Step1 | WSMRF | snowman

Janna, Second Year Medical StudentOne more day of tests! Then, second year will be officially 2/3 completed which means only 121 days 12 hrs and 29 minutes and 14 seconds til the looming Step 1. Step 1- it seems like the biggest test of my career. But then again, I felt that way for the SAT, MCAT, my weekly spelling tests in elementary, this set of tests I should be studying for right now, and basically every test I’ve ever taken… which means there will probably be another “biggest” test to come: Step 2?

On another note, I am excited to say I had the opportunity to present a poster and oral presentation at the WSMRF conference in Carmel, CA. There were over 20 students from my class at the conference and some of our mentors even came up like Dr. Blood. We had a great time learning from each other’s posters, attending presentations, and hanging out. It was a mini-vacation!

And, we have another mini-vacation after this test set. Our officers planned a retreat for our class at Camp Cedar Falls. I can’t wait to frolic in the snow with my classmates. Maybe we will build a snowman!

Disclaimer: I didn’t actually calculate the countdown to Step 1, but it’s around there. 🙂

Nikoleta Brankov presenting her poster to fellow student Casey Harms.

Michael Giang in front of captive pulmonologists.


Anthony Yeo with mentor Dr. Blood.

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Me rolling up the poster.

Olaf from Frozen. Maybe we will build a snowman at our Camp Cedar Falls retreat!


Last Summer Ever

Janna, Second Year Medical StudentGoodbye summer…  Hello second year!

So, another year has begun. From what I’ve heard, this year will be as tough as a femur, possibly the most sleepless year of our med school lives. We’ll have many things to look forward to, such as OSCEs, labs, clinics, exam weeks, and the ominous step one.

We’re supposedly renewed and rejuvenated from the nine weeks of summer. I’m not sure how much rest I’ve stockpiled, but my summer was certainly packed with fun activities. Outside of the eight to nine hours a day of researching, I started wedding planning, finally said “yes!” to the dress, acted as a skit character in VBS, went back to my childhood and watched Disney’s Suite Life of Zack and Cody, listened to Adventures in Odyssey, grilled corn over a campfire, ran a half marathon, and completed an Olympic triathlon with my med school buddies. Click here to see the highlights of our triathlon.

My body was pushed to its limits, and now my brain will get a turn.

Goodbye summer.  Hello second year!

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Communication Convention

To and back from the sunshine state, specifically Orlando. This past weekend I took a brief break from my med school studies––sort of, I still studied on the flights and in the airports––to revisit my college major, Communication: Public Relations and Journalism. Part of my course work included conducting a quantitative research study which I was now going to present at the National Communication Association 98th Annual Convention.

My co-author and I had been invited to a panel under Lambda Pi Eta (the National Communication Association’s honor society for four year colleges and universities). We had submitted our paper last spring not expecting a response since only a handful of papers are selected from the worldwide submissions. But, our paper was accepted! Upon arrival, we were even more pleasantly surprised to find our paper had made it into the top four papers for Lambda Pi Eta, along with another research group from our class at Pacific Union College (PUC). Our professor, Dr. McGuire, also presented her own research paper at the conference, so she was able to come personally support us at our presentation.

We presented our research on a panel for 8-10 minutes, listened to a respondent, and ended with Q&A. The experience of presenting was very educational, as well as the exposure to the other various communication research studies. I even attended panels on health communication. The studies in these categories looked at improving physician communication in the context of end-of-life care and health care websites.

So, I’m probably a bit behind on my studies, but this experience was definitely worth the extra time I’ll put in over Thanksgiving break. I stopped off in numerous states and Disney park shuttle stations, reconvened with old friends, and furthered my communication knowledge. I was even offered a full ride to a communication university. And, while the thought of no debt is intriguing, the reason for my interest in communication is to facilitate better healthcare and patient interaction, so I’ll stick with pushing through med school. 🙂

Why Two Degrees?

Looking over the long road ahead of me, one might consider asking, incredulously, why somebody would want to do an MD/PhD program at all. It’s certainly a justified question, to which the short answer is that I think receiving training in both clinical medicine and research science will be especially valuable in my future career.

The MD and PhD degrees differ in more than just the requirements – they represent two perspectives on problem-solving. The way I see it right now, medicine ultimately teaches students how to correctly apply what we have learned to new situations, and how to recognize something you have seen before when it is placed in a new context. Graduate school, however, teaches students how to find the gaps in what we know, and design questions that will yield new information.

I think the two schools of thought are complementary, and that having experience with both will improve my skills as a clinician and as a researcher. Additionally, in the field I’m currently looking at, neurology/neuroscience, I will be able to help bridge the gap between what we’re continually learning in the lab (neuroscience) and the application of that knowledge to patient care (neurology). Not only through translational research (a popular buzzword) I do myself, but also by being cognizant of and having experience with developments on both angles.

I wrote this a while back on mistypedURL, but I think it’s worth sharing again here.

Summer of…RECHARGE!!!

For the past few years, I’ve been hearing how each summer would be my last real summer. This year seemed especially true since next year will be Step 1 (boards) time and from then on our schedule will be ruled by the hospital. In the words of a friend of mine who just took boards, the summer after 1st year is when I should be sure to “live life like there’s no tomorrow!” Carpe diem, er, YOLO? I know, it has become quite cliche and annoying but when you come to a situation where you are contemplating whether or not to actual do something out of the ordinary, it can give you the extra little push off the edge, if you know what I mean.

So, how did I spend the “last summer of my life?” Well, I decided to do summer research at LLU! I worked in the radiobiology lab where we looked at mice brains, analyzing the effect of rmTBI (repeated mild traumatic brain injury) on brain tissue (white and grey mater). Yes, it was tedious at times, staring at a computer screen and drawing boxes and lines on brain pictures. But overall, I had a good time meeting new people and exposing myself to the world of research. It was my first research experience and I gained a new appreciation for all the work that researchers do. To me, it is like a blind mouse trying to sniff its way to the block of cheese. Sometimes, there will be mouse traps along the way. Or even worse, there may be crumbs sprinkled along the wrong path. You spend weeks and months, even years following the possibility that your hunch might be correct. Medical school comparatively seems so much easier! At least you know that, to a certain extent, the amount you study will correlate with your performance. The finish line is somewhat in sight and you have the means to an end.

The summer research program comes with a stipend (an added bonus) and since it’s 8 weeks long, I had 2 weeks of real summer. I decided to spend it 13 hours away, in Taiwan! I met up with a classmate and definitely had the time of my life. It was nice staying in only one country for 2 weeks instead of hopping around every other day (i.e. EuroTrip). By spending so much time in one area, you get to truly “immerse” yourself in the culture. If you love food, nature, hiking, and night life, I HIGHLY recommend Taiwan. Most if the time I was in the big city of Taipei, but there is much more to see in Taiwan and it is one of the places I will have to visit again. It is the birthplace of Boba milk tea and shaved ice. Taiwan has everything from natural sulfur hot springs, beautiful mountains and lakes, and tall skyscrapers (Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world a few years ago).  The subway system is the most convenient one I have ever used and everything is so cheap! I could write endlessly about how awesome Taiwan is, but I will spare you the pain of watery eyes and I’ll show you some pictures instead.


Second year starts in less than a week…OH MY GOSH, school starts in 1 week?!?!? I will certainly miss waking up late, blasting “One Direction,” road trips up and down the west coast, dusting off my cello, etc. But this is the last exclusively academic year of my life and I am ready to take on the challenges of second year. With a schedule that consists of Pathophysiology, Pharmacology, Pathology, Neuroscience, Psychobiology, I am bracing myself for a tumultuous 10 months. Here goes nothing!