Life After Step

It’s OVER!! I made it to the light!

I’ve finally completed the USMLE Step 1 Exam!!!

WHOOOOO-HOOOOOO!!!!!

Nick At Nite dance dancing excited celebration GIF

It’s been almost a week since I took the exam, so I’ve had some time to process the surreal feeling that came with finally finishing it. After I wrote last week’s post, I got some snacks for the big day and relaxed the rest of the afternoon, as I said I would. I ended up watching Neighbors 2, which was ridiculously hilarious. I slept okay that night, although it wasn’t the best sleep I’ve ever had due to the fact that I was so hyped up and ready to take Step. As soon as my alarm went off the next morning, I immediately jolted out of my bed and began getting ready to leave. I got to the testing center and because I had visited the center a couple of days prior, I was familiar with the whole layout. After checking in and going through all the required procedures, I began my 7-block exam. I won’t lie, I felt my nerves creeping up on me for the first few minutes of the test…but then I eventually got into my zone and was able to answer the questions just like I had been answering them during my whole study period. However, that test was pretty long. Time was actually flying by but I definitely felt myself getting fatigued, especially during the last block of questions. Taking any kind of test for eight hours can really mess with your head, no matter how many practice questions you complete or how often you simulate exam day. We were granted an hour-long break that could be used in whatever way we wanted to use it throughout the day, so I actually spent seven hours answering questions. Oh and my computer decided to turn off on me during my fifth block 😳. Isn’t that lovely? Thank God I didn’t lose anything and that I could continue exactly where I left off after about five minutes of waiting for the IT crew to fix the issue.

When I finally finished the exam, I walked out of the testing center not really knowing how to feel. To tell the truth, it was a pretty weird feeling. I had just taken the test that I’ve been preparing for in one way or another ever since entering medical school. I felt that I answered a good number of the questions correctly, but there were also a solid number of questions that I had to go with my gut for, especially in the final block of questions (which ended up being the hardest block of the test and contained the longest question stems). Those questions were the reason as to why I didn’t feel too certain about my performance because ideally, I would have liked to have been sure about all of my answer choices. But this is the USMLE Step 1 exam we’re talking about, so of course that wasn’t about to happen. I also realized that although I worked extremely hard to prepare for this exam, there was no way that I could have been FULLY prepared for the test I took. Some of the questions were just straight-up bizarre. So with that said, I was glad that I took it when I did because I don’t think that waiting a few extra days would have done me any good overall. The test was going to be hard as hell regardless. All in all, I know that I put an intense amount of energy into preparing for Step and I genuinely felt that I did the best that I could do on that test. So as long as that holds true, I’ll accept the score that is given to me because it simply is the score that I was meant to have. But until I get my score back, I won’t even entertain thoughts about my performance anymore unless I’m asked about it. I’m just going to continue celebrating the fact that I’ve finally completed this phase of my medical education!

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In regards to how I’ve been celebrating life after Step, I’ve done so this past week by chillin’ for a couple of days and then attending the SNMA’s Annual Medical Education Conference (AMEC), which took place in Atlanta this year! I actually just got back from that and I’m extremely glad that I was afforded the opportunity to attend. There is SOOOO much that I could say about my time at the conference, but I also don’t want this post to turn into a dissertation. So with that said, I’m going to try and give you a captivating synopsis of my experience at AMEC!

I got to the conference with friends from Wake on Thursday morning and we literally hit the ground running. We checked into both the hotel and the conference before splitting up to go to the various sessions that were made available to us. I ended up going to the Professional Exhibitor’s Fair, where many institutions were advertising their respective residency programs. I also went to an interesting talk where a neurosurgeon shared his incredible life story that contained various elements of adversity, a House of Delegates meeting where representatives of all the ten regions of the SNMA get together in order to vote on a number of official things, and a presentation skills workshop where we were given tips on how to give effective and memorable presentations. After that, I attended a Regional Meeting before heading out to enjoy Atlanta’s nightlife.

I woke up early Friday morning with a good amount of sleep still in my eyes, but determined to make it through the day! The first session I attended was a discussion facilitated by Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee, who just so happens to be one of Diana Ross’ siblings and an aunt of Tracee Ellis Ross! She hit on great points in the discussion, including the importance of understanding that studying medicine is a lifestyle, realizing that communication is fully based on how the person you’re communicating with interprets what you’re saying, appreciating the fact that every patient encounter is a cultural encounter, and taking notice of how majority populations are usually judged by their strengths while minority populations tend to be judged by their weaknesses. I then attended a talk that was focused on historical and future perspectives of Blacks in Medicine and on the necessity of learning this very important history. Soon after that, I attended a panel discussion that was focused on Minority Men in Medicine. A couple of things we touched on in this session included realizing that you could potentially “pigeonhole” yourself by trying to solely find mentors who look like you, understanding the greatness of organic relationships, and understanding that the government will very likely not be willing to look out for our best interests as minority men, so we must be comfortable taking care of ourselves.

After that session came the President’s Luncheon, where guest speaker Dr. Camara Jones spoke to us about how racism plays into health disparities and how these disparities can disappear if health equity was achieved. She especially emphasized the power that social constructs have on health conditions, using herself as an example by stating how she could go to different countries and be classified as a different race in each country, which would eventually affect her health outcomes in the long run if she were to stay in one of those countries long enough. After the luncheon, I attended another panel discussion that was focused on nontraditional career paths in medicine. The people on this panel had some very interesting things to say and some useful pieces of advice to give, which included having a “Board of Directors” of your life, getting “off the tracks” of the traditional path for a bit in order to learn about how other people in different professional fields think about certain things, taking leaps of faith, understanding the incredible power of self-confidence in every aspect of life, and thinking in a big and disruptive fashion with a very open mind. This session was actually one of my favorite ones of the whole conference!

After leaving that one, I attended the second Regional Meeting of the conference, where I actually ran for the Regional Community Service Liaison position for Region IV of SNMA! Unfortunately, I completely bombed my speech in an embarrassing fashion and although I had some great ideas to share, my speech delivery was one of the worst ones I’ve ever given. Maaannnnn it was quite uncomfortable, to say the least. Crazy thing is, I wasn’t even that nervous on the podium. It was just that the words that I was looking for weren’t coming to me. It was so unlike me. In all honesty, it may not have been as terrible of a speech as I’m making it seem but because I know what I’m capable of, I sincerely feel that it was one of the worst speeches I’ve given. But nevertheless, I finished my speech with a smile without falling apart or anything and returned to my seat in confusion as to why that had just happened to me. Needless to say, I believe that my speech helped me lose votes to my competitor, who had a great delivery and even gave out snacks to the audience, which is always a plus lol. Thing is, losing to my competitor didn’t even bother me. What really annoyed me was the fact that I performed so poorly in doing something that I believed I had prepared myself for and that I’ve done on numerous occasions. Giving a speech wasn’t supposed to be a hard thing for me to do. But I dropped the ball. So now the best thing for me to do is to use this experience to my advantage and to ensure that this doesn’t happen again, which I’ll do by further honing my skills as a public speaker. My ideas didn’t go unnoticed though, for one of the chairs of the National Community Service Committee approached me later on and expressed interest in working with me because she liked the ideas that I shared. Plus, the Regional Director of Region IV told me that she would still love to work with me in some kind of way. So I actually did end up gaining something positive out of this painful, yet humbling experience. As one of my good friends loves to say, you miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take. 

The final sessions I attended on Friday were a couple of mixers hosted by residency programs from various institutions. At the mixers I attended, I got the opportunity to meet with a number of residents who talked about what their programs were like and how they’ve been able to flourish in their respective programs. I then proceeded to take a nap before venturing out into Atlanta’s booming nightlife once more 😎. Saturday morning was pretty rough…but just like Friday morning, I was determined to learn as much as I could from the sessions made available to us! So I attended four sessions in a row, which included useful tips on how to succeed in your clerkship years, tips on how to choose a medical specialty, how to effectively manage your social media presence, and how to implement strategies to increase the presence of underrepresented minorities in the faculty population of academic medical institutions. After this marathon of sessions, I caved in and took a pretty long nap before working to get a few things done and going to the closing banquet. I then enjoyed Atlanta’s nightlife for the third night in a row 😅!

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LMAO. Throwback to when I said I was going to give a synopsis of my AMEC experience. I wrote a damn essay without even meaning to. Lol, I promise I was trying to keep it short. But it was such an exciting and memorable experience and I just had so much to say about it! I ran into so many people that I hadn’t seen in a really long time and I met an even greater number of awesome people! The networking opportunities were absolutely mind-boggling. I even unexpectedly met the author of the Overcoming The Odds book that I had finished reading a few months ago, Dr. Antonio Webb! Like I said before, I’m extremely glad that I was afforded the opportunity to attend this conference and I really hope that I’ll be able to go to next year’s conference, which will be taking place in San Francisco! I’ve never been to Cali, so I REALLY hope that I’m able to go!

If you’ve made it this far into this post, I sincerely commend you. I owe you a high-five next time we meet!

I hope that you had a marvelous Easter weekend and that you have a stupendous week! And much thanks once again to all of you who prayed for me as I worked to overcome the challenge of Step 1!

“Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.” – Jack Canfield

– Black Man, M.D.

Straight Grindin’

Alright I knew I would be hitting the ground running when I got back to school…

BUT DAMN!!! *in my best Chris Tucker voice*

I don’t think I’ve really been able to catch much of a break since getting back from Atlanta last Monday. I started class Tuesday morning with four lectures of Renal Pathology (that I FINALLY finished getting through yesterday), followed by another four lectures the next day that I’m still working on getting through. (Yes, I’ve been playing the catch-up game again. 😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊) And I have about ten or so lectures this week before my Renal Pathology exam on Friday. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Well, it is. But you would think I would have been able to get through my eight lectures from last week by now. You know why I haven’t been able to? I’ll gladly tell you. Because I had another Clinical Skills Exam (“affectionately” called CPX for those of you not familiar with it) this past Wednesday where I not only had to go in and interview a standardized patient before performing a focused physical exam on her, but also had to document our encounter as well as provide an assessment and plan for her care. That took quite a chunk of my Wednesday overall. In my opinion, it may have been my best performance yet, but you never know these days. I’m just gonna hold my breath and hope that I don’t get another email stating that the history-taking portion of my encounter was “Unsatisfactory” and that I will need to “remediate my history-taking skills”. I don’t even wanna hear the word ‘remediate’ anymore. I’m tired of remediating my history-taking dammit. Lol.

I then tried to get through some more of Tuesday’s lectures after finishing my standardized patient documentation, but I didn’t get very far. Plus I was tired and wanted to get some sleep in order to attend a Case-Centered Learning (CCL) session early the next morning. Thursday turned out to be a pretty long day as well. I attended the CCL lecture and then attempted to study some more before having to go to my actual Clinical Skills class, which ended up taking up most of my afternoon. The class was especially interesting this time around though, for we learned a practical and helpful method to go about breaking bad news to patients as well as how to take a “SOAP Note”, which is a quick daily progress note of a patient that includes an evaluation of how the patient is doing from both a subjective and an objective perspective, a current assessment of the current health of the patient and a plan of care for the patient based on the overall evaluation and assessment of him/her. We also learned how to access patient files, which comes with a HUGE amount of responsibility and actually made me feel more like a healthcare provider instead of a second-year med student tryna stay afloat in this choppy sea of lectures and exams. It was pretty cool, to say the least.

After getting back from Clinical Skills, I played the catch-up game a bit more before having to attend a meeting for the annual “Share the Health Fair” taking place this Saturday. I’m going to be working as a station leader at the glaucoma screening station at the health fair all day, so I had to make sure I knew what the set-up was going to look like as well as make sure the volunteers working at the station that day knew what to expect. On top of all this going on that day was the fact that it was my Founders’ Day, so of course I had to celebrate for a bit with some other fraternity brothers in the area. I finally got back to my place later that night, studied for a bit and then crashed in order to attend a review session the next morning because Lord knows I definitely needed that. I attended the review session and then was able to get some more studying in after that, but my studying was cut short (yet again) by a mandatory presentation I had to attend where my class was formally introduced to the scheduling procedures for our third-year clinical rotations. By the way, this presentation further proved to me how freakin’ close third-year is. The fact that I’ll have patients in the near future that I’m somewhat responsible for is mind-blowing man. In addition, clinical rotation schedules are strict AF. I’ll have to be at the hospital damn near every waking hour of my week, although I’ll get weekends off on some rotations. So that means I’ll have much, much less control of my time. It’s gonna be a hell of a ride, that’s for sure.

Right after leaving that presentation, I made my way to Charlotte in order to fly to Irving, Texas (it’s near Dallas) for the SNMA National Leadership Institute. First off, I traveled back in time. That’s just cool to say. Also, it was ’bout cold as fuhhh over there! You would think Texas would be hot or whatever. But nah. It was 22 degrees when I landed. And it stayed cold the whole weekend. I wasn’t reaaadyyyyy! *in my Kevin Hart voice* But it IS January, so I guess I should have known better lol. The conference was fantastic overall though! I was able to interact with regional and national leaders in the organization from all over the country while representing my school. I also learned quite a bit from the sessions that I attended, including tips on how to efficiently plan your goals, why understanding the business side of medicine is particularly important, the importance of understanding the value of a personal brand, how to verbally communicate with people in a proficient manner in under a minute, and how to take advantage of the plethora of post-career opportunities available for medical school graduates. In addition, there was a SNMA Leadership Panel presented to us, which was made up of prior SNMA leaders who are now practicing physicians and the Dean of Texas Christian University’s future medical school came to talk to us about the innovative curriculum that they’re working to provide to their future students. Finally, we were given a talk during dinner last night that focused on the vital importance of voting in all government elections and being leaders in our respective communities. All in all, I’m happy that I had the opportunity to attend this conference and I feel that I’ll be making use of many of the connections that I made here, as well as many of the lessons that I learned here, in the future.

So now I’m back in Winston, where it actually snowed quite a bit while I was gone! Now all I need is to throw a snowball at someone and to drink some hot cocoa to be perfectly content. I’m lying, I won’t be content because I still gotta get through these lectures.

confused hand robert downey jr frustrated sigh

I hope you’ve started off the New Year on a phenomenal note! Keep on working towards your goals and powering through your resolutions! Those who say they can and those who say they can’t are usually both right!

Be the one who says they can!

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston  Churchill

– Black Man, M.D.

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.

Springing On Forward

Do you know how nice it is to finally be able to study outside again? It’s glorious. I can go over PowerPoint slides while enjoying a nice, slightly brisk breeze that works to cool me from the radiant rays of the sun. I can listen to birds chirp some jokes to each other and watch the clouds glide graciously across the smooth, icy blue sky. This is nature’s way of telling me that spring is here. Better times are coming. No more having to suffer in winter’s blistering cold or its short daylight hours. No more having to stay trapped indoors as the winter winds cackle at me. No more having to stare outside my window longing for warmer temperatures as the winter sun plays deceptive tricks by making it look nice and warm outside when it’s really 22 degrees Fahrenheit. As you can see, I’m not a fan of the winter season.

This past week has been the warmest week we’ve had since like October maybe. We were steadily in the 70s and I actually didn’t have to wear a sweater outside for once. And since we sprung an hour forward today with Daylight Savings, I have longer daylight hours to look forward to. 😄 In other news, I just finished my first week of the Neuroscience block, and I actually am enjoying it so far! Sure there’s an ungodly amount of information coming at me at a supersonic rate, but it’s highly relevant to our everyday lives and super interesting to me. Plus, the information that we’re learning is going to be continuously reinforced to us throughout these 10 weeks of the block so we’re going to see much of what we learned already again and again. I’ve also realized how many resources there are for learning this material…this is going to be a great block. I’m speaking it into existence. Looking back though, it really is insane how much I learned this past week alone. There are soooo many little intricacies in the brain that many people wouldn’t even begin to know how to comprehend. Our brains are a masterpiece man. Now every time I make an action or think about doing something, I find myself trying to make out what structures in my brain is working at that time. Slightly annoying, but cool at the same time. However, nobody told me we were going to the anatomy lab again…I found myself up there at 8 in the morning last Friday examining a brain. Not the way I wanted to spend my Friday morning…but I think that’s the only time we’re going to be going back up there this block. Works for me.

On another note, there’s a national SNMA (Student National Medical Association) conference coming up in a couple of weeks in Austin, TX…and I CAN’T GO! 😭😭😭 I REALLY wanted to network with a ton of medical students around the country and experience what the conference had to offer. But airfare to Austin is expensive as hell. Not to mention finding a place to sleep. And apart from all that, I have my first Neuroscience test the Monday after the conference weekend. It’s soooo unfortunate man. Sigh. I guess I got another three years to possibly go. However, I did get to go to a scholarship gala last Friday night and it was pretty damn fancy. A ton of scholarship donors showed up and it was real nice being able to talk to some of them about their experiences in medical school and what they are doing now in their lives. The food was real good too. Especially the salmon. They said it was all buffet-style…but I swear they took up those food trays so fast, there was no chance in hell anyone could go up for a second plate. Also I know I’ve said this before, but a major goal in my life is to be well off enough to create meaningful scholarships for students in the future. It’s so necessary yo, I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the scholarships I was so graciously gifted with. I’m really going to do it one day, I’m speaking this into existence as well!

Have a spectacular week y’all!

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. – Zig Ziglar

– Black Man, M.D.

Final Hurdle!

One More Week!!

You would think with the three examinations I had last week and with the never-ending supply of information being force-fed to us throughout these past couple of weeks that I would be crawling and gasping for air while hopelessly searching for the finish line…but I’m honestly not. As a matter of fact, I feel like I’ve caught my second wind. I feel like I’m in total control of my studies and that I’m at a very reasonable pace for my Genetics exam this Friday. It’s a glorious feeling. And yes, it’s entirely possible to feel calm and collected in the frenzied heat of medical school.

But to get to where I’m currently at, I had to get through last week….starting with the Biochemistry test bright and early last Monday. Have you ever taken a test where you blaze through a few easy questions and then get to a sequence of questions that tests you on topics that either go into WAY more detail than you covered in class or that you “weren’t supposed to worry about”, according to the professor? And the cycle just repeats itself over and over? That pretty much sums up that whole exam. I swear I had a couple cold sweats and gave more than a few blank stares to my computer screen while taking that exam. After finishing it, I felt like I had passed it but I didn’t really know by how much. We found out a couple days later that they ended up throwing out eight questions (GO FIGURE) from the 87 questions on the test, so my grade ended up being a lot higher than I expected. 😁

We ended up having afternoon classes the same day as the test, which dragged the day on..but I got through all that. We started Genetics the very next day, which actually wasn’t bad…but I was already busy preparing for my clinical skills exam (CPX) I had on Wednesday. I had decided to myself that if I was gonna do great on any test that week, it would be that one because I had to redeem myself from the first CPX exam I took back in October. Granted, I had done well on the physical exam portion of that first CPX, but my history-taking skills had fallen flat. They were so bad that I had been advised (required) to create and implement a plan to get better with history-taking, since it’s such an important part of being a doctor. 😅  So for the next few weeks, under the supervision of my coaches, I ended up getting extra practice with taking HPI’s (History of Present Illness) from patients as well as taking social, family and past medical histories. So with all that said, acing the interview portion of the exam this time around was a necessity. I went into the exam room with the standardized patient on Wednesday afternoon, where I was challenged with obtaining the chief complaint, HPI, Past Medical History, Family & Social History and to ask a series of general health questions called the Review of Systems, all before doing the actual physical exam where I would be taking her vitals (Heart & Respiratory rate, Blood pressure), performing a HEENT (Head, Eyes, Ears, Nose, Throat) exam, and palpating both her lymph nodes and thyroid.

I fell flat, again. 😔

Nahhhh I’m playing, I killed that interview! Turns out that all that extra practice paid the hell off, because I felt comfortable and relaxed throughout the whole encounter. I miraculously remembered everything I was supposed to ask her and I really just let the conversation flow while tailoring all my questions to whatever she was telling me. You know you’re doing it right when your 30-minute patient encounter feels like 10 quick minutes. The doctor that graded me pointed out a few mistakes I made, but overall she thought I did great and gave me an “effective performance” grade!

So I plan on only going up from here when it comes to interviewing patients and just doing my best to perfect that craft. The next day, my clinical skills group and I went up to the cardiology wards to do some more patient interviewing in order to become even more familiar with it. Before we did that though, we learned and practiced the new skill of taking a sexual history on each other. (Role-playing scenarios, of course.) It was…..different. It will absolutely be a skill that I’ll need to work on. Asking patients about their sexual history is definitely going to be quite the experience.

Then Friday came around, and our medical ethics exam/quiz came with it. That quiz was……yeah. I’m just going to say that giving a multiple choice examination on ethics is not the best idea, in my opinion. They should just stick to giving us papers to write and letting us have our discussions, not trying to force ethical questions from readings into multiple-choice format. We already have enough tests to worry about. I mean, I think I did fine but I won’t lie, there were some tricky questions/answer choices up there. But whatever, I took it and got it over with.

Then I had an awesome weekend. A couple of my classmates threw a holiday party Friday night where I sipped on some eggnog for the second time in my life, saw a ornamented deer’s head hung on a wall and made S’mores on an actual fire. Lol. Then on Saturday, I got the chance to be one of Santa’s little helpers at a church that was throwing a Christmas party for children diagnosed with sickle-cell anemia. We helped the kids make Christmas cards, paint masks on their faces and make reindeer out of candy canes. Then we passed out wrapped, donated gifts to the kids, who all for the most part were pretty excited to receive them. It was a fantastic experience. Later that night, I found myself in Durham at an SNMA (Student National Medical Association) social, networking with other minority medical students from Duke and UNC with my fellow Wake friends. That was a ton of fun, if I do say so myself. It was awesome to be able to connect with medical students from other schools and to compare curriculums as well as share experiences. Also, you can’t beat free full-rack ribs and a turn up.

Now I’m here working on trying to end this semester with a BANG by doing the best I can on this test on Friday, which means I gotta get back to studying. THE GRIND NEVER STOPS.

Y’all make sure to have a positive week!

Walk with a smile and do to others what you would want done to you! 

– Black Man, M.D.

 

 

Where Has The Time Gone???

Bruhhhh my little brother turns 19 tomorrow…😳😧😰

Where has the time gone?? I still distinctively remember when I was 19, living out my sophomore year of college without a care in the world. Okayyy I cared a little. Had to keep up my GPA to keep my scholarship…and to make sure I became a doctor…but still, I was having an awesome time. I remember telling myself how grown I was…which means my little brother is pumping himself up on how grown he is. Thing is, he’s actually a man now…that’s crazy to me.

What happened to the good old days man?? Back when my biggest stressor was deciding what starter Pokemon I should pick on my Game Boy Advance? Or what character I should choose to whup my brother’s ass in any given Dragonball Z game on PS2? Or even missing most of my Saturday morning shows because my mom STAYED making us clean the house from top to bottom? Shiii, I wouldn’t mind relieving some of my childhood experiences for a day or two…life was so easy back then. I wasn’t worried about trying to differentiate between the tensor tympani and tensor veli palatini muscles or about trying to figure out the innervation of the 12 cranial nerves and its a-thousand-and-one branches. Only branches I knew back then were the ones I used to climb on…*deep sigh* 😔

Well I’m now 22 and I got my third anatomy test this Friday. Talk about a stressor. However, now that I know that anatomy grades don’t really matter in the long run and aren’t even high-yield for the Step 1 Board Exams, I’m not really trippin’. But anatomy still isn’t something you can just glaze over and BS. You do that and you’ll fail. Quick. So I might as well keep doing the best I can do since it’s been working for me so far. But ima be real…as of right now, I ain’t ready for test at all lol. But I do know that I’ll be good come Thursday night, because when you keep telling yourself failing is never an option, you eventually end up believing it and you tend to find ways to make things go the way you want it to. Sooo I’m not ready, but I simply refuse to fail, so I’ll find a way to not only pass, but do better than I did last test, Lord willing.

I’ve also come to realize that there’s a general pattern to this anatomy BS. We go in the first day of a new block and our lecturers throw hella info at us, expecting us to whine and pull our hairs out about it while they (most likely) smirk in their offices. That whole first week of the block, a majority of us are complaining to each other about how completely lost in the sauce we are. I’m usually asking myself “how the hell am I gonna learn all this??” Then I laugh to myself in a delusional manner and hit the gym. Second week comes around and I’m starting to very slowly piece certain things together while going thru all the lectures and labs getting hurled at us. I’m still pretty lost at the beginning of this week, but I’m lost in a more confident and upbeat way. By the end of the second week, I feel like I have a little more than a basic understanding of the material because I realize that although we continue to get new lectures, there is a lot of repetitive information that ends up getting drilled in my head. Then the third week (exam week) hits and we STILL learning new material, but by this point I’m screaming to myself, “only ___ more days until my free weekend!!” Then Thursday night I have a nice chat with the Father before going to sleep earlier than usual. On Friday morning, I throw another Hail Mary prayer before I click Start on my exam. By Friday afternoon, I feel like Diddy. Then by Sunday night of the same weekend, I’m silently weeping myself to sleep about starting the cycle all over again the next day.

It’s all good though, because after this upcoming test I’ll have one more block of anatomy!!! 😄

Then Biochemistry starts and I’ll have to start listening to three-hour lectures while taking notes on 100+ Powerpoint slides.

Honestly, other than having made some incredible friends here and having an enormous amount of support from old friends and family, only reason I’m getting thru all of this with a smile on my face is the fact that I continue to put time aside to volunteer for various things. It reminds me that the world is very much alive outside of the four walls that tend to trap me more often than I would like. I actually started participating in a once-a-week tutoring initiative this past week called Project TEACH through the SNMA (Student National Medical Association) group at Wake. I went in last Tuesday thinking that I would be helping out underrepresented high school kids that were having trouble with their school assignments….but I quickly found out as I walked in my first session that we would actually be helping out not-so-underrepresented gifted middle school children. I admit, I was a bit confused because I did expect quite a bit more diversity, and the kid I ended up getting paired with was smart as hell. He’s actually a pretty funny kid with a very thick Southern accent that loves to fish and hunt, both of which I have actually never done 😅. It was a good time though, we vibed for a while after I helped him a bit with his homework. I have a feeling that tutoring him is going to be a blast. I also get to be a role model for a young guy that doesn’t look like me, which I find to be a pretty cool and unique experience. I would also love if we could add some color to the mix of students, because I know that if I had come, as a young black middle school kid, to a nice tutoring facility and saw some medical students that looked like me trying to achieve great things with their lives while taking the time to make sure I was doing alright in school, I would highly appreciate it. I would even internalize it. Who knows, it could potentially spark a flame of ambition in my young mind.

Another thing that’s been keeping a smile on my face is hearing all the good news about friends that have already gotten interviews and even acceptances from medical schools around the country! CONGRATS to all of you already hearing back from medical schools, y’all highly deserve it!! It really makes my day every time I hear about someone I know getting either an interview or an acceptance because Lord knows I know the feeling. Especially that feeling of your first acceptance. It’s amazing to think that I was applying to schools as well as painfully waiting for replies around this time a year ago. At that time, I had absolutely no idea what my future would look like, much less where I would end up. Hell, I didn’t know until six months ago if I would even be going to medical school this fall. (The MCAT can go to hell. t(-_-t) ) So to all of you that may be painfully waiting right now to hear back from schools and may be painfully waiting for the next few weeks or even months ahead, keep your head up. Anything can happen at any given moment. And congratulations on having the drive to get thru the MCAT and the application cycle, that in itself is a feat to be proud of. Not everyone is blessed with that gift.

And to all of you going on interviews, honestly just be yourself. It’s clichĂ© as hell but it’s clichĂ© for a reason. It works. You already know all the answers to the questions they’re gonna ask you because you’re the only person that’s lived your life. If they’re putting time aside to talk to you, they want you at their school. All they need you to do is talk about yourself, and ask them questions about their job and institution. Think about how hard it is to screw that up. So don’t stress about it, just do it! Plus there’s plenty of stress to choose from after you make it into your school.

With that said, GOOD LUCK to all of you applying to medical schools! Patience and persistence is key!

Y’all be blessed!

– Black Man, M.D.