Stepping To The Finish Line

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

Red Dress Look Up GIF by truTV

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.

Tv Land Lol GIF by #Impastor

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! 🙏🏿

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.

Christel Wekon-Kemeni, (3/4) M.D.

My third year of medical school is officially over!

So you aaallllrrrready know what time it is!!!

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It’s so exciting to be able to finally go into fourth-year and to focus on rotating in the electives that I’ve picked for myself. Ever since my first year, I’ve heard how wonderful fourth-year is and how much fun I’ll end up having, especially after trekking through the organized chaos that is interview season. Also, I’ve been looking at all the brand new medical doctors who just graduated from medical school this weekend and it’s awesome to know that I’ll be in that very position in just a short year! Well, awesome and quite nerve-wracking. Like I know that I know a lot, but do I know enough to be a full-fledged doctor? Only time will tell lol. I have confidence that I’ve been prepared well to this point in my education, and fourth-year will only allow me to further sharpen my skills in preparation for intern year.

There’s a lot to look forward to now that I’ve finished my core clinical rotations! At the same time though, there’s a lot of work to do with Step 2 CK and CS coming up, residency applications awaiting me, interview season on the horizon and in my fourth-year electives where I’ll still be working hard even though I don’t have a test to prepare for in most of them. And I can’t forget about fulfilling my role as an SNMA National Officer throughout the coming year. Yeah, it’s going to be busy but if I take things one day at a time, I know that these tasks will be accomplished for sure!

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As I look towards a future full of promise and blessings, I would like to take a moment to reflect on this past year of growth and maturation. When I sit here and think about all that I’ve been able to witness and participate in while on my clinical rotations, I’m left feeling absolutely amazed. The connections I made with my patients throughout the year were priceless. I’ll never forget the various deep conversations and clinical experiences I had with one of them who ended up being diagnosed with a terminal condition. We had become so well-acquainted with one another that he trusted me, and even encouraged me, to place a nasogastric tube into him, which is not a pleasant experience at all.

It’s hard to forget the sight of the amputated patient being treated for heart failure looking out of her window, lost in deep thought. I always wondered where her mind was in those moments. Then there was the pleasant elderly woman (she looked about 30 years younger then her age) who always had a bright smile on her face whenever I walked into her room. The time where I de-escalated a situation between a family and the healthcare providers after pinpointing a misunderstanding and providing clarification to the family. Trying to convince a young man to quit using cocaine in order to reduce his risk of death from a heart condition he was born with. The patient with a chronic illness in his kidneys who enjoyed my company so much that he wanted to get my number so that we could grab a beer after he got out of the hospital. (Of course I had to decline the offer, but I did tell him that I appreciated his kindness).

Witnessing the birth of four children on my 24th birthday. Not getting the chance to deliver a live baby, but participating in various ways in the births of a number of children. Delivering five placentas. Coaching mothers through childbirth. Staring into the eyes of an infant who was crying in pain but not making a sound due to her tracheal tube and her medical condition that affected the muscles throughout her body. The hope and life in the demeanor of another child that I ended up spending a considerable amount of time with who was suffering from renal failure. A family’s despair as we informed them that their kid was being diagnosed with cancer.

Shocking the brains of patients with electroconvulsive therapy. Getting screamed at by a psychiatric patient five minutes before having a delightful conversation with her. Treating suicidal and schizophrenic patients as well as patients with various personality disorders. That patient who suffered from a devastating stroke that equally devastated her daughters. The very pleasant patient who presented with the re-occurrence of a rare neurological condition that my team and I decided to write a case report about. All of those patients that my surgical oncology team and I saw in the clinic. Helping perform a Whipple procedure in a patient with pancreatic cancer. Maneuvering the camera being used by the surgeons to perform a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Getting the opportunity to operate one-on-one with a fellow on a patient with metastatic cancer.

Becoming proficient at using the slit-lamp, the retinoscope and the direct ophthalmoscope during my Ophthalmology rotation. Treating the endless number of patients in the Ophthalmology clinic. Witnessing LASIK eye surgery for the very first time. Making my massive career switch from Ophthalmology to Pediatrics. Putting patients to sleep in the Operating Room. Watching a patient undergo open heart surgery while I learned about pharmacology from an Anesthesia resident. Learning how to intubate and bag-valve-mask patients. Enjoying the calm and collaborative atmosphere in the Family Medicine clinic. Flying to California for the first time in my life. Talking about my blog at a Narrative Medicine conference. Practicing my Phlebotomy skills in the clinic.

Watching a patient die in front of me right before being shocked back to life in a dramatic fashion by his implantable defribillator. Helping restrain another panicked and angry patient who suffered a gunshot wound to his face. Reassuring the concerned parents of children in the Emergency Room and letting them know that their children will be alright even though they may look sick. Witnessing firsthand the drastic consequences that come with severe dehydration. Learning how to manage trauma cases via simulations and real-life scenarios in the ED. Treating massive burns, heart attacks, septic shock and seizures. Becoming great friends with my rotation group. Giving various presentations during my rotations. Fully engaging myself in my educational activities.

The list goes on and on…..and on and on and on. These reflections are just the things that came to my mind at the moment. There are so many experiences this past year that I could write about; so many that I could literally write a book. There will be many more experiences to engage in, and I’m very much so looking forward to them! I’m so honored to have been blessed to engage in these educational and priceless experiences at such a young age. It’s wild to think that these life-altering experiences for people have become an everyday thing for me. Talk about perspective.

Well if you have made it this far into the post, I would like to thank you for taking the trip down memory lane with me! You are much appreciated! With third-year now behind me, I’m officially 75% done with medical school. That a substantial amount of schooling complete man! I have to get through some procedural testing this week as well as a clinical skills exam (CPX), and Advanced Cardiac Life Support training. Then after all of this, I’ll be free to study for my Step 2 Clinical Knowledge exam, which I’m taking on Friday, June 15th. 😅😐🙃 It’s about to be another busy month, but I’m ready to head through it with full force! I just pray that everyone was right when they said that Step 2 isn’t as treacherous as Step 1. 🙏🏿

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Be sure to have a superb week! Congratulations to all of you who are graduating from your respective programs this month! And Happy Mothers’ Day to all of you amazing, loving and spectacular mothers out there!

“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.” – Sigmund Freud

– Black Man, M.D.

Rude Awakening

You know, it’s hilarious just how pumped and bright-eyed I ALWAYS seem to be right after a break from school, only to be brutally reminded about what’s really good when I get slammed with work to do as soon as my first week back starts. And I’m not even necessarily talking about the work I do in the hospital; yeah it was a very busy week and I was taking care of multiple patients with various neurologic conditions, but I’m used to all that. I’m more so talking about all the extraneous tasks I told myself that I had to complete within a certain time frame, getting my fourth-year schedule in order, having to study for the Shelf exam that I’m taking this Friday (I swear that test crept up on me SO fast), and finding the time (and energy) to do all of those things in the couple hours of free time I have each day after a 11+ hour shift at the hospital. Oh, and how can I forget about the oh-so-pleasant feeling of being SNATCHED out of sleep at 4:45 AM each morning? I was up and running on Monday morning with a pep in my step, but it only took until Tuesday morning for me to remember why waking up so early sucked so much. All I could do that morning was groan, lay there in bed for a couple of minutes, chuckle randomly, roll my eyes, take a deep breath and throw myself out of bed to start another day in my General Neurology inpatient week.

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The actual experience on the inpatient service was pretty dope, especially since everyone on my team were such great people! From the interns all the way up to the attendings, everyone was just so nice. There were plenty of good vibes to go around and I learned quite a bit through their fantastic teaching. We as a team also rounded on an interesting array of patients, some of which had rare enough conditions deserving of a case report. In addition, I was able to sit in on a family meeting with my team and further appreciate the humanity of this side of medicine. The time just seemed to fly by while in the hospital, especially in the mornings when we pre-rounded and rounded on patients before going off to lunch. My afternoons consisted of additional patient care, meetings and required lectures on multiple topics in neurology. I would leave around 5 PM each day and try to summon the strength to study and complete little tasks before eating dinner and crashing onto my bed…only to be abducted from my dreams again the next morning. Although the days were filled with long hours, the week seemed to fly by pretty quick overall!

Earlier, I mentioned having to get my fourth-year schedule in order. You may be like, “Wow, you’re scheduling your fourth-year already? Why? It’s only January!” Well yeah I agree, it is quite early. But then again, it’s not that early because if I’ve learned anything in med school, it’s that time literally flashes before your eyes on a constant basis. So with that said, some members of the current fourth-year class went out of their way to give us a presentation regarding fourth-year scheduling. God bless their hearts. Turns out that there is SO much that I have to figure out between now and the start of my final year of medical school in late May. This includes figuring out if I want to do away rotations or not, deciding which acting internships and ICU rotation I want to complete, what electives I want to take, what to do with my “flex” blocks, where I want to apply for residency, when I want to take both parts of Step 2 (I literally just registered this exam a couple days ago…here we go AGAIN 😒), who to ask for letters of recommendations, yadda, yadda, yadda. Decisions, decisions. And I gotta really start figuring this out sooner rather than later.

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Quite a bit of pressure, don’t you think? Luckily, I have a good amount of people to talk to, including an assigned career advising counselor, who can help me figure all of this out. And I’m most definitely going to be hitting them up, believe that.

Remember that meeting that I had to set up for my “Less Than Satisfactory” performance on the rapid-style CPX that I told you about back in my Stroke of Misfortune post? Well I finally had it a few days ago with the clinical skills course director and we talked about how I did and what I could do to improve my performance for the next CPX in May. The main thing that I need to work on is quickly coming up with an accurate assessment and plan while writing up the patient note in less than ten minutes. So with that said, I’ll be specifically focusing on that skill between now and May, because I’ll be damned if I can’t move onto fourth year due to another “Less Than Satisfactory” performance with some standardized patients. Also, I plan to ace the Step 2 Clinical Skills portion. Sooo yeah, I got some work to do in order to transform this temporary setback into a major comeback!

On that note, I’m gonna go ahead and sign off for today! Have a fantastic week and be sure to take some time to reflect on what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the rest of the civil rights activists sacrificed in order to make our lives and this country a better place! And wish me luck on this Neurology shelf exam! 😄

“If you can’t fly, then run: if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl; but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

– Black Man, M.D.

Time Stops For No One

Welp, here we are again. The beginning of yet another rotation.

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I start my Neurology rotation tomorrow and judging by the email I received over the weekend regarding scheduling and the expectations of this new rotation, it’s going to be a really busy four weeks. Well, technically I’ll be in this clerkship for six weeks thanks to our two-week long Winter Break. So in all honesty, this rotation is going to be very manageable and I’ll have ample study time to dedicate to the upcoming shelf exam. However, in an interesting turn of events, the shelf exam isn’t worth as much in this rotation (only 10% of grade) as it usually is in the other ones (usually about 20-25%). Instead, there is apparently a quiz or set of quizzes based on lectures that will be given to us during the rotation that is worth 30% of our overall grade. Yeah you read that right.  THIRTY PERCENT!!! Why this is the case, I haven’t a clue. Kind of reminds me of the first couple of years of med school, with the lectures and tests and all. I guess I’ll have a better sense of what this strange curriculum is all about during Orientation tomorrow. I’m also going to be going back to a 6 AM starting time starting on Tuesday for the inpatient service this week…I literally haven’t started a shift at 6 AM since the beginning of October during my first week in Pediatrics. That’s going to be fun.

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But then I work in the outpatient setting next week, where I’ll be starting around 8 AM! And then I’ll go back to a 6 AM start time the week after break and then alternate yet again to an outpatient setting the final week of the rotation. So as you can see, there’s going to be quite a bit of hustle and bustle in these upcoming weeks. Hopefully I don’t show up in the wrong place at the wrong time at any point during the rotation! I’ve definitely done that before in the past, and it wasn’t a fun experience. 😅😂

The Psychiatry shelf exam I took this past Friday to finish up my Psych rotation wasn’t too bad of an exam overall, although it was a bit more challenging than I was expecting. Actually, let me rephrase that. There were some tough questions asked that seemed to have come from nowhere. Tough as in I would not have ever known to review that specific material, because it was random as hell. But for the vast majority of the test, I did feel adequately prepared and I ended up having a very generous amount of time leftover to review the few questions that gave me trouble. As for the week leading up to exam day, I spent it observing psychiatric interviews in the outpatient setting in the mornings and helping out in the Emergency Department in the afternoons/evenings. Both of those settings made way for some valuable learning experiences, and I was reminded about the fact that you just never know what people around you are going through on an everyday basis.

During one of the afternoons last week, my whole class had to attend a mandatory meeting in order to discuss what scheduling for fourth-year rotations, residency interviews and Step 2 is going to look like.

Wait a minute. Hollll’ up.

FOURTH year?!? Step TWO???

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Like, how?? I’ve just recently gotten the hang of the third-year lifestyle; ain’t no way in hell I’m ready for residency applications yet! And Step 1 may have been like eight months, but that doesn’t mean that I’m all gung-ho about taking another one of them marathon exams! I don’t even know when I should take Step 2 yet, but the time is already ticking to register for both the Clinical Knowledge and the Clinical Skills parts! 😰Thankfully, the true purpose of the meeting was to just make us aware about the timeline of events that will be taking place soon and was not intended to make us nervous or anything. Regardless, I am now acutely aware that time is starting to move a bit too fast for my liking…

Speaking of time moving fast, I’m going to go ahead and wrap up this post because I need to eat dinner and enjoy the rest of my night before diving headfirst into my next rotation. One quick sidenote before I finish though. Believe it or not, I saw the Nutcracker for the first time this past weekend! To be honest, I only went because my girlfriend wanted to see it, so I got us tickets as an early birthday present for her. I literally didn’t know it was a ballet until I was on the site about to purchase the tickets lol. The show definitely exceeded my expectations, and I didn’t realize how many Christmas anthems came from this one production! I was really impressed at the choreography of the dancers, and at just how well they synced with the music of the orchestra throughout the whole show. I didn’t think that I would ever appreciate a ballet as much as I did last night, but that’s exactly what happened. We then got some hot chocolate at a nearby bakery and “enjoyed” the winter wonderland that we were left with after this weekend’s snowfall.

Be sure to have a ravishing week! And get yourself ready for the holiday season! 😄😄😄

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

– Black Man, M.D.