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.

The Strength of Endurance

Well, this week was quite an adventure, to say the least.

In fact, it was so much of an adventure that I’m actually typing this post on a plane back to North Carolina from Minnesota. Wait, why am I on a plane? Better yet, why was I in Minnesota? Aren’t I supposed to be at camp getting ready to start the week? Lol, I’ll get to all that later on in the post. 😉

I want to start off by talking about my first full week at the Victory Junction Summer Camp. Simply put, it was both a touching and challenging experience. It was also pretty tiring, yet very fun! And I’ve been eating reeeal good here. (Shoutout to all the free meals I’ve been getting here on a daily basis.) Me and the other counselors in my cabin were assigned to care for a young group of boys aged 6-9 who were diagnosed with various blood disorders and gastrointestinal conditions. If you didn’t already know, having to look after seven little boys who like to play around at all times of the day isn’t the easiest thing to do. Them being hyperactive, hating to go to sleep, having very different personalities and testing our rules to their hearts’ desire didn’t make things any easier either. Plus let’s not forget, they have chronic medical conditions that require our attention. At the same time though, it was really fun interacting with them and engaging them in various activites across the camp! Some of the activites we did included fishing, paddle-boating, archery, playing with horses, bunnies, goats & llamas at a barn, playing in a waterpark, making arts & crafts, playing video games, watching Joey Logano speed around our camp in a racecar at what we call “NASCARnival”, and various other things. Before last week, I had never even done half of those things before! Also, the kids who were NASCAR fans flipped when they saw Joey, who just so happens to be a famous NASCAR driver. I had no idea who he was, so I looked him up and he happens to have a net worth of over $20 million. Go figure.

Although I was working as a camp counselor for the week, I made sure to observe what the medical volunteers were doing with our kids whenever they came around so that I had a better understanding what measures these kids needed to take in order to keep their lives as “normal” as they could. Although the kids were living their best lives at camp like any other kid would, their conditions still had to be managed quite frequently by the medical team as well as by us counselors. There were a lot of ostomy bag changes, IV flushes, device recalibrations, trips to the onsite clinic after any one of the kids with his respective bleeding disorder would suffer from a fall, wound or sustained nosebleed, and dressing changes. It was unreal to witness the resilience of these little warriors and how candid they were to each other when talking about how they live with their respective illnesses. Like, two kids would be having a candid conversation about how many times per day one of them would have to change his ostomy bags and how many times the other boy had to get ports placed in him due to various infections. Then a minute later they would talk about a movie or something and I would be just standing there like:

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It was amazing to see how the kids interacted with each other, especially when some of them found out that they had the same condition. It was as if they had never met someone else with their same illness, much less someone their own age. The moment that those particular kids discovered they had the same diagnosis was a precious one that I’ll never forget. Moments like that was one of the reasons why this camp was built in the first place. Alongside moments like that, there were other times where the boys would spontaneously get into altercations with one another. Having to deal with those issues weren’t as precious, as you could probably imagine. But with that said, I think that because this camp is structured the way it is, it forces the kids to learn how to get along with their peers in a non-school setting away from home. Good thing with most kids their age is that they’re good at brushing off conflicts and can get back to playing together rather quickly. Reminds me of how simple my own life used to be when I was a kid…good times, good times.

All in all, my first week at camp was a successful and unforgettable one, even though I was missing the majority of the World Cup games and felt like the world was passing me by while I lived in the camp bubble. Along with interacting with the kids, I’ve made good friends with the counselors in my cabin as well as with various summer staff workers outside of my cabin. I’m looking forward to getting back to camp and meeting our next group of campers, who will apparently have various types of neurological disorders and will be teenagers. It’s also going to be a short week due to the 4th of July taking place on Wednesday, which only gives me less than three days to establish relationships with them. That just means that I gotta make the most of my time with them!

Alright that’s all I got for today! See ya later!

Lol I’m just messing with you, you thought I forgot about the whole Minnesota thing didn’t you?

Yeah you did, don’t lie.

The reason that I traveled to Minnesota a day after leaving camp was because I had to be in attendance for the SNMA’s first National Leadership Institute of the 2018-2019 term. As a member of the Board of Directors, I’m required to attend these conferences, which take place every three months at different locations throughout the country. This conference just so happened to take place at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. I must admit, Minnesota wasn’t on my bucket list of places to travel to. However, I was very surprised at the incredible diversity of the city and was completely blown away at how enormous the Mall of America was! Like bruh, there’s a whole amusement park with rollercoasters and ferris wheels and whatnot in that mall! Not to mention the Marriott hotel and the aquarium. And don’t even get me started on the ridiculous number of stores and restaurants (*cough* Benihana’s *cough* Hard Rock Cafe *cough*).

We had a meet-and-greet on Friday night, where all the pre-meds, medical students, physicians and University of Minnesota SOM faculty mingled and chatted with one another. The majority of the conference took place on Saturday, where we had several excellent presentations concerning various topics such as working to combat the current devolution of our society, being an effective leader, the rich history of the SNMA, adequately caring for people afflicted with disabilities while addressing their concerns in an effective manner (this session was led by people who actually suffer from various disabilities, which made it even more engaging), the potential dangers of social constructs and how they can be used to oppress various populations of people, the incredible importance of social workers, the hazardous nature of making assumptions, dealing with microaggressions, the importance of health equity and advocacy (this presenter used the Black Panther movie to reinforce his message which was very effective), the power of social media and writing op-eds, the various ways in which business can affect the practice of medicine, being knowledgeable about health insurance in order to effectively advocate for the patient, and financial planning. I was also able to attend and participate in the two Board of Directors meetings that took place at the conference. Yeah yeah I know, that was a lot. But there were just so many great things that were shared with us, and I want you to get a good birds-eye view of what we talked about at the conference. I wish I could go into more detail about some of the topics that I’ve listed here, but I don’t got all day to type this already lengthy post out. Plus, I’m going to be landing soon and I want to be pretty much done with this post by the time I get to NC.

So with that said, I’m going to go ahead and end this novel here. I had a great time at the conference and was able to not only reconnect with people but also make new connections with some wonderful people. Overall, the week was quite an eventful one! I’m looking forward to seeing what this upcoming one has in store!

I hope that your week is a splendid one! And have a Happy 4th of July!

“Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.” – Bernard Williams

– Black Man, M.D.

Time Is Slipping Away…

Have you ever had one of those weeks where you actually need it to slow down for once, but the days ironically just keep flying by even faster?

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Like, I knew that I would be busy this past week, but man! I’ve barely been able to keep up with studying for the Shelf exam that I’ll be taking in less than three weeks, thanks to the three presentations that I’ve been working on all week. Yeah, three separate PowerPoint presentations. And I had to get them all done last week because I’m going to be presenting all three of them this week, pretty much back-to-back-to-back. It’s gonna be fun.

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Not only had I been working on those presentations, I had also been preparing for my Surgery Oral Exam all week long that I eventually took on Friday. Until last Friday, the last time that I had taken an official oral exam was during my college days, where I took them routinely (and painfully) in my Spanish classes. I didn’t like them then, and my feelings about them hadn’t changed much over the years. It also didn’t help that I had completely forgotten that I had an oral exam scheduled until a good friend reminded me about it a week before the exam date.

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Thankfully, we had been given a list of possible topics that the oral exam was going to be on, so my preparation was pretty focused on those topics. Even with my adequate preparation and reassurance from the clerkship director a few days before, I still was a bit anxious as I walked into my oral exam. I did my best to color my performance with pure confidence and attempted to prove to the director that I was indeed knowledgeable of the material that she was asking me about. After completing the 12-minute exam though, I had no idea what kind of grade I was going to get. Throughout my whole performace she hadn’t given away any hints of what her thoughts were, leaving me grasping for air as I tried to read her. As a result, although I felt like I answered the questions to the best of my knowledge, I left the room feeling like I could have done better in some way, shape or form. I surprisingly ended up getting my grade back later on in the afternoon and I must say, I was floored when I saw my grade. The grade that I recieved was much higher than I had anticipated! I guess I really did know what I was talking about!

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Needless to say, the rest of my day was made lol. Confidence is a very powerful thing y’all. A very powerful thing.

Outside of preparing for my presentations and my oral exam, I also participated in a patient interview session with a clinical coach who ended up giving me some very useful advice about assessing a patient’s environment and presenting patients in a more structured form, attended a meeting where advice about applying to residency programs was given (I’m really about to be applying to residency y’all 😮), and attended Wake’s annual BOUNCE event that I’ve gone to in years past to listen to stories from faculty members and residents about times where they’ve had to exhibit resilience and courage in their respective fields of medicine. (Check out Stepping Into Step and/or Growth, Control & Breaking Stereotypes if you’re interested in what I wrote about this event in the past.) As always, it was a fantastic event with a good amount of emotion involved and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to listen to the incredible stories shared there.

In regards to the second week of my experience on the Ophthalmology service, it has been pretty good overall. I’m continuing to learn more about various ocular pathologies and have gotten the chance to follow attendings who specialize in glaucoma, the cornea, the retina and oculoplastics. Like I said last week, there are a ton of things that can go wrong with the eye and so many different procedures that can be done on this small organ as well! I was even able to observe a Lasik procedure for the first time! That was quite fascinating, to say the least. I also had an encounter with a young man in clinic who seemed to be absolutely amazed with the way the eye works. He first asked me what dilating the eye meant, and then proceeded to unleash a barrage of questions on me after I piqued his interest with my answer. I surprisingly ended up giving him a mini-lesson about the eye, in which I told him about the eye’s basic layers, showed him what a retina looked like, discussed with him how we use tools such as the direct ophthalmoscope to look at someone’s retina, taught him what refractive error was, and answered whatever other questions he had for me before the resident came in to complete his assessment of the patient. It was pretty cool to be able to teach him basic things that I had come to take for granted, and I found myself becoming quite enthusiastic as I answered the many questions he had for me. Who knew teaching could be so fun?

Alright, back to the grind for me. Hopefully I can actually make time to adequately study for my shelf exam this week. As a matter of fact, I absolutely need to make time to study because crunch time is coming soon…very, very soon.

Wish me luck on my presentations! And make sure to march through this week in a spectacular fashion! 😄

“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.” – Mahatma Gandhi

– Black Man, M.D.

Stepping Into Step

WELLLLLLP.

The time has finally come.

I’m officially stepping into my Step Study Block period.

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I took my final subject exam last Friday, which effectively ended the five-week long Endocrine/Reproductive block that actually happened to fly by pretty quickly. With the end of that block comes the end of my basic science curriculum. Well, I actually still have a 225-question final exam to take this Tuesday that covers Dermatology, Renal, Rheumatology and Endo/Repro, so there’s that. I guess after that final exam is when I’ll truly be free to step into studying for Step. But I’ve also been doing what I can to prepare for Step for the past month while studying Endo/Repro, and I have been actively using Step study materials throughout this past year alongside my coursework, so overall I feel more than prepared to begin this study block.

During my last week of classes, I had the opportunity to attend two different talks that focused on mental toughness and resilience in the medical profession, respectively, and to deliver a baby in a simulation lab. I’m gonna start with the simulation lab. It was such a neat experience! While we were in the hour-long session, we palpated plastic vaginas, performed bimanual exams on plastic uteri, palpated plastic cervices, and actually delivered a dummy baby from a dummy mom! Like, I was pulling the baby out of the mother’s vagina and going through all the motions that a doctor would go through! It was pretty cool, although the dummies weren’t real. That hands-on experience will DEFINITELY come in handy when I actually begin delivering real-life babies during my OB/GYN rotation in about six months. LMAO. Me?? Delivering babies??? I can hardly picture myself doing so. Try to picture me delivering a baby without snickering to yourself. Yeah, I can barely do it either lol. But then again, I’ve done a lot of things in my life that I never pictured myself doing in a million years. You know, like blogging.

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I appreciated being in attendance for the talk on mental toughness, because I feel like it was very necessary for myself as well as the rest of my class to hear what the presenter had to say, considering the fact that we’re all about to embark upon a marathon of constant studying. There was about a third of my class in attendance and I believe that just about everyone who attended got something positive out of the talk. The presenter, who is a 4th-year MD/PhD student, focused on how unbelievably powerful the mind is and how we can harness it to catalyze outcomes that are ultimately beneficial to us. What we think on a constant basis is literally what we become. So with that in mind, she talked about the power of having a “shooter’s mentality”, a basketball metaphor describing the mentality that you’ll make your next shot, no matter what. So in our case, we’ll be confident about getting our next question right on our practice tests, no matter what. She also touched on the strength of setting and completing goals that you set for yourself, having a “winner’s circle”, and making the most out of your current situation by having a “true realism” approach to life. In addition, she gave us practical mental exercises to use during our study block and in life in general, which included practicing the art of visualization, having a “game-face” & a “game posture” when we’re doing our practice questions, breathing techniques (mantra breathing, inhale for 6 seconds/hold for 4 seconds/exhale for 8 seconds), and developing pre-day and post-day routines. I’m happy to say that I’ve been blessed to have been able to adopt an outlook on life years ago that is similar to what she had to say in her presentation, but I was also able to learn some very useful information as well!

The other talk I attended was actually a panel discussion that featured distinguished faculty members from different departments at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The event, which was called BOUNCE: Stories of Resilience and Courage in Medicine, focused on the pitfalls that each of these faculty members had in their respective careers and how they successfully recovered (or should I say, bounced back) from their setbacks! I actually attended this same panel discussion around this time last year and wrote a bit about it in my post, Growth, Control & Breaking Stereotypes. This year they discussed the dire importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance/flow, making sure to never lose sight of who you are as you get busier working in the field of healthcare, and to not allow your work to completely consume you. Each of the stories that the faculty shared with us had the common theme of making the most out of a situation that you didn’t foresee yourself being in and following your path with faith, even if it doesn’t necessarily lead you in a specific direction that you intended to follow. One more important thing that was shared with us was the fact that everyone will make mistakes as a healthcare provider, for we are all human. With those mistakes comes the importance of transparency between the provider and the patient, because being completely honest with your patients will facilitate a trusting relationship overall. It was a great discussion and as always, I’m happy that I made the decision to attend. The free Chipotle dinner was a very satisfying added bonus. 😁

Mannn, I’m really about to take Step 1 in about five weeks. I feel like I JUST registered for the exam. Hell, I still remember penning One Chance as if it were just yesterday (I wrote it last summer). It’s crazy that I’ve actually learned all the organ systems in the body. Now it’s just a matter of synthesizing that information and being able to critically think through thousands of questions during this study block before finally sitting in front of my testing computer in Greensboro on the morning of April 10th to slay this exam once and for all. Lol it’s almost like I’m playing a video game that I’ve been trying to beat for years. I’ve finally gotten through most of the levels and I’m at the level closest to the level where I fight the final boss of the game! Let’s gooooooo!!!

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

Pray for me y’all.  😂😅🙏

“When you’re up against a trouble, meet it squarely, face to face; Lift your chin and set your shoulders, plant your feet and take a brace. When it’s vain to try to dodge it, do the best that you can do; You may fail, but you may conquer, SEE IT THROUGH!” – Edgar Albert Guest

– Black Man, M.D.

The Joy of Resilience

It’s been about a week since we started the Renal block, and I believe it’s safe to say that the physiology of the kidneys is complex as hell. I’ve been hammering away at it all week and I still am far from comfortable with how the kidneys work…and we have an exam on the physiology this Friday.

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However, the more I’ve studied it, the more it’s starting to click for me. Go figure. Contrary to the opinions of many, I’m finding that I actually don’t hate Renal physiology. As a matter of fact, I see it all as a very intricate puzzle that needs to be put together. The many ions and transporters that are involved in concentrating urine and keeping the body in homeostasis can get confusing, but it’s also very intriguing. It’s especially intriguing given the fact that many things that happen in the kidneys relate to other organ systems I’ve learned about already like the heart, brain, liver, GI system, etc. Overall, I’ve been slaving at understanding this material, but I haven’t been necessarily suffering. I just need to get it all together before Friday.

Then I’ll be on Winter Break ya bishhhhh!!!

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Gotta stay focused tho. I have five whole days of work until then.

In this block, we’ve all been assigned to meet with a patient on dialysis treatment at a local dialysis center. My assigned day happened to be last Wednesday, so I went ahead and drove up to the dialysis center that I was assigned to that day in order to learn more about life as a dialysis patient. When I got to the unit where all the patients were, I was randomly given someone to talk to, who happened to be a black male who looked to be somewhere in his early 60s or so. We introduced ourselves to each other and began to talk about where we came from. A couple of minutes into the convo, he mentioned that he was a Kappa, which completely took me by surprise. When I told him I was one too, boooyyy did his face light up! He started grinning from ear to ear and then proceeded to spill his whole life story in pure excitement. He spoke with me about how he had been a teacher for 34 years, in which he taught middle and high school students and how strict he was as an educator. He also talked about how strong his marriage has been throughout his time on dialysis, how his college days helped shape him up to be the man he is today, how tough being on dialysis is and how important a positive attitude and unwavering faith is. I’ve been aware of how often patients on dialysis need to go to a center in order to get treatment, but just hearing it come out of the mouth of someone I was talking one-on-one with really made it real. He has to go to a dialysis center three days a week, and the treatment takes about four hours each time. That’s a LOT of time just sitting around being hooked onto a machine. He described to me how he’s met a good number of people from all walks of life in the center and how grateful he is to be at the dialysis center at Wake due to its state-of-the-art care and facility. We (He) ended up talking for almost an hour and a half, which I felt flew by really quickly. He was really grateful to have been able to talk with me, and I felt the same about being able to gain some knowledge of his perspective of life as a dialysis patient. It was a wonderful experience overall, and it helped put a face to the material I’m learning in the Renal block.

Apart from school, I’ve had a pretty eventful weekend which included fellowshipping at two different houses that belonged to physicians, visiting the elementary school that I’m helping to start a mentorship program at, attending the annual medical school holiday party, wrapping and delivering Christmas gifts as Santa to kids afflicted with sickle cell anemia, and going out to Chapel Hill to mingle with some SNMA medical students at Duke and UNC. Now that I just typed that, I’m looking at it and am saying to myself how crazy it is that I actually did all that in the past couple of days. Everything I did this weekend was pretty fun though, especially being able to dress up as Santa Claus and watching the faces of the resilient kids light up as they received their gifts!

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The costume had me looking absolutely ridiculous though 😂😂😂. I didn’t have a white beard, and my pants were extremely short…so my red Nike socks were in plain sight along with my Lebron’s. Someone told me I looked like the Santa from Friday After Next. Lol, I was also being hella extra in my costume and just having a good time with it overall. My friends that were helping pass out gifts to the kids thought it was all so funny. Even the older ladies in charge of the event were in tears as I came out in my highwaters! I think it’s safe to say my friends and I helped bring some joy that morning to everyone in attendance!

Okay, time to crank out this last week of study before winter break.

Y’all have a stellar week!

“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” – Zig Ziglar

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – I had my last medical ethics class and my last Health Systems & Policy class last Monday! No more long Monday afternoons!!