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!

PSR SM Retreat

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Just over an hour away, we rounded the mountain curve to find Pine Springs Ranch before us with teepees, covered wagons, cabins, and a cozy lodge. It was time for the School of Medicine annual retreat.

It was a time for celebration. First and second year students had just conquered their first rounds of tests.

PSR SOM Retreat 3

It was a time for fellowship. Third and fourth year students were able to see friends from different tracks.

It was a time for relaxation. Students, faculty, and family took a break from the books or wards or both to play Frisbee, go on nature hikes, or take much-needed naps.

PSR SOM Retreat 2

It was a time of fun, laughter, and amazement. The talent show consisted of medicalish comedy, a Capella Pentatonics, and acrobatics that-although they didn’t need it-made you glad there were so many doctors in the room.

PSR SOM retreat 1

And, it was a time to rejuvenate spiritually and remember why we chose medicine. In Sabbath school, students recapped their summer trips of healing ministry in Chad, Thailand, Nigeria, and other areas of the world.

Overall, the weekend was a time of memorable moments.

Questions

Leanna, Fourth Year Medical StudentThere have been some questions asked of me and statements said to me, especially during third year, that I’ve had to think long and hard about answering, making sure I didn’t say anything too weird or inappropriate.

1) “You must be so smart!”

At first, before med school even began, I may have actually secretly agreed with this well-intentioned compliment. I did decently on the MCAT and got interviews and acceptance to some great med schools – thus, in my mind’s eye, I imagined continuing my strong undergrad performance in medical school. Wrong. I cannot even begin to describe what a shock it was, realizing how different undergrad and medical school were. Not that my undergrad education didn’t prepare me well, but medical school demanded 500% more effort to simply pass. As I alluded to in an earlier post, I eventually realized how to change up my study habits and outlook about halfway through first year. Essentially, any decent grades or exam scores I have received since that point I can attribute solely to hard work.

Of course, having some degree of natural intelligence/sound reasoning is quite helpful too, but I passionately believe that medical school is still 90% extraordinarily hard work – hard work that entails ongoing sacrifices of a social life, normal emotional life, and even a little of your soul (I might be kidding about that last one – or maybe not). “Balance” is a great idea and a term that is thrown around a lot, but the “balanced” life of a solid medical student is skewed heavily towards his/her school and away from nearly everything else that a normal twenty-something year old experiences.

First and second year demand incessant studying. Take a day off if you are convicted in that regard, but the other 6 days of the week must be devoted to school. If they aren’t, you will fall drastically behind, or even fail. You will log onto Facebook and see friends and family incessantly posting pictures of hiking, traveling, shopping, – things that are now reserved to Christmas break or the rare full weekend off. What the heck did you do with your free time before you started medical school? During third year, and maybe even a rotation or two of fourth year, you will be waking up when it is pitch black and coming home when it is pitch black. Someone will ask, isn’t it really hot in Loma Linda right now? And you won’t know because you’re inside the hospital all day, on inhumanely long shifts. To receive honors on a third year rotation requires that you pass the respective board with flying colors (implying that you’ve been studying every moment of downtime you have – while eating, in the bathroom, grocery shopping, while on the treadmill), that you have consistently given 110% hard work on the rotation, especially when being watched by residents and attendings, and that you have done all the additional “if-you-want-to-receive-honors” requirements, such as writing pathophysiology papers and scoring well on quizzes. Third year is not a year of rest; it is all the mental demands of first and second year now coupled with performance and application based on that material.

My sheer hope is that this in no way comes across as a pity party. I want to simply dispel the notion that medical school requires of one to be placed on a pedestal; no, it is being an extraordinarily focused and devoted student for four straight years that will get you to graduation. Like I mentioned, intelligence still plays some part, but at least in my case (and I know many who would agree with me), the energy that keeps me going has little to do with intelligence but everything to do with raw diligence and perseverance, driven by a passionate thought of there is no other career in my life that I would rather be doing (honestly though, being a stunt women would be really awesome).

2) You speak Spanish?

Usually, I am tempted to say that I do – well, that my Spanish skills are decent, and if we are not looking for an in-depth conversation, I can get by. Unfortunately, trying to instantaneously translate as a patient is talking to me can be quite tricky.

Recently, in fact, I was in GI clinic and listening to a conversation between the doctor and the patient (both of whom are native Spanish speakers), while trying to translate in my head.

Doc: So how are you feeling?

Patient: Fine; I am thankful to God for the blue horses, and my family’s legs

Doc: Excellent. It appears to me and to you that to me that you appear to want to see results of the scopes.

Patient: Yes. Give protection and truth.

Doc: Everything is breakfast.

Patient: Why is running cancer?

Doc: Cancer is a low probability [YES. Got that one]

Patient: Next year we repeat the trip to the small shoe store?

Doc: No, in three years we repeat scope and tears from the sky, along with stomachs and arms.

Patient: I am confluent with you doctor. God bless you and your beetles.

This may be a slight exaggeration, but have it be known that I greatly look forward to refining my Spanish during the rest of my career, because I really need to do so.

3) So Women’s Health clinic went well today?
YEEEEEAAAAAH I’M THE PAP SMEAR QUEEN YO! (Note: This is never, ever, ever an acceptable Facebook status)

4) How do you do it all, remembering and retaining all that medical information?
Comfort food (Garlic and butter croutons during the week; frozen yogurt on the weekends),
Friends (someone to pat you on the back and remind you that your life has a small bit of inherent meaning to it. Regardless of the fact that your surgery attending’s main goal is to pulverize any self-worth that you have),
Exercise (cardio step classes set to mash-ups of Eminem/Justin Bieber – a mega dose of inspiration)
Incessant studying (see question #1. Do have any idea of how many times I have had to focus on my portable pharmacology flash card set while standing in line at the grocery store, and resist the temptation to read the tabloids’ headlines of Paris Hilton’s set of quintuplet love children with Bigfoot? Many times)

5) Tell me about one of the greatest challenges that you had during medical school (naturally this question is asked quite a few times by my interviewers during the residency interview season)
Well, off the top of my head one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced during medical school was on my surgery rotation. I was on a two-week block of vascular surgery and was waking up at 3:45am to make sure that saw all my patients in time, updated the list in time, began my notes in time, and providing offerings to the gods of vascular surgery – the vascular fellows and attendings.

Anyway, by the time rounds were underway around 8am or so, I was famished, starving, nearly emaciated. On this particular day, I had eaten blueberries and a junky little 90-calorie Special K bar that morning. Naturally I was desperate for food, anything. And as luck would have it, the first patient my team and I saw that morning was sitting up in bed, eating a tasty, mouth-watering meal straight off of the gourmet Loma Linda VA Hospital breakfast menu. Pancakes and no-sugar-added maple syrup, with a cranberry juice box and a link of dry sausage. I couldn’t help my staring – the food was right there in front of me, at that delectable lukewarm room temperature I so craved.

It wasn’t long before the patient caught me staring, my eyes glazed over as I the thoughts of eating one of those little silver dollar pancakes ran through my mind. I want that. I want that pancake. Please. Give. It. To. Me.

“You want this pancake?”

The patient was asking me this. What? No. No. How did he know? Was it the shrieking sound of my stomach over the beeping med-surg monitors? Possibly. That wild hungry look of a castaway lost at sea for a month? Perhaps. Did he know that I had been up since the wee hours of the morning running off of a Special K strawberry breakfast bar? Eh…I suppose so, if he had excellent intuition.

Nevertheless, I was in a major dilemma. Do I accept this patient’s kindhearted gesture and cram the pancake in my mouth while we are debriefing with the attending about the care of the patient? Or do I refuse this offer that may potentially save my life and prevent a fatal hypoglycemic episode in order to save face with the vascular team and prevent myself from going down in Loma Linda VA history as The Girl Who Ate The Pancake?

Fortunately for my reputation, and unfortunately for my stomach, I found a happy medium of gently, kindly refusing the patient’s offer and asking him to please enjoy his entire meal for me (in my mind, it was like YEAH YOU GO AHEAD AND EAT THOSE PANCAKES RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, BUDDY) while I paid attention to what was going on in the discussion of the patient’s recovery and prognosis.

That afternoon I got a huge Caeser salad and curly fries, and at the end of the rotation I received an excellent letter of recommendation from the surgery clerkship director. So, I think my self-control paid off and I am a better person because of it.

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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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. 🙂