Monthly Archives: January 2014

OK now that I am studying…

Since I’ve been reasonably productive today, adhering (with only a few small gchat interruptions) to my self-ascribed study schedule, I thought I would give myself a quick break to update my blog. Right now, I am T minus 4.5 days from my next big anatomy exam. As usually happens with big exams, I am starting to feel slightly nervous with some sporadic freak out thoughts of, “omg, am I going to have enough time to go back and learn the embryology and lymph drainage I’ve been putting off?!

Random panicky thoughts aside, things are going fairly smoothly as I tackle learning every word on 463 power point slides. For my non-med school readers, this is not an exaggeration. Anatomy requires precision with very little room for bullshitting an answer (there is only so much you can fudge with bad handwriting– the answer better be pretty damn close). As a result, for this next exam students are expected to know pretty much every word on 463 slides covering gastrointestinal, pelvic and peritoneal anatomy and its embryological origins.

That may seem like a daunting and ¬†impossible task but on most days I find learning this stuff very enjoyable. Eventually, after you read something enough times it starts to stick in your head and you begin to feel pretty good about yourself and your ability to recall¬†the seven branches of the anterior division of the internal iliac artery (sorry to say no one except for you and maybe your future surgery attending is impressed). Anatomy is best learned through repetition. Which is why I’ve read, and re-read every slide, done hundreds of flashcards and re-read the slides again. At first things seem foreign, almost like reading in a language you don’t understand, but after you see the structures in the lab and go back and re-read the material there is this “ah ha moment!” and everything seems to fall into place.

The next 4.5 days will be a race of memorization and hopefully retention. Sadly, my birthday happens to fall on one of the next 4.5 days, which means it will have to be postponed because when it comes to anatomy–even birthdays can wait.

I just hope my fortitude is handsomely rewarded– because even though the class is pass/fail and no one cares what grade I get, there is a little part of me that will never give up loving to get As.

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When I should be studying…

Technology has ruined me. I am not exactly sure when this happened– but over the years of increasingly awesome gadgets coming into my possession, I have developed a seriously alarming case of ADD. It has become nearly impossible for me to focus for longer than 90 seconds without “checking” something. In lecture, as I sit there taking notes on my fancy iPad (pens and paper are for dinosaurs), I am constantly catching myself refreshing my email. Sitting at a stop light, standing in line at the store, waiting for my dinner to cook, I find myself getting bored and needing to “refresh” Instagram, Facebook (thank god I don’t have the Pinterest ap)… It’s like my brain needs constant stimulation. The problem is, with each “refresh” something new inevitably pops up. Which leads me to deduce– I am not the only one with this attention problem. I am starting to believe it’s the epidemic of my generation. Case in point, my husband and I love to talk and laugh, we entertain each other, which is great because we are stuck together for another 70 years or so. Despite this well developed ability to amuse one another we spend most of our dinners with our phones to our sides, constantly “refreshing” whatever. When I look around the lecture hall (in a totally non-creepy-I-am-not-looking-at-you-sort-of-way) most of my classmates are doing the same, switching back and forth between notes, video games, text messages, emails and random websites.

So as I embark on some serious anatomy studying, this is the problem I face– my millions of distractions. I will have to resort to childish tactics like technology time-outs, flashcard review minimums and as a last resort, accidentally misplacing my phone, so that I am not tempted to hit that damn refresh button. Focus. Must Focus.

Now back to my regularly scheduled programming of pelvic vasculature, lymph drainage and innervations…

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In Memorium

On Christmas Eve, while I was wrapped in the warmth of family and laughter, traditions old and new, hours spent at the table in conversation–in the darkest of contrasts, a bright spark extinguished in the world. My dear friend and mentor died that same day after a long and courageous battle with cancer.

I met Anne when I was just 22 years old. At the time, she was our Nigeria country program director and she came into our HQ office for a regular visit. Although she barely knew me, she had such warmth about her she instantly made you feel like you were old friends. Anne had the rare ability to make others feel comfortable in their own skin. Her overflowing positive energy was infectious. Somehow she convinced my boss that it was a good idea to send me to Nigeria to train her staff. I still remember how confident she was that my background in journalism was just what her staff needed. Anne gave me my first chance to prove myself.

In Nigeria, Anne welcomed me into her home. Something about working in the field quickly blurs the line between colleague and new family member. We not only worked together, but we spent the evenings going on walks around Abuja, swimming laps in her pool and watching taped episodes of MI-5, a BBC show Anne loved. Anne was able to bring out the best in people. I gained confidence on that trip and returned to our HQ feeling like I had much to offer our organization. Anne was not the only one who noticed and I quickly moved into a management position– thanks very much in part to the opportunity Anne gave me.

Although Anne eventually moved to a position at our organization based in the US, we had the pleasure of going to Nigeria together again in 2010. I will never forget those trips and the memories of Anne jogging in Makurdi with me, haggling for road side tomatoes, and yelling at a chef who served her a raw chicken–his only explanation “I was in a haste.” Anne and I joined forces on many projects, sometimes working 10 and 12 hour days on a proposal. As frustrating and difficult as things got, Anne always had a positive spin on everything. Every conversation began and ended with laughter. Anne was one of the most genuine and loving people I have ever come across. In developing my management style I aimed to emulate Anne’s effortless ability to take things in stride, find the humor in just about everything and believe in people.

It is difficult to accept that she is gone. I will never forget the lessons she taught me. Anne was a rare find among people. I feel privileged to have worked with her. As brief as those five years were, they shaped me professionally and personally.

In reflecting on this holiday season, something felt different–I think the change was an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Living far away from my family, consumed by the task of medical school, I savored every moment I had with them. For the first time since embarking on this grand challenge I actually didn’t feel the urge to study. I lived in the moment and enjoyed every morsel of time with family, friends and my husband. In the end, these moments are what matters.


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