his chief complaint of chest pain. Turns out he had a stomach bleed that I was able to see via an esophagogastroduodenoscopy. (EGD) (Try saying that five times fast.) We had to take care of that before getting to the chest pain he had, which hadn’t bothered him ever since his stay in the hospital. I stayed with this patient until I left the unit on Friday and as for my first patient, he was discharged on Thursday. As the week progressed, I found that I was getting better at giving presentations, I was getting more accustomed to the flow of rounds, I was learning a lot more about asking pertinent questions & performing pertinent physical exams, I was bonding quite a bit with my patients, and I was running around with my classmate trying to watch various procedures being done on multiple patients. We were able to watch a Foley catheter being put in as well as two heart stents being placed in the cath lab, but we missed the placement of two arterial lines and a thoracentesis. Darn. The team was also very gracious to us in answering any questions we had, chatting with us on the topic of choosing specialties and in giving us very helpful tips on necessary third-year skills. They were also getting a laugh at how enthusiastic we were about this new lifestyle. Before I knew it, it was Friday afternoon and we were leaving the team that we had befriended pretty quickly. My classmate and I were legitimately sad to have to leave them because we had been having such a great time with them. But alas, we must continue to expand our medical horizons!

Overall, my first week of third-year has been a great one! I’ve already learned so much and I was made aware of just how much more information I need to learn. I also found myself thinking about various things like how much medicine has changed over time and how amazing procedures such as PCIs can save someone from heart damage in 20 minutes while a heart attack 100 years ago was, as far as I know, pretty much a death sentence. I also noticed myself often thinking about both the patient and their family’s perspective in the hospital in parallel with my own perspective as a third-year medical student and just how different our worlds were in the moments that I saw them during rounds. No wonder many doctors have written countless books about their experiences in the hospital…this type of stuff really gets you into deep thought. I could personally write a narrative on the thoughts I had while helping to take care of the two patients I was assigned to this past week. And that’s just after a week of being in the hospital. Who knows what I’ll come across these next twelve months and in the foreseeable future as I continue my medical education.

But as for now, I’m done with this post. I gotta review some Cardiology for this upcoming week lol. I hope you enjoyed reading this! Have a wonderful week!

“One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.” – Abraham Maslow

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – Today is the two-year anniversary of my one and only acceptance to medical school! Shoutout to the Wake Forest School of Medicine for taking good care of me! I’ll be forced to (literally) repay the favor to the government for temporarily funding my education, but this is one investment that I’ll voluntarily (though quite begrudingly) go into debt for!

Perspectives.

There was so much emotion around me.

Laughs.

Screams.

Tears.

Jumps of joy.

Hugs.

Kisses. 

It was the day that all medical students across the nation work tirelessly for; a day that determines our future and indisputably seals our fate. Match Day. The fourth years all around me had matched in various specialties in a number of schools around the nation. Most of them matched in the specialty they desired and matched to a school that was within the top 3 choices on their list. It was fantastic to witness all of my 4th year friends finally receive the opportunity to become something that they’ve put an insane amount of hours towards; something that very few people in the world get a chance to be; something that gives them the incredible ability to heal;

A physician.

I was at the Match Day ceremony for maybe 30 minutes max, but all I needed was 5 minutes to fully absorb the magnitude of what was happening around me. In those 5 minutes, I saw with my own eyes what the result of this taxing medical school life will be. In three short years, I’ll be celebrating with my class about our incredible achievement and the fact that our hard work will allow us to secure a stable job & lifestyle that we can keep for the rest of our lives. It was definitely reassuring to witness with my own eyes the light that is waiting for me at the end of this challenging journey. Sure, we all are going to be worked off our ass during our residencies, but at least we’ll be getting paid doing what we love right?

Now that I’m here talking about my future, I’m reminded of what lies ahead of me between now and Match Day of 2019. Second year classes, the USMLE Step 1 Exam *rolling my eyes*, my clinical years where I’m literally paying the school to work me, etc. It looks like an uphill battle…but getting in this position from college was an uphill battle in itself and I’m here aren’t I? I’ve also heard multiple times from different people about how things just get worse from first-year…as well as how much things get better from here. I guess it’s just a matter of perspective. Hell, I’m just happy to be here. I personally plan on maintaining the positive attitude that has gotten me this far. Call me naive if you want, but at least I’m content. 😁

Speaking of being content, I was recently elected to serve on the Ophthalmology Interest Group E-board here as well as on the SNMA E-board as the Community Service Co-Chair! I’m looking forward to working in those positions because both of those organizations have a considerable amount of value to me. They’ll also give me something to do that doesn’t involve me studying for the exams that never stop coming, which I really appreciate. So there’s that.

There’s one more thing I want to add. We’ve been learning all about stroke this past week in class and one of our professors actually had a stroke patient come in to talk to us about what life is like after having one. He had suffered from one a few years ago while doing the simple task of walking a dog with his loved one. Because of his stroke, he can’t see anything in his right visual field, he had to attend physical therapy for an extended period of time in order to relearn how to walk, he’s had to relearn his alphabet and how to do simple math, and he has to concentrate extra hard to process information in a regular conversation. However, he was pretty upbeat and willing to talk and joke around with us about his perspective with the disability. It was a very fascinating conversation. He really helped to put a human face on a topic that we’ve been laboring over for the past week and I feel that he also helped to inspire a number of us in the class to continue working hard towards understanding the intricacies of the brain. It’s scary to think about how sudden a stroke can present itself…it makes me want to get a CT scan of my head and look for any abnormalities. Someone once told me that med school can turn you into a hypochondriac…I’m finally starting to see what they meant by that. 😰

Alright, that’s all of my reflections for today. Go on and have a stupendous week!

Oh yeah, shoutout to all the upsets that have occurred since March Madness started. Y’all never fail to destroy the brackets I work so hard to perfect. 😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊

If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place. – Nora Roberts

– 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.

Gotta Keep Pushing…

So I took a morning stroll today to CVS. It was a nice, brisk morning, not too hot and not too cold…it was pretty chill. It was also a very slow morning. Winston-Salem is the kind of city that has traffic lights on every corner because it wants to act like it’s poppin’…thing is, I saw like three cars on the road this morning. And it was 11 AM. But anyway, the walk to CVS and back gave me time to do some reflection and goal-setting while appreciating my surroundings. It reminded me of when I used to take walks to Sunset down in Miami, minus the drowning in my own sweat under Miami’s unforgivable sun.

I actually don’t have a good reason as to why I wrote that. I just figured I’d tell y’all I had a nice walk this morning. You tend to walk a lot when you don’t have a car…you’d be surprised at how far your two legs can take you.

In other news…

I’ve been dealing with Anatomy for seven weeks now. It’s not getting any easier, but it’s not getting much harder either. It’s just a steady monsoon of information thrown at us every day…it’s actually starting to get old. Learning about the body is cool and all but I’m starting to get tired of these lectures and labs. It’s just the same thing every day, go to lecture, go to lab, fall behind all week and catch up on the weekends. I don’t hate anatomy or anything, I actually like dissecting in anatomy lab. Maybe it’s not actually anatomy I’m getting tired of…maybe it’s just this repetitive cycle of doing the same damn thing over and over again that’s wearing me down. Maybe it’s also the fact that I haven’t left this area since moving down here in July. I’m used to being up and about, but I haven’t done much of that since I’ve been here because Uber and my two legs can only take me so far. Shiiiii if it wasn’t for great friends that offered me rides on a constant basis, I probably would never leave my apartment. And that’s just a sad life man.

Screw what I said earlier, I’m definitely getting sick of learning new anatomy on a constant basis. I’m so ready for the next block of material, which happens to be Cellular & Sub-cellular Processes (AKA Biochemistry). Never thought I would be saying that since it was the BANE of my existence my senior year of college, but at least I have a background in it…which means I won’t be lost and gasping for help every time I go to lecture…

But that’s weeks away. Gotta deal with things one day at a time. These weeks tend to fly by anyway whether I would like for them to or not. I did get to play doctor last week for that clinical experience “exam” I was talking about last post! It was kinda cool, I had a patient interview and then literally performed a 20-minute physical examination that included the lungs, heart, abdomen and extremities. I’m amazed I didn’t forget any part of the physical exam…makes you appreciate how much your doctor has to remember whenever you go in for a checkup. The best part about the whole experience was that I didn’t have a damn clue as to what I was doing. I was just literally going thru the motions that I was taught and feeling for pulses like I could actually tell my patient about his health or something. But that was good enough for my evaluator, who said I did a great job with the exam and the interview 😅. He made a strong point about liking my personality too, and told me to feel good about myself. So I did.

Turns out he was just warming me up for those burning flames of criticism.

RIght after he pumped me up about how personable of a doctor I will become, he hit me with that “HOWEVER.” He then proceeded to very nicely rip me apart on my history-taking skills. Good thing I’m not sensitive and that I’m one to fully appreciate feedback, because he was very much sonning my ass on how to take a good history from a patient during the patient interview. I actually learned a lot from what he told me and am glad he gave me ways to improve on that. And it turned out that I got to use his advice when I played doctor again a couple days later while taking a real patient’s family and social history in the hospital wards. It was a lot easier than I expected, because she was actually very happy to talk to me and she also literally spilled her life story on me. Taking notes while she was talking was a hassle though, I could barely keep up! I’ve finally come to realize that patient interviewing is not just simply talking to patients…it’s a complex process that takes hella practice. But it’s all good, I got a good four years to work on it, not to mention the fact that I’ll be doing it for the rest of my life. 😄

This past Saturday, I got the chance to do glaucoma screenings at a church. I was performing visual field, visual acuity and eye pressure tests on a number of people and was having a great time doing it! I tried sharing my enthusiasm with the patients I was testing. Thing is, they all spoke Spanish. I just ended up looking stupid trying to have conversations in broken Spanish, so I stopped trying after my second patient. Thank God for my translator. That lady was my savior for the three hours I was there. It was a great time though, and so was the dinner I had on Friday night with a number of upperclassmen of color. Talking with them gave me a much-needed reality check of my future in med school. Something that really stuck with me was the way they were talking about the USMLE Step 1 Board Exam. I already knew how important it was, but its still shocking how vital that test is. Like, that shit dictates your destiny. Your score can literally cut you off from a specialty that you want to pursue if you don’t score high enough. Worst part is, you can only take it once. There isn’t a round 2. You take it once and that’s it. One and done. Had me like:

 reaction sad crying will smith dramatic GIF

As if getting into medical school and surviving the bull wasn’t stressful enough. But aye, can’t waste energy and time worrying about that right? Being afraid of the test will only make it even worse than it has to be…fear is a mind-killer. So I’ll deal with that challenge when I get there, I still have well over a year until I take that test. Just never thought that there was something potentially worse out there than the MCAT…or more challenging, depending how you wanna look at it. Matter of fact, I’ll start calling it a challenge, it kind of turns it into a game that I want to beat. Doing that will also help me stay positive about it, because I don’t got time for negativity or worrying. I just gotta trust I’ll be ready when the time comes. For now, I just gotta pass my next exam in a couple of weeks so I can hurry up and get closer to finishing anatomy.

So with that said, here I go with the start of another week.

Hope y’all start your week off strong! I also appreciate all the support y’all continue to give me! All those calls and texts I get from people checking up on me really mean more than you can imagine…they keep me optimistic and driven!

Stay blessed!!!

– Black Man, M.D.

So Far, So Good…

Well it’s been about a week into Anatomy and I’m not wailing to God for mercy or anything…so I guess I’m doing alright so far. Don’t get me wrong though, the amount of info that we’ve been force-fed has been pretty intense. Just this past week alone, I’ve had nine lectures, two 4-hour learning sessions, a learning lab where we learned to read cell cultures and two 3-hour anatomy labs where we actually started dissecting cadavers. Like, bishhh what? Not to mention that for every lecture we have, it takes me AT LEAST an hour and a half to get through it. So I’ve been pretty much studying all day everyday. I can literally name almost all of the muscles we all have in our backs, tell you where they are, and how they work. I can also tell you what our spinal cord is made up of, how our nerves generally work, and the steps that an embryo takes to develop. Shit’s crazy. I just took a couple study breaks for my birthday yesterday (Yay me.), and one today to check out the VMAs. I ended up watching Miley host the show pretty much naked, Nicki Minaj cuss out Miley Cyrus on national TV, and Kanye give a TED Talk only to end it with his 2020 presidential bid. This is why I don’t watch TV. I will admit that I had a blast watching Kanye go on one of his thoughtful, unorganized rants. (HAHAHAHA.)

But yeah, it has been an intense week. But I’m feeling alright, and not too stressed out at all. I wish I could say the same for some of my classmates, but we all have our own ways with dealing with challenges, right? I just pray to God I stay this calm about the rest of this Anatomy block and these next four years…I just don’t see the point of panicking and worrying that you won’t be prepared for the tests you’re gonna have to take whether you’re ready or not. If you make it to medical school, then you’re more than capable of doing just fine there. We were all picked for a reason, so why not show the admissions team that you deserve to be there? Its all about your mentality and your perspective…if you truly want to excel, you’ll excel. You’ll do whatever you feel is necessary to attain your goals and you’ll make it. I can’t tell you how or when, but if your desire is strong enough, you’ll make it, TRUST ME. That goes for anything you want to achieve in life, not just passing a medical school test or even just getting into medical school. On the other hand, if all you can think about is how unprepared you’ll be for the test or how much you don’t deserve to get into a medical school of your choice or how much your day is going to suck, you’ll have a pretty shitty time. You are what you think, your thoughts are your energy, whether they be positive or negative. Your thoughts determine your attitudes, which in turn catalyze your actions.

It’s really that simple.

Or maybe I’m delusional.

Whatever.

That’s just how I think and what I believe. It’s been working for me, and I hope someone out there can take this and find peace with themselves and their environment around them. And after finding that harmonizing peace, I hope that person finds a way to fulfill his or her desires. The universe has a way of making things for work for those who really desire to have something happen. Call me crazy, but I’m going to be busy fulfilling my desires and I REFUSE to let any damn tests stand in my way. ( That was also a diss to that hellhole that was the MCAT t(-_-t)    )

–  Black Man, M.D.