Residency Updates: The First 3 Months

The first three months of residency have just flown by!

My first rotation consisted of Family Medicine Clinic with 5 evening shifts in the ER including some weekends. This made for some long, exhausting days but a rewarding experience overall.

My second rotation was in Obstetrics and this definitely stretched me outside of my comfort zone. My responsibilities consisted of helping with deliveries in the case room, seeing patients in triage, post-partum and doing ER consults. The schedule was rigorous and included night shifts and weekends. The most challenging part of the rotation was being away from family. I missed my husband and kids a lot! We found creative ways to treasure special time together and recently enjoyed a beautiful week of vacation together.

My third rotation was another Family Medicine rotation with a focus on Parent-Child. I had the opportunity to care for babies, young children, adolescents and expectant mothers as well as other patients of all ages. There were Youth Clinics, Breastfeeding Clinics, late shifts in Minor Urgent Care and also four 24-hour Obstetrics calls during this rotation.

I especially enjoy my Family Medicine clinic days which consist of seeing my own practice of patients. I am gaining a lot of skills on how to manage my own practice.

I love my Family Medicine Clinic!

In other good news, I passed my first licencing exam (LMCC I), the exam I sat way back in June! The kids are back in school so it’s back to juggling homework, extra-curricular activities with family time, social time and the demands of residency. Thank goodness for my amazing husband who continues to be a wonderful support. I thank God for His grace and ever present help when things get tough!

Overall, I am feeling more confident as a resident compared to my first month. There are still moments of uncertainty and doubts in my abilities but I am grateful to work with an excellent team and to be in a program that has such great support for residents (we have senior resident buddies, Faculty Mentors, Academic Advisors and more). Despite feeling exhausted at times, I love my program and feel so blessed to be on this journey!

Officially Graduated from Medical School…and Residency Starts Tomorrow!

Malaika Awori

It has been a beautiful past few weeks as I celebrated my graduation from medical school. It was not the conventional graduation ceremony but rather interacting with family and friends in virtual ways and in small gatherings. Even though I was initially disappointed about not having an in-person convocation ceremony this year and being unable to physically see family and friends from overseas, it has turned out to be so special! I have been so encouraged by the love and support I have received from family and friends across the globe! I thank God for His grace and blessings!

I have also been reflecting on how grateful I am to have had 3 months at home with the kids. It was busy with homeschooling, studying for and sitting my licensing exam but there were also so many wonderful moments of rest and relaxation with family and friends. Such precious memories that I will always hold dear! I am thrilled to have been featured on my dear friend Brenda Dogbey’s faith, career and motherhood blog careerslaymama.com. where we discuss my journey to Medicine, as well as tips for balancing motherhood and medical school. Do add her blog to your list of blogs to follow. It is insightful and inspiring!

I am excited to be starting residency this week. Each incoming resident has been assigned a senior resident “buddy” to help us transition to this new phase of our training.  I am also grateful that I will  be co-residents with several of my awesome classmates from medical school. We have our schedules for the year and I will be starting off with a 4-week rotation in Family Medicine and Procedural Skills Clinics with five evening shifts in the ER.

The Medicine Journey continues!

Medicine Journey Updates…Residency Preparation Begins!

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My base hospital where I’ll be starting residency in July! Photo credit: wikipedia

Today was a beautiful day as I visited the base hospital where I will be starting residency in July. I parked my car some distance from the hospital so I could enjoy a 10 minute walk in the brisk fresh air. I had flashbacks of me walking the same route before dawn during my Surgery rotations in medical school!

Today, we were scheduled to have our hospital ID cards done and be fitted for our N95 masks. It has been nearly 6 months since I was last there and it was nice to be back wandering the halls of the hospital revisiting memories of my Internal Medicine, Surgery and Geriatric rotations that I had the privilege of doing there last year. Of all the hospitals that I rotated through during medical school, this one really won my heart for its collegial atmosphere and community spirit. It also has a wonderful view of the St. Joseph’s Oratory standing majestically on Mount Royal.

Saint Joseph's Oratory, Montreal

Saint Joseph’s Oratory, Montreal. It is the largest church in Canada and one of the largest church domes in the world. Photo credit: Canadian Immigrant

Today, despite the fact that the hospital  was much quieter than one would expect for a week day, I received friendly nods from behind faces with masks and one or two people with twinkles in their eyes as they asked if they could help me find what I was looking for. It really is an answered prayer that I was assigned to this hospital for residency as it was my top choice!

It was really special to see some of my medical school classmates who I have not seen in person since schools and universities were closed 2 months ago, and it was a pleasure to meet new residents from other regions who will be joining us on the 2 year journey to completing our residency in Family Medicine.

This week, I  managed to schedule a date for my first licensing exam (the MCCQE1) which I will sit on June 14th. I also have a few pending immunization requirements to complete. I’m getting really excited (and of course slightly terrified) to be starting residency in 1.5 months. It will be a new phase, a new journey, with new challenges in a COVID-19 world but I remain optimistic that it will be a wonderful journey despite the challenges.

Spring Through the Eyes of a Six Year Old

One of the things I love most about Spring (aside from the majestic Canada Geese returning from their Winter migration), is witnessing the burst of new life that faithfully arrives at the end of each Winter. I am always awed every time I see fresh green leaves emerging from a previously dry, grey branch or delicate sprouts protruding through a layer of old, dried leaves. I can’t help but smile and be reminded that through the darkest of times, there is always a fresh, new beginning.

I would love to share with you these Spring photos taken by my 6 year old daughter during our bike ride through a wooded area close to where we live. Every few minutes into the ride, she would exclaim in wonder at the beauty of nature, stopping to take a snap shot of it. I loved seeing Spring through her eyes, never rushing but simply soaking in the magnificence of creation.

Being Mindful of Our Thoughts

Our thoughts can influence how we behave and respond to circumstances.

Most of us have struggled with negative thoughts at some point in our lives. I know I did when I was a new mum and during certain moments of my medical training. This likely stemmed from fatigue,  performance anxiety, wondering what others thought of me and comparing myself to others. I therefore try to be mindful of my thoughts and to surround myself with positive influences be it in the form of books I read, the people I interact with or the media that I expose myself to.

Surrounding ourselves with a positive environment and mindset does not mean ignoring our negative emotions or the reality around us. It means reflecting on our thoughts and feelings, acknowledging the emotions that are there, and working through them so that nothing festers or remains unresolved. It can help to ask questions such as “Why am I feeling this way? Is it rational? What can I do to rise above it? Who can I talk to about this issue?

I recently read a book by I.C. Robledo that really reminded me how important it is to be IMG_0962mindful of our thoughts. Here are some of the ideas he shares in his book which I draw from regularly in an attempt to be careful about what I focus my mental energy on:

  1. Focus on what you can control, not on what you cannot control
  2. Focus on the positive, not the negative
  3. Focus on what you can do, not on what you cannot do
  4. Focus on what you have, not on what you do not have
  5. Focus on the present, not on the past and future
  6. Focus on what you need, not on what you want
  7. Focus on what you can give, not on what you can take

In this time of confinement and uncertainty, physically apart from loved ones, it is even more important to guard our thoughts and reach out for help when we need it.

Featured image courtesy of medium.com

Three Important Life Lessons

What we learn when we are young can follow us for the rest of our lives.

In my last post on Managing Confinement, I wrote about balancing homeschooling kids with other responsibilities. I alluded to the fact that I would like to teach my kids life lessons to help them in the future. The time in confinement has allowed me to really reflect on this and I feel these 3 areas are particularly important:

  1. Family Values: I think it is important to teach kids what values we feel are important as a family and to demonstrate this to them as much as possible through our actions. And when we fall short of those values, apologizing to our kids is equally important in demonstrating humility.
  2. Work Ethic: There are days when it would be so much easier to simply let the kids do whatever they want. But ultimately, they do need guidance and the ability to develop a strong work ethic that will allow them to develop into responsible and dependable adults. For us at this stage, this simply involves the kids taking responsibility for their school work as much as possible, helping out around the house and keeping their rooms in order.
  3. IMG_0958Financial Responsibility: It’s never too early to start teaching kids about how to manage finances responsibly. This is an area I did not really know how to impart to my kids however after reading various sources, we came up with a plan that we feel is right for our family and which the kids are on board with. There are of course many schools of thought on this with a multitude of approaches. For us, the kids will obtain an allowance once a month in return for helping out with chores around the house. We suggested that for now, they divide the money up equally in 3 jars: Savings, Spending and Giving. If there is something they would like to have outside of their usual needs, birthday and Christmas gifts, they will have to save up for it. I’m hoping that this will teach them about the concept of saving, delayed gratification as well as generosity.

Further reading: I just finished reading this book which I feel is useful in guiding parents about what life skills to teach kids and would be a good read for adolescents (currently free on Amazon Kindle so grab it while you can!)

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Managing Confinement

How are you managing confinement so far?

As an introvert, I have generally been fine with spending so much time at home although I do certainly miss my extended family and friends as well as our usual social activities. Regardless of personality type, being confined to one’s home certainly has its pros and cons. As a mother of two young ones aged 8 and 6 years old, I have been trying to balance homeschooling while attempting to study for my first medical licensing exam. Now that it’s been a little over a month since schools and universities closed, I have found a basic approach that seems to be working well and so I wanted to share this with you (particularly parents with young kids):

Let this be a unique and positive learning experience for your kids

While attempting to home-school my children, I have been reminded that kids learn in different ways and that they can learn from many things, not just structured worksheets at the table. I made the decision that I would like my kids to learn in a natural and non-stressful way so that they can develop a positive attitude towards learning in general.

For my kids, we have settled on a very simple routine of daily reading, writing and Math (about 1-2 hours per week day). Beyond this, the kids are free to learn what they would like and we parents facilitate the learning process. This means our days are quite varied and somewhat unpredictable but I find that this has been a much less painful process than trying to schedule out the whole day with very structured activities. Mum and kids have been much less frustrated and in fact it has been fun! (And can I just say that I have a whole new appreciation for school teachers. They are unsung heroes who deserve so much more recognition for the hard work they put into teaching our kids!)

If you are looking for some ideas for your kids, here are just some of the activities my kids enjoy:

  1. Board games: kids can learn plenty of concepts from board games from strategy to math (my daughter’s mental math has grown exponentially since repeatedly being the banker while playing Game of Life!)
  2. Bike rides or walks:  kids get physical exercise while enjoying nature and learning important concepts such as road signs, the rules of the road and how to be spatially aware of vehicles. It’s also invigorating as a family to see other people in the neighborhood, even if from a distance.
  3. Cosmic Kids Yoga: another way to keep physically active and includes a creative backdrop of kids’ favorite themes such as Frozen, Pokemon, Minecraft and many more!
  4. Online lessons: kids can learn many things via FaceTime, Skype, Zoom such as art, programming and musical instruments. Is there a friend or family member who has time on their hands and would be willing to teach your kids while you study or work? Depending on your financial situation, paid lessons could be an option too.
  5. Group homeschooling: kids can join other families who are homeschooling via FaceTime, Zoom etc. so that they can socialize and do their work together. My kids have enjoyed doing this with their friends who were routinely home-schooled before the pandemic and whose mum does an AWESOME job teaching all our kids! This has been especially helpful when I had my own online classes to do for medical school.
  6. Educational apps: the kids love SplashLearn and Education.com which has fun games in Math, reading, typing and more. Boukili is an excellent app for learning to read in French.
  7. Science Experiments: the kids have enjoyed Colour Chemistry from Crayola. (I still remember my very first Chemistry set as a kid!)

In all of this, I know I will never be the perfect parent. All I can do is my best and focus on making sure that my husband and kids know they are loved and appreciated! I have also been trying to teach my kids life skills that are hopefully going to help them later in life. More on that in my next post!

I hope this post has been helpful. This has been a tough year for many and my hope is to bring some encouragement and remind you that you are not alone in this.

Done With Medical School!

I am happy to announce that I have completed medical school!!! It is a bitter sweet moment as the journey came to a somewhat abrupt end in the wake of social distancing. There were no physical goodbyes to classmates, teachers or mentors and our graduation ceremony was cancelled. I experienced some heartfelt disappointment that I will not get to see beloved family members and friends who were planning to travel to Canada to celebrate graduation with me.

But I am also so thankful that I made it to the end of this medical school journey. It has been a life-changing experience that has stretched me beyond what I thought I could manage. I am so grateful to God, my husband, kids, extended family, friends and readers for supporting me and encouraging me through this journey.

COVID-19 has impacted the world in unimaginable ways, some terrible but some also refreshing and positive. I am very thankful that the timing worked out such that I can be home with my kids, at least until I start residency in July. Homeschooling the kids while attempting to study for my first licensing exam (MCCQE1) has been quite an adventure! More on that in my next post!

Photo: McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Match Day Results are In!

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I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I matched to the Family Medicine Residency Program at McGill. It is a dream come true! My dear husband and children were by my side as I logged in online to view my results. We then spent the day together celebrating.

I have been so touched by the number of encouraging messages of support that I received from family and friends across the globe! Truly this medical school journey has a been a team effort! I am so grateful to my beloved husband for patiently enduring the past few years of a very hectic schedule. Endeavors like this truly require sacrificial love and support.

Although there were moments of anxiety leading up to Match Day, I am amazed at the incredible sense of peace God gave me that everything would work out for the best! He has answered so many prayers right down to the smallest of details. Truly a Father’s love is revealed in the loving care He takes of His children!

For the past month, I have been back-to-class taking some interesting Basic Science and Social Science classes which involved several presentations and a written assignment. We have some exams coming up plus a month long course “Transition to Residency” where we will go over topics such as Resident wellness, writing prescriptions, medical liability etc. We will also have some review sessions in preparation for our first licensing exam, the MCCQE1 which I will sit in early May. Graduation follows shortly after, and then…..Residency starts July 1st!

I look forward to all of you accompanying me on this next and final phase of my training…Residency!! Thank you for all your support and words of encouragement over the years.  I am so grateful and so excited to become a family doctor! Glory to God for his abundant blessings!

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My Last Rotation…Allergy and Immunology. What’s Next?

pictureI am excited to announce that about one week ago, I completed my very last clerkship rotation of medical school! It felt quite surreal and also a reminder that in just a few months, I will be graduating from medical school.

I had an excellent experience on my last rotation which was in Allergy and Immunology. My days were spent in a variety of clinics such as General Allergy, Asthma, and Reproductive Immunology. As my goal is to become a family doctor, I specifically picked this elective so I could develop skills in various allergic conditions which are quite common to family medicine. The team of residents and physicians were great to work with and were wonderful teachers. I also learned how to do skin testing for common environmental allergens and how to perform drug allergy testing which was interesting!

So now that I am done with rotations, what’s next? Interview season for Residency!

I am spending my time prepping for this, plus slowly starting to study for my licensing exam which will be in May. It has been really great to spend more time with my family and friends. The kids are really enjoying having more of mummy around! It has also been nice to have some free time to work on music, read, exercise more and cook again (my dearest husband has been doing a lot of the cooking since I started medical school, bless him!)

I will be heading back to class in February to April for our last set of courses “Putting it All Together” and “Transition to Residency”. In the midst of this, our Residency Match Results will be released on March 3rd. Exciting! (If not slightly nerve-wracking!)

be-persistentWhatever stage you are at in life, whether starting off something new, in the middle or close to the end…keep going!  You will get to the finish line eventually…and at your own pace! There may be detours or delays along the way, but don’t let this stop you! Your journey is unique to you!