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It’s Over, But Not Really

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

I suppose that this is officially my first post as an MD. I am now a graduate. I now can tack on the suffix M.D. to my name. I remember just one day after graduation I sat staring at my diploma. As I stared at it, I almost could not believe it was in front of me. I looked at the piece of paper — a sheet of paper that has been the most expensive (physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally) paper I have ever earned.
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During the days prior to graduation, I remember feeling excited. At the same time, I also felt nervous. Nervous about being done. Nervous about new responsibilities. Nervous about wearing the long white coat I have wanted ever since I looked into the mirror and saw how ridiculous my short white coat looked. I am now waiting for my long coat. Literally. I sent an email to the Graduate Medical Education (GME) office a few weeks ago with my size. I hope I sent in the right size. Again, I am excited. But again, I am nervous about the long white coat and all the responsibility it represents.

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

And so, my medical school career is over. One chapter is completed. But I know that I am far from the end. Medical training continues at the next stage — residency. I know, too, that it will continue long after I leave residency. Medicine, as they have taught me throughout medical school, is about lifelong learning. In the grand scheme of things, I am still at the beginning. I have “leveled up,” but I’m still at a very low level.

I have a long way to go. I know the road ahead will be hard. But it’ll be full of adventure, I’m sure.

I will continue to blog here. For those of you who have been following my journey thus far, I hope you stick around.

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How Do You Like Loma Linda?

How do you like Loma Linda?

Over the course of this interview season, this is a question that I have been asked numerous times. The person asking me really doesn’t care whether or not I like the city of Loma Linda. The implied question is whether or not I like Loma Linda University School of Medicine. The question is one that has been asked by fellow interviewees. It’s not unusual. While waiting in a room full of interviewees, conversation usually starts out with asking each other what school one is from. This question is usually followed by a “how do you like it there?” question. Invariably, the answer is positive — or at least neutral.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard an applicant say they didn’t like the school they came from. And for some reason, I somehow doubt that anyone would admit to disliking their soon-to-be alma mater — at least not while on the interview trail.

So how do I like Loma Linda? I like it very much. I think medical schools are more similar than different. We learn the same material. We take the same national exams. Sure, each institution offers their twist on how the material is presented, but the material is the same.

One thing that is different here is Loma Linda’s emphasis on Whole-Person Care. The curriculum is designed to not only emphasize the physical pathophysiology, but to also highlight aspects of spiritual care as well. I feel like I have been encouraged to go beyond the diagnosis — to treat the patient and not just the disease.

I have accepted that I attend a medical school whose name does not carry the weight of an ivy league establishment. I have become accustomed to puzzled looks when I say that I go to Loma Linda University. Many people outside the area have never heard of this place. Saying I attend a medical school in Southern California usually gets guesses of UCLA or USC. But once in a while I do come across people who have heard about Loma Linda.

On a recent interview, a program director in another state noted my educational pedigree. Glendale Adventist Academy for high school. Walla Walla College (now Walla Walla University) for my bachelor’s degree. Loma Linda University for medical school. “You must be a Seventh-day Adventist,” he said to me. He continued, “we like students from Loma Linda. Do you realize that your ethics curriculum is more extensive than most other schools?”

On another interview a resident asked me what school I came from. When he heard I was from Loma Linda he said that it was plus for me since the program liked Loma Linda students — they’re usually a really nice group of people.

It was nice to go outside of the this insulated, geographical area where everyone knows of Loma Linda University and hear other opinions of my home institution from people who have no incentive to say anything nice about it. Or maybe it was just a little bit of validation that I appreciated hearing.

So how do I like Loma Linda? Evidently, I like it very much.

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LLU School of Medicine Student Blogs

Apparently Loma Linda University School of Medicine has started a group blog for students from LLU. This is the first I’ve heard of it. And it looks fairly new.

I’m guessing they asked/invited these students to write for them.

You can check the group blog at: http://llusm.wordpress.com/.

So if you’re at all interested in Loma Linda University School of Medicine, you can definitely find more student perspectives there.

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Annual Post-Graduate Convention 2011

This weekend is the Annual Post-Graduate Convention (APC) here at Loma Linda University. During this weekend, alumni come back to fellowship and, if they want, sit in on lectures that count towards CME credit.

Coincidentally I was out on campus taking pictures around sunset. As I stood there taking one picture I spoke to one of the ladies heading towards the campus church where the evening’s event was taking place.

She told me that her husband graduated from Loma Linda University 50 years ago. I can’t imagine where I’ll be 50 years from now. I hope that I will still be able to trek back and see old (literally) faces.

Here are a few of the pictures I took last night.

Sonkissed

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Change The World

I’m not in the habit of adding music to my blog posts. So this is a special occasion — or just an opportunity for me to hunt down and try out a new plugin for my blog.

Yesterday I drove back to Loma Linda (from San Fernando) to get my H1N1 vaccine and to pick up some other things. This vaccine was the main reason. I received an email a couple weeks back saying that all students at Loma Linda University would be required to have the vaccination in order to register for Spring quarter. Last week (during exams), I received an email from one of my deans stating that I had not yet received mine and they wanted to know why and when I would get one. So, taking advantage of Christmas break (a time when the I’ve-got-to-study-every-minute-I-can feeling is slightly diminished), I decided to get my shot.

On the drive back I selected shuffle on my iPod and placed Apple in charge of my driving music. I frequently download music, add it to my library, and never listen to it. So there are plenty of songs that have a zero play count. But eventually I do get to hear some of the songs when my iPod shuffles to it.

Somewhere around Pasadena this song started playing (lyrics below). I think it was the first time I’d ever listened to it.

As the chorus played I thought about medicine — about the practice of it. I thought about the current healthcare reform debate. I thought about the seeming futility of trying to make a difference. I thought of all the practicing doctors who started out hoping to change the world but who have since become filled with cynicism. And I thought about Loma Linda University’s motto: “…to Make Man Whole.”

Can we make a difference on a grand scale? I don’t know. Through the optimistic lenses of my medical student glasses I’d like to hope that we can. I want to believe it’s possible.

But at the very least, we can start on the path towards changing the world by making a difference in the lives of one patient at a time.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas.

If you’re a medical student, or any other student, I hope you get well-rested, refreshed, and ready to attack a new quarter come January.

If you’re out of school and working, I hope the office Christmas parties will have made you smile at least a little — even if it was to laugh at the foolishness around you.

And if you are a bum, I hope the chaos of the season will not be too overwhelming for you.

Change
Performed by Carrie Underwood
Album: Play On

What’cha gonna do with the 36 cents
Sticky with Coke on your floorboard
When a woman on the street is huddled in the cold
On a sidewalk vent trying to keep warm
Do you call her over hand her the change
Ask her a story ask her her name
Or do you tell yourself

You’re just a fool
Just a fool
You believe you can change the world
You’re just a fool
Just a fool
You believe you can change the world

What’cha gonna do when you’re watching t.v.
And an ad comes on
Yeah you know the kind
Flashin’ up pictures of a child in need
For a dime a day you can save a life
Do you call the number reach out a hand
Or do you change the channel call it a scam
Or do you tell yourself

You’re just a fool
Just a fool
You believe you can change the world
Don’t you listen to them when they say
You’re just a fool
Just a fool
You believe you can change the world
Oh the smallest thing can make all the difference
Love is alive
Don’t listen to them when they say
You’re just a fool
Just a fool
You believe you can change the world

The worlds so big it could break your heart
And you just wanna help
But not sure where to start
so you close your eyes
Send up a prayer into the dark

You’re just a fool
Just a fool
You believe you can change the world
Don’t listen to them when they say
Youre just a fool
Just a fool you believe
You can change the world
Oh the smallest thing can all the difference
Love is alive
Don’t listen to them when they say
You’re just a fool
Just a fool
You believe you can change the world

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The Game Plan

It’s been two weeks since we had midterm exams. I did alright; I didn’t reach my goal. But I can do better. Not getting down on myself at all — just trying to learn and improve.

I was talking to someone who I would call my coach. She talked to me about now moving on to Peak Performance.

What is peak performance? She gave me a few things to consider.

I told her that my final exams for the fall quarter would begin on the week of December 14.

She told me that she wanted me to be prepared for exams by December 10 and that the days between the 10th and the 14th would serve as relaxed, light, review. Furthermore, she wanted me to attack my studies with 100% intensity. Two weeks before the exams I am to drop down to 80% and then the final week before the exams begin will be down to 60%

That sounds great. But how do I do that?

Well she told me it would be tiring. She told me that I would be tired now. But it would pay off during exams. It’d pay off when, on the night before my exam, I can go to bed early and wake up refreshed because I don’t have to cram.

My coach is a big fan of sports analogies. And I think the analogies are pretty spot on — at least most of the time.

How do peak performers, people who are at the top of their respective games, prepare for the big day/game?

Well this is what she taught me of what Peak Performers do:

  • Get ready way ahead of time.
  • Strategize from day 1 — and in my case this means forming a study strategy for every single subject.
  • Practice daily as if I am performing on the final day — For me, she wants me studying now at 100% intensity because that is the intensity I will need come test day.
  • Go for the win; no other option is on the radar
  • Be solution-focused. If they don’t perform well, peak performers reflect, learn, and then grow. they don’t stew/gripe over a misstep.

It’s a tall order. I’m a bit intimidated by it. But I want to. I see her this coming week and she is expecting me to give a study plan for each subject. I am supposed to look ahead in the class schedule and start planning backwards.

This weekend I will create a daily schedule — hopefully I will be able to stick to it. No, I will stick to it.

It’s 5 weeks ’till game time. And the preparation begins now.

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Year 2, Week 2 — I Have My Goal

I apologize for my completely lazy title. I’m tired. And it fits.

It’s the end of the second week of the sophomore year here at LLU. Some of you who have read my blog in the past might be wondering why I am writing about the beginning of sophomore year. Well because I am in the sophomore class — again. If you’re curious, check out my post titled “Back to Blogging” where I wrote about coming back to LLU after skipping exams and telling my dean I wanted his signature on my withdrawal slip.

It’s definitely strange. There is a sense of deja vu. Maybe it’s more than just a sense. I am hearing the same lectures for a second time. And I hope I can make the most of it.

But it is alienating to come into the lecture hall and see a totally different class. Unfamiliar voices and faces. And everyone there knows that you are a new face that was not part of the class 3 months ago — that you don’t belong.

I suck it up though. Because this is what I have to go through to get to where I want to be. And I’m not saying that my new classmates are unfriendly. They very well might be. And I have met a couple here and there that have been really nice. But I am definitely not the outgoing type. So that doesn’t help.

As I begin the second year for a second time I have to ask, what about me is different? Because if nothing has changed, then the outcome is likely to be the same frustration and anger that I felt before — which is definitely not a good thing. The last time it led to a failed attempt at withdrawing.

Well in short, a lot has changed. I am not the same student. Sure, I still want to goof off and procrastinate. But I have put myself on a schedule to keep myself on task. My break times, study times, meal times, and sleep times are planned out and printed out. I make a more concerted effort to focus and absorb/understand as much as possible from lectures. I cut down my internet/TV time. But the most significant change is probably attitude. I hate studying. I’ve said that before and I will probably be saying it many more times (or write it, for that matter).

But I have decided that I want to be a doctor. Yes, dear reader (intentionally left in the singular), I WANT TO BE A DOCTOR. And this process of spending hours with the books is NOT just a means to an end. Every opportunity to learn in medical school is a chance to shape the kind of doctor I will one day become. I don’t want to be some run-of-the-mill MD that just barely gets through, perfectly able to handle 90% of the problems 90% of the population see a doctor for.

The thing is, this will probably require me to throw my entire being at chasing a class ranking in the top 20% for this sophomore year (I’m not including the freshman year because mine sucked. I passed. But I’m definitely not proud of it.) Not for the sake of bragging rights, competitive residencies, or being “smart,” but because effectively soaking up everything I can in order to be the best doctor I can be will probably put me in that envied company as a serendipitous byproduct.

It’s a high challenge — especially for a life-long procrastinator and self-proclaimed loather-of-studying like me. Because it almost sounds like that percentile is my goal. And shockingly, that is the case. That’s what I am aiming for. In writing. On the Internet. For all (or one) to see.

In the end, should I fail to reach my goal, I hope that it is because I could not pull it off — not because I did not try hard enough or was not disciplined enough. Only time will tell, though.But the bar has been set high because one doesn’t achieve lofty goals without first being willing to set the goal behind daunting obstacles.

Wish me luck ;)