Life After Step II

After a solid month or so of strenuous preparation for my nine-hour long Step 2 CK board exam, I can finally say that I’m OFFICIALLY DONE with that test!!

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As you may or may not have read last week, I had started to get sick of constantly answering and reviewing questions. My motivation to study was rapidly declining, I was achieving scores in a range that I was comfortable with, and I felt like there were some things that I was starting to forget simply because I had last reviewed those details weeks ago. Although I was very comfortable staying with my girlfriend (who had been making the study block a MUCH more tolerable experience), having to use the majority of my day to complete study questions and review concepts was getting really annoying. I was so ready to take the test and move on with my life, which I finally did last Friday.

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In the days leading up to the test, I actually toned down my studying quite a bit. As a matter of fact, the last question blocks I completed and reviewed were on Tuesday. I did a light, final review on Wednesday and by mid-afternoon, I was completely done with my preparation. A part of me wanted to go back and look at some more stuff later on that evening as well as on Thursday, but I wouldn’t let myself. Okay, I cheated for a few minutes on Thursday morning and let myself look at a few things that I thought I was a little shaky on before realizing that doing so was a waste of time. Plus, I didn’t want to throw myself into a panicked frenzy the day before the exam. That’s just ridiculous. Deep down, I knew that I had already looked at everything worth looking at and I knew that I was ready to go in and take the exam. But even so, it’s hard to shake off the feeling that I may have either missed some small details or failed to study a concept all the way through. That feeling will probably never go away, which is why it’s important to just simply trust that you prepared yourself adequately and that you know the necessary information to perform well on the test, even if you have to end up working through questions that you’re unsure about.

I spent my Thursday getting snacks for the day-long exam, sending out emails, getting some other parts of my life together and watching Netflix. It was a pretty relaxing day, to say the least. By the time I had to go to sleep, I was pretty worn out. Just to be safe, I took a little ZzzQuil because trying to sleep before huge exams has historically been a very irritating issue for me. But even with that added help, I had some trouble falling asleep for about an hour or so. Thankfully, I eventually fell asleep after some tossing & turning and ended up feeling pretty well rested the next morning. 😊

The routine on test day was pretty similar to when I took Step 1 last year. I got to the testing center, packed my stuff up into a small locker, verified my identity and proceeded to begin the exam. I must admit, my heart started racing a bit as I answered the first few questions of my first block. However, after answering some more questions, I quickly fell into the routine that I had been following for the past month. Each of the eight blocks ended up flying by pretty quickly and I found that although I was beginning to become mentally fatigued in the later blocks, I was faring better than I had been when I hit the last couple of blocks during my Step 1 exam. It was great to see how much more endurance I had this time around. I also noticed that I felt relatively calmer overall throughout this test, mainly because I had been taking Shelf exams all year long and I also already knew what taking a day-long test felt like. And unlike last year, my computer didn’t turn off in the middle of a question block, which is always a plus!

If you were to ask me how I felt the test went, I would say that “I think I did okay overall, but then again you never really know with these kinds of tests.” There were a good amount of questions that I felt sure that I got right, but there were also quite a few that I wasn’t entirely sure about even though I could whittle down the answer choices to increase my chances of picking the right one. And of course, there were a couple of dumb questions that I had to straight-up guess on because I literally did not know where to begin picking the right answer. I felt relatively comfortable with my performance on almost all of the question blocks. I say almost all because there was one block specifically that threw me for a hell of a loop. I pray that that block was full of questions that are going to be thrown out because I was unsure of about half of the answers that I picked in that section. But like I said, you just never know how things will end up going until you finally get your score back, which won’t be for another month or so. 😅

Now that Step 2 CK is behind me, I have a week to relax and get my life together before heading into my second rotation of fourth year, which will require me to work as a medical volunteer/camp counselor at a summer camp for kids with chronic illnesses. I’m really looking forward to this experience and am pumped to meet the team at the camp as well as all the kids that I’ll end up interacting with! Until then, I’m gonna just chill and give my mind a break. I’m over at Hilton Head Island right now and will be here until Tuesday. It’s been a minute since I’ve been able to relax on a beach…so excuse me as I finish up this post and continue to bathe in this radiating sun while taking the time to appreciate the warm sand and ocean ripples around me. 😎

Make sure to have an incredible week! Happy Fathers’ Day to all of you amazing fathers out there! And Incredibles 2 was a much better movie than I expected it to be! Go check it out when you have time to!

“The limits of the possible can only be defined by going beyond them into the impossible.” – Arthur C. Clarke

– Black Man, M.D.

Stepping To The Finish Line

Boooyyy am I glad to be on my last week of my Step Study Block.

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My motivation to study is reaching all-time lows. I’ve been having to force myself to stay focused during question blocks as of late, and I’m sick of having to review the answer explanations to the questions. The only reason I’ve still been able to miraculously wake up around 7:30 AM each morning is because it has become a routine drilled into me these past few weeks. My circadian rhythm is very stubborn, to say the least.

Although my motivation to study has been declining recently, I’ve been able to maintain my performance on my question blocks. My scores have even improved a bit from the week before, and I’ve been consistently scoring within a specific score range that I’m comfortable with. Of course I’ve been trying to improve even more because the sky’s the limit and all, but at this point I’m just so ready to get this test over with so I can move on with my life. I feel like I definitely got pretty much all of the major concepts down and the questions that I’ve been getting wrong mostly have to do with minute details that I have either never heard of or had already forgotten because I had reviewed it briefly eariler on in my study block. Reviewing these details is only going to help me as I prepare for Friday’s exam, so I’m glad that I’m encountering them now as opposed to on test day. At the same time though, I know I’ve been studying too long when I start to forget things that I know that I reviewed weeks ago. So I just gotta go on and take this test, especially because I’m SO ready to start my vacation week that I had moved from the end of third year to the end of my study block. Don’t worry though, best believe I’m still gonna keep my head straight and blaze through this final week of preparation, regardless of how much I don’t feel like studying anymore.

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In other unrelated news, I found out recently that I’ve been accepted to two scholarship away rotations at Children’s National Medical Center and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia! I’m honored to have been given the opportunity to rotate at these hospitals and I’m looking forward to my experiences in these month-long rotations, which I’ll be completing this fall. It’ll be awesome to meet the physicians at those institutions and to learn about how things operate at hospitals outside of the one that I regularly train at. It’ll also be wonderful to learn how to go about treating patient populations that are different from the populations that I’ve grown accustomed to treating at Wake. These experiences will definitely diversify my medical training, which will in turn make me an even stronger medical student who will be able to carry the important lessons learned in my experiences into residency and beyond.

Speaking of residency, I recently attended a group session hosted by the Pediatrics Department at Wake that brought together those in my class who are interesed in this field of medicine. We talked primarily about ways to go about applying to programs, getting letters of recommendation, drafting our personal statements, and other related topics regarding our not-too-distant futures. I can’t believe that the time to begin applying to residency programs is finally here. For the longest time, applying to residency programs was something that I knew was coming but could also brush off as something that I’ll complete later in the future. Well, now that “later” is now. I’m going to be working on my application for the next phase in my life, just like I was working on my application to medical school around this time four years ago. Lol now that I think about it, I was actually studying for my MCAT at that time. My, my, how much things have changed. (Not gonna lie, I still got some ill will towards that test…I bet it still sucks just like it did all those years ago.) I’ve heard that applying to residency programs is an overall better experience than applying to medical school, which is really good news to me. It’s definitely going to be a busy summer though and an even busier fall semester, but I’m sure that the end result is going to be worth all the hustle. Till then, I’m just going to enjoy the process that I’ve grown to trust.

Make sure to have a fantastic week! Too bad the NBA season has come to an anticlimatic end…good thing we have the World Cup to tide us over! Even though neither America nor Cameroon made it. Jeez.

“Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.” – Ingrid Bergman

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S.Grandma, it’s been exactly a year since you left this Earth to be with our Father. We miss you, and I hope that you’re resting peacefully in Paradise! 🙏🏿

Gaining Ground

Well, I’m still studying for Step 2 CK. Nothing much has changed regarding that aspect of my life. My question block scores have been pretty stable this past week, with many more highs than lows. I also took a diagnostic test on Thursday and according to my results, I’m at a much better level of preparation than I had anticipated! I wasn’t feeling too confident while I was answering those questions, but after I got my score back I felt like I could just go on ahead and take Step 2 the next day just to get it over with lol. I have a little less than two weeks to finish preparing for this exam, which is both good and annoying. It’s good because I can only get better from where I’m at, and I have the potential to have a high peak performance on test day. On the other hand, it’s annoying because I’m starting to lose patience with these study days and this endless cycle of answering questions and reviewing them is actively draining my desire to study. Plus, I don’t want to end up performing at my peak before test day. That would really, really, reeeally suck. But alas, the grind must never stop. I’ll continue to chug along with this study process and ensure that all this hard work brings about a fruitful result.

In other news, I took some time off last Wednesday to participate in patient advocacy at the state capital! The event, White Coat Wednesday, is an annual event hosted by the North Carolina Pediatric Society that is focused on meeting with state legislators in order to discuss pertinent issues relating to the health of children and families in NC. My whole morning was spent having important discussions with various legistators alongside Wake Forest faculty members, residents and fellow classmates who are also interested in a career in Pediatrics. It was a pretty neat experience, because it allowed me to witness firsthand what engaging in patient advocacy on a legislative level was like. It’s really not as intimidating as you would think it is. Before meeting with the legislator, you come up with a few talking points that you want to emphasize during your conversation. Ideally, they would be topics that you believe would be most likely for both you and the legislator to agree upon, because you want to ensure that the meeting will be a productive one. Once you have those set talking points, you literally walk up to your legislator’s office and attempt to talk with him/her for a few minutes. Of course this part is easier if you have already scheduled a meeting with them beforehand. You hit on your talking points during the conversation and hope to inspire the legislator to act upon at least one of your suggestions. Then the meeting is over and you both go your separate ways as you work to locate the next lawmaker that you want to influence.

It’s actually a pretty simple process once you get the hang of it. But then again, the lead Pediatrician we were with has been doing this type of work for a while now, so I’m sure that this is all second-nature to her. She really made the whole process look so easy! As a future Pediatrician, I know that I’ll certainly be drawn to advocate for my patients on many levels, especially the legislative level. With that said, I really am glad that I decided to participate in this event because not only did it make the whole process less intimidating than it initially seemed, but it also proved to me that I could really help make a difference in the lives of others on a larger scale just by talking to the very people who help create the laws we live by.

All done here! Now go on and have a sensational first week of June!

“Everyone has inside of her a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be, how much you can love, what you can accomplish, and what your potential is.” – Anne Frank

– Black Man, M.D.

Déjà Vu

I’ve been having some serious déjà vu as of late.

Waking up at the same time every morning to complete multiple UWorld question blocks only to have to spend most of my afternoon reviewing my answers and related material…hmmm, sounds familiar doesn’t it? However, unlike my Step 1 preparation, preparing for this exam has not been nearly as taxing on my mental health 😁 (although I did do my best to maintain a positive attitude while studying for that test). Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a tough week having to study for this exam. Having the same monotonous routine on a daily basis is never fun. But I’ve found that my overall scores on my question blocks have improved in a much more rapid manner than they had done when I was preparing for Step last year. I remember going through question blocks for almost two straight weeks last year before starting to see some substantial overall improvement in my performance.

Disgusted Oh No GIF by HULU

This time around, I’ve been doing questions for a little over a week so far and although I’ve had a few less-than-desirable scores, my average peformance has already vastly improved with over half of my scores already at or close to the level that I would want to be at by the time exam week rolls up on me. I must say, this is a much better feeling than feeling like you’re constantly fighting an uphill battle that you’re always losing at. It definitely helps that I’ve had prior experience with Step studying before, so I pretty much know what to expect throughout this study block and I also have a pretty solid idea of what Step 2 is going to look like. In addition, being an attentive and hard-working third-year medical student has prepared me a lot for Step 2. Having to think through diagnoses and management plans for real-life patients all throughout the year, coupled with the constant barrage of content and study questions I had to drill through all year long ultimately transformed my mind into one that is more suitable for a great Step 2 performance…..not to mention that it’s a mindset that is absolutely required for a great physician to have.

These factors have made my time during this study block very tolerable so far, but it would be very remiss of me to not mention that I’ve been spending my study block with my girlfriend, which has seriously made all the difference in the world. She has made my life this past week so much easier and relaxing, even with my marathon study days. It helps tremendously that she understands how much effort I need to put in preparing for this test, and she goes out of her way to ensure that I’m comfortable during this study period. Even with all this studying though, we make time to have fun together as much as we can. Like, we went to a TDE concert last night and I saw Kendrick Lamar along with the rest of the crew (minus SZA 😔) for the first time! We also have been watching our favorite shows together and will be having a number of movie nights in the forseeable future lol. Oh, and how could I forget the glorious home-cooked food. She’s been feeding me a LOT better than I’ve been feeding myself these past few months with good food that I probably would never even consider making on my own. And she’s been doing all of these things while completing her own graduate school-related summer work! Yeah I know, she’s pretty awesome. Lucky me! 😄

Now I must go back to reviewing my answers and making sure that the information I’m relearning sticks long enough for me to use during the exam. Then I gotta go and get some SNMA stuff done. Then I’ll chill for a bit after that.

Be sure to have a wonderful and productive week! At the very least, aim to be more productive than the U.S. government currently is. Then again, they haven’t set a high bar for us to jump over. The bar is actually pretty low. Very low even. Lol, there hasn’t even been a bar set. All you gotta do is make someone smile and you would have already done more than they’ll probably be able to do all month. But you get the idea. Just go on and live your best life.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs – even though checkered by failure – than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

– Black Man, M.D.

Stepping Back Into Step

Well I must say, I like being a fourth-year so far.

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Yeah I know it’s only been a week and all, but man has it been chill. It has actually been one of the most relaxing weeks I’ve had in a while. I mean, I did have to go through my Procedures OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination), my final CPX (Clinical Practice Examination), and ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) training over the course of the week, but even with those things in place, it’s been a chill week overall. I haven’t had to study for another looming Shelf exam nor have I had to prepare myself for a shift in the ED/clinic/OR/wards. I literally have been able to calm all my nerves down and relax for a little while….sort of. I may not have another Shelf exam coming up, but I do have this little thing called Step 2 CK that I’m gonna have to pounce on in less than a month. With that said, I’ve had to mix my relaxation with the initial phase of my preparation for the exam. This means that I’ve been forcing myself to complete UWorld question blocks for the past few days while reviewing material that I’ve learned all throughout the year, just like I was doing for Step 1.

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In addition to beginning my Step Study Block, I’ve been having to make time to fulfill my duties as the External Affairs Committee Co-Chair for the SNMA. There’s quite a bit of work that goes into this position and I’m still grappling on how to be as efficient and effective in this role as possible while continuing to put forth my best efforts in my studies. I’m sure that as time passes, I’ll grow even more into this new role and I’ll also figure out ways to complete the things I need to do in a more efficient manner. There’s just so much paperwork that I need to keep straight but as long as I keep my organization game A1, I should be good. Plus with a Co-Chair as good as mine, I’m confident that our committee will be strong and healthy well before our quarterly National Leadership Institute, which is where the Board of Directors of the SNMA meet. This first one will be taking place at the end of June in Minnesota. I ain’t never been to Minnesota, nor did I think I would ever have to travel there. But then again, never in a million years did I think I would ever be blogging. Yet here I am. Just ty-ping my thoughts away.

So yeah, gist of this post is that I’m liking my final year of school so far, I’m still busy even when I’m not, I’m glad to be done with the testing I had to do this week (OSCE and ACLS went fine. This CPX was definitely my best performance yet, but even with that said I definitely screwed up a few things…and it wasn’t that easy of a test. I’m pretty sure I did alright on it overall…but I’m still gonna pray on it 🙏🏿) and I’m starting to crack down on this Step 2 studying. I’m so not looking forward to four straight weeks of question blocks and review…but whatever, it’s gotta be done. Plus, I’m going to be with my girlfriend most of the time so that should already make these next few weeks better than last year’s Step Study Block!

Alright, back to studying I go. I have a couple hours to get some in before I attend Wake Forest’s annual SNMA graudation banquet tonight. Wow! I’ll be a graduate in that banquet next year! 😆😆😆

Be sure to have an awesome week!

“Never limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination.” – Mae Jemison

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – Okay this is really random, but I got a professional massage for the first time in my life a couple days ago. Maaannn have I been missing out! And I also watched Deadpool 2; it’s freakin’ hilarious. You definitely gotta check it out. But be warned, there’s a lot of gruesome action scenes. And very crude humor. Lots of it. 😂

One Last Ride

I had to stop and take a moment this morning to fully take in the fact that my Step 2 CK scheduled exam date is exactly two months from today. TWO MONTHS. I actually didn’t realize how close we were to June, partly because up until about a week ago it had been so damn cold here. But now that it looks like spring is finally here to stay, I’m more acutely aware of how soon summer will be here, which means that I’ll be taking both parts of Step 2 pretty soon as well as starting my fourth-year electives and working on my residency applications.

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Man, that’s a lot to think about right now. I don’t think I’m prepared to be in Step Study Mode yet…it took so much out of me the first time around. But it just has to be done. I just gotta get myself mentally prepared for it. I just really hope that my decision to end my third year on the broad subjects of Family and Emergency Medicine ultimately pays off. 😅

Speaking of which, I’m really about to start my final rotation of third year tomorrow! Emergency Medicine is another four-week rotation and I have a strong feeling that these next four weeks will fly by just as fast as the month in Family Medicine did. I’ve heard only great things about this rotation, including the incredible amount of independence we as students enjoy while rotating in the Emergency Department. At this point in my medical school career, I’m beyond ready to take on patients on my own in order to assess their condition and to come up with a treatment plan for them. I’m looking forward to the wild experiences that I’m sure to come across in the ED, even though the pace is going to be vastly different from the relatively much calmer pace I enjoyed in the clinic this past month. My schedule looks pretty wild though. I have a bunch of evening shifts sprinkled sporadically throughout the month (my weekend days were not spared), a few day shifts, a good number of morning lectures, a couple of clinical coaching experiences, a Saturday overnight shift, and some other things that I’m going to learn more about in orientation tomorrow. I’ve heard that I can change shift days around though, which has been unheard of in other rotations. I might have to go on and look into doing that with some of my shifts, because I have a feeling that I’ll have a couple of time conflicts with other pre-scheduled events…we’ll see though.

As for my most recent shelf exam…I THINK I did okay overall. That mess was pretty challenging, even after all of that preparation I put into it. Even though I was uncertain about more questions than I would have liked, I believe it’s safe to say that it did NOT slap me sideways as I had feared! I finished the exam with some time to spare, allowing me to go over most of the questions that I didn’t feel too sure about. Hopefully I did better on it than I did on my Surgery shelf. That Surgery exam disrespected the hell outta me. Smh. And while I’m on the topic of Surgery, I finally got my rotation grade a couple of days ago. Not gonna lie, I wasn’t impressed with it. I actually was a bit bummed out because I had fallen short of the goal I had set for myself in that rotation, even after all the grueling hours I put into making sure that I performed well. I must say, the shelf exam didn’t really help me reach my goal either. But alas, what’s done is done. I did my best. All I can do is move on and use the lessons I learned along with the feedback I recieved to make me a better medical student and future physician. And besides, I have no desire to be a surgeon. So there’s that.

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I had a few clinic shifts to work leading up to exam day, including a couple of evening shifts. One of them was the Community Care Clinic, where I interviewed and assessed like five or six patients back to back. I definitely got a lot of practice in history-taking, patient presentation and document write-up there. The other shift was at the Delivering Equal Access to Care (DEAC) Free Clinic, where I was paired up with a first-year medical student in order to assess patients together. His main task was to gather a focused history from the patient while mine was to chart the patient and follow-up with any additional questions that I deemed necessary before going on to the physical exam. I was also responsible for presenting the patient to the attending physician. As I worked with the first-year that night, I was suddenly reminded of how far I’ve come as a medical student. I found myself casually using terms that he hadn’t learned yet, asking the patient very focused questions after the student gathered a great history in a style that I remember learning as a first-year, speaking with the attending about various medications and dosages to give to the patient, and teaching the student various things as we worked together through the shift. Although I’ve been aware of my overall growth as a student, I was still quite surprised at how much information I knew while I worked with him, and was even more surprised when the student commended me for being so knowledgeable. It was really cool to be in a position to teach him concepts that are now second-nature to me and to fully appreciate my exponential growth as a student in terms of knowledge base and comfortability in assessing patients.

The last things I’m going to talk about in this post are the two panels that I was invited to be a part of this past week. The first one was a MAPS panel at UNCG, where myself and a few other students from Wake and Duke talked to college students about our experiences in medical school. They were very appreciative of our honesty and that we all came from different backgrounds with different paths to medical school. I always love doing things like this, because seeing us talk about our experiences really helps to motivate them and shows them that they really can achieve whatever goals they set for themselves. Also, it humbles me and allows me to remember what it was like to be a college student striving to get into medical school.

The other panel was at a Narrative Medicine Symposium at Wake Forest yesterday and it involved me talking about how I use narrative medicine in my everyday life as a student in the field of healthcare. I sat on the panel with two other physicians and we all talked about the various ways we cope with the stresses of our lives. I mainly talked about why I started this blog in the first place, how I’ve been able to incorporate it into my everyday life and how I’ve expanded the platform overtime. I also touched on where my love for writing first started, how I’ve had to learn how to navigate writing about my clinical experiences without potentially violating the privacy of the patients that I encountered, and I even shared a few of the posts that I’ve written in the past with the audience! I’m so glad that I was invited to speak on the panel and that I was introduced to the notion of Narrative Medicine. It’s really wild to think about how many opportunities I’ve been able to capitalize on simply because I created this blog! And thanks to the support of each of you, I’ve been able to maintain this platform for as long as I have!

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Alright, I’m done word-vomiting. I’ve had a sort-of chill weekend but now I gotta gear back up and get ready for this last rotation of the school year. I also gotta get in on a couple of conference calls tonight for the SNMA. The grind never stops! I hope that your week is a delightful one! 😄

“If you can dream it, then you can achieve it. You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar 

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – If you want to learn more about the disastrous situation in Syria, check out the “Cries From Syria” HBO documentary. I watched it last night and it really shook me. The atrocities happening to the Syrian citizens are absolutely horrendous. Trust me, you’ll learn a lot about the crisis and will also have a better understanding of the implications that their civil war will have on our immediate future. Just to warn you though, the documentary is very graphic.