Useful Apps for Fourth Year

I cannot believe that it is already September and recruitment season is almost here. These were the apps that helped me keep my sanity through a wonderful fourth year that was full of adventure and excitement as I closed the book on that chapter of my life. 4th year was a lot of fun but still a lot of work and a TON of stress. These apps helped to relieve that stress.

***I am not sponsored by any of these apps/companies… I found them throughout the year and thought they were useful… I’m still using them!***

  1. NRMP PRISM app

This app, designed by the NRMP, was great for tracking the programs I applied to, interview dates, and they even had a ranking system. I have been telling every 4th year student about this app! (And, it’s free!) You choose which Match you want to enter (Main Residency vs. specialty like Urology, vs. fellowships), add your programs, and update once interviews get going. It was so helpful, and I already had a framework for my Rank Order List (again, easing the stress… a little).

Waze

Honestly, I’ve been using this app for a long time well before interview season. It’s a crowdsourced GPS that shows you the fastest route to your destination and it updates in real time so you can avoid wrecks and traffic jams. I spent so much time on the road driving to the majority of my interviews 😳 and this app saved me a lot of time. All I had to do was type in the address and drive. (It also shows you places to stop along the way…. where to get gas, restaurants, etc.)

Audible

In speaking of all that time on the road… after awhile, I grew bored of my iTunes and even the radio and I needed something else to stimulate my brain while the miles ticked by. Audible is a branch of Amazon and there so many choices. Some books are free, you can be ‘gifted’ your first book by a friend, or you can sign up for a membership (this is what I did) and get discounts on books. In the membership, you get one credit per month to use on any book (any $ amount), plus discount if you buy additional books (plus they have new free books pop up all of the time). I spent so much time on the road (I literally stopped clocking the hours because it was insane), but I would use my monthly credit toward the longest audiobooks I could find. I started the _Outlander_ series and some of them are 30-45 hours of audiobook… and some of them I listened to more than once. Now that my round of interview season is over, I still use this every day on my commute to and from work.

Calm

At the beginning of 4th year, I downloaded the Calm app to give meditating a try to see what it was about. I liked this (FREE!) app because it had lots of material on it that I found soothing. There was plain background noise (I use mountain lake, pictured above), guided and unguided meditations, and series of meditations (such as, A Week of Calm, A Week of Stress Relief, etc), and all of that was free. Each meditation is 10 minutes long or so. Since then, they have majorly upped their game. Now even the free version has daily meditations on topics to ponder, more series meditations, a section just for music, and–my favorite–SLEEP STORIES. I have such a hard time falling asleep when I am 1) alone 2) in unfamiliar places and 3) stressed about the next day’s interviews, all of which I was doing on a regular basis during interview season. My sleep was suffering during that time, but in using this app, I gained back a lot of peace. I still use this app every day, and I upgraded to the paid version so I have access to all of the content. They are constantly adding to the content, with new daily meditations, sleep stories, music, series, etc.

Those are my top choices for useful apps for 4th year. What apps did you find helpful?

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Welcoming 2017

Looking back over the past year, I thought I’d start out with my resolutions for 2016. How well, or how poorly, did I do? Where do we go from here?

Here’s an excerpt from last year’s New Year’s post:

Last week, I found this idea: a “7 x 2016”, a prompt for making wishes become goals instead of ‘traditional’ resolutions. I really liked that idea, so here goes mine, with a couple additions:

Learn how to.….. speak in medical Spanish. Back in high school and even college, I was pretty good in speaking Spanish with native speakers. However, it’s true that what you don’t use, you lose. I’ve bought a guide and have already conquered the first chapter. Here’s hoping for better communication with some of my future patients. This one has been a success, in some ways. One of the perks of being a medical student is that sometimes we are offered discounts on this… like Rosetta Stone. Our class got a deal on the Spanish set, and I jumped at the chance to use a program to increase my skills. I’m still not done with the program or with the Medical Spanish text I bought, but every little step is a victory so I’m calling it a win.

Start……. My Year of Kindness. One thing I’ve been noticing lately is a genuine lack of kindness in our community. I’ve got a few ideas on what to target for each month, and I’m really hoping this new venture is a success. More on that soon. This was also a success, and one that I am very proud of. In January of last year I pioneered a project christened My New Kentucky Home that served the refugee and new immigrant populations of my city, and it was a smashing success. What a way to kick off a year of Kindness!

Stop…… Doubting myself. I do it all the time. It’s a hard habit to break, but I realize what a detriment it is to my psyche and my performance as a student, wife, and mom. There is no room for it anymore in this new year. I have gotten better at this. It is a very slow process, but I’m gaining more optimism by the day. It’s so easy to give up on some things because they seem so daunting. Slowing changing that inner voice has helped my life in a big way.

Travel to.….. This one is my favorite, I think. While I feel like I am overdue for a visit to somewhere outside the USA. It’s been almost 5 years since we went to the Caribbean. However, I think that adventure might still be awhile off. This year, we’re planning on a post-third year pre-Step 2 studying family vacation to Washington, DC and Virginia Beach–three new states for me and the Ladybug’s first trip to a beach. Much slower-paced than we’re used to, but that’s ok! Making memories with my family is a priority this year. We made a ton of memories on that trip to DC and Virginia Beach! The little one had a blast too, so I think another beach vacation is in the cards for 2017.

Find…. Two half-marathons to run this year. With rotations, it’s not like I can just pick which ones to do this far ahead of time, so I’m wondering if I should skip the local half-marathon in April (during my OB/GYN rotation… just watch my week of nights in L&D be the same time as the race) and plan for one in summer and another in the fall. Any suggestions for fun ones to run? As it turned out, the local half marathon WAS during my two weeks of Labor and Delivery, when I was working intense hours at an intense pace. So, this goal was a flop. I failed. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t gain something along the way. I was much likely to be found at the gym this year, even if I didn’t get to run in those races that I hoped for. I no longer hate the gym. I no longer feel that it is a chore to go, but instead I actually look forward to going. Baby steps! My most consistent part of the year was probably during Step 2 studying, since I would get in a run before sitting down to study as part of my daily routine.

Try…… New restaurants in our area. Since there is a great probability that we just may not be living here after The Match, I’ve insisted that instead of always going to the same places (which I love, honestly), that we try some new places that are unique to the Louisville area. We’ve asked friends of ours to go with us to a new restaurant once a month. I’m really excited for this new Double-Date Night! This was also a major fail. Between my schedule, the Handsome’s long hours at work, and conflicting schedules with friends, this one did not get off the ground. However, we still have high hopes for 2017 and adding more friends to the mix.

Be more……. Girly. Since being in med school, I quit dressing nice for class/school in general unless it was absolutely necessary. Then once I became a mom, I put myself last on the list of people to care for. I love dresses but don’t think they look right on me. Since losing so much weight, the brand-new clothes I bought for rotations in July already don’t fit me, which is a blessing and a curse. I hope to actually acquire some style this year, and maybe even keep my nails painted and try new lipstick or something. So this one is a win for me too. This has been the first year in a long time where I actually took care of myself. Taking pride in my appearance wasn’t on the radar before because I was simply trying to survive, and spending time on myself didn’t feel like it had good return on investment. However, now I am feeling better about myself (it’s all part of changing that inner dialog!).

And then two I added to make my own “9 x 2016”:

Less….. Screen time/wasted time on my phone. I wonder how much efficient I would be if I transferred all of my phone time to work time. Not that it’s bad to focus on something outside of medicine for awhile, but I find that I scroll through all the social media apps when I’m bored and spend much more time on them then I intend. There was good and bad to this one. I was much better about staying off of Social Media during my dedicated study time for Step 2 CK, but outside of that, I STILL pay far too much attention to my phone.

More…… Memories/Playtime with my kiddo and hubby. The Ladybug loves for momma to come home and do nothing but play until it’s her bedtime… which sometimes eats up a large amount of my study time, and sometimes makes me worry that I’m not a good medical student. However, I don’t think this is time wasted (such as when I’m on my phone). I always, always, always make sure that I tell her that I am happy to see her and that I love her as soon as I pick her up each day. I want to soak up all of this sweet toddler time as I can. This one was definitely a win. 4th year has aided in my ability to make more special moments with my family, since I’ve had much more ‘free time’ this year than in the previous three years. Every opportunity I get to pick up the little one early from daycare to take a surprise visit to the park, I take. It has been amazing and so sweet.

So what does that leave for 2017? 2016 was my best year yet for sticking to my goals throughout the year. Previously, my ‘resolutions’ were usually broken by the first few weeks of the new year. This year’s successes are making me much more optimistic for 2017 and beyond. 2017 has the potential to be the best year yet with so many new adventures on the horizon: my brother is getting married in the spring, I graduate in May, we will be purchasing our first home before the start of residency, and I will finally get my MD and start training to become a pediatrician. Many new things were introduced into my life this year, which were unexpected and totally outside of my 9×2016 list. I have started meditating using the Calm app (which I love!), increasing my yoga practice, and becoming minimalist. These were things I never saw coming but I am so glad I found them/they found me and my family, and I fully intend to keep them throughout 2017.

My 9×2017:

Learn:… Spanish. This is just a continuance, and still something that is very important to me. It has already helped me form greater bonds with my patients and their families just by saying the phrases that I do know, and acknowledging that I still have more to learn but I am TRYING.

Start: Racing. I made good strides of going to the gym more frequently and PR’ing my times, but I want to bite the bullet and actually race this year. I’ve already signed up for a local series of races where I can build up my distance.

Stop: Feeling guilty for not knowing everything. So much of medical school is realizing just how much I STILL DO NOT KNOW even when I am killing myself with studying. It is OK that I do not know everything. There is an opportunity to learn each day, and I plan on fully taking advantage of that and asking more questions… all of which will make me a better physician.

Travel to: We have several plans for travel this year, with the first adventure being next week. I could go on and on about this one, but for now I will just say there will be hiking and sunshine and a few new states/possibly countries.

Find: The right program, the right home, the right mentors. Some of these are time-dependent, but there will be a lot of work to do come Match Day (3/17).

Try: New restaurants (a continuance of our goal for last year) along with new foods! As part of interview season this year, we get a lot of dinners out with residents in all of these new cities and I’ve made it a secondary goal to try meals I would ordinarily never try. From butternut squash ravioli to my first taste of Indian food (which I LOVED!), it’s been a good idea to branch out and try new cuisines/flavors.

Be more: Of an advocate. One of the things I love most is projects, especially those that help people. I do not have much experience on the political side of things, but as I start residency it is increasingly important to me that I learn how to fight for my patients, their families, and their needs. Learning this skill is one of the things I am most looking forward to in residency, in my new role. How exactly do I plan to do that? First of all, I’ve been interviewing at programs that excel in advocacy. There are other opportunities for training through local and away electives. I’ve also been looking for great mentors. No matter where I end up Matching, I will have a solid foundation to help me with that endeavor.

Less: Screen time. This one is a hard one to break (I mean, I’m blogging right now, so….), but I realize that especially with screen time, less is more.

More: Meditation, exercise, relaxation, reflection, minimalism. All of these things, to me, go together hand-in-hand. What I haven’t been doing much of lately is reflecting and writing about how these things have helped change our lives for the better.

I am looking forward to a 2017 full of adventures and memories. What are your goals for the new year? What big adventures are on your heart and mind? Share with me! Let’s encourage each other to make 2017 the best year yet!

Vacation

My surgery rotation was very rough, and not just because of the workload and studying. David and I really needed a break and some room to breathe afterward. We didn’t even tell anyone we were going, besides our babysitters, until we were at the airport. We’d talked about visiting Moab, Utah ever since the first epic road trip. We made that trip a reality over my vacation break (the week of my birthday!), and I’m so glad we did!

 
Landscape Arch
Delicate Arch
Double Arch

Canyonlands National Park

This time of year is the perfect time to go out west to explore the parks. Low-hanging clouds would kiss the mountains with fresh snow overnight, but during the day it was warm enough to go hiking without putting on too many layers. We also basically had most of the parks to ourselves. On the hike up to Delicate Arch, I don’t even think we saw a dozen other people. My goal was to sit in the stillness and quietness of nature, so it was perfect.

And then of course David indulged my nerdiness and we drove by Denver’s children’s hospital. I am so lucky to have him!

Year in Review: 2014

Following the sappy trend of reflecting upon the wonderful year that was 2014, below are my responses to 50 questions about the last year and looking ahead to the next:

YOUR 2014

1. What one event, big or small, are you going to tell your grandchildren about?

This was the year we welcomed our firstborn. This is the year we will never forget.

2. If you had to describe your 2014 in 3 words, what would they be?

Studying, sleepless, blessed.

3. What new things did you discover about yourself?

That I am capable of much more than I imagined, but also that I need to scale back some things…. sure, I can kill myself through working too hard, or I can relax a bit and be much happier and much more fulfilled. I’ve discovered that I rather like the latter these days.

4. What single achievement are you most proud of?

I am really excited that my writing is seeming to take off. I’m excited to see where that trail leads. That was always a huge dream of mine, and to have an outlet like in-Training to share my work, and even have an article picked up by Student Doctor Network was a huge accomplishment.

5. What was the best news you received?

That Ladybug is healthy. 100%, perfectly healthy. Having to go through both Medical Embryology and Biochemistry/Genetics while pregnant is not the best idea… you learn absolutely every tiny thing that can possibly go wrong. It turns out that hearing about such awful things like holoprosencephaly and the mucopolysaccharidoses makes you think that it’s inevitable that your growing baby will likely have one of those horrid things.

6.What was your favourite place that you visited in 2014?

When we went on our road trip to Galveston in April so I could present my research at the UTMB conference, we side-tracked on our way home to visit, for the first time, our long-lost friends who live in Louisiana. That has to be at the top of my favorites list, since we didn’t get to travel as much as we’d hoped, and this was a bonus state and bonus layover with great friends (who selflessly gave this 8-month pregnant lady a warm, comfortable bed for a great night’s sleep).

7.Which of your personal qualities turned out to be the most helpful this year?

Hands down… perseverance.

8.Who was your number one go-to person that you could always rely on?

David is my hero when I need one, my comedian on occasion, my travel buddy, my partner in crime, my co-daydreamer… my other half.

9.Which new skills did you learn?

I learned how to really use my stethoscope, and I’ve been practicing with heart sounds. I know this sounds extremely nerdy and not very useful in the long run, but since the sounds are difficult for me to hear correctly, to me, it’s a big accomplishment to gain this skill.

I am also much, much better about keeping my mouth shut these days. It’s really hard to do around friends who are anti-vaxxers or when friends and family members ask me questions about their health, but I’m learning discretion in my remarks. I have a feeling that this will be a very valuable skill.

10.What, or who, are you most thankful for?

I can’t just say one person and do justice to anyone who has helped me through the past year. David was my hero every day of my pregnancy, and my parents help us out so much now so that I can continue to pursue my dream. Dr. H, Dr. F, Dr. B-C, Dr. T, G, A, and Dr. C were all instrumental in helping me finish my first year strong. I couldn’t have done it without all of these lovely people.

11.If someone wrote a book about your life in 2014, what kind of genre would it be? A comedy, love story, drama, film noir or something else?

It would have to be a comedy. Me, waddling everywhere for half the year. Me, sleep deprived ^1000th degree. All of my mishaps in first year and the first few weeks of Ladybug’s life. Yep, a comedy.

12.What was the most important lesson you learnt in 2014?

How much I value calm, relaxed days at home. I used to be such a busy-body. Now I value my time to relax, regroup, focus, and rejuvenate so much more. I realize that I have to make time for myself, and it’s ok to ask for help–even if I just need a morning to sleep in and have one of the “aunts” come over to babysit. Calmness, the need for less “stuff” and more memories, is something that I have appreciated even more this year, and I’m ready to start downsizing and enjoying life more than stuff and clutter and tasks. Downsizing will be good for the long run as well… looking ahead to moving for residency.

13.Which mental block(s) did you overcome?

There were several times where I thought that I couldn’t do this…. “this” being, being pregnant and a student. When I got to the point where I got overwhelmed when I was slow to get ready in the morning, couldn’t tie my own shoes, and had trouble with getting winded just walking to class, I wanted to give up. That was really tough. I’m so glad that phase is over.

14.What 5 people did you most enjoy spending time with?

Aunt Sherry and Uncle Mike; David; Ladybug; and the other Aunt Sherry. All people I either take for granted, don’t get to see often, or enjoy down-time with.

15.What was your biggest break-through moment career-wise?

When I realized that I really was made for this. Every time I get to see a patient that really sticks with me, I am so glad that I chose this path, and this path seemed to also choose me. I am always amazed by how many things there are to do with a medical degree, and I am encouraged that all the things I want to do, eventually, I will be able to with all of these skills.

16. How did your relationship to your family evolve?

It became much stronger. I am ever so amazed by the intense love my parents feel for my child, and we have grown much closer with her arrival.

17. What book or movie affected your life in a profound way?

I grew up watching the 1980’s cartoon version of The Hobbit. When I was a bit older, I read the Tolkien books. And now, the cinematic adaptations have come to an end. While they’re not dead set on the book plot, I love all of them, all 6. But seeing the last Hobbit movie, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, was harder on me than I had predicted. Now that they are over and there are no more to look forward to seeing, it feels like a bit of my childhood has died, and this makes me immensely sad.

18. What was your favourite compliment that you received this year?

That my daughter is a great baby. I know this sounds totally cliche, but it’s true. The whole time I was pregnant, I was hoping she would be a happy and healthy baby. The first 8 weeks were the hardest part about being a mom, because I’m learning how she likes things, and she’s learning to cope with being on the outside. It was really, really rough for what seemed to be a long time. But in all honesty, she’s a great baby. She hardly ever cries; she gets fussy when she’s hungry, or sleepy, or needs changed. That’s it. We’ve gone out to dinner with family and friends, and no one can believe she is already as well-behaved as she is. I prayed so hard during my pregnancy that she wouldn’t have colic and that she’d be a calm, happy baby.

19. What little things did you most enjoy during your day-to-day life?

Once Ladybug goes to bed and I can have some quiet time with David. Everything is always so busy… and I’m of the frame of mind to “quit glorifying busy-ness”. It’s nice at the end of the day to relax and remember who we are as a couple, not as parents or employees or students, but as “just us.”

20. What cool things did you create this year?

I am working on a project for Ladybug’s room: a travel map of everywhere she’s been. It’s not done yet, but I love this little project and I hope we instill a love of traveling and adventure in her as she grows up.

21. What was your most common mental state this year (e.g. excited, curious, stressed)?

Worried. Ever so worried. Worried about how I’d survive the semester pregnant… worried that what if I had to repeat the year, or needed to take a leave of absence… worried that maybe she wouldn’t be healthy…. worried about how my relationship with my husband would change… worried about how I would juggle school with being a mom… worried that I’d made the wrong decision and should have taken the year off… worried that I wouldn’t be a good wife/mom/student. Always so worried, with no need to be!

22.Was there anything you did for the very first time in your life this year?

Of all the things I could choose, I’m going with this one: observing an autopsy. Hats off to the pathologists who have a stomach for this endeavor. While I was fine with the physical work that was involved, as I learned more about the case from the coroner, the more I did NOT want to know… and I think the “knowing” about these cases, and having to testify for cases as part of my job, would wear down my soul. I firmly believe that forensic pathology is out of the question for me. I cried on the way home that day–the case was just too overwhelming.

23. What was your favourite moment spent with your friends?

Taking Ladybug to see one of my best friends for the first time. This friend likes her dogs more than she likes kids, but she took right to Ladybug and I’m pretty sure the love was mutual.

24. What major goal did you lay the foundations for?

For a long time, I’ve wanted to be a runner. Even when I was in the best shape of my life in high school running track, I was mostly a thrower–discus and shot put–and running has always been a challenge for me. I do not have the hips of a runner… but I’ve wanted to overcome that and start to actually enjoy running. While we lived in Indianapolis, I convinced (conned?) David into running a 5k with me (The Color Run), which was tons of fun, but my goal was to run a mini marathon. My dad started running several years ago, and has run 7 mini’s. If he could do it, I could too. So we trained, and we finished! That medal is something that I’m extremely proud of. But it’s not enough. Not long after, I started school, got pregnant, and couldn’t run the second mini I had already signed up for. (Dad couldn’t run it that year. So I wanted to finish it, 7 months pregnant, with a shirt I made that said “For my Dad… (and my grandpa!)” and present him with the medal. But this was not to be. At 7 months pregnant, I could barely waddle from the parking garage to campus, less than a mile.) So my goal is to run the Derby City Mini Marathon in April of 2015, with hopes to keep running after that. I’ve recently found out about the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital mini marathon, and a series of races in the national parks that I really want to participate in, in the future.

25. Which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary?

Worries are always, always, always unnecessary.

26. What experience would you love to do all over again?

The holidays with Ladybug for the first time. Sure, she won’t remember it, but since she means so much to all of her family members, their reaction to her was my favorite thing about the holidays so far, and I’ve really relished it.

27. What was the best gift you received?

I don’t want everything to tie into having a baby, but she is definitely the greatest gift… I am also so thankful for our health, insurance, family and friends…. but if I have to pick just one gift that someone gave to me this year, I would have to say that the luggage tag that David made for me, custom with one of his photos from our roadtrip vacation to Glacier National Park, is probably my favorite.

28. How did your overall outlook on life evolve?

I have discovered what I want my long-term life to look like. It seems like so much of my life has been working toward just getting to the “next step”… high school, college, med school…. or just making it from exam to exam. Now, though, I’m learning what I want my life to look like when I am–finally–working. (I miss working.) I don’t want my child to feel neglected. I don’t want to keep my focus on the “next step” of climbing rungs on a ladder. I’m the type that is a badass at her job, uses all of my vacation days to their fullest, and strives to be happy. I don’t think I would do well in hospital administration or any type of work where climbing the ladder is expected.

29. What was the biggest problem you solved?

The biggest problem that I needed help with, especially once the semester began, was how to manage my time most effectively so I could save time, be less stressed, and make as much time as possible to spend with family. It was a learning process, and took awhile with trial and error to get down to a science… Now that we have our routine, I can study effectively when I need to focus, and once I come home I can relax and not worry.

30. What was the funniest moment of your year, one that still makes it hard not to burst out laughing when you think about it?

David made the mistake of telling me that his mind is a colander, and this has definitely came back to bite him on several occasions. This has made me burst out laughing many times, but I guess the story is only funny if you were there at the time.

31. What idea turned out to be the best decision ever?

Using my “last summer ever” as my maternity leave. I was uncertain about what this would mean for my career, but I’m glad I had that time at home to recover and focus on myself and my family instead of worrying about how a few weeks would affect my entire, decades-long career.

32. What one thing would you do differently and why?

I would not listen to the hospital staff about breastfeeding. The best advice I got came from another OB in the group practice that came to see me when mine had the day off–and he was male! I stressed out so much over breastfeeding in the beginning, something that is supposed to be natural. In the long run though, I think it’ll make me a better doctor because I know what it’s like to be in a tough situation as a brand-spanking-new mom with a brand-spanking new baby who are both learning how to fill those new roles. And, note to self: if I’m ever in a private practice pediatrician’s office, hire a full-time lactation consultant, and don’t rely on nurses for such services.

33. What do you deserve a pat on the back for?

Continuing with M2 without taking time off. I’ve wondered if I made the right decision many times, but pursuing this so I can graduate on time and move on with life has been a great decision for us, even though it has been much, much more difficult than I had imagined.

34. What activities made you lose track of time?

Showing Ladybug the world… reading to her, watching her learn and play. She’s such a smart baby already, and curious about everything. The days of breaks go by so quickly now that we have her.

35. What did you think about more than anything else?

Vacations and trips. I have had intense travel fever for about a year. When I was working full time, I could go about three months before I needed a trip somewhere to clear my head–even if it was only an extended weekend. I tend to feel better about myself and am able to focus better if I have had a trip somewhere new.

36. What topics did you most enjoy learning about?

Over the past several years, I’ve started following blogs written by medical students all over the world: Canada, South Africa, the UK, Australia, the Philippines, etc. I love learning about all styles of healthcare and medical education. What I find to be endearing is that even though the countries are different, the systems are different and the curricula vary dramatically, is that we are all going through a lot of the same things as we grow as physicians-in-training. It’s nice to see other students’ lives and how we manage all of the stress, the unknowns, and life outside of medicine.

37.What new habits did you cultivate?

I am not an optimist by nature. I tend to always think about worse-case-scenario first… and my lifelong motto has been “always be prepared.” So this year I have made a conscious effort to be an encourager. This academic year is stressful by nature, with the constant reminder that Step 1 is just around the corner. I don’t like seeing people so overly stressed when we are already pushed to our limits. Simple things, such as a smile or a hello or a complement, can really turn someone’s day around. I try to do that for everyone, every day. It’s made a difference in me as well; I’m not nearly as pessimistic as I have been in the past.

38.What advice would you give your early-2014 self if you could)?

I would tell myself not to worry so much. Lord knows I worried way too much about how things would turn out with having the baby and then going back to school. It all has worked out far better than we imagined.

39. Did any parts of your self or your life do a complete 180 this year?

The things that I worry about, and even worrying itself. There are some things that I used to care a lot about that now, I simply don’t have the time for, and letting them go has made me a lot more stress-free.

40. What or who had the biggest positive impact on your life this year?

Dr. T has played a huge role in my school life, and she’s been a key player in formulating what I want my future career to look like. She also has a family, so she is a great mentor.  I hope I can adopt her outlook on life. I have never, ever seen anything but a smile on her face. Her husband is actually in the first year class this year, so she understands a lot about what is going on in the lives of students.

YOUR 2015

41.What do you want the overarching theme for your 2015 to be?

Learning/Leading/Random Acts of Kindness

42.What do you want to see, discover, explore?

I am dying to get back to the mountains. Being in nature and not thinking about school or work does a wonder for my mind. I can’t wait to go back.

43.Who do you want to spend more time with in 2015?

My baby girl. I love her so much. She is growing so quickly and let me tell you, this kiddo is already so smart. I cannot wait to take her to the Smoky Mountains for her first birthday, to teach her all about hiking and exploring. I can’t wait to see how much she continues to grow and learn from now til then.

44.What skills do you want to learn, improve or master?

I still want to learn medical Spanish so I can optimize my time with patients. I’d still like to get better with suturing. I really, really hope that I can work my way up to being an avid runner. I want to be a great mom. I hope I grow in Christ, and love my husband well. I want to get back into yoga again, and improve my own health overall. I hope to start reading more for fun instead of just studying or avoiding fun reading. Improving my SOAP notes and clinical knowledge and experience are always high on my list.

45.Which personal quality do you want to develop or strengthen?

I want to continue to strengthen my generosity. Since moving home, I’ve had less opportunity to serve the homeless in my community like I did in Indianapolis.

46.What do you want your everyday life to be like?

Happier. Sure we’re more stressed because Step 1 is approaching, but there is no reason we shouldn’t still be having fun while in the preclinical portion of our medical education, the very last year that we’ll ever be in a classroom.

47.Which habits do you want to change, cultivate or get rid of?

My laziness. I’ve been so lazy this year. The habits that I cultivated while pregnant (take it easy!) have persisted and I’m working on getting back to the before-pregnancy mindset and being more active.

48.What do you want to achieve career-wise?

  1. Get a great score on the USMLE Step 1 so that when it comes time to Match, I don’t go without a job, and hopefully we wind up somewhere that all 3 of us love.
  2. Solidify my global health research project.
  3. Spend more time in the NICU–I really miss those tiny babies. I have much to learn from them.

49. How do you want to remember the year 2015 when you look back on it 10/20/50 years from now?

It is my hope that 2015 will be the year I gain more confidence in my clinical skills, and sets me up well for my first job, residency after graduation.

50.What is your number one goal for 2015?

KILL STEP 1. This “silly summer quiz” has taken over so much of my life and my friends’ lives, and it has such a huge influence on what we can do for our careers and where we can train, that I cannot wait to get it over with… and hopefully have a score that reflects competence, hard work, and dedication.

Projects

I haven’t written anything lately for this blog. Block 3 is already upon us. (Seriously. There’s only 7 blocks for the YEAR and we’re at the 3rd one already?) I have no idea where the month of October went, but it went far too quickly.

Here is what has been keeping me busy, outside of schoolwork and wife/mom time:

My sister-in-law’s wedding. Megan and Dustin got married on the same night as our annual Halloween party at school, affectionately called Cadaver Ball. I didn’t get to go last year due to being sick (from pregnancy….that no one knew about at the time), and I was really hoping to go this year. The wedding was pretty nice (given the pickup trucks that served as an aisle, the barn in the background, and the Jack Daniels’ label invitations…), we got to see family, and our sweet Ladybug was good as gold, as usual. It was wonderful, but we got home really late, which I hadn’t planned on.

Aunt Kathy’s Kicked Cancer Party! My aunt(-in-law) finished her chemo for breast cancer, and her daughter planned a wonderful surprise party for her. It was so much fun to get to surprise her (and she loved spending more time with Ladybug!). We are so proud of her!

My birthday! So this year has been nuts so far and I kinda forgot my own birthday. Because it’s not a big deal anymore. I’m fine with keeping this number as my “last birthday” and letting that be that. I had family and a friend over for chili (that I made), we ate a grocery store cake (I wasn’t baking my own cake on a Tuesday…), and I went to bed early. Such excitement, I tell you.

My article was picked up by SDN! And…. my editors have asked me to start writing a column since the feedback and viewership of my last article was so positive! I am very excited about this!

In speaking of publications, a piece I wrote has been accepted for publication it the next edition of Abaton! This makes my second piece published here.

The Biennial Conference of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation was held in Atlanta, and my abstract was presented! I’m hoping to get to go again during 4th year; maybe as a spinoff project from my Distinction Track.

Ebola Fundraiser: a professor at my school has been at home in Sierra Leone treating Ebola patients while working for an NGO, and has finally been allowed back to the States to teach. She has graciously accepted our invitation to speak about her experiences to our Global Health Interest Group. Ebola is ubiquitous in the news lately, and there is a lot of misinformation (or just plain BAD information!) circulating in every form. Because of this, and because the problem in Sierra Leone is so severe, a few colleagues and I have been working with the faculty at the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health to put on an information program for health science workers as well a fundraiser to ship supplies to Sierra Leone. This program took place yesterday, and we had a great turnout with lots of great discussion! We are hoping to raise some funds tomorrow night at the “Beers for Ebola” event at a local newspaper.

SMILE: I adore this program. Two shifts every month, I have the privilege to spend time playing with the kiddos in the hematology/oncology ward at our freestanding children’s hospital. This has been an eye-opening program and I have learned so much about the humanistic side of medicine through interacting with these kids and their families. I admire the courageous kids and the strength of the parents. I have no idea how they are able to cope, but they are an inspiration to me.

St. Baldrick’s: St. Baldrick’s is an organization that supports children with cancer. Volunteers (“shavees”) shave their heads to be in solidarity with these kids, while raising funds for pediatric oncology research. While I have the opportunity to shave my head, I think I will bypass that and offer to donate my hair to make wigs for pediatric cancer patients. I’ve donated my hair before, but this offers the opportunity to also raise funds for a worthy cause! Feel like donating? Visit their website at:

Systole: Our school’s literary magazine is now completely student-led, and is currently accepting submissions. I haven’t worked on a literary magazine in a few years, so I’m excited for this opportunity.

Heart2Heart Discussion Series: There is a group on campus composed of faculty, staff, and students dedicated to fostering humanism in medicine. This group is an umbrella for several programs–a chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society, the literary magazine Systole, and the Heart2Heart discussion series. Last year a session was held on human trafficking, including how to spot instances of trafficking and who to turn to for help for these (usually) women. This year, we’re working on having two sessions, one later this semester and one in the spring.

These are all the projects that I’m working on for the year, which keeps me engaged and foster my interests outside of medicine. Sometimes, I get volunteered for stuff that I don’t want to do. I don’t know who thinks this is funny or a good idea, but I am definitely going to have to start saying NO. For instance, back at the beginning of the semester, someone gave my name to a professor who needed volunteers for an event. The professor asked that information be shared with the listserv email addresses, and I was cc’d on this email. Since I had no idea what they were talking about and it didn’t seem to pertain to me, I ignored the email. A week later, I got a very nasty email about not having a list of volunteers yet. So I rounded up quite a few volunteers, only to be told the very next day that they weren’t needed. This was a giant Charlie Fox that I hope to avoid in the future.

This year is flying by. I’m having so much fun (But I’m still learning a ton and working really hard!). Overall, though, this is exactly why I love medicine so very much–you can do just about anything you want, from teaching to research to literary art to fundraising for good causes… it’s incredible. I’m still going to lectures, using an insane amount of resources (including First Aid for the USMLE Step 1–which I officially registered for today!), sleeping, playing with my Ladybug when I pick her up from daycare, and doing well in classes. There IS time for life outside of school and doing stuff that I love. I’m having a blast as a second-year medical student!

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.

G1P0 to G1P1

6/27/2014

Today was the original due date. Our little miss Ladybug has now been with us for almost three weeks, and I can’t believe how much she has grown in size and personality already. I still can’t believe that I made something so cute! David has stepped into his role as a new daddy marvelously; I love watching him interact with her.

I learned that I am not good at being a patient. I didn’t really enjoy my time in the hospital. I was so ready to go home and be in my own space after she was born, having had enough of people I didn’t know knowing my business. The constant interruptions right after birth were also a bit much for someone who is already sleep deprived and stressed out. On the bright side, we are both very healthy and happy to be home.

Being a new mom has already been harder than I thought it would be. I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to be able to be a new mom, stay on top of my studies, and work on my own projects once school starts (in just over a month!!). I’m stressed out about that too, but I know there’s nothing I can do about it but take it one day at a time and adjust when I need to… much like how school + pregnancy was. It’s been a real help that we’ve had so much support at home with family and friends. While David is home tomorrow I’m planning on running to the salon with my mom to get a haircut… my first since December (I think)–I can’t even tell you how excited I am about something so simple, but I am hoping that afterward I feel a bit more like my old, pre-pregnancy and pre-new-mom self.

I’ve been told that I hold her too much. But the way I see it is, she won’t be this little forever. She won’t want to cuddle like this forever. And I won’t be on summer break forever. So for now, I will hold her and love her and forget about school for a bit.

A year ago, we were heading out on our grand adventure to the American west. We never would have thought that all of this would have happened in one short year, but I am beyond thankful that things don’t always go the way I hoped or planned.

James 1:17. Every good and perfect thing is from above.