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!

Interview Season in Pictures

The best year of medical school is the year you are accepted. The second best year is 4th year. Or so I was told four years ago. =)

Somehow it is already Christmas Break of my 4th year of medical school and in less than 5 months people will start calling me “Doctor” and I’m actually going to know how to do stuff and know things. It’s pretty unbelievable that after so many years of wanting to go to medical school and going through the process of applying to medical school four times and thinking it would never happen for me…. I am actually almost done. It doesn’t quite feel real.

I am very happy to report that the nightmares I was having back over the summer, before the ERAS residency application opened, were completely unfounded. I have more interviews than I know what to do with and the odds are in my favor that I will actually Match in March and will have my first job as a physician come next June/July. It’s been an incredible experience, if not time-consuming, alienating, and exhausting, but a necessary evil in the long run. I have met so many incredible people in the field of Pediatrics, and I feel so lucky to be going into the best specialty! (I may be a bit biased 😉 and I’m sure all of my colleagues in other fields feel the same way about their specialty.) I can’t wait to get started on my career but at the same time, I wish this year would slow down.

Over the past several months, my Instagram feed (@PagingDrAllie) has been flooded with snapshots of the interview trail. Because what else am I supposed to do when I’m going to new states, new cities, new places all by myself for nearly three months?

I purposefully do not share where I am interviewing. Not only for anonymity (which really, in having this blog, I’m probably not doing a very good job about that anyway), but I feel that sharing and bragging about those sorts of things is just in bad taste. A program that I am not thrilled with may be a friend’s top choice and they may not have received an interview invitation…. and I’m not the type of person who relishes in others’ despair. Below I’ve gathered some of my Instagram shots from my travels, with captions. I hope you enjoy a small taste of my life living out of a rental car!

One of the unexpected bonuses of traveling so much in November/December: all of the hotels and hospitals are wonderfully decorated for Christmas (and Hanakkuh, and others), which delights my soul in a particularly special way. There’s just something about twinkle lights that makes me deliciously happy.

 

This has been my view for so long that anything else almost seems foreign. After awhile, all of the hotels just blur together. There have been a couple that have really wow’d me in terms of the bedding. As a mom of a two-year-old, having a full night’s sleep, alone, without interruptions (or being kicked in the face) is a luxury beyond belief. Even so….. I do miss my own bed at home. Once I’m actually working, maybe we can investigate investing in a bigger bed that is as comfortable as this one was!

 

The bad thing about racing home, while driving alone, is that when you’re driving into a beautiful sunset, there is no one to share the experience with. Which means you pull over onto a safe pullout/shoulder and snap a few quick shots before getting back behind the wheel and trying to make up for those minutes.

I spent a week and a half in a new state to interview at several programs, thinking that would be best for my rental car and time. What I didn’t anticipate when I scheduled those interviews was how much I’d already be missing home and my kiddo, even that early in the interview season. So the Handsome came up with a brilliant scheme: instead of coming all the way home, I’d meet him and the Ladybug at the halfway point between home and the next interview to spend a weekend doing things she’d love like swimming in a heated pool and an excursion to the Children’s Museum there. So after my last interview of the week on a Friday, I raced to our rendezvous as quickly as I could to surprise the little one and when I came into the room….. she was already asleep. Figures.

Again, racing home (or to the next interview city) and I was alone with a great sunset.

This one, though, was on my way home for a weekend. This shot doesn’t do it justice, because it was seriously one of the most gorgeous displays I’ve ever seen.

This year, I’m taking a course that explores the marriage of Art with Medicine and Wellness. One of the stipulations of the course is that we make time to visit museums, aquariums, etc to help boost our wellness. The Georgia Aquarium is one of the very, very few aquariums to house Whale Sharks, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit when I was in Atlanta. I really wish I would have had more time there!

One morning right before I left home for the majority of three weeks straight. Foggy yet golden, I couldn’t help but snap a shot to remind me of home.

Thank you notes are the bane of my existence. I was raised to express gratitude where it is due, so I’ve always been a fan of handwritten notes. I had no idea that I would be writing 4, 5, or 6 or more per program, though. Mentors have pressed upon me that for Pediatrics, thank you notes are pretty important, so I should make sure each one is personalized because all of them may wind up in my file, and if they are verbatim alike, it could be a mark against me so….. I spend a lot of time writing these things.

In one city, I came into town a bit early to catch up with an old friend from college at a local coffee shop before dinner with the residents. I wanted the chance to walk the city to get a good feel for it, and as I made my way to the coffee shot, I happened to notice the sky. This shot doesn’t really capture the cotton-candy sky, but I still liked the way it turned out anyway.

I left one program just in time to sit at a coffee shop in a different city for an hour or two before meeting the residents of another program for dinner, so I took that time to compose more thank you notes.

Niagara Falls at dusk! 🙂

Probably one of my favorite shots. It doesn’t quite look real, and this is #nofilter.

There was one interview that was really, really far away. Luckily, the Handsome could go with me and we made the executive decision to take the Ladybug with us and stop over at the halfway point, Niagara Falls. She LOVED it, and I am so glad that we weren’t deterred from bringing her with us. The first thing she said was “Whoa!” which was quickly followed by, “Mommy! BIG WATER!” All three of us marked off a couple new states and this little one got to add a new country to her passport as well!

I never knew the northeast was so pretty, even in late autumn! One thing I didn’t get to take a photo of: while driving through the mountains I saw where a semi took out the biggest black bear I’ve ever seen. So sad!

On the very first morning where I was supposed to be traveling to an interview, I went out to our deck for some meditation before beginning the long drive. It was so peaceful until the small flock of geese came by to interrupt me. Not a bad way to start out an interview season, I think.

I am almost done with my interview season. Some of the advice I got from last year’s graduating class were to wrap up the interview season before Christmas break, but that didn’t work out for me. I’ve been on a ton already, but I still have 5 more in January, and I am really excited for those programs. I’ve been keeping a running “rank list” and my top 5 are very clear in my mind already, programs that I loved to pieces. I’m hoping a few of my last interviews also make it into that category.

Life These Days

Here is just a glimpse of what 4th year has looked like for me since late August/early September:

Please pardon the language on this picture, but I laughed at it because I recently completed a two-week EKG interpretation course and my ACLS training! Lets just hope that I don’t forget everything I learned in that elective because it was fun and useful but now I won’t see it again for a while.

There has been much more free time in fourth year, and you can bet that I am taking full advantage of it. The Ladybug and I hit the local parks for fun as often as I can muster with rotations, studying, ERAS-app production, etc.

I had my ACLS training early in the year, around the time that our ERAS applications were due. I wanted to get it out of the way before interview season started. This was a fun 2 day course with hands-on training (And I passed! Always a relief!); even though the EM residents running it told me they were sorry that I’d have to take it again–Pediatrics has a separate ACLS-style training course that I’ll take in the spring summer, either on my own or in coordination with my residency program.

Downsizing. Since we’re moving next year (either away to a new city/state or even just into a house if I match into our home program), I do NOT want to move all of this stuff, yet again. So we are downsizing and minimizing, which included our movie collection. I took a ton of books and movies to Half Price Books, and the movies that we did keep we transferred to a DVD case and threw away all of these cases. SO MUCH MORE SPACE!! I am so, so pleased with getting rid of all of that.

On the first day of Step 2 studying way back in July, I found the back of my earring caught in my hair but the actual earring itself was nowhere to be found. I panicked. These earring were a wedding anniversary gift from my grandma’s late husband, given to me on my wedding day. I not only wore them the day I got married, but also for every medical school interview, the day I got my first med school acceptance, every day of gross anatomy, the day I learned I was expecting, the day we learned she was the Ladybug, the day we met her and brought her home, the day I took Step 1… So they were beyond special to me. I love you Jed everywhere and retraced every step I had taken that morning. I had been to daycare, the gym, and all over campus. It was nowhere to be found. I have ugly-cried so many times since then, and I couldn’t bear to tell my grandma. I even had the thought of someday taking the remaining earring to a jeweler and having a replica pair made. It has been over 11 weeks since this happened, and I had given up all hope of finding it, took Step 2 without them, and put the remaining one safely in a jewelry box. One night this past week, the Ladybug was fighting sleep and crystal nf for a certain bedtime toy. I looked under her bed and GUESS WHAT I FOUND! How many times have I walked right by it without noticing it?! How many times have I swept that carpet and yet, there it was! I am so relieved! (And I never had to tell grandma that I lost it!)

I also passed Step 2 CK (total relief, I can never tell how I performed on those things) and updated my ERAS application before the September 15th deadline/release date. Now I only have Step 2 CS (the in-person part where we take care of a dozen standardized patients in the course of a day) and then I am totally done with exams (minus the AI, acting internship, elective shelf exam that I take in late October) until after I graduate and get my MD!

Psych so far

My last rotation of 3rd year is Child Psych, and let me tell you, it is so much different than everything else I’ve done this year, in good ways and  not so good ways.

The unit is a locked unit, with multiple doors and multiple keys. All trash bags in the unit are paper bags, not plastic. Most rooms with showers don’t have shower curtains. Since most of the kids are school-aged, there are school sessions throughout the day so that they aren’t counted as truant. There is art and music therapy. There is a schedule that is followed every day so the kids have to get up at a certain time, have showered by a certain time, etc.

We start out the day with table rounds at 8am (no pre-rounding). We then go see the kids before art/music/school/drama/the daily activity and go to any family sessions that are scheduled. I think write my notes and we’re usually done by noon or so. Lectures/Grand Rounds/Journal Club is in early afternoon, sometimes from 11-3, depending on the day. In the afternoons, three times a week, we have a clinic. We are either in the child clinic, the suboxone clinic, or the bipolar clinic. Those days can stretch out for a really long time.

During this rotation, we also have three “on call” days in EPS, Emergency Psych Services, and I’ve done all three of my calls. It is so much different than what I’m used to seeing in the day.

There are now only two weeks of third year left. Just two. I don’t feel like I know enough to be a 4th year medical student, but it is coming soon regardless.