The Night Before Step 1

Less than 12 hours away from the 8 hour beast. I feel like the armor-clad protagonist facing the final villain with only one “revive” potion left. As I look back at the past two years (all the 25 miles *nod to Allison’s post*), I seriously can’t believe I’m finally here. There’s no way I’m really taking the Step 1 tomorrow. Right? My emotions cycle between fear, anxiety, confidence, anticipation, and back to fear. Deep breaths, Eunice. Deeeeeeeep breaths.

Now that I’ve done all I can to fit two years worth of information in my worn-out brain, all that is left to do is to leave the rest to God. Do I trust that God has everything in control? Do I trust that He has the best planned for me? Sometimes I sincerely question. And even now, I still have lingering worries about tomorrow and the rest of my future. Yet in spite of all my failures and mistakes in the past, He somehow always helps me back on my feet to try again. He somehow teaches me to be still, to listen, to be patient. I think I can trust Him to do it again this time.

A few of my classmates and I met together before the big test to talk about our fears, pray together, and encourage each other. We also crammed in a quick anatomy review sesh! Thank God for good friends who remind me of what’s really important and who see fun in everything. A passage we read was from Psalms 118:

The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?
The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
    I look in triumph on my enemies. [STEP 1!!]

13 I was pushed back and about to fall,
    but the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and my defense;
    he has become my salvation.

25 Lord, save us!
    Lord, grant us success!

29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

Pre-Step 1 – ready to be 3rd years!

See you on the other side of Step 1!

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!

Saying Goodbye to 2nd Year

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Many people have said that the second year of medical school is the hardest and most grueling year of all.  I’ve heard countless people tell stories of how busy, exhausting, and completely consuming 3rd year is, but it is always followed up by the statement, “But I’d take just about anything, including getting hit by bus, over 2nd year.”

To be completely honest, this was in fact one of the most challenging years of my life for reasons that extended far beyond the rigorous course work that we were faced with each and every day and the ever-looming presence of Step 1 (the exam that makes even other medical licensing exams cry themselves to sleep out of fear).

HOWEVER, I can honestly say that despite the challenges that we faced this year, I will look back on 2nd year with fond memories and a never stronger sense of the presence of God’s guiding hand in my life.  Let me take you through a quick whirlwind tour of what the end of this year was like and what made it so challenging, but I promise there’s a light at the end of the tunnel so keep reading!

From January on, the only thing that 2nd year medical students across America have on their minds is Step 1. This is the mother of all exams; it is 8 hours long and covers all of the content that we have learned in the first 2 years of medical school – anatomy, physiology, cell & molecular biology, immunology, behavioral science, biostatistics, preventive medicine, biochemistry, pharmacology, pathology, pathophysiology, psychiatry, and neurology.  Now this test wouldn’t be such a big deal if it didn’t have so much weight toward which field of medicine we will ultimately be able to enter.  It’s basically the MCAT of residencies and our scores will either make us eligible for competitive specialties like surgery, ophthalmology, radiology, or not.  The saddest part, in my opinion, is that students who may excel in those fields because of their clinical skills and passions may not have the chance to experience those professions because this exam holds so much weight in residency applications.  This was one of the things that I struggled with the most near the end of the year.  I watched countless classmates, who I know will be incredible healers struggle beneath the weight of the pressure that this exam places on students.  The tensions were certainly high and at times the morale was low, however, I can say that the silver lining through it all was learning to trust more in the fact that God has called us to this place to serve in a profession that he will placed us in.  If he has gotten us all this far, then surely he will see us through to the end.

Despite the challenges that we faced during 2nd year, I promised that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel.  Medical school is a process that is so much more than simply learning how to be a doctor; it is a process that challenges people at the very core of who they are and I can honestly say that I have enjoyed that challenge.  I’ve been stretched and forced to grow in ways that I could have never imagined.  I have been required to search for the true reasons why I chose to enter this profession.  I have made the best friends of my life because of the common struggles that we have faced together.  I have been inspired to grow in my walk with God.  I have learned more than I ever thought was possible.  And I have been humbled by the realization that I will never be able to learn everything there is to know about the workings of the human body.  Although the process has been challenging, frustrating, and seemingly impossible at times, I now stand on the other side of the first two years of medical school and can say with confidence that I wouldn’t change anything and would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

 

I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to thank the incredible people who helped make this year both meaningful and enjoyable!:

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My study buddies, Scott and Justin.  We met both years for 2 hours almost every night, 6 hours every Sunday, and ran through at least 45,000 flashcards – about 15,000 cards times a minimum of 3 repetitions. I couldn’t be more blessed or more thankful to have had them by my side through this journey.

 Commencement Dinner 3

My fellow “Carrelers,” Keri, Krisalyn, Melissa, Stephen, James, David, Linden, Casey (not all of whom are in this picture). I spent my afternoons studying with these wonderful friends in the Study Carrels of Alumni Hall throughout 2nd year.  I have been continuously inspired by each and every one of them and have been spiritually and emotionally uplifted by each of their friendships.

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Dr. Werner, our famed professor of Pathophysiology and the Dean for Medical Student Education to whom we owe our gratitude for continuously inspiring us to never stop learning and to be the absolute best physicians we can possibly be.

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And my classmates, who I love with all my heart!  Coming to Loma Linda and joining these incredible, talented, brilliant, God-fearing, and all-around absolutely wonderful people was the best decision of my life!