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.

Closer Than Ever Before

white coat class (2)Last year, as I stood in front of adoring parents and friends during the White Coat Ceremony, I paid no attention to my white-clad classmates surrounding me. To me at that time, that was all they were — classmates. I knew I would sit with them in class and study with them. But I didn’t know that I would get much, much closer.

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Hiding away our bacteria

This past week, we had our 2nd microbiology lab, and for this lab, we were required to obtain samples from a classmate and streak them onto agar plates. Sounds simple enough…except that they were samples from our classmates’ throats and noses. Yes, we had to lift up the front of someone’s nose, stick a long wire into a nostril, twist the wire around a bit, and smear the contents. Afterwards, we sat with our mouths wide open as a classmate stuck a long Q-tip inside. I gagged (literally, as my tonsillar pillars were swabbed). But this wasn’t where we all started.

It all began in first year, when we had physical diagnosis labs. We learned physical exam techniques and practiced them on each other in small groups. Coming into our first lab on measuring blood pressure, we didn’t know what to expect. The least we knew was not to measure over clothes. Since men were required to wear professional long-sleeve, button-up shirts for lab, they had to take their shirts off to expose their arms. This was the start.

Later that year, for physio lab, we placed EKG leads on a classmate’s bare chest and watched his heart rhythms get recorded. For our cardiac and lung labs, we donned hospital gowns to practice ultrasound techniques, chest auscultation, and lung percussion on each other. For abdomen lab, we pressed deep into each others’ livers and spleens to check for enlargement. For ENT lab, we looked into each others noses, mouths, and ears and massaged each others’ necks to look for enlarged lymph nodes. For eye lab, classmates were close enough for our noses to nearly touch as they leaned in with their ophthalmoscope to look at my retina.

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In many ways and after every day, I get closer to my classmates. We sit almost shoulder to shoulder in class, share many fears and tears, lend sweaters and scarves in AC-cold classrooms, and save extra burritos for each other. We’ve come so far from our first day in our white coats. My classmates aren’t just classmates anymore. They’re my friends, confidantes, colleagues, and fellow practicing physicians-to-be. And they’re going to be taking great care of people like me.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

I get to be a sorta-kinda-almost doctor now!

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Well, it’s here, that moment we’ve all been waiting for when we are unleashed up onto the hospital wards and allowed to actually take care of patients. No, we’re not doctors yet…but we are 3rd years and with that new title comes the time to close (most of) our books, leave the lecture halls and learn, quite literally, on the job.

This week I began my 6 week rotation on OB/GYN. With my crisp, clean, new white coat with personalized embroidery and blast-from-the-past beeper in hand, I looked like a doctor but sure didn’t feel like one! I would be lying if I didn’t say that I am quite literally terrified of what this year has in store.

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In my past 18 years of education I have mastered the art of having teachers present material to me and then regurgitating it back to them on exams. Classrooms, books, and tests have defined my entire life. But now I have a new set of teachers, my patients, and the final exam is no longer a set of multiple-choice questions, but instead involves the health, well-being, and wholeness of a person.

Today I scrubbed into my first surgery, a vaginal hysterectomy/cystocele & rectocele repair/sling placement, and it was awesome!!! I felt completely incompetent wandering around the halls of the OR suites and mostly just tried to do my best to stay out of everyone’s way. It’s terrifying to feel like I have no clue what I’m doing, but at the same time I know that I’m doing my best to learn fast.

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Despite my best efforts, I know that I will make mistakes. My hope for this year is that I will not lose sight of the fact that each decision I make and the effort that I put into learning during the next 2 years of clinical training will have an impact on countless people either for the good or for the bad. I hope and pray that I will be able to honor the patients that put their lives in my care by learning absolutely everything that they have to teach. I also desire to learn from my residents and attending physicians who have an infinitely more advanced depth of knowledge and experience. I hope that I will not take one moment of this next year for granted for the formative power that it has on my training to be a caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable physician. Despite the apprehension and uncertainty that I feel when thinking about beginning this new year, I am also excited for the new experiences that will come my way!