Spring break in San Diego!

So I wasn’t completely honest in my last post. Another reason I was eagerly looking forward to the end of cardiopulm was…SPRING BREEEEAK! I could see freedom in sight, and the only thing standing in the way was that darn block exam. I also realized I wouldn’t get a “spring break” in March next year, because of Step 1 boards, so I was definitely pumped to do something fun this year. I decided to travel to San Diego, California. It was my weekend to visit my fiance (we’re long distance and typically alternate who’s flying down each month), but it turned out he had medical conferences he was presenting at in San Diego that week. Perfect timing because I FINALLY get to visit the West coast, have a real spring break, AND also see him – winning!

I took a bus down from Columbus to Chicago and then a flight from there to San Diego (because flights were waaaay cheaper from Chicago). Now because every story is never complete without some mishap, I had my share of unfortunate events. My phone got stolen on my way to Chicago, so alas, for the entire spring break, I had no phone. I did have my ipad though (thank God!), so as along as I had wifi (i.e. at a coffee shop) I could communicate. Quite an interesting experience. Liberating not to be tied to my phone but also kinda scary when you’re in a new city and need to use GPS. Fun times haha.

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San Diego itself was fun! I loved the architecture of the homes and did some sightseeing on my own. I hung out in Balboa park, walked around the museum and zoo area, and soaked in a lot of sun. Of course the weather was GORGEOUS! And I can see why West coasters never want to leave. We also decided to rent a car and drive down to Los Angeles. The rental company ended up giving us a convertible! Say whaaaaaat?! It felt like we won the lottery haha. We drove down to see the Hollywood sign, went to Venice beach, but unfortunately didn’t get to explore a lot more of the city. It was a short visit, so definitely looking forward to visiting Cali again in the future and having a proper tour of L.A. All in all, however, it was a GREAT spring break!

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Thanks for reading and don’t forget to subscribe 🙂

Cardiopulm Broke My Heart

At my medical school, cardio disorders and pulmonary disorders are combined into one system block lasting 9 weeks. From January 4 till March 10, just straight cardiopulm material – the physiology, pathology, histology, anatomy, pharmacology – literally EVERYTHING cardiopulm squeezed into 9 weeks. To pass the block, you need to pass the block exam, which is everything you’ve learned in the past 9 weeks. My upperclassmen friends gave me advice on this block:

  • “It can be easy to fall behind, DON’T FALL BEHIND!”
  • “Most of USMLE Step 1 is cardiopulm material, you really want to do WELL on this block.”
  • “Treat these 9 weeks like Step 1 prep, if you can manage your time and the material well, you can handle Step.”
  • “You definitely want to read Lilly’s
  • “This is the block some people had to retake. If you can get through this, it gets better”

And the advice went on. Starting this block, I was like, Okay, they said Step 1 is cardiopulm HEAVY, so I absolutely have to know this material well. I immediately borrowed the recommended book, “Lilly’s” and began doing assigned readings for each lecture. I reviewed anatomy with Acland, used the UMichigan site to quiz myself. Read and re-read sections on EKG in the Lilly’s book – eventually figured out how to diagnose via EKG readings. Read First Aid cardio section and pulmonary section, as well as their respective sections in Pathoma. Tried to relate the different pharmaceutical drugs I learned during lectures, with what my preceptor prescribed her patients on days I went to my longitudinal clinic. I mean I even read cardio and pulmonary sections in BRS Physiology! I did all these things and realized,

I don’t like Cardiopulm. 

Nope, I don’t like it.

Which is actually kinda funny, because once upon a time, I was curious about cardiology and even reached out to a cardiologist for mentorship (Ha!). But y’all cardiopulm broke my heart. It was one of those blocks where you feel like you’re doing everything you can, and you’re staying on top of things, but STILL, falling short. Things weren’t sinking as fast as I wanted, I realized I didn’t find a lot of it interesting (well except congenital heart defects and heart attacks), and it was the first time we had some serious drugs to memorize and know inside and out.

And then there was the ordeal with our block exam (our final exam), when the fire alarm went off and we lost time from our exam – awful. When I finally walked out of that exam hall, I was more than HAPPY to be done with this block. See you never cardiopulm! Sikeeee, see you in Step prep *Cries* My portfolio coach/ advisor, advised me that yea, it’s okay to have those systems that you’re just not vibing with. There will be some things you won’t find interesting and you just want to be done with, and that’s okay. 

And that’s real. Because throughout those 9 weeks, I was counting down till freedom and reminiscing on the fun times I had during MSK block (I realized then, how much MSK truly is bae – I loved that block!). Cardiopulm was a block I neglected my hobbies (working out/ going to the gym), started eating more junk food (had Burger King for the first time in years...several times, hit up Chick-Fil-A one too many times), and had little to no Netflix/ TV time. It felt like I was studying aaaall the time.

All in all, thank you to cardiopulm for crossing out some specialties for me, and my time spent in my longitudinal clinic for also helping with that decision (Post coming soon). Cardiopulm broke my heart, but didn’t break me…because, you know, I’m a G like that haha.

Resources used:

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Coming out the Bushes

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Honestly, in the past few months I’ve wondered whether or not to continue blogging – partially because I’ve been very busy, partially because of laziness, and partially because I’ve been wondering what my “why?” is. I was having this conversation with my fiancé the other day, when literally a few minutes later, I received an email from a reader asking for advice. It had me reflecting – that right there is my WHY. It’s crazy to think it’s been almost 4 years since I started this blog. It was created out of my love for writing and documenting experiences (I’ve been writing in journals for over 15 years) and also out of a need I saw. During my pre-med years, I searched high and low for inspirational blogs – individuals who documented their journey to med school, who maybe had a similar story to mine, a story that wasn’t so straightforward and included the challenges of being a minority in this field (only 2% of physicians in America are black women). Back then, I could barely find any. And most of the few I found, had stopped blogging. So I created Curve Balls and Med School. Today, it’s amazing how many med student blogs, Instagram pages, and YouTube channels exist. It’s awesome and at the same time, lowkey overwhelming. Should I be curating my photos on Instagram, having these perfectly laid out pictures? Should I be aiming for over 10K followers? Should I be looking for sponsors? Should I be finding ways to monetize my passion? I am inspired by fellow social media savvy med students, at the same time, I question the authenticity of some. When I study, my desk isn’t so neat like some portray; learning some topics are very frustrating when my interest is low (truth is, you don’t have to LIKE everything you learn in med school); and life isn’t all jolly jolly *rolls eyes*. All that to say, at this point, I could care less about the aesthetics haha (or I guess I should say that’s not my strength right now Lol). BUT I do notice those that do, get companies asking them to try out a product, give a promo code, advertise etc. And bruuhh, this loan life! I could use some extra coins myself! *Looks sadly at empty wallet*

Ultimately, I’ve decided to keep blogging. I see my blog stats (almost 100,000 views!) and I know some of my content has made a difference in people’s lives. I know my “why”, and that’s really what matters. Hopefully, you all will keep on reading as well. I plan to incorporate more about my personal life and not just school. And my oh my, there’s been a lot of updates!! Peep the fiancé hint 😀

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Just Keep Swimming…

It’s crazy how fast this musculoskeletal (MSK) block has gone. It wasn’t that long ago that I was making my first cut into my cadaver and then trying to reflect gluteus maximus to see piriformis, gluteus medius and the other underlying structures. Now fast forward 6 weeks later, and here I am:

  • 1 day away from my MSK OSCE (an assessment of my patient interaction/ communication skills using a standardized patient, as well as my ability to give  a shoulder and knee exam)
  • 3 days away from my anatomy practical
  • 8 days away from my block exam

It’s definitely GRIND time. There’s a lot of material in this block and because it’s also different from the others, it feels a bit overwhelming. I’ve been making to do lists everyday and trying to accomplish as much as I can..”Just keep swimming, just keep swimming” as my homie Dory would say.

This block was also a lot of fun. I serve on my school’s Student National Medical Association (SNMA) executive board and we had our regional conference on my campus. It was a blast! A lot of work when it came to planning, but the conference was a GREAT turn out and ultimately a success.

During this block, I also went to my first suturing workshop. Check out my handiwork below. Now I know my stitches aren’t good BUUUUT there’s a first time for everything. It was a pretty cool experience!

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Anyhoo, I just want to encourage others who are also studying for exams right now, WE GON’ BE ALRIGHT! We’re so soooo close to the end of this semester. Stay encouraged and power through. And if you need to recharge, listen to some Salt-N-Pepa, and PUSH IT! Push it reaaaaal good all the way to the finish line 🙂

Looking into the eye!

The scrub life continued this week. More and more anatomy, but this week’s focus being upper limb. I’ll be honest, I reeaaaally like anatomy. When I went to the gym this week, before I would use a weight lifting machine or use the dumbbell to work a specific muscle, I would think about the muscles I’ld be working, its different actions and innervation. Geeky I know, but it makes it so much more fun and interesting. Right now, my trapezius and levator scapulae muscles are killing me from an intense lifting session I had 2 days ago. I blame all the dumbbell shrugs, barbell rows, and lateral raises I did. It was a GREAT back day.

On a different note, my quest to explore different specialities also continued this week. Since school’s started, I’ve shadowed once in the labor & delivery unit (ObGyn), and radiation oncology. This Thursday, I shadowed an ophthalmologist (an eye surgeon). Why ophthalmology? Well it’s one of those specialties medical students don’t get exposed to until like 4th year when you request it as an elective. So legit very little exposure. Also, it’s one of the few specialties that has a nice balance of surgery AND medicine – which is something I’ve been on the hunt for. Basically, a significant number of your patients you’ll see for several years and form relationships with (longitudinal care), and at the same time, you also get to do surgery. Another major plus: the hours aren’t as crazy as other surgical specialties. Dope right?! Anyhoo, the ophthalmology department here at OSU is pretty open on letting medical students shadow and actually encourage us to reach out if we have an interest. So I took the opportunity and shadowed in the clinic.

Let me just say right now that I was surprised by how busy it was. I guess it’s just never occurred to me how common eye problems actually are. The ophthalmologist I shadowed is a cornea specialist so she does cornea transplants and deals with a lot of cataracts among other things. She allowed me look through the device they use and examine patients’ eyes – their cornea specifically (with permission of course). I could see stitches from cornea transplants she’d done on them, some mild cataracts in some patients, I was just like whooaaa! Her patient interaction was also phenomenal. That’s actually one of the things that impressed me the most. She knew her patients really well, their family life etc and always engaged in some conversation about that before beginning the exam. All in all, I enjoyed the experience and it further confirmed that I do like an aspect of longitudinal care. Also worth noting is that her patients were really diverse and also really thankful. It makes sense though, I would be really thankful too if I had problems seeing and all of a sudden could see clear as day. I was told to reach out if I would also like to shadow in the O.R. and see some surgeries. I’m definitely planning to. Ophthalmology is known for being advanced compared to other surgical specialities when it comes to the technology they use, so looking forward to seeing this.

Below are pics from google on some things I saw. Stitches in the eye from cornea transplant and some cataracts. Cool stuff! I hope you all have a good rest of the week! Stay positive. Always forward 🙂

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And So Begins MSK

Week one of musculoskeletal block is officially in the books! I’ve pretty much lived in scrubs all week since we’ve had anatomy lab every single day. We’ve covered the entire lower limb, some MSK embryology and some radiology as well. This whole week I kept thinking, thank God I took anatomy over the summer! It’s certainly made learning a lot easier. I don’t remember everything and honestly, origins and insertions can kick rocks, but still, familiarity has definitely helped.

My anatomy lab group has been cool. It’s so interesting finding out who wants to go into surgery and is of course eager to cut. I like cutting, but do I want to go into surgery? I don’t know. I just know I’m tryna learn this material REALLY WELL and the faster our cadaver gets cleaned up, the better.

On a different note, I had clinic this week. I mentioned this in a previous post but as part of our curriculum, we’re assigned to a longitudinal practice (LP) – mine is a family medicine practice – in which we go every 2 weeks and practice our clinical skills. This was my second time going and I basically helped check patients in and took all their vitals signs – blood pressure, pulse, respiratory, temperature etc as well as helped do an EKG. We have different objectives for our LP depending on the block we’re on. Since we’re now on MSK, in addition to other tasks, I’ll have to take a history of present illness on someone with a MSK condition during one of my visits. LP has certainly been a learning experience. Big plus is, I’m no longer nervous about taking an accurate blood pressure using my stethoscope. Initially, I struggled with this because I would sometimes miss the first sound, but having done it so many times now, I’m much better.

Also, I voted yesterday! Since I’m in Ohio, a swing state, and considering how crazy this election is, I decided to do early voting and get it off my checklist. I voted early Friday morning. There were no lines, it was awesome! If you haven’t voted, please please vote!!! I’m hoping that when Tuesday rolls around, I’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief that the right candidate to lead this country and represent the United States, actually won 🙂

On that note, back to books I go. We have a quiz on Monday, so its study mode. Hope you all have a nice and relaxing weekend!

On Turning 26 and Why I Kinda Dreaded It

My birthday was a little over a week ago. I crossed over the 25 marker and stared 26 in its face. Twenty-six. How in the world I’m I 26?! As my birthday drew closer, my excitement grew at the thought of all the birthday festivities I had planned. At the same time, I tried to suppress any reflective thoughts on what it meant to me to reach this age. As the day slowly approached, I became consumed with studying. My block exam was just 5 days after my birthday, I figured any and all celebration should be postponed till after. Even though my birthday was on a Saturday, I planned to do nothing but study. Thankfully, a friend and classmate of mine convinced me otherwise and I decided on a last minute brunch.

I am thankful for twenty-six, I truly am. On my birthday, I decided to confront those reflective thoughts. Twenty-six. A reminder that I am getting older, a reminder that the year I graduate medical school, I’ll be turning 30, a reminder that I still have residency and probably won’t be done till I’m either close to 34 or 37 years old depending on my chosen specialty/ sub-specialty. Twenty-six, a reminder that time keeps slipping past. Sigh. I am thankful for twenty-six, I really am. I am in medical school, I have accomplished a LOT, had different experiences, traveled, had a paper published in a journal, I am truly blessed. I suppose just the thought of knowing I’m losing my twenties to school is disheartening. Comparison is the thief of joy, so I try not to think about fellow classmates starting their residency at 25 or 26 years old, while I’m over here a first year medical student. Curve balls and med school right?

Last year when I turned 25, it was relatively uneventful. I had an exam I was studying for and didn’t celebrate much (although my awesome classmates did surprise me with cupcakes and cookies. My boyfriend also later took me to a Thai restaurant). I remember feeling unexcited about my birthday and joking on snapchat that though 25 was wack, 30 would be AMAZING. 30 would be truly something to celebrate. 30 I would really begin to live and enjoy life.

I realize now how wrong that thinking was. Life happens now. Life is literally happening right now and yea med school is hard, yea it feels like I have no life besides studying at times, but I can’t let this prevent me from celebrating life. That said, I was able to celebrate my birthday this past weekend and it was SO. MUCH. FUN. To the point that I actually lost my voice haha. It was a whole weekend celebration of mine and my boyfriend’s birthdays (He’s also an October baby). We celebrated in Washington D.C., had a few of my closest college friends come – one of which flew in from Chicago right after her Surgery shelf exam. I truly felt the love and it was one of the BEST birthdays I had celebrated in a while. The time spent with friends, the surprise flowers and gifts from my boyfriend, everything was perfect. Twenty-six, I am thankful for you. Oh so very thankful.

“Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That!”

Time just keeps MOVINGGG! It’s been two months since my last post and so much has happened since then. I had my first block exam – it went well (hallelujah praise Him!). Also learned some things about how I study best and what works well. My school is pass/ fail for first and second year but I set some personal goals of my own because **cough cough** I want scholarships (these loans y’aaaaall), so yea, just plugging, studying hard, and trying to stay above the average. At OSU, you’re automatically granted a merit scholarship if you’re in the top 25% of the class. This is done at the end of each academic year. It’s an internal ranking, so it’s still pass/ fail but when it comes to scholarships, grades do matter. Since med school is not easy and EVERYONE is smart, I mean we’re talking high averages, this is soooo hard but hey that’s why it’s called goals right?

I’ve been able to do some pretty cool things, specifically learn some clinical skills. I learned how to do a venipuncture (blood draw), take vitals (blood pressure, temperature etc), give oxygen therapy, do a vision test, give an injection/ vaccine and some other things. We were also assessed on those skills, so yep I can do a blood draw and give injections. Cool right? As part of our curriculum, we’re assigned a longitudinal practice where we go every 2 weeks and practice our skills – taking a history and physical, and the things mentioned earlier. I was assigned to an OSU family practice, so my preceptor is a family physician. A few of my friends were assigned to other specialties – Hematology, Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, it truly varies. Most people were assigned to a family practice though. Wednesday is my first day so I am EXCITED, at the same time, nervous, cuz y’all I’m still just a first year Lol.

Another exciting I’ve done is shadow in Labor and Delivery. I scrubbed in, was in the OR, saw twin deliveries, one of which was a breeched birth, it was seriously cool! I can’t say that it confirmed OB/Gyn was for me, but it was definitely an awesome experience. In general, I think I like the OR environment, perhaps there could be a future for me there, who knows. At the same time, their schedules though, I don’t know if I’m bout that life haha.

Besides that, I’ve been trying to find this whole med school, social, family, relationship balance. The struggle to maintain a consistent workout regime has been REAL for me. So much studying to be done, it’s like bruuuhhh, who got time to workout?! But at the same time, it all boils down to time management; it’s definitely a juggling art. My next block exam is in less than 2 weeks so it’s very tempting to just go into lock down mode, buuuuut I’m reminded everything is all about balance. Actually, it’s part of the reason I decided to buckle down and finally write (or maybe I’m just trying to procrastinate…perhaps both Lol).

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Also, with all the craziness going on in our politics, I filled out an absentee ballot application. I figured I wouldn’t have time to go to the polls, so it was for convenience. That said, PLEASE VOTE Y’ALL! Major key! Like seriously. Tomorrow is the last day to register in Ohio, which so happens to be a swing state, so if you’re in my state, again please vote 🙂

Hope everyone’s week is off to a good start, let’s make it a great one!

Two weeks in and many more to go!

It’s Fridayyyyyy! Another week done and DONE!

gina.gifTruthfully, it’s been two weeks of studying, making new friends, MORE studying, going dancing, and then EVEN MORE studying. Yep I’ve been spending a lot of time with my books BUT I have a confession….I enjoyed it all. Yes I know, I know, it might seem strange – med school, firehose analogy, and all the other daunting images that come to mind when thinking about med school. So far, for me, it’s been a smooth transition. I will admit, this is mostly due to some of the study strategies I use, time management, my MEDPATH year, aaaannd of course, disclaimer, it’s only been two weeks. However, what I’m doing is working well for this block and I’m excited to share my tips!

First about the curriculum:

I’m on Foundations one, which is a 5 week mixture of Biochemistry, Genetics, Cell biology/ Histology, Pathology, Anatomy, Pharmacology, Behavioral and Social sciences AND Statistics (Evidence-based medicine etc). Wheeewww, looking at it now, that seems like a lot! What I like about it though is that the material is presented in different ways – what we call TLM (teaching and learning methods). So some of these subjects could be lectures, patient presentations, small groups, articulate modules, guided readings or team based learning (TBL). In addition to all this book work, we also have a patient and clinical skills component. All that to say, there’s a whole LOT to our curriculum and as time goes on, I’ll share more and more about it. One thing I will say though is I absolutely LOVE it!

Alright, unto what I’ve been doing to manage all the material. 

  1. I plan my week. I have a dry erase white board on my door (it’s actually a peel and stick whiteboard I bought on Amazon last year. Click here for something similar) that keeps me on track.
    • Did I get through all of Monday’s lectures, articulates etc? Note: first pass means preview for me. Second pass is typically in-class lecture. Some things like articulate modules, don’t get a second pass.
    • Did I make my Anki cards?
    • Did I review the Anki cards I made?
    • Did I prep for my LG class (which is the patient and clinical skills class)? planweek.JPGI made this board before class started and have been using it since day 1. Some columns don’t get filled i.e. I don’t plan to start BRS questions (Board Review Series – click here for link to books) until it’s closer to the block exam. My plan is to continue using this for the rest of the block and beyond!
  2. I preview – review. I am team PREVIEW lectures before going to class – like aaaaaall the way. Personally I am more engaged when I’ve previewed a lecture a night or two before and actually know what’s going on, what’s coming next, what slide I need to make sure I pay attention to because I was totally lost the night before and so on. It makes lecture a more enjoyable experience for me. So yep, I will sit there the day before go through all 60-something slides or however amount, just so I can have a better learning experience. I use my iPad (all students get one) so I’m able to write notes like “what’s going on here?” “is this important?” “skip!” It allows me to find out what’s high yield during lecture. A slight perk this week was having a random classmate I was sitting next to in lecture tell me “Wow you’re really smart, I hope you’re in my TBL group!” Yea, I felt pretty good. I told her my secret – previewing lectures is totally IN.
  3. I go to lectures. Some of the material is given to us as articulate modules which are prerecorded lectures – in those cases, yea I listen at home. However the in-class lectures are the ones I preview for AND go to lecture. Again for me, it’s making sure I’m engaged and paying attention. I prefer to hear the lecture once and not have to again, so might as well go and cement what I went over the night before. I find that when I stream the lecture live at home, I end up being distracted by other things, but when I’m in the lecture hall, I’m super focused.
  4. I make Anki cards. Anki makes the dream work y’all! It’s a flashcard app that uses spaced repetition and it is simply AMAZING. I make my Anki cards while I preview the lecture or while listening to articulate modules. During lecture, I pay attention to the slides I marked up (“is this important?!”) and more cards get made right there in lecture. I hope you can see how this makes learning a bit more interesting and engaging for me. I go over my Anki cards pretty much everyday – I give myself a break on Saturdays, but the rest of the week, I Anki while walking my roommate’s dog, while studying in my room etc. Yay for technology and being able to synch Anki to both my computer, iPad and phone!

Other things that have also helped is taking Biochemistry, Genetics, Histology, and Anatomy this past year. Shout out to MEDPATH. Some of this material feels like review (or at least vaguely recognizable haha). So these first two weeks haven’t been bad. One of the most enjoyable parts about it is incorporating the different diseases, symptoms, diagnostic methods etc i.e. Cystic Fibrosis. This whole week was pretty heavy on that, we also had a quiz today just on that, ask me anything hahaha.

But that’s how the week has been. Saturday’s are fun days. Last week was full of dancing and I’ve got some equally exciting things to look forward to tomorrow. I hope you do too!

The Fun Begins: My White Coat Ceremony!

“But they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings as eagles; they will run and NOT be weary; and they will walk, and NOT faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

Monday was my white coat ceremony and it was GLORIOUS. As I walked on stage after my name was called, I kept thinking this is really it – a major and symbolic step in my journey. I was overwhelmed with so much joy!

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Shout out to all the curve balls that made my journey to this point a bit more interesting and most importantly, to God who gave me the strength to tackle them all. All those challenges made this moment so much sweeter.

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A big thank you to my friends and family who have supported me throughout, also to you all, who read my blog, who provide encouraging words and put a smile on my face with your thank you emails – you’re appreciated!

Cheers to this next chapter, the curve balls that will be handled with grace (hopefully!), and the opportunity to share my experience through this blog. Looking forward to it all!