With Thanksgiving

The holiday season always puts me in a state of reflection. Maybe it’s a result of my annual ten slices of pumpkin pie. Since Thanksgiving is still a recent memory, I wanted to write about a few things for which I am grateful:

A controllable thermostat in the Alumni Hall classroom. When nearly everyone has vacated our lecture hall, and the faithful few remain, I am so thankful that we can turn the temperature up to the 70s and be nice and toasty while we study for eight hours or until our eyelids become too heavy to lift (whichever comes later).

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I’m dreaming of a sunny Christmas…

Wednesday/Thursday $3 burritos. I find it hard to prepare meals for myself throughout the week. There are some weeks when I survive on free food given at events and kind friends who love to cook. But when all my containers are empty and nothing in the community fridge has my name on it, LLU Church UReach $3 burritos save the day.

California sunshine. After experiencing seven Midwest/East winters and enjoying the “winters” here in SoCal, I would be reluctant to go back to a white Christmas, no matter how romantic and song-worthy it sounds.

Tutors and big sibs. At every session, material that would normally take me five hours to digest is compacted into two glorious hours of epiphanies. My tutors are brilliant and funny, and they deserve a lot of credit for helping me succeed in medical school. Meanwhile, my big sib (student mentor) gives me hugs and food, and who wouldn’t be grateful for that?!

friendsgivingFriends. They help make the med school life worth living. In just a few short years, these amazing people will be changing the world, one patient at a time.

Jesus. The author and finisher of my faith. When the world seems to be crumbling from within and more eyes grow cataracts of anxiety and fear, I continually look forward to His promise of a perfect world, where there will be no need for doctors (Revelation 21:1-4).

After three more tests and two mock board subject exams in less than three weeks, we’ll be home for Christmas! I can’t wait!

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.

Secrets to Preserving One’s Sanity in Med School

Victoria-headerWow! It’s been a LONG time since I last posted anything. My excuse? Medical school got in the way!

I feel as though I need to recap everything that has happened since, but I’ll try to be somewhat concise. Two of the most important were my first two exam sets of medical school. Now, for all you out there who have not yet had the distinct pleasure of enduring a LLUSM exam, let me set the scene.

You have been taught a plethora of information from your different classes over the course of about six weeks.

Below are the core classes you are currently taking:

  • Gross Anatomy
  • Embryology
  • Medical Physiology
  • Cell Structure & Function
  • Physical Diagnosis
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Medical Biochemistry
  • Genetics

The various questions, from each lecture (of each subject), are mixed up and compiled into a single test. This test is then broken up into three separate exams to be administered over a course of three consecutive days. This format forces each student to really integrate the information from each class. In addition, one must be able to quickly switch his/her mindset from one subject (or class) to another. To top it off, the last day of the week is dedicated to lab practicums, usually anatomy and cell.

Needless to say, test week causes some anxiety! By the end of the week, students are relieved to be finished. In fact, the weekend following a test week has been dubbed, and will forever be called, a “golden weekend”! Golden weekends are the few times during the school year where LLU medical students can relax without worrying about studying or falling behind. That being said, one has to make the most out of them! My favorite golden weekend activities include sleeping, hanging out with friends, shopping, watching movies – basically, doing whatever makes me happy! After all, when Monday rolls back around, it is time to get serious again!

Anyway, now that you have some background, let’s get back to my actual experience. I was very nervous when the first test week arrived because I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. To my surprise, I survived and actually did just fine! It was hard (especially due to the volume of information), but definitely doable. That golden weekend was our School of Medicine retreat at Pine Springs Ranch. Overall, it was a fun experience getting to know fellow classmates (and faculty) outside of lectures and labs. My favorite part was probably Saturday night’s talent show. It was a blast and everyone who participated was so talented!

Six weeks later, we had our second test week. I was anxious all over again, but in the end I didn’t do too bad!

Lessons I have learned while in medical school:

  • Cling to God because He is the only One who can get you through this!
  • Relearn how to study and then study hard!
  • Previewing lectures before class is incredibly helpful.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Learn from your mistakes, and don’t repeat them.
  • Take breaks as necessary, but not too many!
  • Collaborate and share with your classmates. (Besides, they’re the only ones who know your struggle!)
  • Preserve your sanity!

That last nugget of wisdom is essential to EVERY medical student! Medical school can be very stressful, but each person must find a way to stay sane. This may involve taking a day of rest, listening to music, exercising, finding a hobby, or even going home for Thanksgiving. Sometimes, you just need to escape for a little while. For me, I knew I had to take a break and get away. When I found out that two of my friends from college were getting married, I decided that I had to go! About a month in advance, I bought my plane ticket so that I could attend their wedding in Alabama. It was one of the best decisions that I could have made!

I flew to Alabama that Friday and attended church on Saturday. Since my family only lived a few hours away, they were able to drive down and visit me. It was such a blessing to spend quality time with my family, and it didn’t hurt that they had cooked! The following day, I attended the wedding with my three best friends (who had also flown down). We were able to witness two of our friends committing themselves to each other for life. It was such a beautiful ceremony and reception. Needless to say, it was a rejuvenating experience to take a weekend off from school and go out of town. When I got back to LLU, I went right back to studying with a renewed mindset and refreshed spirit.

Bottom line: Take care of yourself!

Anyway, here a few pictures from my weekend off!

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My family!!! Aren’t they just gorgeous! 🙂

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Sabbath – REUNITED with my best friends!

Post-wedding shenanigans!

Post-wedding shenanigans!

Picture with the bride!

Picture with the bride!

Thanks for reading!

Until next time…

VM