Setting Sights On Free Time

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

Ad Yas GIF by Gap

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.

tlc what GIF

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!

Happy Eddie Murphy GIF

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.

Marathon Days

I’ve definitely been spending much more of my waking hours in the hospital than out of it as of late. I’m here acting like that hasn’t been a thing ever since third year started, but I’ve particularly noticed it these past couple of weeks. Maybe it’s because unless I happen to be gazing out of a window in the hospital, I don’t see daylight much these days. Shoutout to these frigid winter months. Maybe it’s because I’ve been consistently waking up at the ridiculously early time of 4:15 AM each day and getting back home well past 5 PM on a normal basis, sometimes ending my shift as late as 7 PM. Or maybe it’s because I haven’t had anywhere near as much free time as I’ve been able to work in during the past several months leading up to this rotation, so I just feel like I’m on a continuous grind. Regardless of whatever it is, I’ve definitely been feeling like I pretty much live at the hospital. 😅

I’ve been staying very busy while scrubbing in and out of surgeries, attending meetings, attempting to study, filling out applications, trying to get my future together and checking in on patients, and I’ve been learning so much while I’ve been doing so. I’ve also realized that because of my schedule, I haven’t seen a good amount of my friends in some time and I’ve been paying less attention to what has been going on in the outside world. It’s really crazy how fast time can fly by you and what you can miss when you’re deeply focused on a particular task. In this case, the task is performing as well on this Surgical Oncology service as I can while trying to keep up with deadlines, meetings, assignments, my studies, leadership roles, my family and this blog. I’ve been able to keep everything in check so far only because I’ve been making a determined effort to effectively utilize the little free time I have during my marathon days and on the weekends. Praise God for the weekends!

dancing dolls yas GIF by Lifetime

Although the time I’ve spent on this service so far has kept me very busy and has forced me to become more coffee-dependent than usual, there’s no doubt at all that I’ve been getting my money’s worth! From being allowed to have full control of the camera during a laparoscopic procedure to burning off vessels during a bilateral mastectomy, I’ve definitely been made to feel like I’m a useful part of the team, which I’ve really appreciated. I’ve even been able to work on my suturing skills by helping (okay, okay, attempting to help) close surgical wounds on some of the patients that we’ve operated on. Also, while in the operating room (a place that I’ve now become very accustomed to) and in the clinic, the attending physicians that I work side-by-side with further ensure that I’m getting my money’s worth by assessing my knowledge base and then sharing their own knowledge with me. It has been a wonderful learning experience so far, and with this upcoming week being my last week on this service, I’m going to make sure to soak in as much as I can because this may very well be the last time I ever get to see these kinds of operations.

Overall, I’ve liked my experience on this rotation so far. But if there’s something I’ve learned these past two weeks, it’s that you gotta more than like Surgery to want to pursue it….you have to absolutely LOVE it. You have to love it because you’ll be spending a TON of time in the operating room learning how to perform various techniques in many different types of operations, and when you’re not in the O.R. you’ll be very busy managing the multiple patients that you are actively caring for. This lifestyle would leave little time to do other things outside of your job, for you would be practically spending a vast majority of your waking hours at the hospital. That’s not to say that surgeons don’t have the free time to do whatever else they want to do, because they can definitely find time to do other things that they are passionate about. But with that said, I believe that the happiest surgeons are the ones who absolutely love what they do for a living. I’m so thankful that we have people who love to do surgery, because we absolutely need them and it’s not a career path built for everybody. Shoutout to y’all who are embarking or have already embarked on this career path!

da mvp GIF

I’m all ready to take on this last week of Surgical Oncology, and am even more ready to start my experience on the Ophthalmology service next week! It’ll be nice to have some more free time to study and get other things done as well but with that said, I’ll forever cherish the unique experiences I’ve had on this service.

Have an awesome Super Bowl Sunday and a glorious start to Black History Month! I’ll most likely be missing the majority of the game and the commercials due to my insanely early bedtime…but that’s okay because in return, I get the amazing privilege to help improve the lives of people stricken with cancer! 😄😄😄

“Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.” – Bill Bradley

– Black Man, M.D.

Unanticipated Enthusiasm

I’m one week into my Surgery rotation and I must say, it has been such a fascinating experience thus far. It has actually been going better than I had expected! I’ve been able to not only observe, but actively participate in some interesting operations while on the Surgical Oncology service alongside some amazing surgeons. (These surgeons are SO KNOWLEDGEABLE about their craft, and they make performing surgery look so easy…meanwhile I’m over here struggling to suture a wound. It’s really hard to imagine that they were all once students like me…) I’ve also been able to go to Surg-Onc clinic a couple of half-days in order to appreciate the continuity of care aspect in this field. Plus, who knew that I would get so much independence as a medical student on this service? After morning rounds, I am literally able to jump into any operation I want to on this service and I can choose to go to clinic whenever I want to. I don’t think I’ve ever had a schedule this flexible before as a third-year. Actually never mind, I definitely had a ton of flexibility during my OB shifts in my Ob/Gyn rotation. But still, the amount of freedom I have to maximize my learning opportunities is pretty cool!

Although it has been an overall positive experience thus far, I would be lying through my teeth if I said that getting up at 4:15 AM each morning has been easy. It’s so damn early bruh! 😩 But waking up that early is necessary for me because the earlier I wake up in the morning, the longer it seems to take for me to get ready. Plus, morning rounds start at 6 AM sharp so I want to make sure that I’ve seen my patients and have already prepared my presentations, which are so much shorter compared to what I’ve been used to in other rotations. The early mornings are then usually followed by really long days in the hospital, after which my body is typically screaming for rest. I didn’t get back home until after 7 PM on a couple of times last week. Getting used to these long days has been tough, especially since I only have like a couple of hours to study and prepare myself for the cases of the next day before I have to go to sleep and do it all over again.

Bored Daymond John GIF by Shark Tank

Even with the tough nature of this service though, I haven’t been unhappy or stressed out at all. I haven’t dreaded going into the hospital each day either. On the contrary, I’ve found myself looking forward to engaging in the interesting new cases that lay ahead of me! And I’ve also noticed that I’ve been doing a good amount of studying just by reading about the cases that I’m planning on scrubbing into. (Just FYI, I’ve gotten a LOT better at the process of scrubbing in lol.) In all honesty, I believe the reason that my experience has been a great one so far is mostly because of the interns, residents and attendings that I’ve been working with. They all have had such great attitudes about what they do and have made the atmosphere a really comfortable one to learn in. I didn’t really know what to expect going into this service because I had heard it was a hard and busy one (which I can fully attest to) but now that I’m a week into it, any anxiety I may have had before I started has vanished. I’m really glad that I was granted the opportunity to work with these gifted surgeons on this stimulating service, and although waking up so early each day is going to continue to suck (like, really suck), I greatly appreciate the fact that I’m able to actively engage in these awesome cancer-removing surgeries.

That seems like a good point to end on, so I’m just gonna stop here. I have to get some studying in and prepare myself for the cases I’ll be scrubbing into tomorrow. Too bad I’ll be missing the majority of the Grammys since I’m going to bed so early…and now that I think about it, I’ll be missing a good amount of the Super Bowl next Sunday too…😭😭😭

Y’all be sure to have an awesome week!

“The important thing is not being afraid to take a chance. Remember, the greatest failure is to not try. Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it.” – Debbi Fields

– Black Man, M.D.

A Different World

The completion of my Neurology shelf last Friday marked the end of the fifth block of my third-year.

Wild huh?

If that isn’t wild enough, I’m about to start my 8-week long Surgery rotation this week, which is, from what I hear, a very different world than what I’ve been used to. The services that I was granted the opportunity to work on are Surgical Oncology, Ophthalmology and Anesthesia. That’s not a bad lineup at all, if I do say so myself. I’m excited about being one of those selected to rotate through Ophthalmology because as you know, I have had a strong interest in it for years now. It will be cool to get to work side-by-side with the residents and attendings in this specialty for three weeks straight, and I’m sure that I will get to learn so much about vision care and treating various conditions of the eye in general! Although I’m pretty much set on a career in Pediatrics at this point, I’m still planning on going into the Ophthalmology service with an open mind and will allow myself to really appreciate everything that this service has to offer. I will absorb as much knowledge as I can from everyone that I encounter and will deeply engage myself with the patients that I will be helping care for.

I will, of course, keep this mentality throughout my time on the other two services. I haven’t really had any experience in Anesthesia before, so I’m really interested to see what that service has to offer. And as for Surgical Oncology, which is the service that I’ll be spending the next three weeks working in, I don’t even really know what I’m about to walk into. All I know is that I’ll be in the Operating Room all day every day learning a ton about how to remove tumors from people while being constantly refreshed *cough* PIMPED *cough cough* on human anatomy. I’ve also heard that the days in this service can be very long. I’m talking about 5 AM – 7 PM type days. And here I was, thinking that starting at 6 AM was early. I’m not gonna lie, although it’s really dope that I’m getting the chance to engage in this learning opportunity, I’m a bit apprehensive about the fact that I’ll potentially have almost no time at all to do anything else outside of school these next three weeks. I’m also not sure how I’ll fare in the surgical cases that will run for 5+ hours at a time. It takes a ton of willpower and discipline to be able to concentrate on something for that long while standing up and remaining sterile. Plus, if you start to get really hungry, tired or you suddenly have the urge to use the bathroom, things can get really uncomfortable really fast. Aside from those two concerns though, I feel that my experience on the Surg-Onc service will be a dynamic and positive one. In regards to my Surgery rotation as a whole, I’m quite intrigued as to how everything will end up playing out!

In contrast to two weeks ago, where I didn’t have time to do much of anything outside of the hospital, I had an ample amount of free time last week due to the combination of MLK Day, shelf day and all the snow that got dumped on the region. I actually only worked three half-days throughout the week, and a good amount of patients ended up not showing up to their appointments due to the weather. However, I did get to interact with patients that were recovering from strokes and with patients who were dealing with conditions such as ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and muscular dystrophy. I also was able to get a lot of studying in for the shelf exam (shoutout to being trapped in the snow) and participated in a lumbar puncture simulation, where we practiced performing an LP on dummies. I must say, I was successful on my first attempt. 😊 Please don’t ask me to perform one on a real patient though…I don’t think I’m ready to take that next step yet lol.

Neurology was a fantastic rotation overall, and I learned so much while rotating through it. I’ve vastly improved on my Neuro physical exam and even developed a system so that it would be hard for me to forget how to perform the exam. I saw a ton of neurological conditions in person that I had previously only read about, I had some unforgettable interactions with some of my patients and I got the opportunity to work with and learn from some phenomenal physicians. I sincerely hope that they realize how much their teaching is appreciated. I also hope that I had a great performance on my shelf exam. Although I feel like I did fine, you never really know with these standardized exams until you get your actual score back. At the end of the day though, this exam was only worth 10% of my overall grade, so I’m not too pressed about it. 😄

Make sure to have a spectacular week! And I’ll let you know how my first week of Surgery goes in my next post!

“Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it, the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me.” – Arianna Huffington

– Black Man, M.D.