First Day Back at Medical School…Year 2

Today was the first day back at medical school and I am excited to have started on the next block…Reproduction! From looking ahead at the schedule for the next month, we will be covering plenty of topics that interest me such as prenatal diagnosis, obstetrics and breastfeeding. The block will be heavy in anatomy and histology which is a big challenge! Although it takes me time to master anatomy names, I do enjoy this part of the medical curriculum. Histology has been one of my favorite areas since the beginning of medical school. I feel like my brain just gets it which is very rewarding!

This afternoon, I had my first session for my Community Health Alliance Project (CHAP). This is where we each get to volunteer with an organization out in the community in order to give us more exposure. My community organization is in the area of Mental Health. I chose this because I do not know much about mental health issues yet I have seen it affect people around me. I am curious to know more about it, how it is managed and how I can help to break the stigma around it. The people at the organization were very welcoming and seem extremely passionate about what they do. I was very inspired by the inter-professionalism and I am excited to be a part of the team for the next few months.

I am hoping to try and keep a balanced approach to life during this second year of medical school. I know it will not be easy but it is my sincere wish to keep God and my family as my top priorities, to make time for exercise and rest, as I give my best effort to my school work!

PS… If you love to read as much as I do, or if you’re simply looking for something new to read, please do visit my “Books to Read” page. I have updated it with several new titles that I read over the summer. I hope you will find them as useful or inspirational as I did! Enjoy!

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Summer Fun..and Getting Ready For the Second Year of Med School!

I can’t believe how fast the summer has flown by and that I’ll be starting the second year of medical school in a week!

It has been a fantastic summer spending time with my husband and kids, as well as catching up with friends and family. The kids developed a great love of swimming this summer and we went to the local pool almost every day. It was so great to see them getting over their fear of water and becoming more confident. It was also nice to catch glimpses of what their gifts and talents may be. My son seems to have a gift for designing and building things. He can come up with something from scratch without instructions! My daughter has such a depth to the way she observes and interprets the world and seems to just naturally nurture, comfort and encourage those around her. It’s been great watching the kids grow in their friendships with others. My son had his first sleepover at a friend’s this weekend and he had a blast!

My time at home with the kids also reminded me how difficult parenting can be. It requires so much patience and grace! Motherhood is definitely one of the hardest things I have ever done, but it has also allowed me to examine my own character and weaknesses, and enabled me to grow. Regardless of the challenge and the weight of responsibility in bringing up, disciplining and guiding our children, I am so grateful for the precious memories of this past summer, and for the many moments I got to cuddle and kiss my children!

This summer, I also got to spend a day shadowing at a hospital and it was a fantastic experience! One of my favorite blocks during the first year of medical school was Cardiology and so I wanted to find out more about what it’s like in the hospital setting. So, I spent the morning rounding on patients in the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) and the afternoon in the ER doing Cardiology consults. The staff physicians, residents, and fellows were wonderful to work with. I loved the Interprofessional aspect of the medical team and how everyone on the team could give their input on a case. I got to interpret some ECGs, examine patients, take a partial medical history, observe the management of patients with a variety of cardiac conditions, and even got to give some input on differential diagnosis. It was so interesting and mentally stimulating! I was moved by my interactions with the patients who had much to teach me about the experience of illness and hospitalization.  I will definitely be adding Internal Medicine to my list of potential specialties for the future!

As the summer break comes to an end, I hold my memories with the kids close to my heart! I am excited to be starting my second year of medical school (and also excited for my son who is starting Grade 1!)

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Science in action! The kids making a battery out of a lemon which powered a digital clock. They were fascinated!

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The kids’ favorite place to be!

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He could look at books for hours! I love watching him!

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Enjoying the view from Jack Layton Park

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His first time kayaking on Lac Simon….he loved it!

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Baby girl canoeing with daddy on Lac Simon

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It’s so fun being a kid!

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Canoeing with daddy on Horseshoe Lake (Saint Agathe-des-Monts)
 

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Yummy ice-cream in Saint Anne-de-Bellevue

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Ready to hit the pool!

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Hike and picnic on Mont Rigaud

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“Elementary, my dear Watson!”…..the kids came up with their own play and costumes!
  

The First Year of Medical School…Done!!!

The past few months have been both challenging and amazing! I can’t quite believe that the first year of medical school is already done! It went by so quickly and I am amazed at how much I have grown and learned over the past year. We covered 8 blocks: Public Health, Respiration, Circulation, Renal, GI, Defense, Infection and the Musculoskeletal System.

The last block was particularly heavy in anatomy and one of the most challenging blocks I have done. I have to say that it brought me to a whole new level of appreciation for the human body as we learned over 1000 new terms for different muscles of the body in Latin. Difficult to do but also fascinating and rewarding! I am also gaining valuable ultrasound skills and have signed up to teach this to first-year medical students. I think it’s going to be a fantastic experience.

Throughout this past year, I have grown in my appreciation for my teachers, mentors, classmates, our silent “teachers” in the anatomy lab, and of course, the patients who I have had the privilege of interacting with. Our medical school curriculum is hands-on so we have had several opportunities to gain exposure in the clinical setting.

My favorite block so far was Defense (the Immune system). I loved learning about the various ways the body keeps foreign invaders in check. Truly a marvel of the human body and a beautiful reminder of the majesty of God’s creation.

Other exciting events that happened in the last few months:

  1. The celebration of our 10th wedding anniversary (happy anniversary to my dearest hubby!)
  2. My son’s completion of kindergarten and “graduation” to Grade 1 (that’s my boy!)
  3. My big brother’s graduation from medical school as he embarks on his pediatrics residency (so proud of you!)

How was the first year of medical school? It was about as challenging as I expected it to be (particularly when trying to balance the voluminous amount of material with family life, church activities, extracurriculars etc.) but it was even better than I imagined in terms of how interesting the material was and what a privilege it is to be a part of the medical profession.

Through it all, I couldn’t have done this without the grace of God, and the wonderful support of my amazing husband, kids, friends and family. I am looking forward to the summer break over the next 2 months, spending more time with my family and getting some rest. In late August, I will be starting my last two blocks of the Fundamentals of Medicine and then Transition to Clerkship (rotations) in January 2018. Exciting!

Time will continue to pass regardless of what you are doing….make sure you are doing what you love! It makes life more meaningful and full of purpose!

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Studying on the deck during final exam week
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A visit to Ann Arbor, Michigan for my brother’s graduation from medical school
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Daddy and his little girl, hand-in-hand. A visit to Quebec city to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.
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Our cutie-pie! A visit to the Aquarium in Quebec city.
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A beautiful view of Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City from the rotating restaurant Ciel! 
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Ready for summer fun! So blessed to have these little ones in my life!

Four Simple Stress-Busting Strategies

How do you handle a stressful job, demanding school work, family life, parenthood or the challenges of life in general? There is no one-size-fits-all solution but there are some strategies that can help us cope with the day-to-day demands we face. Based on my personal experiences, I have found that there are 4 things that consistently give me energy, stamina, improve my mood and attitude:

  1. Regular exercise: It can be tough to find time to exercise 3 or more times per week. There are so many other things that need to get done! But, physical activity is as beneficial to our bodies as healthy food is. In fact, when it comes to cardiovascular health, physical activity is just as important as healthy food. It can take some time to find a regimen that works for you but setting realistic goals and easing into it could help set the tone for a more consistent exercise routine. Why not start with just 10 minutes every other day? Establishing the habit is the hardest part but you can do it!
  2. A good night’s sleep: This means different things to different people. Some can get by on 5 hours while others (like me) need at least 8 hours a night to feel fully rested. I have personally found that my mood, attention span, ability to learn and handle stress are much better when I have been sleeping well. If you are feeling stressed, consider whether the amount of sleep you are getting is sufficient for your daily needs.
  3. Social ties: Sharing our struggles with those we trust can take some of the burden off our own shoulders and help us cope. There is no shame in feeling overwhelmed or tired. Reach out to someone if you can!
  4. Reflection: Taking time for reflection, prayer or meditation is a fantastic way to make sense of your thoughts and slow down the rhythm of our fast-paced lives. It can also help us bring to the forefront unresolved feelings, hurts or other difficult emotions. Why not set aside 10 to 15 minutes a day for this personal reflection time?

Whatever stresses you may be going through, consider the above basic strategies to help you cope. Simple but effective!

My recommended workout of the week. This is a great 30-minute cardio workout with light weights (5 to 10 pounds) that also targets chest, abs, glutes, obliques, shoulders and legs. For those with problematic knees (like me!), there is a modified version of the exercise displayed. In general, aim for exercises that target multiple muscle groups at once to get more bang for your buck!

Photo credit: highway2fitness.com

 

Mid-Block Update…and Hello Spring!

Spring is finally here and it’s been a fantastic weekend enjoying the outdoors and spending time with the family. This afternoon, the kids and I spent about 2 hours outside attempting to tidy up the lawn now that most of the snow has melted. The miracle of Spring never fails to amaze me as I witness new bright green buds bursting their way through the ground with utmost determination. It is so refreshing! I also love hearing the sound of the Canadian Geese making their much welcomed return back home.

I am about half-way through the next block of medical school. This block is aptly titled “Defense” as we are learning all about the Immune system. I have to say that this has been one of the most enjoyable blocks of medical school so far. It is complex but simultaneously fascinating. There has also been a significant emphasis on differential diagnosis in this block where we act as medical detectives trying to decipher what could be the diagnosis of a patient’s symptoms. I’ll be wrapping up my Longitudinal Family Medicine Experience next week and I can’t believe I have had the opportunity to see over 100 patients over the past few months of medical school. I have learned so much and benefited greatly from a positive learning environment.

As the weather continues to warm up and we move into a new season, I am so thankful for my family, the people around me, the strength that God gives me daily and the wonderful opportunity to be studying medicine.

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This was the last big snowfall of the season (view from my daughter’s bedroom)
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The kids are super excited that Spring is finally here! We can finally go on the deck!

 

Glorious Sunset

One of the things I love most about where we live is getting to experience beautiful sunsets, particularly after fresh snow has fallen and the pink-purple rays of the sun cast a magnificent contrast to the gleaming white flakes of snow. I took these pictures from our dining room last night as my family and I settled down to eat supper, thankful that we live in a safe and beautiful neighborhood where my children are thriving.

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Glittering Sun, Family Love and the End of Exams!

As I type this, the setting sun is gleaming off the ice and snow that covers the grass in our backyard. I love to write at our dining table because of the beautiful view that I get to experience. My daughter is sitting to my right, testing out a box of markers to make sure each pen is still working well and up to her standards. Every so often, she proudly points to her artwork which at this point mostly consists of multi-colored doodles.

This week was an intense exam week consisting of Anatomy lab exam, Digestion/ Metabolism Final exam and the Reflective exam (which covers clinical material since the beginning of medical school). I found this block to be one of the most intense so far. Despite the challenging exams, the week ended on a great note with a fun patient simulation activity and then dinner with the Dean of Medicine. I was really impressed that the Faculty made time to meet with us in groups over the past few months and that the Dean talked to each of us individually to find out more about us. When asked what he considers to be the features of a good doctor, his words stuck with me….”listen, be kind and be humble”.

Now that this set of exams are over and we are on Spring break, I got to spend a beautiful simple day with my daughter. We did silly things like dancing around the dining room to her favorite music. I love how she would look at me with her big brown eyes and giggle as she tried to copy my dance moves. My son spent the week with his grandmother in the Laurentians since his school was on Spring break and I was having exams. It was the first time he has ever been away from us overnight and it went very well. He had a blast with his granny. I really missed him though and look forward to seeing him  when we drive up to the Laurentians for the weekend.

Today, I had the chance to reflect on the wonderful blessings in my life, especially my husband and children. My husband came home early from work today and surprised me with beautiful flowers. A few weeks ago my son presented me with some of his artwork depicting our family and it really moved my heart to see his perception of us. Sometimes in the busyness of life, we can forget how much we as parents mean to our children and how important we are to them. I love being a mother and wife, and despite the demands of medical school, I am so happy to be learning so much and that I have been given the incredible opportunity to do this. I look forward to the next block after the Spring break!

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Beautiful surprise flowers from hubby!
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My 5 year old’s drawing of our family (including our black dog!)