Would I do it all over again?

Maybe? It’s hard to say. I don’t think that I would want to go through the grueling pre-med process, interview season and what I have gone through now in medical school, but…I absolutely LOVE where I am now.

I am very proud of how hard I have worked these past few months to succeed in medical school. I love what I am learning both in the classroom and in the clinic. I love that there is a special nook for me and my love for science. I love that every morning I wake up eager to learn. I am also proud that aside from learning, I am heavily involved in my community. I am the leader of an organization that mentors students, I volunteer every other weekend at our free clinic, I play intramural sports, and I am also volunteering outside of school. Just because I am in medical school doesn’t mean that I have stopped doing other things that make me happy. I often make, probably too much, time for Netflix and watching sports but it is definitely worth it.

Like any other person in medical school, I have made sacrifices. At first you notice because it requires conscious awareness like saying no to someone’s birthday party. You feel bad but you decide that you need to prioritize your academics over practically anything else. You say to yourself, “my friend and family will understand.” And then they do. They no longer “bother” you anymore. You no longer receive “inconvenient” texts while you are studying for an important exam. Eventually you realize that a friend’s birthday has past and you didn’t receive an invite because they did not want to bother you. You knew you would say no. They knew it too. At first it hurts but then you move on from it because you are prioritizing school. As you keep turning down invites you learn to cope with the icky feeling that you are not being a good friend or daughter. Eventually you stop feeling guilty, which is pretty awful, but it happens (maybe not to everyone?).

Then there are sacrifices that you make to your relationships. While, yes some of my classmates are perfect children and they call their parents every day and see them every other weekend, that is not me. I try to see them often but sometimes I can tell that it is not enough. Of course they say that they understand, but I know that deep down they really do not. They don’t understand why I forget someone’s birthday or why I am reading flashcards in the passenger seat of their car. They tell me not to worry so much that I smart and I will do well. They tell me that they just want to see me happy and I love them for it but I just wish they could understand a bit more of what my classmates and I are going through.

I haven’t necessarily lost any friendships because of medical school but it has been a bit tougher to keep in touch. I mostly keep in touch by updating my snapchat and messaging friends through that app instead of skyping or even texting. Most of my friends are busy as well, teaching or also trying to get through some sort of graduate school. I have used breaks and long weekends to visit friends so these relationships seem okay still. Although sometimes when I get a life update from them it takes me a while to congratulate them or just even check in.

The relationship that I have sacrificed the most has been the one with my significant other. Although we live under the same roof, it is challenging (for me) to find time for just us. I unconsciously prioritize literally everything above my relationship because I know that he will understand, but that is greatly unfair. For example, during the weekend I generally have more “free time” and when I do not have an upcoming exam I use one of those days to volunteer and the other day I use to be lazy, or maybe study. Whenever I catch myself not prioritizing our relationship I apologize and my boyfriend reassures me that “It’s okay. You are in medical school, school comes first.” Which is true but makes me feel very crappy. I need to do better.

So my relationships take a burden but also my mental health. I am sleeping adequately averaging about 7-8 hours a night, even the night before an exam, so that is okay. The difficult part is the lack of time to learn everything. In undergrad you (usually) always had ample time to study and do well on an exam. In medical school, especially with an accelerated preclinical (1.5 years instead of 2), you have less time. Unfortunately, my school does not have protected study days, which means I could be learning material for my next exam, weeks from now, the day before my current exam. It is mentally exhausting knowing that you are preparing for exam, while also maybe a week or so behind on your next exam. I will sit in class for seven hours of lecture, get home review, and run out of time to preview the next day’s material. Then I go to class the next day and cannot focus because I have no idea what is going on because I did not pre-read. So I am behind. So I’ve had to learn to adapt and instead of going to non-mandatory classes I sit at the library and carefully go through the material and use outside resources, such as Pathoma and SketchyMedical, to learn the material on time and at my own pace. It gives me more flexibility because the way the curriculum is structured makes it extremely difficult to attend every lecture and perform well on exams, unless you just are this amazing standardized test taker (which I guess all of us should be since we did well on the MCAT, but still it doesn’t feel that way after you finish taking an NBME).

So what have I done for my mental health? Well I give myself flexibility with my schedule. I also make sure that I am always doing something, because I am the kind of person who needs to be doing a lot, but obviously not too much. I also give myself more room for error. So if it’s the night before an exam and I still don’t feel like I know everything, I give myself a deadline, usually 11pm, and I have to stop studying then. No matter what. If I don’t know it then I tell myself that it is okay because it is not worth sacrificing sleep over some extra information that I will probably forget tomorrow anyway.

One last thing that I have done is that every time that  I say “no” to something or someone, I tell myself that it is me saying “you are not my priority” and that has made a huge impact in my life. For example, when my parent’s ask me to come over for dinner and I want to say no, I hear “my family is not my priority”. That makes me realize that I can’t say no, they are my family. So inadvertently I am learning to say “yes” to the important things in my life, my constants, the people around me that make me happy and are helping me achieve my goals.

So back to the beginning of this post. Would I do it all over again? I want to say no but ultimately it would be a yes? Am I happy? Absolutely. I am so happy. I am going to be a physician-scientist and that is very exciting. I cannot imagine doing anything else. So I guess, despite the sacrifices and how annoyed I might be at times, I love it. Deep down I love this path, despite how insane it can be at times. Hopefully for anyone in medicine, or considering medicine, this can give you some insight.

My first patient

So I just came back from my first patient encounter, which is pretty crazy. I cannot believe how quickly these months have gone by and how much I have learned, forgotten, and relearned again. I am almost halfway through my pre-clinical curriculum and it is pretty insane. 

Every other week we have a clinical session with models or so called “standard patients”. Basically for an hour or so we learn different components of taking a patient’s history and conducting a full physical exam. The learning has been gradual but like most of my classmates, I have been prioritizing book knowledge over mastering my clinical skills. Therefore, I was a bit nervous before meeting my first patient. I knew that I could have spent more time practicing, but instead here I was ready to meet my preceptor while feeling completely underprepared.

I walked into the conference room to meet my preceptor and he seemed very happy to see my partner and I. We talked about the expectations for the preceptorship and coordinated our schedules for the next couple of months. After getting out all the logistics he looked at us and asked, “Is this your first patient encounter?” My partner and I looked at each other very nervously and said “Yes”, to which he responded, “Wow! You must be so excited!”

Excited? Not really. Nervous? You bet. I was worried about asking the wrong questions, or forgetting to introduce myself. Or even missing the chair completely and falling on the ground. So, no excited was not something that I was feeling at the moment.

When he went on to explain how excited he had been before his first patient encounter, it hit me that I should be excited. At last, after all these years of schooling, I would have the opportunity to interview a patient, my very first patient. In medical school it is so easy to get overwhelmed with the workload that you can forget to celebrate the small but significant accomplishments. I am in medical school, and I am about to see my very first patient as a medical student. Just me and the patient. How exciting is that? SO EXCITING! 

So I put my fears aside and when I met my first patient I was very relaxed and comfortable. Of course I was not smiling like a creep or something, but because I was excited I was also confident. I made some mistakes, like repeating the same questions, but that is okay. I’m still only a physician in training.

This experience is a reminder to myself that I need to celebrate the small victories. Every single one. Medical school is exhausting but it is also a really exciting time in my life. I have always wanted to be in the position that I am today and I need to enjoy the adventure. 

Closing 2016

The year that brought so much happiness, and also sadness, is finally coming to an end. I am sitting here on my couch, as I have been all week, reflecting on my year, while also enjoying some college football.

So many things happened this year that made me incredibly happy. For starters, I traveled to over five counties this year. In addition to traveling abroad, I also visited so many different cities in the US- though I hope to add more in the future. What else? I was finishing up my gap period working as a research assistant, which was a bit stressful but in the end it was completely worth it. It turns out that I will be publishing my work soon. Fingers crossed that the manuscript gets accepted! I guess one of the most memorable events of 2016 was that I started medical school. You know, no big deal or anything.

On an individual level, 2016 was an extremely happy year. Before starting medical school I felt free to travel and enjoy my adolescence. Once starting medical school, I did not feel as free but I was definitely happy. I found ways to enjoy life in between anatomy lab and learning different metabolic pathways. I am beyond thankful for such an amazing year where I earned an incredible opportunity to follow my passion.

On the other hand, 2016 was an incredibly dark year. Worldwide and countrywide there was just so much hate. Hate because of differences that we cannot change, like the color of our skin, and hate because of who we love. The darkness was exaserbated by the ugliest political campaign in probably all of US history. It was ugly because of the lies, the fake news, the personal attacks on women, especially the latter. It is absolutely disgusting that women get repeatedly treated with so little respect. While I could dwell on the ugliness, I choose not to. A new year is upon us and although I am normally a realist and probably a pessimist, I am trying to be hopeful that our future will be okay. We have no choice.

I wonder what is up next in 2017. I am looking forward to finding out. I have a few adventures planned and I am looking forward to my first lab rotation over the summer. Happy New Year!

The holidays, this time around

As I am sitting here at home, on the couch where I have spent many lazy Saturdays, I can’t help but think about what was going on in my life just a year ago.

Last year around this time I had already been accepted into medical school and I was already looking forward to start, even though orientation was months away. At least that news made the holidays more tolerable. I remember when I was a senior year in college; during the holidays everyone would be asking me what I was going to do after college. If you don’t have a set plan, it is probably the worst question that anyone could ask you as a senior in college. The most dreaded question that requires so much restraint because on the inside you want to scream “leave me alone” but you know you must be polite and say “I don’t know” and immediately walk away. Just walk away from the situation.

Although the holidays were more tolerable, I do remember not being completely honest with my extended family. I mentioned that I was accepted into medical school, but that was it. I never mentioned that “oh year it’s an eight to ten year program”. To be honest, most people in my family still don’t know. It’s not that I am not proud, because of course I am proud to be an MD/PhD student, it’s just that I don’t think that they will understand my decision. Eventually they will find out, maybe?

Anyway, so far my winter break has been truly wonderful. I have been able to sleep in (FINALLY) and be a lazy all day. It’s a bit strange because I haven’t been lazy in months. I almost forgot how to be lazy. My first day off during this break I woke up pretty early and I was trying to be productive. I had to stop myself and be like “you need this break”. Luckily I listened and I haven’t been so focused on school; although I have been online shopping for school supplies. Who doesn’t love cute notebooks?

The holidays, this time around have been wonderful. It’s crazy that a year ago I was a different person. I have grown so much these past few months. I have changed but I have also remained pretty much the same. Sure my vocabulary has vastly expanded but I have the same interests. I still enjoy watching football, although I have less time for it now. One thing that has changed is that I can’t watch too many things at 1X speed. The other day I had a crazy thought about watching a movie at 2x. Lol, what was I thinking? Sometimes I need a reminder that it’s okay to watch and do things at normal speeds. I guess I need some adjustment, but just for a few more days because then I’ll be back in school watching lectures at 2X speed.

I guess I’ll stop writing now. I probably sound insane. I wonder what I’ll be thinking next winter break. Thanks for listening.

Catching up

I am back home after completing my first “semester” in medical school. I can’t believe how quickly time has passed. It feels like it was just yesterday that I was moving in to my apartment, ready to start medical school. It has been several months since then but some things remain the same. For instance, as soon as I arrived home I have been a couch potato, watching TV shows, even documentaries, literally staying in my PJs all day. Oh how good that feels.

Since I have been back I have also had time to peruse through youtube and I came across different vlogs of medical students. It had me thinking about my blog, which I abandoned probably no more than a day into medical school. I miss writing and I thought, why not see if I can start doing it again? It doesn’t hurt.

So here I am in my kitchen table, typing away some thoughts about my first “semester” of medical school. For starters, it isn’t really a semester. Our curriculum is condensed into distinct blocks that don’t necessarily coincide with a standard semester schedule. For example, although I am current on a so called break, I am still in the middle of block.

So how has medical school been treating me? It has truly been the best experience of my life. Hands down. Don’t get me wrong, it has been grueling at times, but completely worth it. In about a span of three weeks we cover material that would normally take a semester in college. It’s a lot. The volume of information that we are learning is insane but unlike undergrad, it is way more interesting. It is also easy to get overwhelmed; therefore, it is important to keep doing the things that make you happy. Whether that may be exercising, cooking, playing video games, seeing your friends or even Netflix. You have to make time, even if it seems like there isn’t enough time.

When I first started to wear my white coat to the hospital, it felt like I was dressing up. I felt like I did not know enough to be walking through the hospital wearing a white coat. After passing several tests, including the beast that is anatomy, I sort of believe it now. Kind of. I mean I still have moments when I doing something like washing the dishes or watching a TV show where I pause and I say “I AM IN MEDICAL SCHOOL. WOW”. I don’t think that will ever get old. It is an incredible privilege to be on the path that I am.

I remember a year ago I was living at home, already accepted into medical school, counting the days. Now a year later, I sitting here counting the days to go back. Despite the work load, and the sacrifices, I am ready to go back. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I hope to keep writing, if not at least reading other medical student blogs. If you have one, please post a link below! I would love to hear your insight.

 

Image from pixabay