Family Day 2015

Carly, First Year Medical StudentFamily Day this year fell on February 13. This date holds special significance to me personally; it was on this day last year I got the call I had been accepted into medical school.

It was really fun to have my parents tag along with me to classes (Cell – Histology of the Endocrine System, PDX – Ophthalmoscopy 3, and Physio – Mechanisms and Control of Micturition), eat a special catered lunch, and show them the PDX, Physio, and Anatomy labs. In the evening, there was a special dinner for families of alumni parents, followed by a dedication ceremony where we each received a new Bible with the LLUSM logo. For the second time, we recited the Physician’s Oath. Next time we say it, we’ll be graduating!

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It was a really fun start to the fifth (and second to last!) test cycle of first year. We are almost there!

The Lift

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“You’re like the cat that looks in the mirror and sees a lion.” I would have taken that as a compliment if it had not been for two important things: one, I don’t like cats (their claws and my face don’t mesh well, and therefore, I am a dog person) and two, for a spilt second, it felt like they were calling me a dreamer (and not the kind of dreamer that’s fighting for the improbable, but the kind that’s wishing for the impossible). I tucked the comment away in the back of my mind and kept driving. We were on our way to Mt. High, a mountain whose elevation is approx. 8,000ft (so it could theoretically be renamed Mt. Low), to have our first night snowboarding adventure.

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There is still an awe that comes over me when I try something new. It’s that strange sense of wonder and excitement that widens your eyes and slowly bends the corners of your mouth as you take in new surroundings. It’s the crisp evening air that makes your breath dance in white fumes against a velvety, black sky. It’s the way the evening lights glisten off of the blanket of white snow that’s paradoxically keeping the ground cold. I am certain I felt what Amerigo Vespucci felt in 1497 when I stepped on the ski slope for the first time, though I imagine he didn’t faceplant into the ground a few steps in the way I did.

My friend-turned-snowboarding instructor suggested we climb upwards (all 15 feet) to get to the novice hill to start practicing. It was like asking me to scale Everest. For reasons that are beyond me, manually ascending a hill with one of your feet lassoed onto a board is just a feat that I could not do. I watched my friend slide seemingly effortlessly towards the top of the hill. I IMG_6200crawled with great effort. Lessons began and lessons ended (to a top 40 playlist in the background), and all the while the cat-lion reference danced around in the back of my mind to its own tune. My friend recommended we move on from the novice hill to an actual slope. I flashed back to my crawling-up/sliding-down/rolling-over/sliding-down/crawling-sideways fiasco that barely got me to the top of the excessively small novice hill and thought it would be impossible. Then common sense hit me, I didn’t have to practically ice-pick my way to the top of the slope…there are ski lifts.

You may find yourself at the beginning of MCAT prep, feeling like it’s impossible to piece together a stellar application. You may find yourself wandering through the first years of medical school, unsure about how you’ll make it. You may be sitting beyond the Step One ravine, pensively questioning how you’ll match into the specialty of your dreams. Or you may not even be in medicine, but you may still be holding onto a hope or a dream that seems almost too far-gone. Remember, life has a ski-lift.

IMG_6203If Isaiah were alive today (and if he were also an avid snowboarder), I’m sure he would have rephrased “…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles” to something along the lines of “…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will ride on ski lifts.” It was his way of saying that God can take you to heights that you could never reached on your own. Dreams, when placed in His hands, become more than improbable things to fight for or impossible things to wish for. Under His guidance, they can grow into a future more fulfilling that you could have imagined. It may seem like getting into medical school is impossible, or like getting through medical school is impossible, or like it will be impossible to get the residency you want. Though it may seem trite, as I sat on the ski lift IMG_6202that was taking me far beyond where I could have reached by myself, I remembered this simple life lesson: you don’t have to do the impossible on your own. You can be the cat who looks in the mirror and not only sees a lion, but actually becomes one.

Lupita Nyong’o was right. “No matter where you are from, your dreams are valid.” They are valid because there is Someone out there who sees them, and cradles them in His care. They may not always turn out as you would expect them to, but with patience, perseverance, hard-work and faith, He promises to lift you up beyond your wildest dreams – just sit back and enjoy the ride.

My 4th Year

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Fourth year. I’ve made it! Well, technically I made it last June, but I’ve been taking a hiatus from blogging to prioritize 4th year responsibilities. When I last logged in, I was enjoying my OBGYN rotation with its many deliveries, surgeries, and clinic hours. The following six months have been a whirlwind of USMLEs, emergency medicine rotations, interviews and life events (the birth of my son!). I’ve been a tad bit busy! Nevertheless, I am back on the grid and ready to present my fourth and final season here on the student blog!

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First Day of School Door Shot!

Ah, Emergency Medicine, the Lewis to my Clark, the Abbott to my Costello, the Andy Richter to my Conan O’Brian. It’s what got me excited about medical school in the first place! As I wrapped up the requirements of third year and moved on to my fourth and final year of medical school, the excitement of upcoming emergency medicine rotations built. Excitement… and a little bit of anxiety. What if I decided EM wasn’t all I thought it would be? Most medical students have a good idea of their desired medical specialty by the beginning of 4th year; what if I suddenly didn’t? Fortunately for me, even though I got very distracted with the excitement of other specialties during 3rd year rotations, I definitely remembered why emergency medicine was my first love the moment I set foot in a busy emergency department (ED).

For those of you who may not know exactly what Emergency Medicine is, these are the doctors at the doorways of the hospital. They are the one’s who stabilize life threatening emergencies and sort out acute problems that need immediate treatment from those that may have a little more time. They could see anything from a stabbing victim to a common cold to the guy that ate too much for Thanksgiving dinner and is now having belly pain.

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Practicing Casting with Classmate Claudia

Because I plan to go into Emergency Medicine, I spent a couple of months at the beginning of my fourth year rotating through different ED’s, evaluating my desires and learning all I could for my future career. I went from LLUMC to Riverside County Hospital, then Kettering Medical Center in Ohio to Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Here are a couple of highlights:

  1. I’m thinking I’m going to be the only medical student who graduates having never done chest compressions. I’ve been CPR certified since I was 14, yet never needed to use the skills, which is a good thing, I guess! Yet all it takes is for me to state that fact out loud in the middle of a busy shift… I proceed to participate in 6 or 7 codes (basically what they call CPR in the hospital) over the next 3 weeks.
  1. Guy comes in to the community ED with back pain in his left shoulder blade, and is triaged as low acuity (which means he probably wasn’t an emergency, per se). He had been laying floor tiles the previous day and is now feeling sore, so he wants to get checked out. His EKG (heart rhythm) looks ok at first, but while talking to him, he begins saying the pain has come on over the last hour and is now shooting down his left arm. Not only that, but he’s feeling pretty anxious and nauseous. The story sounds too familiar to something I’ve seen before, so I leave to get the attending physician. He agrees we should check his EKG again and get some cardiac labs drawn. Sure enough, he is having much more than a simple muscle strain; it’s a massive heart attack, and treatment is needed right away. I’m sure someone would have caught that pretty quickly without me there, but I pat myself on the back anyways. Sometimes the story given in triage is not enough!
  1. Sutures, sutures, sutures. Cleaning up a jagged wound can really get the dopamine going! I’ve gone from taking an hour to sew up a 4 cm laceration (they call them “patients” for a reason), to finishing before the attending is ready to check out the wound. I’ve still got a ways to go, but it’s nice to see progress!
  1. I enter the jail ward to see a patient who is having auditory hallucinations (hearing voices). As I enter, a patient in the adjacent secure holding cell is having a shouting match with one of the security officers. I’m looking at the large chart I’m holding to see if I’ve missed anything about my patient, when I suddenly notice it’s become very quiet. I look up, and that loud patient is now silently staring at me dead on, head down, eyes rolled up, like little lasers that could have pierced into me. I’m thoroughly creeped out. After returning the stare for a moment, he suddenly bursts into the “Macarena,” singing and dancing, all while holding his glare of death.
  1. An elderly lady comes in after a fall, and her chart says she has a pretty nasty cut on the back of her head. I go to say hi, and see if this “nasty cut” is something that needs stitches or if a staple or two would do the job. Walking into the room, I first notice a very pleasant lady, despite the fact it’s 4:30 in the morning. The second thing I notice is her head looks perfectly normal. I look all around her scalp, but no cut. I take a step back and say, “Are you sure you slipped and fell, I don’t see any cuts!” The patient smiles, reaches up, and pulls off her very convincing wig. There’s a large bandage on her now bald head.

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Finishing up an EM shift at Kettering Medical Center in Ohio

I love Emergency Medicine. These are just a couple random stories I pulled off the top of my head, and there are SO many more. I love that I can interact with tons of different people, from all walks of life. I love that someone can come in with a life-threatening problem and I can help him or her begin to heal within 20 minutes. I love that on any given shift, anything could walk through those double doors, and I have no idea what it’s going to be. It’s not all sexy, adrenaline rush-a-minute action like the TV would have you believe, but it sure is a lot of fun.

Right now, I’m sitting in an airplane, on my way to an interview on the East Coast. The road to apply for emergency medicine training has been daunting for sure, but it’s something I’m excited to be doing, and I’m blessed to have the opportunity. There’s so much more I’d like to write about (that’s what happens when you don’t blog for awhile!) but I’ll save that for a future update. For now, please keep my fellow classmates and I in your thoughts and prayers as we wrap up interview season and begin to mull over where we want to spend the next couple of years training. See you next time!

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Me with My Newborn Son, Clarkston!

A man, AMEN and the Big Man upstairs.

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He cut me off mid sentence. Only four words into an eight word sentence, and I had already lost my audience’s attention. It happens often enough now that I’ve learned to pick my battles. I reclined a bit more onto the hotel bed and decided the morning was better spent with me, my phone, and my thoughts. If sharing is caring, then I decided not to have my ca|re cut in half. But then I got a subtle urge to try again. (This time I summarized instead of quoting directly, in the hopes of holding at least some of my friends’ attention.)

“SoDavidwantstobuild a temple for God. Nathan the prophet tells him that whateverhewantstodo, he should do because God is with him. Later that night, God tells Nathan to tellDavidnot to build a temple.” (I talk-mumbled quickly enough to blur at least five words together seamlessly, but the point was made.)

A Jamaican-accented cackle gave background to small comments on what I had read. And soon life, being true to itself, moved on.

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The Welcome Table. AMEN Conference 2014.

A few hours placed themselves between my morning and my lunch and before I knew it a circle of good friends was enclosed about a table of good food. Every once in a while the wind would gently breeze away our reflective laughter (and small bits of our meal that was decidedly vegan). We had just spent hours at the Adventist Medical Evangelism Network (AMEN) Conference morning sessions, under the guidance of stalwart souls, determined to change the world.  A dentist sitting at a nearby table caught wind of our presence, and decided to share his presence with us.

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Coronado Beach, San Diego           PC: VSJr.

He told stories of the his path to success. He walked us through his obstacles, guiding us down his own memory lane. All eyes and ears seemed to be held captive by his story––except mine. My eyes were held captive by the piece of cake that was disappearing all too quickly from my plate. My mind wandered. I had heard endless retellings of overcoming personal struggles, and for whatever reason, this time around I just wanted to eat pound cake without feeling obligated to oblige the gentleman’s story tellings. Then he caught my attention.

“You have to do something procedural to be useful on the mission field.” The words rang for a little with a bothersome tone. Multiple specialties in medicine were picked straight up and thrown straight under the proverbial bus. And unbeknownst to the guy speaking, a few of his young listener’s dreams were too.

I knew that because she said she wanted to cry. She was a friend who had dreams of becoming a missionary doctor who heard the man’s message that indirectly said her hopeful field of work would serve little purpose abroad (She wanted to be an Internist – a field that isn’t known for offering a vast array of procedures). I knew she wouldn’t cry, she wasIMG_5113 a lot tougher than her short stature let on, but the point was made. And that point made me understand why the “still, small voice” urged me to read a part of 2 Samuel 7’s mention of Nathan’s encounter with David aloud that morning. It was because we were going to meet a Nathan later that day.

Though wholly dedicated to prophetically presenting God to a broken world, Nathan was still human. He was still capable of making mistakes. And when he told David that God was okay with him building God a temple, he made a mistake that God later corrected him on – because God wanted David’s son to build His temple. When I saw my friend’s distress over her perceived life-calling being shut down, I realized that I had lunch with a modern-day Nathan. A well-meaning, God-fearing man who just may have gotten it wrong. So take a page out of the Old Testament’s book. In any setting, whether it be the pulpit or the pew, the dinner table or the dining hall, always run what someone says by the Big Man upstairs. Because at the end of the day (or at the end of a vegan meal), it’s His voice and His call, that you should follow.

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Nighttime skyline. San Diego, CA    PC: VSJr.