When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Carried

Paige, Second Year Medical Student

There are few things in this life that are more valuable than the love and support of friends and family.  I have once again been blessed by this reality in the first few weeks of this New Year.

I am not good at letting people help me.  I like to be in control of every situation, this need comes from a deep-seeded belief that everything that I do must always be perfect.  The fear is that if I let someone do something for me, they won’t do it the way I would and thus it wouldn’t meet my perfectionistic criteria (however skewed those criteria may be).  Fear of failure and the lack of ability to control a situation are in fact my biggest fears in life.  This is why I don’t like swimming in the ocean; the power of the uncontrollable waves literally terrifies me.  This is why I work so hard to get good grades and feel so horrible when things don’t always work out according to plans.  This is why I seldom ask for help, even when I know that it would make my life a million times easier.  And this is also why I struggle in my walk with God, because I am constantly resisting complete submission to His will in my life.

Over the past several years, there have been several situations that I have not been able to control: illness strikes a family member, school becomes overwhelming, relationships go awry.  Each time one of these uncontrollable waves crashes, I am flooded with my deepest fear…that I can’t handle the situation.  It has been times like these when I am thankfully reminded by the loved ones around me that I don’t have to do everything alone, that they can be there to help shoulder the burden and get me through even the toughest situations.

Last week was Week of Renewal on our campus.  It is a week when we have daily chapel services that serve to re-invigorate our spiritual journeys with Christ.  Randy Roberts, senior pastor of the Loma Linda University Church, spoke and shared the story in Mark 2 of the paralytic man that was brought to Jesus by 4 of his friends.  He shared the story to illustrate the importance of having friends who would be willing to go to any length to support you in your times of greatest need.  I resonated with this story and thought about the people in my life who have recently “lowered me through the roof to Jesus.”  Phone calls came from my sister, my Aunt, and my cousins, loving hugs and wise words came from my parents and my grandpa, and I have had several encouraging, spiritually uplifting conversations with friends.  All of these incredible people have shown me that sometimes it takes having a wave knock us off our feet to help us learn that we can let others carry us to Jesus so that He can then say, “take up your mat and walk.”

2nd Year…A Pause to Remember a Sacred Oath

Paige, Second Year Medical StudentAs is evident by the fact that this is my first blog post since the summer before year 2 of medical school commenced, 2nd year is BUSY!  Last year, we heard the 2nd year students grumble about how much they missed 1st year and how busy and completely consuming the ominous 2nd year was.  However, as a 1st year student, it was hard to believe that things could really be that much more difficult.  Little did I know, all the grumblings about 2nd year being one of the most difficult years of my academic life would indeed be indeed prove to be true.  In addition to a heavy academic load that includes: Pathophysiology, Pathology, Microbiology, Pharmacology, Neurology, Psychopathology, Preventive Medicine, and Biochemistry there are the additional requirements of labs, self-study lectures, continuity clinics, medical simulation labs, clinical skills OSCEs, and the ever-looming Step 1 test that will basically determine which residency programs we will be eligible for upon completing medical school.  Throw in extracurricular service activities, time to eat (cooking optional), exercise, spending time with loved ones, and devoting time to building a relationship with God and needless to say, there are never enough hours in the day to accomplish everything with the type of perfectionistic approach that we medical students desire.

If you have read my blog posts prior to this, you must be thinking, “Wow, this girl has suddenly become quite the Debbie Downer!”  I hope that you will continue to read however, because it has been this process of fully realizing the difficulty and challenges of medicine that has shown me even more of the immense value of this profession that I have chosen to pursue.  Moreover, it has shown me that even when things get tough—which they do—if you have the right support system, priorities, and determination, it can be done!

As I sit here on my last weekend of Christmas break and reflect over the past few months since beginning this year, I can honestly say that there have been many times, in fact, the majority of times when I have not had my priorities straight.  Relationships with family, friends, and God have all been stretched to the limit as I have put school again and again at the top of my priority list.  I have always had to work hard in school, but I have always been up for the challenge and have always truly enjoyed the process of learning.  Yet, at the beginning of this Christmas break I was exhausted, burnt out, and dreading the thought of once again immersing myself in the firehose of information that never gets turned off.  As far as I was concerned, the challenge was starting to look like it was a bit more than I could handle.

However, God showed me once again in a most unsuspecting way that He was the one guiding and sustaining me down this career path.  On New Year’s Eve my family had the opportunity to visit the Reagan National Library near my sister’s house in Ventura, California.  There are thousands of quotes scattered throughout this exhibition of President Reagan’s life story and accomplishments, and it would take days to read all of the information provided about the life of this incredible man.  We only had a few hours to walk the museum so we casually perused the information, taking note of just the main highlights.  One quote, tucked away in the volumes of information, stood out to me immediately.  It was spoken by President Reagan on his inauguration day and read, “I consider the trust that you have placed in me sacred, and I give you my sacred oath that I will do my utmost to justify your faith.”

Upon reading this quote, I was immediately struck with awe at the relevance it had in my own life.  It reminded me of that day a year and half ago when I recited a sacred oath “To Make Man Whole” and received a white coat that would signify the sacred trust of many patients that I would soon encounter.  I have no doubt that God used this quote to remind me of the reasons why I am currently working so diligently to conquer this difficult 2nd year of medical school.  As I look to begin this last 6 months of year 2, I am reinvigorated by this reminder of the sacred trust that has been placed in us as healthcare providers, and our sacred oath to be the best physicians that we can be in order to justify the faith that our future patients will have in us.

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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Hugs and Other Highlights from 2 Weeks on Pediatrics

Paige, Second Year Medical Student

At the end of our first year, all of us “soon to be second years” flooded the hospital wards for 4 weeks of clinical experience.  My top choice for this experience was Pediatrics (no surprise there).  I was absolutely elated to hear that I would be spending my first 2 weeks of clinical rotations on the Pediatric Gastroenterology team in the children’s hospital.

Although I was delighted to finally get some clinical experience in the specialty of medicine that I have had my heart set on joining for my entire life, I was also terrified that I might not actually enjoy pediatric medicine as much as I hoped.  However, all of those fears were immediately subdued as soon as I set foot onto the pediatric wards.  There is something unique about pediatricians; they are fun loving, down to earth, caring, and passionate advocates for their patients.  The team that I was with made me feel right at home and allowed me to use the minimal skills that I had learned during first year to work as a valued part of the patient care team.  I was able to pre-round with the third year student that I was shadowing and perform history and physical exams each morning.  During rounds, our attending would ask us basic science questions that were applicable to our patients and would give us research articles pertaining to the diseases and treatments that we were discussing.  It was absolutely amazing to be able to take an active role in patient care for the first time!

My absolute favorite memory from those incredible two weeks occurred one morning while I was pre-rounding with my third year medical student.  We went to see a young boy with Down’s syndrome who had been admitted the night before for an infection of his G-tube site.  My third year let me run pre-rounds on our patients that morning so it was my job to take the lead on seeing this patient, performing a physical exam, and discussing his history with him and his care providers.  I walked in and excitedly said, “Good morning James*! How are you?”  Without any hesitation whatsoever he immediately gave me a huge grin and held out his arms for a big hug.  Although I’m sure that he would have reached out and hugged just about anyone because of his extremely jubilant and friendly disposition, in that moment, I felt like I was on top of the world. Getting to see James was the highlight of every day that he was on our service.  Each morning was always the same; we would walk in and say, “Good morning James!” and he would respond with excited smiles and affectionate hugs.   James showed me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that pediatrics is the field for me!

*This patient’s name has been changed to protect confidentiality*

I feel so blessed to have had the experiences that I had during my time on the pediatrics ward.  It was incredible to realize just how much we had learned during our first year and how far we had come in terms of being able to understand medicine since the two weeks of clinical experience that we had at the beginning of the school year.  Moreover, these two weeks showed me that pediatrics was in fact everything that I hoped and dreamed it would be, and reinvigorated me with even more passion to pursue a career in pediatric medicine.

Special thanks to the members of Pediatrics Team D for making my time on the ward exceptional

Dr. Yanni – Attending Physician

Dr. Tan – Resident Physician

Dr. Hersch –Resident Physician

Dr. Tsukimoto – Resident Physician

Sharon Wirawan – MS3

Greg Johnson – MS3

Sara Aney – MS3

Year One DONE!!!

Paige, First Year Medical Student

I can hardly believe it, but my first year of medical school is over!!  After 9 months of classes, 6 test sets, a week of cumulative finals, and a final OSCE, I can officially declare that I have made it through year one!  As you may have noticed from my complete absence of blog posts since Christmas, the end of the year has been incredibly busy!  However, now that I am finishing up the year with a few weeks of clinical rotations through the hospital wards, I thought that I would finally take the time to recap the latter half of this year.

The most challenging part of this year was by far our last quarter.  We not only had our 6th test set which was cumulative over 5 weeks of course information, but that week of testing was then immediately followed by a week of 4 cumulative mock board exams in the subjects of Physical Diagnosis, Anatomy, Physiology, and Cell Biology.  I have truly never studied so much in my life, and if you ask anyone who knows me, that’s really saying something coming from me!  However, I suppose I should start getting used to such a rigorous schedule because 2nd year students tell me that 2nd year only gets more intense!  All I know is that it’s a good thing I have an 8-week summer break to recover.

Nonetheless, all that hard work paid off in a year of medical school successfully completed.  I was actually quite amazed at how well our classes and instructors had prepared us for our cumulative mock board national examinations.  It was a huge relief to know that I could stack up against other students from medical schools across the nation and “hold my own.”

Despite all of the hard work and studying, I still managed to have an incredible time forming new friendships and even stronger bonds with my classmates.  There is absolutely nothing that can compare to the sense of camaraderie and companionship that comes with going through intense struggles such as medical school together.  I am so incredibly thankful to have the support of such incredible classmates and friends through these trials.  Most importantly, I know that I could not have accomplished this journey without God’s guiding hand, and though it is easy to think that I did good job getting through this year, it is actually the result of God working in my life that has allowed me to come this far.

465322_10151550310379178_1277426820_oOur Class on the Last Day of Instruction