The Strength of Endurance

Well, this week was quite an adventure, to say the least.

In fact, it was so much of an adventure that I’m actually typing this post on a plane back to North Carolina from Minnesota. Wait, why am I on a plane? Better yet, why was I in Minnesota? Aren’t I supposed to be at camp getting ready to start the week? Lol, I’ll get to all that later on in the post. 😉

I want to start off by talking about my first full week at the Victory Junction Summer Camp. Simply put, it was both a touching and challenging experience. It was also pretty tiring, yet very fun! And I’ve been eating reeeal good here. (Shoutout to all the free meals I’ve been getting here on a daily basis.) Me and the other counselors in my cabin were assigned to care for a young group of boys aged 6-9 who were diagnosed with various blood disorders and gastrointestinal conditions. If you didn’t already know, having to look after seven little boys who like to play around at all times of the day isn’t the easiest thing to do. Them being hyperactive, hating to go to sleep, having very different personalities and testing our rules to their hearts’ desire didn’t make things any easier either. Plus let’s not forget, they have chronic medical conditions that require our attention. At the same time though, it was really fun interacting with them and engaging them in various activites across the camp! Some of the activites we did included fishing, paddle-boating, archery, playing with horses, bunnies, goats & llamas at a barn, playing in a waterpark, making arts & crafts, playing video games, watching Joey Logano speed around our camp in a racecar at what we call “NASCARnival”, and various other things. Before last week, I had never even done half of those things before! Also, the kids who were NASCAR fans flipped when they saw Joey, who just so happens to be a famous NASCAR driver. I had no idea who he was, so I looked him up and he happens to have a net worth of over $20 million. Go figure.

Although I was working as a camp counselor for the week, I made sure to observe what the medical volunteers were doing with our kids whenever they came around so that I had a better understanding what measures these kids needed to take in order to keep their lives as “normal” as they could. Although the kids were living their best lives at camp like any other kid would, their conditions still had to be managed quite frequently by the medical team as well as by us counselors. There were a lot of ostomy bag changes, IV flushes, device recalibrations, trips to the onsite clinic after any one of the kids with his respective bleeding disorder would suffer from a fall, wound or sustained nosebleed, and dressing changes. It was unreal to witness the resilience of these little warriors and how candid they were to each other when talking about how they live with their respective illnesses. Like, two kids would be having a candid conversation about how many times per day one of them would have to change his ostomy bags and how many times the other boy had to get ports placed in him due to various infections. Then a minute later they would talk about a movie or something and I would be just standing there like:

shocked eddie murphy GIF

It was amazing to see how the kids interacted with each other, especially when some of them found out that they had the same condition. It was as if they had never met someone else with their same illness, much less someone their own age. The moment that those particular kids discovered they had the same diagnosis was a precious one that I’ll never forget. Moments like that was one of the reasons why this camp was built in the first place. Alongside moments like that, there were other times where the boys would spontaneously get into altercations with one another. Having to deal with those issues weren’t as precious, as you could probably imagine. But with that said, I think that because this camp is structured the way it is, it forces the kids to learn how to get along with their peers in a non-school setting away from home. Good thing with most kids their age is that they’re good at brushing off conflicts and can get back to playing together rather quickly. Reminds me of how simple my own life used to be when I was a kid…good times, good times.

All in all, my first week at camp was a successful and unforgettable one, even though I was missing the majority of the World Cup games and felt like the world was passing me by while I lived in the camp bubble. Along with interacting with the kids, I’ve made good friends with the counselors in my cabin as well as with various summer staff workers outside of my cabin. I’m looking forward to getting back to camp and meeting our next group of campers, who will apparently have various types of neurological disorders and will be teenagers. It’s also going to be a short week due to the 4th of July taking place on Wednesday, which only gives me less than three days to establish relationships with them. That just means that I gotta make the most of my time with them!

Alright that’s all I got for today! See ya later!

Lol I’m just messing with you, you thought I forgot about the whole Minnesota thing didn’t you?

Yeah you did, don’t lie.

The reason that I traveled to Minnesota a day after leaving camp was because I had to be in attendance for the SNMA’s first National Leadership Institute of the 2018-2019 term. As a member of the Board of Directors, I’m required to attend these conferences, which take place every three months at different locations throughout the country. This conference just so happened to take place at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. I must admit, Minnesota wasn’t on my bucket list of places to travel to. However, I was very surprised at the incredible diversity of the city and was completely blown away at how enormous the Mall of America was! Like bruh, there’s a whole amusement park with rollercoasters and ferris wheels and whatnot in that mall! Not to mention the Marriott hotel and the aquarium. And don’t even get me started on the ridiculous number of stores and restaurants (*cough* Benihana’s *cough* Hard Rock Cafe *cough*).

We had a meet-and-greet on Friday night, where all the pre-meds, medical students, physicians and University of Minnesota SOM faculty mingled and chatted with one another. The majority of the conference took place on Saturday, where we had several excellent presentations concerning various topics such as working to combat the current devolution of our society, being an effective leader, the rich history of the SNMA, adequately caring for people afflicted with disabilities while addressing their concerns in an effective manner (this session was led by people who actually suffer from various disabilities, which made it even more engaging), the potential dangers of social constructs and how they can be used to oppress various populations of people, the incredible importance of social workers, the hazardous nature of making assumptions, dealing with microaggressions, the importance of health equity and advocacy (this presenter used the Black Panther movie to reinforce his message which was very effective), the power of social media and writing op-eds, the various ways in which business can affect the practice of medicine, being knowledgeable about health insurance in order to effectively advocate for the patient, and financial planning. I was also able to attend and participate in the two Board of Directors meetings that took place at the conference. Yeah yeah I know, that was a lot. But there were just so many great things that were shared with us, and I want you to get a good birds-eye view of what we talked about at the conference. I wish I could go into more detail about some of the topics that I’ve listed here, but I don’t got all day to type this already lengthy post out. Plus, I’m going to be landing soon and I want to be pretty much done with this post by the time I get to NC.

So with that said, I’m going to go ahead and end this novel here. I had a great time at the conference and was able to not only reconnect with people but also make new connections with some wonderful people. Overall, the week was quite an eventful one! I’m looking forward to seeing what this upcoming one has in store!

I hope that your week is a splendid one! And have a Happy 4th of July!

“Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.” – Bernard Williams

– Black Man, M.D.

Home Stretch!

So the time has finally come.

It’s the LAST week of my first year as a medical student.

Wow. Just wow.

It’s been a long time coming, that’s for sure. Summer break is literally less than a week away and I couldn’t be more ecstatic! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a good time this school year and have had fun learning everything I’ve learned. Spending countless hours studying the dense school material that I’ve been fortunate enough to study while getting comfortable with the city of Winston-Salem and the people that make it up has really helped me evolve from a fresh college graduate to a young and budding professional. It’s amazing what can happen in just a year. However, everyone needs a break once in a while. This summer is going to provide me that much-needed break and will also allow me to get all charged up for next year’s experiences. Plus, I’ll be afforded a change in scenery and will get the chance to meet and interact with young pre-meds that are aspiring to enter the medical field someday. What more can I ask for? It’s sad that this summer will be the last full summer break I’ll ever have…but then again, I learned last summer that I don’t really need ten full weeks of doing nothing. I honestly get very restless after sitting around for a week or two. So although it’ll feel strange knowing that I’ll never have a typical summer vacation again, I feel that I’m ready to accept this change in my life. Yeah yeah I know, I’m crazy. But do I actually have a choice as whether to accept it or not? I’m gonna have to accept it eventually…so I choose to accept the reality of the situation now rather than later. I actually will have “summer breaks” in the future, but they’ll be substantially shorter. They’ll be like a week or two long. So, yeah.

But before this summer starts, I need to power through these last two exams first. 😐

The first one is our short ethics exam tomorrow (that no one really cares about because it doesn’t make much sense to have a multiple-choice exam on a topic as broad as this…and if they’re insistent on an exam then they should just prepare us for the ethics portion of Step 1, not question us on the 100-or-so readings that were assigned to us over the past few months…this class could be designed so much better but that just my humble opinion 😊) and the second one is our cumulative Neuroscience final exam on Friday that’s sure to have almost 200 questions on it. They’re hell-bent on making us earn our summer break, I swear lol. On a brighter note, I did just take my third Neuroscience exam a couple of days ago and I think it went well overall. At the very least, I felt that I got many more questions right than wrong. There were 108 questions and they dealt mainly with psychiatric conditions as well as with the drugs used to treat them. Relatively speaking, I felt more comfortable going into this exam than I did for the first two Neuroscience exams because the material was easier to digest and it felt much more practical to everyday life. I could also relate some of the drugs we learned about in this section to pop culture. For example, “Poppin’ a Xan” = Taking a Xanax, which is the brand name for Alprazolam, a benzodiazepine used for anxiety reduction and relaxation. So next time you listen to “Xanny Family” or just about any other Future song out there, you can smirk to yourself and feel good about knowing that a Xanax is a benzodiazepine. Future probably can’t even spell benzodiazepine. (By the way, mixing Xanax and alcohol is NOT A GOOD IDEA. Don’t let these rappers outchea fool you.) Another fun fact: Purple drank/Dirty Sprite is a mix of promethazine & codeine, which is an antihistamine and a weak opiate, respectively. You probably already knew that this concoction is cough syrup and that people that drink this for fun end up ingesting much higher amounts than what’s recommended. Drinking this chronically (like Lil’ Wayne does) can lead to a physical dependence on it and can cause withdrawal effects when you try to quit. Also, mixing alcohol and dirty sprite is NEVER A GOOD IDEA either. Moral of the story: Just say no to drugs kiddos.

Being able to relate the drugs that I was learning about this section to everyday life has definitely made learning them more bearable. Also, SketchyMedical is the truth. That program really helped me in organizing all the drugs and in remembering their names. Thank God for SketchyMedical. All in all, I’m ready to wrap up the Neuroscience block and to start playing around with all the free time that’s waiting for me after Friday’s test. Speaking of, I actually have to start packing for the summer…*siiiigh*. I really hate packing.

Before I wrap this up and go about my day, let me just tell you about this SNMA banquet that’s about to happen later on tonight. It was designed to celebrate the achievements of the 4th years that were involved in the Student National Medical Association during their time here at Wake. I’m especially excited about it because I was one of the banquet chairs that was responsible in making this event happen 😁. Both me and my partner-in-crime (the other banquet chair) have been working with Student Affairs in getting the banquet organized by helping with the program booklets, serving as liaisons between the Student Affairs office & the students, helping with food choices, acquiring the gifts for the graduating 4th years, etc. I can’t wait to see the end result of all our work tonight! Hopefully the 4th years love their gifts! Plus we’ve invited Dr. William T. Grimes, M.D. to serve as the banquet speaker. He was the first African-American graduate of this medical school, graduating back in 1972. I’ll personally be looking forward to hearing what he has to say. Can’t believe the banquet is actually happening tonight…it has always felt like one of those things that was in the distant future. But here we are!

Okay I’m done. Hope your week is an impressive one!

Being positive doesn’t mean you don’t ever have negative thoughts. It just means you don’t let those thoughts control your life.

– Black Man, M.D.