The Aftermath of Block 1

220 questions. Roughly five hours of testing, with only a total of 1/2 hour of break time. 160-ish students in one large lecture hall.

That was my Friday.

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I lost count of how many hours I spent studying this week. I spent every day (except for Monday–the holiday) in the library surrounded by books. So far in my medical school career, I have avoided looking like the picture above. This week was different though. This week, I most definitely looked like that.

I was so worried right before the exam(s). I didn’t feel like I knew the drugs in pharm well enough. We had four separate exams, 50 or so questions each, and a little over an hour to do each one. Then we got an optional ten minute break in between. I used all of my breaks to catch my breath, grab a drink, and focus before the next set. This was definitely a different setup from what I’m used to (I’m used to knowing my score right after I submit my exam–but since each set was a mix of micro/pharm/path/TBL, there was no way to gauge how well I was doing on each section).

It actually went by pretty quickly. Since I was done and had nothing to study earlier than usual, I left campus and picked up Ladybug at daycare early, and had a mommy-and-daughter afternoon.

Early in the afternoon, we were notified that the scores were all in and posted. I’m quite pleased. There’s still room for improvement, and I do plan on adjusting my study habits a bit, but overall, this first block exam wasn’t too bad.

Today, then, was a Saturday where I had absolutely NOTHING to study. It’s been a welcome change! The day was spent catching up on other projects and lots of hugs/cuddles/smiles/laughs with the little one. Such a good day! I could definitely get used to this!

In other news….I got to meet with my new Advisory Dean. We are assigned an Advisory Dean when they sort us into Colleges (akin to Harry Potter’s Sorting Hat) before first year. Mine took a job in a new state, so I got a new one… and it’s Dr. T! One of my absolute favorite people that I’ve met since starting med school.

Now that I’ve gotten a reprieve, be on the lookout for more exciting stuff from me! There are ongoing projects, and I hope to be able to share them soon. Still living the dream, even if this week of studying for Block 1 kinda sucked at times.

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Is it Saturday yet?

I am currently in the library for what feels like the billionth hour this week, studying for tomorrow’s massive block exam. I think my brain is going through liquifactive necrosis.

Yes, I already want to take a nap tomorrow.

But for now, back to studying.

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Random Act of Kindness

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of RAK’s (Random Acts of Kindness), but usually I am on the giving end instead of the receiving end.

Until today. Thank you so much, Sarah and Rachel, for your kindness. Totally unexpected, but wholly and completely appreciated. You are directly responsible for this med student and mommy’s ability to stay awake this morning while studying Pharmacology (finally learning treatments, yay!). Thank you, thank you, thank you. This has been a long week and I am so glad it is finally Friday.

One week til our Block 1 Exam. No more classes until then. I really want to smash this thing. So, back to the books. Just keep swimming!

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I Thought I was Done with Bodies

I thought I was done. I thought it was a one-and-done sort of deal. I was wrong.

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At one point, I thought that just maybe I might be interested in Forensic Pathology. How cool would it be to get to the bottom of why someone died, so that you could help grieving families by coming to a firm answer for their loved one’s death? Maybe I had watched too much Dr. G: Medical Examiner.

While taking Gross Anatomy, those thoughts quickly dissipated. I had really looked forward to dissecting before actually having to do it, because I knew the experience would be so special, learning from the ultimate teacher. What I didn’t expect from that experience, however, was that I would be so turned off by the things that my own two hands had to do to another person, even if he or she was not living. I don’t know how many times I apologized to my donor for the things my hands were about to do. If I didn’t have the exception that came along with the title of “medical student”, the things that I was required to do in order to learn would have been considered a felony. The amount of responsibility and trust was not lost on me. When I left the Gross Anatomy lab on that final day, I thanked our donor one last time, threw away my greasy gloves, and walked out the door without looking back. I was done. I had passed that rite of passage of becoming a doctor and I was relieved that I never had to do that again. We had also had a Fresh Tissue lab, and I was so glad I never had to go into those doors ever again. I treasure the gift the donors made, but I do not want to be the one whose hands have to do those things.

However… now that we are in Pathology and Pathophysiology, one of our required assignments is to view an autopsy. As soon as I saw that written into our syllabus, my stomach turned. I understand the importance of autopsies and the answers they can give to families and the wealth of knowledge that I can learn from watching a real one in person, but I am not particularly looking forward to it. (To think I used to watch Dr. G while eating dinner…) I am glad that I am not the one performing the autopsy, but I am also looking forward to checking off that requirement and moving on. My date to check with the office is fast approaching. I am not sure how I will handle it when the time comes.

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First illness

Ladybug has made it through her first full week of daycare, and has now started her second week with her first runny nose. Poor baby girl sounds absolutely awful and has slept much more than normal. She gives me the most pitiful looks when she is awake. The humidifier is on, she’s sleeping upright but reclined, and I use saline to suction her out every hour. Poor, poor baby. This isn’t how I imagined starting off my week, but tonight I’m getting to camp out on an air mattress in her room so she’s never alone and we can work on that runny nose of hers.

Med school is hard. Being a mommy is hard. Doing both is hard. But so, so worth every minute.

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Recurrent Failures

In happy news that I’ve been waiting to share, my interview with Aspiring Docs (a section of the American Academy of Medical Colleges, the AAMC) for their Inspiring Stories segment went live on Monday. It’s got me thinking more about recurrent failures.images

My story is a complicated one. It took me a lot of time, heartbreak, and growth to get where I am. Things have not been perfect. During my final application cycle, I only told a handful of people that I was even applying to medical school, because I wanted to avoid hearing exasperations of “again?!”. I was afraid of failing once more, and if that were to be the case, I wanted to be able to do it privately. It’s still not a story that I like admitting to. Every time my blog dashboard tells me that someone has read “My Premed Story”, I get nervous… because now someone else knows about my failures, about the three previous times that my dreams were killed point-blank. It’s embarrassing. I’m a second year medical student, and it’s still embarrassing. I’m still afraid that people will think less of me because it took so long to obtain my dream. It leaves me vulnerable to admit that I failed, not just once, or twice, but three times. I’m sure there are those out there that would have told me to give up, that it just wasn’t meant to be. Most of the time, that’s how I felt… that persisting and still failing made me seem pathetic.

Despite all of that, I have left “My Premed Story” available for anyone to read, and I agreed to interviews with Aspiring Docs and Accepted.com because to me it serves a purpose. Maybe there is someone else who is now how I was then… and just maybe they’ll be filled with hope. I didn’t even think about the possibility that Aspiring Docs would advertise my piece on their Facebook page, until a friend tagged me in the comments. Several people had commented on my interview that the story was incredible, or that they were encouraged. Lately, I’ve met with some people in the same position– an unsuccessful application cycle– and have been able to give advice or recommendations that helped me. 

Maybe this story really is worth sharing.

After my first application, someone in an admissions office told me I would never be accepted there. And yet here I sit in that institution’s library, surrounded by my path, pharm, immuno, and First Aid books. This has been one adventure that I will never regret.

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MS2: New Spaces and New Faces

I didn’t really know that I could ever get sick of hearing a word. Well, other than “selfie” and “twerk” and all that nonsense. But yeah, there’s a list of words that I am already sick of hearing now that second year has commenced:

  • USMLE
  • Step/Step 1
  • Boards
  • High Yield
  • BRS
  • UWorld
  • Qbank

The first week is now complete. Summer feels like a lifetime ago already. Everyone seems to constantly be talking about Boards, how to prep for them by being prepared for classes, which resources to use, etc…. and our exams are ages away, in May/June of 2015. It’s going to be a long year before that monster. Our ICM teacher, Dr. K (I love his humor!), has been telling us that we’ve got a “little quiz” to take next summer…. I’m not sure if he’s saying that because in the long run, it’s just a little hurdle, or if he’s trying to make it sound like it’s nothing to be intimidated by… but either way, I’m already sick of hearing about it. So, on to happier things this week has held:

Toward the end of last year, our school was under construction in order to address concerns by the LCME. Starting last Monday, we had access to a brand-new facility, new unit labs, new technology, new everything. It doesn’t even feel like the same school. I’m not quite used to it yet. Being brand-new, it’s still got some quirks that need to be worked out–some of the outlets don’t have power yet, they hadn’t even put out all of the trash cans yet. It’s evolving, and it’s definitely a welcomed improvement over the old facilities.

Classes are in full-swing already. There is no such thing as “easing into it” in med school. My first visit with my LSP was Tuesday afternoon. I’ll admit, I’ve forgotten some of the physical exam steps since the last time we did a full CSE exam, but luckily we weren’t graded on that (that comes later). Instead, this was an H&P visit where we were to practice our communication skills with a previous patient that we have a relationship with. Usually, we have a lecture on the visit before we go in, so that we’re familiar with the assignment and what is expected of us. Not so, this time; we were encouraged to watch the Tegrity’d PPT to prep for the visit, and since my scheduled time was on the first day, I didn’t get to view the video session until a couple hours before my time slot. I’m so glad I took the time to watch it, because at the very end, there was a note that my patient, based on the CC (chief complaint), would need some sexual history questions. (Son of a….! We haven’t been taught how to do that yet!) There is nothing better than trial by fire, I suppose. The visit went really well, Graham (my SP’s real name) told me I did a great job with the “sensitive subject matter”… so just maybe I can do this MS2 thing after all.

I’ll spill my secret: I kinda love Pathology. Kinda love it a lot. The immuno part of Micro/Immuno is pretty interesting, and pharm…. I don’t know what to make of pharm yet. I’ve heard it gets better once we get into learning the actual drugs instead of focusing on the basics of pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics. Overall, though, this is the stuff I love learning, so that aspect of school has been great so far. It’s the end of the first week and I am not yet completely and utterly overwhelmed or frustrated. I’m so glad that we’ve transitioned to block exams this year, instead of having random exams at random times, inevitably falling behind on one class or more to prep for each individual exam. I think it’ll be a nice change of pace.

There are so many new faces on campus. I’ve met both of my MS1 mentees, and I gave them my leftover scalpels for Gross Lab, which they start next week. I miss seeing the MS2s (now MS3s!) on campus, but I know that someday soon the MS1 faces will become familiar.

In addition to classes, I’m also getting a fairly good jump start on my Global Health Distinction track projects. This week alone I’ve met with my mentor to discuss projects (he travels regularly to Vietnam, Moldova, Ecuador, and Ghana, but this week’s trip to Ghana has been canceled due to the concern over the Ebola epidemic). If we plan things right, I may be able to do some of my own research projects in some of those countries over the next three years, which I find to be very exciting! I’d love to see how the NICUs work in those countries to see how we can improve healthcare based on their own individual needs and concerns. If I should happen to stay at UofL for residency, there is an option to participate in several global health pathways, so there is the potential to continue this future projects well past my medical school career. To prep for that, though, I’ve started doing the modules we’re required to finish for our distinction track, and I’ve completed two this week (one that was required, on Malaria, and one that I took because it interested me, in the Essentials of Newborn Care). I’ve already generated a few ideas about a scholarly project and need to start on a lit search to see where it takes me. I’d like to incorporate some Bioethics and Medical Humanities into these projects if I can, so now I’m eager to learn about Global Health Ethics. It is quite possibly that I have too many interests, and not nearly enough time to pursue them all, especially now that I’m a new mom.

In speaking of which… David used his second week of paternity leave to stay home with Ladybug while I got settled into school for the first week, so I didn’t really feel guilty leaving for school without her this week. I’m sure that will change on Monday when she goes to her first day of daycare. It’s been so nice to be able to go to campus and not have to worry about how she is; David would send me pictures throughout the day. I’ve been trying to keep school as a job, and keep set hours; I’ve picked out “my” spot in the library (in the newly renovated part! It’s awesome because there are windows and I love it!) and that’s where I focus on my BRS books and Pathoma, among other things. Coming home to a happy baby has been wonderful this week. I hope it stays that way!

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First Day Back

My first day back to the grind went fairly well. We came back to a renovated building; it hardly even looks like the same school, so there’s a lot to get used to. There’s also a lot of new faces around campus, with the new MS1s and now new professors.

The day started by dropping off a huge batch of brownies to the unit labs of my College (what says “welcome” or “welcome back” better than baked goods?!), gave my extra scalpel blades to my two mentees, then finding a seat in the brand new lecture hall that is all tricked out with the latest technology. The part I like the most is that now I have an actual desk during lecture. This year is definitely going to be challenging. After our lectures, we had a block of time reserved just for studying Pathoma. I actually like the lectures and the book for this segment of classes, but it’s also early in the semester, so we’ll see if that changes. (I really want to be good at pathology… it’s so interesting!). I came home to a very happy hubby and baby, which was wonderful. Everyone was wondering how little Ladybug was doing, and I loved being able to show her pictures to my classmates. Another good thing about today–I checked on both of  my mentees and they both had a good first day. The day is now ending with a horrible migraine. Just my luck, trying to be a good student and I can’t even start due to a headache.

Also, today was also my first blood donation since getting pregnant last year. It feels so good to be helping people in that way again. I’ve already got an appointment for my next donation. Here’s to hitting the two gallon mark this year!

I felt more like myself today, being able to go to class and just concentrate on school stuff for a change (not pregnant!). The part of this year that I’m not really looking forward to is having to observe an autopsy. I really, really thought I was done with the emotional turmoil of the gross lab as of last December, but I didn’t know we had this responsibility for pathology. Like everything else, though, it’s a learning experience and I’m excited to see what I can glean from it, especially after reading Death’s Acre this summer about the Body Farm.

Now that my first day is over, I think my jitters are already gone. I’m not nearly as anxious as I was yesterday, and I’m really excited about some new opportunities that are in the works that I can share soon!

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Here We Go

M2 starts tomorrow. My last summer is officially over, and now we look forward to learning more about becoming real doctors and taking the dreaded first Step of the USMLE. I think I have everything I need, and I tried to get as organized as I could before this chaos starts all over again.

 

I am so thankful for this summer that I’ve had “off”, even though it turned out nothing like I had originally hoped or planned. No Costa Rican vacation, no mission trip to Ecuador, no month long Externship in the NICU, no summer research program… all things that I was really bummed about in the beginning. Instead, I’ve got a beautiful baby girl that I’ve spent a wonderful 8 weeks with, I am seemingly well-rested, and I’ve spent large quantities of quality time with my husband, family, and friends. I know this year will continue to test my limits in knowledge, endurance, perseverance, spirituality, and relationships. I know that once this year is over, I won’t be the same person who went into it. I look forward to those challenges, and I’m so excited for all that is in store for this year.

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First Assignments

School starts on Monday. This summer went by so very quickly, and I’m not so sure that I’m ready to take on M2 just yet, while at other times I can’t wait. This year should be much more interesting since what we’re studying is directly relatable to the clinic: Micro/Immuno, Pharmacology, and Pathology (and more ICM). And then there’s studying for Boards, Step 1, that I’ll take next May/June. There’s been lots of talk of studying for Step, and this week we’ve received our first emails about classes, including having RedMed up so we can see our class schedule and syllabi.

And then we get an email that says this:

“Well, you thought classes start on Monday. Not so.”

Those are exactly the words you want to hear during the last week of summer.

So, we have a preclass quiz to fill out and return. Luckily for me, I’ve already read parts of the texts for this year, immunology included (gunner move, I know), so I’m not worried about it, but still… really?!

Also, for ICM this year, we have to do so many hours of precepting (just like last year) but we also have to go to a few community health-type of preceptorships, with the option of getting two of them done over the summer. I gave up a day of my summer (on our third wedding anniversary, of course) to go to two of them, a rehab center and a domestic violence/sexual abuse center. Both of these were great experiences and I’m definitely glad I got them out of the way over the summer. Yesterday, they sent out the evaluation forms for the two preceptorships… which are more like quizzes than evaluations, but at least they’re short.

Here’s to being able to fire off these three short assignments, start some Pathoma, and finish these last articles and my manuscript in the last 4-ish days before M2 starts!

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