Chrysalis

“All is flux and nothing stays still.” – Heraclitus, 500BC

This blog post has been waiting a long time to be written. Since my last post in November, this idea existed only as a text document silently blinking in the corner of my laptop, a mess of jumbled ideas and half-thoughts impeded by my Block 4 burnout. Little by little, I’ve been adding to it, hoping for the day that I could finally muster up the inspiration to add form and substance to my ideas. Well, today is that day. And like all good ideas, it comes right before a busy week of a TBL, administrative meetings, presentations, and the start of the Infectious Diseases block.

this-is-fine-dog-embed_c1wcflsukty01jr4jtcy11rrx

The theme of this entry is transformation. Quite paradoxically, transformation has been the one constant that I’ve noticed over the past few weeks (my existential rambling will be explained shortly). To put everything into context, our past month was spent on a course called LifeStages, which explores the transformation one goes through from birth through death, and emphasizes the psychological, economic, and sociocultural determinants of health along the way. Although it was explained to many of us as “Winter Break Part 2,” I appreciate that it distilled much of what clinicians amass over years of experience. Thus, it was an opportunity to reflect on the journeys that we all go through, and the transformation that occurs along the way.

It’s funny how different I feel, even within the span of a few months. While I obviously have much, much, MUCH longer to go, I made sure I spent this winter looking back on the things I was able to accomplish. My first post on this blog was an early, but very real concern that I would not hit my stride. At that point, I had my doubts about making friends or succeeding in a new environment. Now, I’m finding my place in school leadership, forging new partnerships between my school and community organizations, and inching closer toward the doctor I’ve always dreamed of becoming. This month my clinic team and I were able to graduate our patient to a different program. From the first day I met her as a med student who knew absolutely nothing about patient care, we have gone on a journey together. The last time I saw her, she looked different. She smiled in a way that I can tell she hadn’t in a long time. As a team, we helped her get health insurance after she left her job due to chronic disability and anxiety, as well as tackle her newly diagnosed depression and loss of autonomy. Eventually, she came to realize that it was ok to ask for help, and that we were there so she didn’t have to go through something like this alone.

Although I thoroughly enjoy my time in clinic as a grounding experience that anchors me in the present, my other favorite aspect about being at a new school is our ability to mold our environment as we move forward; I describe it to students visiting on interview days as a “medical school startup.” We broke ground in this city for a reason; there is a purpose to everything that we do. We are constantly reminded that our mission is to transform and empower a community, and if we don’t do that, we have failed. I realize now that we are not only being groomed to effect positive change in this city, but to transform the dialogue of medicine and society at large. This past Wednesday, an ad-hoc panel comprised of myself and a few of my classmates had our second meeting with senior leadership staff regarding bias in medicine and medical education. I don’t know how often this occurs at other schools, but I am still taken aback by how our dean, vice dean, and other leaders actively engaged with us about how to best address issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, and overall respect within our institution. Our requests included additions to educational material to reflect our community and the challenges our patients must overcome, as well as standards that ensured mutual respect between both faculty and fellow students. While we are nowhere near resolving the issues that this community and our nation at large still struggle with, I honestly believe that I am at the right place. I am meant to be at this school surrounded by people I have the privilege of calling my classmates and friends.

Without divulging too much personal information, all I can say is that my classmates are amazing. To end LifeStages, we had a final “Meet the Students” segment. Throughout the course, we had various “Meet the Professors/Patients” workshops integrated into our curriculum, mostly there to shed light on how patients and their families deal with medical disabilities. However, this session was an opportunity for some students to speak in front of the class and faculty to share their life experiences. Mental illness, poverty, domestic violence and child abuse, drug addiction, you name it. And still, the theme was transformation: fighters became artists, users became creators, lambs became lions. There was a sanctity that came over the room when people spoke. At times it felt so raw and uncomfortable, invasive even, that sitting just three feet away from the podium made me feel like I was intruding on a private moment. In an hour and a half, the mood went back and forth between the austerity of a funeral and the ebullience of a wedding, yet somehow it all made sense with the rhythm of the event. What I took away from that afternoon was more important that anything I could learn from a book. In a way, listening to someone tell you a story like that can change you too. I don’t think that I can look at a friend, a patient, or any other person for that matter without thinking about the transformations they’ve gone through. Or perhaps, the transformation they are undergoing right now. You just never know who’s gone through hell and back.

To those who wish to pursue medicine: I don’t have much experience yet, but I can honestly say that I’m living my dream. What I do know is that you should stay focused, be compassionate, have empathy, advocate for your patients, and embrace transformation. In the end, those qualities are all that you really have to offer and the only ones that actually matter. And that is something that will never change.

Thanks for stopping by.

– TS℞

 

 

 

White Coat Woes

“Hi, I’m student doctor James, nice to meet you. What brings you in today?”

I never really intended on blogging, but after starting a maybe-kinda-sorta-project on Instagram a few months ago, I decided to chronicle my adventures in medical school. I have no intentions of being famous from this, I just want to share my story (but with the way my student loans are looking, that actually wouldn’t be so bad). Though I initially intended my IG account to be a superficial collection of lifestyle posts, OOTDs, and awesome food, it soon became apparent that I needed to do more. While I believe my IG account will continue to stay as it is, I hope to use this to share more detail: thrift store hauls, style tips for the sartorially inclined, an awesome meal I’ve had, advice and fears about medical school for premeds and fellow medical students. I also hope you all can share with me, even if I only have 5 followers. So, let me start off with my first few months of medical school.

Like many of you premeds and med students out there, this is a goal that I’ve worked toward for the majority of my academic life. It’s interesting being back at square one, especially after being so laser-focused on getting into med school for over 10 years. It’s humbling (yet funny), going from knowing nothing to still knowing nothing, but about different stuff. I’m adjusting well both academically and socially, but to be honest, I’m still uncomfortable in my white coat. I just don’t feel like I’ve earned it yet.

Before my white coat ceremony I thought it was nice that my school waited until after our first exam to don us with the symbol of our profession (although if I had to change one thing, maybe it wouldn’t have been directly after our exam that morning). In contrast to some of my peers at other schools, I thought “yeah, I’ve earned the right to wear this.” I was right, kind of.

Since then, I’ve demonstrated proficiency on two exams in genetics, biochemistry, physiology and most undergraduate science majors combined and condensed into two months. I’ve had simulated office encounters on standardized patients and had the opportunity to become part of the healthcare team in our student-run free clinic. I’ve rotated through different departments in the hospital (OR, IM, Peds, OB/GYN, ICU, ED) and contributed my knowledge as a healthcare professional in laboratory medicine. And yet, I’m still unsure. Our professors tell us all the time how different our school is, how special our class is, how they wish they had received same the immersive, integrative training when they were in school. I try not to take this experience for granted, I’m in a special place after all. But, and I think this is the first time I’m admitting this, I’m actually terrified.

It’s amazing how quickly the nagging monsters of self-doubt come back to haunt you after you thought you’ve laid them to rest, especially when you’re caring for a real, live person. I just want to do good by them, by all of them. The ones I’ve seen and have yet to see. I just want to be a good doctor. I see the M3s and M4s walking into patient rooms, talking to them with confidence and assuredness, impressing the attendings and residents with their knowledge. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself, we’re only a few months into school after all. We’ll all get there soon, call me impatient.

WELL. Hopefully that wasn’t too much of a downer. I hope to keep this blog relatively light, but I don’t want to be afraid to tackle real issues if they come up. Thanks for reading, everyone.

Come back soon for your refill,

– TS℞

IMG_2075