Running Towards the End of Year One

April, 14 – May 7, 2015

WEEKS 39 – 42

I am now in Block IV of medical school which is focused on cardiovascular, renal, and respiratory systems. Some may say that I am now studying the meat (or quinoa) and potatoes of medicine. Life has been rather demanding in that the study of these organ systems is a lot of pressure. I feel so compelled to know and understand them. Who wants a doctor who doesn’t understand how the heart works? Not me!

A few awesome things have also happened to me that I am pretty excited about sharing. It has been a few weeks since my last post so let me catch you up on some current events.

1. I took a creative writing class (ALL APRIL). 

If you have been reading my previous blog posts, you can see that I am very interested in narrative medicine and also learning how to communicate effectively both verbally and through the written word. I have done mostly academic writing in high school and college with only a little bit of creative stuff. Most of my creative writing has taken the form of free verse poetry, blogging, movie reviews etc. The short story kind of scares me, and that is one of the main reasons why I chose to write a short story for my project. I used my old narrative medicine story about a patient with SCD who may or may not be drug seeking and tried to revamp it since I was unsatisfied with my first draft from the winter time.


He left, and I forced my eyes shut—trying to sleep but only my eyelids grew tired. The searing pain in my tailbone refused to let my mind rest. I wondered if they all knew that even the vibration from their footsteps ached me to my bones.

 An ER resident pulled back my curtain suddenly. I checked my phone. 3:16 AM. I had waited for 45 minutes. The suddenness of her movements alarmed me more than anything else.

 “Ms. Williams it seems as through you have burned through your morphine prescription from last month. Can you tell me why that is?”

 “I just had to use them.” I answered warily.

If you want to read more, let me know! At the end of the class, we had a special workshop where we read other students’ stories and gave feedback. It was a fabulous growing experience and one of my society deans who is writing a novel herself was there to also give feedback. What I have been learning is that although to become and MD we all have to you know…go to medical school, take board exams and etc, how our lives and careers shape out vary! There is space to pursue your passions if you make it. Doctors can write, be involved in policy-making and see patients.

Our final meeting was at the Cleveland Skating Club in Shaker Heights. Apparently fancy figure skaters have trained there??
Our final meeting was at the Cleveland Skating Club in Shaker Heights. Apparently fancy figure skaters have trained there??

2. Busted out my cello again to help out with Second Look! (Friday, April 17 – Saturday, April 18th) 

It is amazing how quickly a year flies by. I honestly did not know where I was going for medical school a year ago as I was deciding on places as well as waiting on others. But, I am at Case, and I am so glad to be here. Dr. Haynie, one of my society deans said during our SNMA/LMSA minority reception that looking for a new medical school is like buying a pair of shoes. What is the best fit for you may not be for someone else. And although people look out for what is flashy or prestigous (and there is definitely benefits for prestige) you have to always consider what is comfortable. Honestly, I did not know what school would particularly be comfortable for me, because medical school, like a pair of shoes shows its true colors after you have tried it on and taken a walk in it. I just thank God that I am in a place that is comfortable. If I had all the choices in the world, I may not have ended up at a place that is such a good fit.

At Second Look, I was running all over the place. I played in the Doc Opera band for a song, went to the minority reception, tabled for the pediatrics interest group (SO MUCH TALKING. TOO MUCH), was in an corny IQ skit, and helped give one of the bus tours of Cleveland (in which the bus driver kind of just drove to random places in Cleveland I did not know…). I kind of felt like a crazy person and because I was doing so many things, I felt too exhausted to chat candidly with the prospective students…well, we’ll see who comes.

My cello's name is Rafael.
My cello’s name is Rafael.

3. Took a few days off and got some new glasses (Monday, April 20)

My family is so opinionated, and I strive to please them. Therefore, selecting new glasses was more stressful than it should have been and involved a lot of texting and and high cortisol levels. My previous purple pair broke during second look weekend so, I used one of my “Flex Days” (3 days we can take off a year) to act like a grown up and get my eyes checked. Having insurance is the biggest blessing, and I am so thankful I can be covered by my parents’ insurance until residency (age 26). Thanks, Obama! Remember, if they say they don’t have your insurance at LensCrafters, press them! I almost had to pay for everything until they actually had their lives together. One thing I was bothered by was when I got my blood pressure taken. I had been walking quickly into the the mall and the receptionist lady gave me an automated blood pressure wrist thing. It was 130/over something and that is way higher than it has ever been. I personally do not think it was very accurate and just made me feel uncomfortable! Took again later…and it was normal…AHH.

The Winner
The Winner

4. Learned about Armenian Genocide (Friday, April 24)

It’s actually kind of embarrassing that I learned about the genocide of the Armenian people only a few days ago. I don’t remember it from ANY textbook during my schooling. It’s been 100 years since it has happened and still by many it has not been formally acknowledged or apologized for.

The word “genocide” was actually coined by Raphael Lemkin to describe what had happened to the Armenians. 2 out 3 Armenians in Turkey beginning in 1915 were killed. 1.5 million in total.

Hitler once said, “Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness — for the present only in the East — with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

I am so glad that I took some time on a Friday after class to go with an Armenian classmate to a special ceremony at Cleveland’s City Hall. I think it is really important to look outside of ourselves and learn more about the world we live in. Here are some photos.

Cleveland City Hall
Cleveland City Hall

IMG_5569 IMG_5572

5. Got a Diversity Achievement Award (Monday, April 27)

If you have been keeping up with my blog this year, you would have known that I was elected to be one of the diversity representatives for my class in September. It has been an intense ride but also a rewarding ride. I honestly did not want to become diversity representative for my class in order to be rewarded with anything. Frankly, I did not expect that. I said in my statement when I decided to run for the position, that my main goal was to invite all different types of people to engage in conversations surrounding the differences between people. The Diversity Focus group, a coalition I lead along with J (other representative) has truly become a place where different people can discuss aspects concerning what makes us all unique. And, I have been able to join with them in challenging our peers, deans, faculty, and staff to think about social issues that at first may seem outside the realm of medicine but permeate everywhere–from the White Coat Die-In in December to Dr. Haynie’s Civil Rights and Medicine talk. In the future, the DFG is also going to work on helping our Foundations in Clinical Medicine curriculum grow in its discussion of implicit bias and microaggressions.

TANGENT: TOO MANY PEOPLE are saying, “that’s ghetto” when they drive through east Cleveland, and do not understand why using that word associated with working class, under-resourced black areas to describe things they think are ugly, broken, run down, or associated with black people is actually very offensive. (If you are reading this and just learning that now. Here you go… and that is a microaggression. If someone who lived in that area or lives there heard you say that, how do you think they would feel? Comfortable?)

For example, “I would love to go eat at ______ but that area is a bad area. It is so ghetto.”

Another: “Ugh. Dropped my phone. Now it looks so ghetto.”

Honestly, it is actually more frank, and I would prefer it if people had the audacity to say, “I don’t want to eat there because there are a bunch of black people who I don’t understand and suspect may be violent.” That is more straightforward and maybe that is a place where we could start having a conversation about how if they ate at said restaurant they probably won’t get shot, mugged or stabbed. OR how many people who live in “ghettos” actually have phones that work.

How I feel when people say,
How I feel when people say, “Ghetto” inappropriately.

How can implicit bias actually impact patient care? Why does it matter? These are questions we hope to answer in our FCM session for next year.

So, when I was given the Inclusion and Diversity Graduate/Professional Student Achievement Award for my contributions to Case Western, I was so moved. I was moved to have many of my good friends support me as well as my society deans. And, I was moved that my hard work as well as the work of ALL THE PEOPLE who work with me was recognized. I even teared up, which was profoundly embarrassing. Crying in public is not my thing.

Shots from Diversity Achievements Awards
Shots from Diversity Achievements Awards

IMG_5591 IMG_5593

The end of April got even more spectacular…

6. Awarded the American Society of Hematology Minority Medical Student Award! (Monday, April 27)

I believe that is is my calling to be a hematologist. So many things have happened in my life that seem to be propelling me in this direction, and this is no exception. When I shared this news on Facebook, I said this: “It is my dream that within my lifetime, people with sickle cell disease could have normal life expectancies if not by a cure, excellent preventative care and also breakthrough medical treatment. This is why I want to be a hematologist.

So I am so excited to announce that I am one of 12 students selected for the American Society of Hematology Minority Medical Student Award to do research on sickle cell disease while in medical school! Praise God!” If you would like to learn more about the award or have any questions about applying yourself for an ASH award, please let me know! You can learn more about it here. It was such a great way to finish April and even got a congratulations email from Dean Davis, the dean of my medical school. It seems that at Case people are always looking out for you. Later that night, my roommate and I went out to for 50 cent wings to celebrate!

7. Started Clinical Immersion Week (May 4 – May 8)

Now, I am gearing up for my last exam and it is the tail end of clinical immersion week. It has been phenomenal. On Monday, I learned about pulmonary function tests and even did a spirometry one. Those tests are tricky and a bit tiring. Definitely helps build up patient empathy. Talked with and did parts of a CV physical exam on Macedonian man who really just wanted to talk. I then interviewed a 16 year old girl who likes Teen Wolf and also is on dialysis and waiting for a kidney transplant. On Tuesday, I interviewed/did some parts of a physical on a man with stress-induced cardiomyopathy. He was so chatty and really just wanted to talk as well. With talkative patients, I am conflicted because I do want to chat with them, but then again, need to ask certain questions…gotta figure out a way to navigate these conversations. The week also involved heart sounds and EKG workshops, seeing extremely sick people in the ICU and on ventilators and looking at lungs with different types of pathologies. SO MUCH EXPOSURE. SO MUCH LEARNED. Dang, third year I am going to learn a lot. It is as if Case truly desires for us to learn, pass our exams and become competent doctors!

Well, this brings you up-to-date with my life. I better head back to studying so I can pass block IV. Thank you for reading, WASH YOUR HANDS, and be well!

Another post will be coming when I am on the other side of year 1 and a start a research-heavy summer!

MetroHealth Hospital was where one of my sessions was this week.
MetroHealth Hospital was where one of my sessions was this week. It is Cleveland’s Level 1 Trauma Center as well as a really awesome place.

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