“Am I a doctor yet?”

Carly, First Year Medical Student

This was the question I kept asking myself as I sat through what felt like four years of medical school; and yet I still hadn’t left Wong Kerlee on the first day of freshman orientation.

Don’t get me wrong – I am ever so grateful for LLU for preparing us as well as they possibly can for what is to come. It was quite exhilarating to meet new classmates, receive information packets full of details I’ve been wondering about since I got the call in February, and of course, to receive the iPads.

And yet, what I was most excited about came Thursday night at 7 p.m. Many nights of struggling through Organic Chemistry led me to dream about this moment. I was lucky enough to be coated by a family friend I have known my whole life, Dr. Thomas.

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After all that excitement, come Friday afternoon, I was beat.

Two weeks of wards, random lectures, and workshops followed; I was assigned to the Internal Medicine ward at the VA. I was happy to get a ward that is relatively slow paced – it allowed me some patient interaction, and ample opportunity to learn from my very gracious third years. I was also blessed with a wonderful team of residents, interns, and attending physicians. Although I still don’t know anything, really, time in the hospital gave me a glimpse at what I will be working so hard for.

Now, all that is left before plunging into the fray is one last sunny afternoon at home. I am excited, nervous, and grateful to be here at LLUSM, and feeling blessed to document the journey for all of you.

Pray for us!

                                  

This is it!

Michelle, First Year Medical Student

“This is it,” whispers my classmate beside me, another medical student I’ve just met.

The words announcing the presentation of the coats are still echoing through the room. I hadn’t thought of the white coat ceremony as that huge of a deal, but at those words, a sudden burst of adrenaline surges through me.

This is it. Sure, we haven’t actually started medical school yet, but this marks the beginning of that enormous undertaking. With the presentation of the white coats, we will be seen as physicians––student physicians, yes, but still regarded with much of the esteem and responsibility earned by those who have gone before us, who have the rigors of medical school and even residency and possibly fellowship under their belts. When we repeat the words of the oath, we are promising to follow in their footsteps starting now.

It’s a big responsibility, and right now it feels like an overwhelming one. The apprehension hits me like twenty-foot waves until I’m literally bouncing in my seat. My legs are jerking up and down, so I clasp my hands beneath my lap to try to calm them. I hope no one notices. I have so much pent up energy, I’m super relieved when the first eight students are coated, because I can release it in vigorous applause. But it’s still some time until my turn to go up, and once I reluctantly finish clapping, I’m shaking so much I’m sure I’m causing a miniature earthquake.

Then the student next to me is hissing that we’re up, it’s time to go, and we’re standing and moving to the side of the church, handing in our name cards, gripping the coats passed out to us. Before I know it, the faculty members are helping us into the white coats. We smile for pictures and head back to our seats. And that’s it.

I’m not shaking as much now, but I’m still a bit dazed by what just happened. As the rest of the students get coated, I glance around at the students in front of me and beside me. We look like a gaggle of matching white geese. We stand––well, sit––united in our common aspirations to physicianhood, manifested by our homogenous appearance.

The appearance of uniformity sets me on edge. We all look the same now, but am I supposed to be part of this group? What if I’m in the wrong place? The black sheep obscured by a white coat? I try to ward off the aftershocks, but the fault planes have already begun to shift.

We’re not done yet, of course. In a few minutes we’ll be repeating the Loma Linda Physicians’ Oath. I look down at the copy of the Physician’s Oath on my seat to review it (and to take my mind off the butterflies fluttering in my stomach).

It begins like this. . .

“Before God these things I do promise:

“In the acceptance of my sacred calling, I will dedicate my life to the furtherance of Jesus Christ’s healing and teaching ministry.”

Ah, that is it.

We all come from vastly different backgrounds, and we are all vastly different people. Beneath the matching coats exist over a hundred unique individuals with various experiences, likes and dislikes, hobbies, and talents––but we have all decided that God is calling us to serve Him through the field of medicine.

And we won’t be alone. The healing and teaching we will endeavor to do isn’t even really ours; we’re only continuing the ministry Jesus began.

What a relief! What a great reminder that this is God’s work, not mine. It takes some of the burden off my own shoulders and back onto His infinitely larger ones, which are much more capable of carrying them. I’m still intimidated by the task that lies ahead. But I am calmer, at least a little bit, remembering that my job is just to be a Jesus-follower. Wherever that may lead.

Here’s to a Christ-guided future! This is it!

 

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The Adventure Begins

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I conquered orientation.  Two days down, a few more to go!  Two days of new faces, names, and handout after handout on everything from class schedules and protocol to instructions on WIFI and parking.  The reality of what I have gotten myself into is definitely sinking in.  I’m gonna have to take notes, what??  Yep, all those nice perks of being intelligent, out the window.

The staff and upperclassmen did a great job of setting us up to win.  I really appreciated hearing their thoughts on how to be successful – good study habits, helpful resources, pitfalls, etc.  It was clear that they are completely on our side; this is a team effort across the board.  The key takeaway for me is the importance of discipline and attitude.  How you invest your time, and the attitude with which you do it are critical.

A few thoughts on study apps/tools: The amount of information that is about to come my way is more than intimidating.  Thousands of powerpoint slides, handouts, PDFs, and of course my notes.  How am I going to keep all of that organized and quickly accessible??  I think I have a solid plan, but we’ll see what the first test cycle has to say.  Adaptation, the key to survival!

I’m really looking forward to the next two weeks of clinical experience.  Me and the OR, should be some fun times!  I think it’s a great way to start first year, and it makes for a nice transition into the rigorous classroom work that will consume most of the next two years.

White Coats and a Sacred Oath

Adam-Borecky-header1The White Coat Ceremony occurred on the evening of our first day of orientation. My classmates and I took up the first five rows of the enormous Loma Linda University Church where we fidgeted nervously, forecasting ourselves tripping on our way up to the stage. I can only describe the ceremony itself as strangely sacred. The service was very religious in nature, including music, prayer, benediction, dedication, the donning of the coats, and a liturgical recitation of the Physicians’ Oath.

Eight white-clad physician/professors formed a welcoming line on the stage. One by one, our names were called until eight students stood before eight physicians. Then, as if they could communicate telepathically, our professors simultaneously slipped the coats onto the awaiting shoulders of my classmates.

I was one of the last to be coated so I was able to observe an awe-inspiring transformation occurring in the front of the church. The rows of multicolored jackets and dresses slowly faded, replaced with an emerging sea of white. When my name was finally called, I walked up and took a place in front of Dr. Lui. The warmth and kindness in his gaze was palpable, calming my tense nerves. As soon as I was coated, he shook my hand and whispered a word of congratulations in my ear. Cameras flashed, there was applause, and then it was over.

What is it about the coat that gives this ceremony such a spiritual atmosphere? It’s not like I’m any less ignorant about being a doctor now that I’m wearing a coat with my name on it. We were told that the white coat symbolizes our sacred call as physicians to heal mankind. I recently learned that long ago, physicians actually wore black robes. What images do black robes bring to mind? Death. Puritan ministers. Funerals. Mordor. I don’t think I would enjoy being examined by a dark-robed figure that looked like Voldemort or the grim reaper, but that’s just me.On the other hand, a white coat brings a different set of symbols to mind. Cleanliness. Purity. Angels. Weddings. Babies. Clouds. Little bunnies. Gandalf. All these things are associated with life and renewal.

Consequently, I think that the white coat conveys a psychological expectation of healing to the patient, even before any official care is given. It is one of the many non-verbal, intangible signals a physician gives that creates a sacred bond of trust with the patient. It says: “I can help you; you will get through this!” It’s funny, really, because medicine presents itself as grounded in the fact-based scientific method. And yet, the Physicians’ Oath that we collectively recited at the end of the ceremony reveals an entirely different, spiritual component of medicine that eludes quantification. Led out by our Dean, Dr. Hadley, we spoke the following words as one voice:

Before God these things I do promise:   In the acceptance of my sacred calling, I will dedicate my life to the furtherance of Jesus Christ’s healing and teaching ministry.   I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude which is their due. I will impart to those who follow me the knowledge and experience I have gained.   The wholeness of my patients will be my first consideration. Acting as a good steward of the resources of society and of the talents granted me, I will endeavor to reflect God’s mercy and compassion by caring for the lonely, the poor, the suffering, and those who are dying.   I will maintain the utmost respect for human life. I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity. I will respect the rights and decision of my patients.   I will hold in confidence all secrets committed to my keeping in the practice of my calling.   I will lead my life and practice my art with purity and honor; abstaining from immorality myself, I will not lead others into moral wrongdoing.   May God’s kingdom, His healing power and glory be experienced by those whom I serve and may they be made known in my life, in proportion as I am faithful to this oath.

 

White Coats, Orientation, and Weekends: This Past Week in a Nutshell

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So excited for my first blog post!  First things first: Shout-out to the LLUSM Class of 2018!

LLU SOM Class of 2018

This past week, I’ve been scrambling around trying to get everything in order before school starts.  It seemed as if I had so much to get done, from getting my school ID to grocery shopping… and needless to say, it has been a little crazy.  I know that once classes start, I won’t have much time, so I decided to make the most of the few free days I actually had.  I went to LA for a day with a couple of friends.  We had fun being tourists, taking pictures near the Hollywood sign and experiencing the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

      Hollywood       Hollywood WOF

The following night, I went to the O.C. Fair.  That place is HUGE!  They have tons of vendors, rides, and events.  The vendors sold a variety of foods, from tacos to deep-fried everything! <— Myocardial Infarction in the making!  As far as the events, we caught part of a concert and a rodeo.  Yes, a real live rodeo in which cowboys competed to see who could stay the longest on a bucking bull. That’s just crazy, right?

Anyway, let me fast-forward to last Wednesday night… the LLU Freshman Welcome Picnic.  The LLUSM Alumni Association sponsored this picnic so that we could meet and greet our classmates and some of the upperclassmen.  Though I initially wasn’t too keen on stepping out of my comfort zone and introducing myself to others, it actually ended up being really fun!  I met a few of my classmates, exchanged numbers with some second, third, and fourth years, and received good advice.  I got to learn a little bit about those I would be in class with for the next four years through icebreaker games.  Oh, and the food was pretty good too!  Many faculty members also showed up, including Dr. Hadley, Dr. Roddy, Dr. Lamberton, and a few others.  FYI: In case you did not know, Dr. Hadley, the LLUSM Dean, is the campus selfie king!  (Check out the picture near the bottom.)

Thursday morning, the Class of 2018 gathered in the Coleman Pavilion for the first day of orientation.  We got to hear presentations made by various faculty and several LLU organizations.  There was a lot of information, papers, and pamphlets given, but it just proved, even more, what an exciting and interesting place Loma Linda University is!  We also took our Class Picture and picked up our iPads.  As a new Apple owner, I must confess that I was really excited about our 64GB iPad Airs!  Another favorite was the panel discussion on how to succeed in medical school.  Dr. Lamberton moderated as four upperclassmen gave us newbies advice and techniques that helped them to succeed.

Thursday night was the BIG event… (insert drum roll here)… the White Coat Ceremony!  It was such a blessing to be gathered together with family and friends to commemorate the beginning of our medical journey.  I felt such camaraderie with my classmates and considered it a great honor to be sitting among them.  The speaker was fantastic and genuine, as she welcomed us into the medical school, speaking from her own LLU SOM experience.  Once everyone had received white coats, we stood in front of all in attendance; and as a class, we read the LLU Physician’s Oath.  The phrase that stood out most to me was: “The wholeness of my patient will be my first consideration.”  In one word, becoming a physician is all about SERVICE, which is highlighted in this statement.

Afterwards, we all took pictures (which was fun, but seemed to go on for FOREVER!).  Here are a few of my favorites!

                   

White Coat Selfie with Dr HadleyAfter the ceremony, a group of my closest classmates and our families went out to eat at Olive Garden.  When the servers heard that we had just received our white coats, they brought us out a complimentary cake to celebrate!

    White Coat at Olive Garden        White Coat Olive Garden Cake2

On Saturday, a group of us went to one of the many churches in the area, Mt. Rubidoux SDA.  After church, we attended a potluck hosted by one of the upperclassmen dental students.  It was another great opportunity to eat and fellowship with both old and new faces.

Saturday night, we went out and experienced the wonder that is A La Minute.  If you haven’t tried this place, you have never had real ice cream before!  A La Minute is a little ice cream shop in downtown Redlands.  Fun Fact: All of their ingredients are locally sourced.  After perusing the menu, my friends and I tried the Salted Caramel.  My rating: A+!  Here’s a picture of it below.

                  A La Minute Menu2           A La Minute Salted Caramel2

Well, that’s all folks!  This post is a little longer than I planned, but I had a lot to recap!  Hopefully, you all enjoyed reading it.

Until next time…

VM