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AWESOME NEWS!!!!

Hey everyone,

I just wanted to give a quick update and say that I matched into a psychiatry residency program! The NRMP (National Resident Matching Program) sent out “Did I Match?” emails to applicants yesterday morning. So now I’m preparing for Match Day (where I find out which program I matched into), which is this Friday at 11am Central Time. If you’d like to watch the ceremony online, here’s a link: https://medschool.vanderbilt.edu/programs/match-day

Thank you all for your support, interest, and encouragement! This has been such an incredible journey and I can’t believe I’ve gotten this far.

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2015 in review

Hi friends!

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog.  I took November and December off for residency interviews.  I’m planning to post an update of sorts once I go to my last interview (!!!) in a few days.  For now, check out my year in review!  And I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable New Year’s Eve.  2016 is going to be awesome.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 22 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

2014 in review

No, this isn’t exactly a med school related post, but I wanted to share with you all.  It boggles my mind how many people tell me they read what I post here.  And knowing that I’ve got readers in other countries is awesome.  Shoutout to everyone who made these stats possible, whether you manage a page where the link was posted, shared my posts with your followers, read my update emails, or just happened to stumble upon the site somehow.  I hope you found it helpful or at the very least entertaining.

I’m sure we can make 2015 just as great. 🙂

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,000 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 17 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Post-D&T “Bootcamp” Update

Bootcamp week went well. We learned a little bit about laboratory testing in the hospital–where it’s done at Vandy, what tests are commonly done for common presentations, etc. It ended up being a lot more laid back than most of us were expecting; at times I felt as if the professor didn’t know we’d just taken Step 1!

Our production of The Vagina Monologues went well. About 60 people showed up, which means that we made around $300 for our chosen beneficiaries. Everyone seemed thoroughly impressed at what we were able to accomplish in such limited time.

We have orientation for our clerkships today. I’ve been in orientation for surgery since about 7:30 this morning, and I’ll be going until 5 this evening. So far, we’ve been introduced to our (rather gnarly) schedule, seen standardized patients, and practiced tying knots and suturing. We have a discussion for the standardized patient case in a few minutes.

This was a relatively quick update–I’m at the end of my lunch break and should be getting back upstairs–but I thought I’d say something about how I’m doing before I officially start my plastic surgery subspecialty tomorrow. I will say that excitement has more or less won out over fear. God is always with me, and he will see me through anything; I hope to hold onto that for as long as I can.

saying goodbye

I wrote this piece this weekend and recited it for the cadaver memorial service my class had this morning after our last gross anatomy lab.

Now that everything is said and done, I feel like we never got the time to reflect on what we were doing.   We treated each day in lab like a to do list—remove subcutaneous tissue, learn the structures hiding beneath.

But I’ll be honest; as our days on the tenth floor dwindled, my thoughts began to transcend bolded terms and the broad expanse of body they defined.

I think about the day when we made the first cuts on those undisturbed bodies, months ago. It’s funny.  At this point, we’ve dissected so much that we can’t recognize any of you, but you’re more of individuals to me now than you were when we started.  I’ve caught myself wondering what kind of lives you led before you wound up here.  We kept glancing at the list on the far wall, reminding ourselves of how you died, but no piece of paper in this place can tell us how you lived.  Maybe you fought in wars.  Perhaps you saw grandchildren grow up, gave generous presents on Christmas, at birthdays.  Maybe back in the day you took jobs bagging groceries, babysitting, or cutting lawns for old ladies—children with empty pockets and full heads of dreams.  But I can only speculate.  I only saw your physical history when we took off the calvaria and scrutinized the holes that line the skull.  I couldn’t find any of your memories in there.

We did try to give you names to replace the impersonal four digits scrawled on your arms and legs.  Number 6290, my group couldn’t decide what to call you.  We were somewhere between Harold, Hank, and maybe something else.  Nothing stuck.  Nothing felt right.  Sorry about that.

Whatever your names or occupations in life, I have to commend your talent as teachers.  You enlightened us, showed us so much, without uttering a single word.  That’s something even our professors can’t do.

All in all, as happy as I am to leave this cold laboratory and its awkward smells, as much as I’ve been looking forward to being done with the stiff scrubs and the latex gloves, I guess there is something that I’ll miss about this place.  I learned many lessons here.

continuity clinic

As part of a course called Continuity Clinical Experience (CCE), I’ve been going to an ENT clinic every Wednesday since September or October.  Since the clinic I’m in is highly specialized, all I’ve been able to really do is shadow my preceptor or the resident who happens to be working with him.  I enjoy it, but for much of the four hour time slot each Wednesday, I stand around and chat with another classmate, just barely a part of the hustle and bustle of the environment.  Usually, I feel like a poser in a white coat, allowed to loiter only because I’m in the proper attire.

Today, my classmate and I went to clinic expecting a typical afternoon of acoustic neuromas and patients complaining of unilateral hearing loss.  Our task for this month in CCE was to ask 2 patients and 2 team members to fill out evaluation forms for each of us; since we don’t have much patient interaction compared to our peers, we wondered how we would complete the assignment.  “Surely they can’t evaluate us on how we stand in the corner,” I joked.

They didn’t have to.  My preceptor chose four patients from his afternoon list and asked us to each pick two.  “I want you two to go in, introduce yourselves, and take a basic patient history.  Then come out and present to me or [the resident who’s helping out], and we’ll go in together to see the patient.  At the end of the visit, I’ll ask them if they can fill out the evaluation for you.”

I’d only taken a history 2 or 3 times before, so I was extremely nervous.  It took a lengthy moment of preparation to go up to the first exam room, say a quick prayer, and timidly knock on the door.  My mouth was dry as I stumbled through the patient interview, apologizing profusely for the fact that I hadn’t had much experience talking to patients as a first-year.  I breathed a sigh of relief as I walked out of the room to present to my preceptor, wondering what the patient would write on the evaluation.

I was much more comfortable with the second patient.  We discussed her chief complaint and were even able to share a couple of laughs before I left the room.  A short time later, when I finished presenting the history to the resident, he looked at me and said, “Fantastic job.”  

I suddenly felt like I knew something, was learning something valuable…like I actually belonged in clinic.

progress

in gross anatomy lab, we’re split into groups of 4 or 5.  each person has a specific role that we rotate through for each lab session: principal dissector, assistant dissector, and computer operator.

throughout the first half of anatomy, i hated being principal dissector.  i never knew if i was doing things the right way.  in general i shrink away from moments of uncertainty, so when i was assigned to dissect, i’d find ways to quietly slip into a supporting role again.  i’d say “i don’t know what i’m doing” and ask someone to help me, or i’d let one of the assistants tease out a nerve i was supposed to be working on cleaning, at least until he or she said, “wait, you’re principal today; you should be doing this.”  as much as it bothered me, i told myself that for the second half of the course, once our groups were reassigned and we changed to a different table, i’d need to get better at actually accepting my assigned role.

last week was a step in the right direction.

we were trying to find the appendicular artery, buried as it was in layers of mesentery and fat.  i wanted to hand off my probe to a teammate and watch as they did the job instead of doing it myself.  but this time, one of the assistants talked me through the process of teasing out the artery, offering advice and positive feedback (“that’s it.  you’re making progress.  good job.”) as we proceeded.

when we successfully identified it, i could have turned a cartwheel.  and my mind has been wandering back to this experience ever since.

someone else may think that this isn’t a big deal–just another structure to identify in just another 2-hour cadaver lab.  but the fact that i could take ownership of this small success, that it was mostly the work of my hands that made it possible, is exciting.

confession is good for the soul, they say

i originally posted this somewhere else early Tuesday morning.  but i decided to post it here as well.  this blog is all about my experiences in medical school–i shouldn’t ignore the fact that stress and how i deal with it are part of the journey.

one of the things that Harvard taught me–and i mean, drilled into my head and wrote over my life in pen–is how to lie.

i tell people “i’m fine” before they can get out the last syllable of “how are you doing.”  make light of stress by talking about how i went through a whole bag of pretzels in seconds the night before, or fell asleep in the shower, or something like that.

meanwhile, my real state of being is something like Hurricane Sandy.

i know that what i need is to be honest.  to actually admit how i’m feeling instead of just saying “i’m working on it.”  the Harvard mentality of “i’m fine, you’re fine, everyone’s fine” has followed me back down south like a dark cloud.  as i sit here, typing this at 2am, listening to music in minor keys and wondering why i couldn’t get to sleep earlier, i realize that i need to let myself get rid of those lies.

my first patient, the silent teacher

today, i held a brain in my hands.

i’m still struggling to find words that are expressive enough to describe the moment.

all i can say for now is that there is so much beauty inside the body.  all throughout today’s gross anatomy lab, i looked at the cadaver whose back we’d dissected and marveled at the beauty of the slick muscles and the spinal cord.  something in me hated helping my group with the scalpel, even though she wouldn’t be able to feel the cuts we made to her delicate nerves.

being a disciple of this silent teacher is remarkable.  astounding.  inconceivable.  

these words are too small to wrap around it.