City Boy in a Country World

Hey.

Guess what?

IT’S SPRING BREAK BYYOTCHHH!!!

And it couldn’t have come at a better time. Okay it actually maybe would have been a bit better if it came a week later, which means it would have then lined up with the spring break of most universities that I know of…but no complaints here. I’ll take what I can get. This week I’m only focused on relaxing, having an unforgettable time down here in Miami, and recharging for the final block of my first year, which starts next week. 😳 I’m honestly feeling a mix of both excitement and astonishment at the same time at the fact that after this next block, it will be summer…meaning that I will officially be a 2nd year medical student. Wow. They say time flies by in medical school….well they weren’t lying. Better yet, it damn near flashes by. I’ve learned so much and although it feels like anatomy was a lifetime ago, it also feels as if I graduated from college last week. I actually still feel like a college kid at times that just happened to make it to the next level by the grace of God. I’ve already accepted that it will take a good while for me to fully mature into more of an adult mentality, so I’m content with happily living out my days as a youngin’.

Now about my Community Practice Experience last week. Lenoir, Lenoir, Lenoir. I’m not even sure where to start. It was definitely an unforgettable experience, to say the least. The clinical exposure I received at the pediatrics clinic was amazing, and I’ll be happy to go back for my second and final week later in October. The nursing staff was fabulous, the doctors were very willing to teach students and the patients were suprisingly overwhelmingly willing to allow me to interview them as well as physically examine them. As for the actual town of Lenoir…..let’s just say that it makes Winston-Salem look like a metropolis. I swear I saw black cows roaming around the front lawn of a house at one point while driving to the clinic. No offense to anyone that loves the countryside but in my opinion, the town looked kind of depressing… and the fact that it rained all throughout my first two days there didn’t help much at all. The rain also showed me the epic driving skills of Lenoir residents. Someone hydroplaned and rear-ended into my rental car at one point, and on another occasion somebody in front of me was really begging to get T-boned by another car. Jeez. (It was a minor dent in my car and I got everything taken care of in regards to insurance. Thank God for Trip Protection. 😊) I also just want to add that one of the officers that helped to take care of the rear-end collision assumed that I was a ball player from Wake. Typical. I politely corrected him and told him that I was actually a medical student that was on a week-long clinical rotation in Lenoir, which really surprised and impressed him. I love the responses I get whenever I completely flip a stereotype on someone. In Lenoir, a highway literally cuts through the town and the roads are typically full of trucks. (I absolutely HATE driving anywhere near trucks.) The town also went nighty-night around 9 PM at the latest and from what I experienced first-hand, there was an amazingly low amount of diversity. As a matter of fact, my classmates/roommates that were placed in Lenoir with me and I walked into a brewery at one point to get some 50-cent wings and to taste some of the local beer there. My group consisted of two Asian guys, an Indian guy, and two black Africans, including me. We literally WERE the diverse element in the brewery that had about 50 people in it at the time. I’m not kidding. Everyone else was white. We got a few stares as we walked in. 😐 It was kind of strange to me because I’ve always been in diverse environments, so being in an environment like that made me slightly uncomfortable. I won’t lie though, those wings were definitely bomb as hell. Plus the waitress served us with some good ol’ southern hospitality, so I had no complaints about that dinner. Also my classmates and I ended up having an interesting convo about race and how people decide to classify themselves/how society pressures all of us to check boxes of race in order to categorize all of us accordingly. It definitely proved to be an interesting conversation. Alas, I can’t talk about the finger-lickin’ wings without talking about the barbeque restaurant we went to a couple days later. My dinner there consisted of pulled pork with barbeque and specially made hot sauce, baked apples, mac & cheese and a roll. It was simply AMAZING. Plus the staff was the definition of southern hospitality. We will definitely be hitting that spot again in October.

In regards to my actual experience in the pediatrics clinic, I’ve really surprised myself on how comfortable I’ve become in obtaining an accurate history. I still tend to miss small things here and there, but I’ve also noticed how often patients conveniently tend to leave out vital information in an interview even after I specifically ask them for it. 😒 By the end of the week, I was literally interviewing every patient that came to the clinic to see my 2nd preceptor. Talk about practice. Backing up to the first couple days of my clinical experience, I quickly saw both the value of the clinic to the community and the closeness of the community as a whole. So many patients came in on a regular basis to maintain their health and the vast majority of them had some kind of relationship with both my first and second preceptors. I thought that it was pretty cool to witness how much the people in the community depended on the expertise of the doctors in the clinic and how vulnerable they were willing to be in order to maintain their quality of life. However, I’m not a doctor, nor do I look like one. So when I started interviewing patients on my first day, I made sure to wipe off the look of surprise on their faces by reassuring them that I wasn’t posing as a doctor or anything and that I was simply there to practice my interviewing skills with them. After that whole spiel, they tended to be more relaxed with me in the room. I also quickly realized how different it was to interview the guardian of a patient that couldn’t talk, like a baby. I had to shift my questions around a bit because I couldn’t ask the patient directly about how he/she felt. That was definitely a new and vital experience for me. My 1st preceptor made sure to ingrain in me that whenever I interview a patient, I should not be merely checking off a checklist. I should be able to walk out of the room understanding who the patient is and how he/she is suffering from their reduced quality of life. He also allowed for me to perform simple physical exam maneuvers on his patients, like the HEENT exam (Head, Eyes, Ears, Neck & Throat) and the respiratory exam. Note to self: Babies HATE having their ears looked into. To add to my unique experience, I saw circumcisions performed for the first time in my life while I was there. That…was….unexpected. My preceptor didn’t even warn me man. He just took the baby into a room with his mother and by the time I realized what was about to happen, it was far too late to brace myself. It looked hella painful. Poor kid.

My 1st preceptor was a pretty cool guy from Canada who bought me lunch and answered my many questions about medicine and the difference between the Canadian and the American healthcare systems. But he had to leave midway through my experience so I got paired up with another preceptor for my last couple of days who had a more grandmotherly approach to interacting with patients. She was very nice and willing to work with me, but she also did not hesitate to work me. She had me interviewing all of her patients and reporting to her their history before we would both walk in and see the patient again. I probably took a medical history of close to 25 patients in those last two days alone. Being exposed to these children so much also meant being exposed to various illnesses. 😰 I was constantly praying that I wouldn’t catch something from any of these kids who came in with illnesses ranging from a common cold to strep throat. Best believe, I was using hand sanitizer religiously and drinking massive amounts of orange juice. I’d be damned if I caught strep as soon as spring break started. There was one occasion where I was interviewing a little black girl and her mother about a condition the girl had. The girl really seemed to like me and was shy, but was also smiling and chirping answers to my questions whenever she wanted to. She was pretty fun to interact with. After that interview, my 2nd preceptor told me that I was a valuable asset to the clinic because she constantly sees little black children come into the clinic who neither have a positive male role model to look up to that looks like them nor has even been exposed to one. I wasn’t really expecting that statement from her at that moment, but it really moved me. Looking back on it, there’s a good chance that this little girl had never seen a black man in a doctor-like role before, and that maybe because of this brief exposure she was able to perhaps subconsciously attribute that she too could grow up to be in a similar role of success. I’m probably stretching it a bit, but it’s real awesome to ponder on.

All in all, I realized how chill the pediatric clinic lifestyle was. It was very low-stress and fun to work in. But just because it was chill didn’t mean that it wasn’t busy. It sure was busy most of the time. And the days were remarkably long. I would be in the office from around 8 AM to around 5:30 PM. That was a struggle to adjust to at first, but I adjusted a bit better as the week went on. Also, I haven’t heard so many babies cry in such a short span of time ever since those communal Cameroonian meetings I used to go to as a kid with my family. Bruh, I heard children screaming in my head as I lay my head to sleep at night on two separate occasions. That’s not normal.

I definitely had a very interesting week in Lenoir. But I was happy to leave in order to start my spring break, and I wasted no time in coming down to Florida to spend it. So with that said, please have a remarkable week!!

The greatest mistake in life is being afraid to make one.

– Black Man, M.D.

Growth, Control & Breaking Stereotypes.

February is already looking like its going to fly by very quick. But then again, when has time not flown by since I started medical school back in late July? It’s damn near impossible to fathom how fast I’m approaching my second year of medical school…almost nerve-wracking. I don’t feel that much different from when I graduated college back in May, but at the same time I’ve been exposed to an entirely new mentality as well as a raging waterfall of information that persistently tries to drown me on a constant basis. But truth be told, I’ve so far been faring a lot better than I had imagined I would be. Back before I even got accepted into a medical school I had imagined that whenever I started studying medicine, my life as I knew it would be over. I thought that I would be endlessly memorizing facts and studying during most of my waking hours while hopelessly watching my social life fade away from me like Michael Jackson moonwalking into a misty graveyard. I also believed that no matter how hard I tried, I would fall short of the grades that I managed to obtain while in undergrad. The thought of attempting to take on extracurricular activities, much less leadership positions while in medical school was a joke to me and I believed that although I would enjoy what I was learning, I would be silently miserable at the same time.

Well, that’s how you tend to imagine med school after asking the majority of the people you know about what means to be there. I’m happy to say that I was wrong. Okay, sort-of wrong. I sure as hell am studying during most of my waking hours and endlessly memorizing facts, but so are all of my peers. So it doesn’t really feel like I’m missing out on anything. Plus I’m in Winston-Salem. So I know for sure I’m not missing out on anything spectacular. The social life I knew changed as soon as I left Miami, but it never faded away…it simply transformed. I definitely have had a great time with the friends I’ve made here and am far from miserable. I’ve even been able to participate in different extracurricular activities such as service learning opportunities and SNMA. As for obtaining the grades that I had back in undergrad…..yeah I’m falling shorter than a muhhh. I’ve had like one or two tests where I’ve reached the grades that I was used to making back then, but other than that, it’s been an uphill struggle trying to achieve high grades. But I haven’t been doing bad either so that’s okay. The Pass/Fail grading system truly is a beauty. I guess what I’m trying to say is, just like with anything in life, medical school is what you make it. If you want it to be a miserable experience, it definitely will grant your wish. If you want to have an awesome experience while studying medicine, you can definitely make it happen. It’s your decision. I chose the latter. I won’t lie though, the city I’m in has also made it undoubtedly easier to stay focused on school. 😅

Looking back on my CPX (Clinical Practice Assesment Exam) I told you about last week, I ended up doing fairly well. My ever-expanding interview skills didn’t fail me, and I actually took a correct blood pressure reading on my own for the first time! Hella embarrassing I know, but up until that point I had been faking my way through that portion since we don’t have to report vital signs at this stage in our careers…we just have to go through the motions. But I actually heard the thump, thump of the pulse in the brachial artery that I’m supposed to hear and got a decent systolic/diastolic blood pressure for the first time. That was probably the most exciting part of my exam haha. I also performed the physical exam maneuvers decent enough, so I ended up passing. I forgot that I was supposed to use a drape for my standardized patient though…..I had seen it, but I just threw it aside. 😂 Still passed thooo!!!

I also met and interviewed a patient that was suffering from ulcerative colitis last week during my clinical skills rotation. Needless to say, this patient was in pretty severe pain. I almost felt bad asking him about his pain, but he was pretty engaged in our conversation and happy to help me practice my interviewing skills on him. Seeing how far those skills have come from when I first started amazes me. There was a point where I didn’t even know how to properly ask a patient to describe their pain. Now obtaining an HPI has almost become second nature to me, although I have to now start learning how to obtain it in a quicker and more efficient manner. My clinical skills coach also had me and my small group present our patients to her (which I absolutely suck at) and develop a write-up of our patients in order to critique us (which she is absolutely stunning at). Good thing I won’t have to truly utilize these skills until my third year, but it’s real nice that we get this early clinical exposure so that we are comfortable with doing all that when it comes time to put these skills to good use. Right after my clinical skills class, there was an event where a few members of the Wake Forest School of Medicine faculty talked about times where they felt like they failed and how they bounced back from those failures in order to become better and stronger people. I just thought that it was an amazing event and I felt like the lessons that these faculty learned through their struggles are lessons that could benefit not only us as medical students, but you, the reader, as well. These lessons included:

  • Recognizing that you are in control of building your life the way you want to after hitting rock bottom
  • Seizing the moment and doing something nice for yourself each day
  • Not letting your grades nor comments, criticisms or negativity from other people define who you are
  • Communicating your needs while setting standards for yourself that is consistent with your values

 

Okay I know I’m talking a lot, but I just thought about an encounter I had with my barber a little over a week ago that I forgot to put in last week’s entry. This is my last story for today, I swear lol. I was at the barber shop getting a line-up for Wake’s medical school prom a couple of Fridays ago and I had my Wake Forest School of Medicine hoodie on. When it was my turn to get my line-up, the barber introduced himself and everything and we had a light convo as he was getting all his supplies ready. Then as he began lining me up, he asked me, “You play ball for Wake Forest?”

I guess he didn’t get the ‘School of Medicine’ memo on my hoodie. I was like, “Nah, I’m a first-year medical student at the Wake Forest School of Medicine.”

He abruptly picked up his razor off of my head, looked at me and was like, “Oh word? For real? That’s what’s up man. You must get that question a lot huh?”

I laughed and replied, “Yeah man, more times than I can remember. I may look like a ball player but funny thing is, I’m trash at basketball. So I just stuck to what I knew best, which was the books. I really just want to help break the stereotype that has been cast on us as young, black men.”

He laughed, himself an older black man, and said, “Well that’s great man, I’m happy for you.” As he started to return to his task, he went on, “You know, the media really does try and stick us all in a box. They expect us to be rappers, basketball players, football players, you name it. The news also covers all the bad things that black people do but does little to highlight our accomplishments. Like for example, the news will never tell you who the second richest black person in America is (Robert F. Smith) because he isn’t an athlete or an entertainer. He’s a business man. You’re doing a great thing man, don’t let up. Young black men are always trying to find the fastest way to becoming rich, which is why we fall in the stereotype trap, but the road you’re taking is definitely worth it in the end. You just gotta do your thing and own your own practice and show other young black men that they’re capable of what you’re doing.”

I wasn’t expecting a TED Talk from my barber, but I deeply appreciated what he had told me. All I could say was, “Thanks man, I really appreciate that. That’s a big reason why I’m doing what I’m doing.”

He then said it was no problem and went on to talk about how diabetes and glaucoma had affected his family as a whole and why he decided to change the way he ate and lived so that he wouldn’t suffer the same consequences that some of his loved ones did. It ended up being one of my more memorable barber experiences and needless to say, I ended up tipping him a good amount after the cut. I think I’ve finally found my new favorite barber in Winston-Salem.

Alright that was a lot. But the more I typed, the more I realized how much more I wanted to say. I hope you enjoyed this post and that you perhaps took something out of it. As for today’s positive memo:

You may not always have control of your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them. Don’t let your circumstances control you.

Enjoy Super Bowl Sunday!!!

 

– Black Man, M.D.