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.

New year!

Janna, First Year Medical Student

It’s a new year and time for new things! We received our first official final grades for a science course- biochemistry/genetics, and now have new classes: neuroscience, human behavioral science, and (for me) a medical ethics religion class. Within the first week, we have already covered the gross anatomy of the brain, learned how to empathize and encourage patients to adhere to a treatment, and faced the ethics of medicine in a documentary about a boy who became a girl and later went back to being a boy because his penis was burned off when he was 2 months old.

I also saw my first “patient” named Harvey in the Harvey Stimulation Lab for Physical Diagnosis. However, Harvey isn’t quite like the normal patient; he’s a robotic head and torso lacking limbs but complete with heart murmurs, pulses, and JVPs. His abdomen even rises when he “breathes”. He helped integrate the information we learned from lecture.

Fellow blogger Lauren (second from left) and her classmates practicing on Harvey when they were freshmen.

Fellow blogger Lauren (second from left) and classmates practicing on Harvey when they were freshmen.

Lastly of my new experiences, this week I also joined some of my classmates and co-blogger Abby at the BATs (buns, abs, and thighs) class at Drayson Center. We jumped, punched, and kicked for an hour! My muscles, used to sitting around all day, are still in shock. But, the class was a great de-stresser and fun opportunity to hang out with friends. I can’t wait to go this week!

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. 🙂

In Real Life

It seems like just a moment ago I wrote my last post about my experience with USMLE Step 1 & 2 and here we are 2 months later.

Fortunately you’ve had a ton of great new bloggers sharing all kinds of experiences.

So in my real life recently here’s the quick update:

Things I’ve Been Doing

Thing 1: Sub-Internship. During the month of July I had my Sub-I on Pediatrics Team G. Pediatrics does not mess around. Don’t think that just because you get to work with kids it’s all naps and snacks. I know you didn’t think that. Truth though: It was the absolute best time I’ve had so far in medical school career. It was plenty of hard work, but I loved it and it was very encouraging that I’m applying to the right specialty. And hello to our Team G third years – you were great!

Thing 2: I got married. In the midst of the Sub-I, I was also going home at night and sorting out details for my wedding, because on Aug 4 this happened:

And so I’m happily married. If you want, you can see more pictures at our photographer’s blog here.

Thing 3: Travel. Then we went to Mexico for a honeymoon. I got wicked sunburnt but of course it was great.

Thing 4: Moving. I moved in with my new husband, which is always a hassle – the moving, not the new husband – and we furnished our apartment.

Thing 5: Step 2 CS, I’ll write a separate post on that.

Thing 6: Away elective. I took off to Ohio, from which I write, for a 4 week away elective in Pediatric Infectious Disease at Dayton Children’s Medical Center through Wright State University. While I’m here I get to live with my sister, who just got a new dog. We named him Dobby. I mean look at those little house-elf ears.

To put it plainly, it’s been a busy couple months and my head’s spinning a bit.

I’ve been in Ohio a week, and I feel like I’m finally settled enough that I can take a deep breath. This is important, because in just a couple weeks, it’s time to submit a residency application.

It never stops. I think that’s great.

Leave the Rest up to Him.

It’s only been a week and a half into medical school. I already feel out of shape, out of sleep, and out of energy. Yes, it’s true, the only kind of change I truly enjoy is the sort that rattles around in my pockets. But that’s the short-term talking. When I take a step back from the pixelation of long study hours, empty coffee mugs, and questionable bouts of motivation, the bigger picture allows me to press on. And yet, removal from the urgency of the moment—fluttering up far enough for an aerial view—takes time. Specifically, time off. I’m not a robot. I’m not a Cullen. I get tired and my eyes glaze over. I get moody and eat too much chocolate. I coop myself up inside and hold grudges when the sun shines too cheerily. I, like every other human being alive, have tipping points and require breaks.

Considering Sabbath through the lens of a student, I liken time away from the books to the process of exercise. Maybe it’s my soul’s deep-seeded ploy to trick my body into athleticism (so far, no luck). But maybe it’s just a little bit more. Physically speaking, there are limits to how much stress the body can handle before it breaks down and risks injury. Too much work in too little time can be a recipe for disaster. Yes, the body must be broken in order to be built back up, but it is a process of micro-tears. It is not a battering, or pummeling, or a high-speed ramming into a brick wall. I realize as well as anyone that doing too little too slowly is a laughable stab at progress. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. That doesn’t mean Rome wasn’t built. Or that it wasn’t magnificent, powerful, and demanding of respect.

I think God invented dusk to help us find the beauty of rest; the twilight of Sabbath. He took day and night and warmth fading into cool, wrapped them up in early moonglow and cricket chirps, then tucked it all between the edges of the day. He intentionally put a pause button on the remote of transition. He knows exactly what we need and supplies it all with the contingency of choice.

I’m not Seventh-day Adventist and I don’t have a 24 hour time slot reserved as Sabbath. But I think my personal celebration is umbrellaed under the same context of a dedicated day to rest and reflection. Jesus is my Sabbath. Jesus is where I rest. Sabbath, for me, is a place that lives outside of time. It is my freedom from the Law, my release from bogs of routine, my heart being held in the hands that wove the world. There is beauty in the resting; light in the dimming of Earth’s tangles. And so, this is my toast to not worrying about tomorrow—it frets enough when left to its own devices. Here’s to slowing down, to looking up, and to letting God take care of the rest.