Medical School

On Being Crushed, Pruned, and Humbled

I was crushed.

I sobbed like something had died in me,

like THIS might be the end.

I felt BROKEN.

I had been feeling on top of the world for the past few months:

  • I had honored my first 2 rotations of 4th year thus far
  • Just last month, I found out my Step 2 CK score increased 27 points from my Step 1 score
  • My letter writers had informed me they were uploading glowing letters of recommendations for my residency application

I felt like I was finally approaching harvest season, that all my hard work was FINALLY starting to pay off.

Then this happened.

This was the biggest blow, the biggest CRUSHING I could receive.

Up until that week, I had NEVER, I repeat, NEVER failed a medical school exam.

Yet, here I was, thrown the biggest curve ball.

I didn’t just fail any medical school exam, I failed the United States Medical Licensing exam (USMLE).

And no, not Step 1 or Step 2 CK, both incredibly hard 8 – 9 hour exams that test your basic science and clinical knowledge, respectively. No, the exam I failed was USMLE Step 2 clinical skills. An exam that was reportedly so easy and had a 95% pass rate on first attempt, that there was a petition for it to be eliminated. An exam that a friend called a “glorified English exam” to “make sure you can speak English, and have good bedside manners.” An exam that cost me over $1700 ($1290 exam fee + travel) and here I was staring at a “FAIL”. And not just that, but the fear of my future career, my dreams, and everything I had worked so hard for, possibly going down the drain…

I was DEVASTATED

I had been waiting for my result for a while. It typically takes 6-8 weeks, and it was exactly 9 weeks on that day – late. I wondered if something had gone wrong with reporting, if this was a bad sign to not have received the email by now, so naturally, I was obsessively checking my emails. That morning, I was heading to the gym when my husband, Ric came home from a overnight call shift. We were both working out when I got the email alert – excited I went to the website, heart pounding.

I clicked “score report”, and my jaw dropped.

I had failed. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I got off my machine in utter shock, I began repeating “oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh” over and over again as I walked over to Ric. He could see from my facial expression that something was wrong, yet I couldn’t find the words to say it. “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh” I kept repeating as I thrust the phone into his hands.

This CAN’T be happening, oh my gosh, oh my gosh. I NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE!

He gave me a hug as we rushed out of the gym.

Y’all I sobbed SO HARD in that car. Through the blurry eyes, I dialed my mom. Yet, I couldn’t utter the words. “What is it Derin? What happened???” My mom kept repeating, but all I could do was cry until Ric took the phone and explained what happened.

To me, this result was unexpected. I had prepared for the exam – practicing clinical scenarios with a classmate, practicing my note writing on the website interface, doing my school’s practice session…I had prepared. And on the day of my exam, despite the rough start due to a random rain storm, and no power at the test site initially, everything had gone well. Or so I thought. I left feeling, Yes, I had conquered this! Last licensing exam of med school “DONE!”

So yes, this was a curve ball.

To make this even worse, since my result was out, every single residency program I would be applying to would see that score. I was submitting my application in 2 weeks!

WHY NOW?

WHY ME?

WHY, GOD?

I had several conversations with God. This couldn’t be the end. There HAD to be a reason for this. Yes, I have a blog called “Curveballs and Med School,” maybe this was an experience I needed to have, maybe this was a curve ball meant to inspire others. Perhaps I wasn’t supposed to hide in shame, but rather tell of this test turned testimony. THERE HAD TO BE A TESTIMONY. Maybe, just maybe, this experience was supposed to humble me. Perhaps, I was feeling like I, Derin, have GOT THIS. Perhaps, I needed to remember that I needed God all the way, that all this was not my doing, but God.

That people will know THIS can only be God.

THIS, my success at the end of it all, can only be God.

Having this revelation, I posted this quote on Instagram the following day:

Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. OWN IT.” – Oprah Winfrey

And I got to work. Studying and preparing for my retake. For the next few months, I read through the entire First Aid Step 2 CS book. I prayed. I fasted. I simulated the testing environment at home, using Ric as my standardized patient, and then I retook the exam. 

I was waiting at the airport to board the flight back home when I came across Bishop T.D. Jakes book “Crushing: God Turns Pressure to Power” at a book store. I had just finished the 8 hour exam earlier and was feeling crushed in that moment. I had no idea if I had passed. Shoot, the first time I took the exam, I felt good and THOUGHT I had passed, but yet failed! The book captured my attention. It was timely, perhaps a sign from God, just what I needed at that moment. So I bought it.

I found inspiration in its pages.

  • “Even in the moments of your greatest anguish, you often find unexpected blessings alongside and commingled with your losses.”
  • “There is purpose to your stumbling.”
  • “God’s pruning, those events He allows us to endure even though they cause us pain and discomfort are never intended as punishment…God allows such pruning just as a loving father disciplined a child so that the child will mature and reach her full potential.”
  • “Without the crushing, there would be no crowning.”
  • “Your crushing is not the end, it is only the beginning.”

The book was a blessing during those weeks of waiting, praying, and hoping. And you know what?

[Drum roll!!!] I passed the second time around. Yep, I sure did.

I hope this post encourages someone. Your crushing is NOT the end. I passed, and this is my testimony. Hallelujah!

For the Lord God helps me,

Therefore, I am not disgraced;

Therefore, I have set my face like flint,

And I know I will not be ashamed.

Isaiah 50:7

 

 

My Podcast Interview on A2O: The Voice of Future Doctors

Podcast image

I recently had the honor of being interviewed on A Second Opinion: The Voice of Future Doctors. This is a podcast dedicated to “encouraging medical students from underrepresented backgrounds to share their personal stories and experiences, as well as add their voices to important discussions around life, medicine, justice, and society.” The host and creator of the podcast, Habeeb Suara is actually a fellow Ohio State medical student, fellow UPenn alum, and friend of mine. When he asked me to be a guest on his podcast, I was so thrilled and honored!

podcast info

It was a lot of fun doing this and we discussed my blog and its impact, the medical school grind, having side projects and hobbies while in school, maintaining relationships and more!

You can listen to the interview on Spotify, Google podcast, and Apple podcast. Definitely check it out and let me know what you think. A huge thank you to Habeeb for this opportunity!

Links to podcast episode:

 

Know that…

Know that you can start late, look different, be uncertain, and STILL succeed.

Misty Copeland

know that

I’ve always loved this quote by Misty Copeland. I actually posted this image on my Instagram back in March 2016 and still think of this quote every now and then. It resonates so much with me, my life (especially as an immigrant – which I realize I’ve never talked about on here before), my journey in medicine, I mean everything; its as if Misty read the cliffs notes version of my life story (Yes, I know it’s totally bout her life, but you get my drift).

I’m currently on an away/ audition rotation and thought of this quote today. At this residency program, there’s a fun award called the “Shake Weight,” awarded to the CA1 (PGY2 anesthesia resident) who basically had the biggest “oopsies” of their class. As in messed up big time or perhaps was team struggle bus. It’s all in jest because of course EVERYBODY makes a mistake at some point in time or perhaps many points. This particularly person, however, stands out, takes the cake, and can totally laugh it off as well. Anyway, what’s REALLY cool about this award is that, residents who have been awarded this during their CA1 year often end up being Chief residents later on or being exceptional residents and attendings despite their rough start. When the resident I was working with told me the story behind the “Shake Weight” award and the legacy of past winners, I said a big “Yaaaaaaasss!” – silently of course.

Y’all, it ain’t how you start.

I’ll say it again, it ain’t how you start.

It’s how you finish.

It’s how you come back from whatever challenges you faced. It’s how you handled those curve balls and used it your advantage. It’s how you put in the work, day in and day out. Consistently.

This year, my 4th and final year of medical school, I received my FIRST honors for a clinical rotation. Not just one, but two back to back so far. Maaaan, I looked at it like, forreal?! This is real? Sure is.

And USMLE Step 2 CK, one of the licensing board exams to practice medicine in the United States, an extremely important 8 hour exam, ya girl increased 27 points compared to USMLE Step 1 and showed significant improvement.

Again y’all, it ain’t how you start.

“Know that you can start late, look different, be uncertain, and STILL succeed.”

Amen to that!

“Keep Your Head to the Sky”

The day is here. It’s September 5th, which means ERAS (the electronic residency application system) is now open for students to submit and certify their applications. Although applications aren’t released to programs until September 15th, applicants can choose to submit early and avoid the potential traffic or website delay that may occur on the 15th.

In the midst of all this, ya girl (hey, it me!) is on her knees, praying, and trying to stay optimistic. Curve balls, oh curve balls. I know that’s the name of this blog, but sheeshh, I still get surprised when one comes my way like hol’ up, you forreal? Right now? Anyhoo, here is some optimism for others out there (and me!), who maybe are stressed about what the residency interview cycle may hold, nervous for whatever reason, or *trying* not to flip out because something didn’t go your way…

Keep your head to the sky

Optimistic” by Sounds of Blackness

“Keep, keep on
Never say die
When in the midst of sorrow
You can’ t see up when looking down
A brighter day tomorrow will bring
You hear the voice of reason
Telling you this can’t never be done
No matter how hard reality seems
Just hold on to your dreams
Don’t give up and don’t give in
Although it seems you never win
You will always pass the test
As long as you keep your head to the sky
You can win as long as you keep your head to the sky
You can win as long as you keep your head to the sky
Be optimistic
If things around you crumble
No, you don’t have to stumble and fall
Keep pushing on and don’t you look back
I know of storms and strive
I been around them all of life 
Just think ahead and you’ll be inspired
To reach higher and higher.
You’ll always do your best
If you learn to never say never
You maybe down, but you’re not out.
Don’t give up and don’t give in
Although it seems you never win
You will always pass the test
As long as you keep your head to the sky
You can win as long as you keep your head to the sky (you can win child!)
You can win as long as you keep your head to the sky
Be optimistic
Don’t you let no body stop you
Be optimistic
You can win, yes
Never say die.”

“Choose People Who Choose You”

“Choose people who choose you.”

I saw this as an Instagram post a few days ago and it’s stuck with me since. Perhaps because it’s been a recurring message for me throughout the years – from undergrad to my gap years to med school – wheew, totally relate. Anyway, today I felt compelled to write a blog post on this statement. This is a different kind of post but it does relate to med school. I can proudly say that Ohio State chose me and I chose it back. As far back as my interview day, when I came in rocking my baby dreadlocks, a statement saying, “yea, this is me, this is what y’all gon get.” And not feeling one ounce of prejudice. That’s love y’all. But I digress, this isn’t where I’m going with this. We all know med school is hard (and if you didn’t, SURPRISE! It is). Besides the mountain of information you’re learning, the limited time to grasp the information, the long nights, the stress and so on, there is one other thing that makes it hard:

The loneliness. 

Geez! Med school can be lonely! It is a deeply personal journey and will test you to the limits.

WHY are you even doing this?”

CAN you even do this?”

“Does anyone even CARE how you’re feeling?”

wow crying gif

So one common advice students will hear as they start their first year is: “Find your people.” The people who will support you during your journey, who will be like family, who will be there to listen, through the grind, through the tears, through the successes, through the let downs. Your people.

And if you can’t find them, you’re not alone. Reach out for help, for support through the counseling office.

Yea. We all got this spiel or some form of it.

But what happens when you just can’t seem to fit in?

Can I get personal for a sec? I suck at fitting in. I don’t consider myself as part of the “cool crowd” and quite frankly I gave up a long time ago on trying to fit the mold. Years ago (before med school), someone told me I had been described as “doing my own thing.” I was surprised, but I think it sums me up well. Now, how does this relate to med school? Well the past few years, my poor love has been subjected to me complaining about not being able to find more classmates who “get me.” Is it because I’m slightly older, a non-traditional student who had no interest in some of the post-exam parties? Is it because I’m black in a majority white institution? Is it because I’m rarely around on the weekends, often missing out on some precious bonding activities? Or perhaps because the financial stress is real, often causing me to say no to some outings? Do I come off as stand off-ish? Maybe if I wasn’t in a long distance relationship, maybe if I didn’t have other stressors outside of med school…maybe…maybe…

Yep, my love heard it all. The complaints of not being invited to some things, feeling forgotten by some friends in and outside of med school, feeling bummed about saying no to certain invites, the list goes on. And in those moments he would remind me of the same thing over and over again: cherish the ones who are there for you, the ones who keep showing up, the ones who keep reaching out. Focus your eyes on that. Cultivate those relationships.

Sounds a lot like “choose people who choose you” doesn’t it?

So here’s a few reminders and encouragements from one of my favorite Instagram accounts – @thecocoahue:

  1. It is impossible to be forgotten by God.
  2. When you’re set apart, sometimes you have to sit out. It is not a punishment, it’s a process.
  3. You belong because you are his beloved.
  4. Find your place in Christ. It’s where you will always fit in.
  5. You will never walk alone when you choose Jesus.

Cheers y’all and stay blessed!

“Shine Already, It’s Time Already”

Hellooooo, anybody there?! If you’re reading this, I commend you. It has been over a year (wow!) since I’ve blogged on here. Yikes. So many updates, but I’ll start with the biggest one:

I am in my FINAL year of medical school.

Wow! Legit. Final. 4th year. Best year. As in I’m bout to be DONE in a few months. Scratch that, I am about to be someone’s DOCTOR, a full MD in 261 days. Maaaaaaan, that is wild.

If you’ve been following my blog since 2014 when I stopped being anonymous, or even 2013, when I started it, you know how huge this is. This journey has been looooong. Filled with so many curve balls, lots of triumphs, and obstacles, but I’m here. We’re here. Almost at the finish line…

Mama I made it!!!

Almost.

Right now I’m in the middle of my residency application season. Which leads me to my other big update: the specialty I’m going into.

I’ve pondered for years what specialty I would end up in. I even wrote a blog post about it back in 2014. I started medical school being open minded, but quickly found myself gravitating towards procedural based specialties. I shadowed in different surgical specialties during my first two years – ophthalmology, general surgery, urology, obgyn, orthopedic surgery…I mean I was trying to get as much exposure as possible (see my blog post here). But ultimately I didn’t find the best specialty for me until third year. And even more interesting, it was one I never would have thought – funny how life works uh? So not to delay any further, the specialty I’m going into is….

Drum roll….

Anesthesiology!

And I am so pumped about it. I found a specialty that fits me – my interests, skills, personality, AND has the most awesome people in it. Forreal. I plan on writing a blog post on how I decided on anesthesia, because y’all that was definitely a curve ball I didn’t see coming. But I’m glad things worked out how they did, and I got exposed to this field, fell in love, and well, now the rest is history.

I mean present. I still have to submit my ERAS application (electronic residency application service). This process is just like applying for medical school all over again. Similarly, it’s writing a personal statement, having those letters of recommendations, filling in the application with my work and research experiences, you know the whole shebang. Except now there’s more at stake.

I need a J-O-B.

This will be my first “doctor job” and where I’ll spend the next 4 years training as an anesthesiologist. I hope to blog the whole process similar to my medical school application journey, so please comment, interact and hold me to it. This season I’m in is exciting, truly. I am expectant, ready for this next phase in my life, ready to reap the harvest and fruits of my labor; I mean I am just READY.

In the words of Beyoncé, “It’s time already, shine already.” When I first heard this song, the first thing that came to mind was this medical school journey and getting ready to apply to residency, interview at places, and MATCH at my dream program. It’s time already, and shine I must!

Till next time folks!

 

Third Year Med Student At Your Service!

Tomorrow marks the beginning of my 3rd week as a third year medical student – y’all, it’s still surreal to me. I AM A THIRD YEAR MED STUDENT! It feels like I’ve reached the mecca, the promised land, the land of patients, and all I’ve been working so hard to achieve. Yea, I still have a long way to go, and a lot to learn on the wards, but my goodness, this is an awesome feeling.

EXCITED GIF

My first rotation is Internal Medicine and it began with a one week orientation, where I  had lectures and also got to practice procedures – thoracentesis, paracentesis, lumbar puncture, ABG, ultrasound guided injections, central lines – all via simulation of course (shout out to the dummies haha). This past week, I was officially on the wards. My general medicine service has been interesting – my concern going in was that Internal Medicine is pretty much EVERYTHING, and I’ld need to know everything about everything; so far, my assumptions seem somewhat accurate. Thankfully however, my residents and attending have been really great at teaching. I get asked questions a lot, and I am perfectly okay saying, “I’m sorry, I’m not too sure, could you explain that” or “I’m not sure but I can look that up.” Because to be honest, I don’t know the answers to everything (Step 1 was 4 weeks ago, and feels like ages ago), and it can be like, omgosh, omgosh I’m supposed to know this but I’m drawing a blank.

It is to say the least, humbling.

But alas, it’s only been week one on wards, so I’m trying not to be too hard on myself. Some of the things I was nervous would happen, happened already multiple times – for example, getting asked a series of questions on EKGs, and reading several in a row (oh cardio, my arch nemesis). So alas, I suck up my pride, take my L’s and use each experience has a learning point. All in all, it’s been great thus far.

I also started UWorld questions again. It’s funny, after you take Step 1, you think FREEDOM! No more UWorld, no more studying! Only to start third year, spend $479 for a year subscription of this question bank (I am quite salty about this – why so expensive?!) and begin the whole process again. Oh medical school. The sad thing is, there’s no escaping it. The best way to study for shelf exams is UWorld questions and the way my school’s curriculum is, I’ll actually be taking 3 shelf exams in one week – Internal medicine, Psychiatry, and Neurology. Furthermore, since Internal medicine is a lot, and known to be notoriously hard, every upperclassman I’ve talked to said start UWorld medicine questions immediately. So alas, here we are. There are 1300+ questions for medicine alone and I have 7 weeks of Internal Medicine to get through them and learn, learn, learn. And of course, I have to get through Psych questions as well – I’ll have 4 weeks of that rotation, and 3 weeks of Neurology, before the shelf exams. To sum it all up, the studying continues.

And so does the fun.

Cheers to week 3!

Goodbye 2nd Year, Hello Step 1!

I am officially done with my 2nd year of medical school! Surreal! We had our last exam on Thursday and as soon as I clicked submit, it was like, “Whoaaa, this is really it!” Blessings!

yaaass betty.gif

And now it’s time for Step 1 studying.

We have exploration week this week (i.e. exploring/ shadowing different specialties) so my dedicated study schedule doesn’t start until Monday, Feb 19. As I mentioned in my last post though, I’ve been doing UWorld questions throughout 2nd year. I’m not quite done with my first pass yet, but I’m aiming to be done by this Sunday. I’m so close!

The main resources I’ll be using for Step studying are:

  • USMLE World (UWorld) question bank
  • First Aid 2018
  • Pathoma
  • Sketchy Pharm + Micro (to brush up/ as needed)
  • Goljan pathology audio (while doing cardio at the gym)

I also have the following resources as well but I’m not sure if I’ll use them during this study period (aka I don’t want to overwhelm myself with too many resources): BRS Physiology, USMLE Secrets, Boards & Beyond, and Kaplan question bank (already subscribed, so if time permits).

We had a Step 1 Q&A session today with 3rd and 4th year medical students and hearing about their experiences definitely reinforced that these next couple of weeks are going be REAL! Prayers definitely needed. My goal is to stay consistent with my schedule, continue working out during this period, and reach my highest scoring potential for this board exam. It IS possible!

I also have some things going on during this study period as well – I’ll be presenting my research at a national conference, and going to my significant other’s residency MATCH week, so definitely tons to look forward to. So soooo excited and ready to THRIVE during this period!

12 hour days?!

This week has been a BLURRRR. As I mentioned in my last post, it’s exam season, and this week I’ll have my last exam of 2nd year (woot woot!). It has been the LONGEST block – 13 weeks! It’s also been the block with the most material – Immunology, Dermatology, Rheumatology, Microbiology/ Clinical infectious diseases, and Hematology/Oncology. A LOT! We were told it prepares us for Step 1 and according to the data my school has been collecting on our curriculum, there’s a strong correlation with how well you do on this block and how high you score on Step 1 – yea, no pressure. 

So alas, this week was buckle down and tunnel vision on these books. We were still learning new material up till Wednesday (#BecauseMedSchool) but I’ve been reviewing past material like crazy. Some stuff I learned back in November, I lowkey had forgotten (strugglessss). On the plus side, I developed a routine that I think I’m going to continue with during my dedicated Step 1 study time.

Everyday this week, I left my house at 6:30am, found decent parking on campus and was at my study desk by 7am, at the latest 7:15am. And then I would begin studying. Yes, it’s been that real. I made a daily To-do-list the day before, and would start the day tackling the items on the list. I typically work in 50-55 minute increments with a 5-10 minute break to stand up, stretch or walk around. Lunch time has been 30 – 45 minute breaks. Y’all it’s been so real that I’ve made my cubicle my second home. As in my little locker on top is stocked up with a large container of oatmeal for breakfast and cans of soup! Ps. I will gladly accept any food donations haha

Studygrind

Where the magic happens – in the quiet study room

But yea the countdown is real, the days have been long – usually 12+ hours day spent in school, but I’m balancing the stress by working out during the evenings. In the same school – I did mention it’s like my second home right? Haha. There’s a workout room with all the weights and cardio I need so, my routine is pretty much the same: study, eat, workout. Go home. 

Part of the reason my days have been super long is studying for my block exam but also working through UWORLD questions for Step 1/ relevant material for this block. The grind is real, but I’m trusting God that it’ll all pay off. And even though I missed a reaaaaally dope Super Bowl Party tonight (Yaaaaaasss Eagles!!!!), I take comfort in knowing I’ld rather have this exam behind me than live in regret – shoulda, woulda, coulda. Nah bro. 

Pray for your girl y’all! Looking forward to being D-O-N-E!

T-Minus 11 days Till Half MD!

Man oh man, long time no hear from uh? Yes, it certainly been a while since I’ve written on here. And as much as it’s been on mind, I have a great gift of finding excuses not to write (gifted I tell ya haha). Well A LOT has certainly happened. Like man, a whole lot, and I as I sit here writing, I literally have just 11 days till my LAST exam of second year. Yep! LAST one. Second year flew by FAST! Granted my school’s curriculum is different and we end second year much earlier than other schools, February to be exact. So after I submit that exam, I’ll be HALF MD. Man, that’s wild! Blessings all the way!!!

With the blessings of course, is the realization of USMLE Step 1 right around the corner. The big exam – my first medical licensing exam. I could go on and hype up Step 1 – how some folks consider it the most important exam of medical school, how it can determine what specialty you can go into, and all that jazz, but I’ll save that for next time. Right now, it feels good to take a break from studying, sit back like “wow, I’m almost done with all of this,” dust off the cobwebs on this blog and write again.

Man it feels good!

And if you’re reading this, and have been following my blog since I started it in 2013 or maybe started following during my med school application process or postbac year, can you believe it??? This journey has been quite a ride, and continues to be so. I look forward to filling you all in on some of the excitement of this past year, as well as joys of Step 1 studying (Yep, we’re gona call it “joys” because I rebuke all negativity in my life haha).

Quick post but I’m gona drop a tune below to describe how I’m feeling – I’m baaaaaack!