blogging

My 5 Takeaways From M1 Year

I’ve had several people ask me what I enjoyed most about my first year of medical school and the lessons I learned. Reflecting on this past year, it’s amazing how FAST it all went. At the same time, when I think about my white coat ceremony on August 1st, that memory seems like ages ago. My white coat is certainly not as clean, and all the excitement that came with it has slowly faded (it’s lazily drapped in my car as we speak!). I remember how excited I was for Musculoskeletal (MSK) block and anatomy, dreading my 26th birthday and feeling like time was slipping past me, and even my first suture clinic! So much has happened this year: moments of celebration, and of course, some lows as well. So here are 5 takeaways!

  1. Shadowing is BAE: This has honestly been one of my favorite parts of this year thus far. I shadowed in ophthalmology, radiation oncology, OBGYN – labor and delivery twice, emergency medicine, general surgery, and urology (twice!). I even got to scrub in! And of course, there’s also my family medicine clinic (longitudinal practice) that I went to every 2 weeks as part of our curriculum. Besides my longitudinal practice, all those shadowing experiences were things I sought out on my own. It’s certainly been an outstanding amount of clinical exposure and it’s helped me in clarifying my interests and what specialty I’ld like to go into. Perhaps I’ll write a separate post about that, but I will say that I started med school saying “No way I’m doing a surgical specialty. I LOVE my life too much, plus that’s 5 years of residency! I’m already a nontraditional student!” and now I’m actually strongly considering a surgical specialty. I realized I’ld rather love what I do than be in a specialty I have no passion for, but went into because of lifestyle. Funny how that works doesn’t it?
  2. I learned you have to adapt QUICKLY: I learned this lesson during the first block (foundations one) and it was very present in each and every block thereafter. If a method isn’t working, and you’ve waited long enough to see that, change it ASAP. This included study methods, study groups, resources/ books, time management (i.e. finding time to talk to my significant other) and so on.
  3. It’s okay to say NO: man oh man, as the year went on, I started saying no, more often. No, to hanging out, and no, to committing to things I would have said yes to in the past. Why? Because I realized there was a value on my time. Other students didn’t have the same commitments I did. And it occurred to me that even though I said no, there would be someone else who would say yes. I knew my limits and I have historically been one of those people that stretch themselves THIN. I was trying to avoid that this year. Although, from my neuro block, I definitely did do the most there, but you know, everything is a lesson.
  4. Work hard, but also PLAY hard: Remember how I said cardiopulm broke my heart? Well during that block, I felt miserable and I think it was partially because I was all work and little to no play. It affected my mental state and eventually my physical (eating badly, gained a few pounds). Your mind needs a BREAK! And I learned there needs to be some sort of balance. Neuro, as crazy as it was, had a ton of happy moments. It was a lot of work, but coming out of cardiopulm, I was like, there has to be some PLAY in my life. And I honestly think that’s what helped me get through that block. Even with all the craziness and how busy it was, I ended up doing better on my block exam for neuro than I did for cardiopulm!
  5. Know your LIMITS: This is similar to my “saying no” bullet above but it mostly relates to wedding planning. Did I mention how happy I am that we moved the date? I’m not superwoman y’all, and I perfectly okay with that.

So those are 5 takeaways from this past year. And here’s the overall recap:

  • I turned 26 and celebrated it with friends in Washington D.C.
  • I got engaged in December – WHOOHOO!
  • I spent Christmas in Jamaica (first time!) and got to meet my fiance’s extended family
  • I traveled to San Diego, California for Spring Break
  • I traveled to Atlanta for SNMA national conference – had a BLAST!
  • I had a mini breakdown and cried over Neuro (I told y’all it had me shook right?)
  • I was awarded a research grant to conduct my independent summer project
  • I realized urology MAY be my dream specialty
  • I gained new mentors

And I confirmed there’s nothing else I’ld rather do than medicine. This year was AMAZING! Cheers to a year of growth!

IMG_1014.JPG

Pictured: Mine and my fiance’s stethoscope. Married to medicine! Photographed by Tonjanika Smith photography. Do not use without permission. Thanks!

Neuro: I love the eyes, but the brain? Not so much

As you can tell, I’m slowly but surely recapping these past few months. This brings me up to the FINAL block of my first year of medical school – Neuro! The neuro block for us was 8 weeks (March 20th – May 19th) and included neurology, psychiatry, and ophthalmology, and of course, all the physiology, pathology, histology, and anatomy associated with it all. Basically, it was A LOT.

bruh

After my cardiopulm experience, I was determined to make this a better block – to get back on my self-care and start exercising regularly again, to get back to cooking, and basically reestablish balance. Earlier in the year, I signed up for a half marathon, so I had no choice but to train or get injured. This was some motivation because my race was during this block! At the same time, I had a lot of things going on. I was still planning my wedding, had an engagement shoot scheduled in Philadelphia, had a national conference I was going to in Atlanta (SNMA Annual Medical Education Conference) and would be missing 3 days of lectures, and again, neuro was A LOT of material.

this is fine meme.jpg

On top of all that, I discovered (perhaps partially due to all the craziness I had going on), I wasn’t overly moved by what I was learning. Alas, as fascinating as some of my classmates found the brain to be, I was like mmm, I’m just tryna learn this material and move ON. There were several neural pathways/ tracts to know and a myriad of neurological disorders to differentiate from. I was like bruhhh! But then we got to the ophthalmology material, and something clicked. I could actually SEE the pathology and say yes, that’s glaucoma, or that’s a retinal detachment etc. It also helped that I felt a personal connection to what we were learning (The biographical film “Ray” on Ray Charles life is one of my favorites! And also disparities in health care, as can be seen in ophthalmology, always peak my interest). That’s when it dawned on me. I liked being able to diagnose by imagery. I wanted to be able to SEE the pathology. The whole guessing game and having to piece together a puzzle was absolutely thrilling to some of my classmates, for me, I was like nahh, neurology isn’t my calling. Ophthalmology was fascinating to me and turned out to be my favorite part of the block. In my opinion, it was also well taught by the professors, so of course that adds to the positive experience.

Due to all the things I had going on, this block turned out to be mentally, one of the most challenging. To summarize:

  1. We decided to post-pone our wedding from next year to my 4th year of med school. Planning as a medical student is hard. Trying to coordinate schedules when you’re both in medicine is difficult. And having a multicultural wedding involving family members in different countries is so sooo hard. In addition, having a wedding date that requires you to plan during your Step 1 study period is such a HORRIBLE idea. In summary, I’m glad we changed the date. It allowed me to also focus more on neuro and I needed that!
  2. We still did the engagement shoot in Philly. And the pictures were amazing! I had a whole situation trying to find a dress, and ended up deciding on Rent The Runway last minute. The dress turned out to be perfect!
  3. I ran the half marathon although I didn’t train as well as I would have liked. To top it off, on race day there was a huge rain storm with thunder, lightning, the works! The half marathon ended up being cancelled while I was racing due to safety reasons. I made it though 9.5 miles though!
  4. The SNMA Annual Medical Education Conference was LIT! I learned a lot, met some of my social media friends, got to spend time with my fiance (we attended the conference together), and Atlanta is such a FUN city. I can certainly see myself settling there in the future.
  5. I eventually caught up on the lectures I missed because of the conference, but maaaan, it was STRESSFUL. Shout out to my fiance for encouraging me and tryna keep me sane, Lord knows I was in panic mode for a bit.
  6. I made it through Neuro and finished my first year of medical school! Officially a 2nd year med student! Thanks to God for the strength through it all. There was a lot of craziness in that block!

Resources used:

And here’s a sneak picture of our engagement shoot! It was a great experience thanks to Tonjanika Smith Photography.

IMG_0996
IMG_1006

Thanks for reading! And don’t forget to subscribe!

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.

unnamed (1)

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!

unnamed.jpg

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:

lillyfirstaidbrs

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!

img_7965

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 🙂

“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).

aint-nobody-got-time-for-that

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!

image

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.

image

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!

Meet Jessica – A 1st Year Med Student at The Ohio State University

A first-generation high school graduate, college graduate, and now medical student, Jessica certainly has an inspiring story! Born to Mexican immigrants, she serves as a role model not only to her family members but to people in her community. She’s a good friend and classmate of mine who recently started Inspire Hope, a YouTube channel targeting high school and college students interested in the premed track. I’m very excited to share her story on my blog and hope you will be as inspired as I am!

A few key points from the interview:

  • It wasn’t until her senior year of high school that she decided to pursue medicine
  • She went through the medical school application cycle twice
  • The MCAT was a challenge for her, but after a couple of retakes, she beat it
  • She created her YouTube channel to inspire high school students

Free MCAT prep courses mentioned in the video:

Check out our video interview to learn more about her story!

Halfway done!

Happy July everyone! I have a feeling it’s going to be a GREAT month. We started head & neck in Anatomy earlier this week, which means…**drumroll please** we’re halfway done with the summer session! Hallelujah praise Him!!! In all seriousness, it’s an AWESOME feeling knowing there’s just 3 weeks left of classes. Although we only get a week vacation before first year starts, I’m going to milk that break for all its worth. No plans yet, besides relaxing and hanging out with my fam; but the plan is to recharge as much as possible before ish gets real.

In the midst of classes, I’m still fitting in some fun here and there. The weather has been GORGEOUS and it’s been the perfect opportunity to test out my photography skills. I tried taking some shots of myself with the timer (and on my tripod), and bruhhh the struggle! How do some fashion bloggers do it?! I’m still getting the hang of my DSLR, and my biggest challenge is focusing. I was able to get some decent shots though. Cheers to this learning process!

DSC_0283

I’ve also been experimenting in the kitchen and cooking a lot lately – lots of veggies and home cooked meals. I’ve been feeding my body yummy goodness and it’s been loving me back! This week I found out that OSU has a community garden that’s open to the public. The Ross Heart Hospital community garden has weekly classes where they talk about the importance of nutrition, cooking, and healthy eating. Afterwards, you can pick from the garden – FOR FREE! Yes, vegetables for free, I was like what?! Sign me up! I went for the first time this week and a chef taught us how to make two plant-based sauces, afterwards was harvesting time. I probably picked close to $50 worth of groceries – it was awesome. The next day, I made some yummy goodness. Looking forward to experimenting some more!

DSC_0291

If you have any favorite veggie dishes, send them my way 🙂

Hope you all have a wonderful and safe July 4th weekend!