Closer Than Ever Before

white coat class (2)Last year, as I stood in front of adoring parents and friends during the White Coat Ceremony, I paid no attention to my white-clad classmates surrounding me. To me at that time, that was all they were — classmates. I knew I would sit with them in class and study with them. But I didn’t know that I would get much, much closer.

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Hiding away our bacteria

This past week, we had our 2nd microbiology lab, and for this lab, we were required to obtain samples from a classmate and streak them onto agar plates. Sounds simple enough…except that they were samples from our classmates’ throats and noses. Yes, we had to lift up the front of someone’s nose, stick a long wire into a nostril, twist the wire around a bit, and smear the contents. Afterwards, we sat with our mouths wide open as a classmate stuck a long Q-tip inside. I gagged (literally, as my tonsillar pillars were swabbed). But this wasn’t where we all started.

It all began in first year, when we had physical diagnosis labs. We learned physical exam techniques and practiced them on each other in small groups. Coming into our first lab on measuring blood pressure, we didn’t know what to expect. The least we knew was not to measure over clothes. Since men were required to wear professional long-sleeve, button-up shirts for lab, they had to take their shirts off to expose their arms. This was the start.

Later that year, for physio lab, we placed EKG leads on a classmate’s bare chest and watched his heart rhythms get recorded. For our cardiac and lung labs, we donned hospital gowns to practice ultrasound techniques, chest auscultation, and lung percussion on each other. For abdomen lab, we pressed deep into each others’ livers and spleens to check for enlargement. For ENT lab, we looked into each others noses, mouths, and ears and massaged each others’ necks to look for enlarged lymph nodes. For eye lab, classmates were close enough for our noses to nearly touch as they leaned in with their ophthalmoscope to look at my retina.

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In many ways and after every day, I get closer to my classmates. We sit almost shoulder to shoulder in class, share many fears and tears, lend sweaters and scarves in AC-cold classrooms, and save extra burritos for each other. We’ve come so far from our first day in our white coats. My classmates aren’t just classmates anymore. They’re my friends, confidantes, colleagues, and fellow practicing physicians-to-be. And they’re going to be taking great care of people like me.

 

4 Things I Wish I Knew Before 1st Year

Just a few tidbits that I learned on my way to being 1/4th Doctor…

  • Don’t underestimate the difficulty of medical school.
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Late night group date with histology

Medical students said that it’s hard. Teachers and mentors warned that it’s hard. Yet with foolish pride, I still thought, it can’t be that hard. I thought hard would be late nights and weekends in the library. Later I realized that hard was catching a cold four times in a year and losing weight without exercise. Hard was failing an exam and doubting whether I would pass the next one. Hard was missing my sister’s school performances and my friends’ graduations. Hard was seeing my classmates struggling too and not knowing what to do. Of course, my experience is not everyone’s experience, but it doesn’t undermine the fact that I would ask God countless times for strength just to make it to the end of the day. I wish that I had better prepared myself mentally and emotionally for the task ahead of me and truly understood the sacrifices that I would have to make.

  • Find rocks for strength as well as cushions for comfort.
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A few of my many cushions!

My family has always kept me grounded and accountable. They remind me that I am strong and capable and lend support when needed. These rocks were essential in driving me forward and upward, and I wish I had utilized them more and sooner. Sometimes, though, rocks were not what I needed. I needed people who would hug me after a long day, grab giant meals and sweets after exams, listen patiently as I ranted and cried, and assure me that my worth doesn’t come from numbers and comments. Finding and calling on that kind of support earlier instead of (again) foolishly thinking I can do medical school without much help would’ve helped a lot.

  • Ask for help.

Though similar to the previous item, this one deserves to stand on its own. There are times to vent to family or friends. And then there are times to speak to a professional. After doing poorly on an exam, I knew I had to do something different. Though I felt embarrassed, I set an appointment with Dr. Lamberton through the School of Medicine’s Student Affairs office. I never thought that I would sit in front of a dean to talk about a low score. But after that meeting, I was glad I went. I realized staff and faculty members are truly there to encourage and offer tangible support. Over the course of first year, the Student Affairs office has been indispensable to my success in medical school. They set up tutors (take advantage early!) and have many connections and resources. I wish I knew earlier that it’s okay and normal to ask for help.

  • Connect with something greater than myself.
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Friday night music and Bible study

This one I had been doing before medical school but it was easy to stop doing it once classes picked up. When drowning in my own struggles, I looked inwardly and focused on rescuing myself. Soon there wasn’t time to spend in the Word or to give to others. But the more I focused on myself, the more anxious and helpless I felt. I found volunteering to be refreshing because it reminded me of the bigger picture–that there is a world out there that needs help too. Though sometimes I didn’t feel like it, I went regularly to Bible studies and worship services so that I could at least spend that time reflecting on a God who cared and whose character I wanted. I wish I had taken more time to do things that weren’t just about me and my studies.

To the first years starting classes in a few days, I wish you only the very best! If I can make it, I know that you definitely can too.

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!