A Smaller World

You know, waking up at 5:20-ish AM this past week hasn’t been so bad at all. Yeah I know, sounds kind of absurd, doesn’t it? Here I was thinking that I was going to be struggling to wake up before sunrise, especially since it had been a number of months since I’ve had to do that. (It’s hard to believe that I was consistently waking up at 4:15 AM for three weeks of my Surgery rotation…now THAT was a struggle. 😩) I didn’t really mind waking up so early this past week because it turns out that I had a very positive first week in the Neonatal ICU!

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Now I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting when I first started. I just figured that because it was such a high-stakes environment, all the health providers on the floor would be very serious. I also thought that seeing all of the sick babies would bring about a somber atmosphere and that I would be the only student on the service working with residents, fellows, attendings and all of the other people on the team who worked in various specialties. Plus, the ICU literally stands for Intensive Care Unit, so I assumed that it was about to be an intense experience in a world that I had no familarity with.

Booooy was I wrong.

Okay, I wasn’t totally wrong. There definitely were a lot of sick babies on the floor, with some of them being as premature as 24-26 weeks. It was sad to see these babies suffering from the medical conditions that they have been unfairly afflicted with and to see them with multiple IVs, tracheostomy tubes, and dialysis ports, amongst other things. We tried to help alleviate their suffering by talking to them and playing with them whenever we were pre-rounding or visiting them throughout the day. Also, of course everyone was very serious about taking proper care of the patients. However, although they were serious in delivering excellent care to the babies, the atmosphere of the NICU was actually much lighter than I had anticipated. The team that I was working with was full of laid-back people who liked to laugh and have fun while at work (probably to help process the emotional turmoil that the NICU can bring), which surprised me a bit. It probably shouldn’t have though, because this is literally what the field of Pediatrics is all about. Plus, to my total surprise, I wasn’t the only student who showed up on the first day of the rotation. There was a PA student starting at the same time as me who was going to be working with me for the duration of the rotation, which was a relief to me. I can definitely handle being the only student on a service (I’ve done it numerous times before), but I’ve always had an even better time whenever I’ve been paired with other students!

With everyone on the team being really nice, likeable and compassionate, my first week in the NICU has been a wonderful experience. And of course they’re all really intelligent, so I’ve learned a ton of information as well, especially from the fellows who have given my colleague and I some useful presentations regarding both the maintenance care of infants and the various pathologies that affect infants. And what’s probably the best part of the experience so far is that I don’t have to worry about having to study for a Shelf exam! I can literally learn whatever I want without worrying about the fact that I need to answer study questions and learn high-yield things!

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Because I don’t have to focus on learning specific topics, I’ve been able to learn more about maintenance care of these patients, about the various machines that are helping these babies survive, about the psychosocial factors regarding the care of these patients and their families, and about all the random things that I come across while exploring this new world of medicine. The only assignments that I have are to deliver two separate presentations on topics of my choosing, but otherwise I’m free to learn whatever I want! I’ve also found myself thinking about what the futures of these patients are going to look like and if they would eventually end up going to camps like Victory Junction when they were older. Overall, I’ve had an awesome time so far and I hope that these next three weeks are just as awesome!

In addition to starting my NICU rotation, I had the “pleasure” of finally taking my Step 2 Clinical Skills exam in Atlanta on Friday. I literally had to drive straight from the hospital to ATL on Thursday afternoon, but I ended up getting there at a decent time thanks to my team allowing me to leave from the hospital earlier than usual. Being able to stay with my girlfriend’s parents at their house was also VERY clutch. I got a good night’s sleep and was fed very well both before and after my exam. The actual exam itself was pretty similar to the clinical practice exams that I had taken on two separate occasions throughout this past year, so I thankfully wasn’t blindsided by anything. It was pretty long (I interviewed and wrote notes for 12 standardized patients) but the day honestly flew by very quickly. Plus, we were fed lunch during one of our breaks at the testing site, which ended up coming in pretty clutch. (I had forgotten to pack snacks for whatever reason 🤦🏿‍♂️).

Even though my school had given me good preparation for the exam and I’ve repeatedly heard that Step 2 CS was a exam that pretty much just tests your English proficiency and your communication skills with another person, I didn’t want to blow it off as something not to take seriously. Plus, I had already been recently burned by my Step 2 CK score, so with that in mind I took the time a few weeks leading up to the exam to review various standardized cases in order to review all the different diagnoses and workup plans that could come in handy on test day. I also visited the USMLE site a week in advance to make sure that I knew all the information regarding the test and even watched the video on the site to ensure that I was familiar with everything on test day. I wasn’t about to give myself any chances to drop the ball! Although there are a few things that I could have done better throughout the test, I want to say that I feel satisfied with my performance overall. But I’m gonna just wait and see what my score is looking like before I proceed to jinx myself. 🤞🏿

After a very easy drive back from ATL, I’m now back in Winston, all ready to focus on learning some more in the NICU this week!

Let’s all make this week an extraordinary one!

“It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.” – Mother Teresa

– Black Man, M.D.

Unforgettable Memories

I had to take a step back a few days ago to fully process the fact that it’s already been three years since I first created this blog.

Three years!

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That’s crazy man. Three years of typing out weekly posts about my experiences as a medical student. I didn’t know how possible that would be when I first started, but I remember telling myself that if I just focused on making a habit of typing up one post at a time on a weekly basis, things would eventually work themselves out. And look what happened; things really did work themselves out! Now I can’t fathom not typing up an update on my life each week lol. I’m so glad that I had the foresight to do this and am grateful of all the love and support that I have recieved as I’ve worked to expand this blog. I’m also very grateful for all the people across the nation that I have met over the years as a result of my blog and my growing online presence. I literally wouldn’t know about a quarter of the people I know now if I hadn’t started blogging! It’s so wild just how much this hobby has expanded my network, which just continues to grow more and more with each passing day!

And to think that this whole project was birthed from the fact that I couldn’t find a blog that I could fully relate to while I was transitioning from college to medical school. Who knew that it would become the cathartic and inspiring entity that it is today? I sure didn’t. I thought that I would just be scribbling down my thoughts on a routine basis. I had absolutely no idea that I was going to add sections such as Med School 101, Useful Blogs or the popular Health Career Spotlight Series further down the road. I didn’t know that I would teach myself basic HTML and CSS code simply to design parts of my website in a particular way. And the thought of this blog being a potential talking point on my residency interviews never once crossed my mind until one of the physicians that I look up to suggested that I put it on my CV! Overall, it really has been an honor to serve as a source of inspiration for those of you who are motivated by the content in this blog, and I hope that I’ve been able to adequately fill the void that inspired me to start all of this in the first place as a rising first-year medical student.

Now onto my last week at Victory Junction. 😭

I spent my final week at camp working as a medical volunteer again, but this time I was given the opportunity to float around different units to maximize my exposure to as many medical conditions as possible. Because I was able to do this, I ended up interacting with a lot of the kids at camp, all of whom ranged from ages 6 to 16. Having this kind of exposure also allowed me to connect various conditions (some of which I had never even heard of) to their presentation in children, which was very helpful to me. The campers this week all had some sort of past or present disorder involving either their hearts, lungs and/or kidneys, so you can only imagine the variety of illnesses that were present in this group of kids. Also, because some of these children were immunosuppressed, there were A TON of medications to sort through and distribute. Like, I literally spent 30 minutes on accurately sorting out one camper’s 15+ different medications. Can you imagine having to take 15 medications every single day of your life? Or even having to accurately distribute 15 medications to your kid at specific times throughout the day? I had many experiences like this throughout my time at camp that gave me some perspective on the lives that these kids live on a daily basis. For example, I witnessed a couple of kids get a 4+ hour session of hemodialysis while at camp. They get these types of sessions about three times a week, every week. I was also with a couple of other kids who had to get peritoneal dialysis on a daily basis as well as very frequent dressing changes on their catheter site.

I remember the many kids with sickle cell the week prior who needed to take many extra precautions such as keeping warm and staying hydrated constantly to ensure that they wouldn’t suffer from a sickle cell crisis. Yet, they will still have medical complications down the road and will need to have access to pain medications to alleviate their chronic pain while trying to avoid being unfairly categorized as “pain medication-seeking patients”. And I can’t forget those kids living with ostomy bags that needed frequent changes throughout the day, or the kids with various levels of neurological impairment that I helped care for as a camp counselor. Yet, even though all of these young people have either faced or are currently facing challenges that would potentially cripple you and I, they seemed to just treat them as an everyday thing as they had the times of their lives at camp. I was especially blown away at their stage day (talent show), where one of the teenagers performed various acrobatics such as back handsprings and backflips, and couple of other teens performed songs that they composed themselves. I was equally touched during one of our nightly “cabin chats”, where a few of the teens shared some very personal details about their lives with a small group of their peers, counselors & us medical volunteers. Witnessing all of the great memories that these kids were creating gave me great strength and further reaffirmed my decision to dedicate my career towards helping young people like them live the best lives that they possibly can.

I’m bummed that my time at camp has all come to an end. I’m really going to miss many of the aspects of it, especially the positive & laid-back atmosphere, and the connections that I made with the many kids, counselors and medical volunteers. And I can’t lie, I’m really going to miss having three free and filling meals a day. 😭 The good news is that I can always go back to work as a medical volunteer after I recieve my medical degree!

With my second rotation coming to an end, I now have my upcoming NICU experience to look forward to. I haven’t worked in the hospital ever since I finished my Emergency Medicine rotation a couple of months ago, so I’m going to have to quickly calibrate myself back to the hospital environment and to waking up at like 5 AM. 😅 I’m interested to see how this next month is going to turn out, and am so looking forward to finally taking my Step 2 Clinical Skills exam in Atlanta this Friday and getting it over with! 🙏🏿

I hope that you all have an outstanding week!

“Do you really want to look back on your life and see how wonderful it could have been had you not been afraid to live it?” – Caroline Myss

– Black Man, M.D.

Life In A Cheat Code

Yeah, yeah I know it’s Saturday. You probably weren’t expecting a post today but since I’m going back to camp tonight to start my third week there, there’s no telling when I’ll have time to type something up tomorrow. My schedule has been in a bit of disarray as of late with the SNMA conference last weekend and with camp and all, but I’ve been able to keep on top of things…for the most part. So with that said, posting today is part of me keeping on top of things and making sure that I have something to update you with.

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The end of this week marks the halfway point of my time at Victory Junction. Yeah I know, it’s like I just started right? At least that’s how I feel. I’ve been getting into the groove of camp life and I’ve been having such a good time that I sometimes forget that I’m on a rotation. I can’t lie, I feel like I’m living in a cheat code lol. Although it kind of feels like I’m on a summer vacation, I’ve been gaining a ton of perspective these past two weeks as a camp counselor. Not only have I been able to put things into perspective while interacting with the kids here, but I’ve also developed useful skills on how to effectively communicate with them. These skills have been especially useful this past week, where my cabin counselors and I were tasked with caring for seven teens with various neurological & developmental disorders. While these teens were overall a calmer bunch of campers than the little kids from the previous week, they definitely came with their own unique set of challenges. To start off, the personalities of the campers in this group were very different from one another. Like, VERY different. As a matter of fact, they were so vastly different that the campers didn’t even have any conflicts with one another. To be honest, they all seem to be in their own little worlds. Their respective conditions also varied widely on a scale from relatively mild developmental delay to extreme developmental delay. And to top it all off, a couple of them liked to wander off on their own, with one kid having the tendency to spontaneously take off in a full sprint away from the group.

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It was a pretty interesting week, to say the least. The campers were fun to be around though, and I personally had a wonderful time getting to know them while they were at camp. I had a couple of inside jokes with a few of them and one of the campers even made a special handshake with me! 😄 (He only used it for one day and then forgot about it, but that’s besides the point.) I also found out during the camp’s weekly stage day (talent show day) that one of the campers was pretty decent on the piano. That was dope to see!

This week was ultimately shortened due to the 4th of July holiday, so I’ve actually had an extra day and a half of rest outside of the camp. I was able to go to the 42nd USA vs. Japan College All-Star baseball game in Durham (didn’t know this was a thing) and viewed some fireworks with my girlfriend after that painfully low-scoring game. In addition to that, I’ve been putting in some serious work on my residency application, some work in the SNMA, and am working on updates to the blog. I also need to carve out some time to review some Step 2 Clinical Skills stuff, since I’ll be traveling to Atlanta at the end of this month to take that day-long exam and all. Speaking of, you remember that CPX I had to take back in May? You know, the same clinical exam that I was forced to remediate after my performance on the first one of my third-year back in October? You probably don’t, but that’s okay. Well, I finally got my results back and I’m happy to say that I passed it this time with flying colors!

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Turns out that the extensive remediation that I had to go through helped a lot lol. It also helped that I was much more familiar with the test setup, and I also didn’t skip whole sections in my write-ups like I accidentally did the first time. As you can imagine, this score report is a very welcome confidence boost for the Step 2 CS exam that I’ll be taking in a few weeks. While I’ll still take some time to review key concepts, I can walk into the testing center on July 27th with very minimal doubt in my abilities to think through and treat a chief complaint in a clinical setting while at the same time keeping my patient comfortable throughout the encounter.

That’s a wrap for this post! I hope that your week is a positive one! And be sure to appreciate the final games of the World Cup, because we won’t be getting this for another four years. 😭 I can’t believe it’s already coming to an end soon!

“There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed.” – Ray Goforth

– Black Man, M.D.