premed

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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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!

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!

Roses, Long Distance Relationships, and the Joys of Anatomy

Last week was full of celebration. I received my official email, chose my white coat size, I mean it was legit. I also purchased my first DSLR camera –  woot woot! I’m trying to pick up photography as a hobby, but I’m a total newbie – alas, I’m still learning the basics. A friend of mine invited me out to a baby shoot she was doing for a client and I got to observe. It was my first time at Columbus Park of Roses and I was stunned by how breathtaking the whole park was. Here are some dope (raw) shots I took:

My boyfriend also visited that weekend. He’s a medical student and had just completed his last clinical shelf exam for third year (woot woot 4th year status!), so it was double the celebration! We’ve been long distance for the past year, so seeing each other always feels like a treat. I believe the saying goes, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” well I’ll add that it certainly makes you appreciate the time you’re able to spend together. Especially since we’re not only long distance but both in medical school now (double whammy!), we definitely treasure the times we’re able to physically see each other. And per usual, it was full of laughter and adventures.

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Sadly, Monday rolled around and it was time to get back into the swing of things, aka studying and getting more acquainted with the cadavers. Anatomy is a huge learning curve y’all! Right now we’re on upper limbs and I’m like, so many muscles in the forearm and hand, all these origins and insertions, the brachial plexus, tis too much! Yea, keeping it all straight is a challenge. Our practical and written exam is this Monday and I’m just going to keep going over the material till it sticks. I use Net Anatomy to study since my school has  a subscription to that. I also use Gray’s Atlas of Anatomy. It’s a bit challenging since we don’t have 24-hour access to the cadaver lab for this summer portion. I suppose I can’t complain though, it’s pass/ fail. Most importantly, being able to recall most of this material when we start MSK block (musculoskeletal system) in the fall is GOLD. I’m always down with anything that makes life easier. On that note, back to the books I go!

Reaction video: It’s official!

Yesterday was a BIG day for me. How big, you ask?

FLIPPING BIG!

Yesterday, the MCAT scores were released *GASPS!* Yes, I know. This is major. As you all know, one of the requirements for my conditional acceptance into medical school was retaking the MCAT. The date was scheduled for us, fixed, with no chance of rescheduling. All 15 of us MEDPATHers were set to take it on May 14th. This was about 2 weeks after our second semester ended. The goal was the meet/ surpass the minimum score required of us. As part of the program, we took The Princeton Review MCAT prep course; this was our “Independent study” course and counted towards credits for the spring semester. This was HUGELY beneficial for me since I had never taken a MCAT prep course in the past.

Anyhoo, fast-forward through all the studying, taking the exam that fateful Saturday, then waiting 31 days for the score to come out. June 14 finally rolled around and being the person that I am, I documented the moment I saw my score – I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for capturing memories. I opened my score page and…**drumroll please** not only did I meet the goal score, but I surpassed it and scored in the 80th percentile. To give you an idea, that translates to somewhere between 30 – 31 on the old MCAT. So yea, it went relatively well. No more ifs, buts, or maybes, my white coat ceremony is August 1st! I’ll definitely write more in-depth about how I studied in future posts. But first…here’s my reaction video!

Click here to  watch

I’m All The Way Up!

Hello beautiful people! It’s definitely been a WHILE. I’ll admit I haven’t been the most consistent but so much has happened these past two months – I finished my 2nd semester of MEDPATH, retook the MCAT (as required for the conditional acceptance), went on a 8 day bus hopping trip, and started the summer portion of my program (Anatomy + Immuno). Yep, a lot has certainly happened and to be honest, I’m feeling like,

Nothing can stop me, I’m all the way up!

I’m sure the amazing weather and overall summer vibes has something to do with it. And of course, the fact that there’s just one month, three weeks, and 6 days till my white coat ceremony (Yes, I have a countdown app for this, who gon check me boo!). This song has been my anthem for the past few weeks – can you blame me though? The beat y’all, it’s the beat! What songs are you vibin’ to lately?