Mile 22

Ever since I was young, I have had a passion for running. Early on in my running career, I realized I was not always the fastest, but I did learn that I had a well-established base of endurance that allowed me to run for miles and miles. During my senior year of college, I decided that it was finally time to run a marathon. For five months, I awoke early on cold, Tennessee mornings for long, training runs. After months of training, my friends and I made our way out to the starting line at 6:30 in the morning in the pouring rain of Atlanta, Georgia. The elements were not at all cooperating, but nevertheless, we were determined to run the race that we had been preparing for despite being completely soaked in water and sweat. Somewhere along the way, my friends and I got separated by our different paces and I found myself running alone. I remember getting to the twenty-two mile marker and feeling completely and utterly exhausted. My shoes and clothes were soaked, my muscles were screaming for a break, and my optimistic outlook was beginning to wane as the miles droned on and on. To say the least, mile twenty-two was filled with a lot of doubt in my training and feelings as if the finish line would never come. It was also in mile twenty-two that I met a fellow marathoner who was feeling about the same way. We began commiserating about the experience and we encouraged each other to keep running. When we saw the sign for mile twenty-three, it was as if a second-wind hit and we knew that the end was just a little ways away. Before we knew it, we crossed the finish line with the greatest sense of accomplishment.

In many ways, second year of medical school has brought up so many parallels to the experience of training for and running a marathon. I awake before the sun has come up to study for a few hours before campus becomes abuzz with activity. Each day I sit down to answer a block of at forty UWorld questions as I try to train my mind to the discipline of focusing and answering questions well for such a long duration of time. I now find myself at what feels like mile twenty-two of the marathon. My mind is tired, the to-study list seems to be ever-growing, the sleep and exercise seem to be decreasing, but I have to keep pushing forward one day at a time. Similar to my marathon race, I find myself surrounded by classmates who are experiencing the exact same situation. Although we each feel discouraged, exhausted, and stressed, I am daily amazed to see what endurance, abilities, and passion each of my classmates possesses that causes them to give this medical school life their absolute best day after day. We encourage each other daily, we laugh and cry together in the misery, and ultimately we will soon round the corner of USMLE Step 1 and be third-year medical students. Oh how I cannot wait to cross the finish line!

A Month of Love

As Step 1 nears and anxiety escalates, I often find myself looking at the negatives. Like, I’m never going to finish all of these UWorld questions!! Pathophys will be the death of me!! And other catastrophic thoughts that only serve to destroy my productivity and self-esteem (don’t think of such things!). But I wanted something positive to look back on in this experience, and the end of February seemed like the perfect time to do that.

The first weekend of February was a golden weekend, and it marked the end of the 4th test cycle (woohoo!). That Saturday night, a group of my classmates had a game night of Trifecta (Taboo and charades combined). I laughed SO HARD. So hard I couldn’t breathe. While imitating Donald Trump, hula dancing, pretending to be a potato, and acting out old musicals, we all temporarily forgot the stress of the last test cycle.

The next evening, a friend and I visited an Escape Room in Redlands. We worked on puzzles with two strangers and escaped the room with minutes to spare. I had a blast using my mental abilities for something other than medical school for a change.

On February 8, one of my friends celebrated a birthday, and a few of us surprised her with some macaroons and balloons. She was studying at home and was so happy to see us! While at the bakery looking for her gifts, I nibbled on some sweets too, which always makes me happy.

During that week, one of my classmates had a healthy, handsome baby boy. A few days after giving birth, she brought her baby to class so that we could all look at his angelic sleeping face. He was a sweet reminder that life is so precious and that many wonderful things can happen during times of distress.

That Friday night, we had a class vespers at one of my classmate’s lovely house. His parents were so kind and welcoming. We had fantastic Indonesian food and home-made cookies and heard two of our classmates share their testimonies of their journeys with Christ. We also made Valentine’s Day cards to hand out to a neighborhood in San Bernardino.

February 11 was Caribbean Day (part of Black History Month celebration) at Kansas Ave. SDA Church. A few of my friends were on praise team that day. We celebrated the many cultures of Caribbean countries. Many church members were dressed to represent. The music was lively and uplifting. So many colors and beautiful people! And delicious food for lunch!

That night, our class had a documentary showing for a fundraiser. We raised hundreds of dollars towards our class project — Koidu Clinic in Sierra Leone (check it out here)! Also that night, a friend’s church had an Acoustic Night during which lots of old and new love songs were sung and played. I was sitting next to a special someone that night, and the whole event simply felt like a dream.

100 roses!

Valentine’s Day was a big day because I had been planning a rose fundraiser for the class project. I and a few friends (and a far-away expert florist) worked hard to get them ready for distribution. This was the giving day, and it was a success! Everyone was so happy to receive them. Valentine’s Day was off to a good start.

The day got even better when I went to my car. I was greeted with this! A “I <3 U” message on my steering wheel, a solar powered dancing plant, snacks, and chocolate. I felt so loved and special.

The weekend of the 17th was a big one for the M1s. Friday night was the class’s dedication, and I saw my first year friends receive their LLU Bibles. I was so proud of them. The next afternoon, an M1 friend invited me and other friends over to his place for lunch with his parents who were visiting for the big weekend. We played Trifecta with his parents, and now I know where my friend gets his hilariousness and competitiveness from!

That Saturday night, a group of friends and I went to Round 1 in Moreno Valley and had a karaoke night. We sang to Beyonce, Journey, Phantom of the Opera, Usher, and Disney songs. I saw the true fun (slightly crazy!) side of my friends, and it was so refreshing!

The next day, Sandi Patty performed a concert at LLU Church. She was overwhelmingly amazing!! I have never seen her perform live, and I was blown away! The day after was President’s Day, and I was able to spend it with my family. The moments when all five of us are together are few, so we always make sure to involve food as well.

In the days that followed, I went to Street Medicine, gave advice to high school students at a CAPS event, ate at an Indonesian restaurant with a few girl friends (girl’s night out, we called it), spent time with an uncle and aunt visiting from Colorado. The School of Medicine had a special vespers during which an experienced panel discussed the topic of relationships (oo la laaa, I know).

The end of February was capped with a visit under the sea – to The Little Mermaid! I experienced it with a very special friend (yes, the same one who went to Acoustic Night with me and decorated my car).

In the end, although the time between these events were filled with classes, studying, stress, and Step 1 anxiety, the good still outweighed the bad. I still had friends and family who cared about me and reminded me that there is life outside of medical school. I still had weekend time to enjoy extra things. There were still so many things for which to be grateful. In the end, it was still a month of a lot of love.

Awkward.

I didn’t realize how little outside exposure I would get during the first two years of medical school. I’m inside practically all day and only go home to sleep (which is still indoors!). As Step 1 nears, the atrophy of my social skills has become all the more apparent, and in many situations, I end up being very…well, awkward.

A few examples to illustrate:

On one normal Sabbath day, I was merrily singing my heart out during song service. Then the congregation started singing, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.” For the first verse, I sang, “All hail the power of Jesus’ name! Let angels prostate fall!” I immediately stopped, incredulous and amused. Did I really just sing out the word “prostate”?


Spending time in crowded areas, even grocery stores, lately feels new and exciting. When I’m out in public, I can’t help but stare at people. I think, his face and arms are very edematous – I wonder if he has superior vena cava obstruction? I would have to look at his JVP, check for pitting, and rule out a heart or liver issue. Or her right eyelid is drooping – I wonder if she has Horner’s? Or maybe Bell’s palsy? That man is walking with a shuffle gait. I wonder if he also has a Parkinsonian resting tremor. I stare long enough until some people catch my eye. Of course, my instinct is to smile and totally give away that I’ve been coming up with a dozen review of system questions to ask them.


I have become great at not maintaining eye contact. Whenever I start talking to someone, my eyes get confused and dart everywhere, looking for words to read. Talking to people who are interested in things outside of school has also become unfamiliar. What do I say? Am I saying the right things? Why does he think I know anything about TV shows and fun? Responses have become reflex, like “That’s so cool that you went cliff jumping and waterfall swimming in a lake! I just learned what microbes swim in places like those!”


Lately, I’ve been fumbling with words and staying silent because I don’t know how to say something. What’s the word for putting fruit into a blender and mixing them together? Oh right, blend. I’ve forgotten how to speak English. I’ve also forgotten essential information like names. Whenever I see an acquaintance, my usual greeting has become, “Oh, hi there….you! *awkward pause* How’s it going?” I can only hope that in a few minutes, my hippocampus catches up, and I can finally recall his/her name. Or else I end up asking the same person multiple times in multiple occasions, “I’m so sorry. What was your name again?”


Let’s just say, I can’t wait to be done with Step 1.

A Shocking Experience

As we stand around the bedside of our patient, the family anxiously tells us that he was found that morning with vomit and blood around him. The bells are going off in my mind that this man is in hypovolemic shock. The sounds of machines taking his vital signs continue to beep. I see his blood pressure dropping lower and lower before my eyes. With only a year and four months of medical school under my belt, my team and I feel incredibly inadequate to take this man’s treatment into our hands. We quickly begin to realize that we do not have much time to simply stand there, so we begin fulfilling our roles taking a history, physical exam, and ordering tests and treatments that we have only read about. I got on the phone with the pharmacy to order normal saline to replace his fluid loss. The pharmacist asked me how much I wanted to order. My mind went blank. I looked at my teammate who looked back equally as unsure. With some unsteadiness, I replied back that we wanted one liter of normal saline. As I watched his vitals to see what effect this would take, I quickly knew that we were going to need much more. With each time that I called the pharmacy for blood, fluids, or antiemetics, I became increasingly more confident in what I was ordering. Over the course of a few minutes as we gained more information, ran more tests, and administered more aggressive therapy, we began to watch his vital signs improve. We were about ready to send him to endoscopy to look for ruptured esophageal varices when all of a sudden, a voice came across the loudspeaker saying that the next team was up. Before you get too concerned about patient safety at Loma Linda, I should probably let you know that this was just a learning experience in our Simulation Lab that combined our knowledge of pathophysiology and pharmacology into an afternoon of anaphylactic, hypovolemic, and cardiogenic shock.

My team and I with our assigned roles.

In the few hours that we spent working together in lab, each team took turns getting to be the physicians. Those who were not actively participating sat on the sidelines, stopping the situation if there was a treatment that they felt was unsafe for the patient, conferring with others about the best course of action, or being entertained by the flurry of activity in the room. Although there was a mutual tone of anxiety throughout the room because of the unknown, there was also a lot of fun, learning, and laughter that came with it as we watched each other have a “deer-in-the-headlights” kind of experience. For those of us who are kinesthetic learners and/or adrenaline junkies, this was one of the highlights of medical school thus far. It was exciting to be thrown into a situation that might take surprising twists and turns, yet where you were challenged to maintain some semblance of calm in order to think clearly through the chaos. It was encouraging to see both the practicality of the information that we are learning and how much we are actually retaining. Most of all, it was inspiring to catch a glimpse of what it is like to walk in the shoes of the physician. When most of my days seem to be a blur of sleep, study, go to class, exercise, study, eat, study some more, and repeat the next day, this experience was just what I needed to inspire me to keep moving forward.

 

5 Things M2s Want for Christmas

Done with test cycle 3! It was one of the hardest test cycles of medical school so far (first year test cycle 6 still takes the cake though). In the spirit of the Christmas season, I wanted to share a few things that second year medical students would love to have.

1. A “Pass” in Neuroscience and Psychopathology

We start these classes halfway through first year and end them halfway through second year. Thus, we have to be in passing range in both classes after test cycle 3 to avoid retaking a class during the summer or repeating the entire year. It’s not as easy as it sounds! If we pass these two classes, then we can truly celebrate winter break.

So many UWORLD questions to do before STEP1!

2. Free access to UWorld, First Aid, Pathoma, Picmonic, Sketchy Micro, and STEP 1

If you’re having difficulty finding the perfect gift for that M2 niece or nephew, offer to pay for one of these essential subscriptions/registrations. Altogether, depending on the length of the subscription, they can cost close to $1000 (STEP 1 alone is $605). You’ll be sure to bring a smile to your beloved student’s face.

3. Home cooked meals with no pasta or canned vegetables

When we can’t afford time to visit a grocery store, pasta and preserved veggies become our staple foods. Either that or we make frequent trips to the hospital and student cafeterias. Or attend on-campus events with free food. Sometimes I wish I could come home to fresh bread, fried rice with spicy tofu, anything with eggplant, stuffed peppers, hummus, and other non-pasta foods. I speak for myself though as some of my classmates are expert cooks on a budget.

When mom brings over tofu 🙂

4. Consistently folded laundry

Washing and drying laundry isn’t too bad since I have machines at home. I can study while I wait. It’s the folding that takes time. I tend to wait to do laundry until I absolutely can’t go outside without people staring, so I always have a gigantic load to fold. There are days I wear clothes from my pile of unfolded laundry and hope the wrinkles will smooth out over the course of the day.

5. More sleep

Even though studying involves sitting for long periods of time, it’s still tiring. By the end of the day (around 10 p.m. for me), I can’t wait to jump into bed. Ironically, once I’m actually in bed, it’s hard for me to fall asleep. I keep replaying my day and all the things I’ve studied. I think about the day that is about to start and all I have to accomplish. After running almost non-stop all day, my mind needs extra time to slow down. There are nights when I’m happy to get 6 hours of sleep and other nights when 8 hours doesn’t seem like enough. Having more peaceful sleep would be a blessing.

Although I may not have all of these things (I did pass all my tests though, yay!), I’m still grateful that I’ve made it this far and that I have the family, friends, and materials I have now. Yes, medical school is a lot of work, but I know that someday it’ll all be worth it. Half-way through year two! Happy new year 2017!