When the Fog Lifts

The other day, I was on my daily commute to the hospital for one of my clinical rotations. The train chug chugged along and as it neared one of two bridges, I turned my head expectantly to view the expansive water and distant hills. But on this particular day, the view which I have come to treasure, was blanketed by an unrelenting fog. I could see absolutely nothing outside of the window. It was a disconcerting feeling. What was happening behind the fog? When would the fog lift? As the train made it to the other side of the bridge, the water and hills left behind, the fog gradually lifted, trees and buildings slowly appeared and my view of the outside world became crystal clear once again.

This two minute experience got me thinking about how similar life can be to this event. There are times in our lives when our path forward is clear. We can feel confident enough to proceed on our journey. There are other moments, when things become less clear, our confidence may become shrouded in uncertainty and we wonder where has the path disappeared to? One thing I do know. The fog eventually lifts, and we will see clearly again. It just requires patience, determination and the will to never give up.

I recently completed my second Psychiatry rotation and have just completed my first 2 weeks of Internal Medicine. Both have been great learning experiences with amazing staff physicians and residents. On some days though, I feel truly tired. I wonder if I have the strength and ability to become a good doctor. Or I struggle to balance medicine with family life. Doubts try to creep in. But I also feel so grateful to be in a position to help people so directly in their moments of crisis, illness or fear. It truly is a humbling and privileged position to be in! And even on those cloudy, unclear days…the fog eventually lifts!

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View from the train in winter-time

Featured image: View from the train in summer time, late evening (potentialdoctor.com)

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Reflections on the First 3 Weeks of Medical School

I have just experienced my first three weeks of medical school and it has been amazing! The first week was a series of orientation sessions to get us familiar with the medical program while the second week was the official start of classes.

I would love to share my experiences with you!

  • What I love about the program:  Fantastic classmates, passionate teachers, fascinating material, plenty of support, small group sessions, mentors, a focus on wellness, and the opportunity to shadow physicians right from Week 1! So far, I have had some exposure to family medicine, obstetrics and pathology. I loved being in the birthing center where I got to meet a patient who had just given birth by cesarean section. There was something so profound about being with someone at such a life-changing moment. I have also enjoyed my histology labs where we have been identifying different types of cells and tissues. Interestingly, it seems that pathology is moving away from using microscopes and instead using very high resolution images on the computer screen.
  • Challenges: The biggest challenges so far are being away from my children and the 2-3 hour daily commute. Traffic has been much worse than anticipated so I am making the most of my commute time to listen to lectures and also to decompress at the end of a busy day. I am very grateful to my husband for his tremendous support in helping out around the house and with the kids.
  • Surprises: The orientation and first few days of class focused on physicianship, the social aspects of medicine, indigenous health and the disparities in healthcare among the aboriginal population. Where as I thought we would be diving straight into hard science and performing dissections in the anatomy lab, it was interesting to learn about the social side of medicine and how so many factors affect health. I have also been pleasantly surprised by the vast array of backgrounds that my classmates have. It is such a diverse group!
  • Strategies for survival: I have had to adjust my study methods compared to the last time I was in school. The material is too voluminous for one to completely master every detail so I am learning the art of determining what is the most essential and what fits into the big picture of becoming a doctor. So far, I am mostly using the lecture material and my own created flashcards to summarize the material. Upper year students have also created some useful summaries that they have graciously handed down to us newbies.
  • Tips and advice: An important tip that I have heard from many seasoned medical students and doctors is to not neglect my life outside of medicine. I am trying to create a positive habit early on of having protected time for my husband, kids, devotional time, adequate sleep and exercise. I will also try to keep up with one or two hobbies, some friends and family.  There are several activities and organizations on campus I am interested in joining but I will have to be selective and not take on too much. Flexibility is important and I realize that I may not always be on top of things, but I will do the best that I can and enjoy the adventure!

Although I am only at the very beginning of my training and there is much more to come, I am really enjoying medical school so far and feel so grateful to have been given this opportunity!

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My new stethoscope just arrived! If you are wondering what brand to buy for medical school, this one comes highly recommended and is offered in an array of colors.