The Story of How I Survived the End of Block 2

Weeks 15 and 16 and 17

October 14 – November 2nd, 2014

So much happened after I dropped off the face of the earth on October 13th. There was a marked decrease in my blogging, an increase in my cortisol levels, the amount of frozen food consumed, and Snapchat usage.

But, I’m back! I have lived to tell the tale of block 2. A lot has happened so instead of my usual daily breakdown you’re going to get the highlights of Three Weeks of Insanity. 

Week 1: Before the Storm

No PD this week! Instead, that Monday I had my first orchestra concert with the Case/University Circle Symphony Orchestra. We played the Brahms Academic Festival Overture, Piano Concerto No. 1, and Alan Hovhaness’s Mysterious Mountain. Highlights of the night were that we 1) sounded great! 2) Two people from my IQ group came to support me (Sam and J), and 3) I got to see my friend, Rachael after almost two years!

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It meant a bunch to see her and also the faces of those that I knew in the crowd. Medical students think they are the busiest people most of the time (even through we usually have plenty of free time our first year), so the sacrifice they made to come see me is noteworthy, and I won’t forget it.

I was IQ leader that week for our cases on hereditary patterns of cancer: BRCA mutations and Lynch Syndrome (colorectal cancers). It went well! I really enjoy leading people. I have had plenty of practice facilitating discussions whether it be as a small group bible study leader, in SNMA-MAPS, or teaching middle school girls science as a Sisters4Science facilitator. A lot of times, I feel young (I’m 22) with minimal life experience. Even through I have a B.A, my first degree feels insignificant as I pursue a doctorate. Thus, sometimes I forget that the life that I have led has made me wiser, and I have skills! I’m not a blank slate and I have something to offer people! It was a great way to finish up two blocks with the NUMBER 1 IQ GROUP!

Alex, So Lim, and Tiffany
Alex, So Lim, and Tiffany
Nakul and Emily
Nakul and Emily
Sam working hard as usual, Ryan and J
Sam working hard as usual, Ryan and J

That weekend, I stayed in to start really buckling down for exams. That Friday, I started watching The Flash, which I really enjoyed! There are actually black people in this and the cast is relatively diverse! Shocked and impressed. On Saturday, I left my hermitage to go out with some folks for Yiwen’s birthday. I went to Sokolowski’s, a polish restaurant in Cleveland. Apparently they are famous and Jimmy Fallon has been here…! Frankly, it was okay. The best part were the pierogis, but I was disappointed with the kielbasa.

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Water, big salad, sweet potatoes mashed, kielbasa, pierogis and a roll

I was glad, however, to spend time with all of these folks!

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Aaron and Yiwen
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Nathan, John, Isaac, and Xin

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Week 2: Clinical Emersion Week

Whilst slaving away at school, a library or your room (which I did mostly), the adminstrators at Case thought it was a good idea to remind us of why on earth we want to be doctors at all. So a week before our exams, we had “Clinical Emersion Week.” Packaged in our white coats or scrubs we were sent off to follow busy, doctors and see how they did their jobs. My friend Nakul, and I were sent to shadow residents and their attending at the Seidman Cancer Center. The hem/onc team interestingly did not have any full-blown hematologist/oncologists because they were all residents, a pediatrist, and the attending was a “hospitalist.” Hospitalists are internists who specialize in working with hospitalized patients. I was not particularly inspired by my shadowing this week. But, a few things were of note to me. Hierarchy in medicine is huge, and I like it. I know I may like it less if/when I get chewed out by someone above me, but at the same time there is something comforting about knowing that with time, you will learn more and become senior. With time, you will be able to impart wisdom to other people. And, there is someone there to teach you and learn from. Secondly, health literacy is important. I saw plenty of patients with sickle cell disease, and I was surprised by how little  some of the patients new about what made them sick. This is so different from what goes on in my own home. My parents are physicians and have armed and empowered my siblings with SCD to understand themselves and why they can be sick sometimes. One patient was in an ice cold hospital room (not a good idea), and another had a history of smoking.  One patient, did not know why her eyes were yellow or why taking iron won’t “fix” her anemia. (FYI: yellow eyes are a sign of jaundice brought on by the breakdown of heme found in red blood cells. Bilirubin is the yellow breakdown product that can accumulate in diseases where hemoglobin is often broken down like sickle cell disease. This can lead to the yellowing of the eyes. Defective hemoglobin (HbS) is not due just to faulty iron, and taking more iron for sickled cells will not lead to more optimal outcomes alone). I was very glad that she asked the doctor questions. The doctor did an okay of explaining this to her, but I was surprised that other doctors have not done that before. The patient was a woman in her 20s already with children of her own.

MD comes from the Latin phrase, Medicinae Doctor, meaning “Teacher of Medicine.” At Case, we are taught to have our patients “teach back” to us after teaching them about their health. Does this not happen in real life?

Last observation of note, was a man who had some stomach cancer with the most unkept feet I have ever seen. His feet were ashy and flaking. Ulcers were there, and the toes were long and dark, twisting. Clearly, he did not have good foot care. He said it hurt to bend over to his feet, and I thought to myself: You can tell a lot about someone’s support system by looking at someone’s feet. My feet will probably never look like his. Because, God forbid, if I could not reach my feet, someone would help me. Sometimes people do not have anyone. No one to help at all. That is sobering.

Early that week, I learned how to put a catheter in a man and woman, do a rectal exam, and pelvic exam. It was all kinds of awkward, and we were just working on plastic dummies…lots to learn there.

Week 3: Exams!!!! 

Exam week involved a lot of misery, caffeine and Snapchat. If I were to psychoanalyze myself it would be that snapchating from my hermitage allowed me to connect to the outside world. Let me show you some an example:

Check out this caption!
Check out this caption!

I also was lucky enough to receive gifts from my awesome M2 Buddy, Becca. Behold, pumpkin cake-cream cheese-woopie-pies! The paper bag was filled with goodies from Case’s CMDA. (Christian Medical and Dental Assocation).

#Blessed
#Blessed

I also thought of my life in units of Pomodoros. It is a system of keeping time and not procrastinating. A pomodoro = 25 minutes.

Yay, me?
Yay, me?

Heating in my apartment was not consistent the week before so the rug I ordered arrived!

New rug. Warm Feet!
New rug. Warm Feet!

And yes, I had tests. The first day of anatomy and histopathology went well, I believe! I studied and I think my hard work paid off. The second day…I studied but I am not sure if my “best was good enough.” Reminded me of the University of Chicago. 😛 So much struggle and confusion by the cohort of questions we were asked. Hopefully that went okay…

Many people were not enthusiastic after Thursday’s essay exam, but no matter! We (my IQ group and I) went out to get some burgers and eat together! I loved the Winking Lizard restaurant on Coventry Road. I’ll be going back there…for the burgers and long island iced teas.

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Western Burger. Cheddar cheese, BBQ, Bacon and Fried Onions. :)
Western Burger. Cheddar cheese, BBQ, Bacon and Fried Onions. 🙂

Thursday evening I went out for a “Stay Well” community outreach event in East Cleveland. It had been a long since I have been in an “impoverished” area. Living in Hyde Park for four years, exposed me to south side living quite often. For church on 64th and Ingleside, I would head south and see people who may have been struggling. I would take the 4 bus to 47th and Cottage Grove to my job and now I feel that I am such a bubble (specifically 2 floors in a building on Adelbert Road…) I was not enthusiastic about heading out to East Cleveland after a day of tests, but I was very glad that I went afterward. I helped take blood pressure and check people’s blood glucose levels–helping people be more aware of their health. It was rewarding.

Friday was Halloween. After our mock step I exam, I watched Tombstone which is a terrific Western with one of the best gun fight scenes ever. And, I’ve seen a lot of westerns. Val Kilmer made an exceptional Doc Holiday. How was he not nominated for an Oscar for it? At night, I considered going out but it was cold. It was wet. I was tired. One dayyyyy…I had a wonderful time, instead, staying in with the magnificent Aaida. Pizza, pasta, GINGER ALE + CRANBERRY JUICE (I seriously thought I was the only person who liked that combo before meeting Aaida) ice cream, popcorn and Knight and Day happened. It was just lovely.

Magnificent Aaida
Magnificent Aaida

The next morning, I took care of business. My old Macbook pro (4 yrs old) had a swollen battery problem. It was quite severe to say the least. I took it to the Apple Store to get removed so that the lithium would not kill me or my flatmate.

Yeah...
Yeah…

I went to the mall with Gi Yoon and her college friend, Ruth! It was nice to get out and shop. However, being at a mall semi-independently without my mom or sisters really made me miss home. Less than 20 days until I return! Ruth had a “surprise” birthday celebration for Gi Yoon! I’ve never had an Auntie Anne “cake” before. It was great.

Happy Almost Birthday, Gi Yoon!
Happy Almost Birthday, Gi Yoon!

In the evening on Saturday, I saw Dear White People. I was quite impressed and highly recommend it. I also so one of my medical school deans there! I was glad that the racial make of the theater was quite divided as an equal number of white people and black people were there. I believe that the movie has a lot to say to any person willing to listen. Later that night, I saw The Shawshank Redemption completely for the first time with my flatmate, Jen! It was AMAZING. This is probably obvious to you since I was the last person on the planet to see it. I still am shocked that it was written by Stephen King.

Sunday was equally restful and Jen and I cleaned up the apartment. I geared up for the next day of classes, and block 3 by…BINGE WATCHING ALL OF DOWNTON ABBEY SEASON 5.

Then sleep, sweet sleep and a new beginning. I learned so much in block 2 about how to do medical school better, and I am looking forward to a new block with no mistakes in it…yet. 🙂

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