Learnings

Leanna, Fourth Year Medical Student

In the past several weeks I’ve matched to USC’s internal medicine program, graduated medical school, and now am preparing for residency (i.e. filled out 100+ pages of paperwork and bought Pocket Medicine and new shoes). The things I learned about medicine, becoming a doctor, myself, and life during these last four years of medical school are far too many to confine to a blog post, but I’ll note some of the more entertaining and blog-able ones here.

MSI: First year – year of the basic sciences:

I learned that my new best friends would likely be the ones who made art projects with me, art projects with the titles of “Cell Lineage Cupcakes” and “Sandcastle Nephron: a beach study in the functional unit of the kidney”.

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I learned that in order to get decent grades in medical school you had to make huge sacrifices in all other realms of life, sacrifices that I did not have to make in undergrad and at first had a hard time making during this transition.

I learned that from the moment you tell someone, I’m studying to be a doctor, inevitably one of the next questions would be – Oh good, can you check this out for me and tell me if it’s anything serious? Or, sometimes his or her next odd question was, You mean, like a nurse?

Conclusion: I had no life, and far fewer friends than I was used to, but I was okay with it.

MSII: Second year – year of pathology/pathophysiology

I learned all the different ways a person can die (there are a lot).

I learned that pathophysiology is best studied as a group, with cookies.

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I learned that when a professor says, “This concept will be on Step 1”, the entire class wakes up and poises ready with their pencils/iPad note-taking software.

I learned that I could walk around the Drayson Center track for up to three hours at a time while listening to audio lectures.

I learned that while listening to audio lectures at Drayson Center track I ran the risk of getting hit in the head by a stray soccer ball [I learned this lesson twice].

I learned that some of the Step 1 study books had the stupidest study tips, such as, “Just remember the simple acronym AINBIBYXDYAHTGUVI for all the causes of liver failure and you’ll never forget ‘em!”

I learned that the best friends I made in first year were indeed still my best friends and fellow soldiers in the war against overwhelming exams and boards.

MSIII: Third year – year of clinical rotations and the beginning of the hospital hierarchy

I learned that all residents can be bribed, whether they are conscious of it or not – sometimes with food, sometimes with compliments.

I learned that the diseases that in prior years were confined to pages and chapters were infinitely more fascinating when seen up close in a living, hopefully breathing human being.

I learned to act quickly and seriously with the pregnant woman with a life-threatening lupus flare and for the man with a rupturing abdominal aneurysm, and how to lean towards empathy instead of apathy for the patient complaining of non-descript fatigue.

I learned that I loved internal medicine and family medicine and neurology and wilderness medicine and psychiatry and endocrinology and emergency medicine and cardiology and gynecology and critical care and pediatrics.

I learned that Hour #1 of a hernia repair and abdominal adhesion lysis surgery is fascinating, but Hour #9 is not (note that surgery did not make my aforementioned list of rotations and specialties that I love).

I learned that surgeons, upon finding out that I was moderately intelligent and strongly considering primary care as a career, had no inhibition when it came to constantly telling me that it would be a waste of my mind to go into primary care. And this was discouraging.

I learned that there was no possible way to describe my joy and relief with ending my surgery rotation other than this picture:

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I learned that a benevolent neurologist who lets multiple students practice the opthalmoscopic exam (imagine the Death Star killer beam that destroyed Alderaan in a single blast being emblazoned onto your retinas) on her, is a saint and I hope the Vatican City or the Catholic Church or whatever recognizes her as such eventually.

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I learned that as much as I liked doing rotations at White Memorial Medical Center, doing several months’ of rotations there instead of in Loma Linda distanced me from my fellow classmates and disintegrated what little social life I had.

Without a doubt I learned the most during third year. And as I looked back at the beginning of third year compared to the end of third year, I realized that maybe, just maybe, I was actually getting the hang of this doctor thing.

MSIV: Fourth year – year of marketing yourself to residencies and awkward spare time.

I learned that I would have a very hard time choosing between internal medicine and family medicine.

I learned that I loved diversity, puzzle-solving, variety, primary care, and hospitalist medicine, and because of that finally chose internal medicine as my residency path.

I learned that I would have A LOT of time off. What is time off? What do I do with it? Should I study? Should I sleep? Should I go to a pound and adopt another rabbit? Should I read War and Peace? I’ll bake some cupcakes.

I learned how to better practice grace and patience when a family member or friend tells me that they don’t “believe” in Western medicine and prefer only “natural” routes [Hint: arsenic, cyanide, and a variety of lethal mushroom are all “natural”…this could be a topic for a whole different post].

I learned how to be a wife, and in that taking on my husband’s last name of Wise, being called “Dr. Wise” sets quite a high threshold of excellence to which I will be held. Sometimes I wish his last name was Dumb, so that I could be Dr. Dumb and not too much would be expected of me.

I learned on the residency trail that an emphatic “Nope!” is a perfectly acceptable answer when asked if I have plans for specializing after residency.

I learned that Match Day is like a combination of eHarmony, the football draft, the Harry Potter sorting hat, and that part of the Hunger Games when teenagers are chosen to go fight to the death. The last comparison is the most accurate.

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I learned that I liked sushi.

I learned that graduation and all the festivities involved was going to feel extraordinarily surreal, almost joke-like. I’m – graduating? What?

I learned that graduation would be horribly bittersweet as the incredible people I’ve met over the last four years would be leaving to go their separate ways around the country.

In retrospect, I learned that all our well-meaning deans and administrators were morbidly incorrect when they told us during first year, Before you know it, the next four years will fly by and you’ll be graduating! No no no, the years creeped by like a elderly arthritic sloth pulling a wagon full of turtles. With slugs and snails and all other slow things cheering him on.

I learned of all the beautiful hiking trails in the immediate LA area and experienced many of them for myself, some of which for the first time.

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On May 22rd, 2014, I learned that I had officially completed all the requirements for my M.D., and May 25th, I walked with my best friends to receive my doctorate of medicine.

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I learned that the most fierce and profound last four years of academics have brought me to a point where I am entrusted with the well-being of others.

I learned that as a doctor, I am swearing to be a life-long observer, innovator, and of course, insatiable learner. My future patients are my new teachers, the exams will be based on the degree of my patients’ health and wellness, and the hospital and clinics are my full-time classrooms.

A deep gratitude to Loma Linda University for setting me on this path of learning, and to my God for sustaining me with so many blessings, and His promises for my future.

[For any folks who are interested, I plan to be blogging at wisemd.wordpress.com during residency]

The Last Word

Kari, Fourth Year Medical Student

For me, this is not an end, but a beginning.

It’s been a privilege to attend Loma Linda University School of Medicine the past four years and now I am moving on. I’ve moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico and very shortly I’ll start getting oriented to my Pediatric Residency program.

Before I say goodbye, I wanted to do a quick look back at the past 4 years:

First Year

It was pretty startling how challenging it was and it took me a while to get my bearings. I had a lot of fun though and it was so exciting to go from college to med school and take classes that were relevant to what I want to be doing with my life.

At Disneyland

Getting our short white coats

Second Year

Second year things got a lot harder. With Boards feeling imminent throughout the year and much tougher classes, it was hard to stay positive. I still had a lot of fun, I ran my first half marathon, became a vegan and started writing.

Fortunately my sisters were always there for me.

Third Year

Third year was tough because it’s such a change from sort of creating my own schedule to being a slave to the expectations of clinical rotations. However, it was also way better because all I’ve ever wanted is to do clinical medicine and finally I got to spend my days with patients. It was tough but great.

Third year banquet

Fourth Year

Everyone says fourth year is the best, and it is. Not only did I finally understand what was expected of me on clinical rotations, but I got to travel for interviews and then do a bunch of fun rotations and close out the year with lots of time with my friends. I also got married, which has been a great decision.

The view from my residency program on my interview day.

The academic year is about to roll over, everyone will advance a year and a new host of responsibilities will come to us all. As part of my graduation as an MD, I must also leave the blog behind to make room for the new voices about to start.

If you have any questions you can always email me at keyoung@llu.edu.

Good luck everyone, and thanks again.

-Kari

The Last 100 Days: The Final Countdown

Lauren, Fourth Year Medical Student

Over a year ago, I added a widget to my computer to count down the days left until graduation. I have occasionally checked the count down throughout the past several months, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized we had hit the home run stretch. Just 100 days left, barely over 3 months.

For those of you who don’t know, I chose to take the “scenic” route through medical school. Medical school is typically a 4 year ordeal, and I decided it was in my best interest to stretch it out to five. So for me, seeing that my 5 years of hard work, papercuts, sweat, tears, sleepless nights, running around the hospital at all hours, and way too much time squinting at my computer screen had culminated in only 100 days left. It’s a bit surreal!

What is left to do? For starters, the Match is coming up very soon. March 11 is the big day, where med school seniors find out if they have successfully matched to a residency program. If one does not match, they enter the SOAP (better know by the nickname of “the scramble”). No one ever wants to have to scramble, because it is just as chaotic as it sounds. Lots of phone calls and begging to get a job for the coming year.

I don’t really want to think about it! Hopefully all will go well and I will be placed in a General Surgery program, where I can spend the next 5 years learning all the cool things surgeons get to do.

After match comes more elective rotations, including one I have been looking forward to for months: Surgical Pathology. Two weeks of hanging out in scrubs in a hidden room next to the OR with the pathologist, looking at slides under the microscope, as well as dissecting tumors and other surgical specimens. I understand that to the general population and all normal people, this is not something one should be excited about. I’ve always had an interest in pathology, and as a future surgeon its good to have a general grasp of what happens to the chunks of tissue placed in specimen cups and whisked out of the OR.

After that rotation is complete, I pack my bags and head to LA where I will be traveling to Barcelona, Spain to leave on a cruise to Italy! It’s a pre-graduation present generously provided by my parents. My mom and I will be snacking on plenty of gelato and will definitely be getting the requisite cheesy tourist photo of trying to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I can’t wait!

And finally, the count down will end, because graduation will be upon us. Graduation weekend is full of events, including the hooding ceremony. The hooding ceremony is where our families, spouses, mentors etc. place our ceremonial graduation regalia on us. It is a ceremony just as important as the actual graduation, because it marks the metaphorical point where we are leaving medical school behind and taking on the role and responsibilities of a physician. Then two days later is graduation, and I will finally be able to stop introducing myself as “medical student” and start calling myself “doctor”.

Goodbyes and New Beginnings

Tamara, Fourth Year Medical StudentIt’s hard to know what to say, at times like these – I’ll admit, I’ve never been very good at goodbyes.

I can’t believe my time at Loma Linda is over.  I leave Loma Linda overflowing with love, filled to the brim by a community that has embraced me, supported me, and given me four amazing years.

Some highlights from each year:

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[first day of school, so excited!]

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[‘Frank Netter skit’ for Pine Springs Ranch talent show with my best girlfriends]

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[intense lab sessions]

Summer Break

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[mission trip to the Dominican Republic]

Sophomore year

The only pictures I could find of sophomore year involved studying…it was that kind of a year.

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[studying through an extremely severe ankle sprain, which required crutches]

Junior Year

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[medical student abuse ;), my resident added necessary ‘artistic touches’ to my mask]

Senior Year

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[my Grandfather (class of ‘53b) and I at graduation]

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[M.D. diploma in hand]

And finally, my crowning achievement of medical school – envisioning, choreographing, organizing, and successfully performing a flashmob at the end of graduation. It was soooo fun!

Graduation Flashmob – Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Class of 2012 from looheru on Vimeo.

Loma Linda, it’s been one heck of a ride.  I’ll do my best to make you proud.

[Learning the basics of blogging has been a fun, unexpected gift during senior year.  Thank you all, our readers, for your support and encouragement.  If you want to keep following my occasional musings, I will continue this blog journey at http://theyetidiaries.wordpress.com%5D

It’s Over, But Not Really

Jeff, Fourth Year Medical StudentIt is now just over a week since I marched at my Commencement ceremony and received my diploma. Yes, the actual diploma was inside the folder — which is very exciting since all my previous diplomas (college and high school) had to be mailed to me once the financial office had decided that I no longer owed the school any money.

I suppose that this is officially my first post as an M.D. I am now a graduate. So perhaps this post does not really belong here on this blog any longer. I now can tack on the suffix M.D. to my name.

I remember one day after graduation when I sat staring at my diploma. As I stared at it, I almost could not believe it was in front of me. I looked at the piece of paper — a sheet of paper that has been the most expensive (physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally) paper I have ever earned.

I’d also like to acknowledge that I owe a great deal to Loma Linda University School of Medicine and specifically, Dr. L. Werner. Almost 3 years ago I skipped out on exams and walked into his office on the Thursday of test week. I brought with me a form and requested his signature on my withdrawal form. It was an hour before he finished talking to me. That day, I failed at dropping out of medical school because our academic dean cared enough to spend an unscheduled hour with a student he didn’t know. It would’ve been so easy for him to sign that sheet and be done with me. But he didn’t. And for that I am, and will forever be, grateful.
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During the days prior to graduation, I was very excited. At the same time, I also felt nervous. Nervous about being done. Nervous about new responsibilities. Nervous about wearing the long white coat I have wanted ever since I looked into the mirror and saw how funny I looked in my short white coat. I am now waiting for my long coat. Literally — kind of. I sent an email to the Graduate Medical Education (GME) office a few weeks ago with my size. I hope I sent in the right size. Again, I am excited. But again, I am nervous about the long white coat and all the responsibility it represents.

I have a few more weeks before residency starts and I step onto the wards as a new intern. During this time I will have to complete some online modules and get certified for Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS). I will also complete my move into a new place. It is a few weeks that I know will go by very quickly. Actually, I feel like the next few years will go quickly, but I don’t really want to think about that at this point.

And so, my medical school career is over. One chapter is completed. But I know that I am far from the end. Medical training continues at the next stage — residency. I know, too, that it will continue long after I leave residency. Medicine, as they have taught me throughout medical school, is about lifelong learning. In the grand scheme of things, I am still at the beginning. I have a long way to go. I know the road ahead will be hard. But it’ll be full of adventure, I’m sure.

This will be my final post. I wish I’d had more time to write here during this past year, but as many of you know, life sometimes gets in the way of things. I would like to say thank you to the readers, my fellow bloggers, and Loma Linda University School of Medicine. It has been a lot of fun writing and reading here. And I wish you all the best.

(For those interested, I will continue to blog on my own personal blog at JeffreyMD.com.)