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!

My Christmas Break


Snow. Even though it can be found only an hour away, blanketing the mountains that border Loma Linda, I sometimes miss walking outside to find a blanket of fresh white powder. That’s one of my favorite parts about traveling back home for the holidays; frolicking and playing in one of nature’s gifts. Christmas is well over a month behind us, but many states across the eastern US are still seeing plenty of snow. So as I sit here and wonder what it would be like to attend medical school in the midst of a blizzard, let me show you a little bit of how I spent some time playing in snow:

I had made that video for my family so it’s a little bit on the longer side, but I thought it might be fun to share with you as well, just so you know med students still know how to have fun every now and then!

Flash forward to the present and it’s business as usual: memorizing antibiotics, learning the inner workings of the kidneys, and trying to boost my q-bank average. A few days ago, we were given the opportunity to choose the order in which we’d like to rotate through each specialty during our 3rd year of medical school.  It was just another reminder at how fast this year has been been progressing, and how we are merely moments away from working in the hospital. I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel…

Camaraderie and Opportunity

Giovanna, First Year Medical Student
Christmas break started off on an uninspired note, after an amazing, yet much less than perfect (academically-speaking) first half of the first year. When the reality of personally unsatisfactory performances popped up as test results on my computer screen, I knew that this Christmas break would need to be more than just a holly jolly jingle fest.

Besides renewing my energy for the next half of the school year, I wanted the break to remind of the joy and excitement that I had when I arrived at Loma Linda. By no means did the rigors of the first half of the year turn me into that highly publicized soul-less student. I simply know that we all have a delicate relationship with medicine. It needs constant analytical attention and effort so that those nights muttering “I’m fine” don’t turn into looking up art instructor jobs in Paris under the dimmed light of a computer screen at three in the morning. It takes an intricate balance of some personal time apart and some quality time together. Little did I know that following this simple tactic this break would revamp this love story. On a side apologetic note, the sappy metaphorical tone is a direct result of three too many romantic films while on break.

The background story includes my friend whom I call Baby Liz. In nursing school I was lucky to find her friendship. Last summer, for example, included trying out the local public pool, where the colloquial term “stank face” took on a whole new meaning while bravely worn as the trade-off for the bargain of the admission price. Whenever I am home I visit her, we adventure all over Maryland and southern Pennsylvania. On this Christmas break, we set out on a neighborhood Christmas party that included three houses and three courses. The first house had some delicious tomato bisque as an appetizer, Liz’s house attempted a chicken and vegetable alfredo (I’ll partly take the blame for the chewy chicken), and the last house had some yummy dessert treats and good conversation. As I walked in to that last house I remember thinking, are those surgical room scrubs I see? Any time is a good time to poke away at surgeon’s brains. Intended puns aside, the conclusion of the conversation was that I would be shadowing for a couple of days with the neurosurgery team.

I fell in love all over again, and I thought I didn’t need to. The resident was so welcoming, the other residents so friendly, and the attending surgeons so considerate. I was encouraged to watch a craniotomy for an arteriovenous malformation (where there is a section of no capillaries to offset the pressure between arteries and veins), performed by a female neurosurgeon, both the procedure and gender being a rarity. I sat in that atmosphere of pure focus and meticulous technique for more than four hours, yet it flew by as if half that long. The second day consisted of following the resident throughout the hospital, answering to emergent calls and consults.

It was the camaraderie I saw in the team. This consisted of their inside jokes and positive attitudes, even after days of scant sleep, and their enthusiasm to do whatever it took to care for a patient and perfect a skill. It was also the approachability of attending surgeons with an almost unparalleled responsibility to human life that was so humbling to me. Taking me around the hospital for the consults, Brian, the resident made me feel as if I was part of the team, as if my six months of books and tests made me an invaluable player, and as if my questions presented interesting points. I was even included in the patients’ chart as part of the team consulted (oh, the things that get us newbies excited!). At the end of the two days, I could not express my gratitude. My attempt at expressing just how much I had enjoyed the experience, and how I had hoped not to have been an inconvenience was met with the response, “I only made it here because of someone else’s time and attention, so it is the least I can do.”

Between the fascinating procedures and intricate clinical involvement, those two days were almost enough to have me sign up and start dreaming of neurosurgery. As I asked the female neurosurgeon about her hours and lifestyle, I saw the dedication, passion, and sacrifice that such a life takes. Trying to get a better picture of life as a neurosurgeon, in other conversations with the residents I would ask, “why do you give up so much of yourself, and how do you find the perseverance?” The varying answers included the honor in sacrifice, the reward in healing, and the humility in scientific limitations.

Standing at the brink of the second half of the year, or more honestly, sitting in the cheaper middle seat on a non-stop flight to an even cheaper yet inconveniently far LAX, my passion is more than renewed: it is stronger and has taken on a new maturity. It has a new appreciation for the opportunities I have been given, and it has a new regard for sacrifice and dedication. Camaraderie brought me opportunity, hard work will follow me through, and the love of medicine will drive me on. While I wish I could say I had definitely decided my future career, all I can actually exclaim is that I am almost at sunny California, ready to dig into the books again.


The holiday season is by far my favorite time of year.  It’s the time for snuggling up in cozy sweaters and warm blankets, sipping peppermint mochas, spending time with friends and family, and celebrating all that we are thankful for.

This year, the holiday season comes during a hectic and harried time.  According to our second year predecessors, our upcoming exam set will be the most difficult exams that we will face all year.  This is made evident by the fact that I have been sorely neglecting my duties as a student blogger because, let’s face it, I’m busy being a student!  Yet in the midst of studying heart sounds, respiratory physiology, genetics, anatomy, biochemistry, and immunology the holidays remind me to pause and appreciate the things that matter most in life.

So, as I sit here snuggled up in a blanket, sipping a warm cup of tea on this last night of Thanksgiving break, I thought I’d share just a few of the things that I’m thankful for this holiday season.

Faith – The trials of medical school have taught me that faith is a crucial component of remaining grounded in what truly matters.  I am so blessed to attend a university that encourages me to grow not only in my knowledge of disease processes, but also in my knowledge that we are not the ones who do the ultimate healing.  We may suture wounds and treat diseases, but God is the ultimate healer and only He can offer eternal life.

Family – This Thanksgiving I got to spend time with my sister in Davis, California.  She is a fourth year veterinary student at UC Davis and her clinical responsibilities make this the first Thanksgiving that she has been forced to be away from home.  After not seeing her for months while she’s been away at school, it was amazing to be able to visit her in Davis for a few days.

Friends – One of the things that has made medical school the phenomenal experience that it has been thus far is the people that I get to spend each and every day with in my class.  I have made some of the most incredible friends along this journey and I couldn’t be more blessed.  Moreover, my long-time friends from years past have stuck with me through this time. Although I hardly get to spend time with them, they continue to support and encourage me.

Holiday Shenanigans – Part of the fun of the holidays is all of the holiday festivities!  This year our class had a Thanksgiving Potluck in the park to start off the holiday season right.  A special thanks to Theresa Tran and Lauren Parker for helping to plan this event!  We have a few more fun holiday parties planned for the class so stay tuned for more updates!

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. 🙂