Choosing To Be Optimistic

Stephanie, Third Year Medical Student
Sometimes I find I can get so caught up in day-to-day living that I forget to take time to pause and reflect-to really remember what it’s all about.  And that pretty well sums up the last 6 months of med school for me……
Ok, maybe I haven’t been doing THAT poorly, there have definitely been some good moments and I have taken some time to myself for reflection.  But if I’m totally honest I’ve let med school kind of take over my life since August (aka when I did my last post-sorry guys!).
So this is what has been weighing heavily on my mind and heart lately-that no matter how stressful or busy the situation I find myself in may be, I still have a choice I can make to either let the situation consume me or confront it with my naturally optimistic personality and find useful ways to solve problems.  Basically I’ve come to the realization that it is unbelievably easy to get negative and maybe even somewhat bitter with the many demands of medical school.  In many ways I’m afraid I was heading down that road but that is definitely not me and not where I wanted to be heading.
So I’m working on making an active choice to stay as positive as I can and to get the most out of the situations I have been placed in (even the not-so-ideal ones).  I’ve realized that I can only control my reactions and that is what I’ve set out to salvage :).
On a lighter note, one thing I won’t be salvaging from the last 6 months are my plants……I’ve already given my mom notice that giving me plants that cannot be watered by irritation systems and require my direct attention on a regular basis is definitely NOT going to work…….
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I think the pictures speak to that! :)

Catching Up……

I’m starting to feel like every time I blog I look back and realize it has been much longer between posts than I always think or intend.  I guess that’s just a reality of the craziness of my life and the demands of medical school.  Of course everyone feels overwhelmed by medical school and all the information to learn/tasks to complete, so I’m definitely not complaining :).

SO….let me attempt to give an update on what I’ve been up to since my last post 70+ days ago……..First:  I found out I passed Step 1!! YAY!  This seems like it happened SO LONG AGO, but it’s really only been a few months :).  So, all the hard work payed off and I was able to settle into being a third year (for me, it was hard to officially call myself a third year medical student until I actually physically had my Step 1 score and knew I could look forward to the next step in my medical education).

The next big thing was making it through my first rotation––psychiatry.  The mention of psychiatry brings mixed emotions for most medical students––some look forward to it with enthusiasm, some dread it.  I went into the rotation mostly just excited to be out in the clinic/hospital learning in a more hands-on environment.

For the first two weeks I was working with a fantastic doctor in an adolescent/child partial program where patients come in for the day but are allowed to return home to their families at night––a transition from in-patient psych ward to an outpatient clinic setting.  I greatly enjoyed learning from my attending and resident, and the team of medical students I was with was awesome as well––basically I had a great time on this rotation (and it didn’t hurt that I was home most days before noon!).

For week 3, everyone was placed at either the VAH (Veterans hospital) or LLUMC for an addictions rotation.  I was at the VAH, and spent the week learning about all the treatment options available for veterans struggling with the realities of drug/alcohol addictions.  It was an eye-opening experience (with time spent attending group therapy, AA meetings, NA meetings, Al-Anon meetings, etc.), and I feel much more prepared to help direct my future patients to places they can get the help they need.

The final three weeks of the clerkship I was assigned to the Behavioral Health Intake Program (BHIP) clinic at the VAH.  This clinic is used to guide patients into various doctors/services available at the hospital.  I saw a lot of interesting cases and had several experiences I will probably never forget––I had patients yell at me, cry, run out of the hospital, etc.

So, psych was an overall good experience––certainly better than I had expected, but I’ll be honest, it’s not exactly what I’m looking to do long term.  I am, however, thankful that I had psych as my first rotation for a couple of reasons:  first, it helped ease me into 3rd year with the easier work hours and lighter academic demands, and second, because I believe it will help me relate to my patients and be much more understanding on a more human/relational level––something that really can’t be taught but must be experienced.

And now I am just over two weeks into my internal medicine rotation.  Internal medicine is one of the tougher rotations during third year because it is time intensive and because it encompasses so much information.  I’ve been blessed to start the clerkship at an outpatient clinic at the VAH working with a team of doctors that are absolutely amazing.  The main attending I am working with is extremely helpful––she quizzes me about patient care but is also more than happy to teach me the things I don’t know well.  Seeing patients in the clinic setting has helped solidify that what I really want to be doing in medicine is working in a clinic!  I love seeing several patients with different symptoms, and I love spending time getting to know each one of them.  Don’t get me wrong––it’s terrifying to simply be handed a patient’s chart and told to do the initial evaluation on my own…but this is what I’ve spent the first two years preparing for and I feel as prepared as I possibly could be.  I know eventually the nerves will settle down and I will be able to simply enjoy the process (without the added increase in heart rate :) ).  The weeks ahead are definitely going to become more challenging (as I transition from outpatient to inpatient care) but I am greatly looking forward to the challenges and all the learning I know I will do.

On one last note, some about the life that I do still have outside of medical school :) :

1.  My husband and I enjoyed a quick but delightful trip home to visit our families in IL a couple weeks ago.

Mussmann Grandkids

My cousins and I around my grandparents as we celebrated my Grandpa’s 70th birthday!

 

2. We continue to work on our goal of making it to all the professional baseball fields in the U.S. …..in August we saw the Dodgers play our Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium in LA and this weekend we got to see the Angels play in Anaheim :)!

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It’s Time for Year Three!

Everyone has their own unique story about what has brought them to medical school.  For some of my classmates, it has been a long, hard journey that has taken them many years.  Others, like myself, endured through four tough years of college and were then blessed to move immediately onto the next phase of our education.  I don’t think either path is better (or worse) and the diversity is what I think makes a medical school class so great.  One of the coolest things about starting medical school was learning about everyone in our class and what had brought each of us to one common point.

It has now been two years since we all first met and SO MUCH has happened.  We’ve survived the first two years of grueling coursework with all of the studying, memorization, and labs.  It’s been tough (and many of us have had little hiccups along the way, definitely myself included), but never-the-less we have continued to push forward and work towards the calling God has given each of us.

Two weeks ago all the MS3‘s were gathered together to begin the next chapter of our education––the clinical applicational part.  We have now officially been “prepared” for what will be thrown at us as we seek to learn in a more hands-on environment than we have previously been accustomed to.  For many of us, this is EXACTLY what we have been looking forward to (I can’t even begin to explain how much I have been looking forward to being out of the lecture hall and into the medical offices/hospitals).  It is, however, a little bitter sweet––we won’t see all our friends every single day in lectures, we won’t have a set schedule that makes planning ahead feasible, and (perhaps most terrifying of all) we will have patients relying on us to help provide them with quality care.  We have been VERY well prepared and there is nothing that will hold the Class of 2014 back, believe me, but I can’t help but be at least a little apprehensive as we start out :).

We have pagers!

 

And white coats with our names embroidered :).

So, here’s to another great (yet very different) year to all of my classmates in the LLUSM Class of 2014!

Where Did February Go?!?!

Stephanie, Second Year Medical StudentIt has been SO LONG since my last post…..I feel a bit guilty (even though those in charge of this blog strongly encourage us not to feel compelled to blog, I still like to try to contribute on a regular basis :) ).  So what have I been up to for the past month+??  Well, I’m glad you asked……..

In my last blog I mentioned going to Carmel, CA to present my summer research project.  Carmel was AMAZING, and I am very glad that I decided to go.  It was some additional work and a little bit of additional stress with the extra time committment, but the conference was really laid back, the area was absolutely gorgeous, and the time away actually helped me focus my studying.  A little taste of the area:

View from 17-mile drive

Driving along CA 1

The next big event in my life was the Surf City Half Marathon!!  Last year I got this crazy idea that I wanted to run a marathon.  So I did.  Last February I ran the Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach, CA.  I finished…..and then I promised my dad that I would not run another full marathon while in medical school (he was extremely concerned about the amount of time I had needed to devote to training :) ).  Unfortunately for him, I don’t “give up” easily.  So I decided to run half marathonS instead!  My first one was Feb. 5th at the same place I ran my first full marathon.  I finished the race in 1:46:28 and couldn’t have been happier :).

Showing off my medal!

After the half marathon, it was test time…..and more importantly ;)……..time to pick my parents and grandma up from the airport for their visit!  I was very diligent about studying for this set of exams because I had planned for my family to visit during test week (knowing I am normally much much more available during this time and would then be able to spend my “free” weekend with them).  It worked out wonderfully, and we enjoyed a fantastic week together!  We spent time enjoying the beautiful CA weather, visited Temecula (old-town area with lots of antique shops to enjoy), enjoyed the Huntington library/botanical gardens, and visited Joshua Tree National Park.  The week FLEW by, but it was so good to catch up with my family and to offer them some respite from the cold, snowy Midwest!

View from the highest point at Joshua Tree

The rest of the month was filled with a visit from our roommate’s parents (for Family Day for the first years), hosting a prospective student here for her interview (shout-out to Ashley – we LOVED having you stay with us!), and of course, lots of studying :).

So now it’s March!  There is so much to look forward to this month, and I couldn’t be more excited.  Tests are again approaching – next week to be exact.  In addition, we are preparing for a visit from my husband’s parents and lots of fun adventures with them over our Spring Break!  I’m sure March will pass just as quickly as February did and before we know it the school year will be coming to a close – a fact that makes me both happy and FREAKED OUT (maybe I’ll address that in the next blog, this one is long enough…..).  Bring on March!

Life’s Given Me Lemons

Stephanie, Second Year Medical Student

As I look out the sliding glass door that leads to our patio I am currently staring at this:

Lemon Tree

Our lemon tree FILLED with lemons.  I mean dozens and dozens of lemons!  I have already mailed my mom a dozen, taken a dozen to a classmate, and brought 2 dozen home for Christmas.  And there are still more lemons than I can count without losing track…….so I decided to start doing something about that.  I am a BIG fan of Pinterest, so I have now accumulated several uses for lemons “pinned” to my account.  These include:  a lemon hand scrub (that I made using the juice from our lemons and then brought home for gifts from CA for our families in IL), lemon shake-ups, lemon bread, lemon cookies, and lemon muffins.

Lemon muffins

As you can see, I’ve taken full advantage of the lemons we have been “blessed?” with and am trying to bless those around me with their own supply of lemons (ie. if you want lemons, LET ME KNOW!).

I think in medical school is it important to be intentional about taking the time to find the “lemons” in life.  It’s easy to get caught up in the hectic/stressful nature of school work, but there are a lot of opportunities that present themselves as well.  One such opportunity is coming up for me.  This past summer I was blessed to have the chance to put my MA degree in bioethics to use by doing a research project with a well-known clinical ethicist and an amazing mentor.  After the project was completed he suggested I submit an abstract to a regional conference and I did so.  The abstract was accepted and I am now hours away from leaving to fly up to Carmel, CA, to do a presentation on the research we did (it’s a big medical student conference and several of my classmates are also going up for it).  The best part is that Carmel is an absolutely BEAUTIFUL area with LOTS to do.  SO……I’m taking the opportunity to get away and enjoy a weekend with my husband!  Of course I have done a lot of prep work to make sure I’m ahead and I am also planning on spending a good chunk of the time studying.  BUT I will be away from Loma Linda and all the other responsibilities that tend to dominate my life and Kendal and I can hopefully enjoy some quality time together (even if it is just a little bit of time).  I am VERY excited about this trip and will of course post pictures later :).