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.

Revvin’ Up The Momentum

And just like that, my Surgery rotation has come to an end! This marks the completion of my sixth rotation of third year, giving me only two more four-week rotations to engage in before I start my fourth year!

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I’m definitely starting to feel the end-of-the-year momentum! Also, with Match Day having occurred just this past Friday (shoutout to all the soon-to-be doctors across the nation!!), it’s starting to really hit me that at this point next year, I’m going to find out where I’ll be spending the next few years of my life! Having now attended the Match Day ceremony here three different times, I’m really looking forward to finally having my moment of truth on Match Day 2019. It’s so wild and so exciting at the same time!

Now to quickly recap on my last week of Surgery. I spent the majority of the week in the O.R. with various Anesthesia residents and attendings. While with them, I was afforded the opportunity to assist the staff in Neurosurgery, Interventional Radiology and Cardiothoracic operations. I also learned a lot of good information from them while we monitored the operations and saw some incredible procedures that I would have otherwise never been able to witness in person. When I wasn’t in the O.R. working with the Anesthesiologists, you could find me actively preparing for the Shelf exam while trying to get my life together. The exam itself started off tougher than I had expected, but then after about 20 questions or so I found myself finally getting into the groove of the exam and it became easier to answer the barrage of questions that were thrown at me. I hate it when the first questions end up being some of the hardest ones…it can really throw off your confidence and slow you down drastically. Thankfully, I ended up being able to power through it with adequate time left at the end to review my unsure answers! Overall, I think the exam went okay and I don’t have any regrets about my preparation for it, even though there were some questions on the test (WHAT A SURPRISE) that I would not have been ready for no matter how much I had studied…but I digress.

As always, I’m looking forward to being able to start off a new rotation! This rotation will be Family Medicine, which is going to be primarily an outpatient experience, meaning that I’ll miraculously won’t be in the hospital for a month. That’s pretty wild to me, considering the fact that I practically live there lol. I’ve heard so many great things about this rotation, which has only amplified my excitement about finally starting my experience! Another thing that I’m really hyped about is next week’s trip to San Fran for the SNMA’s Annual Medical Education Conference! I’ve been looking forward to this ever since I was told where this year’s conference would be taking place, which was almost a whole year ago. There are so many sessions that I want to attend, so many people I want to either meet or reconnect with, several activities that I want to lend a helping hand to, and if I have the time (probably won’t, let’s be honest), so many places that I want to visit in the city! With the hotel rooms having sold out over a month ago, I already know that it’s going to be a ton of fun! Plus, the networking opportunities will be unreal! Stay tuned for that post; it’s probably gonna be extra lol.

That’s it from me today. Be sure to have a fantastic week! And R.I.P. to all of our brackets. March Madness this year has truly been maddening. By far the worst I’ve ever done with my brackets. But I can’t even be mad because the games have been thrilling, to say the absolute least!

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

– Black Man, M.D.

Time Is Of The Essence

Well, just like every other year, Daylight Savings got me all messed up this morning. It never seems to fail; I always know it’s coming up and I try to prepare myself for it but once the day finally arrives, I usually find myself mentally discombobulated as I begin to process the fact that I’ve lost a crucial hour of my day. Although I’ll be alright and will adjust accordingly, that hour would have been real nice as I continue to prepare for my Surgery shelf exam this Friday. But at least there will be more daylight throughout the day, which pretty much means to me that Spring is coming very, very soon! I’ve been over winter since like New Years lol.

Because my shelf exam is this Friday and I’ve already lost an hour of productivity, I’m not going to make this entry a long one. But then again as you know, I can sometimes get carried away in my thoughts…so we’ll see how this post pans out.

Throughout this rotation, I’ve had to do much more self-teaching than I usually do (that’s really saying a lot) due to the fact that I didn’t get the opportunity to rotate through a lot of the other services that Surgery has to offer (I only rotated through Surgical Oncology, Ophthalmology and Anesthesia). That’s just how the scheduling worked; it would be almost impossible to fit in the many sub-specialties of this specialty in an eight-week period, much less have a meaningful experience while trying to do so. We did have student conferences where each student gave a presentation on a topic, which was helpful in gaining a comprehensive understanding of the Surgery specialty. Even with the fact that I relied heavily on self-directed learning throughout these past seven weeks, I actually feel like I’m in a good place with my studies right now. There will be very little, if any, ophthalmology or anesthesia on the exam (you literally spent the last four weeks on these services…way to go Christel) but on the flip side I was allowed more time to study the material that I’ll actually see on the exam, thanks to the forgiving hours of these services. So by taking full advantage of that, I’ve been able to stick to the study schedule that I had prepared for myself. That being said though, I still need this final week to finish up my studying because I’m definitely not 100% ready for the test yet. 😅

I just finished up my first week of Anesthesiology, and it has turned out to be a pretty great experience so far. I’ve been able to learn some really cool things about this field of medicine, and have been able to engage in some exciting procedures. On my very first day of this service, I bag-valve-masked nine patients in one morning! Don’t worry, they weren’t dying or anything…they were getting Electroconvulsive Therapy, which are very quick 20-minute procedures. I felt like I had become a pro at bag-valve-masking by the end of the morning. Throughout the week, I got the opportunity to watch and learn how anesthesiologists administer medications in the operating room, watch the placement of a central venous catheter, watch multiple nerve blocks, assist in placing a brachial nerve block, watch multiple tonsillectomies, interview patients as they came to clinic for their pre-operative workup, attend informative student lectures, and attempt to place a peripheral IV catheter in a patient. In addition, I also learned how to find my own brachial plexus via ultrasound and practiced my intubation skills in a simulation lab!

And to top it all off, just about every anesthesiologist I’ve worked with so far has been fun to be around! I’m glad to have been given the opportunity to rotate through this specialty, and even though I most likely won’t be tested on anything I learned this past week or will learn this upcoming week, I do realize the importance of understanding this material. Plus, when else am I going to be able to do some of these cool procedures? Okay okay I admit, I’ll be able to do some more of them during the Anesthesiology Acting Internship I signed up to participate in during my fourth year.

Speaking of fourth year, as of last night I’ve actually officially scheduled all of my blocks for it!

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That being said though, my current schedule is far from being set in stone because we’re actually allowed to change it up as we go through the year. Pretty crazy huh? There’s a good chance that I’ll be making some big changes to some parts of my schedule, especially if I end up being blessed with the opportunity to participate in some funded away rotations at other institutions (I’m working on these applications as we speak, which is another reason why I’ve been so busy as of late. As a matter of fact, why am I still typing out this post??) But on the other hand, there are some blocks scheduled that are definitely not going to change, such as my first four blocks (Step 2 Study Period, Pediatric Chronic Illness – Summer Camp, NICU and Peds Heme/Onc Acting Internship). I’m also definitely doing my Anesthesiology Acting Internship later on in the year, and will be participating in a Radiology elective near the end of next year as well. And I’ve scheduled my two flex blocks (free blocks to do whatever you need to do outside of school) for the residency interview season (Fall-Winter 2018) and the very end of my fourth year. Now that I have a good idea of what my schedule is looking like so far, I’m even more excited to finish up third year and get to my final year of med school!

Alright I ended up typing out more than I had planned, per usual. But once I get in sync with my free-flowing thoughts and get the caffiene flowing through my veins, it’s hard for me to stop typing lol. On the bright side though, it didn’t take that long for me to type this all out!

I hope that you have an awesome week! Best of luck to you as you begin to fill out your March Madness brackets! And to all of you on spring break, I absolutely envy you. Have fun though!

“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohn

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – I finally gave my Ophthalmology patient presentation last week. It wasn’t my best presentation, but it was also far from my worst too. You don’t realize how hard it is to give a presentation about a topic you’ve only spent about three weeks actively learning about to a room full of physicians who specializes in that topic, until you get in front of them and actually do it. 😅

P.P.S. – Shoutout to Black Panther for grossing over $1 BILLION in just 26 DAYS!!! WAKANDA FOREVER!!!

Setting Sights On Free Time

After three long, grueling, educational and interesting weeks, I’ve finally completed my experience on the Surgical Oncology service!

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The hours that I worked while on that service were some of the longest that I’ve ever worked while in medical school. However, I also saw some of the most intriguing things that I’ve ever witnessed during my time as a medical student and assisted with some of the operations in ways that I never thought I would be ever able to do as a student. Like, I was literally burning off connective tissue from the intestines at one point! (With guidance of course 😄) The operations that I got the opportunity to participate in ranged from simple and quick 30-minute procedures to complex and arduous 9-hour marathons. It was quite amazing to be able to cut open the body of a living person and appreciate the organs that keep all of us healthy on an everyday basis. Some of the tools that we would use during the surgeries were pretty cool too, almost extravagant even. I never knew there were so many surgical tools out there made specifically to burn flesh! Also, it never failed to blow my mind whenever we would see someone we performed a major operation on awake and speaking to us the very next day, as if we weren’t inside their body less than 24 hours prior. Of course they had to stay in the hospital for some time in order to recover, but it was still pretty wild to have full conversations with them shortly after having literally touched their guts.

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Overall, these past three weeks were hard yet fulfilling, and I experienced so much during my time on this service. The team I worked with this past week were filled with excellent people who allowed me to do more than I could’ve ever anticipated. I also felt like I had really gotten into the groove of things by the time Friday rolled around, and I could really feel just how much I had grown from when I first started Surg-Onc. For example, when one of my classmates joined me on the service early last week, I found myself informing her of how the service was run, how to perform tasks and present patients in a way that the team would appreciate, and the things that she could do to maximize her experience during her time in Surg-Onc. I surprised myself at how much I knew while I was talking with her, because I literally hadn’t known anything about Surgical Oncology when I first started just a couple weeks prior to our conversations. I’m glad that I got the opportunity to participate in this experience and am even more happy that it was the first service of my Surgery rotation, because now I can look forward to having some more free time to study and get other stuff done. That’s right, no more 4:15 AM alarms!! Well, only until I get to the Anesthesia service in three weeks. I’ll have to be at the hospital at 6 AM at that time, which means I’ll be back to waking up around 4:45 AM lol. But that’s still 30 more golden minutes of sleep than having to wake up at 4:15!

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Now that I’ve completed my Surgical Oncology experience, I can look forward to starting Ophthalmology tomorrow! I’m pretty pumped about these next three weeks because as you may or may not know, I’ve had a particular interest in vision care for a long time now. Although I’m now pretty set on a career in Pediatrics, I’m excited to be able to work alongside various Ophthalmologists and to fully immerse myself in a field that I had previously been pursuing for years. I’ll also have more free time on this service to adequately study for the Surgery shelf exam that I’ll be taking a little over a month from now. Now you might go and say, “Christel, that’s so far away! Are you really pressed about studying for that test now??” And my response to that would be, “Yeah I know it’s not coming up soon…but past experience in my previous rotations tells me that it’ll be here before I know it! Plus, I’ve barely had time to even think about it these past three weeks, let alone study for it!” I’ll definitely need all the free time I can get to prepare for it. I’ll also need this newfound free time to work on SNMA stuff in preparation for the Annual Medical Education Conference next month (I can’t believe AMEC is only a month away!!), to work on my fourth-year schedule, to work on this blog and to do other tasks that I’ve recently been forced to put off. I’ve already been able to use some free time this weekend to participate on a student panel at the annual Pre-Med conference that my school’s SNMA chapter organizes each year, and as with every panel I’ve ever participated on, I thoroughly enjoyed it and was reminded of how blessed I am to be where I’m at! Oh, and I’m definitely going to be using some of my free time to make up for the sleep that I lost these past few weeks! I have a feeling that these next few weeks will prove to be ones that were worth looking forward to! *knocks on wood*

That’s all I got for you today! Be sure to have a fantastic week and an affectionate Valentine’s/Single Awareness Day! And I don’t know about you, but I’m HYPED to go see Black Panther this upcoming weekend! Got my outfit planned and everything…😏

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

– Black Man, M.D.