Monthly Archives: February 2016

Immersion Phase Update: 2/1 – 2/26

I took a true “flex month” in February–no tests to study for, no interviews to travel for. I spent most of my time back at home; all told, I kept pretty busy with a number of tasks, errands, and events.

I spent my first week and a half in Memphis with my family, then headed back to Nashville for about 5 days.  I had been invited to participate in the Second Look Weekend that Vanderbilt Medical School’s Office for Diversity organizes for underrepresented minorities applying to residency programs.  Each participating department had its own set of activities for the day, and there were also a few social dinners and activities that all participants went to.  I enjoyed my time getting to know four other people who were applying for psychiatry, as well as others considering Vanderbilt for training in other specialties.

The day after Second Look Weekend ended, Radial Grooves (the a cappella group I sing with) performed at the third annual Dr. Vanderbilt Pageant, a humorous competition between physicians that also functions as a fundraiser.  Physicians showed off their “evening wear,” lip-syncing/dancing skills, and trivia prowess.  This year, proceeds from ticket sales went to Primeros Pasos, a primary care clinic in Guatemala.

On Valentines Day, I got a last-minute ticket (literally) to see Brené Brown give a talk at Vanderbilt about shame, perfectionism, and vulnerability.  Then I headed to Marathon Music Works for a fantastic concert headlined by Madeon.  Unlike the last time I went to that venue for an EDM concert, I didn’t have to worry with a day or so of tinnitus afterward.

When I got back to Memphis, I joined a dear friend from high school for dinner and a Hillsong concert at the FedEx Forum.  It was such a great experience from both a musical, social, and spiritual standpoint.  My friend and I are both talking about how much we wish we could go again, especially since Hillsong is heading to Boston and we both know people I went to college with there.

Another highlight of my month was the amount of time that I had to practice driving.  When I first got behind the wheel again, my parents and I noticed that I had taken several steps backward in confidence and ability.  After a few days, though, I started to feel more comfortable driving.  I ran several days’ worth of errands around Memphis with one of my parents supervising from the passenger seat.  This past week, I drove myself to a nearby church on two separate occasions; it was my first time completely alone in the car, and I think I managed pretty well!

I did complete one or two big tasks related to medical school.  I finally sat down and really thought through all of my experiences on the interview trail in order to construct my residency rank order list.  I submitted and certified the list on the official website well before the February 24th deadline.  Now I and my classmates–and fourth-year medical students from institutions all over–are waiting to hear about the results of The Match.  Here’s an interesting article about the algorithm that handles applicant and program rank order lists.

So that’s what I’ve been up to on this month off!  In March, I will be completing my last medical school course and hopefully participating in Match Day.  Stay tuned…


Immersion Phase Update: Integrative Medicine (1/5 – 1/29)

January was a super rewarding month.  Working with one of the attending physicians I’d met on my PM&R elective in July, I landed a month-long elective at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Vanderbilt.  Integrative medicine, also known as complementary or alternative medicine, focuses on holistic care of the individual–bringing together physical symptoms, behaviors, emotional health, relationships, and other aspects of a person’s life to promote overall wellness.  To do this, integrative medicine combines conventional medical care with interventions such as counseling, physical therapy, yoga, and acupuncture.  The chief complaint for most patients is some form of chronic pain–from migraine headaches to fibromyalgia–but they might also struggle with things like insomnia, anxiety, weight management, GI issues, or some combination of the same.

The philosophy of holistic care that clinics such as Vanderbilt’s Osher Center are founded upon is such an important one, but one of the unfortunate and sometimes frustrating observations that I had is that patients often arrive at this clinic as a “last resort” after seeing countless specialists in the community and considering myriad medications and procedures with no relief of symptoms.  Ideally, an integrative care model would offer a first look at the conventional and non-traditional options available to patients in order to deliver the best care possible for an issue, or perhaps it would facilitate preventive care before issues arise.  However, in the current health system, this is not the case.

Over the course of the month, I spent weekdays at the Osher Center and saw patients with physicians, nurse practitioners with medical or psychiatric focus, physical therapists (in exam rooms at Osher and in the heated pool at the Dayani Center on the main campus),  an acupuncturist, and a massage therapist.  I also participated in a few positive psychology/mindfulness meditation classes, tai chi classes, and yoga classes for patients.  There was even a workshop on sleep that I sat in on for a few afternoons.  I gained a lot from my experiences; I not only learned about how some of the recommended practices fit into patient care, but I also was able to take note of different styles of interviewing, educating, and motivating patients, which will no doubt serve me well later on in my own practice as a physician.  In addition to all of this, I discovered a few things–sleep hygiene tips, breathing and mindfulness techniques, and other little suggestions made to patients–that I want to actively incorporate into my own personal life.

Aside from observing and absorbing information from clinical experiences and the database of articles I’d been sent on day 1, I was asked to give a presentation on an integrative medicine topic of my choice.  So, during the last week of my rotation, I presented a short talk on how music can fit into the philosophy of integrative medicine.  It was well received and greatly appreciated by those who could attend, much to my relief (I guess oral presentations will always make me nervous).

As if this elective wasn’t enjoyable enough on its own…I had a pretty active life outside of clinic as well.  I got to sing with the worship team at church again, singing vocals with just two other people instead of being one voice in a full ensemble.  I was super nervous, as I’d never done this before, but now I’m hoping for the chance to do it again sometime if they’ll have me.  I also put a few new covers on my YouTube channel; one of them was even shared on Twitter by the original artist, which was super exciting!  In addition, I started to think about my rank order list for residency programs, meeting with people and getting advice from faculty both inside and outside of psychiatry.  I still have about 3 weeks before the deadline, but it’s quite a daunting thought just the same.

Now I am off for the entire month of February, taking one of my remaining “flex months.”  I’m spending most of that time in Memphis, keeping busy in a number of different ways.  Check back here at the end of the month for an update (hopefully)!

As always, thanks for reading.

Post-Residency Interview Update

This is the first of a few long-overdue updates.  Apologies for neglecting to keep you guys up to speed on what’s been happening with me; life has been rather hectic.

Hello, friends!

I am happy to report that I am now done with interviews for psych residency!  I took the months of November and December completely off to travel for my interviews. I’m not sure how much detail I can or should go into about how each interview went, but I thought I’d talk about the overall process in this update, in addition to some fun things I did when I wasn’t in business formal attire.

Most programs host a pre- or post-interview event, such as an informal reception or dinner at a restaurant (all but one of my interviews had such events).  This is a great chance to meet other applicants and ask current residents about the program and the city; most of the time you can ask questions that wouldn’t go over well during an actual interview with a faculty member (such as “What’s the call schedule like here?”).  And you can get a good sense of how the residents interact around each other.

Interview days were organized in various ways.  Most started around 8am with an introductory session with the program director and/or the program coordinator.  During the day, there was typically a tour of some/most/all of the facilities which psych residents might frequent, a presentation of some sort about the highlights of the program’s city, and more time to meet residents and ask them questions.  Some programs scheduled group meetings with applicants to discuss particular aspects of the program, such as dedicated curricular tracks that they might offer to interested residents (e.g. a research-focused track or an administrative/clinician educator track).  And of course, there were the interviews.

Several people–current residents, faculty–had told me that interviewing for residency is a bit different than interviewing for medical school.  While in the latter situation, the applicant is trying to prove hirself and convince the school to accept hir, the former situation places the applicant and the program on more equal footing.  “You’re interviewing the program just as much as they’re interviewing you,” I was told. And regardless of differences in interview style and interview day format, this pretty much rang true.

All of my interviews were one on one with faculty, psych department chairs, program directors, or current residents, and they were each about 30 minutes long.  Most programs I went to had 4-5 interviews scheduled for each applicant, although at one place I only had 2, and at another place I had 7!  Sometimes all of my interviews were in the morning, other times all of them were after lunch.  But for the most part, they were all fairly relaxed; the interviewer would invite me to elaborate on  aspects of my application (one attending admitted that he almost asked me to beat-box because I mentioned that on my resume, and another asked if he could hear one of my mashups because I’d talked about them in my personal statement), ask me a few more general questions about my interests within psychiatry or about my personal thoughts about where I see myself career-wise, and then answer any of my questions.

After each interview day came the whirlwind of travel back home, flurries of thank you emails, and collections of personal thoughts about each program.  Now that I’m completely done with the interview process, I have to reflect upon what I now know about each program in order to navigate the next step of the process: matching.

No, this isn’t exactly like a string of job interviews.  I’ve gotten that question quite a bit–“so when do you hear back from programs about how you did?”  The short answer is, “I don’t.”  The long answer goes something like this.

Medical students who have interviewed at residency programs now have to construct what’s called a rank order list, organizing the programs from highest to lowest preference based on their individual values.  At the same time, each residency program constructs its own rank list of their interviewees that season, taking into consideration the fact that there is a limited number of spots for incoming residents at each place.  Both of these lists are submitted through a service called the National Resident Matching Program.  There is a special, top-secret algorithm by which applicants’ rank lists are compared with programs’ rank lists.  Then, one day in March, every applicant finds out whether they “matched” at a program, and a few days later, each school holds something called “Match Day,” during which everyone finds out which program they’ll be going to after they graduate.  There’s also another process that applicants can go through if they find out they don’t match–which, understandably, is a possibility most people don’t talk about on this side of things.  If you’re interested, Match Day this year is on March 18 (I believe it’s at 11am CST), and if you search online you should be able to find Vanderbilt’s live stream (in the meantime, click here for information about past Match Day proceedings at Vanderbilt).

Before I wrap this up, here’s a quick rundown of the fun things that happened during the past couple of months:

  • At the end of October, I bought a guitar!  This is something I’ve wanted to do for years, and thanks to a sweet Groupon deal that I couldn’t pass up, I finally made it happen.  The original plan was to practice for 10 minutes every day–I found a free app called Yousician with lessons to help with this process–but I’ve been a little bit more lax about that than I intended.  At the time of this writing, I can play 5 chords and am working on my strumming technique.  Eventually, I want to be able to write songs and accompany myself.
  • In November, members of the Vanderbilt SNMA went to the Debusk College of Osteopathic Medicine (DCOM) at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, TN, for the Region X conference.  Region X of SNMA is composed of allopathic and osteopathic schools from TN and KY.  We Vanderbilt students networked, toured DCOM, sat in on lectures and interactive workshops, and bonded with each other and with students from some of the other schools.  All in all, a great time.
  • Also, I FINALLY got my driver’s license!  I took the road test in November.  Only had to take it one time.  My mom commented that I seemed much more comfortable behind the wheel after taking the test than I had before the test, as if overcoming this challenge was the source of most of my fear.  The next step will be increasing my confidence on the interstate, with the goal of driving my (loaner) car up to Nashville.
  • In December, the Radial Grooves had a few performances.  We sang at the Best Buddies Holiday Party again this year, and we also offered music–almost 2 hour’s worth!–for the Hematology and Oncology department’s end of the year celebration.  We have a lot of exciting things coming up in 2016, as well…which I will of course tell you all about.
  • I’ve been pretty active with my church as well–going to Sunday services and Wednesday night Bible study, spending time with people outside of church at potlucks and events like the Christmas lights at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens.  I also participated in a few music-related things in December.  The Sunday before Christmas, I sang with a gospel ensemble that one of the worship leaders organized; as you all know, I’ve wanted to do something worship-related at my church ever since I started attending back in 2013, so this was a treat.  The same weekend, a church friend invited me to sing background vocals with her and a couple of other women for a Christmas concert that Sunday night; this was an opportunity I couldn’t possibly pass up–well worth the hustle and bustle!
  • In addition to all of this, I spent the holidays with my family.  I went back to Memphis for Thanksgiving, reunited with my extended family in Nashville over Christmas, and went back home again to ring in the New Year.

Whew.  This was a lot longer than I expected it to be.

As always, feel free to hit me up with any questions about literally anything I talk about here.  I’m happy to answer them.  Stay tuned for the next update! 🙂