Monthly Archives: June 2014

Summer Days

You know that scene in the movie Bridesmaids when Maggie takes nine puppies as party favors:


“I took 9…yeah, I did slightly overcommit. It turns out I am probably much more comfortable with 6. That’s a lot of energy to deal with.”

That’s kind of what I am feeling right now about my summer. I have nine projects. I probably would have been more comfortable with six, but then again, I thrive on busy energy. I haven’t been bored for a second since hitting the submit button on my final shelf-exam. After a short respite in Las Vegas I came back to plunge head first into a schedule jam packed with work. Here is a brief recap of what the last summer of my life has in store:

1. Emergency Medicine “Flipped Residency” podcasts: I am unearthing my once perfected “broadcast” voice to create 12 short podcasts for the new Emergency Medicine Residents (who start next week). These Khan Academy styled videos cover the top chief complaints a new Intern is likely to face with a quick recap of differential diagnosis, orders/lab work and management.

What I love about this project: I love making videos, so this is right up my alley and allows me to meld my journalism background with medicine–a perfect marriage. I have four more scripts to go before Sunday, piece of cake!

2. Chart Reviews for new surgical tool research project: I am doing research with my surgery mentor to test the efficacy of a new FDA approved surgical tool which aims to limit the amount of re-excisions needed during breast cancer surgery. The project includes sorting through years of patient charts to document outcomes before and after use of the new tool.

What I love about this project: Mindless work can be fun, especially when sharing an office with an inspiring surgeon. Highlights from our days together include opportunities when I try to stump her with head/neck anatomy questions (which are fresh in my mind from my last exam)–of course, given I am conversing with a brilliant woman surgeon, I haven’t been able to stump her yet. Anatomy is kind of her specialty after all.

3. OR Shadowing: My free labor is rewarded with opportunities to check out any surgery my mentor has on her schedule. This is by far worth every paper cut I’ve gotten while spending hours sorting through patient charts.

What I love about this project: One word–the OR. Anytime I get to step foot in an OR is a great day. I am particularly looking forward to some exciting “big”, day-long surgeries we have on schedule later this month. Now that I am officially an MS2, my “observing” is shifting towards “preparing” me for Step 1. My mentor doesn’t waste any opportunities in making me dig deep in my medical knowledge vault to recall nerves and blood supply in the thorax/chest cavity, which have been gathering dust since October.

4. Physician Coordinator for Flying Samaritans:  One of the main student run organizations I have devoted myself to is my medical school’s chapter of Flying Samaritans. We run a free community clinic in Mexico, which we visit once a month. As physician coordinator I am responsible for recruiting and staffing the clinic with Attendings. So far, this has been a fairly fun and easy process, except now that we’ve entered the summer months I have found it much more difficult to schedule physicians. Although, I’ve never backed down from a challenge!

What I love about this project: I am able to utilize my background in international development and continue my humanitarian work. It’s also fun meeting new physicians and making those professional connections.

5. Flying Sams Clinic Visit: A major perk of being responsible for coordinating physicians is attending our clinic in Mexico. I am looking forward to my next trip later this month.

6. Independent Research Project in the Emergency Department: I was funded by my medical school to complete an independent research project in the ED. At this time I am still waiting for my IRB approval, but once that comes through I’ll be fairly busy supervising my team of 15 undergraduate students who will be administering my survey tool and compiling data. I actually really enjoy research, so this is the perfect way for me to spend time at the hospital while getting a little financial assistance with my rent this month.

What I love about this project: This opportunity has been a fantastic learning experience for me in terms of mastering my research skills. I wrote and submitted my first IRB. Developed my first statistical tool and had a great time working with my mentor in the process. I also hope to get a publication out of it!

7. Shadowing in the Emergency Department: A perk of being a lead researcher on a project in the Emergency Department is getting to spend as much time as I want with the doctors and residents learning about this specialty. I am looking forward to putting in IVs, perfecting my suturing and getting to see some interesting cases.

What I love about this project: My favorite part is that the ER is open 24 hours a day/7 days a week, so it fits perfectly into my schedule–even if there are 8 other projects going on.

8. Leadership Team- Summer Surgery Program: This is by far the best and most unexpected opportunity that I was able to get for this summer. I’ll be helping organize and run a Summer Surgery program for exceptional high school students interested in pursuing a career in medicine. My job includes supervising the students in the OR as they watch cases and teaching a number of afternoon workshops, including anatomy dissection, pre/op and post/op care and an introduction to the history of surgery. This full day, month long job will allow me to mentor students, while gaining a deeper appreciation for surgery and making invaluable connections.

What I love about this project: Ever since a short stint teaching at a boarding school in London, followed by teaching a section of an undergraduate course while I was in graduate school, I have really enjoyed working with older students. I find the experience extremely rewarding and fun. This project allows me not only to serve as a role model for students but to be exposed to various surgical specialties. I am beyond excited to take this on.

9. Freelance work in publication design: Given my background in journalism and publication design I have some paid work right now designing an Annual Report for an international development organization with the possibility of doing some copy-editing later this summer.

What I love about this project: I am getting paid to do something I find enjoyable. This is the 6th Annual Report I’ve designed for this company. It’s always good to have a few skills in your back pocket when you could use a little extra money.

Overall, my summer will be filled with the things I love most: Medicine. It may seem like a lot, but I feel most alive when I am running from one appointment to the next and my To-Do List is never ending. Work makes me happy.

Here’s to a productive, yet relaxing two months!



Filed under Medical School Experience

The Last Dissection

Yesterday, we completed our final gross anatomy practical exam. Words cannot express the relief and happiness I felt as I moved to the very last question station and wrote in my answer. The room erupted in cheers and hugs. We had made it.

The exam was not just the end to the toughest course of our lives, but the conclusion of our MS1 year.  It is a rite of passage undertaken by countless medical students before us. Our link to the history of medicine. The first of many major milestones to come.

From the first time we ventured down to the basement and saw the cold steel gurneys, smelling the distinctive smell of anatomy, we would never be the same again. Thinking back to my first dissection, I have come a long way from the apprehensive, nervous student who stayed up all night thinking about the unknown the next day brought. As I changed into my scrubs for the first time and saw myself in the mirror—outwardly resembling a physician– I felt like a fraud. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing—neither did anyone else.

From the first cut, to the tireless hours of studying, spending Saturday mornings in the lab with our cadavers, to every vessel, muscle and nerve that we traced and committed to memory, to the dissection skills we ultimately gained—good enough to perform delicate hand and face microsurgeries, revealing the complicated network of nerves below, to the ease we felt in a room full of cold steel gurneys and the unexpected feelings of camaraderie, competence and yes, strangely a pang of hunger after every 4 hour dissection*.

There is no doubt that gross anatomy changed us.

In medical school they teach us that ‘First, do no harm’. It is fitting that our first patient is a cadaver. Over the last 9 months our patient confided in us their deepest secrets– we knew what surgeries they have had, any “work” done, and what their diet and lifestyle was really like. As is always the case in the uneven doctor-patient relationship, our patient put their trust in us, knowing that we would take good care of them, demonstrating the respect and dignity all patients are entitled to.  Above all, our patient taught us countless lessons. Because of them we understand the human body. I will never forget my first patient. They gave to me the greatest gift a human can bestow—knowledge.

After the exam as we gathered for a small vigil to honor those who so generously donated, I looked around and for a moment I saw a glimpse of what was to come. I saw not medical students standing in their scrubs, but future colleagues, who in just three short years will be responsible not only for first doing no harm—but for healing our patients. Anatomy had transformed us- shaping us by our communal experience to resemble the physicians we will one day soon become. For a brief moment, I stopped feeling like a fraud.

*The veracity of this statement needs to be checked, but apparently formaldehyde induces appetite.

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Filed under Medical School Experience