How did a year go by so fast?

Tiffany, First Year Medical StudentWow I cannot believe how much I have learned this year! After completing 2 weeks of tests, one week of normal in house exams and one week of finals/national mock boards, I wasn’t feeling super knowledgeable. I was wondering was this whole year a waste? I was exhausted and literally going blind from studying non-stop for 3 weeks. But now I am on wards in Internal medicine and I can clearly see how much I have learned. Everyone says that you’ll be amazed by how much you learn but I didn’t know how amazed I would be. I recognize some basic medications, bio-chemical pathways, visual signs of diseases, tests, and lab workups. Instead of just nodding at what the residents are saying I actually understand almost every word and for once in my medical career I do not doubt that I can do this. I was even able to complete a history and physical exam. Don’t get me wrong there is still SO much that I do not know but I am confident that in 3 years I will be able to graduate and become a competent Intern.

My first year of medical school has been filled with many ups and downs. Good grades and not so good of grades, days when I felt like I learned a lot and days that I felt were a complete waste, and feelings of excitement for what my future holds and feelings of terror for what my future holds. Some days I had to remind myself that this is an opportunity I have been working towards my whole life and have even begged God to give me. I would never have been able to make it though this year without the incredible support of my family, friends, husband and God. What has gotten me though the hardest of days is knowing that I am pursing a career that I know God has called me to do. And He doesn’t make mistakes so obviously I am supposed to be here. Since I was a little girl I have felt that I was put on this earth to be a physician but it wasn’t until later in my life that I realized it was God’s call to service that I was experiencing. I thank Him for giving me this chance and believing in my capabilities when I didn’t believe in them myself.

Here’s to two more weeks on pediatric wards and then summer vacation! I will be running a summer camp research project and traveling to Greece, Turkey and Austria with my mom. It’s going to be a busy but fun summer. See you all in the fall.

Changes

Hayley, Fourth Year Medical StudentIn two and a half weeks the familiar faces of the class of 2014 will be lining up with hats, robes, and tassels to celebrate the completion of medical school. Many people say “medical school has flown by!” But as I think back I can remember the different years, the different flavors, the different themes. There have been so many changes – new friends, new relationships, new habits, new life directions – in both my life and in the lives of those nearest and dearest to me. I want to tell you what I remember of the four years in medical school and if you are in one of those years and feel like your life will never change, you can feel comforted knowing change is always around the corner in medical school.

First year:

New. Everything was so new. I couldn’t believe I lived somewhere where palm trees grew! Centennial complex was shiny, new, and so big! The cadaver lab was formidable. The lectures were intense – and there was tons of information to learn. Many of the subjects I had already had in college – biochemistry, anatomy, physiology – so sometimes studying felt boring. Also I wasn’t always sure why what I was learning was important. The application often evaded me. But I was a Medical Student. I had that brazen confidence of first year students. I was used to being the top in college and confident my mind could grasp anything professors cared to throw in my direction. When people asked me what I was going to be, I confidently told them I was going to be a Doctor.

Second year:

Overwhelming. First year is hard. Second year makes first year look easy. So Much Information. I felt like I was constantly drowning in a sea of pathologies I should know. Cloistering myself in the study rooms in alumni hall kept me focused… I would last there 8 or 9 hours until I got too hungry or tired or my eyes couldn’t focus anymore and then I would trudge home with my bag of books, ear buds droning Goljan, till I got home and could get out a “fun” book – something like clinical microbiology made ridiculously simple – to read while I ate something. Then out for a walk with the flashcards I had been pumping out all afternoon, then back to my bedroom to flip through some powerpoints and pathology slides. Repeat times infinity – or at least that’s what it felt like.

So many flash cards

So many flash cards

I remember one time during second year I went to the bank and needed to talk to a teller about something. While I was waiting in line I almost started crying just from the stress of being out in public and having to talk to strangers. I felt like I couldn’t even cope in society because I was so sequestered all the time. And then of course, as second year students are wont to do, I began to worry I was developing agoraphobia (which I had just recently learned about). When people asked me what I was going to be, I told them I was hoping to be a doctor someday.

Third year:

Busy. Being on a clinical rotation is much like being in a small boat tossed by the whims of the ocean. Sometimes the sailing is smooth and you can go where and when you want, but often your direction is completely out of your control – your schedule fluctuates dramatically from one week to the next as your team shifts or your rotation switches. There is really no pattern that can be established. In my scant time off I was constantly reading review books to try to prepare for the inevitable board exam at the end of each rotation. But third year is no second year. Seeing the faces of patients, understanding that the hours I had poured into learning meant something, made a huge difference to my morale during third year. I was excited to read about sarcomas because I wanted to learn more treatment options to talk about with Ms. X. I wanted to know why enterocutaneous fistulas stayed open so our team could move Mr. Y toward resolution of his large EC fistula. Everything had a lot more meaning for me. When people asked me what I was going to be, I told them I was learning to be a doctor and hoping to go into obstetrics and gynecology.

Asleep in the physician’s lounge between surgeries – instead of waking me up when the next surgery started, my attending texted me this picture.

Asleep in the physician’s lounge between surgeries – instead of waking me up when the next surgery started, my attending texted me this picture.

Fourth year:

Unique. I feel like no other year in my life will ever be quite the same as the fourth year of medical school. The first third of the year is intense – sub-I’s (sub-internships – where you attempt to play the role of an intern on your team) back-to-back, collecting letters of recommendation, the step 2 board exam, filling out the online application forms and the stress of wondering if you will receive interviews (you will – unless you completely disregard Dr. Shankel’s advice).

Then the middle third of the year is consumed with flying all over the country, evening dinners with crowds of people you don’t know, endless small talk, and always – “why do want to go into obstetrics and gynecology? Why do you want to come here?” Cities I interviewed at included the greater LA area, Palo Alto, Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, Rochester MN, Denver, Chicago, and Boston – as you can imagine it is quite a feat to coordinate interviews especially when interviewing in specialties like OB-gyn when the program often only has 2-4 days on which they interview between October and January. Some programs just told me a day that I was going to interview.

One of my interview trail essentials – dry shampoo.

One of my interview trail essentials – dry shampoo.

When the flurries of interviews are over and the ranklist is formulated there is an interminable period of waiting. Waiting. You are aching to go to your number one, but you try to stay on okay terms with the top six on your list so you won’t burst into tears on match day.

Then match day comes. The tension is unimaginable. It is the culmination of everything you have been striving for tirelessly for the past four years. I remember the long hours in the cadaver lab first year, the even longer hours bent over pathophysiology notes during second year and the sleepless nights on surgery in third year. Did it pay off? You open the envelope and suddenly there are no more possibilities. There is just the one reality and that is your future.

And now, when people ask me what I’m going to be, I tell them I am going to be an obstetrics and gynecology resident at University of Washington next year.

Extremely happy on match day!

Extremely happy on match day!

The Metal Tables

Danny, First Year Medical StudentAt the end of the year, we hold a memorial ceremony, giving thanks to the friends of families of those who donated their bodies to the Anatomy Department at Loma Linda. Throughout the serene program, many students delivered moving testimonies of their experiences in the cadaver lab. The following is one example.


 

They were laid out on metal tables, sheathed in Glistening white vinyl
Bright under fluorescent lamps
But vague outlines and forms –
Figures undefined.

I was afraid, just a little.
For the unknown is scary.

In anatomy dissection atlases,
The veins are blue, the nerves are yellow, the arteries red.
The vessels are never tangled, the muscles large and robust, the proportions exact.
Precise little font and precise little lines label each part.
Bodies are perfect.
And Bodies are flat

Age 91 –
Occupation – teacher.
It’s ironic now that I think about it
A teacher, even after his passing.
But back then, they just were two lines on a mostly empty paper.

We unzipped the long vinyl bags.
Zip, zip.
The sounds of 17 jagged rows of plastic teeth giving way.
Carefully peeled back the cloth covering –
And there he was,
Lying there serenely.

I was not serene.
Everything looked the same
The nerves, the arteries, the veins.
Everything was in between and on top of, beneath, and intertwined.
A symphony of parts – the melody of which I could not detect –
A kaleidoscope whose colors I could see but pattern not discern.

We dissected – slowly –
Muttered –
Is this important? Am I cutting a nerve?
Is this a nerve? Maybe it’s an artery.
Everything was important.
Everything was interconnected.

But I was afraid, still.
For I was looking in the face of someone who ceased to breathe,
For whom the curtains of life had closed.

I hadn’t realized that through death, I was learning of life.
And that it was though death that life could be prolonged
Because some time, somewhere, there had been a man or woman –
Lying on a metal table –
Another teacher,
And another student.

They had met, and from the teacher the student learned how joints moved,
How the muscles flexed – how the knee bent.
And some time, some where,
This student had created the artificial knee that had bore my teacher’s weight,
Walked him from place to place –
Away from home and back again.

Some time, somewhere, there had been a man or woman –
Lying on a metal table,
Another teacher.
And another student.

And from the teacher the student learned the functions of the heart –
How it beat, how it pulsed –
And some time, some where,
This student had created the artificial valves
That had allowed my teacher’s heart to beat for 91 years.

I am afraid no longer –
Merely thankful –
For those eight months in which I learned 
of the complexity of life –
The beauty of the human body –
The generosity of human heart.

He was aged 91.
And he was my teacher.

– written by: Valecia Liew

 

365 Days Later

Danny, First Year Medical StudentFebruary 14, 2014 – the one year anniversary of my acceptance to the Loma Linda University School of Medicine.

I rifled through my closet trying to find the perfect tie. After all, it was a very special occasion. My family was in town! Once I settled on the perfect tie, I proceeded to the Centennial Complex for family day. There is something fantastic about reuniting with family in person and not over video chat. Why were they here? Let me tell you.

One of the wonderful things about Loma Linda is that they have a special day set aside for your families to get a taste of what we go through on a day-to-day basis. They experience three of our lectures (Physiology, Physical Diagnosis, and Cell Structure & Function). In addition, we get a chance to take them around campus to show them our new state of the art Simulation Center (it’s pretty amazing), Physical Diagnosis lab, and other labs around campus.

At the end of the day, our parents attend a very special Freshman Dedication Ceremony. This year, Pastor Randy Roberts shared a very special message about balance in our lives, and then we received our very own School of Medicine bibles.

All in all, it was a wonderfully fulfilling day. Why? Because it’s a wonderful reminder that at Loma Linda, we’re a part of a family that isn’t just about learning facts, we’re learning to heal in more ways that one – we’re learning how To Make Man Whole.

Family Day 2014

On February 14, 2014 we celebrated Freshman Family Day. Families traveled from across the country and around the world to visit their medical students and graduate students. The evening featured the Dedication service, in which each student was given a Bible and then all the students recited the LLUSM Physician’s oath.

This video follows student bloggers Tiffany and Daniel throughout the day.