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.

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!

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.

From Homeschooling to Loma Linda

I’m now a second year med student, and I am excited to finally contribute to the blog I read so much during my college years. Whether it was reading for information about Loma Linda and its MD program, perusing for an interesting and funny story, or simply looking for inspiration that I would one day get here, this blog has been one of my favorite sites to visit for the past few years. This is my first timer as a regular blogger, and I hope you’re as excited as I am for this continuing journey in medicine.

 

I’m the oldest of 10 home-schooled children. Normally, when people hear this, their mouth drops and they say “How did your Mom do it?”, “your poor Mom”, or “your Mom must be amazing.” Actually, she always wanted a big family. My Dad wanted at least 2 boys and 2 girls, and it just so happened that they had me first, then 5 girls, followed by the second boy. With 7 children already, they asked “What’s a few more?” and had 3 more boys to round out 10 children even divided between boys and girls.

Family photoMy family

Living in a large family has its share of fun and responsibilities. I really enjoy having so many siblings to do things together with. Whether playing a game of soccer, playing music together, or planning a mission trip, we have lots of people to get things done. There is always someone to play or chat with. Growing up, we all obviously had lots of responsibilities to help keep our family and school running smoothly. We all have to help watch little ones, wash laundry and dishes, and help teach our younger siblings. One of the reasons I really enjoy teaching (and may possible pursue academic medicine) is that I have been helping teach my siblings since I was 8. In our home-school, when you complete a grade level, you should be proficient enough at the grade level to teach it to a younger sibling. This has really helped reinforce the learning both for the older and younger sibling.

HomeschoolingThis is what homeschooling looks like!

For high school, I mostly taught myself out of textbooks as we use Rod and Staff curriculum along with Apologia for high school science and Saxon (back then) for math. My dad was my math and science tutor and my mom helped me a lot with English. I finished our homeschool curriculum at 16 when I passed the California High School Proficiency Examination (CHSPE). I then enrolled at Fullerton College for the next 2 years before I transferred to California State University Fullerton where I graduated last year with a degree in biology. During college, I was able to go on several summer medical mission trips to Honduras and Mexico. I had read a lot of missionary biographies growing up and was already thinking about pursuing medicine since high school. Mission trips really confirmed for me that medicine was what God wanted me to go into.  I was able to see God using health professionals to heal and touch people’s lives (for a story, check out this link https://mercertohonduras.wordpress.com/) and I saw medical missions as something I wanted to continue in my career.

 

As my parents and I began looking at medical schools to apply to, we found out about Loma Linda. I really was drawn to the mission of the school and its many opportunities for medical service. Reading the blog, I was impressed by the Christian environment of the school and the balanced lives of the students during medical school. I have been to every Loma Linda University open house since 2012, and each time I visited, I would count down the number of years left till I could apply and join this amazing school of medicine. I am happy to be here and would not rather be anywhere else, although a few months before matriculating at Loma Linda, UCLA school of medicine, a top 20 medical school that I had applied to as a back-up, offered me a scholarship on top of cheaper in-state tuition to go there. Although going to UCLA for 4 years would have been significantly cheaper than Loma Linda, I felt that God still wanted me to go to Loma Linda. I realized that there are things such as a school’s environment, mission, and character that are more important than money and prestige. Loma Linda has been a dream come true, and I am looking forward to the journey ahead!

DSC_2420Made it here to the school of my dreams!

Our second year starts in 11 days. Here’s to the last few days of break!