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.

Awkward.

I didn’t realize how little outside exposure I would get during the first two years of medical school. I’m inside practically all day and only go home to sleep (which is still indoors!). As Step 1 nears, the atrophy of my social skills has become all the more apparent, and in many situations, I end up being very…well, awkward.

A few examples to illustrate:

On one normal Sabbath day, I was merrily singing my heart out during song service. Then the congregation started singing, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.” For the first verse, I sang, “All hail the power of Jesus’ name! Let angels prostate fall!” I immediately stopped, incredulous and amused. Did I really just sing out the word “prostate”?


Spending time in crowded areas, even grocery stores, lately feels new and exciting. When I’m out in public, I can’t help but stare at people. I think, his face and arms are very edematous – I wonder if he has superior vena cava obstruction? I would have to look at his JVP, check for pitting, and rule out a heart or liver issue. Or her right eyelid is drooping – I wonder if she has Horner’s? Or maybe Bell’s palsy? That man is walking with a shuffle gait. I wonder if he also has a Parkinsonian resting tremor. I stare long enough until some people catch my eye. Of course, my instinct is to smile and totally give away that I’ve been coming up with a dozen review of system questions to ask them.


I have become great at not maintaining eye contact. Whenever I start talking to someone, my eyes get confused and dart everywhere, looking for words to read. Talking to people who are interested in things outside of school has also become unfamiliar. What do I say? Am I saying the right things? Why does he think I know anything about TV shows and fun? Responses have become reflex, like “That’s so cool that you went cliff jumping and waterfall swimming in a lake! I just learned what microbes swim in places like those!”


Lately, I’ve been fumbling with words and staying silent because I don’t know how to say something. What’s the word for putting fruit into a blender and mixing them together? Oh right, blend. I’ve forgotten how to speak English. I’ve also forgotten essential information like names. Whenever I see an acquaintance, my usual greeting has become, “Oh, hi there….you! *awkward pause* How’s it going?” I can only hope that in a few minutes, my hippocampus catches up, and I can finally recall his/her name. Or else I end up asking the same person multiple times in multiple occasions, “I’m so sorry. What was your name again?”


Let’s just say, I can’t wait to be done with Step 1.

5 Things M2s Want for Christmas

Done with test cycle 3! It was one of the hardest test cycles of medical school so far (first year test cycle 6 still takes the cake though). In the spirit of the Christmas season, I wanted to share a few things that second year medical students would love to have.

1. A “Pass” in Neuroscience and Psychopathology

We start these classes halfway through first year and end them halfway through second year. Thus, we have to be in passing range in both classes after test cycle 3 to avoid retaking a class during the summer or repeating the entire year. It’s not as easy as it sounds! If we pass these two classes, then we can truly celebrate winter break.

So many UWORLD questions to do before STEP1!

2. Free access to UWorld, First Aid, Pathoma, Picmonic, Sketchy Micro, and STEP 1

If you’re having difficulty finding the perfect gift for that M2 niece or nephew, offer to pay for one of these essential subscriptions/registrations. Altogether, depending on the length of the subscription, they can cost close to $1000 (STEP 1 alone is $605). You’ll be sure to bring a smile to your beloved student’s face.

3. Home cooked meals with no pasta or canned vegetables

When we can’t afford time to visit a grocery store, pasta and preserved veggies become our staple foods. Either that or we make frequent trips to the hospital and student cafeterias. Or attend on-campus events with free food. Sometimes I wish I could come home to fresh bread, fried rice with spicy tofu, anything with eggplant, stuffed peppers, hummus, and other non-pasta foods. I speak for myself though as some of my classmates are expert cooks on a budget.

When mom brings over tofu 🙂

4. Consistently folded laundry

Washing and drying laundry isn’t too bad since I have machines at home. I can study while I wait. It’s the folding that takes time. I tend to wait to do laundry until I absolutely can’t go outside without people staring, so I always have a gigantic load to fold. There are days I wear clothes from my pile of unfolded laundry and hope the wrinkles will smooth out over the course of the day.

5. More sleep

Even though studying involves sitting for long periods of time, it’s still tiring. By the end of the day (around 10 p.m. for me), I can’t wait to jump into bed. Ironically, once I’m actually in bed, it’s hard for me to fall asleep. I keep replaying my day and all the things I’ve studied. I think about the day that is about to start and all I have to accomplish. After running almost non-stop all day, my mind needs extra time to slow down. There are nights when I’m happy to get 6 hours of sleep and other nights when 8 hours doesn’t seem like enough. Having more peaceful sleep would be a blessing.

Although I may not have all of these things (I did pass all my tests though, yay!), I’m still grateful that I’ve made it this far and that I have the family, friends, and materials I have now. Yes, medical school is a lot of work, but I know that someday it’ll all be worth it. Half-way through year two! Happy new year 2017!

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.