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!

A man, AMEN and the Big Man upstairs.

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He cut me off mid sentence. Only four words into an eight word sentence, and I had already lost my audience’s attention. It happens often enough now that I’ve learned to pick my battles. I reclined a bit more onto the hotel bed and decided the morning was better spent with me, my phone, and my thoughts. If sharing is caring, then I decided not to have my ca|re cut in half. But then I got a subtle urge to try again. (This time I summarized instead of quoting directly, in the hopes of holding at least some of my friends’ attention.)

“SoDavidwantstobuild a temple for God. Nathan the prophet tells him that whateverhewantstodo, he should do because God is with him. Later that night, God tells Nathan to tellDavidnot to build a temple.” (I talk-mumbled quickly enough to blur at least five words together seamlessly, but the point was made.)

A Jamaican-accented cackle gave background to small comments on what I had read. And soon life, being true to itself, moved on.

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The Welcome Table. AMEN Conference 2014.

A few hours placed themselves between my morning and my lunch and before I knew it a circle of good friends was enclosed about a table of good food. Every once in a while the wind would gently breeze away our reflective laughter (and small bits of our meal that was decidedly vegan). We had just spent hours at the Adventist Medical Evangelism Network (AMEN) Conference morning sessions, under the guidance of stalwart souls, determined to change the world.  A dentist sitting at a nearby table caught wind of our presence, and decided to share his presence with us.

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Coronado Beach, San Diego           PC: VSJr.

He told stories of the his path to success. He walked us through his obstacles, guiding us down his own memory lane. All eyes and ears seemed to be held captive by his story––except mine. My eyes were held captive by the piece of cake that was disappearing all too quickly from my plate. My mind wandered. I had heard endless retellings of overcoming personal struggles, and for whatever reason, this time around I just wanted to eat pound cake without feeling obligated to oblige the gentleman’s story tellings. Then he caught my attention.

“You have to do something procedural to be useful on the mission field.” The words rang for a little with a bothersome tone. Multiple specialties in medicine were picked straight up and thrown straight under the proverbial bus. And unbeknownst to the guy speaking, a few of his young listener’s dreams were too.

I knew that because she said she wanted to cry. She was a friend who had dreams of becoming a missionary doctor who heard the man’s message that indirectly said her hopeful field of work would serve little purpose abroad (She wanted to be an Internist – a field that isn’t known for offering a vast array of procedures). I knew she wouldn’t cry, she wasIMG_5113 a lot tougher than her short stature let on, but the point was made. And that point made me understand why the “still, small voice” urged me to read a part of 2 Samuel 7’s mention of Nathan’s encounter with David aloud that morning. It was because we were going to meet a Nathan later that day.

Though wholly dedicated to prophetically presenting God to a broken world, Nathan was still human. He was still capable of making mistakes. And when he told David that God was okay with him building God a temple, he made a mistake that God later corrected him on – because God wanted David’s son to build His temple. When I saw my friend’s distress over her perceived life-calling being shut down, I realized that I had lunch with a modern-day Nathan. A well-meaning, God-fearing man who just may have gotten it wrong. So take a page out of the Old Testament’s book. In any setting, whether it be the pulpit or the pew, the dinner table or the dining hall, always run what someone says by the Big Man upstairs. Because at the end of the day (or at the end of a vegan meal), it’s His voice and His call, that you should follow.

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Nighttime skyline. San Diego, CA    PC: VSJr.

 

The Power of ‘Meaning’

Angie, Fourth Year Medical StudentWhile boiling raw beets for my mom- she swears by them for helping lower her blood pressure- I came across a Google news story titled, “Tearjerker! Angelina Jolie’s Speech at the Governors Awards Will Make You Cry.” Curious, I clicked on the link and found myself indeed moved by Angelina Jolie’s speech.

Above all [my mother] was very clear that nothing would mean anything if I didn’t live a life of use to others. I didn’t know what that meant for a long time… it was only when I began to travel and look and live beyond my home that I understand my responsibility to others. -Angelina Jolie

I could not agree more with her words about living a purposeful life to the fullest. During the last couple months, I have asked myself too many times why I am choosing to pursue a career that will daily ask demand me to choose between two jealous loves I love most- my patients and those I call family. The next four years of residency will be brutal, exhilarating, and exhausting because it will be the time to try to learn everything in the field of obstetrics and gynecology to come out ready to practice or pursue fellowship. I am realistic- it will be stressful making sacrifices and feeling like I may not be able to make everyone 100% happy all the time.

So why am I still here? It is because the pursuit of medicine in the field of obstetrics and gynecology brings my life meaning. With the skills, experiences, and support I have been blessed with these twenty-seven years, I find greatest peace and energy when I am placing the wellbeing and comfort of my patients before that of my own. This seems counterintuitive, but a TED talk by health psychologist Kelly McGonigal recently helped me see that the new science also supports this idea that stress- when attached to something meaningful- may actually be beneficial. One study looked at the impact of stress on longevity: overall, there was a 43% increase in the risk of death for those who believed they had high stress and that stress had a large impact on health. However, those with high stress who did not perceive stress as negative were amongst those least likely to die. Furthermore, another study found the positive impact of giving to others on stress-related mortality.

I have been so thankful for my parents who have not asked me for anything more than to come home to have dinner with them when I am free. I am also so thankful for my sister who has taken the time to travel with me to some of my interviews; my significant other who helped me first survive, then taught me to thrive in medical school; and my lifelong friends who have forgiven me for my selfishness and stuck by me through the toughest times. These people bring my life meaning, and will continue to balance the negative stress that I will inevitably face at times.

This interview process has been ‘stressful.’ When I talk with my interviewers about my passion for women’s health and medicine, my heart begins racing and the rate of my words speeds up. But I remind myself that this stress is positive, and just a natural response to my perception of a worthy challenge in the pursuit of living a meaningful and responsible life helping others.

It has been a wonderful experience meeting my fellow applicants and and I wish you all the best as we continue to pursue the common goal of becoming excellent OBGYN doctors!

You can trust yourself to handle life’s challenges. And you’re remembering you don’t have to face them alone. –Kelly McGonigal

-angiek

Lessons Learned Abroad

Paige, Second Year Medical StudentThe summer between the first and second years of medical school is really and truly the last summer break of our lives.  We have 2 months to soak up all the sun and fun we can before we begin the arduous process of tackling second year and USMLE Step 1, which is then followed promptly by beginning our clinical rotations of third year.  Medical students choose to spend this last glorious summer break in a variety of ways; those interested in competitive residency programs pursue summer research programs, others choose to take the summer to travel and spend time with family before allowing medical school to once again take over every aspect of their lives, and others choose to spend time as student missionaries in one of the many locations that Loma Linda sponsors.

Spending my summer as a student missionary was at the top of my list of things to do this summer and has been for quite some time.  I had never been on a mission trip before because I had been waiting until this summer between my first and second years of medical with the hope that I would be able to utilize some of the minimal medical knowledge that I have accumulated in the last year to do some tangible good in the community that I would be serving.  This summer I was privileged to have the opportunity to travel to Honduras, Central America to work in the Hospital Adventista Valle de Angeles.  I was able to serve alongside three of my classmates and a pre-medical student from Union College for four weeks in this beautiful country, and the lessons I learned while on this mission trip will undoubtedly shape my personal and professional life for many years to come.  Below is one of the lessons I learned about short-term mission trips.  I hope that by reading this experience you will think about the impact that short-term mission trips have on the lives of those we serve and on our own lives.

I had my first doubts about the benefits of short-term mission trips while I was boarding my plane from Houston to Tegucigalpa.  The vast majority of travelers boarding the plane with us were Americans wearing bright colored matching t-shirts with “Honduras Mission Trip 2013” printed across their backs.  Most people visiting Honduras were not doing so to enjoy the vast natural beauty of its tropical rainforests, or to explore the rich history of the Mayan ruins, or to immerse themselves in the loving and hospitable culture of the Honduran people.  Instead, nearly everyone on that plane was venturing to Honduras with the hope that they would be able to serve the Honduran people in some way, whether that was through building a church or a school or offering medical or teaching services.  Although this is without question a noble motive, it made me wonder if we had pigeonholed this country into being a place that needs “our generosity.”  I refused to believe that I would be serving the people of Honduras more than they would be serving me because I knew that I would likely learn more from this trip than I would ever be able to repay in service to my teachers.  I knew that I would gain many insights during my time in Honduras and I prayed that God would use me in even the smallest of ways to at least make a small impact on the people that I would encounter.

As the trip progressed, I realized how much I was changing as a result of seeing the things that this country had to offer and how little I felt that I was contributing.  Not being able to speak the language meant that I could not communicate well with those around me; this made it difficult for me to feel like I had made any impact on anyone’s life.  That all changed when Miss Marjorie, a retired teacher from the local Adventist school came into our lives.  We had requested the opportunity to go into the local school and teach the children about healthy living; Miss Marjorie was the person who made this request a reality.  One week, Miss Marjorie was presenting a special English Sabbath School lesson about prayer to our group.  She talked about times that prayers had been answered and shared a personal testimony about how a recent prayer of hers had been answered.  To our amazement, she actually told us that we were the answer to her prayer.  Earlier in the year, she had left her position at the school and never had a chance to say goodbye to her students.  Ever since, she had been praying that she would find a way to get back into the school to see her kids and explain to them why she had to leave.  She said that when the hospital had contacted her about 4 students from Loma Linda who only spoke English and who wanted to work with the kids in the school, she knew that God had worked to answer her prayer to get her back into contact with her kids.  Miss Marjorie showed us that God was using us in ways that we couldn’t have even imagined.

I still believe that the vast majority of short-term mission trips benefit those who go on the trips more than those who are being served.  I also believe that this is rightfully so.  It is important for people going on short-term mission trips to realize that they will likely learn more from their experiences and change more as a result than those who they go to serve.  Having an open mind about choosing to learn and grow from these experiences does not imply selfish motives, in fact, I believe that it is selfish to think that we can go on short-term mission trips and always make a life-changing impact on the communities we serve.  That being said, there is no doubt that God can use us to touch the lives of others on short-term mission trips in ways that we cannot foresee and blesses us immensely through the process.

I am so grateful for the experiences that I had while in Honduras, I grew immensely spiritually, emotionally, and professionally, and I am assured that God was able to use us in ways that we may never even know.  I would argue that there is no better way to spend the summer between the first and second years of medical school.

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live. love. VOLUNTEER.

I have this big button that I got in college that is on my backpack that says “Live. Love. Volunteer.” The pin always tends to fall out of place and inconveniently pokes my finger when I reach for my backpack, but I always put it back in place because every time I see those 3 words I recount back to when the last time I had volunteered was. During exam seasons during first and second year, it would seem like weeks or even months since I had and I would feel secretly ashamed for having that button declaring to the world that I was promoting service. But that pin helps remind me that most times it is just that simple and that I should just get out there. To live, you must love. To love like Jesus you must volunteer your time to others when it seems to cost the most.

So if you feel called to give some of your time to serving others, come join your fellow peers in these opportunities to do so!

Street Medicine
If you desire to serve the homeless population, here is an exciting new project started by a few medical students last year. I feel like the video above speaks volumes on what the mission and heart of the project are. Visit the Street Medicine website to get more information on how you can start volunteering and stay tuned for exciting leadership opportunities coming up!

Healthy Neighborhood Projects
As one of the Co-Directors for Healthy Neighborhood Projects (HNP), the rest of the team and I have been excited for the influx of new volunteers who want to be involved in the lives of the kids in our community. The faculty advisers and student leaders met in August for a rewarding and informative leadership seminar so that we would know how to best serve the projects this year.

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Learning about the population and city of San Bernardino.

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Project leaders (Clockwise from top left): Project Hope ladies, Special Ops’ Neil Patel, CAPS’ Tina Pruna and CPC mother who generously provided lunch, CKC Tutoring’s Chris Chung and Aldo Espinoza, and CKC Music’s Ariana Anugerah.

We then had a chapel service dedicated to service in September, and Dr. Marti Baum spoke about the various community projects including:

  • Project Hope: mentoring expectant teen moms weekly
  • CKC Tutoring: tutoring youth ages 5-16 weekly
  • CKC Music: giving youth ages 5-18 violin, piano, and cello lesson weekl
  • Special Ops: mentoring 5th and 6th grade “at-risk” boys by participating in sports and outdoor activities weekly
  • Kids ROCK: Teaching kids about Christ through skits, activities, Bible stories, and more every Saturday
  • Community Parent Connection: program for parents including monthly meetings, ESL, nutrition, computer literacy, health courses, and more
  • SACHS Clinic: providing low-cost medical care to the uninsured and underserved
  • Street Medicine: newest service project serving the homeless by offering free medical care at weekly clinic and street walks

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It’s not too late to get involved. You can visit the website or message me to get started!

I can’t wait to share all the more incredible things we do this year!

-angiek